Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Olympics on Tv

I have been watching the games of the 29th Olympiad and I have been pleasantly surprised by NBC's coverage. The previous Olympic Games were almost unwatchable in the US. The tv coverage was awful. This time, however, the US networks seem to have gotten it right. I do wish that they would show more events where US athletes are not amongst the front-runners, but that is just US nationalism rearing its ugly head. Every nation showcases their own athletes, and the US is no different.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The 2008 Man-Booker Prize Longlist

The longlist for the 2008 Man-Booker Prize has been announced. The full list is given below.

The White TigerAravind Adiga
Girl in a Blue DressGaynor Arnold
The Secret ScriptureSebastian Barry
From A to XJohn Berger
The Lost DogMichelle de Kretser
Sea of PoppiesAmitav Ghosh
The Clothes on their BacksLinda Grant
A Case of Exploding MangoesMohammed Hanif
The Northern ClemencyPhilip Hensher
NetherlandJoseph O'Neill
The Enchantress of FlorenceSalman Rushdie
Child 44Tom Rob Smith
A Fraction of the WholeSteve Toltz

I hate to admit it, but I only recognize one entry in this year's long list, and that is Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence. The other authors and books are unknown to me. This is a bit embarrassing, but in my defense I have not had a lot of time to read over the past year, and my local library does not carry most of these titles. Not having a lot of time to read is not a good excuse. The reality is that when I have sat down to read books I have tended to read pulp rubbish like Sandworms of Dune (yes, I am a Dune fan) or non-fiction. In fact, most of my recent reading has been non-fiction. I certainly could have made more of an effort to keep up with the literary world. The other reason, the lack of these titles in my local library, is hard to overcome. I get most of my reading material from my town's public library. It is cheap, it supports public libraries, and I usually have a good selection of books to choose from. The fact that they only carry five of the thirteen Man-Booker nominees is disturbing, but given that the Man-Booker prize is for fiction by a Commonwealth author, not a US author, that is not too surprising.

So, my goal for the next month is to plough through as many of the five titles that are in my local library as I can in the next month. I expect to get through two or three by the time that the short list is released. The short list will be announced on 9 September and the winner will be announced on 14 October.

Video of a Giant Squid being Dissected

Here is an interesting video of scientists at Melbourne Museum in Australia dissecting a giant squid. This video is not for the squeamish, but if you do not mind seeing squishy internal organs flopping around, and various squid bodily fluids flowing, then it is a fascinating insight into how the anatomy of giant squid is studied. Unfortunately, I am a bit squeamish. I never liked the idea of dissecting things in high school, and for years I used to shoo flies out of the house instead of just swatting them (I have gotten over that now). Dissection was one of the things that kept me out of the biological sciences. It is partly responsible for me being an astronomer instead of a marine biologist. After seeing this video I do not regret my decision, even though it does mean that I will probably never get my name on a scientific paper about squid.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Washington Capitals Need a New Logo

The Hockey News has decided to rank the logos of the thirty NHL teams. The team logo ranks reflect only the opinions of The Hockey News editors, but it is an interesting list. The first thing that caught my eye is that The Washington Capitals rank 22nd in a league of thirty teams. The reason give is

"Love the uniform, love the secondary eagle logo, but we need more than words for the primary."

After getting over the disappointment of my favourite team being ranked in the bottom half of the league I realized that The Hockey News was right (as they so often are). The Capital's logo is boring. A hockey stick stuck in the middle of the name of the team does not stir feelings of pride. In fact, I barely notice it. The classic logos, such at Montréal's and Boston's are emblematic. They have come to signify not just the team, but hockey itself. Now asking that The Washington Capitals be a team that is synonymous with hockey is asking a lot. In fact, given that most people in the DC area care more about bowling and poker than they do about hockey, it is even a bit silly. Still, the Caps have Alexander Ovechkin, who is perhaps the most recognizable name in hockey today, and he has signed on with the Caps for the long haul. Any attempt to build a fan base around Ovechkin is going to involve turning the Caps into one of the NHL's signature teams. To do that the Caps need a better logo. Come on fans, put on your thinking caps and let's see some ideas. After all, there is not much else to do sportswise in August.