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Salem Dragon Boat Race 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011
I managed to make it to Salem for the 2011 World Beat DragonBoat Races. This was my second "real" race after the competing in Olympia last month.

The race was set up so that there would be two preliminary races to determine the division to compete in, a semi-final within the division, then the division finals to determine standings. Our first race was against the team Paddles of Fury. Down on the water, we paddled fast and we paddled hard, but Paddles of Fury is a good team and, in that race, they posted the second fastest time seen so far that day. We, Shibumi, did not post the first fastest time, and, in a two-boat race, came in second, over 15 seconds behind (for a time of about 2:23 or so).

The Team. I'm on the right in the blue.  Thanks to the Statesman-Journal for this image.

Our second race was against the Castaways, another team from Portland. They're generally quite close in skill and we frequently race them in practice. They're the team we cheer for when we're not racing them, but we ALL wanted to beat them. At the starting line, we took off. It was quite close for a while; everyone on my team was focused and we paddled even harder than before. And, while we shaved almost 4 seconds off our time, Castaways was just a few seconds faster and beat us, leaving us coming in second again. The team energy was sucked away, as we all contemplated a second defeat.

This is where the race organization fell apart. Comparing the times, we were still one of the faster teams on the water; out of 18 or so, we were faster than at least 10 of them. But we'd raced against two teams that were even faster, leaving us with two second-place finishes and relegating us to the third division (of three.)

So we lined up for our semi-final race against Team Lightning, part of the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America Dragon Slayers. They gave it an honest shot, but we shouldn't have been in that division. We walked away from them in that race, paddling as a team with amazing intensity and getting a shot of energy that only comes from a solid win.

At this point, I had to leave the race. We had more paddlers than we had seats on the boat, so each race a few paddlers had to sit out. A friend of mine needed a ride to the Portland Airport, so we both volunteered to sit out the final race, allowing the rest of our team to compete. The final race was close, both in time and in physical proximity. Our tiller and their tiller were unwilling to give up a line and possibly slow down, so the boats ended up right next to each other, with our paddles and their paddles hitting each other as we would dig into the water, trying to pull away. The times were incredibly close, but Shibumi landed first place in our division!

Then came the real disappointment. We were told that, despite coming in first in our division, there would be no medals for us. We walked away, angry. But in the end, we found out it was a miscommunication and we were, in fact, going to get our gold medals. The results of the race can be seen in the Salem Statesman-Journal.

Our hard-won gold medal

Movie Review: Limitless

While I was in Salem the other day I caught the movie Limitless at the Northern Lights Theatre Pub. Mostly starring Bradley Cooper, but also including Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro, the movie is about a guy, played by Cooper, that's given a pill to unlock his fullest potential. With the ability to recall anything he's ever seen or said, to solve problems faster than he ever has, to derive conclusions with infallible logic, and with the confidence to back it all up, his potential is limitless.

Limitless Movie Poster

Of course, there's always a catch. The first catch is that his supply of these pills is finite. The second is that lots of people - violent people - are after them, and the third catch is that long-term usage appears to have very negative side effects. But our protagonist chooses, as he puts it in the trailer, to become the perfect version of himself.

The acting is solid and the timing is perfect in this film. The visual presentation serves to reinforce the story, and really, as a telling measure of how good a film is, I left the theatre talking with friends about how much we enjoyed it. The film opens on a dark note: Cooper's character, presumably at the end of the story, is about to jump off a building so that he might make his one final choice. Then we see all the events leading up to that: making money, making enemies, finding out more about the drug he's taking, etc. It's a simple, though highly enjoyable, narrative.

Final word on Limitless? Well worth watching; aside from one scene that made me cringe and avert my eyes, it was highly enjoyable.

The Allure of the Automobile

Friday, June 17, 2011
Showing right now at The Allure of the Automobile at the Portland Art Museum. I had the opportunity this past Friday evening to go to the exhibit and take in the allure.

For me, there were two highlights. The first greeted us at the door; it was a 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, an automobile truly curved in all the right places. Gorgeous from any angle, the Aston Martin set the tone for the rest of the exhibit: cars that were amazing not just because they were beautiful, but cars that were beautiful because they were amazing. The vehicles showcased were striking in so many ways; the technology and innovation behind them, and the effort that went into taking a well-built thing and turning it into art.

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato from the Allure of the Automobile exhibit

The second highlight for me was the 1937 Mercedes Benz 540K Special Roadster. The car was breathtakingly beautiful; a striking silver, with sleek, futuristic lines and a magnificent attention to detail. I spent far too long gazing at it and reading the associated placard. It's easy to see why this automobile is billed as a favorite among period celebrities and Nazi party bigwigs; it's a rolling work of art that will turn heads and yet is reportedly astoundingly well-built.

1937 Mercedes Benz 540K Special Roadster from the Allure of the Automobile exhibit

Of course, every vehicle there is worth mentioning; from the Tucker to the Bugatti, there was nothing there unworthy of the collection. And sometimes the stories behind the vehicles was as interesting as the vehicles themselves, such as the story about the VP of General Motors and his clandestine manufacturing of the 1959 Corvette Stingray.

Throughout the exhibit, I found myself admiring these machines and even caught myself thinking, "they don't build them like they used to". I had to quickly check myself; the automobiles on display were never produced in high numbers; instead they were crafted and hand-built in extremely low volumes; sometimes, only one was ever built. Of course, they can't build them like these anymore: safety standards have forced many compromises in style an design. Still, the rare, expensive, exotic cars of today, such as the Bugatti Veyron, the Koenigsegg CCX, or the prototype Cadillac Sixteen might one day be lumped in the "art" category, much as their ancestors were in the museum.

Pierce Arrow from the Allure of the Automobile exhibit

One thing that's for sure: after seeing this exhibit, the allure of the automobile is quite clear.

Доверяй, но проверяй

Thursday, June 02, 2011
My friend Jake Ortman posted on his blog an article that indicated that PBS is going to have commercial breaks. I read the link Jake posted and wanted to tweet my disappointment at the turn of events. But, rather than just copying and pasting the link, I took a moment to verify the news.

I trust Jake and, since he studied journalism, know that he's not going to just repeat something he heard on the internet. Still, I'm not that familiar with The Atlantic Wire, so I looked on the PBS website. Not finding anything there, I spent 10 seconds Googling the news to find if anyone else was running the story. I found it at the New York Times. The Atlantic Wire article referenced an interview that the PBS chief gave to the New York Times, so I considered this a closer source.

So, when I put my post up on Twitter, it linked to the New York Times article, which is a source I trust. This process didn't take very long.

But, like Arlo Guthrie, I didn't come to tell to you about PBS or The New York Times. I came to talk about fact checking.

You see, fact checking is what nobody seems to do before forwarding on a chain letter. I can't tell you how many emails I get that allege some ridiculous fact, then urge me to pass it on. They might even claim their preposterous fact was, in fact, fact-checked. Taking a few seconds to try to find independent confirmation, however, yields quickly that the fact, is in fact, false.

What I'm trying to say is that, next time you get an email claiming that President Obama's birth certificate is a forgery or that some actor just died falling off a cliff, take a few seconds to fact check. If it's actually true, go ahead and send it on. When it doubt, however, give the truth a chance to put its boots on.



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