Tiny Tower note

Trying a new strategy on Tiny Tower. Well, first a refinement. When I build a floor, I'll generally build a Service, a Recreation, a Retail, a Food, then two Creatives, then Service, then Recreation, then Food, then two Retail, etc. (Not counting the residentials in the middle, of course.)

The completely new part is that I'm trying to not fully stock floors. I'll stock the three coin item in a floor, then do the work of stocking the two coin item. But I won't actually put out the two coin item until the three coin item is sold. As soon as the 3c item sells, I'll immediately put out the 2c item and then start restocking the 3c item.

I'm still evaluating whether it works or not, but it feels like it should. I'll try to post again in a couple of days, when I have a better feel for how well (or poorly) it's working.

Series Begun

Well, tonight's game was certainly much more to my liking. As expected, the game started out pretty slow, with the two teams feeling each other out. There was more shooting, and less shot blocking.

It took a while, but the Caps got on the board first. The Rangers turned over the puck on an attempted keep-in that went to Ward. He, Knuble, and Aucoin ran up ice, 3-on-2, culminating in a very pretty tic-tac-toe passing play to Knuble at the mouth of the goal. Lundqvist never had a chance on it, nor did the defenders.

It took almost five more minutes of back-and-forth for another goal to be scored. Chimmer raced into the zone when Lundqvist was handling it behind the net, got the puck, and threw it in front of the net. Hendy was there, and tried to score shooting backwards between his legs. He got it past the defender, and mostly past Lundqvist, but Lundy managed to bat it a bit sideways after it was past him. But Chimmer came back to clean up the garbage, putting it into the net.

It wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a pretty goal, but oh, how it made me happy. That was really the first time I felt like the Caps were going to win.

They gave back a goal with forty-three seconds left in the period, as Shultz tried to defend two guys without help. Unsurprisingly, they got it past Shultz and Holtby.

It was not the first really terrible giveaway in the period (actually, Green and Hamr had several really terrible giveaways in the game; not sure how many were in that period, but I think the two of them had the majority of the Caps giveaways for the game), but, thankfully, was the only one that led to a goal. The one good thing is that the Caps ended up with only four giveaways on the game, so they were very good tonight, by that metric.

The Caps also managed to keep play moving between the two ends of the ice, and generated very good chances when they did get to the other end. The power play was also very good; converting on one chance, but generating a lot of shots and zone time.

Anyway, the Caps went into the first break up a goal, and held onto the same score all the way through the second period. I was starting to wonder if we'd be treated to another scoreless period in the third, but the Rangers tied things up at the seven minute mark. Knuble had just gone into the box for a high-sticking call (which I was a little miffed at, because 1, it was obviously accidental, and 2, the Rangers got away with a high stick only half a minute earlier). The Rangers kept the puck in the zone the entire time from call to score, getting the goal after working the puck around efficiently and then getting the puck deflected from in front of the goal.

As I alluded earlier, the Caps got their one-goal margin restored several minutes later on the power play. Backstrom won the faceoff, following the call, cleanly back to OV. OV skated to the middle of the ice, allowing Brouwer to set up a screen, then wristed it into the top of the net.

From there, play went back and forth, but nobody else managed to find the back of the net, so the Caps skated off with the close victory.

So, a visiting team has won; therefore, the series has definitely started. Let's hope the Caps can defend the phone booth better than they did in the opening round.

Overall, this was one of the Caps better efforts of the playoffs, with good chances, tight defense, and a lot more attention to keeping possession of the puck.

I'm still a bit mystified by Hunter's ice time decisions. OV got thirteen and a half minutes; the only players with less were Knuble, Aucoin, Ward, Chimera, and Semin.

The good part of that is that I think OV is showing more defensive effort the last couple of games. The bad part is that the players with game-breaking potential aren't being given as much time as the grinders.

Beagle's a great story, and all, and I certainly admire his effort, but he should not be the forward leading in ice time.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much (it worked), but I can't see how this works out well for the team, long-term.

Well, we'll see Wednesday, when the teams return to DC, I suppose.

On Broadway

[I wrote this earlier today, well before the game started.]
I don't have a whole lot to say about the Caps/Rangers tilt the other night. I watched it, starting shortly after it ended, as I was at a technology conference earlier in the day. One thing that hit me was that there was a remarkably small amount of action for a game that was moving a lot.

Some of that shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose. These were the top two teams in shot-blocking in the first round, I believe. So each team blocking about as many shots as they put on net shouldn't be as surprising as it normally would be. And I think that does a decent job of explaining why there were so few shots, overall.

It is good that the Caps were not outshot (for once) in the game. They were dead even at even strength, with the Caps holding a decent lead in power play shots. But Holtby did not have a good game, and the defense left him out to dry on Richards' goal in the third. And Lundqvist led his team, as he's done all season.

End result, it was a fairly long day for the Caps.

It didn't seem like the Caps spent nearly enough time in the Rangers' zone, although shots were even, as noted. I guess the Caps just did a better job of generating shots when they were there.

Overall, though, the 3-1 score in NYC tells us just that this series hasn't started yet. And it better get started tonight.


Warding off defeat

I've gone through this whole series with seriously low expectations, which has been very good for my sanity. A series where all seven games were decided by a single goal? Eep.

The Caps put Holtby out there in desperation, hoping he'd catch fire. Boy, did he ever. A save percentage of .943? That was better than management could have realistically hoped. Certainly, it was quite a bit better than expected. And thank goodness it was, because there was no margin for it to be worse. This was a series where the margins were so thin, it could have easily been a sweep for either team, just based on one or two bounces in each game.

Hendricks got the Caps started, with a nice deflection of a Carlson shot eleven minutes into the first period. I had to apologize to a friend, who called when that was scored. But I couldn't share the excitement, because I was only five and a half minutes into the game (my daughter had swim class that kept us from being home at the start).

I had just about caught up early in the second, when my daughter decided she didn't want to listen to us any more, so we had to send her to bed early. So I didn't get caught up to the game until well after Boston's tying score fourteen minutes into the second (Seguin was able to poke home a puck that trickled behind Holtby, which three Caps were unable to poke away). In fact, I didn't catch up until the intermission before overtime.

And I guess it was appropriate for the game to go into overtime, but I kept hoping the Caps would win one cleanly.

My low expectations kept me from getting too upset early in overtime when it seemed like the Caps couldn't clear the zone. I didn't even get too excited when they cut back to Ward and Knuble getting a turnover and rushing the Boston net. I wasn't surprised when Knuble's shot was stopped by Thomas, but I was shocked when Ward managed to cut to the rebound and put it into the net. In fact, even after one ref (or linesman, I didn't notice) indicated goal, I was still waiting for a goaltender interference call.

So my celebration was pretty restrained, but my joy wasn't.

I'd like to say something like, "this gives the Caps X days to get ready to face Y', but we don't know who or when yet. All we know is that it will be an away game, and that it won't be at Florida or Ottawa. But, no matter who it is, the Caps have a few days to heal up and recover. They'll almost certainly be underdogs, so let's hope that works in their favor. Again, the pressure on them will be pretty low.

And let's hope that Hunter's strategy doesn't turn the next series into another set of coin flips. If my expectations hadn't been so low, I'd've been ready to kill someone at several points in this series. I don't want to repeat that.


Those things men do

My wife and I weren't able to see Mirror, Mirror as we'd planned on Friday night (the 7PM show we were planning on was canceled), so we instead went to see Think Like a Man. I was a bit skeptical, based on the description, but choices were limited and reviews were pretty good, so off we went.

The first good news had to do with where we were seeing it. It was at the AMC at Mazza Gallerie, which we'd never been to. In fact, we'd never been to that shopping center together, and it was many years since either of us had gone at all. We lucked out with that movie being one of the two screens inside the Cinema Club. It's set up as a theater inside the theater, with a stocked bar, separate bathrooms, and very nice seats. It also paid for our parking, which would have been nine dollars. So things were going well before we even set foot in the screening room.

One thing I should point out, too, that I didn't know before we got there, is that this movie is actually based on a real book. Whether that book is meant as relationship advice or comedy, I don't know. My suspicion is that the book laid out several archetypal guys, and those became the main characters of the movie.

The movie, though, is definitely comedy. I could have done without the (occasional, and only slightly intrusive) narration, but that was only a very small complaint.

The movie itself was hilarious. I won't say I was laughing from start to finish, but I definitely spent a lot of time holding my sides. One thing I liked a lot was that almost none of it was driven by people doing stupid things.

So I would definitely recommend going to see it. Heck, if I were going to see another movie in the next two weeks or so, I'd strongly consider going again, myself. But that won't happen, so I'll just wait and get it on video.


Last night's Caps-Bruins game was certainly one for highs and lows. Before the game even started, we saw Pittsburgh eliminated. And I will say that I was impressed. It was 4-1 when I turned it on, and Philly was playing as if they were the team losing, not the ones leading. I can't say as I've ever seen the Caps manage that sort of play when ahead.

The first period was played pretty evenly, territorially, perhaps with a slight edge to Boston. The score, of course, didn't go the Caps way, as they were down on goals to Peverley and Krejci (the latter on the power play) and managed only one score on a Greenie slap shot that ricocheted off a defenseman.

The second period was almost all Caps, though. If I remember aright, they took a couple of minutes to get going, but then were just all over the place. They put the Bruins back on their heels, and were only a little bad luck (and, to be fair, some good goaltending from Thomas) from managing three or four goals. Unfortunately, it took them nineteen minutes to actually hit the back of the net (Chimmer, from Backstrom and Hamr), so they ended the period tied again.

And the third period was again back and forth, with Ference putting the B's up twelve minutes in, and OV almost bringing the house down when he tied it three minutes later. Fortunately or unfortunately, that was all the scoring for the period (probably fortunately, as Boston had the better of the play from there on out), so they went into overtime again.

And things continued to go poorly in the extra period. The Caps managed one or two chances, but spent too much time in their own end. And then Backstrom had his second bad turnover of the game (Nicky had a very up-and-down game, with two assists, but two mistakes leading to goals against. Ference's third period goal was largely due to him failing to hustle on a back-check), giving Boston the puck at the blue line, and they brought it in, and Seguin managed to skate past Wideman and Holtby to put it in the net from a sharp angle.

So everyone heads back to Boston for a winner-take-all game seven in Beantown. I'm hoping the Caps can manage to play at least two periods Wednesday the way they played the second period yesterday. If so, they'll move on comfortably. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

And let's hope Dale starts playing guys a bit more smartly. Ward is playing well, but is getting damned few opportunities (at the very least, he should be playing the PK. But he could also use more even strength time). Knuble played, but only for six minutes. Perreault, who's been very effective, did not plya at all. The one good thing I can say is that at least Beagle didn't get more time than OV (though he did get more than Semin, who was, again, very good while he was on the ice).


Squeaker by the bay

The Caps played their best game of the series today. They worked hard from top to bottom, weren't intimidated, and kept trying to win the game (as opposed to trying not to lose it).

Through that, they managed to never trail in the game, taking 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3 leads. And the only time they stopped trying to score was in the last minute and a half (after scoring that fourth goal). There was a lot of hitting in the game, which Boston led pretty handily, but it never got the Caps to back down.

This was the first game where the Caps looked like they could legitimately win (ie: with merely good goaltending), and, in fact, that is how they won. Shots were still 37-32 in Boston's favor (and really a bit worse than that, due to blocked shots), but I would bet scoring chances were even closer.

Hendricks had another very good game, good Sasha made another appearance, and Knuble even scored a goal (though I still would have sat him in favor of Perreault). OV was also looking quite dangerous again (and should have played quite a bit more than fifteen and a half minutes), even if he didn't factor into any of the goals.

And Holtby wasn't nearly as good as last game (not that he was expected to be), but still looked very good. He also had one absolutely jaw-dropping save where he had to go all the way across the goalmouth, and was still able to get his toe on the shot. I'm really not sure how he got across that fast, but no complaints.

So the Caps get a chance to close out the series tomorrow at home; let's hope they don't mail it in, because I guarantee Boston will not. And let's hope Holtby doesn't have his worst game of the series, because even today they still needed him to be excellent.

Which reminds me... I heard there's at least a small chance Neuvy is ready to start tomorrow. I don't think he will, even if he's "ready", but it's possible. It wouldn't make me scratch my head more than any of half a dozen other personnel decisions by Hunter in this series.

Update: I forgot to mention that Beagle also had an excellent game, getting a turnover and shooting for the Caps' second goal for the punctuation on his performance.


The Mark of Kane

After sitting on it for over a year, I finally read Riordan's Red Pyramid recently.

I very much liked the story and the characters.

The story was a retelling of an old Egyptian myth that I had never read before. I think I liked it almost as much for increasing familiarity with Egyptian myth as for any of its own merits.

I had issues with it, however. One, the conceit of how it was told was that it was a found recording that the two main characters took turns making. Two, the two did not feel, to me, at all like teenagers (or near-teens).

The problem with the conceit was that the asides by the characters pulled me out of the story. They tended to be fairly funny, but they were still disruptive. There were also a few things that were said that just would not have been said like that if it was an actual recording.

And I have never met anyone nearly as young as them who would do some of the things they did (giving up power at the end, especially, although how logic-driven their decisions were also enters into it).

With that said, I liked the story quite a bit. It did a good job of mixing history and myth, as well as having interesting magic. It also did a good job of deciding what to explain, and what to leave mysterious. There was one historical note that I think was wrong, however. It mentioned Western museums having a lot of Egyptian artifacts, but the best stuff being in Egypt. From what I've heard several times, Egypt has nothing to match what's in the British Museum, or the Louvre, and would have difficulty matching the Vatican's collection. I thought that was one of the reasons such a big deal was made out of King Tut's tomb; the artifacts remained in Egypt (aside from tours).

And its use of US locations was quite good (the Washington Monument, above, was a fairly obvious one. The King's house wasn't).

So I've already bought the second book, and ordered the third. Hopefully, I'll get around to reading at least the former, soon. I'm not complaining, but my photography has definitely interfered with that.

Striking it even

Tonight was a pretty lousy night for the Caps' skaters. They spent way too much time in their own end of the ice, and didn't get nearly enough pucks directed at Tim Thomas.

Despite that, they did manage to get a pair of goals. The first, by MarJo, came on a 2-on-1 with him and Laich in the second minute. The second came on the power play, with Semin putting it into the far, upper corner from the left half wall came in the penultimate minute of the middle period.

Other than that, it was pretty butt-ugly. They gave up several odd-man rushes, on one of which, Peverley scored (MarJo broke up another with a phenomenal back-check). Scoring chances were 6-3 in the first, and 7-6 in the second. Shots, overall, were 45-21.

One of the few things that did go well for them was that they stayed out of the penalty box, giving the Bruins only one chance with the man advantage.

Other than that, though, it was the Braden Holtby show. He was an absolute wall, only giving up that one Peverley tally (which was, actually, not a good effort by him. We'll forgive him).

So the ultimate result was the Caps evening the series at a pair apiece. It's not encouraging for the Caps future, but it's a great present.

Two important notes related to Monday's game. One was the Perreault only played four minutes the entire game. This again speaks to Hunter's bad personnel management. If you don't trust him enough to play more minutes, put someone else in the lineup. Oh, and you should trust him more. What's this team's biggest weakness? Puck possession. Where does Perreault rate? Number three (Aucoin is a hair better in far fewer games, and Collins was better (or, more likely, luckier) in his two games).

And the second was that Backstrom failed to keep his cool when he saw OV tripped, and had a stick thrust into his face (by Peverley, I believe. Who was, according to Shanahan, maintaining a defensive posture. Not sure how you are purely being defensive when you've got your stick right up in someone's face, but the NHL thinks it's possible). He retaliated, getting a game misconduct (this was as time expired for the game), which was later expanded into a one game suspension. So he didn't play tonight at all, which certainly didn't help matters.

Also, Erskine played tonight, instead of Shultz, and wasn't too bad. He had some really good hits, and didn't get too out of position, that I can recall. I'd still rather have Dima or Shultz instead of him, but he wasn't a disaster.

In any event, Holtby assured the Caps of one more home game for the season, and the team heads back to Boston for game five on Saturday. Let's hope they can bring home another win. Preferably without being outplayed as badly as they were tonight.


Snapshot of a moment

My dad emailed me yesterday to ask if I wanted to go to Dulles this morning to take pictures. I wasn't sure what he was talking about, so I called to ask. He told me that the Space Shuttle was being flown in to Dulles, and we'd be able to take pictures. It sounded pretty cool, but I wasn't at all sure I'd be up to it after the Caps game. Happily, I made it up (actually, I ended up getting up even earlier so I could get a picture of moonrise over the mall (maybe I'll post that one later; it'll need some post-processing first)).

In fact, I'd told my dad that I would call him at 0430 if I was up to it (he'd said he'd leave his house around 0445). It turned out that he wasn't even out of bed by then, and I was more than halfway to Dulles before we talked. But we got things together, met up, and made it over to Udvar-Hazy before they opened the gates.

We waited a while for the gates to open, then waited for the building to open, then waited a really long time to get some food for breakfast. After all of that, we went back outside, and realized that it was only a few minutes before the first pass (I, at least, didn't realize there were going to be several). So we hustled back to the car to get the camera equipment ready, then hurried to find a good spot to watch.

The first pass was kind of neat, but a little disappointing, because it passed almost directly overhead. I only got one or two pictures that I thought were pretty good. It turned out that we had quite a while before the second pass; it was mostly wasted time, although we did move a bit further away from the other people watching. In fact, we ended up almost at a gully that marked how far we could go.

I was much happier with the shots on the second pass, as we had moved far enough to be noticeably off to the side. Nothing great, but several that were pretty good. In the interval between the second and third passes, you can see a shot of one of the chase planes landing for refueling (no idea if it went back up after that).

And for the third (and last; you can see the landing gear down), I ended up very pleased, as I moved even further off to the side. I was also helped in getting the chase plane by sitting down (serendipity; I was doing it to be more stable shooting with the heavy lens). Anyway, I was very happy with a couple of those shots, particularly the long, narrow one.

What was amusing was the large collection of long lenses present. I included shots of a couple of them. I was initially wishing for a longer lens, myself (I was using a 300mm one), but after the fact, I'm glad I didn't have anything longer. This was perfect when we were off to the side (although a 500-600mm would have been nice on the first pass); I was having trouble framing the whole thing as it was.

Anyway, the pictures are here. The last shot was the shuttle sitting on the tarmac at Dulles; we took that one from the top of a parking garage at the airport. I don't like that one nearly as much (the lens lost significant sharpness with the 2x teleconverter), but I'm glad we went.

Hockey catch-up

Haven't been posting too much lately; too much other stuff going on. But I'll try to catch up a bit now.

The Caps game in Boston the other night was quite a good one. The Caps played much better than they did in the first game. They still didn't look likely to take the series, but much better, overall. And the result was very similar.

They played scoreless through the first period, with shots basically even. Both teams had chances, but I can't remember about relative quantity.

In the second period, things went in both directions for Washington. Boston had five more shots, but the men in white had the only goal. The third period was the mirror image of that, with Washington having five more shots, but the Bruins getting the only goal.

And that left us in a very familiar place, both for this seriesi and for the Caps, historically: overtime. Washington was outplayed in overtime, but not by a large margin. But nobody scored, so we went to another one. This one, thankfully, did not last nearly as long, with Backstrom potting the winning goal three minutes in.

And that meant that the series had officially started, because the home team had lost one. So all Washington needed to do was defend their turf, and they'd go through.

But this is the Caps, and we had last night's game. This one, I was actually able to attend in person (thanks, dear). I had planned on taking lots of photographs, but found that I really wanted to watch the game, instead. So I put the camera away pretty early, and had lots of fun yelling and screaming.

And the Caps did give us something to scream about. Sasha minor got the Caps on the board with a power play goal sixteen minutes in. That put the Caps head to end the first, which was a nice feeling.

The second really got off with a bang, though, with Peverley equalizing thirty-five seconds in, and OV re-establishing that lead thirteen seconds later. After that, things went much slower for the rest of the period, but Paille re-evened things nine minutes in. So things went into the second intermission in the very familiar spot of being tied.

I felt like the Caps were playing much better; in particular, Boston wasn't spending nearly as much time in the Washington zone. So I was hopeful things would go the way of the men in red.

But it was not to be. In fact, I blame the next goal almost entirely on Hunter. It happened only a minute into the period, with Rolston getting it past Holtby. The reason I blame it on the coach is that, just before, there had been two offensive zone faceoffs, neither of which featured Chara on the ice. So who do you play? Apparently, you play Beagle's line.

And when Boston gets a shot that Holtby catches? And Chara comes on the ice? That, it seems, is when you play OV's line. Unsurprisingly, they were penned in, and allowed a goal in fairly short order. *sigh*

That, of course, put Boston ahead, which remained the case for the next thirteen minutes. Finally, Backstrom found Laich on a ridiculously long stretch pass. Laich suckered Thomas out of his net by keeping the puck way in front of himself, and then calmly depositied the biscuit in the basket. So we're back to a tie, with not a whole lot of time left.

Sadly, that was as good as it got for Washington; Chara scored a 4-on-4 goal with two minutes left to close out the scoring.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the game. The Caps weren't showing that they were completely outclassed if Holtby failed to save 97% of the shots he faced. That said, the personnel decisions were a bit strange, and there were a couple of serious breakdowns (one of the second period goals was scored by a player all alone five feet from the goal).

But now Washington is down again, and will have to win again in Boston to take the series. Let's hope they can at least win the game tomorrow night at the phone booth.


To quote Remo Williams...

(a movie that I absolutely loved when it came out, but haven't seen in twenty years), "Women should stay home and make babies. Preferably man-child."

That was Remo's korean martial arts teacher, Chiun, when talking to Remo's girlfriend, at the end of the movie. In the movie, as a bit of quaint, ridiculous barbarism, I thought it was hilarious.

But it appears to still be believed in certain circles. I gotta say, that's pretty disturbing.

I've always based my beliefs on several sources that can best be summed up with the beginning of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

This sort of belief is fundamentally telling women that they are not equal, and shouldn't even strive to be equal.

That's not to say that women shouldn't be able to stay home and raise children. Just that they shouldn't be forced to do that.


More rope-a-dope

Watched the Caps playoff opener against the Bruins tonight; was thinking that coming in as a consensus underdog might be good for the team.

Well, they started out in full-on rope-a-dope mode. The only time they really got out of it in the first period was when they were on the power play (which didn't go particularly well). Shots for the period ended up 9-5 B's, with scoring chances 2-1 Caps. And nobody found the back of the net. So the rope-a-dope seemed reasonably effective.

The second period did not go nearly so well. It wasn't helped by spending over six minutes on the penalty kill. But the results were pretty terrible: shots 17-2, scoring chances 10-0. Ouch! But Holtby (and some good luck) kept them in the game, as, again, nothing found the twine.

The third period actually went pretty well for the Caps; they were carrying the play for most of the period, with shots 9-3 in their favor. But they set a record they would have preferred to have left alone, as it was the first time the team ever went into overtime scoreless, in the playoffs.

As a heavy underdog, playing away from home, it's not a terrible place to be, but it isn't great, either.

They carried their good play into the overtime, but when they had a near miss kicked to the corner, the defense did not get back fast enough on the counterattack to be able to interfere with Kelly's shot. Holtby probably should have had it, as there was nothing interfering with his vision and it wasn't from particularly close in, but he didn't. It's hard to get upset, though, as he did a fabulous job getting the team to that point.

So, no big surprises on the game, but still a disappointing result.

As I said, Holtby looked very good, and kept them in a game they had no business taking to overtime. Carlson looked pretty good as well. I was glad to see Ward back in the lineup. He had a quiet game, but looked good whenever I noticed him. Perreault also had a good game, getting one of the team's better chances; he was just unable to spin around quickly enough to get the shot off.

The team as a whole did a lot better on giveaways tonight, as they kept the total in single digits.

The Penalty Kill did a good job all night (not great, as they didn't clear often enough, but not bad). The power play was only so-so, although there was a big difference between the first and third period opportunities. The one in the first wasn't good, but the one in the third wasn't too bad.

What really bothered me was the same thing that has been bothering me for a while; they're just spending way too much time playing defense. They need to play in the offensive zone more often. Granted, with Boston, that won't be easy, but they need to do it.

We'll see; they've got until Saturday afternoon to work on it.


Wigan-tic victory

I haven't been watching many Premiership games, of late; I've just had too many other things going on. I was going to watch the Manchester City/Arsenal tilt over the weekend, but my DVR deleted it before I got to it. (My fault; I should have made sure that wasn't possible.)

But when a Man U game showed up today on the DVR, I decided that I had enough time to watch it. Despite it being against Wigan (currently in relegation territory), I decided to watch for a while. And I'm glad I did. United started out very strong for the first couple of minutes, but then Wigan just took over. Possession remained slightly in Man U's favor, but the rest of the first half was played mostly in front of the goal Man U was defending.

Wigan wasn't able to score, although they did have a goal disallowed on a rather questionable call. But they still looked much the better team, with a number of good chances, and a large edge in corners.

And that carried over a bit into the second half, where they finally managed to score off a short corner five minutes in. Maloney provided the shot that avoided a couple of defenders, and De Gea. Play continued back and forth for a while, but when Nani was subbed in for Rooney (who didn't look especially sharp, but it was still quite a surprise), Manchester pretty much took over. From that point on, Wigan had a couple of decent counterattacks (one was particularly nice, driven by Simmon (sp?)), but it was almost all United.

But despite the waves of attacks, they weren't able to get through the Wigan defense, even with five minutes of added time. It was quite the performance; for the last 10-15 minutes, most of the Wigan players were looking really gassed. But they valiantly held on for their first ever (I've got to admit, that blows my mind, but there were only 14 previous games) point against Man U. And they got three points.

So, hats off to the Latics for a phenomenal game. Let's hope this gives them momentum enough to keep them in the premiership.


Steal a phone, gain... nothing?

That's what NPR was saying (more likely, repeating from an administration official; I don't remember), in reporting the news that the biggest carriers ("only" the top four. So, that's like, what, 99% of the market?) and the government are working together to create a database of stolen smartphones. The idea is that no phone from that database will be able to be activated.

I have mixed feelings about the whole enterprise. It feels awfully Big Brother-ish, but it could also be very useful.

Where I had a significant problem, though, was in the assertion that it would reduce the value of a stolen phone down to zero. That's certainly false, as the phone likely provides a treasure trove of info for ID theft-like activities. Going phishing?

Oh, and is it possible to remove phones from this database?

Not all they're cracked up to be?

When I was quite young (somewhere in the 5-10 range), I remember reading Cracked magazine quite often. But I got bored with it somewhere in there, and stopped reading it. In fact, I'd forgotten about it for many years until recently, when I had one of their articles mentioned. That wasn't enough to get me reading it regularly, but this article on wealth disparity is really well done.

It does a great job of pointing out why some of the things we hear from really rich people are quite stupid and/or insulting to the rest of the world. The top three are especially pointed.

Not much to add to it, but just wanted to point it out. Now if only we could get the really rich people who are trying to pull the country down to read it.


D4 high ISO

I was looking at Ken Rockwell's site again today, and ran across his high-ISO shootout among many different cameras. The article is focused on signal-to-noise ratio as available light goes down, but what caught my attention immediately was him saying that the D4 sucks rocks. Now, I haven't pushed mine, in terms of ISO (I limit it to 6400), but I have been uniformly pleased with the results.

So that made me a bit more attentive to what he had. And what jumped out at me was the amazing lack of detail on his D4 pictures, all the way down to his ISO 200 shot. And that definitely doesn't match my experience, leading me to wonder if his is defective (seriously; his shots have less detail than the D90 that my D4 replaced would give).

In any event, I decided to put together my own ISO comparison (D4-only; I don't have a slew of cameras to which to compare. My wife had enough of a cow about the D4, which is only my third camera. My first does not deserve to be talked about in the same breath as the other two). My personal reaction is that those up to 25600 are probably usable (and, now that I've compared, I think cutting off at 6400 was a good choice), with the higher ones being usable only at web resolutions (and, for the highest, only very small web resolutions). Yes, they're a bit goofy, but a bit more usable than he gives credit for.

Of course, having said that, I still keep all of my tripod-shots to ISO 100. You just can't argue with the extra dynamic range. But for the hand-held (no-flash, usually) shots of my kids, 6400-12800 will do just fine.

Incidentally, one thing that has slightly annoyed me with all of the D800 reviews I've read. If you look at the DxO chart, its dynamic range drops like a rock when you raise its ISO. So while its SNR remains comparable to a D3s or D4, it quickly becomes slightly worse in color sensitivity and significantly worse in dynamic range (basically losing a whole stop of range with every full stop increase in ISO). So it's a bit misleading to say that it is equal to a D4 in high ISO performance.

In any event, here are the pictures, in order by ISO (100-204800):

Now that's a mixed feeling...

I wasn't able to watch the Caps game the other night; after getting up before dawn having a dozen small kids over for a party, then seeing a friend from out of town for several hours, I just needed to get to sleep.

I went downtown at dawn on Sunday to take more pictures (got some decent shots of the Capital), then tried to watch the game when I returned. No recording. The only thing I can think of is that it was on NHLN (where I don't have an auto-record set up); I thought it would be on CSN, and blacked out on NHLN, if that was the case. Anyway, I was pretty upset I couldn't watch it.

But then I pulled the sports section of the paper out, and was certainly pleased to see the 4-1 result. Now that I'm looking at more details, it looks like we can largely hang the results on the respective goaltenders, with Holtby having an excellent night and Lundqvist having a terrible one. The power play must have been pretty terrible, allowing three shots and only taking one. Although it's hard to complain too much when that one shot scores, I guess. Still, one shot on three opportunities is pretty bad. And allowing six on three penalty kills ain't exactly sparkling.

Well, if Holtby can provide anything close to that level of save percentage in the playoffs, he could steal a series or two. (Yes, I know that's an unsustainable level of performance; let me dream for a minute or two.) Not sure what the Neuvy situation is, though; TVo was listed as a scratch, so I assume he's still too injured to play. It doesn't list the back-up, but since Neuvy wasn't a scratch, maybe he was healthy enough to back up. If so, that's extremely encouraging.

Of course, Florida also beat Carolina, so the Caps couldn't take the division again (oh well, one less stupid banner in the rafters; and yes, that's mocking the division championship banners, not sour grapes). Plus, Ottawa lost to the Devils, so the Caps slid into seventh, and will be playing in Beantown on Wednesday.

Let's hope the Caps take good advantage of the time until Wednesday, and can be healthy by then. Because the Bruins will be hitting anything that moves after that. If they can match that, and play well, maybe then they can worry about who wins the other series.



I must admit to very mixed feelings about last night's Caps game against the Panthers. Things got off to a good start for me, as I turned the game on (it was supposed to be on a different channel, so I could just start the DVR without seeing what had happened, but my wife was also recording something, so it had to end up on the channel for one of them) just as the Caps scored the opening goal, six minutes in. Beagle actually got the goal off a rebound of a Brouwer shot.

I went back to watch what had happened before that, but it was nice to know that they were getting on the board first. The rest of the first was dominated by the Panthers, as scoring chances ended up 3-2 Cats (shots 10-8). But it wasn't huge domination, and the Caps kept the puck out of their net, so things weren't looking too bad.

The second period was much more mixed. The vast majority of the period was spent in the Caps end, but the Caps did manage to do good things when they got it into Florida's zone. I can't say as I was real happy about the way it played out, but I was certainly happy about the results, which was that the Caps scored two more than Florida (OV had a really nice drop-and-follow with MarJo, scoring on the rebound of MarJo's shot, and Laich found the top corner from the high slot two minutes later. Samuelsson had an even nicer shot to bring the margin back down when he was left entirely alone on the wing with four minutes to go).

What was kind of funny was that all four goalies played in this period. The bad part was that Holtby came in when Neuvy got hurt (Sturm fell on his knee; I'm not feeling good about his chances of playing again this season). The funny part was when Clemmenson came in for Theodore after the third goal. What made that funny was that he was only in for a minute and a half, getting a nice save in that time.

The other interesting part of the period was that the period being played mostly in Washington's end only resulted in an 11-10 shot lead for Florida, and Washington was actually ahead (6-4) on scoring chances. I'm really not liking that as a strategy, but I'm happy that it worked this time.

The third period was made much more tense when Jovo-cop scored on a fluky deflection off a defenseman's stick forty-two seconds after the opening face-off. Despite that, Washington seemed largely content to play defense for the period. In fact, their only sustained pressure without a power play being involved came in the ninth to tenth minutes, when Perreault's line got its only shift of the period.

The Caps did manage a goal later; they got a power play (weirdly, on a pretty innocuous high stick after several really blatant trips and interferences went uncalled) with three minutes left. They didn't score on the power play, technically, but Semin backhanded the puck to the roof of the net from in close only four seconds after the penalty expired.

And that was basically the end of the game. It lasted another minute, but Washington was able to keep Florida from getting set up in the zone, so it wasn't as exciting (thankfully) as it could have been.

The one big improvement in the third period was that there were only four giveaways. That's still a higher number than I'd like to see in a period, but compared to the 18(!) through the first two periods, it was significantly better.

Overall, I was happy with the result; it, combined with Buffalo's loss, guarantees the Caps a playoff spot (and guarantees one for Florida, come to that). So Saturday's game will only determine whether or not the Caps can manage to pass Florida for the division title (and playing the first round at home), or Ottawa for seventh place.

As I mentioned, Neuvy went down with an apparent knee injury. I haven't heard anything official, and I'm not a doctor, but while I hope he'll be back soon, I don't think that's terribly likely. So this could easily end up being a costly victory, especially if TVo remains unable to play. Holtby's current playoff record does not exactly inspire confidence. Plus, Neuvy had stopped everything before he got hurt.

And I'm getting more and more annoyed with Hunter's choices about who plays and who sits. I don't like the idea of having one line playing only one shift in a period, doubly so when that line is effective when on the ice. And this makes two games in a row (at least) where Beagle has gotten more ice time than Semin. Yes, Beagle's been a lot more effective than I would have guessed, but let's not get delusional about where this story ends. There's a reason that, even after last night's goals, Semin has five times as many goals as Beagle. And why is Ward on nacho duty, when he's leading the team in +/-? Yes, that's not the be-all and end-all of stats, but it's a pretty decent stat for comparing players within a team. And the degree to which it is misleading works in Ward's favor, because he generally faces the toughest competition when he is out there. And what did Halpern do to end up off the ice? Is he injured? Because his play certainly didn't seem sub-par before he got yanked away from playing duties.

Anyway, at least the Caps are in (well, I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing, for the team in the long-run. It might convince management that nothing is wrong with this team, and that definitely isn't the case) the playoffs. And they do have one more game to try to improve their seeding (while I'm pretty indifferent to 7th vs 8th, 3rd would definitely be nice).

And that last game is against the Rangers, which, barring a shift in seeding, will be a preview of the first round. Go Caps!


Lightning strikes late

Last night's Tampa game was pretty frustrating to watch. The Caps were outplayed by a bit in the first (it felt like more than the stats show, but I suspect that's due to my distractions while watching), but escaped without score. They outplayed Tampa in the second, but a power play goal and a let-down right afterwards led to a pair of goals that eclipsed Washington's only tally.

Chimmer potted his 20th of the season with about four minutes left, bringing the game back to level. But things went sideways shortly thereafter, with Stamkos scoring on a rebound from the doorstep with just over a minute left (his defender was on the wrong side of him to tie up his stick). Neuvy got pulled almost immediately, but they weren't able to take advantage of the extra skater at all, not even getting control of the puck in the offensive zone. And then Stamkos got the puck near the Caps blue line, and tossed it into the net as time expired.

Neuvy had a pretty decent game overall; his defense was mostly letting him down. In fact, if it wasn't for one shot that trickled through his pads, but missed the net by an inch or two, I'd say he had a pretty good game. As it was, I think he played a little better than the stats show (he did have several amazing saves), but probably not a lot.

Rolo, on the other hand, was just on fire. He had several "I can't believe he just stopped that" saves. Plus, you know, he did save thirty-one of thirty-three, so he should get a great deal of credit for Tampa's win.

The loss means the Caps chance of winning the division drops back, probably all the way into single digits. Given that Buffalo has Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston remaining, the Caps probably only need to win one of their remaining games, but I hope they'll find a way to take both.

Next up is Florida, but that isn't until Thursday. Let's hope the Caps play their best, and seize the game.

Deja vu all over again

[I wrote most of this yesterday, just didn't post it because I wasn't able to check my facts until today.]

It almost felt like deja vu, watching the last two games. The scoring arc in both was identical, with the Caps taking 2-0 leads, getting tied up at two, then winning via the gimmick.

But the games were very different, outside of that. In the Boston game, the Caps were badly outplayed in the first period (I'm not sure how much of that was driven by Chimmer's major, though that was obviously a significant factor), and relied on excellent goaltending by TVo (and Neuvy, after TVo left upon aggravating his injury) to keep in the game. In fact, the Caps only got two shots (neither of which looked especially threatening) and one scoring chance in the period. Like I said, it was pretty bad.

The second period was almost dead even, in both shots and scoring chances, and had a remarkably small number of each. And that led to the score being deadlocked at nothing.

The first half of the third period looked like the second period never ended, with no scoring and very few shots. But then the Caps finally got things started, with Wideman putting one over Thomas' shoulder (from OV and MarJo. MarJo made a great play on the boards to keep the puck and get it to Wides). Two minutes later, they got another from MarJo, with OV assisting on the 2-on-1. MarJo was trying so hard to get that shot off hard that he snapped his stick in the process, but it still went in. So things were looking great heading down to the wire.

But the Bruins added quite a bit of pressure, and finally broke through with about three minutes left, scoring on a deflection. And then, two minutes later, they tied it up on a fairly fluky goal (deflected off Alzner, IIRC (the replay on nhl.com is hard to tell). Not one of Alzner's better plays, because he also had the pass that Boston picked off to get possession of the puck). That goal occurred with just over a minute left, and that was the end of the scoring.

Five minutes of overtime went by with the Caps holding on (and Neuvy playing great), so things went to the gimmick.

I'd like to say that Hendricks got into Thomas' head by getting Thomas sprawling on the first fake, before calmly depositing it into the net. Certainly, Thomas very angrily tried to smack the puck over to the side of the rink afterwards. But he had no trouble with OV's five-hole attempt afterward. Semin went next, and just streaked down from center, towards his left, and put a backhand shot into the corner to give the Caps the win. Not much of a fake, just a perfectly-placed shot. Since Neuvy had stopped the first, and allowed the next two, it went to another round, with Neuvy stopping Peverley. Laich then finished it off with a backhand to the roof, also.

As I said, the Canadiens game played out a little differently. This time, the Caps took a very early lead (from Matty P, aided and abetted by Semin), and added to it twelve minutes later, with Beagle tipping in a pass from Hendricks. From there, the Caps just basically held on for dear life. They gave up one goal late in the first, as Pacioretty took advantage of Wideman's lack of footspeed.

They were pretty heavily outplayed in the second, a large factor of which was the impressive Montreal power play (only scoring at 10% lately, but looked nearly unstoppable against Washington. They had five shots in their first two opportunities (Washington took four PP opps to get that many), and five more in their third). The Caps were very lucky (well, that and Neuvy played extremely well) to not allow several more goals. But they escaped the period with only one goal allowed (a beautiful run down the wing by Plekanecs, leaving the third period to be played all even.

And nobody managed to score in that third period, as I alluded earlier, so the game went to overtime. And then to the shootout.

Things didn't seem like they were going to be starting out that great, as Budaj didn't budge at all on Hendricks fake (it was not as good as Hendy's usual. He usually has a lot of stick flex, but almost none, that time). But Hendy still managed to get it past him top-shelf. Again, OV was stoned. And again, Semin put it in, somehow. Since Washington went first, and Neuvy kept both Desharnais and Pacioretty out of the net, that was it for the win.

One thing I did find kind of funny, in an ironic way, was that Perreault was named the player of the game, but didn't even play in the overtime. I suspect that's the norm (him not playing in overtime), but I'd never noticed before. It doesn't seem like a great choice; the additional space created by playing 4-on-4 would seem to suit his game better than most.

The big news of the game actually came before the game started, as Backstrom finally returned from his concussion. And he had a pretty good game, despite not factoring into any of the scoring. He looked about the same as usual, really. It wouldn't surprise me if he was a little more tired than usual at the end, but he played nineteen minutes. And he was able to avoid any big hits, so that was good.

The other big news came after the game (or at least I didn't hear it until afterwards), when Buffalo lost to Toronto. So the Caps control their own destiny now, and even have a small chance to take the division, if Florida poops the bed. I'm feeling more optimistic, but still cautious.

Next up is Tampa. [cutting this off here, as the rest was out of date already.]