Depth of Field

When I got my new TV, I mentioned that I hadn't yet found the console buttons, and wasn't able to test the 3D features.

Well, the buttons are there, they're just capacitance switches that are only visible in bright light or when the button backlights are on. It does make them very subtle, which is, I suppose, a good thing.

And the blu-ray player finally did arrive a couple of days ago. Fortunately, we already had the cables to hook it up, so I took care of that immediately.

How does it look? Well, in a word, fantastic. I got the new Sound of Music box set for Christmas, and popped it in when some relatives were over. Once again, my daughter was absolutely rapt for the puppet sequence. But it was absolutely amazing how good it looked.

It used to be possible to tell, within five to ten years, how old a movie was by seeing it on TV and looking at the transfer quality. Well, Sound of Music looked so clear, it could have been made yesterday. (Oddly, Wizard of Oz came on TV, and I compared that to my (previously unwatched) blu-ray. The odd part was that the version on TV looked way, way better. I still don't have any idea why. Like SoM, the version from TV looked like it could have been made yesterday.)

After looking at that, I finally wanted to look at the 3D performance. The only 3D movies I have are the Shrek titles that came with it, so I popped in the first one. How did it look? In a word, fabulous.

It actually looked better than Avatar did in the theater, although I have to wonder if that was because of the 3D technology (active glasses vs circular polarization), or because of differences between computer animation and "real" life. I guess I'll find out once I can actually buy Avatar in 3D; hopefully, that'll be soon. As much as I enjoyed the movie, it ain't worth what it would cost me to get today. I'll get some other ones soon, as well (likely Alice in Wonderland, if nothing else).

One unrelated note about the blu-ray player. Turning that on will turn on the TV at the same time. While this is generally good, it'll also switch the source over to the player, which might not be, if I'm watching something on TV. It'll also automagically switch the TV into 3D mode upon insertion of a 3D disk. In any event, it looks like some control signals are passing over the HDMI cable, and that's cool to see.

So the TV improves from conditionally excellent to all-around fantastic.


Kickin' 'Em When They're Down

Neither team in tonight's Caps game was exactly riding a wave. The Caps were one game removed from their eight-game losing streak, while the Devils were coming off an absolute beating at the hands of the Thrashers. So it was hard to guess what the game would look like.

It didn't help, from the Caps perspective, that one of the best players from the last game, Eric Fehr, was at home to deal with a death in the family. Our condolences, Eric.

But on the plus side, the Russian enigma, Sasha Minor, was coming back from a "lower body injury". (Incidentally, I really hate those uselessly-vague injury statements.)

The first period was pretty closely contested. Andrew Gordon got the Caps on the board with his first career goal off a very nice pass from MarJo. While the Caps looked good throughout the period, that was the only puck to make it past Brodeur.

The second looked for quite a while like it would be the same. The Devils scored first, on the power play to knot things back up. But then the Caps came roaring back, with goals from Beagle, Chimera, and Carlson.

The Chimera goal was a particularly nice one; he got a breakaway, drew a hooking call, and managed to plant the puck under the crossbar before hitting the ice. Man, if he could display hands like that with regularity, he'd be absolutely lethal.

By that point, the game was basically over. Knuble managed to pot another goal in the third to round out the scoring, but the outcome was never seriously in doubt.

To break things down a bit, MarJo had a fabulous game. He looked ready to be the long-term second center already (not that I think he is ready, but he did look it). Matty P also looked very good, despite not factoring into the scoring (Knuble's goal was scored on a deflection; Matty was right behind him, ready to deflect also, on that play). He was actually pretty effective along the boards tonight, as well.

Carlson also looked very good. He had an assist to go with the aforementioned goal, and is looking like a top-pairing defenseman already. With another year of seasoning, he'll be our second-best defenseman. Actually, he's damned close to it already.

The top line looked pretty good, but still isn't clicking. I hope they get it together soon, because we definitely need the scoring.

Next up? We finally get our first run-in with the Penguins for the season. The timing seems pretty good for the Caps, and I'm looking forward to it. Maybe this will give OV the motivation to break out of his slump this season.


Ask and Tell, Coming Soon to a Unit Near You

Just wanted to note that I am (shocked but) very pleased to see that the Senate approved the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, finally.

No DREAM Act to go with it, alas, but it's a step in the right direction.

Now we can hopefully stop kicking out people who are highly qualified, but just happen to prefer to have sex with their own gender.

I wonder how bad McCain's conniption was, this weekend, when that passed.

Anyway, it's now been passed by both houses, so the President can sign it. I heard something about it taking quite a while to really take effect, but didn't get the details. But it shouldn't be too long.


Things did not start out looking well for the Caps tonight. In the first period, there were several questionable non-calls, some near-misses, whistles blew the play dead a couple of times when Elliot didn't have the puck covered, and the period was capped off by having a goal disallowed because it crossed the line half a second too late. They also allowed two goals, with the defense not looking very good. With the way things have been going, it was looking like a long night, indeed.

I went upstairs to put my daughter to bed during the intermission, failing to turn off the DVR so I could pick up from where I left off. I got back with half the period gone, and the score now 3-2. Apparently, I should watch less. What's more, my wife saw Ovechkin's disallowed goal that would have made it 4-2. Obviously, I rewound to see the goals.

Good effort by the Caps to get the scoring going right away. The first and third goal were both basically garbage goals where Perrault picked up the puck on a rebound, and put it past a sprawled Elliot. Am I dismissing those goals by calling them garbage goals? I am not. The Caps have never been very good about getting those sorts of goals (with the possible exception of when Ciccarelli was on the team), so I was thrilled to see them. I should also mention that the reason he was held out last night was that he had the flu, so nothing should be read into him not playing.

Fehr, I forgot to mention, stayed on the top line for this entire game, and looked really good. Maybe that will be a long-term change after all. If so, I'm not going to be upset. He had the second goal, an assist on Perrault's second goal (actually not sure how they ended up out there together, but there it was), plus had the twine tickler disallowed by the end of the first period.

OV looked pretty good; I think they've given him a sitting down, and told him he needs to change things up a bit to give himself more room. The result was that he only had two shots, both pretty late in the third period. But he was looking to pass when he brought the puck into the zone, rather than always looking to cut across the middle for the wrister from the top of the circles. I'm not really thrilled with the results for tonight, but I think it will help both him and the team, long-term. We do need to have him taking more shots, though, in general.

Neuvirth looked very good. He did not have a chance on either of the goals; the first he never saw and the second was deflected from a position he couldn't possibly cover. I do have wonder why he was playing, though. Having played last night, I definitely would have preferred to have Varly in.

But on the whole, the Caps looked good. They looked hungry, they were doing a better job of keeping the puck in the offensive end, and they played like a driven team. It was great to see.

Now that the streak is broken, there's a day off before the Devils come to town; hopefully, they'll keep that hunger and bring it again. And maybe they can not play from behind again? These instances of spotting the other team two and three goals are really getting old.


Chaotic Exploration

I got a recommendation, recently, to check out Burton Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street. While I'm reasonably familiar with the market, it sounded like an interesting read.

While I'm not sure I'm going to use anything I read in it, it certainly gave me a lot to think about.

It started out with some theory (which, given my complete lack of any theoretical background, was nice) about how prices are derived. It started with a pair of theories, the firm foundation theory (which essentially states that there is a fundamentally correct price for any given stock based on business and dividends) and the Castles in the Air theory (which says prices are arbitrary).

Perhaps in defense of the latter, it then goes on to detail a number of historical value bubbles, starting with Dutch tulips in the seventeenth century. It then talks about how well the pros do, so you don't feel like you're at as big a disadvantage as it might seem. To do that, it walks through much of the tail end of the twentieth century, and caps it off with the internet bubble.

It then goes through a number of gyrations to show how stock movements are largely chaotic, despite introducing the Efficient Market Theory. Frankly, I think those are fairly contradictory, but *shrug*. There are several versions of the EFM, the latter two of which are, to me, completely ludicrous. The former states that issues are priced efficiently, taking into account all information about a stock immediately. This version, I think, has a kernel of truth, although I'm not sure I'd really endorse it, regardless. I'll come back to this.

He then moves on to what he calls Modern Portfolio Theory, which is all about dealing with risk. This is another section that was informative for me, but I'm skeptical about whether it was really useful. The skepticism mostly derives from a build-up to a new way to structure portfolios, called the Capital Asset Pricing Model. I suspect that this was endorsed in an earlier edition of the book (this is the tenth edition, from 2007. Yes, that year will become important later), and gave the book its subtitle. However, whether that guess is right or not, he now comes out and admits that CAPM doesn't work in practice.

The part of that section I was most happy to read was the section on Beta, which I'd heard of, and which I knew referred to riskiness in some sense, but knew nothing more specific about.

From there, he moves on to a field called Behavioral Finance, which talks about how psychology plays into investing. And I was glad he got to that part when he did, because towards the end of the chapter before, I was saying in my head, "That's missing a broad swath of what drives short-term changes". The reason I was glad was that Behavioral Finance got to exactly what was bothering me before.

This might turn out to be the part of the book that is genuinely useful, though. It mentions several unhealthy tendencies that people have (and yeah, I've seen several of them in myself), and a little bit about ameliorating them. Good stuff for anyone serious about investing.

He then talks about several theories for undercutting the Efficient Market Theory, and shows flaws (or potential flaws) in them.

So, to get back to that to which I was alluding earlier, here's the thing about EMT (based on my experience). I think that, in the long-term, what EMT says about driving stock value is correct. But the reason I have trouble really buying it (as stated, at least) is that there is so much volatility in the short to medium term. Many stocks fluctuate by 3-5% in a day on a regular basis. And that's without news announcements either for that company, or for the market as a whole. Heck, just last Friday, I had a stock gain more than 2% just in the last twenty minutes of trading. And there's just no way that that can be considered efficient.

But I will agree that ignoring the short-term churn in trying for long-term benefits is a good thing. And that, therefore, playing the market as if EMT is correct is the way to go.

And I guess the last thing I found useful was the chapter on derivatives. I'm a little surprised he didn't talk a bit more about some more exotic option strategies (collars, straddles, bear-put and bull-call debits, bear-call and bull-put credits, etc), but perhaps exotic is the key word there.

So where did the book fall down? Some of it had to do with new editions: leading into CAPM, it felt like that was going to be the best thing ever. But then, after introducing it, he's like, "So, does it work?" When the answer was so quickly and succinctly no, it felt like a let-down.

The section on risk was also informative, as I mentioned, but it still ended up feeling a bit... unsatisfying, I guess. I'm not sure what else should be there, but I did feel like something should.

I also wish there'd been a bit more discussion about when to sell stocks that you're holding long-term. That's what has bitten me in the butt a number of times, both on the down side and on the up side. I either held it too long, or not long enough.

I would really like to see a modern update on the derivatives chapter, also. He talks a bit about how derivatives have gotten a bad name, and how it's a silly concern. He ends that discussion with this gem:
But a systematic undermining of world financial stability caused by derivatives trading does not deserve to be on the top of anyone's worry list.

It's a bit of a throwaway statement, and a reasonable one at that, but it was less than two years later when that, essentially, happened. Banks who held a lot of money from depositors (not investors, depositors), made heavily leveraged derivatives bets, and blew those bets. There was other mischief involved, but that's what brought down the house of cards and brought about the TARP.

So I'd like to see some reaction to that. And to clarify, I'm not saying that his argument that derivatives aren't the problem is entirely wrong. What really made the problem huge in this case wasn't the heavily leveraged derivatives themselves, it was that they were making these bets with other people's money.

Ok, enough about that.

I feel like I'm forgetting something, but I'm going to move on anyway.

In short, I think this book is a good one for anyone seriously thinking about doing significant stock market trading. If you don't want to read it, I suggest you follow his top-line advice, and just invest in wide-market index funds. There's a lot of good information in here.

Update: I knew there was something I was forgetting. It was about company dividends. When talking about Firm Foundation, the value to be set is largely based on dividends that the company issues. So what is to be done about those companies that don't issue dividends? Given how prevalent that has become, I'd really like to see that addressed.

Thomas Stands Tall

Caps tonight were totally Jekyll and Hyde. My DVR screwed up recording, somehow, so I missed about half of the first period, but Hyde was playing the first. They were just getting worked. Not a whole lot of shots against, but not too much possession for the team. And they still allowed a third goal in that second half of the first. Yeah, I missed two goals against. *sigh*

The second period went quite a bit better. They had slightly the better of the play, but were only able to put one in the net.

The third marked the return of Jekyll, and was perhaps the best period of hockey I've seen from the Caps. They set the team all-time record for shots in a period with twenty-six, but still only lit the lamp once. But at least we didn't have a second period with two shots allowed and two goals; neither of the two shots found the back of the net.

It was really amazing that the first and third periods were played by the same team. Really. They looked so bad after the first that with them down by three, I almost didn't bother to watch the last two periods.

There really wasn't much to say about special teams; the Caps had the only power play, but were unable to convert it.

Other than that? Once again, the Caps had a sizeable lead in giveaways for the night, but at least takeaways were even. They did have a ten percent advantage in faceoffs, which was a nice change.

They did stop sending MarJo to take faceoffs. I love the kid, but he does need to get better at that. Oddly, Perrault was a scratch, but Beagle was in. Not sure what to make of that, but it certainly doesn't bode well for Matty P.

Knuble was mostly on the second line in the third, with Fehr and A. Gordon taking turns in his spot on the top line. That actually didn't seem to work too badly, although I wouldn't expect it to continue too much.

Neuvy was pretty good for the portion of the game that I saw; in fact, he had at least three great saves in that time. Unfortunately, it appears that he wasn't too good before that.

Congrats to Bradley and Alzner on the goals; Bradley was player of the game for his goal.

You have to think they'll start finding the net soon; the Caps have been really peppering the nets without finding them. We knew there'd be some regression to the mean for their incredible scoring percentage last year, but this is just rude. They're still right around 4% scoring for the streak. Still no wins since the first of the month. Not just out of overall lead, and out of conference lead, but lost the Southeast lead as well, tonight.

Not long to wait to find out, though. Visiting the Senators tomorrow night; hopefully results will improve along with the play.


The Overlords

Tangentially related to what I was saying about income disparity earlier, here is what can easily happen when the bulk of the people involved in making policy are unaffected by that policy.

I really think most of the congresspeople think it's no big deal, and since a lot of them fly private jets (mostly loaned by lobbyists) or military (probably this is not widespread, but it does happen), they just aren't affected by it.

Separate rules.

Welcome to democratic society.

Millionaires in the Mist

I've finally gotten around to reading the classic book, The Millionaire Next Door. My timing certainly could have been better, because a new edition just came out last month. And that's significant, because there are a few things they mentioned, where I just had to say that it was out of date. I'll come back to that.

I should also mention that I haven't yet finished it (I'm about halfway through it), but still wanted to put a bunch of thoughts down.

While I'm not disputing any of the books' central theses, I have a number of issues around the edges.

But before I get to those, let's talk about the positives.

Most of the book is talking about good habits. In particular, living below your means (and especially not buying status symbols; I really like the phrase they mention, "Big Hat, No Cattle"), budgeting, and planning ahead. And these are all vital things for getting ahead.

I loved some of the facts and figures they were throwing out. Only about a fifth of millionaires inherited the wealth (note that the current destruction of the estate tax will likely increase this percentage), and only five percent of millionaires make over a $1M annually. Not many of them get the money via sports, entertainment, or lottery, too.

One, they push a number of times how self-employment correlates highly with bring a millionaire. The problem I have with that is one of selection bias. When you only talk to the rich, you only find the successful self-employed. It ignores the many people whose business failed. How much does that change things? I really don't know. The figures I've heard bandied about say something like 80% of small businesses fail within five years. So to say that self-employment correlates with being a millionaire, you need to account for all those people whose businesses failed. A good first step would be to ask those millionaires how many businesses they tried before succeeding. But even that would leave the question significantly unexplored.

Two, they mention education, particularly grad school, correlating negatively with wealth building, owing to starting later to accumulate money. This is another selection bias, as income correlates very highly with education, but not as much with wealth. Which leads me to believe that your best bet is to be highly educated, but not to spend profligately. It's a whole lot easier to save $1M if you're making $180k, rather than $90k. But as they point out with many examples, you can do it by making $90k.

And I think that's the most valuable part of the book; the wealth of examples of both good and bad.

Also, I should point out that technical disciplines in grad school churn out a lot of the people who found tech startups. And those are a major engine of growth over the last decade and a half. And many people got very rich off of them.

Three, they seem to discourage wealth building via home ownership. I'm not sure if that was their intention, but that's the way it sounded to me. The problem with doing things this way is that your assets aren't liquid, but you do generally earn good returns. They especially seemed to disparage buying in wealthy neighborhoods, but there's two reasons to be skeptical about that.

The first problem with avoiding those neighborhoods is that you end up having to pay for private education. Not that I'm entirely against private education; I mostly went to private schools growing up. But they are pretty expensive, and moving to a place with good public schools (if feasible; I realize that it isn't feasible everywhere) can easily pay for itself (especially if you have multiple children).

The second problem is that the expensive neighborhoods tend to go up in value better. My parents always told me that the best way to make money on real estate is to buy the cheapest house in the most expensive neighborhood you can afford. That way the more expensive, surrounding houses will pull the value of your house up. This problem could be seen, much more magnified than usual, in the recent housing crisis, as those neighborhoods have fewer foreclosures. This means that the value in those neighborhoods might drop 10-15%, rather than 30-50%.

So I disagree with them about avoiding expensive housing. I'd still stick with the advice I got from my parents. The only caveat I'd give, is to do your own calculations on how much you can afford. Don't believe the loan officer. Also, unless you have strong reason to believe you're going to sell or refinance pretty soon (or if interest rates are extremely high, I suppose; I haven't been in the housing market when that was the case), don't do ARMs. Just get a 15- or 30-year fixed loan. You might lose a tiny amount of money on a refi, but it isn't worth the possibility of losing lots of money if you don't (or can't) sell or refi.

So what was out of date about the old book? The single biggest thing was when they were talking about how easy it is to go from being poor to being rich in the US. They talked this up for a bit, but the simple fact of the matter is that that is no longer the case. In fact, it was already starting to not be the case when the original edition was written, but the tax changes since then have really cemented that. George Carlin called it.

Here's an interesting graphic about it from the NYT, using 1988 to 1998 data. Select 'Income Mobility' tab. Then hit 'NEXT' to see the change in mobility over the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

I mentioned in a previous post an OECD report, though I wasn't able to find it at the time. It is located here. See the title of Figure 5-10, in particular. And then note that income inequality is as large as it has ever been, with CEOs making, on average, more than 200x the amount of the lowest-paid worker. See more details here, here, and here.

Ok, I'm getting away from the point here. I'll get the newer edition and finish the book, then I'm sure I'll have a bit more to say about it.

A Whole New World

Ok, not really. Last night was barely a blip on the Caps season. And it didn't break the losing streak, even if the Caps did get a point.

The plus was that the team did look much better than the last few games, but that's certainly in the category of damning with faint praise.

Semin and MarJo were both out with the flu.

Brooksie had a pretty good game; a goal, quite a few shots (seven on net, plus six more). OV looked a bit better, although he's still trying to stick-handle through defenders too much. He was also unlucky with another shot hitting the crossbar.

Hannan had a pretty poor game, again. How did this guy get a $4.5M annual contract, again? He's been on the ice for ten goals against since coming over. He also passed straight to a Duck only a few feet from the goal early in this game. Fortunately, the Duck was behind the net and no damage was done, but it still looked pretty bad. At the rate he's going so far, no danger of us trying to re-sign him next year; hopefully, that'll change.

Varly had a decent game, average, I think, by his standards. I'm guessing that he started as a way for Bruce to show that he wasn't upset about last game; I assume Neuvy will start next game.

Other than that, not much to be said about it. Not another disaster, but certainly nothing to celebrate, either. Hopefully, things will go a bit better against Boston on Saturday.

Tax Deal Cruises Through Senate

The Post's headline on this article this morning. It just makes me sick.

All those bills that attempted to help the entire country get help up (to say nothing of the judicial appointment blockade that has gotten so bad that the (Republican-appointed) judiciary itself has requested that the Senate lift it), but if you promise a huge giveaway to the top two percent of the nation, no problem.

And the Post apparently has no trouble with this, as they comment
lawmakers rushed to prevent a New Year's tax hike from striking virtually every American household

Obama has now given up all pretense of being a liberal, or a progressive, and actually seems to go with the media's BS narrative of the US being a "center-right" nation. He certainly seems to be governing from the right. That point might be debatable, but it's unquestionably much further to the right than he campaigned on. And he wonders why his base is upset at him.

And I know conservatives who were telling me, before he was elected, that he was the most liberal member of the Senate. Which was, even then, an absurd thing to say, but has become more and more ridiculous as time has gone on.

He said that we needed to do this to keep from hosing the long-term unemployed, and certainly, something needed to be done for them. But how much are the 99ers being helped by this compromise?

And what is this going to do for seniors, long-term, when this deal is used as a precedent to cut funding to Social Security? That'll cause Social Security to become insolvent a heck of a lot sooner than 2037 (the current projected date for problems). It'll also drive a large number of Senior Citizens into poverty. Before Social Security, a large percentage of seniors were below the poverty line. If Social Security truly is bankrupted, by disrupting funding, we'll go back to that situation. Is that what we want, as a nation? Is that how our nation keeps its promises?

What was so difficult about putting a bill in front of Congress to extend Social Security benefits? Make them filibuster it. Make Republicans own their "principled stand". How well would that go over with the majority of the population? The Tea Party would certainly love it, but I think not too much more of the country would.

We Have Creole Turkey Injectors

Just saw that in a newspaper ad this morning, and thought it was hilarious. I'm pretty sure I know what they really mean, but it still puts me in mind of some kind of engine tuning product.

Update: I should have mentioned, this is the store that placed the ad.


No Individual Mandate

I'm not a lawyer, but I don't really understand this ruling. After all, Virginia already requires all drivers to get insurance (or pay a penalty of, IIRC, $500).

Would it be ok if the rule was limited to all people who are eligible to receive health care?

And how is this different from requiring people to pay into Social Security and Medicare? Actually, the only difference I see between this and Medicare is that you're paying for coverage that you're not eligible to receive right away (for most people, anyway).

Plus, I do have a legal question as well. If the mandate doesn't yet apply to anyone, how does anyone have standing to challenge it? If anyone has standing, then getting standing to challenge warrantless surveillance shouldn't be a challenge. And yet, somehow it has been.

The ruling is kind of interesting, though, in that it only strikes down the mandate. That certainly makes for an interesting situation, come 2014; it'd be awfully difficult for the insurance companies to make money. Would it make them stop offering individual coverage, entirely?

Update: I forgot to add this story. Even if you ignore the money angle (which I don't agree with), there's still the issue that he certainly doesn't sound like someone likely to be bringing an open mind to the decision-making process.

We Can't Discourage Working. Unless You're Rich.

I was just reading Jim DeMint's (R-SC) comments about reducing the deficit while permanently extending the Bush tax cuts. Leaving aside the fact that these two goals are completely inimical to each other, there was this lovely quote:
We can't just keep paying people to stay at home. We've got to create economic activity to allow businesses to grow so they can hire people.

(tip o' the cap: ThinkProgress)

Apparently, what he actually means is that you can't keep paying poor people to stay at home. But if you're rich, you should always be encouraged to do so, via taxing your capital gains (which generally don't require you to work outside the home) much less than taxes on labor (which usually does).

Granted, that's usually not a strict either/or option, but with those incentives, which is going to get more of your attention?

On the other hand, if you're poor and undereducated (remember, the unemployment rate, right now, for college grads is still less than five percent, which is generally considered "full employment"), it's too expensive to make sure you can keep your home and feed your family. No matter how long you've been working beforehand, and paying into unemployment insurance.

Because homeless people find it so much easier to find employment.

Does South Carolina have no poor people, or do they just not vote?


Buried in Snow on the Range

Not much of anything positive from either last night's game against the Avalanche or tonight's against the Rangers. The one positive I took from last night's game was that they showed some great pressure in the last eight minutes (ironically, except for the power play) to give some solace for an otherwise pretty lack-luster game.

Hendricks had a great back-to-the-goal, between-the-legs power play marker as well.

But tonight's game? Well, I'm writing this before the game's even over, which might give some clue. I turned it off, and even stopped it recording, after the fifth goal went in. And now that my daughter's asleep, I just checked to see that it's gotten even worse.

There was just nothing positive to say about tonight. The power play? Terrible. The penalty kill? Bad. Defense? Terrible. Goaltending? Horrendous. Offense? Two good shifts, I think. Maybe a third one by the fourth line (I have a vague recollection).

I don't think a single player looked good for more than a few seconds at a time. Really, it was the worst game I've seen from the Caps in years. And by far the worst I've seen from any Caps team I'd consider good.

I'm wondering if Boudreau has lost all ability to motivate the team. I'm leaning pretty strongly towards saying that he needs to go. And what the hell was that about calling out Varly at the beginning of the game? Varly had been fantastic up to this point. You call out the people who are not performing, not the ones who are. And you can see how well it turned out.

Man, I hope they're just outright embarassed. They damned well should be.

I'm not sure whether it's good or bad that they have a couple of days to regroup before the Ducks arrive. I guess we'll get a better measure of the team's character, but they were sure wanting tonight.


Keeping Current

Like a lot of people interested in Sabrenomics (and I'd put myself in the fringes of that crowd), I'm a big fan of the (former Kansas City Star, current Sports Illustrated) writer Joe Posnanski. I check out his blog a few times a week.

Anyway, today he was contemplating the discovery of new things. I've given this idea some thought on my own, when I realized I was never really listening to music on the radio anymore. Basically, I do all my music listening when I'm driving in my car, and nowadays I nearly always listen to NPR on my local station.

And this is both good and bad. The good part is that I rarely get bombarded by something I don't like, but the bad part is that I don't hear a lot of new stuff, either. Well, I didn't for quite a while.

As Joe says,
Of course, people talk about this all the time, about how technology has allowed us to retreat into ourselves. You can -- you do -- find yourself surrounded by opinions you share, shielded from things you find offensive or uninteresting, living in a world where everything you see or hear or read or touch is, like the prizes at the end of the Newlywed Game, "chosen just for you."

He mentions it as being progress, but I wonder. That is, in and of itself, it does seem to be progress, but the question I end up with is whether or not it leads to further progress. And I'm not sure what the answer there is, although the genius recommendations that he also mentions could prevent that being a problem.

That is, if you take several of those recommendations, you could end up pushing outside of your comfort zone, but still finding stuff you like. So I guess we'll see what happens.

But some of what he was talking about is definitely true. Like him, I don't browse book stores like I used to do (and never did, quite as freely as he did); in fact, I don't even go into stores all that often. The bulk of the books I buy, I get online. Movies? Ditto.

It's a strange world we live in.

Panting Hard

Not a bad game through two tonight for the Caps. They were down by a goal with that one allowed in the penultimate second, but generally looking good. And then they seemed to lose interest in the third. Just no energy.

Matty P had another good game, working hard all over the ice and doing especially well on the forecheck. Backstrom did not have a good game; I don't think I've seen a game where I noticed him less. Varly had a pretty good game, although he was a bit too aggressive trying to cut off the angle when he allowed the third goal. Lambo-greenie had a nice game, with some good hits and decent chances.

But overall, things were not working well for the team. Facing a team that had scored seven power play goals and allowed three short-handers, they allowed a goal on six attempts. The power play did a good job of generating traffic, but didn't actually shoot when they had that traffic. That certainly made things a lot easier on Vokoun, in particular. The team won the first eight or ten draws in a row, but was basically even the rest of the way.

Hendricks had a weird fight, where he charged after the guy he fought, but then just seemed content to sit back and hold the guy he was fighting. As I said, strange.

I'm really not sure what to make of the entire game. The Caps had large edges in both takeaways and giveaways, but just couldn't seem to put things together.

Hopefully, they can put things together a bit better against the Avalanche on Saturday. I'm sure Flash will be feeling he has something to prove, so maybe he'll play a bit better than usual.


Free 'Em All

I was reminded earlier today about the handling of free agents in MLB after the Flood decision opened the gates. The owner of the A's, Charly Finley, wanted to just make all of the players free agents every year.

Anyway, my wife was watching the Duke game earlier, and I noticed the ticker have its own heading about Cliff Lee. This jogged my memory about Finley, and made me think, "What would the Hot Stove Season look like if all players were free agents?"

It would just be insane. I can just imagine reporters' heads exploding, as they contemplate how much is going on each season.


This is a Compromise?

Man, if this tax deal is being accurately reported, I have to wonder what it would have taken for the White House to acknowledge that it had just bent over to the minority party.

This is absolutely horrible policy, as it continues on with the current "give everything to the rich" that we've suffered through for the past ten years. Actually, it's even worse, as the estate tax "compromise" puts the tax lower than it's been any year prior to this year.

If you want to guarantee a permanent, landed aristocracy, this tax package would be the number one way to go about it. The only thing missing is the formality of acknowledging that the (criminal) laws are different for the very rich. Oh, and maybe giving them formal title as, say, Lord Baltimore.

Doing nothing, and allowing all the tax cuts to expire, would be much better policy than this. While I dislike doing nothing about the AMT, allowing it to come back full-force is definitely worth it for the other problems allowed.

I'm just sick; this is full-scale capitulation to the Republicans who were holding tax benefits to 98% of the population hostage to tax benefits for the richest two percent.

Oh, and instead of working to get corporations to pay more of their fair share, they'll get even more tax breaks. As if them saving up over $1T already wasn't enough. How about we at least do something to force them to spend that money, so it gives the economy some stimulus. You know, hire some more people. It really isn't all that complicated.

Yes, some of the concessions gotten have minor salutary benefits, but they're piddling compared to the vast rapage that is being allowed in the name of "compromise".

Seriously, I really hope this whole deal falls apart. Maybe Feingold, or someone like him, will put a hold on this legislation to keep it from getting voted on. And then filibuster, when the hold isn't honored (Reid only honors holds by the other party, as we've seen). We can hope, at least.


is he Werth It?

I was surprised to pick up the paper this morning, and read that the Nats had signed Jayson Werth for seven years and $118M (actually, the way the headline read, I thought they were just saying they were trying to sign him, but apparently not. And for that amount of money, you can see why). I was even more surprised when I later read, online, that it was actually a $126M.

My initial thought, without looking at the numbers (most especially his age; he's a couple of years older than I remembered), was that it was possible the deal would not be a disaster for the team, at least for some of the years. Now, I'm thinking that, absent significant salary inflation, they're likely to get their money's worth for only a couple of seasons.

ALmost no matter how well he does next year, the near-zero chance of the team being competitive means he's overpaid. The next two to three years after that, I think there's a decent chance of him earning that entire paycheck (not great, but decent). But after that, it's not looking good.

We'll be keeping our fingers crossed. At least it's unlikely to be as bad a signing for the Nats as the Zito signing has been for the Giants. Of course, if it gets us a fluke World Series victory like the Giants managed, we'll take it. :)

Jumped by the Leaf-Pile

I was happy to see Matty P called up today; again, we saw an awesome initial performance by him, this time with a pair of goals instead of a pair of assists. OV added a pretty nice goal, and Knuble rounded out the Caps scoring on the night.

All that looks and sounds great. Unfortunately, that was the first two periods, and as you might be aware, they play three in the NHL. Even through most of the third period, it still looked like one of the Caps better games of the season, but man, did they fall apart at the end.

They allowed two goals in the last 2:27 of the game. The second one was due to a completely blown coverage by OV, who just parked himself in the high slot, not covering anyone. MacArthur snuck to the back door, where a nice feed from Grabovski gave him an easy tap-in goal.

In overtime, the Caps again played decently, but were slightly outplayed by Toronto. And the shoot-out was pretty uneventful. OV and Semin didn't seem to want to fake Gustavsson. Matty, a surprise in the shootout (presumably BB playing the hot hand), put a great couple of moves on Gustavsson, but dinged the shot off the inside of the post and across the goal mouth.

On the other side, Kadri also had a pretty lame faking attempt to lead off; Grabovski followed with a nice move, but given that that move involved stopping moving towards the goal, I'm not sure how the goal didn't get waived. Kessel took the last attempt for Toronto, and dinged it off the outside of the post.

All in all, it was another game where the Caps played great for quite a while, but just took their feet off the gas for long enough to allow the dead to rise. Extremely disappointing.

And I should point out that, despite appearances from the save percentage, Neuvy had a very nice game. Two of the goals he had no chance on (one the open put-in, the one before that a sharp-angle deflection, and he had some fantastic saves as well. Definitely nothing for him to be ashamed of.

And MarJo also had a pretty nice game, centering the third line for the night. But Matty P was definitely the star for the night with the Caps. Here's to hoping that he doesn't let it go to his head, and keeps playing the way he played tonight.

I hope they get this lackadaisical attitude out of their systems well before the playoffs come, because it'll be a long summer break if they don't.


Well, the Caps played a good game tonight against the Stars. Actually, they played a great game. But man, did they get hosed by the refs.

The Stars got three power play chances almost in a row in the second period; the latter two of which should've been power plays going on the other way. On one, Schultz had his stick broken by a slash, then slammed Burrish to the boards and got called for interference. Then Hannan got called for interference when there was something else going on that the Stars were doing; I don't remember exactly, but I think it might have been goaltender interference I was looking for. Finally, as the crowning insult, the Caps had a goal disallowed with eight seconds left in the game that would have tied it up. Apparently, OV's mere proximity was enough to make Skrastins' run-in with Raycroft into a goal-disallowing incident.

Other than that, Neuvy had a pretty good night, although I thought he should stopped the Stars' second goal. OV had a mixed night; good for running over people, and good for playing defense (to be honest, it's a bit disturbing to me how little he's asked to do that, though I'm sure that that's Gabby's fault). In the offensive end, it was ok, but not great.

Knuble got the Caps lone goal, on a beautiful feed from Green.

So, as I said, the team as a whole played very well, just not quite well enough. They stay out in front of the league in points, although Detroit is only four points behind with five games in hand (how have they ended up with so many fewer games this far in?).

Now, we'll just have to hope home cooking will get things back on track, with the Thrashers coming to visit on Saturday.

Bigger Window on the World

Got a new TV on a Cyber Monday deal. Hadn't actually compared it against the normal price of that model until just now (only compared against other deals).

Anyway, I thought there were a few interesting things about this TV. We got it to replace Sharp LCD from last year, and the picture quality just blows away the Sharp. I knew there'd be a difference, but I thought it'd be pretty similar. It isn't. I think a significant part of it is using an IPS panel instead of TFT; (at least, I think it's using that) if so, I wish the advertising had mentioned it. Maybe that's why the big price premium over what I expected.

I thought it was the combination of LED backlighting and 3D, the latter of which really shouldn't be a huge premium, but IPS would explain it quite well.

The other interesting bits are what they did to get the unit so thin (which, to be honest, wasn't a big deal for us). There don't seem to be any buttons on the unit at all (I did look, but not everywhere), so if we lose the remote, we're sunk. And it uses dongles for pretty much all connectivity except HDMI. I think there were six, total.

But it looks gorgeous, even when it isn't on.

Now we just need to wait for the blu-ray player to arrive, so we can test out how it looks in 3D mode. But that'll be a couple of weeks, it appears. And, hey Verizon, howzabout releasing a 3D-capable DVR? Y'know, maybe with a 1TB hard drive?


Definitely Not Singing the Blues

I was disappointed I didn't pay more attention to the Caps schedule last week. We were in the Raleigh area Thursday for Thanksgiving, but I didn't notice the Canes game there until way too late to go down a day early and catch the game live. Alas.

I recorded the two weekend games, but didn't end up watching them (accidentally saw the Monday newspaper for the Sunday result, and then caught a summary of the Friday one... arg).

Anyway, was glad to catch the game tonight; disappointed that Hannan sat and that it was one Comcast Sports-, but still glad to see it.

It got even better, as the team played very well from start to finish. Varly, in particular, had a fantastic game. He leaves more rebounds than Neuvy, but he did a good job of putting them to bad shooting locations. The one goal he allowed certainly wasn't his fault either, as it was a deflection that changed direction dramatically.

OV also had a very good game, as he really came out hitting. He also tried a backhand move again (once), and had some nice chances. Still no goal, although he probably could have had an empty netter, but he settled for setting up Backstrom.

The penalty kill looked very good all night, allowing no goals and only three or four shots on four tries.

Alzner had a very good game defensively; in particular, he managed to stop a 3-on-1 without a shot being fired.
Hopefully, they can keep up the momentum going into Dallas tomorrow night.