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Olympic prediction: continued US domination (sort of)

August 11, 2008

It’s official. I have been bitten by the Olympic bug (better that than some of the other things biting people these days).

Being the huge nerd I am, I found this report interesting (especially since I did an undergrad economics project on this subject). Andrew Bernard, an economist at Dartmouth, makes predictions on the total number of medals, and total gold medals, countries can expect to win this Olympics. He bases his predictions on an economic model using four variables:

We show that over the last 40 years, national Olympic medal totals have been driven by four distinct factors: population, per capita income, past performance, and a host effect.

Basically, bigger countries have a larger pool of potential athletes to draw from (assuming Olympic talent is randomly distributed). I remember seeing an interview with a Chinese athlete who said something along the line of, “Even if you are one in a million there are still more than 1,000 others just like you [in China].”

Richer countries can spend more money on preparing for the Olympics than relatively poorer countries. Host countries also typically perform better than they otherwise would. And of course, past performance is important. Generally speaking, countries that did well in the past will continue to do well in the future. Think of it as Newton’s first law of Olympics.

Put all these factors together and it is not surprising that Bernard’s model shows China doing extremely well in the Olympics. He predicts they will be 3rd in the overall count, and first in the gold medal count:

Predicted Total Medals in Beijing

  1. U.S., 105
  2. Russia, 92
  3. China, 81
  4. Germany, 51
  5. Australia, 49

Predicted Gold Medals in Beijing

  1. China, 37
  2. U.S., 36
  3. Russia, 25
  4. Japan, 17
  5. Australia, 16

He is expecting almost half of China’s medals to be gold, which is pretty impressive. Given that his model was 96% accurate in the past two Olympic games these results should prove to be pretty close to right on the mark when the games are over. The overall idea of this model seems to be common sense, but every now and again it’s nice to see common sense validated by reality.

New Colours

August 11, 2008

The observant reader will notice a new layout and color scheme for Mission Critical.  We are working on making the site prettier, and easier to read and utilize all the wonderful information contained on this blog.  Hopefully we will be done soon, because changing all the time is kind of annoying.

Ohayo gozaimasu!

August 8, 2008

This is Japanese for “good morning”.

Japan is relevant today because we beat them in (men’s) Soccer 1-0 yesterday at the Olympics. It is also relevant because of this:

What is wrong so right with this picture?

Websites you should be using, Part 2: TicketStumbler

August 6, 2008

This is the next installation in a multipart series of articles about useful websites that make it easier for you to do the things you already do, or should be doing, to keep your life in order. See the full series here.

Everyone has that one sporting event they really want to attend: your team made it to the playoffs for the first time in 30 years, or you want to go to an NHL game (people go to these, I am told), or you are dying to go to the annual Browns/Bengals game. Except the game is sold out, and you were lazy and didn’t buy tickets yet. Or the Ticketmaster gods were cruel to you and you weren’t able to purchase them when they went on sale. How will you ever get into the Dawg Pound now?

What you should do is point your web browser over to TicketStumbler, a new site that does for sports tickets what Kayak and Mobissimo did for airline tickets and hotel rooms. No longer do you have spend half your day browsing different sites to be sure you are not getting ripped off, or find seats you can afford. You just tell the site what game you are looking for, and up pop all the tickets available for purchase from different online ticket brokers. You pick how much to spend, or where to sit, and you have your tickets in a few clicks. It’s easy and it will save you time and money.

Alternatively, you could wait until the afternoon of the game and wander around downtown Cleveland hoping to find some unsavory character selling tickets in an alley behind Browns Stadium. Except his seats could be fake, and then you will be out your cash and look like a fool in front of your friends. Or he could steal all your money. Better to buy your seats through TicketStumbler, since they only work with reputable dealers who guarantee the validity of the tickets on their sites, and who will not mug you after you buy from them. Unless shady alleys on the east side of Cleveland are your thing, in which case, be my guest.

Websites you should be using, Part 1: Yodlee

August 6, 2008

This is the first in a multi-part series of articles about useful website that make it easier for you to do the things you already do, or should be doing, to keep your life in order. See the full series here.

If you are like me you have probably tried managing your personal finances, and ended up feeling like this:

And then you said to yourself, “I really wish there was a business intelligence tool aimed at the individual consumer, because I need help organizing all my financial information.” (And really, who hasn’t thought like that?)

Well pine no longer, because now you can use Yodlee’s Moneycenter to give yourself a total picture of your financial situation. You have instant access to all your bank accounts, credit cards, other loans, investments, all their current balances, and when bills are due. You can even put in a budget and track your spending against it. All pretty neat.

However, be aware that if you have any loans (student loans, car loans, mortgage, etc.) your financial net worth will probably be a big fat negative. Do not despair; as you pay the loans down your situation will improve. And you know that you used that loan to purchase something valuable, so your financial situation is not as bleak as it may seem. And it is a huge pain to get everything loaded into the site initially. But it is worth it to have accurate information on all your financial accounts on one screen.

Now that you know how much money you actually have, it will be easier to start spending less (or more, if you have more money than you thought) and saving more (or less).

Games of the XXVI_<8)th Olympiad

August 5, 2008

Using an imperfect internet translation service, I have obtained the “true spirit” of the Olympics in a few different languages.

The Chinaman say:


Ze German bellows:

3. Weltländer versuchen, gegen Weltmächte unter Verwendung der Fähigkeiten zu konkurrieren, die sie die Vermeidung der territorialen blutrünstigen Kriegsherren abzogen

The polite Japanese man who holds familial honor in the highest regard yet loves groping 14 year old girls on the subway claims:


(the Japanese-to-English re-conversion is absolutely hilarious…literal translation from English to Japanese is a bit dodgy)

Now for some analysis. Please note that the bare minimum of research was done to produce this. A google image search was about it. Here is what you should care about:

1) Gymnastics – Genetically engineered near-midgets with the strength of several bulls hurl themselves through the air (or dance around like queers – you know, that mat event with the ribbons) with total disregard their own well being. The ultimate goal of course is to win a gold medal, and hopefully become famous enough in Serbia/Croatia/FYR Macedonia that your celebrity sex tape actually makes headline news. The USA is pretty good at this, I think. At least the women. I seem to recall the men blowing the team competition last time but they are probably good again in 2008. I’m sure there are some returning members since our dictator’s son doesn’t have Olympic failures summarily executed (coughcoughIraqcough).

2) Track and Field – The Olympics uses the outdoor variety, and the USA usually dominates with our wicked strong big white guys and our wicked fast sleek black guys. Well, those that haven’t been banned for doping anyway. People love this shit but I’m on the fence about it. They really need to have a few more events. The big guys running the 100m, 110m hurdles, and the 1500m, while the runners do the pole vault, javelin throw, and boot toss (similar to the hammer toss, popularized in the 1989 Nintendo classic “Snoopy’s Silly Sports Spectacular”). That would be entertaining.

3) Swimming and diving – Another sport I like, because the USA usually rapes the competition. This year is a bit creepy though, because some of the male swimmers are going to be wearing full body suits. I can’t help but think some dude with a very, very tiny chance of victory is just going to mail it in and show up wearing that Borat thong. Diving is great because they jump off of that huge platform, and you really have to watch every dive, because someone always totally blows it and ends up flailing into the water.

4) Soccer – The Olympic website actually calls this “football”, like the rest of the world. Conversations about Brett Favre will somehow sneak into Olympic Soccer broadcasts for this very reason. The USA men’s team is in the hardest overall group (hmmm, two huge international competitions in a row now…”Random draw” my ass). The rules for Olympic squads require all but 3 players to be under 23, those 3 can be anyone, usually older players. We are sending Brian McBride. Brazil is sending Ronaldinho. WTF.

Also, for at least the 2nd time, women’s soccer is an olympic sport. The USA has a team. Our best forward had her leg snapped in about 60 places a few weeks ago. I’m Hope-ing for gratuitious shots of our goalie:

You could say she is our best “Hope” for a gold medal.

5) Basketball – What the Christ, all these other countries are now sweet at basketball. This USA Men’s team looks pretty good, and the jerseys are really tight, which should help. And the 3 point line is moved in about 2 feet, which should bring Carmelo’s 3pt FG% from 6% in the NBA to maybe 25% in Beijing. The Chinese men’s team is cool, because it features the tallest men in China. When a 7ft6 guy is born in China he pretty much has no choice but to play basketball. As much as he wants to be an actuary instead of playing hoops, Yao Ming must represent his country on the court.

6) Human Rights – China sucks at this, so Bob Costas and that other really short guy at the NBC sports desk (Jim something?) will probably talk about it non-stop. Also, apparently we must call it the “People’s Republic of China” or the PRC. China just wants to be like the rest of the awesomest countries and has indocrinated this initialism. However unlike other cool countries with lots of money(the USA, U.K., and UAE), China still kind of sucks and they are USING ALL THE FUCKING OIL. So, much like North Korea (total shithole), who also thinks they deserve an initialism, I am still referring to them as China. Until they fix their human rights and polution issues I refuse to abreviate them.

I am able to throw North Korea under the bus without fear of retaliation from its citizens because they cannot, in fact, actually access the internet in North Korea.

Random fact: Kuala Lumpur actually put in a bid to host the 2008 Olympics. Seriously. Does Malaysia even have an airport? Every time I play Pandemic 2, Malaysia is the first to be ravaged by my infectious disease. A harbinger of things to come should KL ever host an event like the Olympics.

FYI, here’s the block of text I originally translated…compare it with a Babel Fish re-translation of the native text:

3rd world countries attempt to compete against world powers using skills they honed avoiding territorial blood thirsty warlords

For reference, as I realize you may not have (nor have the ability to install) the proper language fonts:

Chinese: “The third world country attempts to compete the opposition world power use mill knife skill to avoid the territory blood thirsty warlord”

German: “3. World countries try to compete against world powers using the abilities which took it off the avoidance of the territorial blutrünstigen commanders”

And, easily the best, from Japanese: “As for the country of developing country using the technology which ground the evasion of the General where the throat of the territory blood is thirsty with the grindstone in order to rival with international organization, you try”

Passive voice is used

August 5, 2008

Last year Andy shared with us one of his biggest pet peeves about the way people communicate: misuse of adverbs. My biggest workplace pet peeve: people who use passive voice. A few days ago I had this conversation with Ms. X, a staff member at my client:

Me: Do you know where I can find the XYZ report, Ms. X?

Ms. X: [Stares blankly at me for a good 15 seconds] … It was never done.

Me: Do you know who I could ask for some help on this XYZ-related project, then?

Ms. X: That would be the XYZ analyst. [Pause] That’s me.

So very clearly when she said, “It was never done,” what she actually meant was “I didn’t do my job.” She was hoping that I would not make the connection that the XYZ analyst was the one responsible for completing the XYZ report. But alas, I saw through her games.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last, time that someone tries to use passive voice to shirk responsibility. People do it all the time. You break something, and no one sees. So how do you describe what happened? Do you say “I broke it,” or “It broke”? It is immediately obvious that using passive voice in these contexts is a ploy to avoid responsibility, so I’m not sure why people who do it all the time think it works.

If someone else was responsible, and you knew who it was, you would include their name, so as to not leave it open to suggestion that you are the guilty party. If Ms. X knew the XYZ report was my responsibility, would she have told someone “It was never done”? I highly doubt it. She would have said “Adam didn’t do it.”

So do yourself a favor in your workplace and avoid using passive voice, unless you want to sound like a simple minded fool.