Saturday, August 30, 2008

Being an Olympian: what to expect

A lot of practice sessions. Tough ones, to be sure.

But once you get there to compete, and stay in the Olympic Village, the expectations might be different.

Matthew Syed, a former Olympian, shares a story of interaction among athletes in the Olympic Village. A fact which, perhaps, caused some 100,000 high-quality condoms made available at the Village's clinic.

Do you want to be an Olympian? (or just being there in the Olympic Village)

This sex fest was not limited to Barcelona: the same thing happened in Sydney in 2000, my second Olympics as an athlete, and is happening right here in Beijing, where this time I'm a commentator. I spoke to an Aussie table tennis player this week to check out the village vibe and he launched into the breathless patter common to any Olympic debutant: “It is unbelievable in there; everyone is totally crazy once they are out of their competitions. God knows what it is going to be like this weekend. It is like a world within a world.” A British runner (anonymous again: athletes are not supposed to talk to journalists unaccompanied by a PR type, least of all about sex) said: “The swimmers finished earlier in the week and it was like there was an eruption.”

blog it

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Monday, August 25, 2008

On beach volleyball

As a response to Anita's "no problem with men's beach volleyball - for a different reason", watch again the women's beach volleyball final. It had it all: beach, bikini, rain, and women jumping, rolling and hugging each other. What else can a sport fan ask?

Though this is inspired by some other websites, I think I win my case :)

Check out these pictures from FIVB.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

At least

Here I am, waiting for the Olympics closing ceremony and watching Astro reviews how Malaysian athletes performed in the Olympics.

It's been full of "at least".

Like, "At least he broke the national record."
Or, "At least she got the international experience."

Then, the commentators talked about how Lin Dan studied the video of Lee Chong Wei's moves - enabling him to play fast and anticipate most of Chong Wei's shots. Surprised?

Well, at least next time they can consider using video too...

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Beijing 2008

I was lucky to get the chance to go to Beijing early this week to see some actions in the Olympics. This was a corporate hospitality program of which I was selected to participate. So I'd like to think it has something to do with the cigar I celebrated last year.

The visit was only three days short, but the schedule was packed. It started with table tennis on the first day, men's beach volleyball and athletics on the second day, and women's diving on the last day.

I brought along my new Sony Alpha SLR camera, and took a lot of pictures. (Yes, some of them were the cheerleaders from the beach volleyball game.)

Here are some of my observations.

Olympic Lane. To anticipate traffic during Olympics, one lane is dedicated as Olympic lane in some streets and highways. Surprisingly (or not?) people are pretty disciplined in keeping this lane only for the Olympic-related vehicles. I was also told that during this period Beijing implements odd-even license plate number to match with the days; that it was quite bad that some offices allow their employees to go to work during the days they can drive. Hey, it's the Olympics after all.

Supporters. When their countries do not play, most supporters will support the better-looking players. At least that's what I observed during the table tennis matches. Tetyana Sorochynska from Ukraine (was playing against Wenling Tan Monfardini from Italy), for example, received full supports from my Indian colleagues.

Chinese-descendant players. Most table tennis players are Chinese-descendant. Whether they represent France, Italy, Canada, Poland, and more.

Men's beach volleyball. My colleagues made fun of me going to see the men's beach volleyball game. Sure, women's beach volleyball would be perfect. But we were definitely entertained by the cheerleaders (the game was of high quality too!) See, men's beach volleyball isn't that bad.

Athletics. Usain Bolt was damn fast, and he really looks enjoying every single moment. That's the way it is!

Foreigners. The city is full of foreigners. Most are corporate guests from the main sponsors, and the athletes and coaches themselves, of course. I met a Texan, quite arrogant, who comes with the U.S. soccer team. He doesn't like to sightsee (though I met him near the Forbidden Palace), only to drink and boom-boom.

English. More people in Beijing, I believe, are able to speak English. Some information booths are trilingual. Cops can clearly explain where to get cabs. Servers can even explain that the yummy Peking duck was cooked with pork oil. (damn it!)

I uploaded some of the pictures to my flickr and facebook.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Confused with history

Still with the spirit of independence day, and the fact that I'm home alone and got nothing to do, I was thinking about some heroic stories from Indonesia's independence day history.

One, the only one indeed, that came in mind was the Battle of Aru Sea. It is the one whose diorama I still remember after my visit to the Satria Mandala museum, thanks to Mas Aroengbinang.

It's truly heroic. One of three Indonesia's warships (MTB, motor torpedo boat,-type) decided to let itself to be a target so that the other two could run away from two Dutch destroyers' attack. The ship, KRI Macan Tutul, eventually got hit and sank.

Googling for more information about the incident, however, led me to some variations from the story I learned back in the elementary school. The version in Wikipedia seems to be the most updated one.

It says, the decision was for all ships to return and sail away. KRI Macan Tutul, unfortunately, got a problem and kept making right turn. (Another version is going straight to the two destroyers.)

Holy moly! What's happened? What has really happened?


Well, the heroes are still heroes. They fought for their country, and they deserved to become heroes. Not only the high-ranked officers. But all who contributed - physically, mentally, or with any other means.

But hell, why histories are tweaked? Were they genuine mistakes? Were they versions of the writers (being subjective)?

If a-century-ago histories are not that accurate, what about those from thousands years ago?

Yes, like today's religions.

I guess the truth is out there... we just want to believe...

Other interesting websites that discuss Indonesia's history are Anusapati (check an entry on heroism) and Beni's Overseas Think Tank for Indonesia.

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Independence day spirit and Dara Torres

Dara Torres is the oldest in the U.S. swimming team - and perhaps among all swimmers in the Olympic - competing in her 5th Olympics. Neither the sexiest nor the prettiest athlete (but she posed on Maxim magazine in 2000).

And, umm, she's got short hair too.

What she recently did in the semifinal was quite a topic, given the competitive nature of the event: helping out a rival swimmer.

"Therese's suit ripped when we were getting ready to walk out," Torres said. "I tried to help her with it, tried to do it up, and it ripped again. So I walked out and was trying to get them to hold the race for her. I was saying, 'Her suit's ripped.' And waving my arms around."

A counter argument on this is that what she did actually threw off other swimmers' concentration. Ridiculous argument. I think what she did was based on fairness, or fair play - one that some soccer players just fail to do.

On how this qualifies as an independence day spirit, I'm not sure. (What is independence day spirit, anyway?)

But for the sake of it - her act is a quality that we, as a nation, must possess to move forward. To accomplish what our predecessors dreamed of, and to correct mistakes we did in the past.

The quality of being fair, unselfish, and mindful of others.

We have been an independent nation for 63 years, and we're still fighting over things because our lack of this quality, for crying out loud.

It's been too long. It's the time
now to move on.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On bullwhip effect

In a supply chain network, (demand) variability increases as orders move upstream. Eventually, the network can oscillate in very large swings as each organization in the supply chain seeks to solve the problem from its own perspective. This phenomenon is known as the bullwhip effect and has been observed across most industries, resulting in increased cost and poorer service.

Among the culprits are demand forecast inaccuracies: everybody in the chain adds a certain percentage to the demand estimates. The result is no visibility of true customer demand.

This phenomenon apparently also applies in life.

Well, how?

It's simply the attempt to impress. Unfortunately, people get inaccurate and unconfirmed information about how to impress. They end up trying many things that they think or assume will work.

This is cascaded down. And further down, with many more assumptions, in the hierarchy. Moving the herds up and down with new assumptions. The swings get bigger each level.

No one wins.

It sucks.

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