Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Sarcasm Olympics

The modern Olympics are different than they were just a century ago because of technology. In 1900, when American Francis Jarvis was declared the winner of the 100 meters, he was said to be "the winner by one foot from Walter Tewksbury, who beat Australian Stan Rowley by inches". It was not until the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles that officials began using stop-watch and camera technologies to record results. After a delay of several hours, if stopwatch technology could not determine a winner, judges were provided newsreel footage to determine a winner.

Technology of all types has changed the nature of the Olympic Games. This includes the equipment and apparel used by athletes, and the devices available to judges to determine winners.

Example: the javelin event had to be modified and the shape and materials of the javelin were changed, as athletes throwing over 100 meters were putting spectators lives at risk. I get the point, do you?

From hydrodynamic swimsuits to electronic real-time coverage of the games, technology has radically changed the Olympics for athletes, judges and spectators. More now than ever, technology is playing a significant role in today's world of sports, and technology will most certainly play a part in rewriting some of the record books.

Timing is now down to fractions of seconds. It used to be the first one to cross the finish line and everyone ran at once. Now they run heats allowing everyone to have a clear track to run on.

Uniforms, shoes and goggles are all scientifically designed to provide the least resistance and best grip. Games are designed and held to maximize media exposure to allow competition to be watched around the world.

And the best athletes in the world can be gathered together in a matter of days, instead of weeks of travel. You can train at home until the last minute, and then arrive just in time to compete.

London 2012 is the first 3D Olympics, with wall to wall coverage available variously in HD and ultra-HD, on tablets and on mobile phones and on radio and television around the world. Footage will be produced by the Olympic Broadcasting Service, with the BBC holding the UK rights and NBC the American. The output could scarcely be more different from that for the 1948 London Games, which were the first to be broadcast: then just 64 hours was produced, and it was available to just the 500,000 people with access to a TV who lived within a 50-mile radius of London.

Beijing 2008 produced 1,500 hours of TV coverage. London will produce a total of 2,500 hours and the BBC offers 24 lives streams of HD video. In London, they have public availability of so-called Super Hi-Vision, or ultra-HD. It is 16 times the definition of HD and offers 22 channel sound. Available on special HD 3D screens in London, Glasgow and Bradford, it’s as close to being at an event as television can achieve.

The highlights could be the Games’ greatest impact on consumers. Developed by Adobe and being used by both NBC and the BBC, this technology allows users to go back to which moment they want to see. If you’re waiting for someone’s next dive and you want to see his last one, you can go back to just the right point. So rather than rewinding, clips will be tagged at specific points so users can skip back or watch packages that the broadcasters can prepare in real time.

This will change the way people watch sports (NFL, NBA, etc.) on devices forever. The Adobe video, which uses several pieces of software all under the banner ‘Project Primetime’, will be available on all platforms, including mobile phones, TVs, tablets and computers.

At the Olympics
Across the 500-acre site, 30 new mobile phone masts have been assembled, with 14 inside the buildings. BT claims its WiFi installation is the single largest in the UK, comprising some 1,000 hotspots that will be free for users. It remains to be seen if the networks will cope with the 300,000 users that could all be trying to log on. BT says it expects to be able to handle peak traffic of 1.7 gigabits per second, which is equivalent to 13,200 web page downloads each minute. Users will be able to browse the web, catch up with the action and – hopefully – actually phone people too. The scale of the even will make things difficult, but the lessons learned in London could prove a boon subsequently to all future major events, where mobile signals are often problematic.

BMW USATF Velocity measurement System. 

Military lasers: Track Cycling
British Cycling’s ruthless pursuit of success has often been compared to a carefully prepared military operation. The biggest home medal hopes have been using equipment developed by BAE, the weapons manufacturer. The technology centered on how riders are timed as they complete circuits of their training. Traditionally, timing systems have relied upon ‘break beam’ lasers which record a rider’s time whenever they break a beam. The new system was originally designed for use on battlefields to reduce friendly fire, allows a laser beamed from a trackside device. Each individual rider is tracked via a personal code placed on a reflective tag on their leg. A rider’s split times can now be measured to the millisecond. In cycling, some have lost world championships by thousandths of a second so being able to measure time accurately is fundamentally important.

Waterproof nano-coating: Sailing, Mountain Biking
Great Britain has a golden record in Olympic sailing, having topped the medals table at the last three Games, but with rivals such as Australia and the United States pushing hard to cut the gap in London, the hosts have had to turn to increasingly sophisticated forms of technology to preserve their advantage. The latest development sees an invisible ‘nano-coating’ - ordinarily employed to protect soldiers from chemical weapons - applied to a sailor’s equipment and clothing before they go on the water. It forms a layer which allows air to penetrate - keeping the sailors cool - but repels water, meaning droplets simply run off rather than being absorbed into the material and adding extra weight that could slow down the boat. The same technology is being used by mountain bikers and could have even more significant results. Tests have shown that taking on an extra kilogram of mud and water can slow times by up to 15 seconds. 

Better Technology, Better Speed, it is just that simple.

I love watching the Olympics. The Olympics remind us that anyone, regardless of their financial situation can represent their country and bring home a Gold Medal. It is all about pure athletic ability, hard work and simple dedication to your sport. Just like in the world of business, success in the Olympics has nothing to do with superior technology. Anyone can be successful at the Olympics (or be successful in business) regardless of where you live, regardless of your economic status, and with no connection to your mastery of modern technology. I find that so refreshing.

I think I just won the Gold Medal for sarcasm.

There are 204 countries that are competing in the Olympics - 2012 London.

Antigua and Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
Burkina Faso
Cayman Islands
Central Africa
China Republic
Chinese Taipei
Cape Verde
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Dominican Republic
Arab Rep. of Egypt
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
The Gambia
Great Britain
Hong Kong
Ivory Coast
Korea People Republic
Korea Democratic People Republic
Saint Lucia
Rep. of Macedonia
Rep. of Moldova
Marshall Islands
Netherlands Antilles
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Puerto Rico
Saint Lucia
St. Vincent & Gr.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
American Samoa
Western Samoa
San Marino
Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Trinidad & Tobago
United Arab Emirates
US Virgin Islands

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bane or Batman?

Movies reveal something about our culture, and the new Batman movie, “Dark Knight Rises,” is no exception.  

The pure evil shown in the movie was acted out in Denver. The details are still unfolding about what exactly happened in Aurora. But one thing we know for sure is that Colorado police bravely answered the call for help. Moviegoers were in distress. As men and women in blue rushed to the scene, they had no idea if they would confront one gunman, or an army. The police had no idea if the building was rigged with bombs or boobytraps. No matter what the danger, the police and the first-responders had their jobs to do. They did their duty. They were real-life superheroes.   

Evil vs. duty is a key theme of “Dark Knight Rises." We must acknowledge that mayhemic killers and terrorists exist, and so we will always need courageous men and women to protect us.   

 Step back and recall the context of the original Batman comic which debuted back in 1939.  In that year, a decade had passed since the 1929 stock market crash, and yet Wall Street and the rich were still blamed for the hard times. Yet there was a fascination with the rich and their ways. After all, most people dreamed of being rich.     

Enter Bruce Wayne, the Batman hero. Wayne was wealthy but he had suffered deeply; his parents were murdered by a criminal in front of his eyes. Fearful of being hurt yet again, he shunned romantic commitments, preferring the lonely solitude of his mansion. Wayne had paid his dues, and then some.  

As Batman, Wayne was using his wealth to thwarting crime.  He was, therefore, a “good” millionaire. Moreover, in his new life as a secret superhero, Wayne/Batman had to remain secretive about his identity. And who were Batman’s allies? Commissioner Gordon and his true-blue team. Indeed, the Gotham Police Department was righteous, although usually overmatched by evil. In other words, Gotham City might be corrupt and full of colorful criminals, but the cops were okay.  

In the 60s, presidential candidate Richard Nixon won middle-class voters by calling for “law and order”-- a Batman-ish theme. In the 90s, Bill Clinton won most middle-class votes by promising to defend the interests of Americans “who work hard and play by the rules.” Another Batman-ish thought.  

As a female character in the new movie tells Wayne, “You have to invest if you want to return balance to the world.”  Translation: if you have wealth, you have to give something back.

Batman is helped by the Gotham cops, many of whom lay down their lives in the fight against Bane and his evil forces. Filmed mostly in Manhattan, the movie brings up memories of 9/11; we see haunting images of men in blue, finding their way through the mist and darkness, bravely confronting evil.

By the end of the film, balance is restored, and we are reminded that the enduring virtue--and safety--of America comes from its working people, even if they have to be led by a brave billionaire and his amazing toolbox of gadgets and gizmos - his technology.   


The new Batman film will remind us of many things about the world we live in:

Technology is a tool. It can be used to do harm, or it can save the world. Bane, or Batman, we all have to choose how we will accomplish our goals, but technology will play a bigger and bigger role as time goes by. Technology can save the world, or it can destroy it. But technology is just a tool. The American people like to see those living in privilege, like Bruce Wayne in the movie, using their mastery of technology for good and not evil.

As the evil in Aurora, Colorado remind us, we need brave men and women who will always be ready to step forward to protect us. Society needs to honor those who put more than money at risk in the course of their jobs. Those who put their lives on the line deserve a higher status in our society - much higher than they have now. We need to honor our heroes, for without them, we are without hope.

There will always be evil people in the world, trying to get their hands on technology to do us harm. But thankfully, there will always be superheroes with their own technology as well.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Blessing for Everything

There is a line in the 1971 movie The Fiddler on the Roof where Motel the tailor asks the Rabbi, “Rabbi, is there a blessing for a sewing machine?” The Rabbi answered, “There is a blessing for everything.” 


I remember Fiddler on the Roof.  I vividly remember the scene from the movie where Motel's new sewing machine was a big deal. Everyone in the village came to see the "arrival" of the sewing machine. That machine was life changing. In the hands of Motel the tailor, that machine, that piece of technology was going to change the lives of everyone in the family, and possibly everyone in the village. To have such a marvel was indeed worthy of a blessing.
This one piece of technology has consistently changed the world for over 160 years. We think of the great inventions of our time, and things like the automobile and the computer come to mind. But the sewing machine is really the forgotten champion. From the clothes on your back, to the couch that you are sitting on, to the drapes and curtains in your home, few things in our world were not touched by this one invention.

And yet, it gets such little respect.

Go to and check out the past 160 years of an invention that is still with us today. It really is amazing.

The thing that stuck in my mind from the movie was the fact that as it was happening, while it was happening, Motel the tailor (and his entire family) knew that their lives were being changed forever. They felt their lives being transformed in an instant, via technology. They knew that this sewing machine, this new technology was going to create opportunities that could never have been imagined without access to such a tool. And so, they asked for a blessing - a blessing for a piece of technology - their new sewing machine.

I was born in 1960. I saw our family go from Black and White TV to Color. I watched in amazement as we had an automatic garage door installed, one of the first in the neighborhood. In the 1960’s, anything “remote controlled” or radio controlled was a big deal. 

Watching Apollo 11 land on the moon, while it was happening - live - was so amazing that we really do not give it proper credit. I watched people switch from typewriters to the Wang 1200, a "word processor". I watched the birth of the personal computer, the car phone, and America Online. “You’ve Got Mail” was a big deal just a few years ago. Today, we have too much email. I watched having email waiting for you go from being a pleasure to a pain in the ass. I remember running home to see if I had any new mail in my AOL account. Today, I pay for email tools to keep people from sending me spam.

Fast forward to today. We have talking cars, HDTV and robots. We have digital watches that have more computing power than what existed on the Apollo 11. We can make our own movies, fly our own planes, and we can create electricity from wind and solar panels. Launching a rocket into space is now so commonplace that it does not even make the news.

And then it happened. We stopped asking for blessings for these amazing life changing things.

Today we take technology for granted, as if we are all simply entitled. We just expect cell phones to work all the time and everywhere, and television to be in HD, and movies to be on demand. We expect classrooms to be online and computers to be faster and faster and faster. And we expect it all to be free - or at least free like Google and Facebook are “free”.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is a big problem.

“Rabbi, is there a blessing for my iPad, my Facebook page and my Twitter account?” The Rabbi answered, “There is a blessing for everything.”

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tech Free 4th

This July 4th holiday we decided to do something different. We decided to go “low tech” for the entire day. That’s right, a completely “technology free” holiday for the Capone family. And what better way to go low tech, than to lazily drift down the Delaware River in a tube.

Our no technology holiday started at for information and directions. 

We were able to download waiver forms as PDF documents and fill them out in advance. No waiting in lines for us! 

We plugged the address into our GPS to find out how long it would take to drive to the launch site. 

Sunscreen was going to be a must, but what do those SPF numbers really mean?

On the way in the car we were able to learn about the history of

I thought it might be a good idea to check the river height:

And I guess the river temperature would be nice to know:

I did wonder about the difference in air temperature compared to the water temperature:

Maybe we should download a map of the river?

The website says that have been in business since 1987. That’s impressive. I wondered if they posted any videos?

When we arrived, my mind went to food (no shocker here). If we were going to be on the river adrift for hours, what about food?


It turns out the owner Greg Crance, or the Famous River Hot Dog Man, anchors his concessions stand off Resolution Island in Pennsylvania. "We have a big sign that says, 'We take credit cards,' and people think we're kidding," he said.

Greg and I talked about websites, social media and blogging. We might have found ourselves a new client for

We left our Smartphones in the car, so we had no connection to the real world while we were on the river. It simply would not be "smart" to take our phones out on the river as they could get wet.


It really was an amazing day. I did not think that I was going to fare very well, going 100% “low tech” like this. But I made it - I survived the day without using any technology. Now I know what it must have been like to live on the Delaware River before there was electricity. 


I never thought I would ever enjoy camping, but I think I am ready. If they could only install free Wi-Fi at the National Parks, man that would be cool:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

This one is a dud

When a firecracker does not go off it is called a “dud”.  Kinda like a national holiday on a Wednesday.

July 4th is on a Wednesday this year, placing Uncle Sam's party uncomfortably between four days of work. This marks the second time in six years that it falls on one of the most unloved and unfun days of the week.

Want to spend Fourth of July weekend at the beach? Job No. 1 is deciding when the 4th of July weekend really is. Whether you prefer June 30-July 1 or July 7-8, the old trick of using one vacation day and getting a four-day weekend is out of the question.

Everybody loves the 4th of July, but if there's one time we don't love it as much as others, it's when it falls on a Wednesday.

Other holidays can be moved around to fit our lives. Memorial Day, the sacred date we set aside to honor those who gave their all for the rest of us - we can change it from May 30 to the last Monday in May so we can get some swim time, fishing, golf & BBQ in.

July 4th is harder to move, since it's stuck to a date.


So that means every seven years you get a Wednesday July 4th holiday. And it messes things up because:

You can't really slide it into a four-day weekend
Christmas on a Tuesday or Thursday? Well, that Monday or Friday is all but written off as a holiday.

It's going to be a slow week
No matter what choice you make, business will be slow all week. That, of course, leaves you a choice: Work all week and take advantage of the slowness, or take off two days to make a really long weekend? It depends on what your job is, of course, but if it means showing up and getting paid for not doing much, with no penalty (i.e., you're not on commission) and you've saved up two vacation days, the decision seems clear.

Take off Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday?
It's a good bet a ton of people will be taking off either Monday/Tuesday of next week or Thursday/Friday. So which two days should you choose?

The Monday, and especially the Tuesday, before the 4th will consist of offices in ultimate clock-watching mode, and we're betting lots of late-Tuesday afternoon getaways. ("Client meeting" here we come!)

The Thursday-Friday atmosphere will include a laidback and probably lengthy post-holiday readjustment mood, with the weekend already looming over everything.

So, if you own a business, you will be just thrilled with the level of production that your team produces during the week.  If you work for a business, you will be spending your days executing your pre and post-Wednesday work avoidance tactics. Where can you drive? What can you do? If you are working Tuesday and Thursday, you are screwed.

Technology allows us to work from anywhere, at anytime. But the new global business world of Smartphones, iPads, audio web and videoconferencing requires that the “other people” are actually around for the collaboration. Conference calls are not very productive, when it’s just you on the phone. Yeah, you can take your iPad to the beach, but sand and apples don’t really go well together.

Have a safe and Happy July 4th (or 2nd, or 3rd, or 5th or 6th)