Still Singing the Blues

Didn't get to watch the third period of the Caps game tonight, and was frequently distracted during the first two, but...

The team didn't look much better tonight. They still spent way too much time hemmed in in their own end (ONE scoring chance in the first period??? Yes, Backstrom buried the nice feed from OV, but egads). Way too many giveaways again. Not nearly enough shots on goal.

The effort was a bit better overall, but not hugely so.

The only person who really stood out, in my mind, was Backstrom. As mentioned, he had the goal. He also managed to start a 2-on-1 when down two men. He and Knuble weren't able to score on the break, but they did draw a penalty which negated the second man advantage.

The forwards were a little more involved defensively, I think, but it wasn't a huge change.

Well, as I said, tonight wasn't going to be a big test of Hunter's abilities. He hadn't had enough time to instill whatever changes he wanted, so we don't know about improvements. I was a little disappointed, though, insofar as I expected a large improvement on effort tonight. There was an improvement, but it wasn't nearly as big as I'd thought it'd be.

Anyway, I guess we'll need to wait for Thursday, and Pittsburgh, for a little bit better assessment. To be honest, though, I'm not optimistic about the Caps chances that night. And OY. The Caps are now out of playoff position. Oof! They're only seven points out of first, but that's still depressing. Oh, and seven points out of last place, as well. *sigh*


Lost: Gift of Gab

I hadn't gotten around to writing about the Sabres game last week, yet. I was only able to watch the first period, and was fairly disgusted at watching the team fall behind 2-0 to a team with a large number of AHL'ers. I later read that Chimmer managed to make it 2-1 (on a penalty shot, no less), but that the team almost immediately gave up another goal, and it got worse from there.

Well, that was very disappointing, but I was still shocked to hear on the radio, this morning, that Boudreau was canned as coach, and that Dale Hunter had agreed to step in as head coach (and not as interim, apparently).

Despite the fact that I've thought, for quite a while, that Bruce wasn't the one to take the Caps to the promised land, I was still sad because he seems to be a great guy, and because he managed to make it fun to follow the Caps again. I do wish him all the best, going forward, and I think he'll be an even better coach down the road (for someone else, unfortunately) for his experience in Washington.

So, don't get too down, Bruce; I'm sure you'll have plenty of offers very soon with other teams.

I'm excited for the Caps, although I don't know what to make of Dale Hunter as the new head coach. I remember his playing days; he was never the best player on the team, but he was quite a good one. And he was certainly the heart and soul of the team towards the end of his tenure, here. If he can get the team to play the way he played, then they very well could go all the way; we'll see.

As a coach, I don't know too much about him. He's been coaching the London (Ont) Knights for quite a few years now, and has been very successful at that. I don't know how much difference the jump from OHL to NHL is, though I know it isn't small. Can he make the jump? I'm cautiously optimistic.

The good part is that he's coming in with a pretty loaded team. All he really needs to do is to get them to play as a team, and to play hard. The bad part is that there's plenty of ego in the room, and I hope they don't tune him out (ignoring his playing credentials, and not respecting his coaching ones). I don't think that'll happen, but it's certainly possible.

So we're in new territory, and we'll have to see how the team approaches that. First test (though a small one, for a variety of reasons) comes tomorrow night against St Louis (who have their own new coach).


The Borrower Arietty

As I mentioned yesterday, I finally watched Karigurashi no Arietty. It was a little weird, as I put the Cantonese soundtrack in, for the benefit of my in-laws, but I enjoyed it a great deal.

It was a bit quieter and more contemplative than I expected. The trailer had led me to believe that there was a fair bit of action, but it was really only five or ten minutes. And the ending didn't go quite the way I was looking for, although there was probably no way to have it go the way I was kind of hoping.

The basic background is that Arietty is a teenage girl of a group calling themselves The Borrowers. They're basically human, except only three or so inches tall. So when they need things, they "borrow" them from the humans nearby. And, of course, since they're so small, the humans rarely notice what they take (who'd miss one sugar cube, for instance?).

But because of the way they live, and because of general suspicion (not unwarranted), they can't let themselves be seen by the humans. But, of course, the movie opens with Arietty being seen by a boy just moving into the house where (technically speaking, under which) she lives.

Her being seen, and his (and that of the other people living in the house) reaction is what drives the plot.

But I think this movie is more about the journey than the destination. The attention to detail in their world (the stamps they use for decoration, the nails within the walls, the tools they use, the many reminders about surface tension of water) is really what makes the movie wonderful (in the original sense of the word). Well, that and the relationship between Arietty and Shou; that was very well done.

Was it Ghibli's best? Not hardly, but it was a beautiful movie, well-executed. I'll probably go see it when it's released in the US (at the very least, I'll get the blu-ray when it comes out). If there's a subtitled release, I'll go for that. The more I think about it, the more I think I'll like watching it again.


Ranging around

Today's matinee game against the Rangers looked, for a while, like the first goal might win it. Through the first period, there were only sixteen shots for the two teams, despite five power plays (two of which were pretty short, however). And the shots were even, as well.

But the Caps seem to have lost their ability to break out against the forecheck in the second period, surrendering three in the first eight minutes. They finally managed to answer one a minute later, and then a second, four minutes after that. So things weren't looking terrible at that point, but then Neuvy failed to grab a soft knuckler that deflected towards him. When it fell at his feet, Boyle managed to poke it past his outstretched foot, and into the goal.

So it was back to a two-goal lead going into the third, and didn't improve after that. Richards scored off a very nice feed (although I have no idea how Semin failed to draw a "holding the stick" penalty at the other end of the rush that led to that goal; it looked incredibly obvious, and the puck was right there) to put it back to a three goal margin.

OV managed to cut it to two with a goal where he used the defender as a screen on a one-on-three break (it was immediately following Neuvy's one really outstanding save on the game). I had mixed feelings about this one; I was thrilled to see the goal, but worry that it'll cement a very bad habit. I guess we'll see what happens. In any event, that was as close as it got, as Fedotenko scored the only other goal in the game. I was thoroughly disgusted at that point, and turned the game off. Good decision. Down two to three goals all period, they only managed four shots. Ouch.

This was a frustrating game to watch, though. Once again, the Caps spent way too much time in their own end of the ice, flailing away, unable to beat the two man forecheck (Wideman contributed five of the turnovers there, and MarJo added a really horrendous one, to boot). And they also allowed way too many odd-man rushes.

This team definitely has a boat-load of talent, but have lost the defensive focus that allowed them to do so well last season. If they can't get it back, we don't need to worry about them even getting out of the first round of the playoffs. They also really need to figure out what they're failing to do on the breakout against a two-man forecheck. I think it might be just too many soft, side-to-side passes off the back wall, but I'm not certain about it. And maybe they don't have enough defensemen that can consistently win a board battle? Certainly, lacking Green is not helping this; hopefully, he'll be back soon (good thing that this time it's really a day-to-day injury, not a three week day-to-day, huh, Bruce?).

Well, we'll see how things go against Buffalo tomorrow night, I guess. Maybe they can play well in the defensive zone?

Jason Chimera goes for a swim...

Those were the words that came out of the receiver when I turned on the game, the other night (the projector was not yet warmed up). My first thought, "Crap, I left the set-top box tuned to that channel". I noticed the horn in the background, and my second thought was that the Caps must be doing well, maybe adding another goal in a blowout. Finally, I got the channel changed before any more words came out.

So I finally got the beginning of the game, and started watching. The Caps were looking pretty good, and the Caps got on the board first only five minutes in. Carlson hit a long pass to OV in the O zone, OV's first touch was a backhand pass to Semin streaking down the other side, and Semin buried it in the back of the net. It was very pretty.

As an aside, though, I had a weird reaction to seeing it. Growing up, I didn't think much of the pure goal scorers, thinking them selfish players unwilling to work with their teammates (not saying that was an educated opinion, just what I thought at the time). In any event, the first thing that went through my head when OV passed that one was that I really want to see him shooting. I always want that to be his first thought (not necessarily to follow through, but to consider it).

Anyway, as I said, odd reaction aside, it was a very nice goal.

The next twenty minutes felt a bit more like Vegas, though, as Ladd, Chimmer, Wellwood, and Backstrom each scored their seventh goal of the season. That was all the scoring for the next thirty minutes, until Little put it past Vokoun with about seven and a half left in regulation. Very disappointing.

Play went back and forth for the rest of the period, but nobody was able to get it to hit the twine. Finally, two minutes into overtime, MarJo, Wideman, and Chimmer combined to put it past Pavelec to win the game. And then I got to see Chimmer's celebration that led to the call I'd heard at the beginning. (Incidentally, I noticed that Chimmer got a number of shifts at the end of the game; Bruce rewarding his hard work, I guess.)

It was a nice finish to the game, and there were certainly positives to take away. I liked that the Caps were never trailing, and did a good job playing a decent amount in the Jets' end of the ice. But they kept letting Winnipeg back into the game; that needs to stop.

Semin had a pretty good game, coming back from his scratch. Orlov got his first point with an assist on Backstrom's goal (and generally looked good, as well; very physical). Carlson, Alzner, and Wideman also added assists from the blue line. OV got on the board. The PK was perfect (Perreault even looked pretty good in his one shift on the PK).

But there were definitely negatives, as well. Vokoun didn't look great. The power play wasn't.

But that's about it until today's matinee game against the Rangers.

Howling for dinner

[I wrote this four or five days ago, but am finally getting around to posting it.] Last night's Caps game was kind of a "two steps forward, one step back" game.

I haven't talked too much about it, but Carlson seems to have regressed a bit since last season. Part of that, I suspect, is that he hasn't been playing with Alzner lately. Well, tonight shows us his highs and lows. He did get a goal, but he also had a terrible play at the point in fielding a faceoff that gave Vrbata a solo breakaway that resulted in a shorthanded goal.

How about that power play? Well, they did end up breaking an 0 for 20+ streak, but there was that shorthanded goal. Oh, and the other shorthanded goal in the second period (again on a solo breakaway).

All that aside, I was pretty pleased with the game, as a whole. They did a good job of keeping possession, and not allowing the Yotes to set up much (or for extended periods). Most importantly, they were working hard (all of the penalties (except for the delay of game, arguably) they drew were the result of working hard, and putting pressure on the howlers), not just sitting back.

One thing that was kind of weird was that Boudreau seemed to have put his line combinations through a cuisinart (even more so than usual, that is), but couldn't even stick with the new ones he came up with for tonight. The one that really seemed weird was when OV, Backstrom, and Halpern were on together for half a minute or so, although OV and Backstrom were mostly together with Brouwer. But the shutdown line was also Laich, Chimmer, and Knuble and the second one was Eakin, Johansson, and Ward. One thing I liked was that Perreault was brought back from pergatory to play on the fourth line; he mostly looked good.

You'll probably notice, of course, that Semin wasn't in that list anywhere. He was passing nachos all night (aiming for the top corner, if past experience is any guide), as punishment for his glut of penalties. I'm skeptical that it will do anything, one way or the other, for Semin, but it might still be a good idea, just to show that everyone is accountable. We'll see.

One other interesting tidbit: Orlov was finally called up for the game. He looked pretty good in his 11:56, even if he did get stapled to the bench for most of the third period. The one negative was the goal he was on for in the third (he didn't come back out after that), but that seemed more a bad bounce than him doing something truly wrong (to me, at least). My one disappointment was not getting to see more of his slap-shot, that I've heard so much about. I only remember him getting one off on the night. Of course, he only got one shift on the power play, which doesn't help (on the plus side, they did score on that shift, if one second after the PP ended).

Anyway, next up is Winnipeg, tomorrow night. Let's hope it goes a lot better than their last match-up.

Nice weekend

Interesting, and very busy, weekend last week.

Friday we were able to make it out for dinner and a movie. Saturday I got to play Ultimate for a number of hours (we lost the tournament in the finals, though); got some movies from my in-laws, who flew in from Hong Kong; and watch the Caps craptacular game. And Sunday we were able to sneak out to catch a Cirque du Soleil show (Quidam).

I thought the Friday movie was going to be Clooney's new one, The Descendents. But when my wife saw a review, and figured out the plot, she wasn't sure she was up to it. So instead we went to see Puss in Boots, which I'd preferred (incidentally, this is the second month in a row where the decent choices were frightfully limited. Seriously, it was that or Happy Feet Two (well, I might have looked into The Immortals, but didn't see it when I was looking). Regardless, that ain't much. The only plus is that we saw trailers for several more that look good: Hugo, Arthur Christmas, and, especially, The Pirates! Band of Misfits. The latter looks absolutely hilarious).

So, Puss in Boots. And we didn't bring the kids? Yeah, we didn't (one of them might be old enough). What did I think? Funny, but not as outrageously as I expected (the sense of humor was not similar to Shrek). Some of the tongue-in-cheek, "look like a major saga" stuff didn't work (for me, at least). Other than that? Pretty good. The double-cross was a little bit overdone, and I didn't understand why the commander was giving the egg a pass for his part. But those were the only weaknesses.

Banderas' Puss is very good, as is Hayek's kitty, and Galifianackis' Dumpty isn't too bad (though I'd argue he was coming from a position of weakness, script-wise). The overall story outline is a little uneven; some parts are very good, while others are a bit weak (my wife almost fell asleep at one point), but I thought it was pretty good in toto. Was it worth seeing in 3D? Probably not. I think very little was added to this one (and several of the trailers were particularly obnoxious about 3D effects).

I guess the important question is, will I buy it when it comes out? I'm leaning towards not, although we'll see.

The other bit of amusement about going, though, was that it was the opening night for the new Twilight movie (whatever the heck it's called; vampires that sparkle don't get me remotely curious). I was a little surprised, looking at the lines on the way in and out. There were more teenage girls than any other single demographic, but the line didn't overwhelmingly consist of them, like I would have guessed.

Why did I mention the movies from my in-laws? Well, they generally bring Hong Kong releases (they completed my Wong Kar-Wai collection on this trip, for instance, and have brought many other titles as well), but also brought the HK DVD release of Karigurashi no Arietty, Miyazaki's latest (although he only did production and story work, not direction, this time). I finally watched that tonight, although I'll talk about it separately.

Finally, Quidam. I've seen Cirque du Soleil live a couple of times before (Dralion and La Nouba), and caught a couple of their movies. Generally, they manage to blow my mind. (Incidentally, at the last movie we saw, they were talking about a "Week of Cirque" in Vegas next month. I loved the idea, but there was no way to make it happen. If they do it again next year, I might try.) This one was very good, and I do remember thinking, with not much left, that they hadn't yet managed to blow my mind, when the solo lady on the swing managed to do so. But this was definitely not as good as the other shows I'd seen. That isn't to say that I wouldn't see it again, given the opportunity, but it definitely would not be the top of the list. Still, Cirque is an amazing group that doesn't rest on their laurels.


Leaf blown

The Caps, tonight, looked kind of like the leaves in my yard this morning: getting blown all over. This is another game where there was just nothing positive to be said.

They couldn't get out of the defensive zone, they couldn't keep Toronto out, they couldn't get into the O zone, and they could rarely stay there once they made it.

The end result was getting absolutely demolished by a team they should have beaten.

Where do they go from here? I must admit, I don't know. They didn't look good in any phase of the game, or for any significant part of the game. The penalty kill allowed three goals. The power play not only didn't score, but allowed a short-handed goal as well.

I don't know how many turnovers there were from the forecheck, but it was not a small number.

The last couple of games, the Caps have not looked like a team widely picked to be one of the top two or three teams in the league. In fact, they've looked like a team lucky to be in the NHL at all.

Hmm... Thanksgiving is coming up soon. How comfortable are you, Bruce?


Wonder about the Constitutionality...

But I love the idea.

Today, Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) took it one step further with a bill that will not only ban insider trading for congressional members but will “empower the Securities and Exchange Commission to prosecute lawmakers for insider-trading cases as well as make insider trading against the rules of the House and the Senate.”

I certainly find it suspicious that Congressmen consistently get above-market returns on their investments, and insider trading is the only way I can explain it. So I'd love to see this pass, though I suspect that as soon as anyone is arrested on this, that they'll claim a violation of the Constitution (Art I, Sec 6, clause 1).

But good for her, for introducing the idea.


Jet-ing to new lows

Definitely not a great game put together by the Caps, tonight. It started out pretty well, with the Caps taking it to the Jets pretty well. Semin scored a very nice goal on a 3-on-2 with Laich and Chimera about four minutes in, and things were looking great. They continued to look pretty well through the rest of the first, despite Kane tying the game up four minutes after Sasha Minor's tally.

And they weren't looking too bad into the second until Kane scored again 6:38 in. That, by itself, wasn't too terrible, but the wheels were separating from the axles. I forget which of the remaining two goals was which, but the Caps were looking great on the penalty kill on one of them, even getting some play in the offensive zone. But as soon as that zone play was broken up, the Jets turned up-ice and scored almost immediately. The other goal had the Caps get a two-on-zero (Laich and... maybe Halpern) from forcing a turnover at the blue line. Laich's shot didn't even manage to be on net. Terrible. Then the puck was shot up the left side of the ice where the Winnipeg forward blew past Hamrlik like he was standing still, and deposited the puck behind Neuvy.

I was so irritated, I turned the game off at that point. Given that there was no further scoring, I'm not upset at that decision, although it would be nice to know if the play improved, at least.

We'll see, on Saturday, if the Caps can keep the road trip from being a sweep, but it's been ugly, so far.

I tend to get behind...

Was just catching up on Foxtrot, and ran across this beautiful comic. Took me a minute to get it, but it's perfect.

Government kills private investment?

I'm still working my way through Mauldin and Tepper's Endgame, but I still wanted to talk about a couple of parts of it that I've already gotten through.

The first thing I wanted to mention is that they talk about how bigger government crowds out industry. I don't know whether that's true or not, but their argument is certainly unconvincing. Their figure 3.5 (p 59) does nothing to convince me, for a couple of reasons. One is that I've seen a graph of the US economy, over an even longer period, showing annual GDP growth versus top end marginal tax rate. I don't know about causation, but they certainly correlate well (that is, higher taxes seem to go hand in hand with higher GDP growth), and that graph (I'll try to find it again) was since WWII, so it covered a much longer period than Mauldin and Tepper's.

Another problem with that is that French medicine is socialized (more or less, I did read somewhere that that is not quite, technically, correct), and run by the government. That means that they have better controls on costs, so there is less GDP growth there, and that's a good thing for their economy.

A final issue I take with it is that it implies that GDP is the be-all and end-all of economic analysis. If you allow corporations to run rampant, the water, food, and air will all end up poisoned, and the cost of added healthcare will more than offset the higher GDP growth. And that's ignoring what happens to infrastructure when nobody will care for it (actually, it's kind of odd to miss this, as they do talk about how bad the US' infrastructure is a little bit later in the book). It also ignores things like worker safety (how much worse would the Upper Big Branch mining disaster have been if Massey Energy hadn't had to consider government safety regulations?

Moving on, I mentioned that they talked about infrastructure a bit later. It seems quite weird to me that communications infrastructure was ignored (yes, not the fault of the authors, I realize); you know, the phone system and internet. I think they're a very important part of any discussion of infrastructure.

Anyway, the reason I bring htis up is they talk about raising gas taxes by 2-3 cents a gallon each month until we stop needing to import oil. And all the funds raised would be invested in infrastructure. I have mixed feelings about this.

First, I wonder if the amount is too low. The good of that is that it isn't a huge shock with a large jump at once. The bad is that we know that it will need to be raised by (at least) a couple of dollars, so that will take a long time to get there. But maybe that time will make it more politically feasible.

Second, I do like using that money to invest in infrastructure. One important part of that infrastructure would have to be public transportation. Because, otherwise, you're just forcing people out of their cars without giving them an alternative, and that would never work.

Well, that's about all I have to say about the book for now; I just wanted to get it down before I forgot what I wanted to say. I'm sure I'll talk more about the book later.

Nash-ing Teeth

The Caps game a couple of nights ago was an interesting one to watch. It started out very frustrating, as the Caps were getting outworked, outhustled, and outplayed (gee, where have I heard that before) for the first ten to twelve minutes. Over that time, the Caps had one shot on goal, a blast from the point by Erskine, and gave up many scoring chances the other way. TVo was excellent over that time, though, and the score stayed even.

The Caps finally realized they were going to have to work hard to win, however, and did a very nice job of turning it around. By the end of the period, the stats were pretty even, with the Caps even having a slight edge in scoring chances.

The second period continued to go mostly in the Caps favor, but there was still no scoring, as both goaltenders were excellent.

And a large part of the third period went the same way, culminating in Brouwer getting a goal off a turnover forced by Eakin and Johansson at 15:14.

But things went downhill, fast, after that. On the next shift, the top line came out (huh?) and laid a goose-egg, leaving Shultz with half the ice and two attackers to deal with. And it wasn't, theoretically, an odd-man break. No fault to Vokoun on that one, Carlson on the back side and the forwards should have broken up the play.

Again, the Preds seemed the more motivated team, and managed to score again with half a minute left. And again, it was a defensive breakdown that left a forward with an open net into which to shoot (perhaps TVo was too aggressive taking away the angle of Erat, who passed to WIlson, who scored).

And then the Preds won the resulting face-off and buried a half-rink shot into the empty net to ice the game five seconds later.

So a depressing end to a promising game (and, frankly, a game the Caps should have won).

Let's hope that killer instinct shows up against Winnipeg tonight.


What is socialism?

I've always been pretty skeptical of social networking sites. I think linked in makes the most sense, because that's mostly business relationships, but even that doesn't seem all that useful to me.

The second part (search for "It's Not Social") of this diatribe does a good job of laying out (much better than I've ever been able to do, plus adding a little more) why I have been, and remain, highly skeptical of how useful these things are.

Win one, lose one

I was at a bar last night with some friends to watch the Caps game. And we kind of did that, but I must admit that I didn't get much out of it. (Which is ok, the main goal was to talk with friends, one of whom hasn't lived in the area in quite a few years.)

The paper made a big deal out of Semin being benched for much (all?) of the third period, and not playing much of the second either. I think the goal, there, is a good one. Show that everyone, including Semin, is being held accountable, although I'm skeptical of whether it'll actually accomplish anything vis a vis Sasha. But maybe it says something to the rest of the team important enough to overlook that.

In any event, the team seemed to be doing well, and the returns were certainly good. I was shocked (though in a good way, of course), when Chimmer buried that breakaway, shorthanded. And I was amused to see Marjo get another goal from so close to the net. I'm loving that, but it's definitely not what I was expecting from him.

Tonight, I was able to watch pretty close to all of the game. I did miss them saying, at the beginning, that Green (well, he was expected, after last night) and Erskine (didn't hear what happened to him) were out, so I was a bit confused at Laich being on the blue line.

Brouwer's goal was very nice (in fact, thinking about it, maybe he should have gotten a chance in the shootout), and Chimmer did a nice job of vulturing Carlson's goal. I kid; it was well-played. It was nice to see the Caps come out of the first with a lead, for once, and without surrendering a goal, which was even nicer.

But the Caps looked terrible for most of the second period. They did have one really, really nice shift, that ended when MarJo drew a tripping penalty behind the net. I can't remember if they actually got any shots out of that shift, but I loved watching them keep it in the offensive zone for so long. But that was pretty much the only bright spot of the period. They had only two shots, which is terrible. And that's also how many goals they allowed, which is also pretty bad.

A lot of credit certainly goes to the Devils, who played an excellent period, but the Caps just didn't seem to want it nearly as bad as NJ.

In the third period, down another defender with Hamrlik in the dressing room, the Caps actually played better, and generated some chances. Not as many as I would have liked, but more than the second. And they looked much better while doing it, as well. Plus, they didn't give NJ nearly as many chances. Oh, and the top line was especially buzzing. I don't think I'd want to keep Ward up there (I'd rather keep him on the shut-down line), but he did look good there.

But nobody got on the board in the third, so we ended up with overtime. The Caps looked good for the first minute or so of overtime, but the Devils basically took over from there, getting almost all the chances from then on (helped by getting away with a lot of interference).

But again, nobody scored, so we went into the coin flip portion of the game. And that did not go so well, but it is what it is (which is to say, a terrible way to end a hockey game).

So, while the result was disappointing, in the larger picture the Caps did take three of four points in the home-and-home, and that is hard to really get upset about.

Time to start a road trip to Nashville (where I'm sure Ward will be happy to take on his old mates), Winnipeg, and Toronto. I guess we'll find out something more about all the blue-line injuries; and maybe we'll finally get a look at Orlov. We can hope, at least, although Collins is more likely, if they need someone from Hershey.

The mark of Cain

I've been watching the Republican field mutate and rotate with some degree of amusement. I'm definitely impressed with how up-and-down the polls have been for most of the candidates.

The latest up is really interesting to me. Cain is accused by many women of sexually harassing them, but, it seems, the "values" voters don't really seem to care about that. One would think that, if morals are your main voting criterion, then that would be a pretty prohibitive problem. (To say nothing about all the religious types who make a big deal out of Obama's name, but think nothing of Cain's. Did they stop reading Genesis at the flood? (Thanks for pointing that one out to me, Paul).)

I'd like to try to read the tea leaves here, and predict who I think it will be, but it seems pretty much a toss-up. Cain's 9-9-9 plan would absolutely destroy the country (plus, what other position could one try for, where a complete lack of experience is seen as a plus). Bachmann and Perry seem to have, at best, a tenuous connection with reality (not to mention both being Dominionists). Romney has contradicted himself so many times that I have no idea what he would actually do if he got elected (Kerry got a lot of grief for that, but he's a punter compared to Romney). Paul is consistent, but would also destroy the country (although I do like a few of his positions). Huntsman is the only one I could personally support, but is basically a fringe candidate. I was a bit surprised to see, with the latest poll, that Newt is still in the race; with the way his campaign seemed to implode a few months ago, I didn't think we'd hear from him again. And I'm probably forgetting a couple of people, which would imply, I think, my analysis of their chances.

As an independent with significant liberal leanings, the only one who has a chance of beating Obama is Romney, but I'm not sure if he can actually win the primary. Certainly, things aren't looking good for him at the moment.

As a side note, I haven't watched any of the debates (I tend to get mad at all the lies when I watch political debates, so it's rare that I'll watch a debate), but everything I hear about them says that they shouldn't even really be called debates. In fact, it sounds like they're being produced by the same people doing reality TV shows, which is definitely not a good thing. These things should be issue-dominated, and it sounds like they're getting close to coming to blows on stage. Maybe it makes for good theater (although not the sort of thing I'd want to watch), but it sure as heck isn't good for the political conversation.

I suppose it's just part and parcel of the ongoing culture war that is attempting to rip the country apart by making everything a left-right battle and getting everyone contemptuous of the other side.


Unusual Ubuntu Upset

I finally upgraded to Ubuntu's latest release, Oneiric Ocelot, a week and a half ago, or so. It was the first Ubuntu upgrade that was a hassle, at all.

The new release of dovecot (an IMAP server) was broken by the upgrade, which caused a loss of all of my email for several days, along with hassling everyone sending me email as everything bounced. Once I figured out that dovecot's delivery agent no longer accepted the '-n' flag, and removed that from postfix's configuration file (and removed all of the pending bounces from being sent), everything was hunky-dory.

Pain in the arse.

Hopefully, nobody else got horked by the problem.



The Caps did not look good tonight against the Stars, at all. I'm really not sure there's anything positive to say about it. There were way too many odd-man rushes and blown defensive assignments. And way too much trouble moving the puck against the Stars physical forecheck.

They were outworked and outhustled, pretty much from the beginning. I count it as more luck than anything that they were tied through two periods. But the wheels sure fell off in the third, when they allowed three goals in the first eight minutes.

Really, the only positive I can think of was that Backstrom's assist on Semin's first period, power play goal was very pretty.

But there wasn't really any sustained offensive pressure in the whole game (well, I guess there might have been in the second half of the third period; I turned the game off immediately after the fifth goal was allowed).

I can't really even say anything about the officiating, either. I thought Semin's penalty in the first was kind of weird, when he was called for tripping for tying up the guy's stick, and having the guy trip over his own stick. But he wasn't whistled for at least three stick penalties later in the game that I thought should have been called, so the Caps definitely came out ahead on those.

MarJo, I suppose, looked pretty good, and Knuble looked good in very limited time (Tarik El-Bashir had a really good profile of Knuble in today's paper, I should mention). But that's pretty much the limit of what I can point to, and those two weren't even great, just better than the rest.

I guess we'll just have to look forward to the weekend, when the Caps have a home-and-home series against the Devils. Hopefully, they can put their heads back together, work harder, and take both games. And maybe Green will be able to play again; that would go a long way towards helping moving play in the right direction.


A night on the Isle

The Caps flew north to face the Islanders in Uniondale tonight. Eakin was scratched, which seemed weird (we really want him playing, whether in the NHL or AHL), and Perreault was back in. And the lines were scrambled a bit, with Laich moving up to the second line and Halpern on the third, leaving Knuble, Hendricks and Perreault on the fourth.

The game started out really well, with the Caps taking it to the Islanders, and trying to wear them down via cycling. The Caps got both of the period's goals, with Ward and OV both tallying.

But things went downhill fairly quickly in the second, with the Islanders dominating possession and working the Caps hard. In the third, Caps were doing better, but still surrendered another goal six minutes in. Laich tied it up again on the power play three minutes later, and the Caps were looking great for quite a while. But then the Isles got another from Parenteau on the doorstep, and an empty netter half a minute later, and that was it.

I think the Caps were mostly tired, but it was also a terrible game by TVo. He did have a good first period, but that's about it. Without reviewing the goals to make sure, I think three of the four goals he allowed were soft ones (definitely the first two were).

And the second period was pretty much terrible for the whole team. There were a couple of penalties that should have been called (a delay of game for dislodging the net, I think, and MarJo definitely took a stick to the face). And Halpern's goaltender interference call was a bit weird.

But the Caps just didn't play well enough, is what it boils down to. My comment about not overlooking the Islanders last night? Well, I don't know if that's what happened, but it's certainly possible. Especially when they went into the first break with a two goal lead.

Anyway, Dallas is up next, on Tuesday. I'm guessing Eakin will get sent back down, and I'm hoping Green will be back. I'm also thinking Neuvy will get the nod in goal. I hope the lines don't get scrambled again, but this is Boudreau, so who knows?


Sweeping debris

The Caps faced the Hurricanes tonight. Green is still out, Brouwer was questionable until gametime (we almost got an Eakin, MarJo, Perreault second line. Boy, would that have been some speed and scoring touch. Plus, a combined age of what? 62? 63?), but Halpern was back. In the event, Perreault was scratched for Brouwer.

The game started out pretty even; the Canes were outplaying the Caps, but not by a huge margin. They did get the first goal, on a deflection of a shot from the point. In fact, that ended up being the only goal of the period.

Things were slightly tilted in the Caps favor in the second period, despite penalties favoring Carolina. Halpern got a goal by literally diving at a rebound to put it in. And MarJo and Brouwer combined on a very pretty 2-on-1 with a nice saucer pass that Brouwer buried in the top corner of the net (very reminiscent of the goal Semin scored on the Rangers in the playoffs last year (game 5, I think); Eakin had the pass that sprang them). The Caps did get a big break on one of those power plays, though, where the goalie blew the whistle when he couldn't see the puck, and Skinner pushed it into the net just after the whistle.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that Knuble looked very good on the penalty kill (well, the whole unit looked good, but he had an especially good night of it).

In the third period, the Caps really turned on the Jets, and just dominated. It was beautiful; lots of zone time, some efficient cycling (especially from the third and fourth lines), and solid play all around. Backstrom had a very nice goal on a 3-on-2 generated by a nice forecheck (OV had the pass), and Eakin scored his first NHL goal on a 2-on-1 with Semin (I think the goalie must have been playing pass on that, because it was an unobstructed wrist shot. The release was really nice, though). Carlson had the other goal (the first of the period, actually), on the power play from Backstrom and OV.

I think the third period was the best period the Caps have played all season; they weren't taking it easy, even when up by four. If they can play like that with any regularity, they'll win a disgusting number of games. I've got my fingers crossed.

Tonight is the front end of the Caps' first back-to-back games this season. Let's hope the Islanders don't put up a huge fight tomorrow night; if not, and Pittsburgh and Toronto lose, the Caps could end up back in first, with 2-3 games in hand. Not likely, but it would be cool. I know, I'm getting greedy. Let's hope the Caps don't try to look past the Islanders, also.


Looking more at the Kindle

i've talked a few times about Amazon's Kindle before. And perhaps it's a little odd that I have, given that I still haven't bought one, and still don't have any plans to do so (actually, having bought an iPad not too long ago, it's less likely now than it was a year ago).

But I think it's interesting what they're doing, still. They still haven't gotten rid of DRM, so that hasn't helped.

But they did bring out new devices recently. I must admit to not thinking too much of the Touch or Touch 3G (that is, if I was actively in the market for a Kindle, those would not have gotten me to purchase). The only thing they've really got going for them is price.

What was more interesting is the Fire. It won't replace an iPad (the screen is a really big difference. Literally and figuratively), but it does seem pretty nice for a limited-purpose tablet.

But they wanted to brag so much about the browser technology, saying how revolutionary it is. Well, it's interesting, and if the work behind it does, really, go all the way to the browser, that's more interesting, though probably not in a good way. My point in bringing it up, though, is that it really isn't revolutionary.

Ok, enough catching up to the present. The main reason I was writing this article, though, is because of Amazon's announcement today.

What? They're lending e-books for free, now? Yep. Interesting idea to drive sales of devices. Will it work? I don't know, but it wouldn't hugely surprise me.

Of course, you could argue that any Amazon e-book purchase is actually a rental, given their DRM. It won't get me to buy, even though I already have prime membership, but, as I said, it's interesting. I'm curious to see how well it works.

Back to the beginning...

I previously mentioned reading Michael Lewis. Well, I just got his latest book, and found it rather disappointing. It was all good material, but just about all of it duplicate Vanity Fair articles that he wrote recently.

Actually, now that I was looking at Vanity Fair's site again to find links to those articles, I'm even more disappointed, because even more of it came out of Vanity Fair than I thought (I'd only seen the first two of those before reading the book).

It affects the prose, a little bit, because, for instance, the Ireland section mentions something about Greece without making it a reference back. And the book ends without a real conclusion; it just kind of drops off a cliff.

As I said, it's still good material, so I'm not totally down on it, but it could have been a bit more, I think. And I would have liked if it had gotten into more details of the trouble, with more details about where we go from here. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that last statement, but, for instance, at the end of The Big Short, I really felt like I had a good handle on what happened with the mortgage crisis. I don't feel like I have that, now.

I'm very tempted to get John Mauldin's Endgame, which reviews indicate might give that level of understanding.

The takeaway, though, is certainly that much of the world is in very bad shape; perhaps even worse than indicated by watching the news. Excessive debt has caused a lot of problems, and will continue to do so for quite a while.


Duck, duck, duck... Goose!

Tonight's Caps game seemed a bit off, from the start. Erskine was back, which was good, but it led to shuffling the D combos, which wasn't. On the forward side, Knuble got demoted to the fourth line, Halpern was benched, and Eakin was playing off-wing with MarJo and Semin.

The play was not pretty, particularly at the start. The Caps were doing ok, although they were spending way more time in their own zone than you'd prefer.. To make matters worse, there were two defensive breakdowns between Hamr and Wideman that led to goals by the Selanne line.

Actually, this morning, I took a peek back at Selanne's numbers. I've always liked him, and I knew he'd had a good year, last year. So I was wondering how he was doing this year. Answer: pretty good. And tonight he was the wrecking crew with a pair each of goals and assists (I imagine he's probably among the league leaders at the moment). Ugh. Good for him, but I wish he'd picked a different night.

In any event, at the end of the first, the Caps were down 2-0, but looking decent outside of those breakdowns.

The Caps came out looking pretty good, but weren't able to score before Selanne got his second goal, nine minutes in. A cross-ice pass found him alone in the circle with an open net, and he buried it, as you'd expect.

At this point, Anaheim had three goals on less than eleven shots. The really bad part is that none of the goals were Vokoun's fault. He'd actually played well.

But the Caps finally started playing like a desperate team, and working hard. And the checking line was the one to start things going in the right direction, getting a goal from Ward and another from Wideman (with Laich and Ward assisting; if there had been a third assist, it would have gone to TVo, who had wisely iced the puck to Ward).

That left the Caps down a goal with a period to play, so things weren't looking too bad. Not great, but not terrible.

Just over nine minutes in, though, things were looking a bit worse. The Ducks got a power play, which started out looking very good for the Caps. But they got the puck into the zone, and put it in the net in a scrum with Vokoun down.

So things were definitely not going well, but the team was still working hard, and was getting quite a few chances. Two and a half minutes later, they finally buried one of those chances. Brouwer got the goal, assisted by Erskine and Wideman. The weird part of that whole setup is that Brouwers line-mates at the time were Perreault and ... Hendricks, I think.

The team kept working hard, but time was winding down. They did get a power play when Fowler accidentally shot the puck over the glass when trying to clear, but they looked really bad on that man advantage. But they finally managed to tie the game with less than a minute left, after pulling Vokoun. Backstrom did the honors, with Chimmer and Laich getting the assists.

In overtime, the play was fairly even, going up and down steadily. But the Caps were the ones to finally convert, with Backstrom again potting the vulcanized rubber (helped by OV and Schultz).

For the most part, the Caps actually looked quite good throughout this game. The two first-period defensive breakdowns were very frustrating. I wonder if Selanne's second period goal should also be considered a defensive breakdown, although not as bad a one as those in the first.

We are definitely missing Green. I thought we wouldn't be (well, not a huge amount, anyway), because we're so deep on defense (Erskine, for all his flaws, is excellent as a seventh defenseman, if, perhaps, a little expensive for that role). I thought, with Carlson, WIdeman, and Hamr, that we wouldn't have any trouble moving the puck up-ice. But with Wideman and Hamr mostly playing together, we're left with a third pairing that has a lot of trouble dealing with a strong forecheck. And the other pairings have been far from flawless, as well. I'm a little puzzled, really.

In any event, the good part is that the team was working hard through the game, never sitting back on their heels. Even at three-nil, they showed no signs of discouragement, and were rewarded for it.

All four lines looked good, at times. Eakin looked ready to contribute to the big club. I don't think he'll spend a lot of time up (and I'm not sure he should, particularly without significant injuries), but he looked ready for it. His line generated some very nice chances, and he was definitely part of that.

Perreault still looked very good. He was having a bit of trouble with the Ducks' size, but he was still making it work, and playing well at both ends.

Half the defense was on the scoresheet, which is nice. But they also hung TVo out to dry several times, which isn't. I'm not sure what to make of them, as a whole. I definitely don't want to see Alzner and Carlson split up again. Let's chalk that up as a failed experiment (for which I'm still not seeing the reason why), and move on.

The important part, though, is that we got the standings points we needed. And with the Ducks being out of conference, I don't much care about their consolation point. So things are good, I guess.

I just hope that Green's back for the Canes on Friday, the team is just a lot less dangerous without him.