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No Medal For Bush

Yikes. New software for the blog. I think I can do this -- but if I hit the wrong button and these words accidentally appear on someone else's blog, or, worse, inadvertently form a coherent and persuasive argument, I'll have to call the techies to see what went wrong.

Rolled back into town last night -- let's not belabor the carbon footprint of my road trip other than to say that in penance I will need to plant an entire forest -- and caught some of the Olympics. There was much talk about whether some of the pixies on the Chinese women's gymnast team are really 16 years old (they have to be at least 16 at some point during 2008 in order to compete). There are rumors that some are only 14, or even as young as 12. But that's nonsense. One of those girls was clearly 9. It seems odd that being so young is a competitive advantage, but apparently they're more durable at that age, and more fearless.

The only downside: If they don't win, they stamp their feet and howl, flooding the mat with inconsolable tears.

NBC interviewed President Bush, who seems to be in attendance at every Olympic event. Bob Costas was sharp and professional, as always, but the interviewee put on an odd performance. Bush never looked comfortable, for one: He kept shifting in his chair and cocking his head, and at times he seemed to be searching the studio for flash cards that might offer a talking point. Costas asked about China's human rights record, and Tibet, etc., and Bush declined to say much about it, sticking to the notion that we need to have constructive engagement with China and respect the Chinese people, blah blah blah:

"And you got to understand something, Bob, I don't need the Olympics to advance America's agenda. I've met with Hu Jintao a lot since I have been the President. And, yes, I had a full range -- listen, we agree with them on a lot of things. And we disagree with them on things. And that's the way the relationship is going to be. It needs to be, as I mentioned, constructive and cooperative."

Costas: "But given China's growing strength and America's own problems, realistically how much leverage and influence does the U.S. have here?"

Bush: "First of all, I don't see America having problems. I see America as a nation that is a world leader, that has got great values. And leverage is -- I don't think you should look at the relationship as one of leverage. I think you ought to look at the relationship of one of constructive engagement where you can find common areas, like North Korea and Iran, but also be in a position where they respect you enough to listen to your views on religious freedom and political liberty."

Costas got a little more out of Bush when he asked about what he told Putin during the Opening Ceremonies -- while Russia was pounding Georgia. Bush said the violence was intolerable. But all told, Bush chose to avoid saying anything newsworthy on the foreign policy front.

The one thing that jumped out at me was the way the president twice said that the secret to reform in China will be the promotion of religion. He said that once religion gets started, it can't be stopped. Perhaps, for Bush, religion is the stalking horse [is that the right metaphor?] for liberal democracy (you know: our way of life). Freedom of religion makes everything else fall into place, is perhaps his point.

But it was no gold-medal performance by the president. Or silver or bronze. He didn't fall on his bum completely, but the interview was a reminder that he's not exactly a gifted extemporaneous speaker.


Breaking: Obama wins George Clooney vote, but the Angelina Jolie endorsement is still up for grabs. [Both via Memeorandum.]


The new software says this blog has had 113,000-plus comments so far -- so clearly they are still out there somewhere, floating. We will restore them, somehow. Please stand by. [I am assured that they are, indeed, still in the system and just didn't migrate properly when the software was updated -- and that this will be fixed.]


This Edwards story is filling me with negative energy.

And what a great MoDo line: "His infidelity was oncologically correct."

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 11, 2008; 7:22 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A Day Without Dance
Next: Friendship, Maine


First, my goodness. Back to retrieve the innocents.

Posted by: CP | August 11, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back, Joel! Hope you had a great road trip. We're hoping for some more lovely pictures.

Posted by: TBG | August 11, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Save the Comments!!!

Hey, we all need a rallying cry, right?


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 11, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

New software, eh? That might explain why I couldn't open a single page from WaPo yesterday; why I had to log in 6 times and why hitting the back button got me dumped every single time.

I read 4 to 6 newspapers on line every day, and WaPo on line is just the worst.

Posted by: J. B. Moore | August 11, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

JB, sorry that happened to you. Maybe you should let the WaPo authorities know what happened and when and why etc...but I never know exactly how to report glitches. Maybe I should find out. Is there a tech support email listed on this site?

Posted by: Achenbach | August 11, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

My wife and I talked about how ridiculously young those Chinese female gymnasts looked. Now, I understand that sustained physical exertion can delay adolescence in women, but come on. These young women looked like they belonged on a teeter totter, not the uneven bars.

The frustrating thing is that there is no way that I know of for the IOC to scientifically determine the true age of these athletes. There are no rings to count nor tooth ridges to inspect. And that the Chinese government issued them passports stating that they are all 16 does not fill me with confidence.

As to Bush's performance, I will have to leave an assessment of that to others. When he showed up I ran screaming from the room.

As is my custom.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 11, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

I'm perplexed by Bush's notion that freedom - or promotion of - religion is key to reforming China.

Er, based on *what* evidence, 'zackly?

Certainly not Russia...


Posted by: bc | August 11, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Breaking news on our local ABC affiliate, KSAT13, from he station's index page:

SA Loses Out on Biolab

A new national laboratory to study some of the world's most virulent biological threats will not be built in San Antonio, the Associated Press Reports.

Yet, if a person follows the link to the TV station's website, the story seems to be much of the same rehash of the AP story on Sunday, that reports that the Flora, Miss. site was on the list of five finalists, despite having lower scores than nine other sites. The first graf says that the Mississipi site was named as "a top location," but not "THE top location."

This "breaking news" broadcast by our local ABC affiliate is mighty confusing, since the Department of Homeland Security passed out packets last Thursday here in San Antonio, the packet containing an information sheet stating that the time period for submitting comments for this second round of hearings will close on Aug. 25.

Hope to figure it out and make sense of it all later. Getting ready for the trip to outpatient surgery, where my husbnd will have a lot more skin around the mole site removed, a skin graft taken from his leg, and a lymph node removed.

Posted by: Loomis | August 11, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back Boss.
113,000 seems mighty low to me.
Oh well, gives me more time to work on 200,000.

Posted by: Boko100,000 | August 11, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Best wishes for your husband's recovery, LL.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | August 11, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Boko, re your comment at 6:58 last evening that a firefighter died in fighting the propane blaze, I got an email this morning saying that he was the chief of emergency planning. He was a member of the planners group I belonged to; he joined after I retired, so I didn't know him. But a connection. Small world we live in.

Posted by: slyness | August 11, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

RD - actually, I think that there might be ways of roughly determining people's ages by examining their teeth.

The advancement of 12-year molars and wisdom teeth could be treated as reasonable indicators, I'd think.

Having said that, wouldn't surprise me a bit if a given country's gymnastics team removed them as a matter of course. They could claim that there was an infection amongst the team where removal of teeth were said to be the treatment accoring to team doctors, or perhaps considered as a weight-saving measure. [watch out for medical treatment involving removal of appendixes, tailbones and fingernails. Next: Swim teams without ears or secondary sex characteristics in the name of hydrodynamic streamlining, and keep an eye out for excessive toe webbing].


Posted by: bc | August 11, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

LL, I hope all goes well with your husband today.


Posted by: bc | August 11, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' all...

And welcome back, Joel. Good to see you jump right back into the thick of things.

To be honest, the actual Olympic games bore me to death. The opening ceremony events were cool, but the rest of it is about as exciting to me as watching paint dry. And they messed up my morning TV news fix, to boot. Without "Morning Joe" (Mika Brzezinski rocks -- especially when she gives Scarborough a hard time -- and Erin Burnett just makes my day) I've had to resort to CNN and I can't stand CNN.

Just give me the medal count and highlights and return me to regularly scheduled programming.

Oh well... time to get to it. Spent the morning working on my soon-to-be-released new website for the Wee doors and now have a full day of sanding, sanding, sanding and more sanding ahead of me.

No rest for the furry.

Peace out... :-)

Posted by: martooni | August 11, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Scotty, a thousand apologies for missing you at muster this morning. I think you may have posted during the interim after I read the previous posts and then started writing mine. But serves me right for not doing a full 360 scan of the horizon before taking off.

Cassandra, if you only knew how execrably bad my French is. Je suis moron.

Loomis, fingers crossed.

Padouk, when Bush came on with Costas, I involuntarily and reflexively uttered a very rude word and changed the channel.

Caught the Branagh/Youngs women's v-ball victory this morning just as I was leaving for work. Then saw 30 seconds of the Nidal tennis match. Question: why do players like Nidal, as well as all basketball players, wear those knee-length, baggie shorts? To me nothing in the world looks dorkier. (And god knows, if I still had legs like those tennis players do --and incredible as it may sound, I once did -- I think I'd show a bit more skin, know what I mean?)

The other thing that Nidal clip did was cause a sudden flash of memory: that there are few things in the world more satisfying than the hiss of sound and then the smell of opening a fresh, vacuum-packed can of Slazenger tennis balls. Ahhhhhhhhhh. (Oh, yes, I once was a demon on the court, in my distant youth. And my father once was runner-up in the Philly all-city under-16 championship, back in his day, circa 1933 or thereabouts.)

OK, back to the 21st century. *sigh*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Why do swimmers fill their mouths with water and spit it back in the pool before their event?

My 6 year old thought I knew everything, but I couldn't answer that one.

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Joel, if you go to the main page, there's a "Contact Us" link towards the far right bottom of the page which takes you to a list of names and phone numbers, and a subsequent item for a "Customer Care Center," with "FAQ" and "Feedback" -type sub-menus.

To be blunt, it ain't all that, and there's no text that I could find suggesting that anyone at would be contacting users reporting problems.

Or that there were anyone dedicated to customer care or support, for that matter.

I found lots of nice pages for WaPo advertising sales and rate cards, though.


Posted by: bc | August 11, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it's just a case of diminishing expectations, but Bush seemed almost lucid... ugh!
Anyway, the difference (maybe cultural, maybe age) between the Chinese women's gym team and ours was stunning. Either all of the China girls are 16 and our team is in their late teens or early twenties or the China girls range in age from 10 (maybe) to 14.
One thing that struck me the most about the gymnastics comp is the total joylessness exhibited by the participants - it just looks like such a painful slog. There must be some huge rush involved to justify the body slams and bruises?
Glad you're back JA, things have been might tame in your absence.

Posted by: Dmon | August 11, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Many times over the past week of upgrades, the WaPo home page has failed to come up for me. I get a whole lot of little notices about "Error processing this directive" filling-in a rough approximation of the home page headline area. Also, it says "Welcome, ScienceTim". Other than that, the page is blank. On some days, this is the case all day. On other days (like this morning), it loads properly when I try again in a half-hour. Under these circumstances, it is not possible to access helpful links to comment on the WaPo site. This sounds very similar to the problem encountered by J. B. Moore. Fortunately, the Achenblog loads all right, so I have no need for that silly WaPo home page.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 11, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

DandyLion, do not believe there is any good reason the swimmers are filling their mouths with water and spitting it out. Trying to recall my swimming days for a reason. Could be nerves, dry mouth, or just habit used to relax.

Only habit I had was to splash water on me as the pools were generally much cooler for races than training. The Canadian commentator was about to say something about the pool temp at the Olympics but got side tracked so I am not sure what the concern was - too warm?

Perhaps Jack or CP have a logical reason you can pass the six year old. I think in my years swimming I probably ingest a pool full of water - easier just to take a sip than get out and drink from the fountain - although I would do that as well. You still need to drink as much water as you would with other sports.

Posted by: dmd | August 11, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Sad event this weekend: A kid in our synagogue community died in his sleep on Thursday night/Friday morning. 16 years old. I am fighting my intense curiosity to find out more, because I know where it comes from -- I want to know what magic I can perform, what rituals I can follow so if I just do them right, nothing like that can happen to my kids. ScienceKid#1 knew him, not so much the rest of us. He was universally very well-liked. Being Jewish, burial has to be within 3 days of death, so the funeral was yesterday. SK1 and the ScienceSpouse were there -- ScienceKid#2 and I were at our old house, prepping for marketing. Shiva is tonight and the next couple nights (look it up).

Posted by: PlainTim | August 11, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

martooni - I understand your frustration with the Olympic sports themselves. I sometimes feel that way myself. I mean, these are the 9th Summer Olympics I have watched. (10th if you include clips from Moscow.) There are just so many times you can watch people swim, or perform gymnastics, or row boats real fast. And although there are clearly moments of transcendent beauty in these sports, to my untrained eye it sometimes blurs together.

The secret, I guess, is not to let the athletes become anonymous. To educate yourselves about them so that you actually have a vested interest in the outcome beyond simple nationalism. (I am told that the same thing works for baseball.)

In the olden days they used to really push the personal stories, often to the point of mawkishness, in various "personal interest" vignettes - the definitive ones being Jim McKay's "Up Close and Personal." (I used to wonder if was a requirement that an individual must overcome some horrible personal tragedy to be a successful Olympian.)

They seem to have let up a little bit on these - which is probably not a bad thing - but the underlying concept applies. To really care about the Olympics you need to really care about the individual athletes.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 11, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

*Tim... so sorry to hear about this terrible loss in your community. I love your description of how to keep this from happening in your own home. With all the (possibly unfounded) faith we put in ourselves as parents, it's the perfect way to look at it.

Please pass along my condolences--if you can figure out how to without looking like a weirdo.

Posted by: TBG | August 11, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

re. Bush and Costas. Maybe the next admin will find Bush&cie packed the State department with Mormons, Jeovah's Witnesses, and other proselytizing species but I doubt it. They just let State died shrivelled on the branch.
As noted by Kristof last Saturday in his NYT column: "The United States has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats... More than 1,000 American diplomatic positions are vacant because the Foreign Service is so short-staffed, but a myopic Congress is refusing to finance even modest new hiring....In short, the United States is hugely overinvesting in military tools and underinvesting in diplomatic tools. The result is a lopsided foreign policy that antagonizes the rest of the world and is ineffective in tackling many modern problems."
So when an ally like Georgia (they sorely missed the troops they sent to Iraq) makes a huge mistake State is as surprised as everyone else. Pretty sad state of affair altogether.

Slyness, the firefighter who died in Toronto collapsed while inspecting the rubbles in a part of the plant that wasn't burning anymore. Sad, but it may not be firefighting-related.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | August 11, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

None of the swimmers actually drink pool water; they just wash their mouths out with it, in preparation (same with splashing self). When you race, you're gonna get that water in your mouth anyway, so it helps to get used to it, the chlorine, etc., so it doesn't shock you when you dive in. It's basically just acclimation. You see it in other sports, too-- baseball and football come to mind -- where you take a drink of water and then sopit it out. You're just washing out your mouth. No big deal. (It's different from keeping hydrated.)

Same with swimming in the ocean. You *never* drink/swallow ocean water (intentionally)-- but you can (and do) get it in your mouth, so you might as well get used to the taste of it. (Assuming you go in far enough, not just up to your knees, or keep your head above water.)

Yes, the Chinese girls look exceedingly young. But my girls always looked younger than their ages, too. I think it is just a thing with Asians, who hold their ages well.

I think the "joylessness" mentioned was simply due to both the Chinese and American teams having a tough night. However, I was amazed at the composure of the girls from both teams when something went wrong. If you think these girls are "joyless" (I don't), you oughta hark back to some of the Russian, Romanian and especially East German teams. Now THERE was some joylessness.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I realize that my "look it up" comment looks kind of rude and peremptory. I meant "look up what Shiva means" because I don't feel I have a sufficiently full grasp to describe it. I haven't actually participated before.

Posted by: PlainTim | August 11, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Thinking of our starved State Department, Finland's foreign minister flew to Georgia over the weekend, despite Russian bombing of the airport.

I suspect the governments of Baltic states are nervous today.

Kristof's numbers make me wonder about those idealistic students who go to Georgetown or Johns Hopkins hoping to become Foreign Service officers. I suppose there's plenty of non-government employers. Or the Defense Department.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 11, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Sad, PlainTim. It's truly a shame when children die (and, yeah, 16 is young).

I stayed up to see the swimming relay, and I am soooooo tired right now. But I'm still so annoyed with the 9-parts commercials (mostly the same over and over again) and barely 1-part games. The only commercial which captured my attention was the Rhapsody in Blue - United Airlines one, but how many times can you watch that without grabbing for the mute button? I did that, as well, when "little boy" came on for his interview.

At least the Today show this morning interviewed Cullen Jones on the relay team. The print edition of WaPo not only did not print a picture of the *entire* relay team, it didn't even mention his name -- who made *that* decision? He's African American, and apparently not very many African Americans swim competititively, not to mention get gold medals in the sport, and he's actively working to get more African Americans into the pool, to learn how to swim and even to compete if they want to. Great story, even if the exalted WaPo doesn't think so.

So there.



Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 11, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I hear what your are saying about Asian girls looking young. But I am still suspicious.

Evidently this is such a hot topic that the knocked Liz Clarke's discussion off the internet.

I really hope I am kidding.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 11, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

He got a special mention on the CBC's coverage of the relay ftb. Great race by the way. I am tired too, two nights in a row up late watching live Olympics coverage.

Oddly considering the very white area I grew up in we had a black family that swam with us on our swim team, didn't realize how it was not common until years later.

Tim very sad news about that young person.

LL best of luck to you and your husband today.

Posted by: dmd | August 11, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

PlainTim, apology accepted.

I'm so sorry to hear about that - sad and tragic.

I've never sat shiva myself either (not being of the faith, that's hardly surprising), so I only know a few things about it and in the very traditional senses.


Posted by: bc | August 11, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Interesting statement by Liz Clarke (now that the discussion is back) regarding repercussions should it turn out that the Chinese Gymnasts are underage:

"Liz Clarke: My sense is there will be no repercussions at all. The international governing body of gymnastics (FIG) has made plain that it sees no reason to investigate. It made the age rule and realizes it cannot enforce it beyond comparing athletes' claims to their passport data. If an athlete presents a passport that says they are 16, FIG has no interest in delving into the veracity of the document.

The issue of governments fudging the age of female gymnastics goes back to the early 80s, with Romania and Russia reportedly doing so. Many say China did in 2000, as well. Some say the only solution is to have NO age minimum since it's impossible to enforce. I'm not sure that's the high road, however."

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 11, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for that update, Shriek. If he died of a heart attack, that will place his death in the category of the most common cause of line-of-duty deaths.

We lose 100-110 firefighters a year in the US. About half of those deaths are due to cardiac events or strokes. Another third or so are due to wrecks on the way to or returning from emergencies. Dying in a fire is relatively uncommon.

Posted by: slyness | August 11, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Tim, sorry to hear that news.

I heard Bush's comments on religion and China the other day. Since I believe we've had less freedom of religion these past 8 years, what with having the shrub's specific beliefs shoved down our throats, I'm sceptical.

Posted by: dbG | August 11, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Maybe women's gymnastics needs to have a minimum height/weight requirement, since that is measurable. Arbitrary, too, and would be sad for the people who didn't quite measure up--but lots of things are arbitrary in the Olympics and in the world. The rules select the athletes, in many events. (If marathons were 15 miles long, or 50 miles long, you would have a different group of competitors, for instance.)

Posted by: kbertocci | August 11, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Two tutorials:

First, for you beer drinkers, this very important taxonomy:

Second, some notes about Jewish mourning rituals and "sitting shiva," which has a few wrinkles significantly different from what most of us may be used to in our culture. In our culture, it is common after the interment to all go back to the deceased person's home and have what basically amounts to -- pardon the bluntness -- a "party." Yes, it may be sombre and subdued. But often there will be food, often prepared by friends and relatives. Often a couple of the closest relatives and friends organize/put on this party, act as hosts on behalf of the chief mourners, etc., which is certainly nice of them; we've all done it. Sometimes you just drop in, pay your respects, stay a few minutes, and then leave. Sometimes the after-burial thing turns into a full-blown wake, lasting for hours, with lots of food and drinking, ideally telling lots of stories about the deceased, etc. We've all been to these, too, and there's nothing wrong with any of this.

Jews -- who will normally eat food and celebrate at the drop of a yarmulke -- tend not to do any of this (at least the more observant they are). When you go to the house of the deceased, and the spouse and/or family are there, there is no "party." It is quite possible no one will even greet you at the door; you are expected to just go in (something borderline abhorent to most of us, to just open the front door and walk into someone's house uninvited). There will be no friend or family member acting as host. The spouse/mourning person(s) may be sitting quietly in the living room, or wherever, but they will not get up to greet you; they may not even acknowledge your presence. You don't even have to talk to them -- meaning you don't have to babble those awkward things we all come up with. It would be perfectly acceptable behavior to walk into their house, sit down next to them on the couch, not say a single word to them (or them to you), and then get up and leave after five or ten minutes. This is completely proper. Your presence has been enough. There really is nothing you can say, so why say it (and badly)? The grieving person is thinking about other things, and doesn't really need to deal with you, no offense meant. Under NO circumstances do you try to "cheer up" the mourner, or otherwise make those feeble attempts at some sort of (useless) mitigation. Better to say nothing at all. Do NOT bring or send flowers. If you want to do something, make a donation to a charity.

Don't initiate conversation; if the mmourner wants to speak, that's fine, and follow his/her lead. If they don't want to talk at all, that's fine, too.

Inside the grieving person's house, mirrors as well as photographs will be shrouded in black cloth.

The mourner(s) sits on a low sofa or even on the floor; the idea is to be "close to the ground." It is bad form for you to have your head level with or lower than the mourner's head (i.e., don't sit on the floor next to them unless you are taller; sit on a stool, chair, or whatever, or remain standing if you have to).

This period of sitting shive lasts seven days. One can drop in to visit at any time during this period. Basically all activity in the life of the mourners stops for this period.

Friends and relatives can and do bring food, the idea being to support the mourning family be taking care of these kinds of daily neccessities without them having to think about it.

The very first meal after the interment tends to be very simple: bread and hard-boiled eggs, which are sometimes sprinkled with ashes, are the main element. Friends and relatives organize everything; the family is spared these kinds of fundamental details. There will probably be other kinds of food at the first meal, but remember, the food is mainly for the family; they aren't expected to feed the neighborhood. If anything, it's the other way around.

There are a fair number of other rules, but that's the basics.

As for myself, I much prefer a rollicking all-day-and-into-the night bash when I go. I want lots of drinking and food and laughing and outratgeous story-telling, and lots of music (all my favorites; perhaps with Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" as the theme-setter). I want all the various "groups" in my life who have never met each other to meet and exchange stories, the more libelous and scandalous the better. (The Boodle being one such group, and who are virtually unknown to anyone else in my life, except my wife, who has met a few of you. It's the price you guys pay for being imaginary.)

But I do understand the solemnity and ritual of sitting shiva, and have respect for it. It's just not my way.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

My condolences to Plain Tim for his loss. I was invited to sit Shiva for a family member of my wife’s co-worker. It was my first, I was sensitive about my wardrobe for this occasion. The only black tie I own has a very faint impression of Mickey Mouse ears. You can only see them if the light catches the tie just right. I decided to chance wearing it, hoping that nobody would notice.

We got to the home and made the customary greetings to folks, most of whom were complete strangers to us. The mood was predictably somber and conciliatory. When I greeted the deceased’s brother, his gaze immediately fixed on the tie, and as he reached for it, I thought, “Oh Lord, I’m toast.” But his face beamed, and he loudly exclaimed, “Look, Mickey Mouse!! [name] just LOVED Mickey Mouse. This is just wonderful. Hey, everybody, look at this.” That brightened everyone’s mood, and made the event a bit more festive.

Whew. That was a Shiva that I’ll never forget.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | August 11, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Did you see the 33-year-old on (I think) the German team? She looked absolutely ancient compared to the Chinese team...

Posted by: From Gemantown MD | August 11, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm utterly mystified by all this concern over the ages of the athletes. They start training when they are three, and by the time they hit 16 they've been drilled for for more than a dozen years. That being so, I see no difference whatsoever whether a gymnast is 14, 15, or 16. If they are good enough to compete, so be it. I can see a case where a girl might be 15 and 10 montyhs old-- and therefore "inelligible" -- and would have to wait until she is 19 and 10 months old to compete. This is absurd on the face of it.

One has to assume selection is based on merit; if a 14- or 15-year-old is better than a "legal" 16-year-old, I don't see the concern that they are "bumping" someone who is more deserving. If anything, the Olympics is about pure merit, pure skill. If a 14-year-old can make the cut, so be it.

I understand there is a "rule": and when it comes to sports rules, I'm almost always a rulebook guy. But in this case I just don't see the point or the problem.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Well I guess everything is in the eye of the beholder. I think Bush did well and that it was quite odd that Costas was asking political questions. Bush seemed comfortable and at ease. If you are looking to knock him with something, this is not it. I think he has used the Olympics quite well and has spoken out for Darfur and Tibet.

Posted by: DB | August 11, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, the point is that by allowing kids to compete in a sport (pace yj) where their small stature gives them an actual advantage over adults, we may be inadvertently fostering child abuse. (See previously linked articles) I have read about this problem in connection with jockeys in other countries where they allow children to compete--another example where being small is an advantage.

My daughter did gymnastics from age 5 to 14 or so. It was good for her. But we had to fight for her right to take quality classes at the good gym and not be totally dedicated to it to the exclusion of all else. She just wanted to work out, learn skills, have fun. The coaches were very knowledgeable and they helped her a lot but most of them were really focused on competition (which she never participated in). The alternative, taking classes at a more "casual" gym, meant compromising in terms of quality of equipment and instruction. We tried both and I came away from the experience pretty frustrated either way.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 11, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Howdy. I did not see the Boy Wonder's interview. I passed by, saw he was being interviewed, groaned and left. I'm glad to hear Costas asked him questions about governance and substantive issues. As president, he's expected to be engaging other countries on those issues while he visits and he's supposed to have an opinion on world events (Russia invading Georgia, for instance) even when he's not home. It is part of the job description.

The polarization of kid sports isn't confined to Olympic contenders. Here, kids can play soccer, baseball, basketball etc. just for fun through elementary school. By the time they reach middle school, though, it is very difficult just to play for fun. At that point the "good" kids join competitive teams, and school teams. There isn't much left for kids who just want to play a sport without being serious about it.

Thank goodness for fencing.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 11, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I understand the concern for child abuse, Bertooch; I just don't agree that it exists, or that a smaller child has a competitive advantage over a bigger one, at least not in gymnastics. If anything, younger means less experience and that much less training. In the case of jockies, sure, smaller is better. But gymnastics? I simply don't agree. As to the child abuse, IMHO it begins at age 3, or whenever they start them out; it doesn't occur at age 15. By the time they are 14 or 15, the abuse (if there is any) has occurred long ago. (Not that training a gymnast from that young age is necessarily abusive; like anything else, it is a question of degree and going overboard. I have no problem with little kids taking those classes; my own did. And if one of them had shown some spark into being very good and very competitive, I'd have endorsed it and done everything I could to help make it happen.) I simply don't agree with the premise that a 14-year-old holds an advantage over a 16-year-old. If either has been abused, it has been systematically going on for a decade or more.

The place where I *do* see lots of potential for abuse is in the weight-class sports, where lots of athletes (mostly adults, and almost always male, boxers and wrestlers) abuse and self-abuse themselves trying to make weight (lose weight) to meet a category. The local boxer who was disqualified the other day because he passed out was because he didn't follow instructions and was trying to make weight.

Jockies, yes, I agree.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Dave of the Coonties -- was that your cycad question on Marc Kaufman's chat about Guam and brown tree snakes?

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 11, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I was going post something on kit about the Special Olympics in 2011, but realized it would be in poor taste.

I'll probably end up in purgatory for posting this much.

I've already got a headache.

Time for a walk.

Posted by: omni | August 11, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everything except the last statement: "but the interview was a reminder that he's not exactly a gifted extemporaneous speaker".

It actually was a reminder that he doesn't have any understanding of China, its standing in the region, the world OR general foreign policy for that matter.

I've had enough of people trying to offer "poor speaking skills" as the excuse, over and over again for Bush. I see it as lacking understanding, intelligence and confidence - Period.

Posted by: Paul | August 11, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I think it's pretty evident that a shorter tumbler has an advantage over a taller one.
This goes for divers too. Physics, yanno. Tighter tuck, yasee.

Posted by: Boko999 | August 11, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Ah, sporting competition. I recall in college the dreaded phys-ed requirement. I dreaded it not because of laziness; I was in fact running 5 miles a day minimum, and doing some weight training as well. I took Archery and loved it. They refused to allow me to take Archery 2 however. That was only for "serious competitors." For that matter, they then refused to let me take Running for a credit, on the basis that I ALREADY ran routinely. My lifelong love of bureaucracy began then.

Does anyone else experience the Huffington Post website as a browser-slowing nightmare? It may or may not be worth reading, but I may never know. It's like walking into internet molasses, of a twitchy yet hesitant variety.

Unfortunately for my cultural experience of death, I was raised Presbyterian, and we had neither wakes nor Shivas as rites of passage. No fasts, feasts, no one knew if drinking was proper, all contacts laced with social awkwardness, and ungrounded. A few noble souls always know to say the right thing, but the rules were uncomfortably unknown.

Posted by: Jumper | August 11, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Paul, I wouldn't worry about Joel or anyone on the Boodle offering any excuses for W. Joel may be commenting in this Kit on Arbusto's poor speaking skills. However, apologists for W or his minions don't tend to post here.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 11, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

In the 1970s, when female gymnastics teams were allowed to field women as young as 14 (and occasionally 13), they usually did. I can only assume this is because such teams were seeking a competitive advantage. What other reason would there be?

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 11, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I think the younger age helps in that many girls have not yet had their growth spurts, it took me years to get any coordination back after I had a rapid growth rate around 12. Some would say I never gain coordination again but that is another story. You often hear of figure skaters who are very successful when very young but once they have grown either must relearn or cannot adjust.

Posted by: dmd | August 11, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Only the seven first-degree relatives sit Shiva. Anyone else visiting the home is just that: a visitor.

Gosh. I'm in a nit-picky mood

first-degree relatives are:

Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister and Spouse.

Posted by: omni | August 11, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon explains:
“…there is no "party." It is quite possible no one will even greet you at the door; you are expected to just go in There will be no friend or family member acting as host…
The spouse/mourning person(s) may be sitting quietly in the living room, or wherever, but they will not get up to greet you; they may not even acknowledge your presence. ..
The grieving person is thinking about other things, and doesn't really need to deal with you…
Better to say nothing at all. Do NOT bring or send flowers. If you want to do something, make a donation…
Don't initiate conversation; if the mourner wants to speak, that's fine, and follow his/her lead. If they don't want to talk at all, that's fine, too…”
Now I understand that it wasn’t about being a sour & dour teenager, The Fungi had a religious conversion. He sat Shiva from the age of 13 to 19 years old.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | August 11, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Jumper said, "My lifelong love of bureaucracy began then."

That is snorthworthy. Very snorthworthy.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it's "pretty evident" at all, Boko. But either way, a slighter taller gymnast on uneven bars has an advantage over a shorter one -- so it evens out, since they have to compete in both. I'm not at all sure being smaller helps in the vault. The less weight goes onto the springboard, the less velocity/force the gymnast gets coming off of it. And since the vault is relatively high, the smaller gymnast has that little bit much farther to go to get up and over it. Physics works both ways, you know.

I suspect that being taller and thinner helps on the balance beam, on the same principal as the high-wire walker with the long pole gives extra balance; long arms gives you a bit better balance, all else considered.

In all I think these things are much to close to being a wash, and there are just too many other variables. (One of the all-time best gymnasts there ever was was the Russian Ludmilla Tourischeva, who competed when she was in her 20s against the 16-year-olds -- and who was NOT a small, compact gymnast herslef -- and beat them, and was world champion. She won golds in three successive Olympics ('68, '72 and '76). In one, little Olga Korbut got all the fame and attention -- but it was Tourischeva who won the gold. Tourischeva lost a gold to Nadia Comenici -- who was just 14. (So if Commenici could compete at 14, why do we now have a 16-year-old entry rule? That rule was put in after the Comenici era, which raises the question why. The earlier rule was age 14 by the first day of competition. So it's not like allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to compete is some sort of unusual occurence; in fact it used to be the rule rather than the exception.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I am greatly comforted to have wakes and rosaries and funeral masses with clouds of incense and the lasagna post-burial feast. I do not, however, want gladiolas as a funeral spray. That arrangement was the Italian standard in my community growing up. Glads now, make me think of funerals where the casket is followed by a small brass band, with the musicians all dressed in dark suits, playing in a dirge-like fashion. Now, give me a NoLa jazz version, with a sax or two, and that will be fine.

The Lutheran in-laws were (are?) uncomfortable in these settings. I will say that they make a good pot of church coffee though. But, over my dead body will these dour and composed and wooden people run my leave-taking.

My parents' best friends are Jewish. At my mother's wake, M and L sat off to the side sitting a sort of Shiva in my family home at the some-times raucous fest moments when my mother died. (I have four brothers; need I say more?) I love that M and L gave my mother one of their orthodox-conforming caskets (at the ready in their garage upon the rafters) for her to be buried in. The funeral director removed the Star of David off the ice blue satin lining. My dad asked that it be put back. So, during the evening rosary, she lay there with her pearl-white wedding rosary entwined in her hands with the Star of David on the open lid above her. Perfect and Ecumenical and hey there, Jesus. Was. Jewish. He did not convert!

M and L poured some soil from the Holy Land on her casket. They also escorted my father one year to the day of her burial back to the site. For a kind squeeze and a Blessed be God prayer....

HumanTim -- so sorry for you and your entire community. The burying of a child nowadays -- in our world of health and medicine and good food and prosperity -- is such a shock. The Compassionate Friends group is very good about the singular and dark path that a parents walks after losing a child. This group was extremely important to my Aunt and Uncle when they lost two teen boys within six months of one another.

Posted by: College Parkian | August 11, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

A 14-year-old may indeed have a competitive advantage over an older gymnast. So if a 14-year-old is "better" at a given sport, "the very best," the reason to ban her from the world's most prestigious sporting event would be...what exactly?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry to tell you, 'Mudge, that you are talking through your hat on gymnastics. Look at studies of injuries in elite female gymnasts (you can start with the New England Journal of Medicine [Dresler, C. M., Forbes, K., O'Connor, P. J., Lewis, R. D., Glueck, M. A., Tofler, I. R., Stryer, B. K., Micheli, L. J., Herman, L. R. (1997)] and the British Journal of Sports Medicine [Daly, R M, Bass, S L, Finch, C F (2001)], but there are lots more) and it is clear that a) there is an advantage to the smaller, lighter girls and b) the training for elite female gymnasts can (almost always does) cause serious skeletal injury. Training to the level required for Olympic competition is exceedingly dangerous for very young girls whose skeleton is not fully formed, and it is that risk and the attendant potential for abuse that the rules are trying to address by putting a lower-age limit on competitors.

If you want more study citations I'd be happy to give them to you.

Posted by: Yoki | August 11, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I was wondering about the skeletal structure damage. In ballet, the point moment is also a serious threshold about long-term bone damage. I think that a pitching discussion about arm and ligament vulnerability is also helpful here.

I was always grateful that CPDot II, who dances with fire and grace, did not go the intense bunhead route. CPSiL is still recovering from years of Berlin and San Francisco ballet company stints. Her feet are the most painfully gnarled things....makes me hurt to look at them.

I think we are just now exploring the critical periods by sport when excellence happens. We are even finding that the twenties and perhaps thirties may hold promise for increased performance.

Let's protect growing bodies! And, perhaps their spirits.

About spit in the pool: I think it is a ritual moment, founded in the taste of the water and a bit like splashing the body for a brief acclimation moment. Shall I reveal the worst about swimmers? Pee in the pool, while swimming, always. 'Tis a right of passage to learn how to pee while in motion. Not as easy as it sounds....Yuck. But true. And that is the rest of the story (in my Paul Harvey pausing for drama voice).

Posted by: College Parkian | August 11, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

The real tragedy to my mind is that lots of retired female elite gymnasts are unable to give birth other than by section, because of the severe damage to the lower spine. Lots of talk in the studies about wrist, ankle and elbow injuries too, which can all take the shine off routine activities for years.

Posted by: Yoki | August 11, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh Yoki! From the landings? Micro-fractures? My goodness.

To comfort swimmers, including Sunday-swimmers on the boodle:

Urine contains water, inorganic salts, urea, creatinine, ammonia, catecholamines, allantoin and the breakdown products of red blood cells. Urine is similar to sweat in composition. Surprisingly, very little is known about pool chemistry. However, Purdue engineers are hard at work on this project:

A former student of mine -- chemical engineering student AND NCAA swimmer -- wrote a paper for me on pool chemistry problems.

Basically, right now, we can worry more about the off-gassing of disinfection by-products called chloramines, rather than worry too much about pee-soup. This means that outdoor swimming pools would give you less a dose of those inhaled compounds because they disperse into the air. Indoor pools would mean a higher dose of inhaled chloramines....EPA is also studying the lifetime dose of inhaled chloramines that showering occasions.

Boyo, I have stumbled into nerdlordom territory. Pardon me. Move along, etc.

Posted by: College Parkian | August 11, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Science Tim,
That was me over at the Guam Discussion.

As an Air Force brat, I was very aware of Guam (a high school classmate disappeared to there for a year, then returned), not to mention Newfoundland and the island I got to experience, Puerto Rico.

As a biologist, I've never dealt with the brown tree snake issue, but did edit a lot of material on conserving Hawaiian plants.

Florida of course has pythons, which recently spread to Key Largo. At least four endangered Key Largo woodrats have been found inside pythons. I wonder whether a big python could die of acetominophen poisoning.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 11, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but Yoki, aren't all those girls going to be training just as hard and competing just as hard anyway, whether they are in the Olympics or not? Won't they be participating in every other gymnastic meet at the highest levels that allow it? Not one single girl is going to NOT be training her heart out anyway. How does banning them from this one event every fours years protect any of them? Will banning them from the Olympics until they are 16 accomplish anything? Will it stop any of them from getting hurt? It'll only stop them getting hurt in this one competition, in this one setting.

If they stop being trained when they are 12, 13, 14, how are any of them ever going to be Olympians at age 17?

Yes, I know they get hurt. How does the 16 age limit stop that? Won't the 14s and 15s be back home training their brains out for when they *are* 16 or 17 and eligble for the next round?

I know all about young girls' skeletons not being formed. I once did a major story about roller-coaster desgn, and interviewed the nation's premier design team. The hed engineer/genus told me they made a study that showed the single type of person most vulnerable to roller coaster rides were tall, willowy 12-year-old girls who has suddenly shot up in their growth spurt, because their skeletons were still "whippy," and they tended to suffer neck injuries according.

I know all this. But how do you get to be an 18-year-old hard-training gymnast without being a 12-year-old hard-training gymnast first? Where does the risk reduction phase come in? Who is it that lets 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds slack off for a few years until their bones harden?

The Olympics may be every four years, but there are national and international competitions every year. I just don't see any hard-driving parents, hard-driving coaches, or super-dedicated kids voluntarily backing off just because the calendar isn't quite cooperative to their schedules and ambitions.

Yes, they are more-than-usually vulnerable to injury. No question. Will the ban stop this? Or is it just some do-gooder vain attempt to pretend to help, when in fact it accomplishes nothing? Would Bela Karoli back off? Would the Chinese coaches? The Russians? Germans? (The Americans?) Is Nadia Comenici (married to Bart Connor) running around the world and telling 12-years to stop working so hard, and to pull back on their dreams? Are *any* of the successful role models telling anyone to be more more careful and protective of 12-year-olds with softer skeletons? You all know they aren't.

Now, I'll be the first to admit I have *no* solution to the problem. But I think issuing an age limit that really accomplishes nothing but makes some people think (falsely) that they are solving a problem and "protecting" the girls isn't one of them. No girl, no athlete, worth her salt would pay an ounce of attention to such a notion that they should back off and let down. I sure as hell wouldn't. For good or ill, it is just not something athletes and competitors do.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Front Page Alert...

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 11, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

BTW, talk about strange performances, have you seen the video of Bush in the stands at the opening ceremonies? Fidgeting, looking bored, whacking the American flag on his knee.

If that was Obama........ I wouldn't even want to think about the hue and cry that would of went up across the right wing and their mainstream media enablers about his behavior.

But Bush? As usual he gets a pass. It's not mentioned at all while Obama gets dinged for going to Hawaii to visit his grandmother. Good grief. Some liberal media we got here.

Posted by: Unrepentant Liberal | August 11, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

There are two distinct issues with regards to underage female gymnastics.

The first has to do with the health concerns of young women. It could be argued that this risk of injury is a rational choice made by these athletes in the same way that a linebacker chooses to engage in a sport that is dangerous. Who are we to dictate such trade-offs?

Now, of course, this argument of self determination assumes a degree of autonomy in these young women that very well may be absent - especially in hyper-competitive nations not known to value individual rights. (Hence the implicit accusations of child abuse.)

But the other, quite distinct issue is one of competitive fairness. Teams with underage women competing have an unfair advantage over those who follow the rules. Based upon this, even if there were not risk to the women, it is still cheating. And in this way is no different than doping.

My only point is that if we have the rule, it really would be nice if it could actually be enforced.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 11, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps, for Bush, religion is the stalking horse [is that the right metaphor?] for liberal democracy (you know: our way of life). Freedom of religion makes everything else fall into place, is perhaps his point.

Nothing like a group of god crazed fundies to put a wackjob like Bush into power TWICE. The chinese should stick with what they have.

Posted by: playa | August 11, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I'd try to explain what I meant but I'd only tick you off and frustrate meself.

Taller and more massive atheletes have to contend with this (see the biomechanics section):

I'll let youse guys worry obout the medical and psychological areas.

Posted by: Boko999 | August 11, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The Colossal demand and appetite of the public to see people do freaky things that injure themselves will not be denied! Do not attempt to fight it! Viva Knieval! More Circus! More bread! The Empire will never die!

Posted by: Jumper | August 11, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

CP, I like your answer of why swimmers spit into the pool, not a logical answer I was looking for, but an answer none the less.

I suppose the competitive swimmers all answered "Yes" when they were asked by their mothers, "Would you jump in the lake too if everybody else was doing it?"

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

You obviously have no idea on how different people of differnent ethnic gruop look like. We Asian women always marvel at how developed a 15 years old American girl can look like. We say the same thing "There is no way the girl is only 15 years old" --with totoally opposite meaning. Asian women look much younger in general. My mom is in her fifties and she has a face that looks like an American woman in her thirties.

Consider this good genes.

Posted by: Fluer | August 11, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, this discussion about the impact of athletics on young bodies. I suppose it all comes back down to the choices we make. Is the risk of injury, or the reality of injury, worth the effort? That's a question only the athletes themselves can answer. My guess is that most of them would say that their accomplishments are worth the pain they endure.

Here is a story from the other end of this spectrum. Is this person's life and burdens worth bearing?

Jumper, I'm with you on bureaucracy, and I *was* a professional bureaucrat.

Posted by: slyness | August 11, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I can tell you that even from a recreational perspective - if you love a sport you will compete through pain - my husband still plays hockey despite a knee that has been operated on several times - there is no hope of a career, money or fame - just a love of the sport and competition.

Amplify that and you have elite athletes - the risks are known.

Posted by: dmd | August 11, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

My daughter and I watched Bush talk to

Costas yesterday and after a few minutes,

I turned to her and remarked that Bush

looked like one of the comedians who

impersonate him.

On a more serious note, I wonder how Putin

and China viewed his remarks.

Speaking of Putin, I saw footage on TV of

his "running for cover" when he thought a

plane overhead was out to get him. All I

could think of was a defying Yeltsin

put his foot on a Russian tank daring

them to run him down, during the

imprisonment of Gorbachev. My, my, how

times have changed.

Posted by: J | August 11, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The mouth water/spit sequence is a form of ritual cannabilism that takes the "essence" of all previous competitors into a warrior. It imparts strength and a number of intestinal disorders.

Posted by: pegleg | August 11, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

CP, pee-soup, superb!

Mudge: //But how do you get to be an 18-year-old hard-training gymnast without being a 12-year-old hard-training gymnast first?//

Um, probably the same way the guys do?

Yoki, CP, how about an imaginary lunch? . . . anyone else?

Posted by: dbG | August 11, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Pegleg, very funny. Now, can you explain the baseballer-at-bat rituals. Please take for discussion, the amazingly consistent and velcro-obsessed Nomar Garciaparra.

Thank you. I await your wizardry and wisdom.

Posted by: College Parkian | August 11, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I don't understand about the 1000 pound man. He didn't get there by himself. People had to help him destroy his life.

Imagine your friend saying to you, I'm too fat to stand up, so I need you to go to the store and buy me a pound of bacon and two dozen eggs so I can eat breakfast today. I just don't get why people would do this.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 11, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Not that I know anything, kbert, but I think it's more family than friends that got that person to that point.

I DO know I wouldn't enable someone that way. *shrug*

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 11, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I will never again think of pea soup the way I used to.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | August 11, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

So Bush sucks at extemporaneous speaking. That's not exactly news. What IS news is that Obama the Orator is no better at off-the-cuff dialogue either. McCain on the other hand, now there's a guy that can shoot the bull with you.

Posted by: BeowulfthePolitician | August 11, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I can tell you I am rethinking all those years spent several feet behind swimmers in the pool. I have never heard of the peeing while training - I am hoping it is an American thing.

Not mention my previous statement about how much water I ingested. Oh My!

Posted by: dmd | August 11, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

When are we having imaginary lunch?

Posted by: Yoki | August 11, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Is it too late for today? Better to pencil it in for tomorrow?

Where would you like to go?

Posted by: dbG | August 11, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, you'd think some of you people never went swimming in a swimming pool. Whaddaya think is in the water?

What do you think is in ocean water? (And perhaps this may be the time to bring up W.C. Field's reason for never drinking water... .)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I have to go to the library *now,* so text me where to go for lunch, if today. :-)

Posted by: dbG | August 11, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Lets eat!

Posted by: Mike | August 11, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

If I can't have a rocket pack I'll settle for one of these.
"Invisibility Cloak One Step Closer"

Posted by: Boko999 | August 11, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh, now is fine. What do sort of place do you want? White linen and fine china, or diner-type?

Posted by: Yoki | August 11, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

To Fluer... if you think all of the girls on the Chinese team are 16, you are not being objective. The Chinese have admitted to using underage gymnasts back in Sydney. Yang Yun of China won individual and team bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and later said in an interview on state-run television that she had been 14 at the time of those Games.

Posted by: PaulS | August 11, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry about it DMD, urine is steryl. Saliva, on the other hand is full of bacteria and germs making the act of spitting in the pool filthier than peeing into it.

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Urine is sterile when it leaves the kidneys, Dandy (if you're healthy); that's true. But even if it is sterile when it leaves the kidneys, it can pick up germs along the way out. Think about where it goes after it leaves the kidneys--and you just don't know where that thing has been.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 11, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

DMD and Yoki and I are having such a nice luncheon repast. Even with the intrusion of details, details, details.

However, now I know a chemistry project for some lucky science fair victim who is also a swimmer. Mwhahahahahahahhah! In a Boris Karloff sort of voice.

Dandylion, nice to hear from you. I expect you went over to the On Parenting blog where occasional flits of mean momminess or masquerading trolls appear. Like you here, with us.

Posted by: College Parkian | August 11, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

The cause of Christianity in China is near and dear to the Far Right in the US.

That's the sole reason Bush brought all this up. Christians in the US are still miffed that their missionaries from centuries past didn't convert 1 billion people to Protestant Christianity.

Funny how they aren't nearly as concerned about non-Christian religions being messed with.

As for Bush's demeanor in China, it's been nothing short of embarrassing. Looks like a junior frat brother on some sort of weekend bender.

Posted by: Hillman | August 11, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

In the "goes without saying" department:

Welcome back, Joel, we missed ya. Hope you had fun.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 11, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

How can one stand in a pool lane and not take in enough water to make a fine fountain through the teeth?

I have never been an elite athlete, but have always loved to play basketball. I know very well how aches, pains, cuts, bruises and even broken bones go unheeded during competition. Can it count as "playing through pain" when you don't feel it? I couldn't lift a relatively light backpack with my right arm for almost the entire year I was 41, but the fabulous season I had on a co-ed basketball team when I was 40 was worth the torn rotator cuff and then some.

Having said that, I'm not sure very young gymnasts are really in a position to make life altering decisions about their bodies and training. It doesn't help that coaches were complicit in the East German steroid scandals, one case where athletes could honestly say "I thought they were just vitamins."

Posted by: frostbitten | August 11, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

That's my concern, frostbitten. I accept that competition at elite levels, Olympic and otherwise, requires training and playing with pain and the risk of serious injury. I accept that serious athletes, amateur and professional, are willing to take those risks and embrace those certainties. I respect that. What I worry about is that children and even teens are not in a position to rationally make those choices. Some of the youngest may not be aware the choices are being made for them. Teens, of course, are notorious for not thinking through consequences and considering long-term effects.

I am concerned about our sports culture willingness, globally, to encourage (or in the case of some countries, require) children to aspire to those performance levels, while they are children. Just because young girls or teens may be better at gymnastics, for example, doesn't mean we should allow their abilities to be the standard by which other, older athletes may be judged, and encourage them to compete. This is a sport-by-sport decision, clearly; some competitions favor older, stronger and more mature bodies and some do not.

As Mudge says, an Olympic ban would do little practical good without an overhaul of the youth competition culture generally. Such a ban might be symbolic but I doubt it would have much effect as long as the structure of elite competition remained in place.

Yes, Joel, it is delightful to have you back.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 11, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks everyone, it's nice to be back. Next time when I go on vacation I will schedule sunshine instead of constant rain.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 11, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

dbG, CP, that was an excellent lunch, and I can't remember when I last laughed so much. Let's do it again soon.

Posted by: Yoki | August 11, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Well ain't this a fine kettle 'o fish?
Since many of you seem to enjoy gardening and some of you probably remember elm and chestnut trees getting wiped-out, thought you may want to know about the local threat to ash trees - I know this is off-topic, but part of the beauty of living here is the diversity of flora and old hard-wood forests. Sorry if the formating is kludged - I've cut this from an email...

August 5, 2008

SUBJECT: Four Additional Counties in Virginia Added to the Quarantine Area
for Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis)

On July 21, 2008, the State of Virginia established a quarantine area for emerald ash borer (EAB) which included Arlington, Fauquier, Loudon, and Prince William Counties. Virginia also established a quarantine area for the independent Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

Under Virginia law an independent city is a distinct and separate governmental unit from the county in which it is located.

EAB has not been detected in these additional areas, but Virginia has
established these as quarantine areas due to their physical proximity to known infestations and because of known high risk associations with Fairfax County such as the movement of woody landscaping debris and firewood in recent years.

In response to Virginia's phytosanitary action, APHIS is publishing regulations which are parallel to Virginia's for EAB in Arlington, Fauquier, Loudon, and Prince William Counties and the independent Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park. Due to the phytosanitary actions taken by the State of Virginia to place these EAB restrictions in place, APHIS is establishing a parallel quarantine area in order to prevent the further spread of EAB. Accordingly, effective immediately, all interstate movement of EAB-regulated articles from the quarantined area must be done in accordance with the attached Federal Order. Specifically, the interstate movement of EAB-host wood and wood products from Arlington, Fauquier, Loudon, and Prince William Counties and the independent Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park is regulated, including firewood of all hardwood species, nursery stock, green lumber, waste, compost, and chips of ash species.

EAB is present in some parts of the United States, but is subject to official controls to prevent further spread. Currently, Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, and Mercer Counties in western Pennsylvania have been established as quarantine areas for EAB, together with the entire States of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Portions of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the entirety of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Prince George's County in Maryland, and Fairfax County in Virginia, have also been established as quarantine areas and EAB was detected last year in one county in West Virginia.

EAB is an invasive wood boring beetle that is native to China and eastern Asia. EAB probably arrived in North America hidden in wood packing materials commonly used to ship consumer and other goods. It was first detected in the United States in southeastern Michigan. Since then, EAB has been responsible for the death and decline of more that 25 million ash trees in the United States. The interstate movement of firewood from quarantined areas is an especially high risk pathway for spreading EAB, and APHIS is working with State cooperators and foresters to raise awareness about this threat among the public.

EAB is considered to be present in some areas in the United States, and subject to official control.

Posted by: Dmon | August 11, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I think I had best just go jump in the Ichetucknee.

Posted by: Jumper | August 11, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Hot Buttered Soul... it sounds real good, like I knew it would.

Speaking of swimming:

Posted by: Jumper | August 11, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, under the Bush Administration we have become a "world joke".

I know because I have many friends from other countries and they say they and a lot of their fellow countrymen/women are so disappointed by the US policies.

Posted by: World Leader | August 11, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

New Kit

Posted by: dmd | August 11, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I guess no one saw Bush in Putin's face as they watched the opening ceremonies. Not exactly over looking the Georgia issue by any means!!!!

He couldn't have been in a better place to be in Putin's face.

Posted by: Jeff Crocket | August 11, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Bob Costas "professional as always?"

i don't know if i speak for anyone else here, but i just wanted the media wh*re to shut his trap during the opening ceremonies. What a bore.

Posted by: Buck Thrust | August 11, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

To the contrary, Joel, I did like Bush's interview (and I am not a devotee.) He does have a regular guy appeal.

Posted by: GerriM | August 11, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I never tried gymnastics until I was in my 20's, and I did a nearly perfect forward flip on my first try. I was shocked. See, while my weight is far from ideal for gymnastics, my build is right in the "ideal range."

Unfortunately I'm also at risk for athritis (and obesity is a worse partner in that), thanks to WHY I have a gymnast's build-- genetics. Genetics also can also set an athlete up for injury in no time flat. Many shorter women have particular genetics that both cause short height and higher risk of arthritis and other joint issues, and short legs and long back also causes lordosis of the spine. On the other hand being too tall for gymnastics causes higher injury potential with age.

Therefore, if you look at short gymnasts and say "they're more prone to skeletal issues"... well, duh. You're overlooking WHY they're in gymnastics instead of playing basketball. Skeletal issues= short, differently built. A ex-gymnast I know would actually have had osteoathritis ANYWAY due to familial genetic issues. Attempting to take gymnastics to the elite level just accelerated it and worsened it, she was crippled by age 15.

When you compare gymnasts to non-gymnasts, you must be careful not to compare apples to oranges, and to look at what risk are inherent in the build itself.

Gymnastics can always be changed to be done on safer surfaces. (The Beijing olympics has mats on wood floors on foam cubes-- much more deadening of impact than mats on wood on springs).

Unfortunately gymnastics is hard to change to favor bigger gymnasts, even if most people are now much bigger than they used to be. See, physics is always in the way. So there's a certain selection issue that will never be overcome except by more rigorous fitness screenings of girls seeking to compete in gymnastics at the junior level (long before olympic level).

The effects of training on skeletal growth are conflicting. To add to the confusion, many skeletal issues can emerge after puberty SEPARATELY from exercise-- scoliosis, etc.

Yet, rhythmatic gymnasts may grow taller than genetically predicted, due to delayed growth through puberty. Catch-up growth does exist.

My gymnastics coach denied that a back flip causes arthritis by itself. She said playing hurt was the top cause of arthritis in any sport. She then told me about a girl she had rehabilate her severely scolioic back with uneven bar exercises-- the only ones she could really do with her back brace on. Well, 4 years later, she needed no brace, her back was perfectly straight and fit under the coach's guidance on safe gymnastics. That, to her, was better than a gold medal anyday.

Now, I'd like to see tennis played on anything BUT concrete, which is one of the most joint-destroying surfaces in existence. I think THAT is child abuse, to make anybody run on concrete; I know of competitive tennis players who have had to have complete bilateral knee replacements before age 22. And what for? The ability to hit a tennis ball?

Jeez-louise. What's wrong with having people play tennis on wood floors instead like in basketball or on mats? I don't think the original tennis courts were on concrete, but on grass. I would play on grass. My knees told me tennis on concrete was a very very stupid idea when I was 14.

My body has never told me gymnastics was a bad idea when I tried it. Indoors, nice padded mats for impacts, do it as my ability allows, no frantic dashing after balls.

Nowadays I like asthenga yoga, which is the granddaddy of modern gymnastics, and I'll stay with that instead.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 11, 2008 10:28 PM | Report abuse

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