Friday, September 23, 2016

What is the DMCA and what does it have to do with the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge®

First, this definition and then the implications:

From Wikipedia:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.

Virtually everything that you hear on broadcast radio and TV is copyrighted, meaning that someone is paying for the privilege of playing the song. It’s estimated that there are over 2M copyrighted songs, the broadcast rights of which are owned by ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. You’ll notice at the end of every TV show or cinema, the credits roll. The songs, performing artists and composers are listed- and paid for their contributions.

Any licensed music that we play at a public event comes with a cost, based on the size of the audience. For decades, we’ve been paying ASCAP a fee for every show. We don’t know for certain who owns the rights to every song since currently, our playlist comes from Pandora. This introduces another level of complexity since there’s another set of rules and another organization that’s involved in collecting royalties for this channel as well as SiriusXM.

And here’s where it gets very complicated. When we upload a live feed to Facebook or post video content to YouTube, there’s a legal exposure for us as well as these two web content providers. It is a criminal act to play licensed music and not pay for it.

Some years back Viacom sued YouTube over uploaded copyrighted content. The practical reality is that computer algorithms were created to match music with known copyrighted music resulting in the audio tracks being taken down. You may have noticed that this has been a recurring phenomena for the last several years. Almost as fast as we upload content, the audio is stripped off of the video. And, this does not just happen to us; many friends and family members video, upload and then have either the soundtrack or the video taken down.

Even though we have a license to play a song, it does not extend the right to broadcast in another media. When we are on ESPN, this presents problems since it’s virtually the same issue. Plus, there’s no phone number you can call and explain the situation even if you have a license to play a particular song.

When your audience is small, your risk of discovery is small. But when you start attracting larger and larger numbers, as our Feature Races have, the risk goes up rapidly. The fines can become huge. We’ve had several live feeds that exceeded 150,000 viewers and our Guns and Hoses video went over 680,000. These are numbers that sponsors like to see. And, without sponsors, there is no show.

Recently, just up the road from our office, a Howard County high school choir was performing Christmas music at the Columbia Mall. Coincidently, ASCAP’s headquarters are also in Columbia and one of their employees asked to see the sheet music. It was discovered that they had not purchased the rights for public performance of copyrighted material and were fined. Can you believe it?

I may not like or agree that the posted speed limit is 55MPH. And, I may choose to ignore the speed limit. But, in all likelihood, there are consequences.

So, what to do?

There are gigabytes of music that can be purchased where the rights to play convey with the purchase. We have started to assemble a playlist that will remove the exposure to being criminally fined and avoid sound tracks being taken down. This is not an overnight solution. Music is in the ear of the beholder and we’ve never been able to please everyone’s penchant for exactly their personal taste. But, we are diligently working on a solution to build out a playlist that will make us immune to prosecution and keep our audio tracks on our uploads.

How About This Idea?

There must be scores of firefighters who are members of garage bands. What if our entire soundtrack was composed by firefighters and played by firefighters. How cool would that be? And how about a contest for a Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge theme song?

We're going to reach out to the fire service community for expressions of interest in having a platform for their music being played in a public place. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Maw Family: First of a Kind

Last year at the World Challenge Championship in Montgomery, AL, the three members of the Maw family accomplished something that’s not likely to happen again anytime soon: they all qualified for membership in the Lion’s Den.

This noteworthy accomplishment is being celebrated both here in the US as well as their home country of New Zealand.

And, here’s another first, a customized tattoo gracing the arm of Wayne.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Talk About Climbing...

Watch this video, if you’re not acrophobic, that is...

This guy changes lightbulbs at 1600’
Click the link for a virtual climb experience

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

You probably have a vague sense that exercise is good for you—and you’ve probably heard that it’s “healthy for the heart.” But if you’re like most people, that’s not enough motivation to get you to break a sweat with any regularity. As I report in the TIME cover story, “The Exercise Cure,” only 20% of Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week, more than half of all baby boomers report doing no exercise whatsoever, and 80.2 million Americans over age 6 are entirely inactive.Photograph by Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. Colorization by Sanna Dullaway for TIME

That’s bad news, but emerging evidence shows that there are plenty of compelling reasons to start moving at any age and even if you’re ill or pregnant. Indeed, scientists are learning that exercise is, indeed, medicine. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. “And if there was one, it would be extremely expensive.”

You can read the whole story for more, but here are some of the amazing things that happen to a body in motion.

1. Exercise is great for your brain.

It’s linked to less depression, better memory and quicker learning. Studies also suggest that exercise is, as of now, the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a major fear for many Americans.

Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain, but it’s an area of active research. So far, they’ve found that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, feeding the growth of new blood vessels and even new brain cells, thanks to the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF triggers the growth of new neurons and helps repair and protect brain cells from degeneration. It may also help people focus, according to recent research.

2. You might get happier.

Countless studies show that many types of exercise, from walking to cycling, make people feel better and can even relieve symptoms of depression. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain—serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine—that dull pain, lighten mood and relieve stress. “For years we focused almost exclusively on the physical benefits of exercise and really have ignored the psychological and emotional benefits of being regularly active,” says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.

3. It might make you age slower.

Exercise has been shown to lengthen lifespan by as much as five years. A small new study suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow down the aging of cells. As humans get older and their cells divide over and over again, their telomeres—the protective caps on the end of chromosomes—get shorter. To see how exercise affects telomeres, researchers took a muscle biopsy and blood samples from 10 healthy people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. They found that exercise increased levels of a molecule that protects telomeres, ultimately slowing how quickly they shorten over time. Exercise, then, appears to slow aging at the cellular level.

4. It’ll make your skin look better.

Aerobic exercise revs up blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. “That’s why when people have injuries, they should get moving as quickly as possible—not only to make sure the muscle doesn’t atrophy, but to make sure there’s good blood flow to the skin,” says Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Train long enough, and you’ll add more blood vessels and tiny capillaries to the skin, too.

The skin also serves as a release point for heat. (See “Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?” for more on that.) When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat, which you have to give up to the environment so your body temperature doesn’t get too high, Hackney says. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin; it can then escape into the atmosphere.

5. Amazing things can happen in just a few minutes.

Emerging research suggests that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits. “We’ve been interested in the question of, How low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test how effective a 10-minute workout could be, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. The micro-workout he devised consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. In a three-month study, he pitted the short workout against the standard one to see which was better. To his amazement, the workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says. (For more on the 1-minute workout read this.)

6. It can help you recover from a major illness.

Even very vigorous exercise—like the interval workouts Gibala is studying—can, in fact, be appropriate for people with different chronic conditions, from Type 2 diabetes to heart failure. That’s new thinking, because for decades, people with certain diseases were advised not to exercise. Now scientists know that far more people can and should exercise. A recent analysis of more than 300 clinical trials discovered that for people recovering from a stroke, exercise was even more effective at helping them rehabilitate.

Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s in hopes of doling out less medication. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my very sickest patients,” he says. “If I could get them to do it on a regular basis—even just walking, anything that got their heart rate up a bit—I would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, not to mention all of these other things like depression, anxiety, mood and energy levels.”

7. Your fat cells will shrink.
The body uses both carbohydrates and fats as energy sources. But after consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. “One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source,” Hackney says. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.

Friday, September 2, 2016

These charts clearly show how some Olympic swimmers may have gotten an unfair advantage

By Jeff Guo September 1 at 6:30 AM 
© 2016 Washington Post

Denmark's Pernille Blume won the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle swimming in Lane 4 at the 2016 Summer Olympics. The rest of the women in the final race finished in descending order according to their lane number. (Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

A few years ago, researchers from Indiana University discovered a disturbing pattern at the 2013 Swimming World Championships in Barcelona. According to the lap-time data, athletes assigned to the outer lanes of the pool were consistently swimming faster in one direction than the other.

A mysterious force seemed to be interfering with the competition. But before the researchers could investigate in person, the pool — a temporary facility constructed just for that event — was torn down.

The same strange problem cropped up at the Rio Olympics, and nobody can explain why.

Two independent statistical analyses show discrepancies large enough to cast doubt on the results of some races. The problem may have even cost swimmers medals.

The following chart — from Eastern Michigan University professor Andrew Cornett, and Indiana University's Christopher Brammer and Joel Stager — illustrates the lap time discrepancies in the Rio pool using data from the longer-distance races. Since competitors in those events make several laps back and forth along the 50-meter-long pool, the researchers could compare swimmers against themselves.

Each dot represents a swimmer in one of the 800-meter and 1500-meter races. The vertical position of the dot shows whether the athlete swam faster in one direction or the other.

In a perfectly fair pool, all of the dots should be near the zero line.

In Rio, athletes in the middle lanes were relatively unaffected. But on the lower-numbered side of the pool, competitors were about 0.4 seconds faster swimming away from the starting blocks.

The higher-numbered side of the pool suffered from the opposite problem. Swimmers were about 0.2 seconds slower in their outgoing laps compared to their return laps. (In all of this, the researchers ignored the first and last laps because those are strategic parts of the race.)

To understand the pattern of lane bias, consider the example of Norwegian swimmer Henrik Christiansen, who is marked on the chart in pink. In his preliminary heat for the 1500-meter race, Christiansen was assigned to Lane 2. In that race, his outgoing laps were 0.28 seconds faster than his incoming laps, on average.

When Christiansen made it through to the final, he was assigned to the other side of the pool. In Lane 8, Christiansen swam a completely different race. His outgoing laps were slower than his incoming laps.

Could this have cost someone the gold?

Because most Olympic events require athletes to swim an even number of laps, the effects of any currents in the water should have somewhat canceled out. Those who got a boost swimming in one direction would have to fight the same force when they turned around.

The one exception is the 50-meter freestyle, which only covers a single length of the pool.

Barry Revzin, a data analyst based in Chicago who used to swim competitively at MIT, found compelling evidence of the lane effect by comparing swimmers' times as they rose through the heats and semi-finals. He took advantage of the fact that athletes were typically assigned different lanes as they progressed through the competition.

On average, Revzin found that swimmers raced faster when they moved to higher-numbered lanes, and slower when they moved to lower-numbered lanes.

By Revzin's estimates, shifting two lanes to the right in the Rio pool would have given a swimmer a boost of about 1 centimeter per second. In a 50-meter freestyle race at Olympic pace, that translates to a difference of about one-tenth of a second.

As Revzin notes, this is a significant difference. In both the men’s and the women’s 50-meter freestyle, the top three finishers were separated by less than one-tenth of second. We’ll never know for sure, but the evidence raises questions about what would have happened if people had gotten different lane assignments.

For instance, the women’s bronze medalist, Belarus’s Aliaksandra Herasimenia clocked 24.11 seconds. She beat out defending gold medalist Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands, who clocked a 24.19. But Herasimenia swam in Lane 8, which the data suggest was the fastest lane. Kromowidjojo swam in Lane 3.

The Indiana University researchers' data led them to a similar finding: The highest-numbered lanes in Rio, they determined, may have given the 50-meter swimmers a boost of up to 1 percent relative to the middle lanes. The lowest-numbered lanes may have slowed them down by up to 1 percent.

Revzin, who calls himself a "huge swimming fan," said he was deeply disappointed when he noticed the discrepancies.

"Sadness was the main emotion," he said. "This is not the kind of thing you want to see in the biggest competition in your sport,” he said. This is not an isolated event

Because swimming races can be won by fractions of a second, pools must meet fairly exacting standards. The International Swimming Federation, known as FINA, writes the rules. On matter of currents in the water, though, FINA is a little vague. The official regulations say that “in order to observe health regulations in force in most countries, inflow and outflow is permissible as long as no appreciable current or turbulence is created.”

Both the pools in Rio and Barcelona were constructed by Myrtha Pools, an Italian company with extensive experience. According to a statement from FINA, Myrtha Pools told the officials that “no current was detected in the Olympic Aquatics Stadium pool, at any stage of the competitions.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment, but two weeks ago, President Trevor Tiffany provided the swimming website SwimSwam with videos showing test objects floating motionlessly on the surface of the Rio pool.

“All I can say is we tested the pool both before the event and after Day 3 of the swimming with zero hint of a problem,” he said, according to SwimSwam.

Joel Stager, the Indiana University professor, was skeptical.

“This is a company with millions of dollars in assets and engineers and hydrologists, and they’re going to float a jug?” Stager said. “I know this is not my area of expertise, but I know it’s not as simple as dropping a plastic jug into the pool.”

Tiffany also suggested that different breathing patterns may have affected the competition. In the outer lanes, people who breathe only to one side might have a harder time seeing the competition on odd or even laps. But that doesn’t explain why these lane biases have only shown up intermittently, at certain swimming competitions, but not others.

In a recent study, Stager and his colleagues showed that lane bias has shown up before in major international competitions — typically in temporary pools like the one in Barcelona. The researchers believe that the construction process might make temporary pools more prone to currents.

It’s also possible that the problem lies elsewhere. Timothy Wei, a professor of engineering at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln who has studied the fluid dynamics of competitive swimming, suggested recently that the problem may have to do with the rigidity of the pool walls.

Since temporary pools are typically constructed above ground, their walls might flex more and cause asymmetric waves that impede swimmers in the outside lanes, he explained in a phone call.

Right now, it's hard to predict when these irregularities will surface. There was no evidence of lane bias, for instance, in the temporary pool that Myrtha built for the 2015 FINA World Championships, according to Revzin's analysis.

But Revzin says the apparent lane bias at the Rio facility could have been caught earlier, because it was already evident in April, at an Olympic test event with Brazilian swimmers.

FINA notes that no one has found physical proof that implicates the Rio pool. The patterns documented by Revzin and the Indiana University researchers were “made on the basis of mathematical analysis, without taking into account any scientific evidence in the actual pool constructed for these Games,” a FINA representative said in an e-mail.

But it's clear that these patterns in the swim times were not flukes. The data overwhelmingly show that something unusual happened at the Rio Olympics, just as something unusual happened at the 2013 World Championships.

Brammer, one of the Indiana University researchers, said that all he wants is for officials to take the problem seriously.

“It's affecting these athletes' lives,” he said in a phone interview. “For some of them, this is their livelihood, and the Olympic Games are it. That's their pinnacle. For them to be cheated — that's a huge issue."