Get Thee to the Hellenic Center

Just watched Get Him to the Greek. I watched it because Russell Brand's character was hilarious in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

But this one didn't have the same brilliance. It had a few moments of hilarity (seeing Ricky Shroder, who I hadn't seen since Silver Spoons, was one for me), but was mostly pretty dull.

I think Brand did a good job, and Hill was also pretty decent, but the script wasn't all that good. Also, I forgot to choose, so I think I saw the unrated version. I think I'm just going to make it a point to skip unrated versions in the future; the couple that I've seen just haven't added anything worthwhile.

Anyway, not really worth seeing, overall.


Righting the ship

After their worst game of the season a couple of nights ago, the Caps put things together better for a very nice game against the Hurricanes. The score was only 3-2, but the game was very well played outside of the first eight minutes of the third period.

I was really surprised by that, especially with Green out. In fact, the power play looked much better tonight than it did the last stretch in which Green was missing. The defense selection was very... mixed, I guess. Green being out was quite worrisome, but Poti in was good. Sloan out wasn't too bad, but exchanging him for Fahey was less encouraging. But they mostly held together quite well.

I was happy to see Varly back (though somewhat less so, given why he was back), although I didn't think he looked all that great. I guess I've gotten spoiled by watching Neuvy so much, but Varly seemed a bit out of position fairly frequently. And he certainly allowed a lot more rebounds. I'm hoping that is all because of rust. Having said that, there's no way at all to blame him for the first goal, and the second one would have also been tough.

OV had his best game in quite a while. Perhaps swinging him over to the other side threw the defense off more than it affected him. Plus, he cut to his backhand for only the second time I've seen all year (though I've only seen most of every game, not all of them). And he was really buzzing around. He didn't pot any, but did have three assists, and consistently looked like a threat. Ya-hoo!

Anyway, don't want to get too excited, but the team looked really good overall. Now, to head down to Tampa and try to take a couple of points from the Lightning.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!


A new Story

As I mentioned earlier, I finally caught Toy Story 3 last night. There was some initial disappointment, as it was a 3D movie being shown in a 3D theater, but wasn't shown in 3D. But it was shown on a real IMAX screen, as opposed to that crap screen on which I saw Avatar a while ago.

I guess I don't have a whole lot to say about it. I enjoyed it a whole lot (more than my wife did); she missed quite a few of the jokes. Actually, I think I and the guy who sat a couple of seats away were the only ones who got quite a few of them. And we also recognized most of the toys used. (I didn't own many of them, but my nursery school (hah! irony) had quite a few of them.)

It was probably the least original Pixar movie thus far, although that's only a very slight knock. As much as I'm hoping for an Incredibles sequel (to say nothing of a blu-ray disk), I hope they aren't going to keep making sequels. I know they're planning to start doing two movies a year, so maybe it'll be one original and one sequel each year. I guess that wouldn't be too bad.

Regardless, I did enjoy it quite a bit. The Spanish bit for Buzz was really funny, although the Jessie/Buzz part was a little odd. And I really liked how it ended, even if it was fairly predictable. Oh, and I loved the Totoro showing up, although I kept expecting it to do something more than just be there. Maybe give Woody a seed packet, or something. And I would have changed one line; after the crane, I would have changed the line to "The Claw chooses".

I did spot the pizza delivery truck. I thought I might have spotted Wall-E in there briefly as well (or maybe Wall-A); I guess when I get the disk, I'll check on that.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, but you're thinking about getting it or just watching it... It's worth it. I wouldn't put it up as one of Pixar's best, but even their worst is still a lot better than most of what gets made.

That was Ugly!

Didn't get to watch the Caps game until pretty late last night (finally saw Toy Story 3, in IMAX, no less), and thank goodness for that. Why? Because it meant that I could skip all the breaks, and get through it much sooner. But I still was frustrated enough to turn it off with eight or nine minutes left in the third. And thank goodness that I did, as it seems to've gotten even uglier.

It was a pretty weird game, though. Overall, the Caps seemed to outplay the Thrashers, but couldn't put it past Pavelec, and couldn't do much to stop the Thrashers shots. The failure to put it past Pavelec was especially weird, though, as he was allowing some very good rebounds with Caps in the area, but they just weren't able to put their sticks on those rebounds. There was also some bad luck as at least two shots rung off the posts quite hard (Knuble and MarJo, maybe?).

Anyway, the A team better show up and play really hard tonight. I'm hoping Knuble will be able to play; he took a Fehr shot off the face and didn't return.

So how bad was it? Five goals allowed, and none scored. I really hope that gets the team angry, and they bring that Anger to the Flyers tonight. I guess we'll see how it goes.


Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Yes, that's a grammatically correct sentence.

Anyway, bit of a game of contrasts this evening. Good: could watch the game on TV. Bad: had to do it in low definition. Good: could still see the numbers of the players. Bad: mostly.

Good: the first period was probably the best first period the team has played this year. Bad: the second period was not the best second period this year. Good: Neuvy's goaltending in the third period was especially good. Bad: it needed to be. Good: the fourth line had an excellent game, with two goals and a lot of time in the offensive zone. Bad: they were the best line of the night. Good: the power play was very good. Bad: they were only on the ice for 2:13, all continuous.

But once you add all of that up, you get a 4-2 victory, keeping the Caps at the top of the standings, as well as tops in scoring. The power play continues to creep up the rankings, while the PK continues to drift downwards.

Beyond that, I think I like MarJo on the top line. He looked good again tonight, showing speed and a little defense. Flash was a scratch; no complaints there. Semin looked very good again; I'm beginning to think there's no way the Caps afford to keep him next year (barring significant increase in salary cap). And Bradley had himself quite a night, matching Semin's goal and assist.

I wish I knew what was going on with Tom Poti. Sloan and Erskine have been playing much better of late, but I'd really feel a lot better if we didn't have to play both of them. And I hope Flash hasn't played himself out of a trade.

That's about it, I guess. We'll see if we can continue the excellent play going down to Atlanta on Friday. I'm assuming Holtby will be getting the start in goal.


Security Theater of the Absurd

Orwell would have been proud of this one. Or nauseated, I suppose. But we have another example of bureaucracy gone mad in the case of John Tyner. The short version is that he refused the invasive scanner, and then, when told he would be patted down, told them not to fondle his groin. They informed him that he could then leave. He got a refund for his ticket, and was about to leave the airport when told he would be fined for doing so.

Now the TSA has gotten its panties in such a twist over this that they held a press conference to say that they were, indeed, going to sue him. What's more, they would be suing him for even more money than originally (and absurdly) threatened.

The suit, of course, is a transparent threat to stop others from doing the same.

This would be a good time to give money to EFF, or EPIC, or the ACLU, to try to fight back against these government over-reaches. There's also a petition.

One useful thing that could (and should, but I'm skeptical) come out of the various Tea Partiers being elected is that they might provide some traction to preventing further abuses of power along these lines. We'll see.


Thrashing Aimlessly

Didn't get to watch the game until well after it ended, but it was an interesting one. First, I realized while watching that I forgot to point out one thing I alluded to when discussing the last game. I said that the Caps dominated play in the first and third, but didn't do at all well in the second. What I meant by dominating was, specifically, that they were keeping the play in the offensive zone.

Anyway, to get back to today's game... It was not a good night for Neuvirth. He got the win, but only saved 23 of 27. Y'know, thinking about it, they played much better in the first and third than in the second again today. They got the first goal again, and even tacked on an insurance goal before allowing Atlanta to narrow the gap.

But again, the second period was awful. They got a fourth goal of their own, but allowed three goals to the Thrashers. On one power play, they allowed Atlanta to get a shot from behind the defense three times. Not surprisingly, one of them scored. OV allowed the one that led to the score; not one of his better games (the goal he scored was a fluke, although he did have a very nice assist on Semin's goal).

To pick a couple of others: MarJo had a pretty good game, especially in the third. Erskine had a good game, with his second goal of the season and a butt-kicking of Boulton. Hendricks had a very nice game, with a pretty goal and a +3 rating. Steckel almost managed to get his second straight 20-faceoff win game, but had to settle for nineteen. He was also the only Capital to win over 50% of his faceoffs.

Overall, a pretty solid effort, although the team's third period of the season where they allowed three goals. Hopefully, the defense will do a better job, in general, on Wednesday against Buffalo.


Down in OT

Not a whole lot to say about the game tonight. The Caps played very well in the first and third periods, and pretty poorly in the second.

OV had a very blase game, not really doing much of anything.

MarJo had a very good game, buzzing around a lot and causing trouble for Buffalo. Alzner also did very well, getting a goal and playing good defense in his own end.

Boudreau used some interesting line combinations, moving MarJo up to the top line for a chunk of the game, dropping Backstrom down also.

Holtby had a fantastic game. The three goals he allowed; he was screened on the first, a bad bounce gave an unblockable shot on the second, and the third was... well, he got behind the defense. I was a little disappointed he missed that one, but he didn't misplay it, or anything like that. He just missed it. The only bad thing he did in the game was getting a little over-ambitious in playing the puck behind the net. That was the one time the defense bailed him out.

Otherwise? The officiating was not very even. There were several non-calls on Buffalo that were a bit suspect, and they seemed to come down harder on the Caps than I thought warranted. In particular, the penalty on Backstrom at the end of the game; I could not figure any way that that would be a four minute penalty. In fact, it looked marginal to me being a penalty at all. Overall, the penalty killing was quite good, allowing only one goal in the seven man-down situations.

Anyway, the six game win streak is over, but at least the team got a point out of it. That keeps them a point ahead of Philly, who squished the Panthers. It also gives some more room to catch up to the Western Conference teams who are slightly behind the Caps with games in hand. Ah well.

Back to the Phone Booth tomorrow to face the birds. Hopefully things will go a bit better.


Some more thoughts on the public option (and the deficit)

I was thinking of writing something more about the public option anyway when I ran across this article about the so-called Catfood Commission. The part about medical spending is dead-on, and this is why the public option was so important. The budget projections for it showed it putting some downward pressure on medical expenses.

In fact, it gives some possibility (not assurance, but at least hope) that medical care could be improved for everybody except the insurance companies. How would it help care providers? By simplifying and reducing paperwork.

Why would the paperwork be a big deal? Part of it is that there should be many fewer denials (as I alluded earlier, no profit motive for doing so), but the larger issue is standardization of paperwork (and digitizing medical records, which the insurance companies have been fighting for years because, being easier to search, it increases transparency). If that doesn't sound like a big deal, consider this: a friend of mine's dad is a doctor. He had a small practice, and his wife took care of the paperwork. Dad finally retired, handing the practice over (or selling, I really neither know nor care) to another doctor. My friend's mom worked full-time for more than a year afterwards, just taking care of the paperwork generated by the care my friend's dad did.

To get back to some of the other proposals of the commission, let's think about their suggested increase in Social Security full benefits retirement age. My first thought was that it wasn't too big a deal, given how small the age increases are, and how far away they are. But one thought gives me pause. The people most likely to be relying on Social Security for their retirement are those least likely to live those extra years. So I'm not sure whether it's problematic or not.

Reducing the mortgage deduction? I'm actually ok with this, even though it wouldn't be good for me, personally. In fact, I think it should be reduced slightly more, even, limited not only in dollars, but in number of houses. It doesn't make sense to me to get a deduction for a second home. It just seems to go against the rationale of the deduction.

Eliminating the charitable donation deduction? Given the uproar over having the deduction be a flat 28% rather than scaled to your tax bracket, it seems a non-starter. I don't have a strong opinion on it, though; it depends on how much it would reduce charitable giving.

Eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)? I've got mixed feelings about this. I like the idea of the AMT, but a) it should only be hit by people making a lot more money than currently happens and b) some things shouldn't count as deductions you're comparing the AMT against. For a), I think it should be people with income over $1M, indexed to inflation for the future. And with respect to b), some deductions, particularly state and local taxes, shouldn't really apply.

The thing that really torqued me, though, was hearing that they're talking about reducing the size of the government workforce. In a booming economy, I could actually get behind this idea, but talking about it when unemployment is already above 9% (and many more are already being forced to work part-time instead of full-time) just pisses me off. Did the people on this commission miss that the thing people want most is more jobs? Eliminating 200k jobs just isn't the way to respond to that.

Prince of Peace

I finally finished Princeps' Fury last night. I must admit, this one did not grip me nearly as much as the earlier books in the series (let alone as much as his Dresden novels); I read the last one or two hundred pages a chapter or two at a time.

The big problem I had was that a number of things happened, or were talked about, that just didn't make sense to me, so I'd put the book down to think about why when that happened. The first of those was the description of the population, especially the size, and size of cities, of Canea. I just can't see how a society driven by "might makes right" can possibly get anywhere near that size. It just won't have the necessary stability.

And that's doubly so when they are so bellicose, as a society. Add into that that, given body size, Canes won't breed very quickly, and you have a formula for small villages run by absolute leaders who will never accomplish anything as a society. It makes me think of Sparta: excellent fighters, but neither broad, nor lasting, influence.

And actually, I can even point to the book itself for evidence of the speed of breeding (additional evidence can come from how much longer gestation is for larger breeds, as well as how tiny the litters are). When we meet Varg's family, it sounds like about a dozen. He's six hundred years old. That's 30-40 human generations (I'm assuming human generations are a bit smaller than the currently rough estimate of twenty years), so we'd expect at least several hundred offspring. In fact, I'd say that several hundred just in the last generation would be pretty likely; that would only be 10-20% increase per generation (2.2-2.4 kids per family, on average).

Anyway, enough about breeding. There were several more issues with the Vord. The biggest of these is keeping them fed; how do you capture enough energy for them to breed at that speed, let alone do anything more constructive? Next, there was only one breeding queen on the Aleran continent. It was estimated that a queen could breed 100 per day. That'll never allow them to expand to the millions required to conquer Canea, especially given a) their profligate fighting strategies, b) the number of non-combatants required to maintain the croach, c) the amount of time given (4-6 years), and d) the extra time involved in creating the bigger creatures (to say nothing of the armored ones), and e) the number of fronts they would need to fight along at the start. And that isn't even accounting for the head queen going back to Alera, and doing stuff there.

It also ignores the time involved in the Vord evolving. That takes time, because even with intelligence driving it, there'll be false starts along the way.

Anyway, at 100 per day, with three queens for five years, you're only talking half a million. That isn't a small number, by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn't anywhere near enough for what was described. It might be within an order of magnitude. Maybe.

Plus, do you want to try to fight a war where your troops must be within 20 miles of "headquarters" at all times? Especially one where you're trying to take over entire continents? The only way that might be feasible is if you can move several times as fast as your opposition, but that's obviously not the case. Plus, if you were trying to move that fast, where would that leave each day's offspring? That's right, out of range of control and (more importantly) out of range of protection.

Plus, how helpful is the queen's telepathy? She's already busy controlling all of her offspring, how does she have any left to sift through the thoughts of the people around her. And how close does she need to be to use it? Certainly within line of sight, so you're looking at a practical limit (in a battle situation) of half a mile. And, likely, a whole lot less than that.

It really won't be helpful.

Plus consider that there's going to be a limit to how many Vord-lings she can control at once. I don't know what that limit is, but there would have to be one, and I've got to think that it's a whole lot less than 100k.

Another of the issues that bothered me (though I should have noticed it way back in Academ's Fury, it's true) is that the queen has all these physical abilities. Now, in and of itself, that's fine, but now we know that they're a hive mind. Given that, what possible reason is there for her to have any physical ability at all, beyond breeding and controlling the others? It just serves no purpose. To put it another way, there's no reason for it to evolve. Also, we haven't seen any indication of gestation to allow all of that reproduction. The genes need to be passed on somehow. It certainly isn't parthenogenesis, since they aren't clones.

Ok, enough of that. A more minor, but still significant, issue is with Varg getting involved in the fight with the queen. I don't understand how he was fast enough to be able to contribute there. The Canim seem to be on par with humans for hand-to-hand fighting speed (otherwise they would have destroyed the Alerans when fighting the legions. Not beaten, but annihilated), Tavi was sped up to several times normal human speed (and was probably above average in speed to begin with), and was still having trouble keeping up. So how was Varg able to even threaten her? It just doesn't follow.

And finally, there was the survival of Invidia. Explaining it by having the Vord get rid of the poison for her was really only a tiny part of an explanation. The bigger part of it was how they got her out of the camp. She was already thought dead by the medics (who rely on more than just feeling for breath, don't forget), plus she was in the middle of the camp. So the Vord would have needed to have snuck in to the middle of the camp, undetected, and taken a person (meaning that it wasn't just a mouse-sized being doing the sneaking) out. Plus known how to handle the poison, which sounds less likely the more I think about it. After all, there's a reason medical researchers don't use lizards for preliminary drug testing.

Anyway, enough about why it took so much longer. What did I like?

I thought it was very interesting, having the queens look like Kitai. I kind of assumed, the first time, that it was due to finding her face in Tavi's mind, and matching that. But then when the second one did, as well, that went out the window, as it obviously wasn't a temporary thing. So I think it has something to do with Kitai and Tavi sneaking into the tree back in the first book, although I don't know what the connection is. That does beg the question, though; the healing mushroom (or whatever it was; I've forgotten already) would seem to need to come back to some significance at some point.

If nothing else, that would be a reason to not kill off all of the Vord, given the chance. Hmm... slave collar on the Vord queen? That would certainly make for an interesting solution, though not one I think is likely.

One thing about this book is that it left me feeling like I was reading Ender's Game in a fantasy setting. Well, at least the second half of it, on Phobos (or was it Deimos?). Try to ignore the foot soldiers, and go for the queen.

The backstory intrigue was rather interesting, particularly with Invidia removed from the political picture. It seemed a bit glib to have Invidia and Attis be merely political allies who happened to be married, although I'd have to re-read the earlier books to see if that's really supported by what we saw. My vague memories say that it's a bit of a stretch. I did like the idea of Invidia being a spurned potential wife of Septimus.

Raucus and Attis do seem like interesting characters. We'll have to see how things play out with them.

I was a bit surprised with how the slavery was dealt with. They cut it off at the source, but didn't do anything about the people already enslaved. That surprised me quite a bit. I had figured they'd need to get their own collar on Brencis to get him to put the others back on the path to serving Gaius. Just killing him seemed a bit... off, I guess. The other thing that irked me about it was making such a big deal about how tough it was to deal with him. If we hadn't seen Tavi hand him his ass using nothing but his fists, I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but...

And it seems that there isn't really a ceremony to transfer furies from one person to another, as I'd speculated about after the last book. I was pretty surprised there seems to've only been one fury transferred, although what a fury. I suppose that fury is the supernatural manifestation of being the First Lord. Nifty. I guess we'll see if there were other, lesser, ones as well. Maybe she'll show Tavi why he hasn't been able to manifest a fury yet, although I do wonder why that didn't even come up in this volume.

Overall, I guess this one wasn't too bad, although I'd easily rate it the weakest of the series. Hopefully, First Lord's Fury is much better. We'll see, soon.

Update: I forgot about a couple of other issues I had. One was feeding the army when they left Alera Imperia; I can't see how they had a chance to carry much food with them. Plus, they were running for their lives, and getting all those stores would certainly slow them down.

Another was the figurehead on the boat saving Tavi; the boat was moving away from him, so I can't see how she could possibly reach that far. It'd be reaching the entire length of the boat.

What was more interesting was the ice ships. I was awfully surprised by them. I figured that the Knights Flora would be going nuts, and building big ships. I didn't think of the Igni going nuts like that.

But the ice seems a much bigger stretch, because of the cold stones. The stones would necessarily have their effect in a sphere, not a plain. So the walls and floors would be as thick as the effect of the stones, meaning that you would need thousands (probably tens of thousands, actually) to create a structure along the lines of what was described. And unless the operation was trivial, I wonder how they could get that done in the time described. Actually, it seems difficult even if the operation is trivial (which seems unlikely as well, since they aren't ubiquitous). Crafting something that big is just not easy; there's a lot of ways for it to go wrong.

Anyway, just needed to get those off of my chest.


A Thank You to All Veterans

I don't have anything deep or profound to say, but I just hope everyone will take a minute to remember the sacrifices veterans have made for our nation.

Time for Some Domination

The Caps started out slow again tonight, failing to get a point in the first, and allowing one to Tampa. That wasn't much of an indicator for the night, though, as they scored two in the second, and four more in the third. The final was 6-3 (the third came on the second of two really bad defensive plays within twenty or so seconds), with the top line scoring a whole bunch.

It didn't look like it'd be dominated by the top line for a while, though. The first was by Poti, finally back from his injury (and thank goodness for that, even if the second of the two defensive miscues I mentioned came from him), with the second by Knuble (with Laich getting the assist). But by the time the carnage had ended, OV had a goal and two assists, Semin had a hat trick along with a pair of assists, and Backster had four assists (including the primary on all three of Semin's tallies).

Backstrom also had a pair of really nice hits on his opposite number in the third period, once slamming him hard into the boards, then knocking him down again on open ice when he came back for revenge. And actually, somebody had a body slam earlier in the game, although I missed who it was. And somehow, that didn't end up being a penalty.

Each team had a power play goal (TB in four chances, Washington in its only chance), and both were really driven by mistakes, not by good offensive play. Semin got his first on the power play where he was left alone in the slot. Twice. He missed the first, but barely squeezed the second shot between Ellis' glove arm and body. The TB one happened where Malone was left alone next to the goal to pick up a rebound and stuff it in.

Neuvy looked very good on the game, coming up with thirty-eight saves, and looking in control from beginning to end. Man, I'm glad this guy's on our team. When Varly comes back, we will have one hell of a goalie tandem. I have to think, though, that Neuvy now has a solid lock on the #1 job at this point. Sucks for Varly, but hopefully it'll keep him very motivated to show that that's a mistake.

The only bad news on the game was that BoGo was hurt in the first period. He hit his foot on the boards trying to contest an icing, and never came back. That led to some really odd line combinations; hopefully, he'll be back very soon.

On the plus side, MarJo was a healthy scratch tonight, so if BoGo is out, MarJo can be put back in.

And congratulations to Stex for winning twenty face-offs. In fact, he and Backstrom had thirty-two of the team's forty faceoff wins. Unsurprisingly, Flash only added three to that total (out of twelve).

The two standings points kept the Caps in the lead overall, keeping them ahead of the Flyers, who administered a serious beat-down on the 'Canes. It also kept the team to one home loss on the season.

So that's it for tonight. Next up, Ryan Miller and the Sabres.


In Memoriam

My grandfather, my mother's father, would have been 100 years old today. I was unable to say anything about his life at his funeral, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to write something now in remembrance of his life.

My relationship with Pop-pop was fairly complicated. He was one of the smartest men I've ever known, but some years back I was sure I was the smartest person around. Given that we were both pretty arrogant (I like to think I've gotten past that, but who knows?), we butted heads a lot when I was younger.

But despite that, he never hesitated when my parents wanted to leave me with him and Mom-mom. When I was pitching in Little League, he didn't mind helping me practice. He didn't even complain when one of my pitches caught him in the shin, causing it to swell up almost as big as the baseball.

I didn't know it at the time, but he was quite an athlete when he was younger. I don't know exactly when, but he did trapeze work at one time. And he could still walk up stairs in a handstand when he was fifty.

I mentioned him being very smart. He made his living as a civil engineer, building sewage systems and such up and down the east coast.

It wasn't glamorous work, but it kept him outside and challenged, and he really enjoyed it. It also kept him moving around, which I think he liked. Unfortunately, he retired around the time that I was born, so I don't know a whole lot about his work life. I think I probably learned more about his work when he met my wife than I'd known up to that point.

He was very hard-nosed about business; I suspect he was probably a right bastard to deal with back then. He definitely didn't feel that anything came easily to him, and he certainly remained a stubborn old goat into his eighties.

He was born Clarence Edward Clark, but went by Bob pretty much his entire life. How did he end up as Bob? It took me many years to find out, but the answer is fairly simple. His father called him Bub, but his brother Louie had a stutter, and couldn't really say that. But Bob came out ok, and that stuck.

He was born in DC, and, aside from Louie, had another brother, Dick, and a sister Thurley (no, I didn't misspell that, although I called her Aunt Shirley until the day she passed away). I've heard from both him and his Uncle Dick that Bob used to beat up on Dick, until Dick enlisted in the Army.

Uncle Dick ended up in the 101st Airborne, and after that, Bob wouldn't fight with him (he knew Dick would kick his butt :). As a side note, I'm told that Uncle Dick was asked to be interviewed for 'Band of Brothers', but that he declined. I never got a chance to ask him about why that was.

Getting back to Pop-pop, after high school, he went to the University of Maryland to study civil engineering. After he left, he did a number of jobs for a while (this was the Depression). The ones I remember are selling ice cream, driving a truck, and doing surveying out west.

But at some point, he found the sewage work that he did for the rest of his career (aside from the airborne photography he did for the Navy in the War).

And as I said, it was up and down the east coast. He never lived in one place for very long; usually only for a year or two at a time. I know my mom had never lived in one place for more than five years until after I was born (and not more than five and a half until I got to college).

As far as family life, I don't know what caused it (well, I suspect a significant part of it was him being difficult to live with), but it wasn't especially healthy. My grandmother passed away from pneumonia shortly after my mother was born. He remarried a couple of years later.

They had two more daughters, but the relationship didn't last all that long. I don't know exactly, but I believe he left after only seven or eight years. And my understanding is that he lost all of his money in the divorce.

But he started over, with my mother and him living together until she went to college (also at UMD). At some point in that time, my aunts joined them, but I don't know the details. But because of those years living together, and reinforced over many, many years, they were very close. When my mother passed away, the first thing he said to me was that he had lost his best friend.

My mom met my dad while she was in college, and shortly thereafter Pop-pop met Mom-mom. They were much happier, and stayed together until she passed away, roughly twenty-five years later.

I wonder how good she was for him, though. That's not meant to be an insult; she was the nicest, most generous person I ever met. To give a small example, she knew that I liked gummy bears. We got them in bulk at the local grocery store, where they came in four colors. She noticed that I always ate the yellow and green ones first, so she once bought me a couple of pounds of all yellow and green ones. That had to have taken quite a while for her to separate. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was saving the best for last, when I didn't eat the red and orange ones right away.

Anyway, my grandfather was pretty agressive and arrogant. I think that was his defense for insecurity and the belief that he needed to fight for anything he was going to get. Going through the Depression at a young age probably did
a lot to reinforce the latter. Also, we didn't find out until about when he retired, but he had never been able to finish his degree, so he needed to make sure nobody checked on that. And while Mom-mom was wonderful to be around, she did nothing to curb his worst tendencies; among other things, they both drank quite a lot for many years.

Their lifestyle was interesting, though. After Pop-pop retired, they did not settle down. Instead, they bought an Air-stream trailer, and traveled around the US for most of the year. I'm sure they got to see every corner of the country in which they had any interest.

As I mentioned, Pop-pop and my mom were very close, so most years, Pop-pop and Mom-mom would stay with us for a month or so every summer. They would help with anything needed around the house; Pop-pop frequently made things that we
could use (a grill, a stand for an aquarium, and other things I don't remember). When we moved (we didn't stay in one place too long, either), which happened several times, they spent hours and hours helping us with it all.

When Mom-mom passed away, Pop-pop was living in the Air-Stream in a park down in Melbourne, FL. He couldn't travel like that by himself, so he stayed for a while. He met another retiree down there, and they ended up getting married.

His new wife, for all her faults, was very good for Pop-pop. He lost his aggressiveness, and was actually pleasant to be around. My mom complained about her frequently, and mostly for legitimate reasons, but she was at least mentally and emotionally good for him.

Nevertheless, they were eventually divorced, and Pop-pop remained in Florida, in Melbourne for some years, and near Lady Lakes for the last couple of years.

Anyway, I just want to say that I wish we'd talked more, Pop-pop, (I really wish this had fewer gaps), and that we still miss you.


Home on the Range

Bit of a weird game tonight. The Caps fell behind three times by a goal, but came back to tie it each time. That left the game tied at three after two periods, and the Caps finished off the scoring with a pair in the third.

Neuvirth did not have a good start to the game, allowing a goal on the second shot he faced and generally looking only so-so. But he got himself back in form by the time the third rolled around, and did end up making some big saves.

Green had a very mixed game; he seemed to have trouble with his temper, I think. He got in his second fight of the season - which is two more than I expected from him this season - plus took a bad penalty during a Rangers power play that led to NY's second goal. He did still manage to get a pair of assists, although he didn't extend his goal-scoring streak.

Laich had a very good game, book-ending the Caps scoring with a very nice deflection early and an empty netter late.

Sloan had a mixed game, following an assist and some pretty nice play immediately after by ending the shift by pinching in and completely missing the puck. That was the setup that Boogard needed for his first goal of the season.

Erskine, earlier in that same shift, scored his first of the season with a nice top-shelf wrister. DJ King was on the ice for that one, but still managed to end up at -1 on the night. I thought he was supposed to have some hockey skills to go with his fighting ability, but I haven't seen them. Hopefully he'll either start showing them, or just stay in the press box.

Hendricks scored what turned out to be the winning goal on a beautiful, heads-up setup by Bradley.

And Knuble finally broke his goal-less streak by following an OV shot in on net, ending up with an open net.

All in all, aside from the Caps playing from behind so much, it was a good game. The power play scored again, although the penalty kill allowed one (but it was 5-on-3) when Alzner whiffed on a clearing attempt.

Let's just hope the streak continues against the Lightning on Thursday. Let's especially hope the team can keep Stamkos from setting up in his office in the circle.


Flying High

The early battle for first place in the conference ended up as a draw. The Caps win in overtime left the two teams tied overall. Philly's win streak ends at six, while the Caps extend theirs to four.

Holtby picked up his second win, backstopping the Caps for the entire game. The two goals allowed dropped his save percentage all the way down to .931.

The Caps played a very good game from start to finish (well, except for the breakaway that led to the first Philly goal), leading every category except hits. No surprise being behind there, of course; Philly has always been a big-hitting team. I was a little surprised DJ King didn't get a jersey for that reason, but I do agree with the decision. But the Caps kept their collective cool about those hits, and didn't get themselves thrown into the sin bin much (only two penalties).

Fehr had his best game of the season, constantly buzzing around the net and wreaking havok in the Philly defense. He also scored the first goal on a wicked shot to the far, top corner from the outside of the left circle.

Semin also managed to have another very nice game for himself, extending his goal streak to four games. Backstrom didn't manage a single shot, but have two assists, the one on Semin's goal being a very pretty one.

The end of the game, where it was tied at two at the end of regulation, was very interesting. The Caps were on a four minute power play due to Pronger whacking Steckel in the face with his stick, the penalty lasting until five seconds into overtime. Flash then managed to draw a boarding call with 19 seconds left, leaving the Caps with a 5:3 man advantage to close out regulation.

Since the Caps failed to score in regulation, they went into the break still on a 2-man advantage. Since you can't play 4-on-2, they left it 5-on-3 to start overtime, and played 5-on-4 once Pronger returned from the box. They were going to change it back to 4-on-3 once play stopped, but the play didn't stop until Lambo-greenie put one into the back of the net (Knuble providing a nice screen).

All in all, I'd probably rate this as the Caps second-best overall effort of the season. Unfortunate that they couldn't finish it thirty seconds sooner, and deny Philly the point, but two points is two points. So, for now, Philly and Washington are tied in the standings with 20 points.

I will say, though, that OV's play has felt a bit off, to me, for a while, and I think I finally figured out why that is. He doesn't seem to put forth a lot of effort when he doesn't have the puck. He isn't moving very fast, for the most part, and seems to spend quite a bit of time looking for a breakout pass that mostly isn't coming. And when he does get the puck, he's too often trying to go 1-on-2 or 1-on-3 into the offensive zone. He's a good enough player that that isn't a completely hopeless idea, but it's awfully long odds. I also wish he'd go back to, at least sometimes, taking the outside route around defenders. Even if it didn't lead to a significant number of scoring opportunities, it'd help keep them honest and give him more space to make the inside move.

That isn't to say he isn't, still, the best player on the team, I just feel like he isn't playing to his capabilities. I suppose it's probably a bit churlish to say that of someone who has 18 points in 14 games, but he could be doing better. And if his team-mates feel that he's not giving full effort, they might feel like they don't have to, either. That's one thing that does suck about being the captain. Anyway, hopefully I'm reading too much into very little.

I guess we'll get a little better idea on Tuesday, when the Caps head up to MSG to go after the Rangers. Damn, just thinking about that makes me want to start chanting 'Nineteen-Forty'; but 'Ninety-Four' just doesn't sound the same.

Update: I forgot that I wanted to mention that Holtby looked very good handling the puck. And I should probably also point out that I don't think he looked good enough to expect him to maintain that save percentage, but for as young as he is, he looked great.


If the Politicians Were Serious...

About what they claim to care about, here are the things that would happen.

If they truly cared about the deficit, they would seriously overhaul Medicare Part D (the prescription drug benefit) with two simple provisions: allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, perhaps even allow imported drugs (I don't think this needs to be done if the negotiation part is implemented, but it wouldn't hurt, either way), and eliminate drug companies from marketing directly to consumers.

Medicare Part D is a huge contributor to the deficit (trillions of dollars already, from what I've read). As I undertstand it, the program reduced prices by less than 25%. However, their drug prices are several times as much as the Veteran's Administration (which can negotiate group reductions) pays, and the VA is a small fraction of the size of Medicare. Eliminating the direct marketing of drugs would also cut costs, because there would be less demand for drugs. Much of current demand would is driven by people going to their doctor and saying, "Will this help me?"

Another thing that proves the deficit hawks are full of crap: they never put military spending on the chopping block. The US military budget is currently about the size of the budgets of the rest of the nations in the entire world. It shouldn't even need to be argued that that is too much, it's so excessive. Cut out the wars (nation-building is not what our military is, or should be, about), and eliminate many (most?) of the costly acquisition programs, most of which have little or no military benefit until a WWII-scale conflict comes along. And there are better ways of preventing a conflict of that magnitude from coming along than hoping that our armament scares anyone considering such a conflict. It's called diplomacy.

What else would the Democrats do if they truly cared about protecting the little people?

Close Guantanamo and Bagram prisons, immediately. Having them is innately dictatorial. The idea that our justice system can't handle small numbers of criminals is ludicrous. This is one point where Democrats do not have the courage of their convictions. Republicans say, "These people are some of the most dangerous people on Earth", and Democrats just roll over instead of saying, "We have no evidence of that. If we did have evidence of that, we could easily convict them of a crime, and throw them in supermax prisons like we do with all the other very dangerous people". Are these people, without the backing of a wealthy country, more dangerous than Nazi war criminals were? The idea is absurd on its face.

Modify the health care overhaul to include a public option. If they wanted to keep it simple, they would just expand Medicare. How so? Well, an easy way, and I'll credit this one to David Brin, is to automatically cover all children under, say, sixteen. Too young to work? You've got coverage. Medicare is far more cost-controlled than general medical care, so it would help cut down the rising cost of care for everyone.

But having a true public option would do an even better job of cutting the cost of medical care for everyone. I would envision it as something everyone would want, but that the rich would want to supplement. So the existing insurance companies would evolve into something closer to boutiques, for covering stuff that the government can't, or won't. It would take a while, of course; many people would want to keep their existing insurance (and, to be clear, they should be allowed to do so; I'm not in favor of 'thou shalt'-style legislation). Some would keep it for the rest of their lives. More, though, would only do so until they saw how much more expensive those plans (or, more to the point, care under those plans) were than the public option.

For those scared of the public option, or something like it, consider this. When your insurance company is currently looking at whether or not to pay for a procedure, they have a profit motive to deny payment. A government bureaucrat, on the other hand, would not have that incentive. They would actually be less biased than your current provider. So to which would you rather trust your health?

If the small-government types really meant that they wanted a smaller government, they would end the dragnet surveillance that we know is going on within the government (probably within the NSA). They would also get rid of warrantless wiretapping. That warrant, you know, is a way to show that you actually have a reason to be surveilling someone. Otherwise, you're just on a fishing expedition. Ditto those National Security Letters. And we know for a fact, from FBI Inspector General reports, that those have been abused repeatedly (odds are, far more than those IG reports show).

Alright, I think I'm ready to stop ranting, and maybe to go back to sleep.


Some Political Comments

I just feel like I should write something down about the election we had earlier this week.

I'm really pretty irritated about the whole thing. The Republicans made a decision to do nothing but block and delay for the last two years. Because of this, the stimulus was smaller than it should have been, we have a shortage of judges on a number of circuits, all attempts at creating jobs have been watered down, the health care overhaul was much less ambitious (and, because of that, effective) than it should have been, and have generally just been a hindrance to getting things done.

Now they've been rewarded for that intransigence by being given a majority in the house. I guess we'll see how that works out, but the early signs are not encouraging, as everything the Republicans are actually talking about doing involves more truculence. And that isn't going to work out well for the country.

We (as a country) really need to get things done, and address the problems we have. The only good things about it are that that bully mentality might keep the tax cuts from being extended. Why is that a good thing? Because currently, the top 10% of the country owns over 80% of the money in the nation. Extending those tax cuts will exacerbate that (and, come to that, so will the Fed's current policy of quantitative easing), which is not going to help in getting out of this recession.

The two biggest parts of that, now that I think about it, are parts that aren't even getting discussed. Those are the estate tax (I prefer to call it the aristocracy tax) and the capital gains tax. The one needs to be restored, and the other needs to be bumped back up to a reasonable rate. Instead, everyone seems to be focused on the top marginal income tax rate. While increasing that will help, the other two would be much more helpful. (As a side note, creating a new, higher tax bracket for people making over, say, $1M/yr would be a great help.)

I was particularly struck with Boehner's comments, about living the American Dream by becoming presumptive Speaker. The American Dream, as I've always understood it, involved starting poor and ending up rich (I don't know his history, prior to being in Congress, so I don't know if that applies to him or not). What struck me about it is that those same tax policies, along with certain other ones pushed (or passive-aggresively forced on us) by Republicans, like neglect of infrastructure, de-emphasis on education, over-emphasis on military spending, that have made the American Dream damned near impossible. Going from the bottom quintile of wealth to the top quintile is currently harder in American than in any of the european countries from which the majority of Americans came (the OECD has this data, though I can't find it right this moment).

For current Americans, the American Dream is essentially still-born. It's very sad. The de-emphasis of education is probably the worst of this, because unemployment of college-educated people in the US, despite the current recession, is still below 5%. In fact, it has never gone below 5%. So it would seem like a logical point at which to attack unemployment is to increase the number of college-educated Americans. How do we get there? I really don't know, but I'm fairly certain that eliminating the Dept of Education is a step in the wrong direction.

I also worry about what's going to happen with the debt. Not because I think we need to try to cut it immediately, but because I'm afraid that we will try to cut it immediately. That's what Hoover tried, when the nation was in sorry shape economically, and it's what took us fully into the Great Depression.

Anyway, I'm hoping things get moving in the right direction, but when I hear incoming Republicans talking about investigations and government shut-downs rather than policy, I am not encouraged.

I should point out that, while almost this entire article has been aimed squarely at Republicans, Democrats have only been marginally better, particularly over the last ten years. They have been afraid to stand up for the little people (mostly) for a number of years. They lack the courage of their convictions (which is another way of saying that most of them (and I'm sorry to say, now that he's on his way out, that Feingold was one of the exceptions. Franken, surprisingly enough (at least to me), is another) don't have convictions), and don't call out lies and distortions. This is not a recipe for leadership.

Down Goes Thomas!

This was a very weird game. Through two periods, the caps were absolutely kicking butt. They were up by three, and were completely stifling the Bruins. They even got Lemaire to pull Thomas, getting those three goals on twenty-five shots.

And, like the Leafs game, it fell apart early in the third. Two quick penalties leading to two quick goals left the Caps reeling a bit. A third goal five minutes later tied things up. At that point, Boudreau decided to pull Neuvirth for Holtby (the three goals came on only five shots).

The Caps finally settled things down, and started playing better again. Three and a half minutes later, John Carlson scored with a slap shot from the point to restore the Caps lead. And OV added an empty netter with a minute left to close out the scoring.

What stood out for me?

This might well be the first game I've ever seen where both starting goaltenders were pulled. That part was just plain weird. Congrats to Holtby for getting his first career win (and appearance, and saves, for that matter).

Carlson had a very nice game for himself, looking solid throughout, and getting the goal.

The Caps first goal was by Sloan, off a clean face-off win by Flash. Knuble provided some screenage by charging the net immediately, and the puck slipped through. I'm going to nominate this goal as the flukiest one of the season (it's definitely the flukiest to this point, but I think the odds are good that it will remain the flukiest for the entire year). Sloan also had a very nice stick-handling move a minute or so after scoring to avoid a hit.

Semin was exceptionally motivated in this one. His goal was a very nice one where he created a short-handed 3-on-1, and Green gave it back to him on a give-and-go. He also had a nice play coming back on what could have been a Bruins 2-on-1, where he not only hustled to get back, but managed to push his guy over the blue line for an offsides when they got there. In addition, he had some nice steals. A very good game all around for him.

OV had a good game, too, with a goal and an assist, as did his normal partner-in-crime, Backstrom, with a pair of assists of his own (the second of which, on OV's empty-netter, was really sweet, passing it backwards between his legs).

Otherwise, the scoring was very balanced, with ten different people notching a goal or an assist.

I'm not sure what to make of the game as a whole. The first two periods were among the best the Caps have played all season, but that seven minute lapse in the third was very disturbing. It was especially so, coming after the similar loss of concentration against the Leafs. I hope the Caps come back very motivated from this, and just spank the Flyers. Time will tell.


Biggest WS Surprises?

Interesting article at Sports Illustrated about the unlikelihood of the Giants championship. It makes for interesting reading, but I would do the numbers a little differently. Instead of using rankings, I would use percentage of number one in each category. So if the 2007 Red Sox had 2/3s the payroll of the Yankees, they would compare as 66 instead of 2. Then the lower the sum of the three categories, the less likely the championship.

This would allow showing additional unlikelihood of, say, the 2001 Diamondbacks, who had only 85% of the pythagorean wins of the Mariners. It would also not make some championship seem less likely because a given team (like, say, the 2003 Marlins were 12th for pythagorean record (actually tied for 12th), but they were only three wins out of 9th, or 2006 Cardinals who were 14th, but only three wins behind #8).

But it's still a neat exercise.


Collecting Leafs

The Caps put together a pretty good game tonight against the Leafs. They let in a slightly fluky goal in the first, got three of their own in the second, and seemed to be cruising until four minutes into the third. Then, they let in three goals in as many minutes to lose the lead.

But Semin atoned for some earlier stupid (well, to be fair to him, I couldn't believe either of them got called after looking at the replays; they were very weak calls) penalties by getting the tying goal seven minutes later. In overtime, the Caps got quite a few nice chances, but still couldn't convert. But OV and Semin scored in the shootout for the win.

A few notes: I think they might have had a plan against Neuvy, in that they seemed to be going almost all blocker side. The first goal was definitely scored that way, but the bigger issue was that he was giving up more rebounds than usual, and I suspect that that is why. In any event, two of the latter goals, I believe, were scored off of rebounds.

Otherwise, the Caps had a number of other chances (OV and Backstrom actually failed to convert a 2-on-1 breakaway, although it took a very good save to prevent it. Actually, it looked in real time like Backstrom had missed the wide-open net, but on replay we could see that Gustavsson managed to get the flat of his stick on it and barely deflect it past the net). And Knuble was a beast; he didn't show up on the score sheet, but he had a number of very good tries, causing havok for the Leafs defense.

Fahey again looked decent. Not great, but not embarassingly bad; we'll hope that's a sign of improvement.

Flash's numbers looked pretty good, although I thought he failed to do anything on what should have been a couple of good scoring chances (plus, he got in the way of Laich a time or two).

I guess we'll see what happens with the Bruins on Friday. Hopefully, Poti will be back. We'll also hope Thomas starts seriously coming back to earth (he was slacking tonight, allowing two goals on only 35 shots); he's due for some pretty fierce regression to the mean.

Update: I forgot to mention that Neuvirth won Rookie of the Month for October, so congratulations to him for that. I also forgot to mention, in Knuble doing well, he forced Schenn (D) to save the puck from the goal line twice only about 30 seconds into the game.


How 'Bout 'Em?

Congrats to the Giants on pulling off the upset. I was very amused to note Renteria's role. In his first or second at-bat, I mentioned to my wife that, not too long ago, he was one of the premier offensive shortstops in the majors, but that he had tailed off pretty badly the last few years. Glad to see him get one more moment of glory (and what a moment!).


How 'Bout Them Giants?

I wrote recently that I couldn't really see much reason to favor the Giants in this series, but they've certainly been kicking butt. I still don't think the Giants pitching was vastly superior to that of the Rangers, but it has sure shown up more in this series.

Of course, the Giants are hardly an offensive powerhouse, but their offense sure showed up for the first two games. As I said at the time, you never can tell.

But I ran across this page a couple of days ago, and was very surprised at its conclusion. Given the way things have gone, I suppose it deserves more credit than I gave it when I read it.

I'm a little curious about the method, though. It seems like this problem is one that a regression would do a very good job of sussing out. Unfortunately, I know approximately squat about statistics, and am too lazy to look up how to do one, but this seems custom-made for that method. And I would think things like adjusted scoring (for and against) would be very significant terms in that regression. As might team UZR, bases stolen, and maybe team wRC+ (although it might just be more efficient to do team runs for, relative to league).

In any event, I am glad to see that game five is going more the way game one was expected to go. I was very disappointed in that one. I guess we'll see how the rest of the series (game?) goes.