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June 21st, 2011
02:29 PM ET

Wimbledon's Marathon Men

There is nothing quite like Wimbledon. The world's most famous tennis tournament is quintessentially British, aside from the sporting action, it is an excellent excuse for eating strawberries and cream, drinking Pimm's and having a picnic on Henman Hill/Murray Mount.

Last year, it also provided an unprecedented and unforgettable spectacle: an 11-hour, 5-minute marathon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. The match stretched over three days before John Isner finally won 70-68 in a fifth set that lasted for 138 games and was longer in duration than any other complete match in the history of tennis. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

If you have as much difficulty as I do in processing a match that long, let me help you out. The match lasted longer than:

  • A flight from London to Los Angeles (10 hours, 10 minutes)
  • The entire first season of Mad Men (10 hours, 19 minutes)
  • The time football World Cup Champions Spain spent playing in the entire 2010 tournament, minus injury time (11 hours)

Sadly, Isner and Mahut did not quite make it to our next milestone: the length of time it takes to watch the entire extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (11 hours, 48 minutes).

No wonder then, that the gruelling combat between two previously unheralded players had become a global phenomenon long before it had come to a close, making front-page news and trending on Twitter around the world.

Then came the re-match on the longest day of 2011. How appropriate...

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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
June 21st, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Tenth Annual World Refugee Day

Running. Afraid. Unsure what the next day will bring.

AFP/Getty Images

It's the plight of millions of people around the world. Refugees. People who, for whatever reason, feel they have no other option but to flee their homelands. Whether forced out by persecution or ongoing violence, they often leave reluctantly - abandoning homes and livelihoods - and taking along only as much as they can carry. And if that isn't hard enough, there's usually the added pressure of escaping with the family unit intact, traveling long distances with small children and the elderly, all the while aware the next days may be more challenging than the last.

For many, it's a difficult scenario to imagine. But for the world's nearly 44 million refugees, it's a harsh reality.

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
June 17th, 2011
09:10 PM ET

Thailand deeply divided

My taxi driver is speaking rapidly and heatedly. I know exactly what set him off. But I'm still surprised by it.

I had asked my mom, who is from Bangkok, about some of the campaign posters for Thailand's upcoming general election. The roadsides are crammed full of them right now. Some are funny, like the one in the middle of this picture of an older man holding a baby. It's a riff on the Mark Twain quote, "Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often."

My mom's explanation of another poster also dropped a famous name: Thaksin. As soon as those two syllables left her mouth, I knew we had just steered into testy political territory. Our taxi driver immediately looked back at her in the rear-view mirror and launched into a fierce debate. I tried to change the subject... but could only come up with "The Hangover II."

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
June 14th, 2011
11:20 PM ET

Is 'Duke Nukem' worth the wait?

It took 14 long years, but gamers can finally get their hands on 'Duke Nukem Forever'.

For those born after 1996, it's the sequel to 'Duke Nukem 3D', a raunchy, violent, but critically acclaimed and popular first-person shooter. It followed 'Doom', but took the genre to another level; instead of a generic Martian base, it's set in Los Angeles. Instead of brown, dreary corridors, you could interact with everything from toilets to pool tables to strippers. And instead of a faceless, mute space marine, it starred Duke Nukem: A man who looked like the result of throwing every 80s action movie star into a blender, with a set of one-liners ripped from all of them.

So when developer 3D Realms announced in 1997 that a sequel was on the way, fans rejoiced and waited eagerly.

And waited.

And waited.

14 long years later, 'Duke Nukem Forever' is finally available. But is it worth the wait? FULL POST

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Filed under: Games • General • Personal musings
June 13th, 2011
11:20 AM ET

Looking out for China's rare pink dolphins

"Pink dolphin, two o'clock!"

It takes a moment to orient myself to the analog directive, but I manage to turn and spot it in time. A few yards ahead of me in the South China Sea is a flash of pink dorsal fin.

I have seen my first pink dolphin. FULL POST

June 10th, 2011
08:20 PM ET

Twitter and today's media

Get it first, but first get it right. It's the mantra of many a journalist. But it seems we now need to tag on, "And make sure it's real."

Here's a quick recap of the week that wasn't:

Officials were outside of this one-story house in Hardin, Texas, on Tuesday

1) Texas mass murder scene discovered (untrue)

2) Blogger goes missing in Syria (authenticity doubted)

3) Syrian ambassador to France resigns (apparent impersonation)

4) Woman tattoos 152 Facebook friends on arm (publicity stunt)

These stories illustrate the difficulties facing today's news gatherers and news consumers. Technology lets us all get information quickly... almost instantly. But sometimes, you just need to pause and think for a moment.

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June 9th, 2011
11:41 PM ET

Anthony Weiner proves innuendo is rarely below the belt

Like his near-namesake sausage, we’ve wolfed down Anthony Weiner’s sorry saga with relish. It’s puerile. But the story was like a gift from the fifth-grade gods.

Monday’s inevitable apology led some to suggest that the famously flashy Weiner was shrinking. Others strove to get the view of his staff on the view of his 'staff'. How we chortled when one tweeter bemoaned the fact that Boehner wouldn’t stand up for Weiner.

Should we be surprised at this outburst of adolescence, arguably belonging in the schoolyard but rife everywhere from news outlets to late night comedy shows? Probably not.

Innuendo is as old as the hills. While some human phenomena, such as cave painting, letter writing, cassette recording and Mel Gibson have fallen by the wayside, innuendo just keeps hitting our giggle spot. FULL POST

June 6th, 2011
11:44 PM ET

Apple's iCloud: A bold step, but not far enough

When Apple boss Steve Jobs took the wraps off iCloud, the company's new cloud services, he gave us a glimpse at the future of computing.

(Confused by cloud computing? Watch News Stream's handy explainer right here!)

What is iCloud? It's a system for storing various bits of your data online, and pushing all that data to all your devices so that they are always in sync. For example, let's say you create a document on your Mac. Without needing to hit "Save", iCloud will automatically save a copy of it online, and push it out so you can edit that same document on your iPhone or iPad.

Apple calls iCloud a breakthrough. Jobs says it's the culmination of a decade-long effort to kill the desktop file system.

It's certainly a bold step forward. But is it bold enough? FULL POST

June 5th, 2011
08:07 PM ET

Roger Federer and the quest to be the best

In sport, there is always a burning desire to know: Who’s the greatest of all time? The answer, unfortunately, is never that easy.

It is almost impossible to compare teams and players from one era to another. Still, we try: Could World Cup winners Spain beat Pelé’s Brazil? Is Tiger Woods better than Jack Nicklaus? Never mind that sports evolve considerably down the years; rules change, equipment changes, and we change. Humans are in general bigger, faster and stronger than they used to be.

Even when eras do overlap and we get the match-up we want, time and age do not always cooperate. Witness the long-awaited fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. Lewis was at the peak of his powers; Tyson was far from the fighter known in his prime as “The Baddest Man on the Planet.” Lewis knocked him out but could he knock out a young Tyson?

And then there's the case of Roger Federer. FULL POST

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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
June 1st, 2011
04:30 AM ET

Bully-boy tactics making Blatter, FIFA 'family' untouchable?

Sepp Blatter prays his stranglehold can be sustained.

Take yourself back to the school playground. You may have been in with the in crowd. You may have been out on a limb. You may have been a bully. You may have been bullied. But it’s likely you recall the experience.

In or out, bully or bullied, many of us secretly loathed the clique creators while outwardly expending far too much time and energy trying to ingratiate ourselves with their inner circle. Because within that inner circle there was security and there was power.

Take yourself back to those occasions when teams were being picked in gym class. You may have been first choice. You may have been last.  I was personally in the latter category and I've never felt so isolated. I was not a sporty kid, and this, in Scottish terms, means I was not a football-playing kid. The epithet "beautiful" attached to the game never really held water with me back then. And, having since met Peter Beardsley, it doesn't hold water with me now.

I digress. My point is that, while the game ain’t exactly pretty at times, what’s happening in its corridors of power is positively grisly. Football itself may not overly excite me but FIFA fills me with morbid fascination.  Why? Because the sport’s governing body takes playground nightmares and writes them large.

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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
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