NBC Olympics

I don’t entirely get all of the criticism that’s been leveled against NBC for its coverage of these Olympics. Oh, no, it’s a tape delay, somebody call Julian Assange – surprise! that’s how we’ve been watching the Olympics in other time zones for decades! OMG, there are stupid human-interest interviews with athletes – oh, yeah, well with the exception of a few outstanding individuals, I defy you to find an athlete give an interview that wasn’t just “I tried to win, and I {did|didn’t}” platitudes. WTF, the commentators sound stupid for not knowing a few factoids – well, gee, I am a pretty well-rounded, well-informed, and well-educated guy, but I didn’t know who Tim Berners-Lee was, either.

That said, I don’t mean to suggest that things like this aren’t funny. Or that NBC isn’t doing some things wrong. I think that cutting a memorial from the opening ceremony (especially one as well-executed as that!) was insensitive left viewers with a reduced perspective of the opening ceremony. (Plus, there’s the whole golden rule angle: if New York had won the 2012 Games, I know there would have been tributes to the World Trade Center attacks and I know that Americans would have been annoyed if the BBC cut them.)

Likewise, there are some severe shortcomings to NBC’s content delivery. I gave up on cable television and just got myself an internet package…and so now I’m not allowed to watch any of the Olympic coverage on the web or TV. Before TV went digital, I could have watched for free. Something tells me that we consumers are worse off in this new world of digital rights management…

Besides, I actually like the curated content. If I watch a raw stream, I don’t get to hear the details of the arcane rules in events I’m not familiar with. I don’t necessarily know who the athletes are, or where they are in their careers, or how close they are to a world record, or how impressive that thing they did really is. The primetime content may be oversaturated with some events (swimming, running, gymnastics, …) and light on other, equally exciting, tense, and cool sports (badminton, whitewater kayaking, water polo, archery, …) but the context from former Olympians and coaches actually does help.

I’m not sure how the networks haven’t figured out the Internet yet. Why don’t they go all the way and stream the primetime coverage online, to everyone, ads and all?

Just adding my voice in case someone at NBC is watching the trends on Google. 😉

The kind of technology that NASA needs to embrace wholeheartedly

I’m always happy to learn that NASA is conducting new technology demonstrations – and the recent success of an inflatable heat shield is no exception!

Inflated heat shield (from SpaceRef)

Congress has determined that NASA should follow the 1960s vision of space travel: you launch in a vehicle, you travel through space in that same vehicle, and you land in that vehicle. Sounds all nice and cozy, except that the last five minutes of your trip require a heat shield, which is massive – eating into the amount of food supplies, scientific instruments, and astronauts you can launch in the first place. Until the moment of re-entry, the heat shield is just dead weight, doing nothing and eating into the mission planners’ mass budgets. This whole architectural problem is one of the big reasons why I favor assembling interplanetary exploration vehicles in space and then taxiing up and down to those vehicles with capsules, instead of trying to take capsules to the Moon, asteroids, or Mars.

How about if your heat shield didn’t have such a huge mass? And how about if your spacecraft could stow it neatly away, so that its size and shape wasn’t a design driver of the launch vehicle or capsule shape? Some of those problems wouldn’t be so bad.

This is a big step towards opening up more flexibility for mission architects. I hope the technology finds its way onto some real missions in the near future!

The 30% Spam Bot

I just found the following spam comment on my blog:

My partner and i don’t know about you men and women nevertheless for me personally the structure of your website is very important… I would personally state virtually just as much as this great article alone. In addition I’m a genuine pot intended for Youtube video lessons… or maybe, as a matter of truth, Any advertising content in any respect. Therefore, every time We get a identical write-up My spouse and i solely hope the actual embeds a number of world wide web training video anywhere. Currently, a substantial amount of weblog managers ordinarily tend not to… I cannot picture exactly why?… Perhaps this might be distinct with the topic issue… even so My partner and i continue to believe that it would created for virtually just about any content, because it might regularly be great to discover a heated along with warm and friendly deal with and also perceive the voice at the beginning go to. Regardless, I reckon that I’m a touch off of issue the following?.. Proper… The idea looks like which! Hahah… Appreciate enriching the net using this posting!

For anyone who enjoys language, syntax, or word games, this is pretty hilarious. Bits and pieces of the wording make sense in isolation, but when strung together, the thing is clearly nonsensical. This must be auto-generated. It really makes me wonder about how much effort goes into crafting the algorithms that piece together spam-text.

In a total coincidence, I just finished reading the Cory Doctorow story “Pester Power” (available in free eBook form here as part of his With a Little Help collection) – which is about someone who writes a genetic algorithm to evolve an AI by spamming forums and chat rooms until it can pass a Turing test. The idea is kind of clever, and it might actually work…which is frightening, because I figure spammers, ad agencies, and marketing firms must already be on it…evolving evil AIs whose entire purpose is to sell us things or entrap us with malicious links…