Friday, March 27, 2009

A Monsterous Time in LA

This week I'm in Los Angeles attending a press event. I can't tell you the details of the event until Monday. What I can tell you at present is that I'm staying at the beautiful Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The hotel is at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive and was featured in the movie "Pretty Woman."

On Thursday evening, I had the rare opportunity to visit DreamWorks Studios, where I got to meet with several of the people behind the studio's new animated feature "Monsters vs. Aliens."

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"Monsters vs. Aliens" required more than 40 million computing hours to make - more than eight times as many as the original "Shrek" and nearly double what it took to create "Kung Fu Panda."


I got to see the film last night in 3D in a phenomenal theater on the DreamWorks lot. The film opened today on 7,000 screens in North America. But only 2,000 of those screens are equipped with the nearly $100,000 in equipment needed to show the film in 3D ($75,000 to convert to digital projection plus $25,000 more for the RealD system used by approximately 90% of the 3D-capable theaters in the U.S.).

Starting with this film, DreamWorks will make all of its movies natively in 3D. Technology from HP powered the tremendous computing power needed to render the movie. "Monsters vs. Aliens" required nearly 100 terabytes of disk storage and would have taken more than 1,000 years to render on a single workstation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, although in terms of movies, it was not in the same class as several of the Pixar features, such as "Wall-E", "Finding Nemo", or "The Incredibles". "Monsters vs. Aliens" came across more as a collection of scenes with some good jokes. Still very entertaining, but not one of those films destined to end up on a must-see list. Except for the 3D. If you're going to see this movie, definitely seek out one of those 2,000 theaters showing it in 3D.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

World Speed Skating - Day 4

It's the fourth and final day of the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships at the new Richmond Olympic Oval just outside of Vancouver, BC. This will be the site of the long-track speed skating at next year's 2010 Winter Games.

Today featured the 500 meter sprint events for both the men and the women. This consisted of two heats each, first the women and then the men, with the winner having the lowest combined time for the two heats.


With the athletes going all out, the day wasn't without mishap. A number of skaters fell, including Paulina Wallin of Sweden, who crashed just a few meters from the start of her second heat.


The ladies' event was won by Jenny Wolf of Germany, with a combined time of 75.750 seconds.


Second was Beixing Wang of China with a combined time of 75.870, followed by Sang-Hwa Lee of Korea at 76.390.


The Korean and Chinese men also dominated the men's sprints. Although Tucker Fredericks of the USA had the third fastest time in the second heat, Korean's Kang-Seok Lee and Kyou-Hyuk Lee skated head-to-head in the final pairing of the second heat, after finishing 1 and 2 in the first. They managed to hold on to first and second place, finishing with combined times of 69.730 and 69.920, respectively.


The bronze medal was won by Fengtong Yu of China. With the third fastest time in the first heat and second fastest of the second, he finished with a combined time of 69.970.


Attention then turned to the team pursuit competition. A recent addition to the World Cup schedule, the team pursuit pits two teams of three skaters in a race against the clock. The teams start on opposite sides of the ice, with both teams skating in the inner lane. The women skate six laps, the men eight, with the time recorded when the third skater on the team crosses the finish. It's a high-speed ballet, with the three skaters trying to be as aerodynamic as possible.


Once again, the Canadian women proved their dominence. Skating against Poland, the team of Christine Nesbitt, Kristina Groves, and Brittany Schussler finished the six lap race in 2 minutes 58.25 seconds. The Dutch team was second in 3:02.02 and Japan third in 3:04.06.


The men's race provided an exciting finale for the day. The USA team, which had never won a team pursuit medal at any Olympic or world championship event was paired in the second heat against the Dutch team (seen here). The Netherlands has won gold in every world single distances championship team pursuit ever staged. The strong Italian team was matched up against Canada in the final heat of the day.


In the end, the Dutch team prevailed, capturing the gold with a race-winning time of 3:41.26. Sweden took the silver medal at 3:45.73. But the USA team of Trevor Marsicano, Brian Hansen, and Ryan Bedford captured the bronze with a time of 3 minutes 46.07 seconds.

All told, the weekend proved to be a tremendous success, both as a try-out of the new Richmond Olympic Oval, and for the Canadian and USA teams. Canada and the Netherlands captured the most medals, at 8 each. The USA was second with six, including gold, silver, and two bronze medals won by Trevor Marsicano. For Canada, it was the women who dominated, with six medals while all six USA medals were won by the men.

Other medal winners included Germany and Korea with 3 each, Czech Repulic, Norway, and China each with 2, and Japan and Sweden each winning 1 medal. A total of 21 countries were represented.

And of course, I've got many more photos from today's exciting action. You can see them on my Flickr site.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

World Speed Skating Championships - Day 3

It's Saturday, Day 3 of the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Championship at the new Richmond Olympic Oval.


The weekend brought a sellout crowd, including a huge Dutch contingent. Today marks the running of the long distance events, the men's 10,000 meter and the women's 5000 meter.


The Canadian women's continue to do incredibly well on their new home ice, with Christine Nesbitt capturing the gold with a time of 1:16.28 in the Women's 1000 meter.


Then, the action moved to the men's 10,000 meter, the longest event of the weekend. While it may be the national sport of the Netherlands, eight heats of more than 25 laps each did tax the crowd a bit. There's much more strategy to this race, with the coaches shouting instructions to their skaters as they change lanes midway through each lap.


The 10,000 meter is dominated by skaters from the Netherlands and Norway. Here, Sven Kramer of the Netherlands maintains a grueling pace midway through the race. He eventually won with a time of 12:55.32.


He was paired with Norwegian Havard Bokko, who eventually came in second with a time of 13:03.95. Bob de Jong (shown here) from the Netherlands was third in a time of 13:13.16 just edging out fellow Dutchman Carl Verheijen at 13:13.30.


Like I said, it wasn't at all surprising to find two Dutchmen, Sven Kramer (gold) and Bob de Jong (bronze) and Norwegian Havard Bokko on the podium.


The big Dutch crowd loved it, of course.


The final event of the long afternoon was the Women's 5000 meter, the longest women's event. Once again, the Canadia women did very well, with crowd favorite Clara Hughes, skating in heat 5, finishing with a time of 7:00.54, which proved good enough for a silver medal. Seeing a skater put up such a fast time in an early heat is always exciting, because the heats are set up with the faster skaters in the later heats.


Controversy once again reared its head during the women's races, but this time the controversy did not involve a Canadian skater. Masako Hozumi of Japan, circling the ice on the inner lane after completing her 5000 meter heat, drifted into lane one and collided with Czech skater Martina Sablikova who was lining up for the next heat.


Happily, Sablikova was not hurt and after a delay and repair of the ice, was able to skate her heat again anadian Kristina Groves. Groves finished in 7:02.91, which was good enough for the bronze.


But Sablikova, coming back from her mishap before the start, put up an incredible time of 6:57.84, winning the gold in the Women's 5000 meter.


So once again, a pair of Canadian women end up on the podium flanking a European skater.

Tomorrow is the final day of the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Championship. I'll be back to cover the men's and women's 500 meter and the men's and women's team pursuit.

And of course, you can find more photos from today's event on my Flickr site.

Friday, March 13, 2009

World Speed Skating Championships - Day 2

Friday, day 2 of the ISU World Single Distance World Speed Skating Championship at the new Richmond Olympic Oval proved as exciting as day 1, and again both the U.S. and Canadian men and Canadian women did very well. But once again, the Canadian women ended up in minor controversy that denied them a gold medal.

The first event of the day was the men's 1000 meter. Trevor Marsicano, starting on the inside in heat 7 against Canadian Francois Olivier Roberge moved into first place with a time of 1:08.96.


He then had to wait through five more heats to see if his time would hold. Canadian Denny Morrison, skating in the second to last heat against Stefan Groothuis of the Netherlands challenged, but his time of 1:09.00 only moved him into second.


American Shani Davis, coming off his win on Thursday in the 1500m, turned in a time of 1:09.02, which earned him the bronze.


With an all U.S./Canada podium, the near-sellout crowd in the beautiful new speed slating facility was primed for a potential medals sweep by a strong Canadian women's team in the ladies 1500m.


This proved to be an exciting race, with many of the women closely matched in the early heats.


And before the top-ranked Canadian women got to skate, they watched as Anni Friesinger of Germany, skating in heat 8, set the pace with a 1:58.66.


Then came the Dutch duo of Ireen Wust and Laurine van Riessen, skating in heat 9. Wust moved into second position with a 1:58.83.


Canadian Shannon Rempel, skating in heat 11 against Daniela Anschutz Thoms of Germany, just missed getting under 2 minutes, while Thoms moved into third position.


And then came the final heat, pitting Canadian Christine Nesbitt against her teammate Kristina Groves.


The two skated virtually side-by-side the entire race, but at the finish, it was Kristina Groves winning with a time of 1:57.75, with Nesbitt fourth in a time of 1:58.88.


Unfortunately, Groves victory was short-lived. She had touched one of the red pucks marking the separation between lanes, and was disqualified. This proved to be somewhat controversial, because in a new move, the pucks were actually set several inches inside the actual lane separation line.


With Groves removed, the gold medal went to Anni Friesinger of Germany, with Ireen Wust of the Netherlands second and Christine Nesbitt of Canada third.

The final race of the day was the men's 5000 meter.


In an event dominated by Dutch skaters, American Trevor Marsicano, skating in heat 10 against Italian Enrico Fabris, turned in a 6:20.02, which moved him into first place.


He then watched as first Havard Bokko of Norway, skating against Bob de Jong of the Netherlands in heat 11, moved into first place with a time of 6:18.02. And then Sven Kramer of the Netherlands, skating in the final heat of the day against teammate Carl Verheijen, improved on that by nearly 2 seconds, with a winning time of 6:16.20.


In the end, Marsicano was able to hold on for a bronze.


But his bronze medal in the 5000 meter now rounds out his gold earlier in the 1000, and his silver medal in yesterday's 1500. And American Shani Davis has a gold and a bronze. Neither skater will be on the ice on Saturday as competition heads into the long distance events.

You can find more photos from today's action on my Flickr site.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2009 World Speed Skating Championships - Day 1

I spent the afternoon up in Richmond, BC just outside of Vancouver for the first of four days of competition at the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Champtionships, being held at the beautiful new Richmond Olympic Oval.


This will be the site of the long track speed skating at next year's 2010 Winter Olympics. This year, it's getting a tryout as the site for the world championships. It's an absolutely gorgeous facility and the event has been incredibly well organized so far.


American Shani Davis (shown here) won the Men's 1500m this afternoon with a time of 1:46.17. American Trevor Marsicano was second (1:46.30), and Canadian Denny Morrison was third (1:47.05).


The second event of the day was the women's 3000m, which was 7.5 laps of the 400m track. There was lots of action in this race, including this passing action in heat 5 between Catherine Raney Norman (USA) and Lucille Opitz (GER).


The 3000m was won by Dutch veteran Renate Groenewold, who will retire after next year's Winter Games. She finished in a time of 4:05.43 Martina Sablikova of (CZE) was second.


Kristina Groves (shown here) of Canada was third (4:06.45).

I'll be back for day two tomorrow.

You can find more photos from today's action on my Flickr site.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Look: AutoCAD 2010 Parametric Design

One of the most impressive new features in AutoCAD 2010 is the new parametric design capability. This new set of tools lets you establish geometric and dimensional relationships between objects. Geometric constraints are similar to object snaps, but instead of just snapping to objects, they cause objects to retain the relationships you establish. So for example, two lines will remain parallel.

You can also set the dimensional properties of objects. Once dimensional constraints are established, you can change the size of objects by changing the dimensional constraint values.

To show you how easy and intuitive these new tools are to use, here's a short video showing them in action.

I hope you agree that this is a fantastic new capability in AutoCAD 2010, well worth the upgrade.

I welcome your comments. And keep watching for more about the new release.