Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for February 10th, 2014

United States Wins Olympic Bronze Medal in Team Figure Skating

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Well, folks, it’s official — the United States won the bronze medal in the inaugural Olympic team figure skating event.

Now that it’s all over, it’s time to reflect on the skaters from the United States, and discuss their overall impact.

Ice dance — Meryl Davis and Charlie White skated two fine routines, winning their segment of the team event handily in both cases. Davis and White are the odds-on favorites to win the gold in the individual ice dance event later this week.

Pairs — Marissa Castelli and Simon Shapnir skated two good performances, coming in fifth in the first segment (with ten teams) and fourth in the second (with five teams). They did as well as could be expected, and nearly landed their signature throw quadruple Salchow.

Men’s — What more can be said about Jeremy Abbott? I’ve watched him skate for years, he’s a great guy and a fine artistic skater who actually has a fairly solid quad, and yet his nerves continue to get the best of him. His dismal performance in the men’s short program (he finished seventh out of ten) was one reason it was iffy until the final performance of Davis and White that the United States would medal at all.

Jason Brown was substituted for Abbott in the long program, and Brown delivered a solid, fun performance of his signature “Riverdance” program. Brown wasn’t quite as good here as he was at the U.S. Nationals a month ago, but he was still good enough to hold onto fourth place and keep the U.S. in medal contention.

Women’s — Ashley Wagner came in fourth during the short program, doing exactly what she needed to do to get the U.S. into the medal round. Gracie Gold was substituted for her and delivered an excellent long program, finishing second out of the remaining five skaters to help the U.S. save their medal chances.

Overall, I liked the team figure skating event. But if I were running the International Olympic Committee or had anything whatsoever to do with figure skating, I’d try to get the scores from the first round thrown out once everyone gets into the medal round.


Well, what I saw in this team event was two teams — Russia and Canada — racking up so many points in the preliminary round that it was nearly impossible to catch them. That’s not a good thing, not for the fans — who saw excellent skaters like Carolina Kostner of Italy and Mao Asada of Japan substituted for with lesser skaters (presumably to save Kostner and Asada’s legs a bit as both are favorites to medal in the ladies individual figure skating event), not for the teams themselves (Italy and Japan had no chance for any medal except the bronze, and decided early on not to make a serious run at it, while the United States’ only realistic shot was for the bronze rather than the silver, and the gold was completely out of reach; even Canada, which did exceptionally well, didn’t have hardly any chance to catch Russia in the standings for the gold medal), and certainly not for the Olympic spirit of tough but fair competition.

In future Olympics, it would behoove them to be a little more like hockey or soccer, where points are discarded once you get to the medal round, as that would allow all five teams a realistic chance at a team medal rather than only three of them.

At any rate, hats off to Teams USA, Canada, and Russia for their medal-winning efforts . . . it was fun to watch.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 10, 2014 at 5:55 am

Just Reviewed “Balance” at SBR

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Though it took me a few hours to do, I managed to write a book review for BALANCE: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America, a book written by economists Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane, over at Shiny Book Review this evening.  (Or SBR for short, as per usual.)

You might be wondering, “So, Barb. Why did you want to review this book, anyway? You’re no economist. Why does this interest you?”

Well, as a writer, I’m interested in all sorts of things. I’ve made a study lately of economics — the good, the bad, what works, what doesn’t, and anything that combines history with economics (such as WHY NATIONS FAIL, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, also reviewed at SBR) is usually going to pique my interest.

I found BALANCE to be an entertaining overview, but some of the actual history behind their theories wasn’t always in balance. (Pardon the pun.) This is the main reason why BALANCE gets a B-minus, when WHY NATIONS FAIL received an A-plus, as the former has at least three things wrong that I picked up on right away, while the latter didn’t have any — and believe you me, I checked.

Note that both Hubbard and Kane worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign as economic advisors, so some of what they have to say about contemporary politics and policies needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But what they had to say about political ossification and the whole concept of “rent-seeking” was completely accurate, and is the main reason why I recommend that every writer — and everyone interested in history and/or economics and/or the history of economics, for that matter — should read this book.

Anyway, go take a gander at my review, will you? Then go take a look at BALANCE — it should be available at many public libraries, or if you’d rather, there is an edition for Kindle and e-books.


Written by Barb Caffrey

February 10, 2014 at 12:21 am