Barca Bash 2011

I recorded the Champions League final the other day, intending to watch it that night. But I didn't feel well, so between that and taking care of the kids, I didn't get around to watching it until tonight. Alas, I already knew who won, but I still watched it.

It was quite the impressive display of talent. At about the 80 minute mark, I noticed the announcers saying that someone (I think it was one of the players or coaches) saying that the top of the Champions League has more talent than in the World Cup. I'm not sure that that's true, but I must admit that I'm not sure it isn't, either.

Anyway, ManU started out playing very well, dictating play for the first ten minutes or so, but it was all downhill from there. They did manage a goal in the 34th minute off a broken play, but they were utterly dominated from about the tenth minute on. Measure it any way you want, and Barca had the better of it. It still took quite a while for them to get their second and third goals, but with the chances they were getting, you knew goals were coming.

ManU's goalkeeper, I thought, had a pretty good game, despite the final score. He didn't have any really spectacular saves, but he saved everything you'd realistically think he might stop.

What's left to say about Messi's play? He is just unbelievable with the ball in tight spaces. He was muscled off the ball a few times, but not often. And the one time they gave him space around the box, he scored. (And a pretty goal it was, too, into the upper corner from just outside the box.)

Rooney had a very nice play that led to his goal, and generally looked very good as well. I will say, though, that after scoring, when his teammates all crowded around him, he looked like he was thinking, "Damn, these guys are lucky to have me on their team". He didn't look at any of them, nor did he return any of the hugs or any of that. You'd think, at the least, he'd have a gesture of thanks for the guy with whom he did the give-and-go just before the shot.

But other than that, the story was just one of Barca dominating in the midfield, controlling the ball, and attacking whenever they felt like it.

Unfortunately, it wouldn't be soccer without talking about the diving. I will say it was better than many World Cup teams. I wasn't keeping a careful count, but I only remember five or six dives (all but one of them from Barca, which didn't surprise me). So it wasn't as bad as I expected, at least.

In any event, congratulations to Barca and their fans for a very well-played game. I would have been a bit happier, I think, with a ManU win, but there was no question that the better team won.


I was kind of sceptical about a sequel to Kung Fu Panda, despite liking the original quite a bit.

And it didn't do much to persuade me in the beginning. It started out feeling quite formulaic (ok, got this scene out of the way, now we need this one, and now this one), but generally improved as it went along. The one thing that didn't really improve was that it felt kind of ... choppy, I guess, where it went very fast for a while, then slowed down, then sped up, and didn't really flow from one sequence to the next.

Having said that, there were some hysterically funny parts of the movie. One in particular had Po and the Furious Five going through a town "disguised" in a chinese dragon costume. They were running into guards, "eating" them, beating them up, and pooping them out the back. My wife was getting a bit annoyed at me for laughing so loudly in that sequence.

Gary Oldman did a very good job (as he generally does) as the villain Shen. Oddly, Jean-Claude van Damme was chosen as a voice for one of the bit characters, although perhaps it isn't so odd that he only had a couple of lines. And speaking of a couple of lines, Jackie Chan had a few more in this one (though probably still less than ten). And Michelle Yeoh had a pretty large part, which she handled as well as you'd expect (although I should point out that a former office mate of mine, who was from Sichuan; his first comment on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was something like, "Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat: their Mandarin is terrible").

One artistic touch that I liked was that there were some flashbacks (probably too many, actually, although that's a realistic complaint, not that they were disruptive of the movie) which were done in a very flat, hand-drawn style. Well, until the last few seconds of the last one which, I now realize, was significant. In any event, it was a bit of a jarring transition from the style of the rest of the movie, and looked particularly odd since we were seeing the movie in 3D. It definitely worked on several levels, though, and I applaud the usage.

My only significant complaint about the movie, other than the choppiness, was that, like I mentioned with Thor, inner peace was literally achieved overnight. As with Thor, that just doesn't make any sense.

And one minor complaint (perhaps carried over from the first; I don't remember) is that Po calls the red panda 'Master Sifu', which is almost as redundant as talking about "The La Brea Tar Pits" (which, I must sadly admit, I still do in my head, since that's what I heard them called for the first 25 or 30 years of my life).

Anyway, overall analysis: pretty good movie, probably not quite as good as the first, and certainly not without flaws. Still, we definitely enjoyed it.

Oh, almost forgot, the final scene was a bit weird; odd transition from the prior scene to that one, mostly. But it promises a sequel.

Oh, yeah. And a couple of trailers we saw. There was a longer trailer to Cars 2 than I had yet seen; it looks more promising. Puss in Boots (yes, the one from Shrek) is also coming; I think it will probably be better than the last two Shrek movies (almost has to be better than the third, at least). Happy Feet 2 is also on the way; another one where I loved the original but am deeply skeptical about a sequel. And Smurfs. Egad. We saw a sign for that on the way in; me: "ugh", my wife: "ooh". Yeah, the trailer did not sell me on it. Not even in 3D.


Needed: Patent #1

Some friends were over yesterday for a small party. One of them fairly recently became a contractor for the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), and another asked him what the first patent was. The one friend had no idea, but it got me curious.

So a short search today yielded this patent. The patent itself isn't really all that interesting (except, perhaps, to historians of farm machinery (at least, I think that's what it applies to)), but there is a small curiosity about the inventor himself (J Ruggles, who, I presume, is not John Ruggles), and more interest in the year of issue, 1836.

This would imply, at least, that despite the Constitutional support for patents, that there were none issued for almost fifty years. So how necessary is the incentive of that 20-year government-granted monopoly?

Update: I apparently searched a bit too quickly. I missed that there was more than one series of numbers. The pre-1836 ones are numbered X000001-???. The first one was issued in 1790, and went to Samuel Hopkins for a process involving potash and pearl ash (?). Interestingly, signed by George Washington himself. I wonder what the last patent signed by the President was.


Or to not fall...

On Friday morning, I caught a chunk of the Dianne Rehm show, and was a bit disappointed at some things missed. It was talking about the Ryan plan, particularly with respect to Medicare, and I felt like a few things were missed.

The first was that one of her guests stated that the Ryan plan would have no effect on seniors 55 or older. This is fundamentally untrue, even if that's what the text of the bill says. The reason is that it would quickly reduce the number of seniors in the plan, reducing the bargaining power of the plan. So the expenses would go up, though I suppose there's some question as to who would pay the additional expenses. But there's also the matter that some doctors would decide to stop taking medicare as well, when it doesn't cover as many people. If your doctor decides to drop out of the plan, you are certainly affected.

And the fundamental matter that this brings up is that any plan dealing with medicare (and medicaid, for that matter) that doesn't deal with slowing down the rate of increase of costs is simply pie-in-the-sky thinking. The Ryan plan is actually worse than useless from this point of view, because a) all increases are pushed onto individual seniors and b) the rate of increase will actually go UP, because it will leave seniors (as one of the guests mentioned) negotiating for themselves rather than negotiating as a group (ie: medicare/medicaid doing the negotiating).

Another guest mentioned, a little earlier in the show, that the politicians are just doing what the voters want, and muddling about because of it, but that's not true either. If it were, the medicare drug plan that the Bush administration advanced would have allowed medicare to negotiate drug costs. There might be one percent of the population that thought that it was a good idea to forbid that. Maybe. This would save medicare/medicaid at least a third on drug costs. This would be an easy way to get started on reducing the rising costs of health care.

Another easy way would be to stop the drug companies from advertising directly to consumers. I don't know how much difference that would make, but I guarantee that it would help.

I was happy that they mentioned Vermont's single-payer experiment; in five years, as long as the doctors don't leave en masse, the rest of the country will be amazed at how well that works. That's another way to attack the rate of increase.

The public option would have been another way; not quite as good, but still effective.

Hmm... this actually just gave me an idea, too. Single-payer (even if not covering everyone) would actually open up a way for the government to increase the number of General Practitioners (GPs) in the country (another way to cut down on the rate of increase). They could do it the same way the military does: significantly defray costs of med school in return for X number of years working within the single-payer system. But defray them significantly more for GPs than for specialists. Or defray similarly, but require much less time within the system for GPs than for specialists.

Hopefully, some of those ideas can make it into later debates.

(And yes, if anyone's wondering, this is essentially the letter I wrote in to comment on the show.)

Update: Some actual numbers on how badly the Ryan plan fails in containing costs going forward.

Hammer to Fall

A friend of mine and I left work a bit early on Friday to go see Thor, finally. We got there a bit earlier than originally planned, thinking we'd get some food before the movie. But we went to get the tickets first anyway, and found that there was a 3D showing only a few minutes from that time. So we got a bit more snacks than planned, and headed in.

One thing that was weird was that the first several previews were not in 3D. It was the first time I'd seen 2D previews before a 3D movie, which had me wondering if we wandered into the wrong theater, somehow. But the last trailer was for Captain America, which was in 3D, so that was a lot more promising.

Finally, the movie started, and did so with a bang (literally, as a truck rumbling through an atmospheric disturbance crashed into a man). It then went into some back-story, giving the background of the broadest (and barest) outlines of norse mythology. That background quickly ran through to the "present", with Thor disobeying Odin to investigate how some giants got from Jotunheim to Asgard. This led to a huge fight (unsurprisingly, especially given Thor's attitude), ended by Odin but with a war declaration between the Aesir and Giants.

That led to Thor's banishment to Earth, with Mjollnir magically locked away from him until he is worthy of its power. And when Thor appears on Earth, in the middle of an atmospheric disturbance, he is immediately hit by Natalie Portman's truck as we saw before the background.

So we've pretty clearly got the whole plot detailed now. Natalie Portman's scientist with Thor, his quest to find Mjollnir, and the question of who helped the Giants to reach Asgard.

The whole was well done, and visually spectacular, but there was one pretty major flaw. His quest for worthiness, and the two falling in love, takes place over only a couple of days. There needed to be some indication of more time passing, because it just ended up being too pat. And there just wasn't enough time (or shared struggle) for them to fall so deeply in love as was implied at the very end.

I enjoyed the whole thing, from beginning to end, but afterwards, thinking back, it just felt rushed. Really, much of my problem could have been alleviated by the mere suggestion of time passing. But a man doesn't grow up from an arrogant boy to a confident man overnight, and that's literally what happened here.

So enjoy the ride, but don't expect any real depth.

Oh, and like most of the recent Marvel movies, there is a reason to stay through the end of the credits.

Oh yes, and one of Portman's scientific partners (the exact relationship was a bit unclear) was Stellan SkarsgÄrd, who I hadn't seen since Good Will Hunting, but who did do a very good job (oops; missed that he was also in Mamma Mia!).

Anyway, overall I'd give it a not-bad rating. And, as I said, it was certainly visually spectacular, and worth the extra for 3D.


Yet another sign of economy severely out of whack

When I saw the headline, my first thought was that these results must have been driven by Newt Gingrich and his wife finally paying off their credit card debt with Tiffany's. But a quick perusal of the actual article shows numbers much too large for that to have had any effect.

But a second thought is that this shows how the recession (this never did get quite big enough to technically be a depression, right?) has yet to affect the rich to any appreciable degree. Which makes their whining and moaning about bonus limits (which were only for a quarter, right?) even more ludicrous than they already were.

One could even start building a case that this is indicative that those limits should have been continued for quite a while. And that the whole financial crisis was used with impressive opportunism to shift money from the poor to the rich (no, I'm not espousing some conspiracy theory that that was the goal, but it was certainly a result).

And that's just sad. We should not be allowing wealth to become so concentrated; it just isn't good for anyone (not even for the rich, even if they won't look far enough head to see that).


Rooting through the movies

I have a fairly large movie collection, with all sorts of different discs. I've lately being going through them in nauseating detail, and finding out a few things.

One is that I've got far more 4:3 movies than I thought. The old ones, of course, I knew about, but some of the newer ones surprised me. For instance, who the heck puts a full-frame movie in the "Special Edition" of a movie? Isn't anyone who's enough of a film buff to care about a "special edition" going to want to see it as the director intended?

And one movie (Simply Irresistable) was filmed 4:3, but then matted to 2.35 or thereabouts. You weren't missing anything to watch it 4:3, but, thanks to titles and such, it looked a bit off. Kind of neat that they included both versions on the disc. Now if I could only remember why I even own the movie...

I also found several movies that claimed to be 16x9, full frame. Since these all predated widespread HDTVs, I'm really not sure what they were intending to say. But whatever it was, I think they failed.

Now if I only had time to watch all the movies. Why does money to afford those things have to be inversely proportional to time to enjoy them?

One nice thing about progress, though; I don't have a single blu-ray (or hd-dvd, come to that) of a widescreen movie that's been pan-and-scanned down to only 16:9. It's nice to not need to pay attention to that.

We'll cross that brook when we come to it...

Just read David Brooks' latest NYT column, and it is an amazing piece of work. It starts out by talking about how the British have a functional political system, while the US does not.

That's certainly largely true; all parties in Britain are actually working to try to benefit the country. When they negotiate, they seem to (at least mostly) do so in good faith, to try to make things better. Nobody over there has yet come to the conclusion that the PM's program must be stymied, even if it makes things worse for the country as a whole.

But where Brooks' column totally goes off the rails is when he attributes that function to a political class that "have often known each other since prep school". I've got a new word for you, Mr Brooks. That word is aristocracy. That's what that system is known as.

It might be what you, personally, hope to see in the US, but I can assure you that that is not a widespread opinion. This country has a long history of attempts (with varying degrees of success) at suppressing the development of an aristocracy. And yes, we might be closer, at this moment, to allowing that to occur than at any previous point, but that sure as heck doesn't make it a good (or desireable) thing.

There's an old phrase that must be remembered: "virtue is not hereditary" (that's Jefferson, btw, if it sounds unfamiliar). If you're going to forget (or ignore) that phrase, then you might as well go back to a monarchy. Because a monarch who has the best interests of their subjects in mind at all times is probably the best form of government. But there's no way to ensure that, so we got rid of kings.

And thank God that we did so. Now let's not replace them with an aristocratic class. Or pretend that that would be a good thing.

So Long to an Icon

NPR mentioned today (again) that Oprah had her final show today. As part of the segment, they played a bunch of clips from her show over the years, and it reminded me that I never once managed to see it. So I was actually getting all of those clips for the first time; to be honest, it felt kind of weird.

Well, I have no idea what Oprah is going to do moving forward, but I'm pretty sure about one thing. She'll do what she wants to do.


How to Train Your Dragon, Redux

I finally got around to reading the book, How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell, over the weekend as well. I had read, somewhere, that it was very different from the movie, and it certainly was. In fact, the resemblance didn't go much beyond the names of most of the main characters.

David Brin, in his blog, recently wrote that the main difference between fantasy and sci-fi is that fantasy generally goes back to the status quo, while sci-fi generally learns from the past, and moves on. By that metric, the book is fantasy, while the movie is sci-fi.

To me, the book is ok, but the movie is excellent. And having read many books on which movies were later based, this is a very rare experience for me. I'm told the movie for Fight Club is much better than the book, but since I haven't read the book, it's impossible for me to say.

The movie, I guess, is much more positive in its outlook, and Hiccup managed to accomplish a great deal more. It's a tad oversimplified in trying to train a wild animal (particularly in how long it takes, especially the non-Toothless dragons), but just fabulously well-done. The scenes with just Toothless and Hiccup are, across the board, flippin' awesome.

The book? Eh, it wasn't bad, but just didn't do much for me. I guess we'll see how my kids like it, when they're old enough to read it. But if you've only got time for one, I'd definitely go with the movie.

Game, Set, Point

Finally got around to watching Match Point over the weekend. A friend had recommended it, and it certainly sounded interesting.

It wasn't really what I was expecting, insofar as it took place over a much longer timeframe, and I didn't really expect actual marriages to be getting in the way. I guess I expected it to be all about Tom and Chris, with Nola in the middle. But it was mostly about Chris marrying Chloe, though still with Nola in the middle.

It started with Chris as an Irishman who'd been on the pro tennis tour briefly, but didn't find himself cut out for it, mentally if not physically. So he went to London to teach Tennis. Tom was a rich guy who played a bit of tennis in college, but hadn't played in a while. A mutual interest in opera got them to talking a bit more, and Chris met Chloe, Tom's sister, the first time they all went to the opera.

Chloe liked, or maybe was intrigued by, Chris when they met there, and invited him out to the family country estate soon after. Chloe and Chris definitely hit it off there, and fell in love. Simple, right? Well, Chris also met Nola at the party, and obviously wanted her, but she was already engaged to Tom, so it was left a bit... hanging, that day.

As I said, most of the movie is focused on the triangle of Chris, Chloe, and Nola. Said triangle got especially interesting once Tom and Nola broke it off, even though Chris and Chloe were married at that point. To make it even more complex, Chris was working for Chloe's dad (and apparently doing well for himself at that). Plus, as soon as they were married, Chloe wanted to get started on having a family (and probably did not go about it the right way; a bit too... clinical, I suppose, for Chris).

Anyway, there was a scene at the beginning of the movie where Chris is narrating, about the luck and skill involved in playing tennis. It shows the ball hitting the top of the net and bouncing upwards: he talks about whether it goes over, and you win, or bounces back, where you lose. The scene ends with the ball at the apex of its bounce, without showing where it lands.

Chris goes on to do some remarkably stupid (if, perhaps, fairly typical) things in the movie. Eventually, feeling completely trapped, he takes it to an entirely new level (of extremity and stupidity). We see that he isn't very good. Is he lucky?

I really liked how, at one point, he throws a piece of evidence towards the river; you can see the parallel with the tennis ball scene immediately. But they turned it on its head, in a way, which led to a very funny (in an ironic sense more than a hilarious sense) ending.

I mostly can't stand sit-coms, because most of the action in driven by people doing very stupid things. No Ordinary Family, which I really liked for the first couple of episodes, lost me in the third episode when it did that. I kept thinking I might try it again, but I never did.

In any event, this movie was a bit odd, because I enjoyed it even though much of the dynamic was the same. Maybe it was just because it was much darker in its handling of that stupidity; I'm not really sure. Maybe I just really liked the luck vs skill conundrum.

Certainly, that rates heavily in many endeavors (probably most, actually). I played Magic: The Gathering very seriously for a long time, but I eventually gave it up because I decided the luck factor was just too big. (If anyone's interested, I sold most of my cards, but I still have my mox/lotus/power blue/library set; mostly in beta.) Anyway, I think that's mostly the same as what Chris went through, just before the movie started.

He decided to teach tennis; I decided to focus more on computers (which, really, I was already doing. It just cut down on distraction).

One last thing about the movie; I thought it was very well acted, all the way around. Scarlett Johansson, as Nola, was playing roughly the same role she did in He's Just not That Into You. Johnathan Rhys Meyers played a very similar role, at least at the beginning, to what he did in Bend It Like Beckham (though, sadly, it still took me about ten minutes to recognize him as the same guy). And Brian Cox played the father's role to the hilt; he mostly seems to get supporting roles, but he's a fabulous actor. The rest of the cast also did a very good job, but I didn't recognize any of them.


Small follow-up on bin Laden

I suspect that, when all is said and done, outside of psychological effects, that the intelligence gathered when getting him will prove far more important than bin Laden himself.


Why is this legal?

I don't care who you are, or what party you're in. This sort of compromise of the democratic principles of this country should not be legal. That revolving door needs to close, or at least be slowed significantly. Anything less than five years delay between regulating a company, and working for that company, is absolutely unacceptable. And yes, that applies to Congressmen and Senators, as well.

A caller on one of the NPR shows earlier today called the US a plutocracy. I think he overstated the case a bit (sadly, not a huge amount), and he failed to mention how recent a phenomenon this is, but this is the sort of action that enables the transformation from democracy (or representational republic; it doesn't matter which term you prefer) to plutocracy to occur.

Now, to be clear on this particular issue, I don't think this particular issue is a big deal. I don't have any huge problems with comcast/nbc; frankly, I think they'll largely become irrelevant in the not-too-distant future. But this sort of back-room deal really frosts me. People like her were trusted to act as public servants, and she didn't just spit on the hand of that trust, but damned near bit it off.

An Angelic Idea

I've long been a fan of Luc Besson. I think Natalie Portman's debut in The Professional was the first time I encountered him. After seeing that and The Fifth Element (and maybe La Femme Nikita; I don't remember the ordering vis a vis that one), I was definitely sold. So I've seen a large percentage of his movies to date (which reminds me, I should go over his filmography to see what I've missed. In any event, I finally was able to watch Angel-A recently (well, probably a month or more ago). I hadn't written about it before now, because I kept thinking I'd have more to say about it than what'll come out here, but I give up.

(And now that I'm looking at it, I kept this in my cart for months, waiting for it to drop in price. It finally did, and I bought it, and now it's dropped almost 20% more since then. *sigh*)

I did enjoy watching it, but two things kept bothering me about the whole idea: why him, and why would an angel use such underworld tactics. It just doesn't fit. They did spend quite a while talking about the 'why him' part, but I just couldn't find it convincing. I think it was the disco scene that blew away any rationales they might have come up with. If he was such a great person as to deserve that sort of intervention, why did he allow her to do what he thought she was doing (or what she actually was doing, come to that)? Yes, he felt terrible about it, but he didn't actually do anything; he just sat and drank himself half-blind.

Plus, the way that they "resolved" his problems was really a huge cop-out. It was just him taking control of his "deus ex machina", and telling his creditors to piss off. I guess there's an element of him taking over, and not having her direct where things are going, but it was kind of... hollow, I guess.

And the underworld tactics bothered me, because if ethics apply, then they have to apply always to have any meaning. If they don't apply always, then they're just pretty words without force. I'm tempted to go off on a bit of a tangent here about political hypocrisy, particularly with respect to terrorism, but I think I'll hold off for now.

The part that I did like was that the interaction between Angela and Andre was very good. It was tense when it needed to be, and relaxed when appropriate. And the way he saved her at the end was very good. But that was only enough to stretch my enjoyment to the end of the movie. It didn't survive any significant analysis, I'm sad to say.


Too much so for me to add anything to it. This is satire that works on entirely too many levels. I am in awe.


Justice is a dish best served cold

I haven't really had a whole lot to say about bin Laden finally being captured. Just a few random thoughts, to be honest.

I'm glad he's gone. I'm not sure it'll really make any difference in terms of what happens with international terrorism, but I'm still glad he's not around. And I'm glad the pictures of him being dead aren't being distributed. It wouldn't have convinced anyone who wasn't already convinced, and it would greatly increase the chances of him being used as a martyr.

But it bothered me to hear Obama say that justice has been served. This is, for all intents and purposes, an assassination (which rang especially true after we heard that he was unarmed and that he wasn't using any human shield). Justice would have been bringing him over here, and trying him for his crimes. Frankly, I would have preferred that.

It would have been a circus, but we probably would have learned a great deal that we don't already know. I wonder if that idea was thrown out because of stuff that might have come out from his Mujahadeen (sp?) days. But I would have liked to see his reaction to seeing the families of many of those he killed, plus there would have been no question that, in fact, justice was served.

And it's possible, in the course of the trial, that we would have learned more about what went on in (and in the planning of) the attacks. That would certainly be my hope.


Or Not

Well, I thought the Caps would come out and take it to the Lightning tonight, but they pretty much laid a goose egg. I certainly wouldn't say they outplayed Tampa for any significant stretch of time (there were a few shifts, but that's about it), so they'll be coming home without fanfare. It was a disappointing end, though perhaps not terribly surprising after last night's game.

I feel even more sure than I did before tonight that Boudreau needs to go. If I was GM, I'd give him a week to watch video and whatnot, then give me a convincing presentation on how he'd beat what the Lightning did to win. If he can't (and I don't think he can), then he needs to go. Yes, he's been good in the regular season (to be fair, more than good), but he's been outcoached in every playoff series he's been in at the NHL level.

Also, he hasn't yet managed to instill discipline and accountability among the players, with the result that they're not playing enough like a team. I do think that the Caps were the better team, overall, but they sure didn't play like it. And all those bad line changes and too many men on the ice penalties? That's not getting it done.

Well, we've now arrived at another off-season too early. I think I'm going to try not to think about the Caps again for the next week. This is just entirely too depressing (and typical, for the Caps).


Over Before It Began

Or at least it seems that way. The Caps dropped another one tonight. The Caps have generally outplayed the Lightning pretty significantly in all three games. They blew it a couple of times in the second game with bad line changes (I think this is yet another example of Boudreau getting out-coached) that led to Lightning goals. And again, tonight, they outplayed the Lightning through two periods.

But they laid one of their worst goose-eggs of the season in the third period, allowing two more goals and a multitude of scoring chances while getting almost no chances of their own. If Neuvy hadn't played very well, they would have allowed two more goals, in fact. It was just butt-ugly.

Unfortunately, the memory of that has just about obliterated my memories of the excellent first two periods. OV was a beast through there, generating chances for himself and others. MarJo played very well also, and looked especially good on the PK. And again, Neuvy played very well.

But the end result is that their backs are hard up against the wall, and they need to win four in a row to advance (which would make them only the fourth team in NHL history to do so, I believe). I see no reason to believe they have it in them; Tampa just seems to want it much more. I do think the Caps will come out with a will, and win tomorrow night (a blowout wouldn't even surprise me) and maybe one more after that, but I think they're done. It's a very disappointing way to see them go; I really thought they'd handle the Bolts.

Boudreau made some good adjustments against the Lightning earlier in the season, but has not been able to handle Boucher's counter-adjustments. I don't know where we go from here.

In fact, despite his record in the regular season (really, it's a fabulous record; there's no question) I've got to wonder if Gabby has reached the limits of that of which he's capable. He made some good adjustments to his system this season, but I'm wondering if the results aren't as much due to better personnel as to those tactical changes.

McPhee... I've been pretty hard on him in the past (probably not in print) largely due to not drafting well until about five years ago. But he's learned, and drafted well recently (other than the Gustafsson debacle), and did a very good job with in-season trades this year. I'm not sure that we even want to bring back Arnott or Sturm, although I'm happy that Wideman will stick around for another year.

I do really like the look of the defense for next year. I hope we'll hold onto Hannan, although he'll have to take a pay cut to make that work. The rest of the corps is set, and solid. That's something on which to build.

Up front, there are a lot more question marks. I was skeptical of the idea of re-signing Knuble, but that ship has sailed. And, I suppose, at the salary agreed, it wasn't a bad deal.

I think we have to let one of Bradley or Hendricks go; Hendricsk being signed already kind of settles that issue, despite his post-season disappearing act. But the big question, as last year, is what to do down the middle. MarJo stays, obviously; the only question is whether he's 2C or 3C. Can he handle 2C? I'm not sure; give him another year, and I'm sure the answer's yes. But next year?

If the answer is yes, then it becomes pretty simple: slot him at 2C, and hand 3C to Matty P. Hopefully, with another offseason to bulk up (and maybe some improved effort, especially on back-checking) he can handle it. He's looked brilliant at times, but needs to look it far more often. And there is one more issue with this configuration; they're terrible on the dot, meaning that Nicky gets far more D-zone draws than we would like leading to far fewer scoring chances for him and OV.

But if the answer of MarJo at 2C is no, then you're pretty well stuck with a trade or free-agent signing. I hope Richards is out of the question, but I'm not sure who else you consider. I guess at that point you could think about bringing Arnott back for one more season, although I'm not sure that isn't a matter of "the Devil you know, rather than the one you don't".

There's also the question of Brooks Laich. You want to bring him back, but can that happen for a low enough salary to be feasible? I guess you could play at making him 3C, but I'm not sold on that idea.

I dunno... Time to stop this mental roster-bation, I think. Let's first see if we can win a game or two first. If not, then I can give this some more thought, and look up some of the available options.

Showtime Has a Problem

I get my internet/tv/phone service via verizon (fios is nice, even if the monopoly nature of verizon bugs me). For reasons unknown, they decided to give me free access to the Showtime channels a couple of months ago. I mostly ignored it, other than saving a couple of movies on the DVR (which I really need to watch, I guess). Well, the free part was about to expire, so I called to cancel it.

Not too interesting, right? Well, they asked why I wanted to cancel it. Well, I never asked for it, what do you think? But to put it a bit more pointedly, it occurred to me right then that it wouldn't ever make sense to pay for it. So I answered, "If I really wanted the movies, I'd just subscribe to netflix". And, you know, I would.

But there's even more of a kicker to the whole thing. While talking, I asked about faster internet service, and agreed to pay $15 more per month for that. No big deal, right? Well, the kicker was that that faster internet service also came with more TV service, including the Showtime channels. Even sillier, the Showtime channels alone, that they were trying to sell me, were going to cost $25.

Showtime has a serious business model problem, as does HBO. I find myself doubting that their original programming is enough to make up the difference. All Netflix has to do is offer a better deal to make their own original programming (which I hear they're now working on), and it's pretty much game over.

(Now to go re-reconsider that Netflix subscription, which I've been mulling over for almost ten years, now.)

Foxy Lady

Last week, one night, while my wife was feeding our daughter, I was walking around the living room with our son in my arms, when I looked out the window. Laying down on our patio was a huge fox. Since we don't get many wild animals, I was more than a bit surprised.

I went to get my camera, but she had gone back to her kits by the time I got back. On the plus side, her kits seemed to be living beneath the deck of our neighbors. I got a couple of pictures of the kits, but they didn't turn out well. However, I've been looking in the evenings, to see if they reappear, and they did last night. But mom took off when I opened the door, so here's a picture of three of the kits (I haven't seen all four since that first night) that I took from my deck.