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Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Luger Dies After Crash During Training Run - went over the wall of the track and hit a pole -

Reading - Olympic Luger Dies After Crash During Training Run - went over the wall of the track and hit a pole -



Officials said Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled Friday, went over the wall of the track and appeared to hit a pole at the Whistler Sliding Center.

A men's Olympic luger from the country of Georgia died Friday after a high-speed crash on a track that is the world's fastest and has raised safety concerns among competitors. IOC president Jacques Rogge said the death hours before the opening ceremony "clearly casts a shadow over these games."

Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled during training, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center. Doctors were unable to revive the 21-year-old luger, who died at a hospital, the International Olympic Committee said.

"We are heartbroken beyond words," said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver organizing committee.

Before speaking at a news conference, a tearful Rogge took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and said, "Sorry, it's a bit difficult to remain composed." He says this is not the time to talk about investigations."

Rescue workers were at Kumaritashvili's side within seconds. Chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation started less than one minute after the crash, and he was quickly airlifted to a trauma center in Whistler.

Kumaritashvili struck the inside wall of the track on the final turn. His body immediately went airborne and cleared the ice-coated concrete wall along the left side of the sliding surface. His sled remained in the track, and it appeared his helmet visor skidded down the ice.

The remainder of men's training was canceled for the day, with VANOC officials saying an investigation was taking place to "ensure a safe field of play." Men's luge competition is to begin Saturday. It's unclear if the schedule will change.

The danger of the Whistler track has been talked about for months -- particularly after several nations, including the U.S., were upset over restrictions regarding access to the facility by nations other than Canada, with some noting it could lead to a safety issue.

Kumaritashvili is the fourth competitor to die at the Winter Games and the first since 1992.

"It's a very rare situation," three-time Olympic champion and German coach Georg Hackl said before learning of the death, clearly shaken after seeing Kumaritashvili tended to furiously by medical workers.

Shortly before the accident, Hackl said he didn't believe the track was unsafe.

"People have the opinion it is dangerous but the track crew does the best it can and they are working hard to make sure the track is in good shape and everyone is safe," he said. "My opinion is that it's not anymore dangerous that anywhere else."

Five-time Olympian Mark Grimmette, chosen as the U.S. team's flag bearer, said the speeds on the track are pushing the boundaries of safety.

"We're probably getting close," he said the night before the death. "This track is fast and you definitely have to be on your game. ... So it's definitely something they are going to have to take into account on future tracks."

American luger Christian Niccum crashed during a World Cup event in Whistler last year.

"When I hit that ice going 90 mph it turns into fire," Niccum said Thursday. "I remember coming around to the finish and I just wanted to rip off my suit, 'I'm on fire. I'm on fire."'

This was Kumaritashvili's second crash during training for the games. He also failed to finish his second of six practice runs, and in the runs he did finish, his average speed was about 88 mph -- significantly less than the speed the top sliders are managing on this lightning-fast course.

It was unclear how fast Kumaritashvili was going, although many sliders have exceeded 90 mph on this course. More than a dozen athletes have crashed during Olympic training for luge, and some questioned whether athletes from smaller nations -- like Georgia -- had enough time to prepare for the daunting track.

At the finish area, not far from where Kumaritashvili lost control, athletes, coaches and officials solemnly awaited word on Kumaritashvili before eventually being ushered away. Access to the crash area was closed within about 30 minutes.

"I've never seen anything like that," said Shiva Keshavan, a four-time Olympian from India.

Representatives from the three U.S. sliding federations were to release a joint statement later Friday. American athletes were not immediately made available for reaction after news of the death was confirmed.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the Georgian Olympic team," U.S. bobsled pilot Steven Holcomb said on Twitter. "The sliding community suffered a tragic and devastating loss to our family today."

"RIP Nodar Kumaritashvili," wrote American skeleton athlete Kyle Tress, who did not qualify for the Olympic team. "Let's never forget how dangerous these sports can be."

Kumaritashvili competed in five World Cup races this season, finishing 44th in the world standings.

Earlier in the day, gold-medal favorite Armin Zoeggeler of Italy crashed, losing control of his sled on Curve 11. Zoeggeler came off his sled and held it with his left arm to keep it from smashing atop his body. He slid on his back down several curves before coming to a stop and walking away.

Training days in Whistler have been crash-filled. A Romanian woman was briefly knocked unconscious and at least four Americans -- Chris Mazdzer on Wednesday, Megan Sweeney on Thursday and both Tony Benshoof and Bengt Walden on Friday in the same training session where Zoeggeler wrecked -- have had serious trouble just getting down the track.

"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg said Thursday night after she nearly lost control in training. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives."

At the 1992 Albertville Games, Nicholas Bochatay of Switzerland died after crashing into a snow grooming machine during training for the demonstration sport of speed skiing on the next-to-last day of the games. He was practicing on a public slope before his event was to begin.

Australian downhill skier Ross Milne died when he struck a tree during a training run shortly before the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki also died in a crash during training in Innsbruck.

At the 1988 Calgary Games, an Austrian team doctor, Jorg Oberhammer, died after being hit by a snow grooming machine.

Read more -http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2010/02/12/olympic-luger-seriously-injured-training/

Mosquito SHOT down mid-flight by a Laser gun during the TED 2010 conference -

Watching - Mosquito SHOT down mid-flight by a Laser gun during the TED 2010 conference -


You're looking at a mosquito who got taken down mid-flight by a laser gun designed by Nathan Myhrvold. The malaria-carrying pest never saw it coming, but you can watch everything happen over and over again in this video.

The idea behind the laser is that it could be used to control mosquito populations in developing countries in hopes of reducing the number of deaths due to malaria, a disease frequently carried by the flying insects. The device was shown off during the TED 2010 conference and does in fact appear to be capable of tracking and killing mosquitoes

Windows 7 examines consumers' PC's EVERY 90 days to make sure they're running legitimate copies of the OS -

Reading - Windows 7 examines consumers' PC's EVERY 90 days to make sure they're running legitimate copies of the OS -


The Internet advocate who blasted Microsoft in 2006 over the daily "phone home" habits of its anti-piracy software took the company to task again today for a new practice that will examine consumers' Windows 7 PCs every 90 days to make sure they're running legitimate copies of the OS.

Lauren Weinstein, the co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility (PFIR), urged Windows 7 users not to accept the option update to Windows Activation Technologies (WAT) when Microsoft begins seeding it to the Windows Update service later this month.

"The approach that Microsoft is now taking doesn't seem to make sense, even for honest consumers," Weinstein argued in a post to his blog. "Microsoft will trigger forced downgrading to non-genuine status if they believe a Windows 7 system is potentially pirated based on their 'phone home' checks that will occur at (for now) 90 day intervals during the entire life of Windows 7 on a given PC, even months or years after purchase.

On Thursday, Microsoft announced the WAT update would identify pirated copies of Windows 7 that had been illegally activated using any of more than 70 "cracks," or activation exploits. After users install the update, the WAT software will regularly connect with Microsoft's servers -- the "phone home" functionality that Weinstein called out -- to download new crack "signatures," which would then be used to reevaluate the copy of Windows 7.

The repeated validation is new to Windows, confirmed Joe Williams, the general manager of Microsoft's Genuine Windows group, who said that neither Windows XP or Vista had reevaluated already-activated Windows PCs on a regular schedule. Machines that had had significant hardware component replacements were the exception: Swapping out a motherboard, for instance, would typically trigger another activation validation.

Williams defended the change. "We want to make sure we're protecting our customers," he said, against newly-developed activation cracks that may have slipped by Microsoft, or simply not been in use, when the PC was originally activated. "And we're a commercial enterprise, and it is important that our [intellectual property] is protected."

Weinstein countered that Microsoft was overstepping its bounds by demanding validations in perpetuity. "Say you've used your system for a year. Is it reasonable for Microsoft to say, 'We changed our mind and now you're not genuine'?" asked Weinstein in an interview today. "It's one thing to validate when you originally get the system, but to do that months or years later, and [for] Microsoft [to] say, 'Now we're going to say your Windows is not genuine,' ...it becomes a matter of ownership. At what point is one free of this constant checking?"

Weinstein called the new Microsoft WAT update an "unacceptable intrusion" and more. "For Microsoft to assert that they have the right to treat ordinary PC-using consumers in this manner, declaring their systems to be non-genuine and downgrading them at any time, is rather staggering," he said.

He recommended that users reject the download of the WAT update. To do that, users may have to reset Windows Update so that it does not automatically download and install every update.

Microsoft's Williams suggested the same if users don't want Microsoft re-validating Windows. "We're pretty insistent that this is a voluntary update," he said. "And any customers who don't want WAT can uninstall the update after it's installed." The uninstall option is new for Microsoft's anti-piracy software; in the past, once installed, it could not be removed.

Weinstein may be best known to Windows users for uncovering the secret "phone home" characteristics of WAT's predecessor, Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), when Microsoft launched an update in June 2006. The hue and cry over the feature drove Microsoft to first deny Weinstein's charge that WGA was spyware, then to retreat from the constant communication.

Today, Williams argued that the WAT update was not similar to the 2006 incident. "This is different," he said. "Why we took grief then was because of a lack of disclosure, not the functionality of the feature."

Weinstein disagreed, saying that it was the feature itself that was objectionable. "The approach represented by this kind of escalation, into what basically amounts to a perpetual anti-piracy surveillance regime embedded within already-purchased consumer equipment, is entirely unacceptable," he said.

Microsoft has not announced a date when it will begin issuing the WAT update via Windows Update -- only that it will happen this month -- but has said it will post the update on its manual download site Feb. 17.

Read more -http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9156518/Microsoft_s_new_phone_home_anti_piracy_practice_unacceptable_says_critic?source=CTWNLE_nlt_pm_2010-02-12

Valentine's Day failures - See what happens when Public marriage proposals don't go to plan -

Watching - Valentine's Day failures - See what happens when Public marriage proposals don't go to plan -