Heading Home on a High Note

I don't have too much to say about the game the other night in Minnesota. It was kind of a 'meh' type of game to me. The effort was reasonably good (though not great), but nothing really stood out in it to me. They were certainly out-played, perhaps even out-coached. Maybe I was just too tired when I watched it to notice anything more specific.

Last night's game, though, was very interesting. I didn't get to watch it until today (due to the multiple viewings of 'How to Train Your Dragon' that I mentioned).

Man, that was a tale of two games. How badly were the Caps outplayed at the beginning? Well, it took them only 44 seconds to allow the first goal. Their first power play was probably the worst effort I've ever seen; it allowed two 2-on-1 breakaways, and even allowed the Flames to set up in the offensive zone. The only positive was that they still managed to get a scoring chance, somehow. How bad was the ensuing penalty kill? Well, it didn't surrender a goal (I'm still not sure how), but it took about 1:55 to finally clear the zone. Ouch. It was looking so bad, that I almost turned the game off in frustration. In the first period.

Thankfully, only a couple of minutes later (and after Hendricks stirred things up a bit by picking a fight with Tim Jackman, who's much larger than Hendricks. I think that might have woken the team up), the Caps got another chance on the power play and converted after only 22 seconds. So they went into the first intermission down by only a goal, despite being absolutely man-handled for most of the period.

In the second period, I think the Calgary audience thought they'd been transplanted to Indonesia, with a tsunami and a volcano hitting them almost simultaneously. Suddenly, everything clicked, and they dropped a six-spot including OV getting two goals twelve seconds apart (both on the power play). It also included what was pretty much an own-goal, as Sarich tried to get the puck away from out front of the net, and Bradley deflected it (accidentally, I'm sure) into the side of the net. Steckel also finished off the barrage with a shortie (on a penalty shot, no less), after Kiprusoff had been benched for Karlsson. And all of that came on only 14 shots (which is, to be sure, a nice total for a period, but a heck of a lot less than you'd expect for six goals).

The third period didn't have a whole lot going on. The Flames played a bit riskier, and the Caps were happy to take it away from them, but there were no more goals.

Green got out of his scoring funk for the season with a goal (and a pretty one, at that, hitting Kiprusoff's water bottle) and two assists. His assists on that goal came from Semin, who had a goal and another assist as well, and Backstrom, who had a goal and two more assists. It might have been the first time I've ever seen a defensement get behind the other team's defense.

The lines were a bit funky; Semin was moved up to the top line (man, that's a lot of firepower), Flash was moved to the wing with Laich at center (an improvement, I think), and Knuble was on the second line (I somehow failed to notice through the entire game who was centering that line, but it wasn't MarJo or MattyPo, both of whom were scratched). DJ King got a jersey for the night, but didn't really do much beyond take a (non-call) stick to the face early in the first. Fehr was scratched, which I didn't really understand too much. And Fahey got a jersey, which worried me, but he comported himself pretty well on the evening.

Kudos also to Neuvy, who once again kept the game from getting out of hand early on.

So now the Caps come back home, where they'll be facing the Maple Leafs on Wednesday and Bruins on Friday. Hopefully, the home cookin' will keep the offense alive.

Here (also) There Be Dragons

I mentioned previously seeing the trailer for 'How to Train Your Dragon'.

I never did manage to catch it in the theater (alas), but did pick it up when it came out on blu-ray. Well, I waited a couple of days to see if Target's price was better than Amazon's that weekend, but when it wasn't even close (I was surprised it wasn't within 10%; in fact, it was about 30% more), I bought it at Amazon after all.

Did I like it? Well, when it finished playing, I hit the pop-up menu to check the extras (not realizing that it was a completely separate extras menu than in the main menu), and saw 'Trivia Track'. Being curious, I went back to the second scene of the movie, and ended up watching the rest of the movie a second time with that on. It was an absolutely brilliant idea as an alternate use of a subtitle track, and was mostly interesting.

I really, really liked the part where Hiccup is being trained, and where he is making friends with Toothless. It was just a beautiful sequence of scenes. And I was very amused how the Romantic Flight (according the Trivia Track, what they called the sequence with Astrid's first flight) was largely lifted from another movie (my first thought was that it was from Superman, minus the drop, but now I think that wasn't it).

I think there are a couple of key reasons that I liked the movie. The now-typical misunderstood geek finds acceptance is one part, but the other, I think, was just the finding that enemies were enemies only because of misunderstanding (or, perhaps, external influence).

It's similar, I think, to why I very much enjoyed Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon (incidentally, when I was in seventh grade, for English class, we had to read an Arthurian book. My teacher was more than a little surprised when that was the one I chose). It wasn't so much the reversal of viewpoint from the men to the women that I liked (I was actually pretty indifferent to that), it had more to do with a view that the enemy wasn't truly evil, but just had different priorities than the "good guys".

I think part of why I liked it, also, was that it was driven by very positive emotions, rather than dwelling on negative ones. This is much the same reason why one of my favorite movies of all time, despite it's extremely high cheese quotient, is Love, Actually. The opening sequence to that, with Hugh Grant's voiceover, talking about the arrivals gate at Heathrow, and mentioning the last calls of those who died on 9/11, is very powerful. If you haven't seen that one, do yourself a favor, and watch it.

Anyway, getting back to 'How to Train...', I enjoyed it very, very much, and would highly recommend it.

Shanghai 2010

My wife and I went to China six or seven years ago, to visit her parents in Hong Kong. But we also took a side trip to visit Shanghai while we were there. At the time, they were in the middle of massive construction projects, some of which had signs mentioning the World Expo taking place this year.

I didn't give a whole lot of thought at the time to the World Expo (it was just too far off), but the construction was interesting. Not so much for its own sake, but just that it was taking place around the clock, even back then.

The other things that I found interesting about it were the contrast between old and new there, and the fact that we didn't see a single bird while we were there (three days, maybe?). I've been to many cities, and the only one where I can remember not seeing a lot of pigeons was Rome (though even there, there were some). The reason that you don't see a lot of them in Rome, though, is that Rome has a law (or did, the last time I was there, at least) that you can't relocate stray or feral cats. So there were a lot of cats around; in fact, we even saw a ruins that was in the middle of a city square where they were taking care of many of those cats. As a cat lover, I thought it was really cool to see so many cats in the surroundings; I'll have to see if I can find any of my pictures from then.

Getting back to the contrast between old and new there, it was really dramatic. Much of the city looks like I envision 19th century London, while there is a small area that looked very 21st century (there's a reason that part of the city was used as the main setting for Ultraviolet). The contrast was really stark, because it basically occurs (occurred?) along a well-defined line. Since our hotel was pretty much on the line, we could see both sides from above there.

Anyway, getting back to the point of this post, here are some pictures of the World Expo.

It looks like they did manage to add a lot more new stuff since we were there (not too surprising, given how much work was going on).

I wonder if the roads got safer since then. At the time, you had to be very careful crossing the street. Pedestrians definitely did not have the right of way.


Neuvy gets Shutout

The Caps looked great, tonight. They were leading in the first, when I finally remembered what time the game started (I think I conflated the time with the World Series start time), and continued to play hard.

They did have some defensive breakdowns, but each time, Neuvy was there to slam the door shut. Seriously, there were some amazing saves in there. And that one reviewed non-goal? I suspect the puck did go in, but it didn't look like there was any angle where it would be possible to tell.

The PK looked very good, the PP was generating chances (although not shooting as often as they should), and they even dominated the face-off dot. And Backstrom had a very nice game, with the pair of third-period goals.

I'm not sure what the team should do when MarJo is feeling better; Perrault again looked very good, working well with Semin and Laich. I guess the plus on that is that there is no really wrong decision. Actually, I think the best option is to trade someone so that Flash can go back to the wing somewhere (if he isn't the one traded; that would actually be my preference) and MarJo and MattyP take the second and third center positions.

But that's a question for another day. For now, let's just admire His Wall-ness' performance in the first of what we hope will be many, many more.


Better Red than Dead

My wife and I managed to get out to see Red on Friday. Going in, I didn't know very much about the movie. I knew it was about a bunch of retired spies (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and others) who were breaking into CIA HQ to exonerate themselves by exposing a plot.

That wasn't an entirely accurate summary; they were trying to kill plotters who started things rolling by trying to kill them. Also, Bruce Willis was trying to win the heart of a girl in the process. I was also unaware of the uncorrupted (but ambitious) CIA agent who was trying to trying to catch them.

As I alluded, I hadn't heard who the others in the spy group were, but I was very happy to find Morgan Freeman, John Malkovitch, and Brian Cox rounding out the crew. And I hadn't heard of him, but Karl Urban also did a great job as the (unretired) agent.

I ended up liking this one quite a bit more than Salt; I think because, while it was similarly believable, it didn't take itself seriously.

And I really liked how they did scene transitions; most of them involved moving from one city to another. Whenever they did, they had a funny-looking postcard from the new city, which then blended into whatever was going on.

There were a lot of jokes, and cracking wise. I think that's the best sort of role for Bruce Willis; thinking about it after the movie, I couldn't come up with any serious roles from him. Looking over his filmography now, I think the only serious one I've seen is Sixth Sense. But in a semi-serious role, he's very good.

I should also point out that the title, RED, is actually an acronym (revealed by Ernest Borgnine, of all people. I don't think I'd seen him in anything since ... well, he was in the excellent Gattaca, but I don't remember noticing him there (perhaps just too into the story to see). The last thing I actually remember seeing him in was Airwolf, sadly.) that stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous.

Hilarious. As was seeing the classification marker of 'Ultra Top Secret' on the files that he was handing over (although that one, I have to wonder if it was meant to be serious or not).

The only negative in the movie, to me, was Mirren and Willis talking, and her saying to him that he was "hard outside, and gooey inside". I guess that was their attempt to get a little bit serious, or something. But it rather irked me, because I don't think it's possible for someone who kills other people so casually to be even a little bit "gooey". But that was a very minor thing.

Anyway, don't expect anything deep and don't expect to be thrown by the plot twists, but do expect to be entertained.


Rail to the Chief

Just finished Butcher's Captain's Fury last night. I'm not sure I have a lot to say about it (but what I do will include more spoilers than usual; caveat lector), though I certainly enjoyed reading it.

Like the last book, I'm not sure it was titled appropriately; very little of this book was spent captaining. The largest chunk was spent on a private mission with Tavi and close family and friends.

To get to specifics, it took only a page or two of reading to find that a couple of my assumptions at the end of the last book were wrong. Only one of the scenes I'd referred to as a teaser about Tavi's furies appearing was actually a teaser. The second one was them actually appearing. And I made a remark about the commander and senior NCO of the unit going away at once being very disruptive. That will probably happen before the next book starts, but hasn't happened yet.

Before tackling the major spoilers, I want to think about a minor (probably even throw-away) remark in the middle of the book talking about how furies can be passed down from one generation to the next (alluded to in the previous book, when talking about Bernard and Amara). It kind of bugs me, as a concept, from a couple of different angles.

It would explain how the High Lords got to be as powerful as they are (and here, I'd like to point out how the definition of powerful changed greatly from Vol I to Vol II. The steadholders were presented as being unusually powerful in the first book, but in the second, they were dwarfed by the High Lords). They just accumulated furies for centuries, adding more power with every one. Ok, that part's fine. It bugs the Jeffersonian in me, but it works (well, maybe; I'll get back to a secondary issue).

But if the people on this world get used to having their furies do all serious work for them (and that's brought up many times, that most of them do), then when do they turn them over? It's kind of along the lines of a putative son asking me, "Well, when are you going to turn over your leg to me, dad?" Maybe it isn't quite that level of sacrifice, since they don't get their furies until puberty (roughly; we know there's some variation, but not how much so), but it's still pretty fundamental to their self-image.

It also begs a serious question of nature vs nurture, maybe even on more than one level. When I formed that statement, I was thinking of the difference between one's own furies (found when growing up) and those inherited. You would expect, in almost all cases, that the heir to one of the great houses would be significantly less powerful than their progenitor. It kind of makes Kalare's irritation with Brencis not make much sense; he wanted his son to be as powerful as him, but that's hardly realistic.

It would also make it a bit difficult to label someone as being a gifted furycrafter, because it would be difficult or impossible to know whether they came into it naturally, or if they just came into it.

The other sense of nature vs nurture that only occurred to me as I was writing that earlier sentence has to do with the furies themselves. Are they even slightly sentient? Do they choose the person as the person is growing up? It seems like they would have to, as we didn't hear, for instance, Bernard telling Tavi about choosing, back in the first book. But if that's the case, why would multiple ones choose one person, and why would they do it at the same time?

And getting back to the possible problem of inheritance to which I earlier alluded, why would the children of High Lords have a greater tendency towards multiple, strong gifts if they were not handed down. That is, why would Max and Crassus have several powerful furies when we are pretty sure none of them were inherited (in the case of Max, in particular, I'm almost completely certain that that is so)?

A couple of other questions also arise: If they can be passed down, is it only to their kin? (The books waffle on this one; the Bernard/Amara discussion implies yes, while the discussion about Isana and Septimus implies no. But in neither case was it abundantly clear.) Also, can they only be passed down to someone who has already manifested their furies? And what is the mechanism for passing them down? It seems like it would need to be ritualized, to some degree. (I suppose we will see about that, when Gaius Sextus passes his furies down to Tavi, probably at the end of the next book.)

Ok, I think that's enough pondering on that question. If anyone has any thoughts, then I think I will revisit it.

Getting back to the book, I liked the way most of the plot was handled. Gaius asked Tavi to try to preserve lives for a couple of months, and fails pretty seriously almost from the get-go. But he does find a way to even out most of that before the end.

One thing that's difficult, is to deal with a character getting too powerful. There's a number of problems to be faced. The most difficult of which are how to deal with the character's friends and allies. Ray Feist showed one way, where Pug and Tomas are pretty much removed from the story, because they were just too powerful for the remaining characters. Butcher's Dresden novels go a different direction, where Harry finds new allies and friends who are more powerful (with the exception of Karen, of course). The older friends and allies become bit characters, essentially.

This series seems to be trying to go another way (kind of like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, as much as I can remember of it), which is to bring up the power level of the others at the same time. This is kind of how I explain what happened with Isana in the ocean. It's also how I explain Kitai's furycrafting (which is what fooled me into thinking that Tavi's furies hadn't manifested yet, at the end of the last book); she's much too important to get shunted off to the side by Tavi's growing power.

The other things that I liked in the book were the development of Max and Crassus' relationship. He didn't have a lot of time to devote to it, but what was there was cool. I also liked Isana and Kitai talking, although I did think that should have happened sooner than it did. And the interaction between Tavi and Isana was also well-handled (not entirely so by them, but the description of what they did do); her reluctance and second-guessing along with his pain and understanding. Very well done.

Finally, I liked how Gaius handled Amara. Well, not so much liked, as thought it was well (or at least cleverly) done. I didn't even realize until I started writing this, that the hint was there about how Amara was being played (Gaius' conversation with Tavi early on, where he said that he was "going to war" didn't really gibe with what he initially told Amara. I think I assumed that what he was dragging her into was a precursor to his "going to war", rather than the manifestation thereof).

One thing I did not really like was the statement that High Lords generally step down in favor of their offspring. In the real world, this almost never happens. And when it does, how often are they allowed to live? "Only one head can know the feel of the crown", and all that. But that's a fairly minor quibble.

One bit of curiosity I have; each of the between-book gaps, up to this point, has been two years. But Tavi's trip to the Canim homeland is only supposed to last about a year. Will it end up taking several years, or will the gap just be shrunk (perhaps to as little as a couple of months)?

Overall, I enjoyed the book a great deal, and have finally bought the last (most recent?) two, so I won't have to wait for anything external before finishing the series.

Update: I forgot to mention that I'm also curious if Tavi will pull new furies from the Canim homeworld; maybe one that isn't one of the five types found in Alera?


Underdogs FTW

When I don't have a rooting interest in a sporting contest, but am still keeping track of it, I'll almost always root for the underdog. So, when I saw, this morning, that the Giants had beaten the Phillies, I was very pleased. I was even more pleased when I saw that the Yankees had finally been beaten by the Rangers.

The latter was especially surprising, given that Cliff Lee had only pitched in one game in the series (continuing quite an amazing run of playoff brilliance in that one game).

I'm now really looking forward to the World Series, which I wouldn't have been if the favored teams had both won.

I think I'd have to go with the Rangers winning the Series. The Giants have the better pitching (though not by a huge margin), but the Rangers offense is markedly better than the Giants.

Of course, as always in a seven game series, anything can happen.


Weird Games

Last game against Boston was certainly disappointing. The team played well for the first period, until Carlson pinched in too much and a pass was slipped to his man on the doorstep for an open goal. Then they failed to clear for a much-too-long period of time early in the second; the guys stuck on the ice were tired, and let another through.

Things were looking awfully bad at that point; I got irritated and turned it off. It turns out that was just as well; things didn't get any better.

MarJo was having a good game, and apparently continued that after. I really don't remember who else looked good or not (except that Thomas certainly did, stopping thirty-odd shots to one past).

He was apparently hurt, though; I turned on tonight's game midway through the second, and saw Matty Po right away. Semin was an absolute beast throughout the game. Not just the hat trick, but was playing like a man on a mission (as was MP85; he definitely doesn't want to get sent back down) throughout.

Glad Neuvy was ok after getting run over by Byfuglien; I always get worried when the backs of the goalie's legs hit the post. Those bones break relatively easily.

Anyway, getting back to it, lots of apparent injuries tonight. Poti was out, Greene was back, but only for special teams. He definitely helped the power play; they didn't score, but they did get a lot of chances.

What would really make me happy, though, is to see the team score first. They certainly tried hard against Boston in both games. But I'm really sick of seeing them play from behind. They've got the talent that they can still win a bunch like that, but it's a terrible way to play. Just witness how well it worked for the US Soccer team at the World Cup; even that performance was better than it usually works.

The PK allowed another goal, but there were six chances, so that isn't too bad.

All in all, I guess my only big complaints tonight were that they were playing from behind again, and that my DVR somehow stopped recording with six minutes left in the game (it stopped abruptly just as OV was releasing a shot). Ah well, we'll take the two points, I guess.


Angry, Angry Play

Well, the Caps did play like an angry team finally. Ovie looked particularly motivated early in the game. They showed up for the whole game, and mostly played well.

But the results were not there tonight. Neuvy allowed two goals on seven shots (at least one of which he had no chance on). Apparently, he wasn't feeling well, as he left before the thirteen-minute mark. Varly did very well in relieving him, allowing one goal on a shot that had, I think, five players screening him (thirteen saves).

MarJo got his first North American goal, and had a pretty good game overall. And the PK maintained its perfection, despite a 53-second 5-on-3. In fact, it even generated a couple of chances. The team, as a whole, put the puck on net quite a lot (36 shots).

But that's about the end of the positives. Sarge was finally on the ice for a defensive score. The Power Play wasn't. I just looked, and the face-offs were about even, although it sure didn't feel like it in real time.

I guess we'll just have to see if things come together a bit better on Thursday. Hopefully, Green and Neuvy will both be available for that one.

Angry Blinky Thing

After finishing Academ's Fury, I had to wait a week to get Cursor's Fury, then finished it over three or four days.

It was a very good book, continuing the storyline from the first two books. We got a little bit of a hint of the problems with his relationship with Kitai that I was speculating about previously. We also saw Tavi continuing to grow, and take command of a situation even more than previously. We found out quite a bit more about Max's background.

I actually feel like the title was a bit of a misnomer, though; while, technically, Tavi was a cursor throughout, he was acting as a legionare through most of the book.

This one did have more of a Roman feel than previous volumes. There were more Roman names, including finding out that Tavi was short for Octavian (apparently named by his Aunt, although perhaps Octavian is just for eighth). I liked the use of the Gracchi, even if they were pushing for abolition of slavery, rather than land ownership reform. And having Tavi's cover name being Scipio when he's in the military was also a nice touch. And I laughed almost immediately upon starting when Tavi is playing a game called ludus (latin for game or school) with Varg.

I suppose it's possible the difference in feel could be just because of the action all taking place in the nation of Alera, proper, rather than in Calderon, but I think that only explains the first book, not the second.

In any event, I thought the book was very well done, and, like most of Butcher's books, very hard to put down. My only disappointment was that the catapults we saw early on in the book were never used against the Canim. A Knight Flora using a catapult the same way they use bows now would be quite intriguing.

It will definitely be interesting to see if Tavi is officially recognized as the heir in the next book. And there were two teasers about his furies appearing, but they were only teases. We did find out why they haven't appeared yet, though, and might show a reason for them to still be possible to show up, despite Tavi being (at least) four years past the point where one would expect them to manifest.

It'll also be interesting to see what happens to Tavi's legion after this, although I suspect it won't be considered important enough to be mentioned. Losing the commander and senior NCO at the same time, especially as a follow-up to losing the majority of the soldiers in the legion, would be awfully tough to take.


Ugly, Ugly, Ugly

That was an absolutely horrid game for the Caps tonight. If not for another outstanding performance from Neuvirth, they would have lost by several. And the PK looked good again.

Actually, the PK looked better than even strength for most of the night.

The tone was kind of set as the Preds got a breakaway off the opening face-off; in all my years of watching hockey, I have never seen that happen before. A number of times, when trying to get the puck out of the zone, the team looked like they'd never played together before. It was butt-ugly.

Somehow, Neuvy kept it to only two goals through the first two periods. Given his support from the defense, that was a minor miracle. Man, he looked good. Just never out of position. The two shots that beat him, one was deflected off a defenseman's skate (Fahey, FWIW), and the second hit the very, very corner of the net.

In the third period, perhaps with some help of the Preds getting tired, the Caps finally woke up. I was thinking that Semin, with his proclivity for shooting for the top corners, would be a good one to beat Lindback (who was doing a great job taking away the bottom of the net). He did get the first goal, but it wasn't on a high shot; he managed to sneak it under the pads (5-hole, I think). He almost managed to get a second goal a minute or so later (if it hadn't been so late in his shift, he might have buried it).

Flash managed to get a second goal to tie, shooting out of a scrum in front of the net and beating Lindback glove side.

OV made quite an effort to get the winning goal in an incredible shift with about three minutes left, but it didn't go in. He was also making things happen once it got to overtime, going one-on-three to draw the penalty that gave them the power play. And Laich's game-winner was a deflection of an OV slapshot from the point (probably self-defense to get the deflection, actually).

So, again, the Caps win with only one good period of play. This can't be good for the team's development; they'll think they can continue to win doing this. But they've been far luckier than they deserve (plus, Neuvirth's been the team MVP, keeping them in games where they've been absolutely dominated for periods at a time).

Man, I hope Green and Poti get back soon; the team needs them badly. We don't want to keep giving sweaters to Erskine, Sloan, AND Fahey. That just isn't a recipe for continued success. I don't think it a coincidence that they were the defensemen on the ice for the two goals (Fahey being on for both).

And can we get someone to take draws for Flash? He hasn't been doing well going into tonight, and was one of twelve tonight. Yuck.

Once again, we'll take the points, but boy is this frustrating to watch.


Few thoughts on Game Four

Seems awfully weird to say it after a 2-1 win, but the defense was pretty bad last night. Green and Sarge did well (Green looked even better than usual handling the puck); hopefully the shoulder injury he got with that hit in the corner late in the game is very minor. But the rest of the defense did not do well; Neuvy was hung out to dry several times. Thankfully for the rest of the club, he was up to those challenges.

And while I'm at it, I'd like to point to a post at Japer's about how good Neuvy is at home, and mention that he improved those numbers across the board last night, as difficult as that was. I have to think he's considered the #1 goalie for the team until he comes back to earth, hard.

Great game by Backstrom; he looked much more like we expect from him last night. I wonder, too, if Gabby's experiment with mixing up the lines might have actually worked, even though the mixed-up lines didn't work too well. Hard to say on that one.

And Ovie is continuing his run as the silent assassin this year, where he just disappears for quite a while, only to chip a goal or two in late. Dunno what to make of that. I hope it's a strategic decision, lulling the other team into complacency. If it is, it's certainly working.

Other than that, the Caps really only had one good period; they were very lucky to escape with the two points. We'll certainly take them, but we didn't deserve them.


It's All Academic

I mentioned previously that I'm working my way through the Codex Alera, by Jim Butcher.

Hmm... have to take a step back, here. I thought I'd talked significantly more previously about both series, but it seems I've barely touched on Dresden, and never did get around to writing my thoughts up on the first Code Alera book. Unfortunately, it's been long enough that I'm not sure I remember it well enough to do it justice. Certainly, I enjoyed it; just as certainly, I had a hard time putting it down.

I definitely liked what he did with Tavi and Kitai in the Wax Forest, although I didn't quite understand what had happened to her. (I thought the eyes turning green had something to do with the mushrooms, not so much anything internal to her.) Academ's Fury cleared that one up. What he did was both weirder and cooler.

Academ didn't grab me as hard, but it was still very enjoyable. Tavi and Kitai's relationship continued to be very entertaining (although as soon as he set out to find the Black Cat the second time, it was clear to me that he was searching for her). I'll get back to this in a minute or two, but their future seems likely to become very complicated very soon. Doroga's interactions with Amara and Bernard were also very entertaining. And you could definitely see Tavi growing up, and being able to give commands believably.

I did wonder at Isana's confidence in reading Invidia though. Her revelation of how powerful the Lady was only minutes before should have made her a lot less confident of her ability to read the Lady. It will certainly be interesting to see whether that sincerity was genuine or not.

In any event, an awful lot suddenly became very clear in the last couple of pages. Just from seeing the names of the later titles, it was clear that Tavi would eventually become First Lord. The mechanism behind that was a bit of a mystery, however. I just assumed it would be through the simple expedient that gave ancient Rome its five good emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius (why did you have to let Commodus succeed you, Marcus?!? As a side note: one of the things I really liked about the movie Gladiator was that it gave an explanation for that)), which was adoption.

However, the conversation at the very end between Miles (somehow, it hadn't occurred to me before this moment that the name is Mee-lez, latin for soldier, rather than the english pronunciation I'd been reading in my head up to this point) and First Lord Gaius, along with Isana's ring and final statement and Bernard's gift to Amara, make it clear that Tavi is actually Gaius' grandson via Septimus and Isana. And because of that, Fade has been told to disappear, so that he can be a protector of Tavi.

In fact, he likely agreed to being treated as a coward and deserter, even though he never was, in order to be Tavi's protector. It also meant that he was estranged from his brother (or at least wasn't able to be reconciled with him) Miles, which had to be an awfully painful thing. All in service to a lord who had died many years before. It does appear that Fade was finally able to explain all that to Miles at the end of the book (and in checking that conversation, it appears that they were able to heal Miles' removed eye, although it wasn't stated explicitly).

Getting back to Tavi and Kitai, his forthcoming Eminence is going to make their relationship awfully... complicated, I suppose. I guess if he marries her, it'll be very simple, but I wonder about whether he could marry her, once he becomes the designated heir. As the daughter of a Marat chief, I suppose there's a chance, but if not, things get very weird. Especially since Tavi seems likely to try to avoid the normal conditions of a marriage of state, after his conversation with Max fairly early in this book.

It'll also be interesting to see what happens when Tavi's Furies finally manifest, since he won't have the time growing up with them that most Alerans in that milieu have. He probably won't even have any time for format training. And the implication, that, because of his father, he would have extremely powerful ones, would make things even more difficult.

All in all, it was a very well-done book, and I'm anxious for the library to get the next book to me.

Third Time's the Charm

Caps looked mostly sluggish offensively again tonight, but came alive just enough.

Again, the PK looked pretty good. Neuvirth looked very good to awesome. Greenie had a very good game at both ends of the ice, with a couple of very nice stops on Spezza (I think both were in the third period). MarJo had some very good hits (where did those come from?), and at least one nice play on the PK. An impressive goal from Semin, roofing it from very close range, despite having his body at an awkward shooting angle. Carlson had a very good night in his own end, and also looked very good bringing the puck up the ice.

Erskine had some very good hits, and generally looked good in his own end as well. OV had a very quiet night; he was held with only one shot in regulation, though he looked very good for the first shift in OT, and, of course, got the game-winner on his third shot of the night. His eighth career OT goal came five-hole in the waning seconds of OT. I think he fooled the goalie into thinking it was coming faster than it was, because Leclaire's stick cleared out before the puck arrived.

Anyway, despite all that being said, the Caps really did not look very good in the offensive end. And they played almost the entire third, it seemed, in the defensive end. That is not a recipe for winning games, even if it worked out tonight. The power play was also a mixed bag; looking pretty good for the first couple, and pretty bad for the last couple.

We'll take the victory, of course, but it was certainly not a pretty one.


Here There Be Dragons

Just thought I'd relate a small trip down memory lane...

I wanted to re-read my favorite story from Dragon Magazine. I have the collection of magazines, but I couldn't remember which issue it was in.

Probably I should have just searched for "King of the Cats" (the name of the story), or some such, but I decided to try to find it by looking for the cover (the issue is memorable, with someone slicing a Thanksgiving turkey in half with a broadsword). I was pretty sure it was in the 70s, so I just opened all ten of those at once. It turns out it wasn't, but I was shocked at how many of the covers from then (early 1980s) I still remembered. I then looked at the 80s issues, and had similar results. Plus, I still remembered a few of the games that were included in various issues (Baton Races of Yaz, Arrakhar's Wand); since I bought very few issues (3-4 in that time period), it was quite a surprise.

In any event, it turns out that the issue for which I was searching was #67 (I apparently transposed them, because my first thought was #76). It might have taken me less time to just dig up my hard copy, though.

Now if only I could find all my 2nd edition AD&D books. I seem to have misplaced most of them fairly recently (read: within the last couple of years). Very annoying.


The Times, They Are a-Changin'

Finally read Butcher's latest Dresden novel a few nights ago. Took me two nights to get through this one; I just avoided falling asleep from staying up too late the first night, in order to read it. So I finished it the next night.

I ended up mostly enjoying. I thought the relationship with Susan was handled very well; the choppiness was very appropriate.

The daughter, though, I kind of wonder about. I would probably be willing to do the kinds of things he was willing to do for her, if my daughter was threatened, but then I've been able to watch her grow up (well, inasmuch as she has grown up, when she's barely two years old :). Of course, I did not grow up as an orphan, so I don't get the motivation from that end that Harry has. But I've got to say, I don't know if I could live with myself, doing what he did to end things. Well, I could see myself, if pushed, doing the other things he did to save her. What he did at the end, though? I don't think that would ever even occur to me, even in such dire circumstances, let alone follow through with it. I don't know that I'd go so far as to call him an evil person after that, but it was certainly an evil act.

Getting back to the main plot, this one felt a lot different. For one thing, Harry found a lot more friends than usual. For another, he made a compromise of the type he'd been avoiding for a long time. And finally, he's kind of been cut loose in a way, and tied down tightly in another.

It's probably just as well that he's basically been removed from the Yellow Pages. That hasn't been a factor in the plot in quite a while, so it was just as well to be gone. I'm thinking the home isn't quite as gone as it appears, though. The summoning circle down there never got used, so I'm thinking that needs to come up again somehow.

And, of course, the Winter Court will now be constantly in the foreground, rather than regularly in the background. I'm very curious to see where that goes.

Of course, the biggest question remaining will be the giant cliffhanger at the end. Who did it (I'm guessing Gentleman Johnnie), and how will Harry pull a Houdini? Regardless of the answer, that definitely caught me off-guard. I can't wait for the next one.

Meantime, I'm slowly working my way through the Codex Alera. Which is good, but definitely not as good as the Dresden books.

Game Two

Well, after a fairly dreary first game, where the caps seemed to be skating around as if showing up for the game would be enough to win it (gee, that seems familiar, doesn't it?), the offense showed up with a chip on its shoulder tonight.

I missed the opening period (and forgot to set the DVR! :( ), but the four goals in the second period were nice to watch (well, the three I saw, anyway; the first sure looked nice on replay, though). Well, actually, OV's non-penalty shot goal wasn't exactly pretty; in fact, it was kind of like the tying goal the US got in the waning seconds against Canada in the Olympics. "Throw it at the net, and good things will happen."

Hopefully, that will become the team mantra.

Nice showings by Carlson (at both ends, no less) and Flash. I wouldn't have thought Flash had it in him for that pass to Chimera. I'm still a bit skeptical about him as a center, especially after him being a net negative on Corsi last season, but hopefully this is the start of a much better season. (Of course, he does usually start the season strong. Ugh. I hate writing that.)

A bit of a mixed night for OV; the goals were certainly nice, but he seemed to have an awful lot of trouble with his skates. He fell over much more easily than we expect for him several times. Hopefully, just aberrations.

And a pretty goal for Fehr, too. He got an awful lot of altitude on that shot, despite shooting from so close to the net. And it was only ten or fifteen seconds before that that I had noted with approval that he was getting PP time.

And wasn't that a chippy ending. I don't think I've seen a Caps game with that many fights since the early 80's. And I'm pretty sure I've never seen a Devils game with that many. What was up with that Kovalchuk/Lambo-greenie matchup? Neither of them is one that I'd expect to see dropping the gloves. Which might explain, I suppose, why it wasn't much of a fight in terms of blows landing.

You can bet that DJ King will be suiting up for the next meeting with the Devils; I think he's got an appointment to give Mr Leblond a facial for his treatment of MarJo.

Kudos, too, to MarJo for keeping his cool in that assault, although the commentators mentioned he blew a play in the first period that led to a Devils goal.

Finally, kudos to Neuvirth for the 31 saves, and to the PK as a whole. Not just for the shortie that Laich calmly buried, but for keeping a clean sheet for the game.

Update: Forgot to mention that it was pretty scary seeing Pavelec collapse to the ice without anything else going on in yesterday's game. I just read that he's got a concussion, but is conscious. Still no idea what caused the collapse, though. I really hope he'll be ok.