Thursday, August 26, 2004

Olympic Yeilds for Large Nations

/ perspective on the ratio of olympic medals to citizens represented. /

We all know that the USA will walk away from Athens with more metal than any other nation. We usually do. A look back at the history of modern Olympic games tells us the story of a nation that stands on top with a total count of 860 gold, 651 silver and 575 bronze medals. Out of the 25 Olympiads from 1896 to 2000, the USA has come in first in the medal standings 14 times. The only other nations that have ever swept the lion share of medals is France, Great Britain and Germany each having done it once and the Soviet Union having done it 6 times, then a seventh time as the Unified Team of former Soviet Republics.

Still, this has never really been a true reflection of the athleticism of any particular nation. The nations with the most medals tend to have enormous populations which is a sheer influence on medal standings. A nation with a large population will stand more chance of producing an Olympic champion than a nation with a small population. If a nation such as Sweden, which in 2000 had a population of 8.9 million people, can take away 4 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze as they did that year in Sydney, it means that there are more Olympic champions per citizen in that country than there is in a country like China which took home 28 gold, 16 silver and 15 bronze medals that same year but had a population at the time of 1.2 billion. So for Sweden there is one medal per 743,631 people, for China there is one medal per 15,153,450 people. To me that says something. It says something about the natural or cultural inclinations of a nation's people. Canada has a medal for every 2,234,150 people and the USA has a medal for every 2,910,708.

Of course there can be lots of ways to measure the Olympic spirit in a nations daily culture, but this perspective seemed an easy one to explore given the availability of required data. The medal counts coming from the official Olympic site www.Olympics.org and the population estimates from the US Census Bureau. So for fun I decided to tally things up and give the nations with a truly athletic culture at least some of the credit they deserve for what they brought to Sydney in 2000. This ranking is based on a ratio between population and medal count where gold medals count for 3, silver counts for 2 and bronze counts for 1. The ratios compare athletic performance to number of people per country.

Top 15

1. Bahamas

2. Australia (of course being a host nation makes a difference, but still....)

3. Cuba

4. Norway

5. Jamaica

6. Hungary

7. Bulgaria

8. Barbados

9. The Netherlands

10. Estonia

11. Iceland

12. Slovenia

13. Sweden

14. Trinidad and Tobago

15. Greece

Of course, some of the smaller countries tend to send their athletes or even borrow athletes from larger countries but continuing through the list and finding out where some of these bigger nations rank makes such exceptions seem marginal.

27. France

29. Russia

30. Germany

34. Great Britain

40. Canada

79 countries won medals in Sydney, we find the nations with the most medals toward the bottom of this index. Champion USA actually ranks 41 out of 79.

41. USA

52. Japan

73. China

Interesting to note that India, the second largest nation in the world, was ranked last out of the 79. Their athlete, Karnam Malleswari, won a bronze medal in women's weightlifting.

 

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The World in 100 People

With 6 billion people in the world it's difficult to look at the statistics one might find in an almanac and gather any real sense of proportion from such huge numbers. Brian Douglas Skinner provides an interesting page that transfers the ratios to smaller numbers by constructing an imaginary village of 100 people, something we can visualize. It's an interesting way to look at the world.

Link -> Global Village
 

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Blog Redesign

Although it may not look like it, I've redesigned my blog. For those who could care less about the technical aspects of what I've done there really isn't much difference aside from the search engine that I built in Perl. You can now search my posts for specific words.

For those who are interested, I also traded in my overly complicated blogger template for a PHP page that includes the output of my blog using a much simpler template. The side bars are now separate html files that I can manage independently of the main template. Eventually, the book reviews will be a blog on it's own included in the same PHP page. I've also added the capability to comment on selected posts. Something, I'm still trying to decide if I really want or not.

 


Archives:




Noteworthy:

* Current Post
* Inside the Patriot Act
* Luminosity of a Future City
* Arctic Drilling
* Human Decline
* Wealth Inequality
* Bush Sells Our Forests
* Healthcare and Terrorism
* Chemical Assault
* The Cuban Medical Industry
* The Endless War
* Do the Rich Need Tax Breaks?
* A Collapse of Some Kind
* Guantanimo Bay

* About the Picture
* More Stuff...
* About Metaspective



Links:

My Links:
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Other Links:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Amnesty International
International Committee of the Red Cross
Almanac of Policy Issues
Public Citizen
The Millennium Project
Oxfam
Fourth Freedom Forum
UNEP
Union of Concerned Scientists
Surfriders Foundation
NRDC
Disinfopedia
Annenburg Fact Check
Taxpayers for Common Sense
The Progress Report
Daily Reckoning
Economic Indicators



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Books That I am Reading:


The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism


Books That I've Read Lately:


Catcher in the Rye


J.D.Salinger

My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present


Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less


Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative


Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader


Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

TechGnosis
Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down


John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman


John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

Collapse:
How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
T.R.Reid

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

Cuba
A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

1984
George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels


Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.

Consilience


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money


Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".