A little camera comparison

The family went on a bit of a boat ride up and down the Potomac (just around DC) this weekend. We hadn't talked too much about the plans, so my dad didn't bring his camera. So he borrowed my D90, and I was shooting on my D4. And it was interesting to me how the pictures compared.

Since we were shooting with a lot of light, I didn't really expect the images to come out all that different. A bit more dynamic range for the D4, obviously, but I otherwise expected them to be pretty similar. But they really weren't. Here's two images that seem pretty typical of the differences (and are about as close as I can get to the same shot; we weren't coordinating at all on what we were shooting).

First, from the D4 (and these are unretouched, other than converting RAW to JPEG and downsampling to fit within 640x640):

I left the EXIF data in these, but for simplicity, this is ISO 100, f/8, 1/320, 116mm

Next, from the D90:

And this is ISO 200, f/8, 1/1000, 105mm

What strikes me are the differences in sky color, and the amount of detail in the monument itself. The exposures were almost identical. If I'm doing the math right, the D4 has 1/3 stop less total exposure, so they should be much closer than this. The monument is almost blown out on the D90's shot. That takes more than 1/3 stop difference, so something is going on.

All of this is a rather long-winded way of seeing that it keeps surprising me how much better the pictures coming out of the D4 really are. I thought I was significantly overpaying for how much difference I was going to get, and while I probably did overpay (I'm not a pro, after all), it wasn't by nearly as much as I thought likely. I think, with some effort, I could get these to look very similar to each other, but I'm amazed at how different they are straight out of the camera.

(Incidentally, one thing I learned from the boat tour is that the stairs, here, are called the Watergate Steps. I had no idea they even had a name.)


Unbreathing, once more

I had Branagh's Dead Again recommended to me a few weeks ago, but didn't get a chance to watch it until last week.

It isn't the sort of thing I tend to go for (reincarnation is neat as a concept, but I prefer to avoid it in realistic-seeming movies. Also not into mysteries, despite my mom loving them), but it was pretty enjoyable.

Unsurprisingly, Branagh and Thompson had very good chemistry, but the acting around them was also very good. I generally like Robin Williams (I think Mrs Doubtfire was the only thing I didn't like him in), and he turned in a good performance here. Andy Garcia is one whose work I don't seek out, but he's been good when I have seen him.

So what actually happened? It starts out with newspaper clippings of a murder committed with a pair of shears. A famous composer has killed his wife, the headlines say. Then it folds into a dark interview, with music that works in a pair of shears clipping away. Then we find out that there are shears in the scene, as the composer is getting his hair cut before being executed. Andy Garcia's reporter is giving a final interview to the composer. We wonder if the composer actually did it.

The composer walks off to face the music. Garcia stays behind, for a minute; eventually notices that the shears are missing. He chases down the hall, and the scene ends with the composer brandishing the shears at an unknown woman, while Garcia is yelling to stop whatever happens.

This was all happening back in '48, and now we cut to the present day, and see Thompson's Grace waking up, screaming, in the same house where the composer lived. We find that it is now a church-run school for young boys. We also see that Grace is a mute amnesiac, and disrupting the school.

The school, wishing to get rid of the disruption, calls Branagh's Mike Church, a gumshoe who went to the school years earlier. He agrees to get her picture in the paper, and to take her to an institution, but when they get to the institution, he's horrified at what he sees.

He agrees, then, to let her stay with him for a few days, until her family shows up. The first person to show up is actually a hypnotist and treasure seeker (we later learn), who offers to hypnotize Grace to find out what happened.

They agree to do so, and find her having memories of the composer and his wife (who, it should be noted, are played by Branagh and Thompson, respectively). After a couple of sessions of this, where we learn of the composer's history, housekeeper, dreams, and marriage, Church is getting pretty freaked out. Meanwhile, Grace and Mike are finding affinity for one another.

In this part, we're also seeing a kind of karmic loop being drawn around the principle characters that will snare even more than seems evident to begin with.

Mike finds that he needs to answer the question of whether the composer actually did kill his wife. If not, who did? And will Grace get her memories back? Why do Mike and Grace get along so well? Will they be kept apart by other people?

And along the way, Mike gets advice and assistance from Robin Williams' de-licensed psychiatrist and the newpaperman Pete Dugan (played by Wayne Knight, who was slightly less annoying here than as Newman on Seinfeld or Nedry in Jurassic Park).

I liked how tidily they managed to get everything to fit together, even when it didn't seem that they would be able to do so.

All in all, it was a very good movie staffed by an excellent cast. My only complaint, and it was a small on I'm certainly not a psychiatrist, but my understanding is that taking someone back to a traumatic experience is the beginning of treatment, not, as the movie would lead you to believe, the ending. Also, the idea of a psychiatrist recommending murder is quite disturbing.

I don't think this is a movie I'll be re-watching with any regularity, but it was enjoyable. I won't turn it off if I happen to flip across it.

Premiership finish

Was a little upset on Saturday, when I realized I'd forgotten to set the DVR to record the Champions League final. So I didn't get to see Chelsea's improbable run there culminate. But I did see that I still had Man U's final game, against Sunderland, still sitting on the DVR, unwatched.

So I turned that on, and watched, seeing the in-game standings updates as various teams scored. That was sort of amusing, seeing the standings table updated so frequently. I must admit, it felt kind of silly, but it was certainly interesting to see.

The game itself didn't rate too much; although Rooney's twentieth minute goal stood up, Sunderland was only able to really challenge once or twice. Man U vastly controlled possession, and Sunderland's only chance(s?) was on the counterattack.

But it was interesting seeing the crowd reactions to results at Etihad Stadium, where City first led, then allowed an equializer, and then a go-ahead goal to a short-handed QPR. You don't really notice that kind of instant reaction from crowds in US games (it was loud enough to be heard as the background noise, and was before the announcers said anything). I'm really not sure what that says about British or US crowds, though it certainly indicates that the British are more likely to have a radio in their ear while watching a game.

And that's pretty much how the Man U game went. But it was interesting that the City game had more stoppage time, so it ended a couple of minutes after the Man U game. And City found a way to score two in stoppage time, to preserve their goal-differential edge over Man U to take the Premiership title.

So it was an interesting game to watch, even if the game itself wasn't really all that interesting. I wish I'd had the City game saved, but I forgot about it being on a different channel, so I hadn't set the DVR at all.

Oh, and I almost forgot that Chelsea winning the Champions League assures them of a spot in the Champions League again next year (which I knew), but also pushed Tottenham out (which I didn't). So the Spurs last-game victory ended up meaning nothing after all.


If the Feds won't do it...

maybe smaller localities can do something to help rein in the big banks.

NYC and LA have passed laws that are aimed at forcing big banks to invest in the local community. They do it by
giv[ing] preference for city contracts to banks that make the most substantial investments in the local community through small business loans, home loans, foreclosure prevention, and other programs.

I won't say that I'm especially optimistic about this working, but maybe it's a small step in the right direction.

It'd be interesting if some of the larger states (read, especially, California) passed laws saying that their pension funds and other government accounts could only be deposited in institutions that follow certain rules. Like, maybe, not engaging in naked shorts (naked shorts, I should point out, are an incredibly risky "investment". So risky, in fact, that they should really be called gambles. They're small on upside, and unlimited on downside. Yes, if your bet misses, you can lose all of your money. No matter how much you have).


50mm ideal?

I was just looking, a little while ago, at Ken Rockwell's comments about the Nikon D800E. I've never even seen a D800 or D800E (in fact, I was at a local photography shop a few weeks ago, and they hadn't seen a D800 or D4. Since I had my D4 with me, I was happy to let them take a look. Still, it seemed weird to me that they hadn't), so I don't have too much to say about either one.

But he talked about how sharp the 50mm f/1.8G lens is, and using that instead of the 24-70mm zoom. I don't have the 50mm 1.8G (I got the 1.4G instead), but I thought I'd do a comparison. To see the sharpness difference, I had to zoom in to 100%, and even then it was such a small difference that I wasn't certain it was my imagination.

What jumped out at me, though, is the difference in distortion (it would be even more obvious if I set up a mouseover event for the two pictures here). The 24-70 has no visible distortion, while there's a significant amount from the 50mm 1.4G. Look at which titles make it into the picture in the corners. This picture was taken only six or eight feet away from the shelves, and a whole additional title makes it into the picture in the top-right and bottom-right (and two-thirds of one in the center). The upright supports are also significantly curved.

Yes, the distortion can be corrected, but it's always better to not need to do so. I suspect (although I can't check at the moment) that correcting the distortion will reduce sharpness enough to remove the 50's slight edge there.

Update: Almost forgot to attach the pictures. 24-70mm first, then 50mm.

As a side note, Rockwell has been annoying me lately with things like what he did elsewhere in this article. That is, he repeatedly says that the D800 is for making pictures, while the D800E is for counting pixels. And that's fine, as far as it goes. But what irritates me is that he also gleefully talks about giving his D800 to charity to keep the D800E. So, he's just a pixel counter? (Plus, there's the comment about cost of equipment being irrelevant for him. If so, why doesn't he shoot Hasselblad? They're ridiculously expensive, but they do make better pictures. If cost really is irrelevant, then that's where you want to be. Or going to view camera, I suppose, which is not as expensive, but a lot more painful to use. Yes, I know he talks about liking large format film from time to time, but he seems to do most of his real work on 35mm.)


Caps Postmortem

Not really too sure what I want to say about the Caps game the other night. It was awfully depressing. I was asked several times what I thought the Caps chances were, and I kept saying, "A bit less than 50/50". And, intellectually, I think that was right. But emotionally, I was feeling a bit more optimistic than that.

When the Rangers scored, a minute and a half into the game, that pretty much took the wind out of my sails. I thought their chances were very poor. To make matters worse, I didn't think they were getting great chances, either (not as good as some that missed in the previous two games).

And when the Rangers scored their second goal, midway through the third period, I was sure the Caps were cooked. So, of course, they had to give me a bit more hope by scoring thirty-eight seconds later. But that was all they could muster, so they're off to the golf course, while New York is kicking New Jersey's butt, right this minute.

It was far from an unexpected result, but it was still very depressing seeing it actually happen.

So now we move into the offseason, and I was going to talk about my feelings about Hunter remaining as coach. I figured that he was coming back if he wanted to do so, but he announced today that he doesn't want to keep the job. So I don't have to kvetch about him remaining.

So the big question becomes, who will replace him? And I don't have any idea. And, to be honest, I have very little feel for who would be a good match. I just don't have the time to watch enough non-Caps games to have a good feel. So it would be fairly useless for me to speculate. I hope it'll be someone with NHL experience, and someone who will get immediate buy-in from the players. And it'd be nice to get someone who doesn't feel compelled to turn every game (even those against inferior teams) into a coin flip.

The other big question will be changes of personnel. Will Mike Green return? I can't imagine he wouldn't, especially as an RFA, but you never know. If someone wants to give multiple first-round picks, you have to consider it. What about John Carlson? Well, he'll be back. I'm not sure how much he'll be paid, but there's no way he doesn't come back. Wideman? Goodness, I hope not (unless he takes a large pay cut, but I can't imagine that happening). Knuble? Again, I hope not. Halpern? Wouldn't mind seeing it, but don't see it as a high priority. TVo? Would have been shocked, and that was before I heard that he's going to play with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the KHL. Semin? Not even sure what to hope for, with him. I like him, and there's no questioning his talent, but he was hugely overpaid this year for his performance.

And the biggest question, of course, is what's going to happen about the second center position. That's been an ongoing problem for the organization for several years, and nothing has really been done about it. There's still a chance MarJo could improve enough to take the position, but it isn't a slam dunk. Perreault might well be the best option currently on the roster (well, assuming they re-sign him. But, as a relatively inexpensive RFA, I can't see him not doing so). But, flashes of brilliance aside, I don't think he's a great option. Laich? Don't make me laugh. He did great as a shutdown 3C early in the season, and ideally, he returns to that.

And the FA choices don't seem great, so it sounds like a trade is the most likely route to find someone.

Do we trade a goalie? Hard to imagine. Holtby you might have to think about it, if only because it'd be awfully difficult for his stock to go higher (though I'd love to see it, if he did keep improving). Neuvy? I can't imagine that you'd get enough in a trade to make it worth it. I think he's been passed on the depth chart (that was really an amazing postseason performance from Holtby), and he's never been much better than league average.

For now, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. And, of course, I'm totally ignoring the collective bargaining agreement issues. I'm really not sure what to make of those. I'm really just hoping that, whatever happens, it doesn't cause a shutdown of any sort.

Photo mockery

As I do most weekend mornings, I went shooting at dawn Saturday and Sunday. Saturday morning, my goal was to get the Lincoln Memorial shooting across the Memorial Bridge, as that was almost perfectly in line with where the sun was coming up. And I did that, and it turned out ok. I liked a couple of the shots, but the best shots were actually taken when I was walking along the bike path to get to the bridge. Here's my favorite of those.

Somewhat of a side note, but I wanted to note that the Memorial Bridge pretty much rots for shooting. In particular, the street lights are fairly problematic. My best shots were all taken while standing in the road, because of that. And I wanted to shoot from the end of the bridge, but it has a bit too much arch for that to work well. Plus, there's no place nearby to park; you're looking at a fairly long walk unless you want to pay to park at Arlington National Cemetery (when it's open).

Anyway, on Sunday I went down to Old Town Alexandria (where I used to live, incidentally), to get the sunrise with the Masonic temple in the shot. From looking online, it appeared that I could shoot from behind and to the side of it, and be looking in roughly the right direction for the sunrise. And the land sloped up, going from King St to Duke St (which I knew from going down there previously). What I hadn't noticed was that it was still significantly lower than the temple. So I took a bunch of shots to try to make it look good, but it was pretty much a failure. I think the temple was mocking me.

Here's the only shot I was reasonably happy with, that was taken in entirely the wrong direction to get the sunrise.

I think what I'm going to try to do is go there again, but at sunset, this time. The direction will be better; plus, I'll take it from the platform of the Metro stop, so it'll be a pretty unobstructed view. I'll also have to try to get a shot at night, when it's lit up. Not sure when I'll be able to give that a go, but I hope it's pretty soon. Complicating that, of course, is that it needs to be a clear night.


Small Building

I've been playing my new strategy in Tiny Tower, and it's sort of working. The good part is that it is definitely generating more coins. The bad part is that it is generating very few bux. So I'm not sure if I'm really coming out ahead. I think I might be, insofar as I don't have time to play the elevator anyway, but it's hard to tell for sure.

What was interesting was when I was at sixty-one apartments (and one hundred and forty storeys), and tried to build another residential floor. It told me that there were no more floors of that type available. So I had no more room to put people, and still twenty-ish stores left to build.

I switched my dream job-finding strategy to stop using the elevator (just as well, as that wasn't working too well with my approach of not fully stocking floors anyway), and started using the pay-a-bux to find a person. And that worked well. Anyone in a floor I had went into that floor, so I ended up with 3x9 on most floors. If I didn't have that floor, I kept them, unless I had three for that floor type. If I had three already, I evicted the one with the lowest skill rating.

And that strategy did well for me. It didn't generate as many tower bux, but I quickly filled the three floors I had that didn't have all dream jobbers (well, two of the three quickly; the third took a bit longer). And in the meanwhile, the two floors I built started with three people working their dream job.

So now I'm trying to build the last few floors; I have three people for almost all of them. The interesting part is that I've noticed that I won't have enough spots to fill every floor; I'll only have one person for the last floor. Hopefully, by the time I get there they'll have created more floors, so I can get everything finished.

Ready for the Garden

Well, the Caps came out firing tonight. Nobody seriously dominated the game, or even a period. But the Caps had a very nice power play in the first, culminating in OV getting the puck in the high slot with nobody on him, and he put the one-timer into the top corner. I'm not sure how many shots they had, but they had excellent puck movement that kept the Rangers flying all over the rink.

The second period went much the same as the first; back and forth with nobody really controlling the game. The Caps got the only goal, when Backstrom deflected Carlson's shot from the half wall over to Chimera, who was making a back-door cut. Chimmer had an open net, and put it in.

The penalty killers also did an excellent job, killing off a four-minute high sticking call with minimal fuss.

The third period was much more tense, as the Caps got very little offense. But they did have a two-goal lead to protect, and thank goodness for that. Because the defense bent and bent, and finally broke with fifty seconds left. I was a little surprised there was no goaltender interference call on that, as Hagelin was straddling one of Holtby's legs in the crease, but no such luck.

Still, that was the only break against the Caps in the game, so we'll take it.

Again, Holtby was brilliant (and better with rebounds than last game), as was Lundqvist. The Caps could have easily scored at least two more goals, if Henrik hadn't made some amazing saves (and that doesn't count OV's shot that rang off the crossbar).

So there was a lot to like about the game. What wasn't to like? Too many shots allowed: thirty-one on net plus another twenty-four blocked. Way too many giveaways: eighteen on the game. Too many penalties taken: three minors in addition to the double-minor.

There was one significant surprise: Beagle was scratched in favor of Halpern. That certainly makes sense, insofar as it wouldn't be too helpful to have both playing. My guess is that Halpern has been injured, and the team was being coy. It was good to see him back, when he wasn't getting kicked out of the faceoff circle. Also, the high-sticking double minor was his. Ugh. Still, I did feel better with him in there than with Beagle.

Other guys who played very good games? The entire fourth line, which did a great job of bottling up the Rangers top line. They were hitting, playing in the offensive zone, and working hard for the entire game. Chimmer not only had the second goal, but drew the penalty that led to the first goal, and got several other good scoring chances. Backstrom had a good game in every facet of play.

Looking at the big picture, though, after thirteen playoff games this season, the Caps still haven't managed to win a single game when they've been behind at any point. This, to my mind (and in spite of what the talking heads keep saying), is a significant indictment of Hunter. Without checking, I think game five against the Rangers is the only game in which the Caps have taken a lead after falling behind (though they have equalized quite a few times).

Despite the number of games won, I'm definitely still not sold on Hunter. I think he's been mostly lucky, and most of that luck has to do with the play of Holtby. That isn't something that can be credited to Hunter; he hasn't magically made Holtby a better goaltender.

Basically, every game has become a coin flip, and the Caps have won just about half of them.

The one good thing I'll say about the Caps, under Hunter, is that they haven't gotten down on themselves when they've lost. But I really can't think of anything else positive to say.

If the Caps could actually win one or two games decisively, especially if it didn't require Holtby to play out of his mind again, I'd be a lot more sold on Hunter. But record in one-goal games in the least reliable indicator of team skill, and the Caps have lost the only game decided by more than one goal. So there hasn't really been any indication that the Caps will keep winning. Even if they do make the third round (heck, even if they win the Cup, as long as their games continue as they've been), I still won't feel too good about the Caps chances going forward.

Anyway, enough dwelling on the negatives; game seven is coming up on Saturday. We'll see if the Caps can make the Conference Finals for the third time ever. Just win, baby.

Raising Kane

I finally read the second book of Riordan's Kane series yesterday. My feelings about it largely mirrored my feelings on the first book: I didn't think the principles acted much like teenagers; the romantic aspects fall a bit flat for me, given the ages of the characters; the story was very well-constructed; and the mythology used was interesting. I did like that Sadie and Carter acted a bit more like siblings (we got to see more than just rivalry), and I liked the new characters.

One minor thing that bothered me was in the telling of the story of Akhenaten, I'm not sure why his name was spelled Akhenaton. I haven't done a lot of reading about it, but the last time I read about him, it was spelled Akhenaten to match Aten. And I believe it was originally Akhenamon (to match Amon-Ra), but he changed it to Akhenaten to show his new belief.

Anyway, as a quest novel it worked fairly well, although some of Sadie and Carter's choices along the way were rather... peculiar. Perhaps that was a nod to them being teenagers, but deliberately not going after your goal when you're in a huge hurry was... odd, I guess.

Still, it did play out well, and left things well positioned for the third book (which I already started, this morning). I'm looking forward to The Serpent's Shadow.

Just six more seconds

I didn't really want to talk about the Caps-Rangers game the other night, but I feel that I must. It started very much as a mirror image of the game before. The Rangers came out very strong, and completely dominated the first period. Shots were 17-4, but, thankfully for the Caps, only one found the back of the net.

The second period was much more even (although shots still noticeably favored New York). But bounces went the Caps way, and the only goal came from Laich, when he found a deadened pass from OV in the slot, and put it past Lundqvist. That happened about midway through the period, and things see-sawed quite a bit afterwards.

Things started to really go the Caps way in the third, though, when the power play put together a really good sequence of shots, culminating in Carlson's point blast finding the top corner of the net. That happened four minutes in, and my first thought was, "Don't be content to play defense the rest of the game".

And they weren't. They continued to play quite well through the period, generating some very good chances. But things went south pretty seriously with twenty-two seconds left, when Ward got hit with a high-sticking call (four minute variety). The PK managed to hold on, 6-on-4, for sixteen seconds, but Holtby couldn't get his glove on top of a puck in front of him, and Richards poked it under him and into the net (but the blame shouldn't all go to Holtby; the defense failed to tie up Richards as well).

Unsurprisingly, that tying goal with six seconds left pushed the game into overtime. And, of course, the second half of Ward's penalty was still in effect. It took New York just over a minute and a half to find the net again. This time, it was a fairly innocuous-looking point shot from Staal that made its way into the net.

It was an incredibly disappointing result, especially when it was so close to going into the win column. And let's be clear; it was a phenomenal game by Holtby. The Caps can't be disappointed with his play. The skaters just allowed the Rangers too much time in the offensive zone. Eighteen shots (the Caps total for the game) just isn't enough, if you want to win.

Now the Caps have a very tough, uphill slog to try to win the series. Tonight, they face their first elimination game of the series. The only good thing about it is that at least it's a home game (not that that's been a panacea for them in the playoffs, but it was close to it in the regular season).

Let's hope they can bring the win, and be able to play again on Saturday.

Scrub that Wall

I went to The Wall last weekend to take some pictures at sunrise. I knew it wasn't going to be a great day for it (actually wasn't too bad, but the sunrise itself was almost absent, due to cloud cover), but I don't get a whole lot of opportunities to shoot, so I need to take advantage of the ones I can. So I showed up anyway.

And my timing turned out to be pretty good. I did get a couple of shots I was happy with, but what was more interesting was that I was there just as a local veteran's group was showing up to do their monthly clean-up. And at first I thought that just meant a few guys showing up to pick up trash around the memorial. But I was shooting for half an hour or so, and by the time I was leaving, twenty or thirty guys had shown up, and were starting to wash the Wall. In the picture above, you can see one guy bringing the hose over, and they also brought buckets and soap.

It was really cool to see; my dad being a (partially) disabled Vietnam veteran, it almost brought a tear to my eyes. A last thing they could do for their friends.

When I talked to my dad, later in the day, I was surprised he didn't know about the clean up. I had gotten the contact info for one of the organizers, so I gave that to my dad (didn't think to save a copy to post here). But they do it the first Saturday of every month (with occasional gaps due to July Fourth or the Cherry Blossom Festival), meeting at 0630.

So, if you're a writer, show up, and I'm sure you can get some great stories. And if you're not, show up anyway, just to help the cleanup.


Super moon?

Saturday evening, my dad and I went down to the Tidal Basin to try to get some pictures of the moon rising over the Jefferson memorial. I actually wasn't aware of it being a "supermoon" at the time; I'd just looked at the spot from which it was rising, and decided that it was a good time to get the moon rising.

Unfortunately, when we got there (late, to boot), we found that a) there were already lots of photographers there and b) the cloud cover had not abated.

We sat around for a while, and gave up after twenty minutes or so. But we did take a shot of the MLK Memorial with my dad's view camera; we'll see how that comes out. I was kind of upset; I turned around while we were working on the MLK shot, and saw the moon briefly. But by the time I could get my camera turned around and moved (there were trees in the way), it had disappeared once again.

It was disappointing, but using the view camera was interesting. We used my D4 both for metering the shot (my dad forgot his meter), and for timing the exposure (it was fifteen seconds, and the view camera would only go up to a second on a timed exposure). I need to look up how to do longer than thirty second exposures with the D4, though. Sunday morning I ended up with some underexposed shots, due to the thirty second limit on timed exposures for the D4. I'm hoping they're still usable.


Chelsea takes home the Cup

It hasn't been a great season for Chelsea, in the Premiership. They're currently sitting in sixth, over twenty points out of first. So they're in no danger of winning there. But you can't argue with their Champions League success, where they're getting ready to play for that Cup in two weeks.

And they were doing great in the FA Cup, where they were also in the final. They were facing Liverpool in that final, and it turned out to be a pretty ugly game. Chelsea was mostly content to sit back and counterattack, which served them well when they went ahead in the eleventh minute. Ramires got the ball at the top of the box, and got around the one defender between him and the goal. Once he got past, he blasted a shot that went off the keeper's hand, and in the net.

The rest of the half went by without much happening, as nobody could really mount an attack.

But the second half started fairly quickly, with Chelsea getting another counterattacking goal seven minutes in (from Drogba, this time, putting a shot through the defender's legs and into the side of the goal).

It looked, for a while, as if nothing else interesting was going to happen, but Chelsea started sitting back too much, and their defense fell apart a bit. And the Liverpudlians were happy to take advantage, especially the substitute Carroll. He not only scored on a nice individual effort a bit after Chelsea's second goal, but had two more incredible chances. The second of those, in fact, did go partially into the goal after being tipped into the crossbar by Cech, but was correctly ruled a no-goal as it never went completely across.

And that last near miss seemed to take the heart out of Liverpool, and restore Chelsea's confidence, as Liverpool didn't challenge again, and Chelsea ran them in circles to run out the clock.

So congrats to the Blues, picking up their fourth FA Cup title in the last six years. I have no particular rooting interest between them and Bayern Muenchen for the Champions Cup, but good luck to them. It would be entertaining to see a club only qualify for the Champions League next year by winning it this year.

All tied up

Well, this is seeming like a familiar pattern. Win the even-numbered games while losing the odd ones. I guess that's ok if the rest of the pattern holds as well.

But the big concern was coming out flat after losing the last game in triple overtime. And they answered that one pretty emphatically by completely dominating the first period. They only got one shot past Lundqvist, but they dominated play in the period in every way possible, giving Holtby a very easy period.

Things went a bit sideways in the second, with New York dominating possession almost as much as the Caps dominated the first. And the Caps didn't help themselves out with some large, and critical turnovers and breakdowns. But the Caps did manage to score one of the goals in the period (on a phenomenal play by Backstrom), allowing them to escape with the score tied at two.

The third period was much tighter, with just about everything contested. There were very few shots by either team (fewer total than the Caps had, by themselves, in the first), and the only goal came when the power play delivered. In fact, the power play looked very good, getting seven shots in their two opportunities, with Greenie scoring with six minutes remaining (only 28 seconds into the power play).

The penalty kill was also quite good on the night, allowing only two shots on goal in two opportunities, and Holtby got both of those.

The big downside for the Caps was that their giveaways were up where they've frequently been, of late. That is, they had sixteen of them on the game, which played a large part of why so much of the second period was played in the Caps zone. The Caps also had twenty-six blocks on the game, also indicative of playing too much time in their own zone.

But I will say this. At no point in the game, yesterday, did I think the Caps were going to lose. I'm not sure why, but even when they were playing very poorly in the second, I was sure they were going to pull it out. So I was happy that they did.

So, today they get a day off to rest up, before playing in the Garden again tomorrow night. Let's hope they can take back home ice advantage.


Getting Back

As I mentioned, I saw Captain America in preparation for going to see The Avengers. And a friend of mine and I made it out to an afternoon show of that, today.

I think I only found out about Joss Whedon's involvement yesterday, but I suspect that a lot of how well it worked can be traced to him.

And it worked very well, indeed. Plotwise, it was tightly coupled with both Thor and Captain America (with incidental connections to Iron Man and The Hulk). And the cast was very good; Robert Downey Jr continued his excellent work as Tony Stark, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth were solid in their reprises as Captain America and Thor, respectively. And Scarlett Johansson was even better in reprising The Black Widow. But the surprise, for me, was the fabulous job Mark Ruffalo did as Bruce Banner.

The banter between the various characters was quite good, and I especially liked the interaction between Downey's Stark and Ruffalo's Banner. But the friction between Captain America, Iron Man, Bruce Banner, and Thor was well-presented (might have been a little bit over the top right around the end of the second act, but was generally quite good). The only weakness among the characters was the relationship between The Black Widow and Hawkeye. They were the two characters who were supposed to know each other very well, and it just felt forced, for me. Both actors were good, otherwise, but there was just no chemistry there.

But that was a fairly small detail. As I said, most of the interactions were very good to excellent.

I'm not a big fan of The Hulk, but they mostly did a good job of working with him. They even got some humor in there, which doesn't happen often.

My biggest gripe with the movie was actually a technical one related to the 3D. Digital compositing has gotten to be seamless with 2D movies, but it finally hit me that some stuff that seemed a bit off was a failure of 3D digital compositing. It was especially noticeable in the fast-moving parts, and there were a lot of those.

I did think they missed one opportunity. Stark and Pepper were talking about the Stark Building early on, and Tony was giving her credit for 12% of it. When the fighting started, later, I thought they should have destroyed 88% of the building, and then had Pepper remark something along the lines of, "Looks like my part held together Tony. You've got to do a better job on the rest of it."

Overall, the story was good, and the characters went together well, so it was a very enjoyable movie. I'll be getting the blu-ray sometime soon after release.

The Man with the Starry Shield

I finally got around to watching Captain America: The First Avenger the other day.

I'd had a couple of friends tell me that it was the best superhero movie ever, and that I'd like it, but having never been a particular Captain America fan, I was a little skeptical. (And the recent Thor movie, in particular, didn't do anything to allay that skepticism.)

But I did want to see it before seeing The Avengers, so, as I said, I finally saw it a couple of days ago.

And I've got to say, I was pretty impressed. The characters were not deep, but they were interesting, and the ploy hung together much better than most. Hugo Weaving did an excellent job of reprising his Agent role in the person of The Red Skull, and the rest of the cast was pretty good, as well.

I knew the general backstory of Captain America, how a scrawny kid took the Super Soldier formula during World War II, then ended up frozen for decades and awoken in modern times. Oh, and I knew how Captain America fought, using his shield for defense and throwing, and generally being hard to hit. But that was the extent of my knowledge, so I'm not really in any position to talk about how good a job of matching the comic book this movie did.

But it did a very good job of standing on its own. It went through the story outline I mentioned, and threw in some detours along the way (primarily being an Army PR flak for a while before finding a way into the fighting). I was a bit surprised that there was only a minute or two taking place in modern time; basically the whole movie was in World War II.

One thing that was a little weird for me was seeing Hydra appearing in that World War II timeframe. I'd seen them, from time to time, in comic books, but had no idea they went back anywhere near that far. Or that they had any connection to the Third Reich. Or that The Red Skull was in charge of them (although I really didn't know anything about him, other than recognizing his appearance).

But as I said, the whole thing hung together quite well. The only thing I found jarring was seeing these Germans saying Hail Hydra (instead of Heil Hydra), and that was a pretty minor thing.

I'll get to the details a little more in my next post, but it was also a very good lead-in to The Avengers. The subtitle, The First Avenger, was a bit silly, but it worked very well, story-wise.

I haven't bought the blu-ray yet, but I probably will. I'll watch it again, some time.



Well, the Caps are back in a situation we've never seen before.

Stop me if you've heard this: the Caps lost a playoff game in triple (or quadruple) overtime. It was a painful game to watch, especially the last two overtimes.

The Caps definitely wasted a masterful performance by Braden Holtby. He was an absolute rock. The two goals he allowed were scored from a combined distance of less than ten feet. One of them was deflected twice on the way. There's just no way to fault his performance. (The only hint of a negative would be him coming out of the net too far to play the puck. Once. In a game that lasted nearly two hours of playing time.)

The sad part is that the game looked very good for the Caps for long stretches of time. In fact, up until about halfway through the second overtime, I was pretty sure the Caps were going to win. After that, it was pretty clear that the Rangers, despite playing much (most?) of the game with only four defensemen, had more energy. The Caps just looked like they were trying to prolong the game.

Of course, even then the Caps generated some good chances, but not many. I was amazed the shot counter stayed so close.

But eventually Gaborik found the twine, putting the Rangers up in the series.

Let's hope that the Caps can move forward. If they don't win on Saturday, they're cooked. The only good thing, for the Caps, is that the Rangers defense, especially their top pairing, logged a lot more ice time than the Caps did. It ain't much to hang your hat on, but it's all I've got.