Outrage on the Way

What would you think if you needed to refinance your mortgage, and you knew that the company that would be backing the loan had a vested interest (as in, would make money) by saying that you didn't meet the loan standards. Well, it turns out that that's what's been going on for a while now at Freddie Mac (and maybe Fannie as well. I forget).

To be clear, it is unknown if that has caused anyone to be rejected for a mortgage.

What is clear is that Freddie has been making investments that go down in value when people within the pool of mortgages on which a given investment is made refinance. What is also clear is that standards have gotten much tighter (this is not completely suspicious; it obviously needed to be done).

Whether there is a direct connection basically revolves around Freddie's goodwill. Do you want to rely on that?

More to the point, should you have to rely on that from an institution that has been bailed out by the federal government to the tune of tens (maybe hundreds? I forget) of billions of dollars, recently?

Also to the point, the type of investment made is a very risky one, in general. A lot less risky, when you're Freddie Mac, and taking advantage of your market influence. In fact, almost without risk if that connection does exist.

Given that, I'd be absolutely gobsmacked if there was no connection between Freddie's standards and those investments (actually, I'd call them bets, not investments).

More to come...


Ignore the missile? Ignore the missile

I almost forgot; I've been meaning to post this for a while. It seems that, in Jetpack Joyride, somewhere between 2500 and 3500m in, when not in a vehicle, missiles effectively stop being able to hit you. I think it might still be theoretically possible for them to hit you, but I've been unable to make it happen. The downside to it is that it doesn't seem possible to get a near-miss, either. In fact, that's how I first noticed it, when trying to get near misses. I'd not quite manage to get myself in the right position, and the missile appeared to go right through me.

Fun to watch.

Anyone have a more specific idea of where the cut-off is? And should this be considered a bug, or a feature?

Free Joyriding, today

Almost forgot to post it, but today (until midnight pacific time, maybe?) Jetpack Joyride is free. That is all.



Accidentally ran the iPad out of juice again yesterday. Same result as before.

Amusingly, got quite a run playing tonight, where I got the coin doubler like eight out of ten games. Have a feeling I'm not going to be happy when the other shoe drops, and I get a run like that of head starts. (Although one of the good things that it took me a bit to notice is that, with the newer missions, the head start isn't nearly as annoying. Not that it isn't frequently annoying, but there are a number of missions (fly above X zappers, zig-zag, don't hurt scientist for X meters, don't touch floor or ceiling for X meters) where it actually helps.)


We're all pod people

I laugh when I see someone call people buying Apple products "pod people", the implication being that Apple's products are either inferior or overpriced. And yes, I've still seen that happen at least once recently.

So it is with some amusement that I note that Apple's latest quarter saw them break all sorts of records. Not only did they blow away every financial record for the company, but they had the second-most profitable quarter for any company. Ever. (At least, if you don't measure in inflation-adjusted dollars. I do wonder about some of the older companys, like Standard Oil, back in the day. I have to think that some of their records would be awfully hard to beat, but I'm just guessing about that.)

They somehow managed to have more profit than Google did revenue ($13.6B v $10.6B. Thanks. That just blows my mind. And look at their cash on hand.

I guess there's a lot of pod people out there.

Anyway, I hope Apple keeps innovating, instead of litigating, and keeps making such cool products.

Matty's Hatty

After hearing, this morning, that OV had been suspended for three games, I revised my mental estimate of their likelihood of winning even lower than I mentioned previously (and yes, I'm aware that that estimate already had the Caps as barely being an NHL-quality team). I figured that the only way they were going to win, at that point, was for TVo to steal the game for them (probably by shutting out the B's).

I certainly didn't think of the even longer odds of Perreault getting a hat trick (and barely missing a hat trick of penalties, while he was at it), with Eakin and Wideman each throwing one in as well.

The game started out about the way I expected, with almost all of the first ten minutes played in the Caps zone. TVo did manage to keep the score even to that point. But then the Caps started pushing back, and had the edge for the rest of the period. Well, except that they did allow a goal in that span. The surprise for me was that they managed to even the game up. At the break, shots were 12-10 against and scoring chances 5-4 for them. It felt like they were playing behind, but I suppose they really weren't.

Things started turning the right way just two minutes into the second, though. Cody started things off by sneaking one past Rask (I'm not sure, but I think Rask had it trapped between his arm and body, but threw it into the net when he tried to turn around to look for the puck) on a wrister from in close.

It only took forty seconds more for Perreault to get his first, when Semin carried into the zone on the right side. Rask was playing him for shot all the way (for which I don't blame him. I probably would, also), and was completely out of position when Semin passed to Perreault in the middle. Matty isn't real strong (and might not be able to stick in the league for very long, because of it), but he's got first-class hands, and buried it.

Nine minutes later, Carlson had a terrible turnover when trying to exit the zone. Seguin took the puck in alone, and glanced it off of TVo's upper arm, and into the top of the net.

Two minutes later, Perreault got his second when he almost exactly duplicated Seguin's steal and score maneuver.

A couple of minutes later, his night turned a little bit sour when he got called for hooking (and yeah, there's no question that he did it). On the ensuing penalty kill, the Caps never managed to clear the zone, and allowed a Marchand to put in a rebound from close range.

I was definitely not feeling good about the Caps chances of winning when Boston tied it up again; especially not when I saw the period summary. Boston was ahead 12-8 on shots, and 8-3 on scoring chances. It's amazing how much better you feel about things when you score on all of your chances. Once again, not a sustainable path.

The third period was a lot of back-and-forth, end to end play. There were almost no stoppages for the first fourteen minutes or so. Happily, one of those few was when Perreault completed his hat trick. The Caps had a great offensive sequence, with a lot of zone pressure. It was capped by Hamr barely stopping the puck from leaving the zone, throwing the puck on net, and having Matty step in front of the net to slam home the rebound. I think it was Washington's only sustained offensive pressure in the entire game, so it was great to see it consummated.

The Caps got one or two more chances off the rush, but were mostly sitting back and playing defense after that (again, not a sustainable strategy, though, as I said, at least they did generate a couple of chances).

I should mention, too, that the Caps were lucky several times that pucks slowed down enough to cancel the icing that would have otherwise resulted from the clears. That was a substantial factor in the lack of stoppages in play.

But they kept playing hard to the end, and were rewarded with half a minute left when Wideman pulled the puck off the dot in another defensive zone faceoff, and skipped it down the ice and into the empty net.

That was when I finally felt that I could relax and be happy about the results (though, looking back, I'm still not happy about the process).

Thankfully, that was the end of the excitement, so the Caps skated off with two points.

That gives the Caps a week to heal up. I was glad to hear that OV decided to skip the all-star game; I hope he comes back recharged, and ready to dominate. Especially since he'll have a few extra days.

But things are going to start getting really close together from here on out. The next game is the 31st, at Tampa, followed the next day by another in Sunrise, FL. If I'm remembering correctly, it'll be 31 games in 60 days. Let's hope Backstrom's back and healthy by then, because they'll really need him now.

(On a side note, when I was reviewing the period summary while writing this, I noticed that Flip Saunders was fired by the Wizards. No idea about whether that was merited or not -- I did realize that they were 2-15, but I expect that from the Wiz -- but I wonder if John Wall will now be labeled as a coach-killer. He got Flip flipped a lot quicker than OV got Boudreau canned.)


Spurring action in the City

I watched the Manchester City v Tottenham game yesterday (via DVR, of course), also. I hadn't realized that Tottenham was doing as well as they are; they haven't looked very good the few times I've seen them this season (except once, I think). I certainly didn't expect that it was such an important battle for the top.

But the game started out quite even, with Spurs controlling most of possession, but very little in the way of scoring chances for either team. Given that, it wasn't too surprising that the first half ended scoreless.

But things got very exciting in the second half, with City scoring a pair in three minutes ten minutes or so in. But then, almost immediately after, they had a terrible defensive misplay leading to a very easy goal. And then, five minutes or so later, Bale put a beautiful shot from just outside the box into the top corner, hooking across most of the goal on the way. Not a fan of his, but that was pretty.

That's where things stood until stoppage time. There were more chances on each side (more for City, I think), but things just going back and forth.

One thing that made it a bit more interesting was that, shortly (maybe immediately? I can't remember) after the last goal, City substituted in Balotelli.

I'd kind of wondered why he was on the sidelines to begin with, as he's scored in almost every City game I've seen this season (several of them really, really nice ones, too; he got my attention early in the season with a nice bicycle kick). But watching him kind of showed why (I thought maybe it was just because he seems to be an arrogant schmuck); he tried to do everything by himself, and even interrupted the flow a couple of times.

And yet, in stoppage time, he forced the Spurs defender to pull him down in the box (amusingly, I thought it might have been a dive initially, but the replay showed that he'd had his legs scissored from under him). He took the shot, and even showed creativity there. He started with a normal, fast approach, then slowed almost to a stop just before shooting, which threw Friedel off. So, even though the shot didn't have a lot on it, and even though Friedel went the right direction, he still couldn't get to it.

If he grows up (mentally, that is), he will be one hell of a player. He's got the talent and creativity; he's just very undisciplined. Anyway, it made quite a finish to the game.

Of course, the lingering question is whether Mario will be censured for his apparent attempt to stomp on Parker earlier in the game. Can't really defend that; you just can't treat other players like that. Definitely no understanding of sportsmanship. Again, part of growing up.

That result left City comfortably on top, with Man U hoping to match them later yesterday. Unfortunately, I ran into the limit of number of channels to record, and that game didn't get recorded at all. (Apparently, my DVR took my command to cancel recording the Giants/49ers game to mean that I actually wanted to record it in SD instead of HD. *sigh*)

Samba in the Moonlight

I watched Rio with my daughter a couple of weekends ago, and enjoyed it quite a bit more than expected.

I went into not really knowing anything about it, beyond being about birds.

Before getting too much into the specifics, it was kind of weird having Fox doing a movie about humans interfering with the environment, given that it seems to be Fox "News'" mission to discredit global warming.

Leaving that aside, the musical interludes were very well done. I especially liked the use of samba and bossa nova, as I'm very fond of both styles (although I don't think I could listen to either with huge frequency), and samba is definitely great dance music (though I've probably forgotten all the steps I used to know; it's been a while).

And the concept of the movie is also great; taking the brazilian bird to Minnesota, and having him grow up a geek. His initial attempts to learn to fly were hilarious.

I liked, too, the relationship between the two main humans. Predicatble, and not deep; in fact, pretty much playing to stereotypes, but funny.

In fact, the whole movie was pretty predictable, but still very enjoyable.

Jemaine Clement did a wonderful Scar-turn as the bad guy; he was excellent.

I liked it pretty much from beginning to end; just lots of fun to watch.


My DVR let me down a bit in Sunday's matinee matchup between the Caps and Pens. Part of that is my fault; I kept forgetting to set it, since it was on NBC. And part of it wasn't; the game ran long, so the DVR stopped recording with four minutes left.

Anyway, because of the first problem, I missed almost the entire first period (the Pens were already up 2-0), including why MarJo wasn't playing. The rest of that period did not look any better, with the Penguins carrying just about all of the play. I was slightly tempted to turn the game off, since it was feeling like a continuation of the Hurricanes game from the other night.

But I resisted the temptation, and the Caps put together a very nice second period. They weren't dominating the second nearly as much as the Pens did the first, but they managed to match the scoring, evening it at two. It was also a very chippy period, with the Caps refusing to be pushed around. There were a number of questionable hits, but not many calls on them.

One that was weird was Malkin tripping Alzner (man, Malkin is dirty; it's really jumped out at me the last two times the Caps have played the Pens). They claimed that the trip wasn't called because the whistle had already been blown. I'm sure that's true, but what difference does it make whether the whistle has blown, or not? Doesn't that make it, if anything, even worse? It certainly sets a horrible precedent.

Anyway, things were looking pretty good, and started looking even better when, a minute into the third, Perreault created some space for Semin and OV. As you'd expect, those two converted. But things went back to more normal when, six minutes later, the Pens scored again to tie the game up.

The Pens mostly dominated play again for the rest of the period, but Neuvy kept the team in the game.

And, as I said, the DVR gave up with four minutes left, so I missed the end of the third and all of overtime. So I'm not sure what happened that had the Pens scoring with the only shot of overtime.

In the end, I'm not sure how I feel about the game. It's definitely disappointing to lose after leading early in the third. On the other hand, with the way the first went, I didn't expect the Caps to tie the game, let alone get a lead. And at least they got a standings point.

But it's hard to be happy with things, when the Caps were heavily dominated for most of the game. I'm just not feeling good about where this team is heading.

One small thing that I noticed was a problem on the power play (which looked pretty bad until the power play that ended up being a 5-on-3). But a weakness they ended up with, when they did get set up, was that they needed a lefty on the right half-wall (Backstrom's normal spot, of course). A couple of times, they got the puck over there in great shape for a shot, but whoever was in that position (I forgot to take note) couldn't take the one-timer because of the handedness issue. They did end up scoring, but it ruined several good opportunities. I hope we're not going to see that happen again.

That's about it for yesterday. Next up is... how shall we put it? A large challenge, with the Bruins coming to Washington. Not feeling good about that at all. Ick. I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed that they can find a way to get a point, because I don't think they've got more than a one in four chance of actually winning.


Going out of control

One reason I didn't watch the Caps game earlier this evening was that we were able to get out to watch a movie. We didn't see a lot of options, but Haywire looked interesting to both of us.

It was kind of amusing, during the trailers. We saw one for something called Safe House, whose tag line is 'No one is safe'. And then, a couple movies later, we saw another trailer for one called 'Safe', which looked like it should have been a fourth Transporter movie. Amusing contrast there, though.

What did I think of Haywire? I mostly liked it. I had a little trouble keeping track of names, and that made it a bit more confusing than it should have been. I liked what they did to try to reduce that confusion, although it didn't make a whole lot of sense, really (a covert operative, government or private, can't just give out those sorts of details. It gets you thrown in jail).

Gina Carano did a very good job as Mallory. Her fighting seemed a lot more believable than most, and now that I look up her background on IMDB, I can see why (MMA and Muay Thai fighter). Her style was a lot more believable than, say, in Hanna (also helps that she's a lot bigger than Saoirse Ronan).

Anyway, as I said, I was a little confused about a couple of pieces. Partly, it was losing track of a couple of names, but I was also a little confused about who the government types worked for. I'd actually like to see it again, just to track the names, and figure out who Michael Douglas' and Antonio Banderas' characters work for. I'm not sure if it all fit together.

I did like what they did with the cinematography. I thought that a couple of times in the movie; although I don't think I can describe what, exactly, was different or significant with what they did.

Another thing I thought was good was that the characters could get hurt. (The bad part, there, was that they forgot about one injury in one scene.)

Still, I enjoyed it overall, and might well buy it when it comes out (as few opportunities as we get to see movies in the theater, I'm not going to see it again there. Especially with 'Secret World of Arrietty', 'Hunger Games', 'Pirates! Band of Misfits', and 'Brave' all coming out soon).


Ugly, Ugly, Ugly

Just finished watching the Caps game from earlier tonight; man, was it ugly. My closing comment the other night was about how the Caps should win, but we needed to hope it wasn't like the Islanders game (since that was also a "should win" game). Yeah, it was just about exactly like the Islanders game.

I guess the one good thing you could say was that they didn't give up any even strength goals. Oh, and TVo (some weird, third-period creativity aside) had an excellent game, despite the three goals allowed.

Other than that, the power play was wretched. Not only did it give up the short-handed, first period goal to Jokinen, but it gave up at least one breakaway on every opportunity. It gave up more shots than it took, as well.

The penalty kill? Two goals allowed on three opportunities.

Shots? Took 23 vs 33 allowed. Even down two goals for almost the entire third period, they still couldn't manage to take more shots than they allowed.

Scoring chances? Down 6-3 in the first. Down 7-5 in the second. Not sure about the third.

Mental miscues? They pulled Vokoun, briefly, and then still managed to get called for two many men on the ice. Oy.

Protecting the puck? -2 net giveaways (which is much closer than it felt), -5 net takeaways.

This was just an ass-kicking, from about the third or fourth minute of the game, onwards. Guys, you don't win just by showing up, no matter what the standings say.

At this point, I'm not even sure if I want to watch the Pittsburgh game on Sunday. If it goes even remotely like this one, it'll just be too depressing to bear.


On the Forum-check

Well, a game that looked pretty good, superficially, for the Caps tonight. They got great netminding from Neuvirth, no doubt. And 3-0 feels a lot better when you're not on the zero end of things.

But most of the same thing continued. Very few shots (fewer than last night, actually), too many giveaways (it didn't feel like it, but there were even more than last night), way too many penalties (though a couple were kind of... curious, but I'll come back to that). The one mitigating factor was that at least scoring chances were in their favor through two (11-9).

But, basically, we saw almost the same performance except that a couple of shots went in.

Ok, that's not entirely true, the passing was crisper, and more accurate. The penalty killing was also a lot more effective, though that could be as much due to Montreal's deficiencies as to the Caps efficiencies. The power play also managed to convert one opportunity (though it took most of a four-minute advantage). But it was still mostly the same as we've seen recently, and that's not a good thing.

The lineup was not entirely the same tonight. Perreault came back into the lineup, scoring a goal despite playing only eight shifts (two of which were very short; nhl.com doesn't even list him as having played, despite crediting him with the goal). Erskine was also back, as expected. Not so expected was that he never dished out any punishment on Bourque.

In fact, the only "punishment" dished out was to Hendricks, who fought Bourque very early on, but didn't do much.

MarJo had a very eventful night. He had the second goal on a close-in shot to the top shelf, took a stick to the face that led to the aforementioned four-minute power play, and suffered through a knee-on-knee collision with about 2:30 remaining in the game. Let's hope it isn't a serious injury. Heck, any injury that takes him away, even just for a very short time, will be very debilitating for the team. They'd end up having to play Laich on the top line, Halpern on the checking line, with Eakin and Perreault, I guess, taking the remaining two positions. That is not a line down the middle that would inspire fear into the opposition.

Boy, I hadn't thought about it before. That's just scary. Let's not think about it, and hope MarJo's ok.

I mentioned some curious penalty calls. To elaborate, two of the third-period calls (plus several non-calls) were a bit... questionable. Erskine got quite the whammy of a call on a hit on Darche. He ran into Darche, gliding, standing up, and got a minor for elbowing and a double-minor for high sticking. His elbow did hit Darche, probably in the head, but it was against his body at impact. It came up on his follow-through, but that should not be a penalty (as I understand the rules). It's almost impossible to avoid doing that.

Some I'm a little confused about the elbowing call. The high sticking part I can't figure out at all. I watched the replay on it eight or ten times, and I can't see contact with the stick at all. Before, during, or after the hit. So I'm utterly baffled by that part of the call. Here's the video.

The other curious call was on OV for delay of game. It looked pretty clearly, to me, like it hit the glass on the way out, but that's not the way it was called. (That makes two games in a row for strange penalties on OV. His crosscheck against the Islanders involved him hitting someone with his hands together on the stick. How that could possibly be a crosscheck is beyond me. Didn't think to save the video on it, though.)

Anyway, that's about it for tonight's game. Let's hope we see the team playing even better Friday in Carolina. Like the Islanders game last night, this is one the Caps should win. Let's hope things don't go the way they did in that one.


Isle Chatter

Tonight's Caps game was one of the worst they've played all season. They weren't blown out of the water by a superior team (which, I'm becoming more and more convinced, is most of the league), they didn't fall asleep, but were just outplayed from beginning to end by a team they should be able to beat. Especially at home. Especially when that other team played the night before.

They were just out of sync all night; there were a ton of giveaways (the scoresheet says ten; I would have guessed several more). There was only one case of running into one another, but there were several other close calls (two or three instances of stickhandling below/between the feet of a team-mate.

As usual, they were badly outshot (and badly outchanced in the first, 6-1). They didn't even manage to outshoot the Isles in the third, which they entered down by two. It's very rare that a team down by two or more doesn't outshoot the opposition. Well, these Caps managed it.

I'm not sure what's going on (obviously, missing Backstrom and Green doesn't help), but I'm beginning to think this team is just fundamentally broken. Hunter might have fixed some of the glaring problems seen under Boudreau, but I'm not certain he hasn't introduced new ones that are as big, if not bigger, than the original ones.

Put simply, they need to do a better job getting, and keeping, the puck. And they need to shoot more. Seventeen shots is pathetic. And they were outshot in every period. Again.

TVo actually did a good job of keeping this from becoming a rout. Two of the goals he had no chance on, and the third would have required a magnificent save.

I hope this is just a blip where every bounce went the wrong way for the Caps, but I'm very dubious.

We won't have to wait long to find out a bit more, though; there'll be a game tomorrow night in Montreal. I wouldn't want to be on the flight up there; that's for sure.

As a side note for tomorrow's game, Rene Bourque (who delivered the dirty hit on Backstrom that has kept him out of the lineup) was traded to Montreal, and will be playing. We'll see what kind of fireworks that leads to. I'm guessing that Erskine will be dressing for the Caps tomorrow.

On a vaguely similar note, Green was put on IR (as I speculated, the other night), but was moved to LTIR today, and had sports hernia surgery. They're now saying 4-6 weeks recovery. Nice to have a better idea what's going on. Get better, Mike. This team needs you, desperately, but they need you 100%.

Update: After thinking about it, I might have been a little bit harsh (not a lot, but a little). In the Caps defense, when outshot in the third last night, they did spent a lot of time killing penalties.


The winds of stasis

Was out of the house most of the day today, so I wasn't able to watch the Caps/Canes game until night time. It was a fairly frustrating game to watch, but perhaps not as unbalanced as it seemed.

Once again, the Caps were badly outshot (more than doubled, in fact, and that's before you account for blocked shots). The one good thing I saw was that scoring chances actually managed (through each of the first two periods, at least), to be in the Caps favor (3-2 after one, and 9-6 after two). If they can manage to do that with regularity, I'll stop worrying about whether they outshoot the opposition (but I have significant doubts about whether that is even possible, let alone achievable).

But I didn't like them seeming to be content to sit back in a shell when up by one goal. Up by three? Ok, I can deal with that. But just up by a goal? That's just not a way to win a game against a good team.

The cycle game, so far, seems more an end in and of itself to these Caps, rather than a means to an end. That's another thing that has to change. They need to do it more often (they only managed a couple of times, today), and they need to generate offense off of it.

Another tendency I'm seeing, that I'm not liking, is a lack of killer instinct at the end of games. When the other team has pulled their netminder, they aren't looking to see if they can score. It just seems like they're playing really desperate back there, and just looking for wild clears any time they get the puck.

I'm certainly liking the win today, of course, but it really didn't give me good feelings about this team, going forward.

Also, Hamr and WIdeman were together again several times tonight. I'd rather not see those two on the ice at the same time (except, perhaps, on the power play). They were the ones on the ice when the puck went in, though the team was short-handed at the time.

The only other news of note on the blue line was that Dima (Orlov) finally put one in the net. It wasn't on his wicked(ly inaccurate) slap shot, but on a put-in (off the back of Cam Ward, I think) of a bouncing rebound of a shot by Chimmer.

Semin had the other goal, a really beautiful shot from the right circle that hit the bottom of the water bottle. He also put one off the post, earlier in the game.

Laich also had a goal, but it was disallowed due to incidental contact with the goalie (oddly, not called until the zebra herd converged after ruling a goal being scored).

OV had some nice chances, a couple of beautiful hits (he demolished Ruutu, in particular), and generally looked quite good.

TVo also looked very good, but I hope he rests in the next game or two. Nine in a row is five or six too many, in my book.

On the Carolina side, Skinner returned after missing 16 games with a concussion. He looked good, but what surprised me was he took a couple of cheap shots on Caps (including a very dangerous, uncalled trip that sent Wideman into the boards very awkwardly. He was lucky not to be hurt on the play).

The Caps special teams were not great, tonight. The PK, as mentioned, surrendered a goal on four chances (with five shots before the last power play; that's too many). The power play only had one chance, but it had no shots with very little zone time. It seemed like they gave the puck away a few seconds after getting into the zone. Repeatedly.

But they did manage to squeak out another one-goal victory (in regulation, even), so it isn't all bad. The standings points also put the Caps into the division lead (via tiebreakers), and the team's goal differential is finally positive. It's just not looking good, for the future, though.

We'll see if they can do a bit better when the Islanders come to town on Tuesday. Given their relative records, it should be an easy game for the Caps, but the Caps aren't exactly past masters of dominating the games they should win. They usually manage to come out flat, and play down to the opposition.


On the Brouwer-Play...

The Caps game against the Bolts, tonight, was quite a tilt. I missed the first minute-and-a-half due to DVR issues (started by the game being on the "wrong" channel), but at least set it up so that won't happen again. And I'm glad I tried to turn it on right away, because some times I would just wait for the kids to go to bed. If I'd done that, I would have missed almost the entire game.

The other thing I missed, other than that minute and a half, was the roster shuffling. Kundratek was still up (with both Erskine and Schultz being healthy scratches tonight), and Eakin was called up as well (with Perreault being a healthy scratch; odd, since he had a very good game against the Penguins). I got distracted when I was writing the other night; what I was leading towards was observing that if Schultz is getting scratched in favor of someone making their NHL debut, he probably isn't long for the team (which makes me a little sad. He's certainly not a spectacular player, but he is a young and good one).

Anyway, when I turned it on, the Caps were already on the power play. That PP was not a good one, with the Caps unable to generate even a single shot (and very little zone time). But they kept working, and got another PP opportunity less than a minute later, as Ward was able to draw an interference on Martin St Louis. This one looked much better, although I'm not sure it got more than one shot generated, but that shot, from OV, and through Brouwer's legs, found the back of the net.

Just over a minute later, the Caps got another power play chance when the Lightning defender, Brewer, played the puck over the glass from the defensive end. The Caps put a lot of pressure on, and got the puck down low to Brouwer, who was undefended. He waited a second or two for Rolo to flinch, and put the puck between the wickets to widen the margin (I believe it was the second shot on goal for the PP).

That was it for the first period scoring; shots were even at 8, but scoring opportunities were 6-3 in the Caps favor, so it was a very good period overall. It did even out a bit after Brouwer's goal, but the Caps were still looking good. And it almost felt like they heard my complaining in my last post; they did a good job generating offensive pressure. Maybe not as much of it as I could hope, but it was very good.

The second period mostly belonged to Tampa, although the Caps (and Brouwer) got another goal five minutes in when Laich threw it to the net, Knuble cleared out the defender and goalie, and Brouwer calmly tapped the rebound into the wide-open net. Not often you see a net that wide open when you're six feet out, in the center of the ice. As I said, the period favored the Bolts most of the way, but their goal came on a steal right by the Caps net. Martin St Louis snuck up behind Knuble, took the puck from him, and threw it to the front of the net, where Pyatt moved it past Vokoun.

The shots in the second were 8-5 in favor of the Lightning, but the scoring opportunities were even at four.

I'm less upset about the shot imbalance, because the Caps were ahead by so much. You expect that. Part of the reason the shot imbalance has annoyed me so much the last several games is that the Caps were playing much of the game down.

In any event, the Caps were going into the third with a nice, two-goal cushion.

At this point, I think the Caps sat back a little too much. Like I said, you expect a team down by several goals to put a lot more shots on net, but I'm not sure the Caps got a single shot before they finally drew a power play at the ten-minute mark. And it was a nice power play; no goals, but good movement with lots of chances (including two posts and four or five shots).

But things went downhill pretty quickly after that. Brouwer got a pair of penalties (one of which was a boarding call that I think was only made because he was hitting Martin St Louis, over whom he has a huge size advantage. Predictably, MSL went flying, and that drew a penalty.

They killed off that penalty quite nicely, but Hamr threw the puck over the glass eleven seconds later.

And then, great irritation set in for me, as my DVR stopped recording during the commercial break after the puck left the rink. So I missed Stamkos' goal thirty-six seconds later. I also missed Brouwer finishing off his (first career) hat trick with an empty netter with exactly a minute remaining. And then I also missed Lecavalier's goal with eleven seconds left. Can you believe that? Four minutes (on the nose), and three goals. Ugh.

So it was quite an exciting finish to the game, but, thankfully, the Caps held on for the regulation win.

Pittsburgh mauled the Panthers tonight, as well, so the Caps picked up a game on the Panthers, and are now only a game behind the Cats. If the Caps can keep playing like they did in the first period tonight (I know, big if), then they'll be back in the Cat's-Bird seat in no time.

One other point: I know that Backstrom was put on IR to make room for Kundratek (who, by the way, played well again tonight, paired with his countryman Hamrlik), but I don't know how they made room for Eakin. I'm guessing it was putting Green on IR, but I haven't heard anything about that.

Also, note that tonight was Vokoun's 7th or 8th consecutive game in goal. I hope he's going to get a breather soon. He might only be with us for this season, but we still want him to be fresh for the playoffs. Plus, you have to figure that Neuvy's getting a bit rusty (not to mention irritated. I certainly would be).



I didn't get a chance to watch the Caps game the other night against the Kings until this evening. I watched it until the Kings got their fourth straight goal, breaking my normal rule of waiting until there's a four-goal margin. But the Caps just didn't look good.

When I turned that off, I tried to turn on tonight's tilt against the Penguins, only to find it was on a different network. So I missed much of the first period, but was able to record the rest, so as to watch it after putting the kids to bed.

But, most importantly, I was able to see Chimmer's goal live. Ward made a nice defensive play at the blue line, poking the puck away from Malkin (who got away with two penalties in the game. One was a trip on Laich where he didn't attempt to play the puck, but just took out Laich's skate; and he was able to grab Carlson's stick out of his hands and throw it a ways away). That sent Halpern ahead with the puck, who pulled the defender then hit Chimmer coming up the center of the ice all alone.

From there, the game ended up being a lot of play between the blue lines (but with a lot more in Washington's end than the Penguins').

TVo was awesome, though, and kept the puck out of the net all the way, despite seeing thirty shots (four or five of which he had no business stopping).

The Caps were unable to mount any sustained pressure, with the exception of two shifts by the fourth line in the third period. OV and Semin did have some nice chances in that same period, mostly on the rush (the best chance wasn't on the rush, but the puck was still only in the zone for ten or fifteen seconds).

The two games, combined, have me thinking much more that this just isn't a very good team, though. Even in their wins, I was beginning to wonder if that was the case, and these games are starting to solidify the feeling. They can't really sustain any offensive pressure, they have a lot more trouble exiting their zone than the opposition does. Most of the offense is generated off the rush. I thought they were getting away from that when Hunter arrived, but I think it might be an even bigger percentage now than under Boudreau.

And I think this philosophy of playing defense just by pushing play to the outside isn't really helping. Not that they should allow chances in the middle (those are obviously more dangerous), but that they need to change what they're focusing on. I'm not sure what that should be; maybe focus more on takeaways? Maybe more on winning one-on-one battles in the corners?

Maybe I'm just getting too down after one bad, and a couple of so-so, games, but they aren't going to win a lot of games getting out-shot as badly as they regularly are. And as I mentioned, talking about the Flames game, the large number of blocked shots by skaters is making that look better than it is.

In tonight's game, the team took 27 shots, versus 51 for the Penguins (almost identical to the differential against the Kings). And that Penguins team is one that has just been rocked by injuries. The team regularly getting out-shot by teams playing so many AHL'ers is just disturbing to me.

And, speaking of AHL'ers, Schultz was scratched in favor of Tomas Kundratek. Kundratek, in his NHL debut, was played in relatively safe situations, and did fine in his eleven minutes. But I don't really understand why Schultz was scratched for him. Schultz might not be a great defenseman, but he isn't a bad one, either.

Anyway, the clean win moved the Caps into a points tie with Pittsburgh for the eighth spot in the conference (with the Caps holding several tie-breakers). They'll have another chance to move up (and a chance to reach positive goal differential) on Friday against Tampa.

And, hopefully, Backstrom and/or Green will return for that one (not sure what the odds are).


Will the next big (still) camera have a mirror?

I was interested to read Trey Ratcliff's essay about the future of cameras.

While I certainly agree with him in principle, I'm not so sure about timing. That is, it's certainly coming, for many good and valid reasons, but he seems to be saying that it's right around the corner, and I think he's a bit early, there.

I'm fairly sure that the next generation (iteration, if you prefer) of top-of-the-line cameras will be SLRs, and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the generation after that is, as well. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if the generation after that is a mirrorless camera. I would expect it to be full frame (so, bigger lenses and bodies than what we're currently seeing), with a much fuller selection of lenses than any currently available mirrorless system.

I'm kind of looking forward to it, actually (even though I have a new SLR on order). One good thing is that lenses should be quite a bit cheaper. One nice bit about never having a person looking directly through the lens, is that even the viewfinder image (whether delivered to the back of the camera or to an eye-hole through the back of the camera) can be digitally corrected for various lens imperfections. That should lead to fewer tradeoffs needing to be made during engineering, and, therefore, cheaper lenses. We'll see, but I think that's one factor.


Jetpack annoyance

To avoid getting duplicate medals all the time on my ipad (since I prefer playing on it, but the iPhone is the one with 62 missions accomplished), I tried restoring a backup from my iPhone to my iPad, and playing from there. That worked reasonably well, except that I found that there's a bit of copy protection in there: I wasn't able to buy anything after doing the copy. So you can't do a full set of missions after that; you'll inevitably get stuck when you get to the 'buy an item from the stash' mission. Very annoying.

Not sure what I'm going to end up doing about it.

In the shark tank

I didn't go into last night's game against San Jose with a great feeling; not only was there the long string of losses and a tie in San Jose, but Backstrom was declared unavailable because of that elbow to the head.

Things started out pretty well though. They played a pretty much mistake-free game for the first period, and managed to tilt the ice in their own favor (though not heavily; like 12-8 on shots). The period ended scoreless, however, so they didn't get much out of that excellent play.

In the second, things stayed pretty quiet for five minutes. But then Demers put in a fluky shot from the point (it deflected off a defender (OV, I think), off the back boards, off of both of TVo's legs, and slid into the net). The Caps responded well, though, helped by a very obvious goaltender interference call a minute later. The Caps won the faceoff, and put on a pretty passing display with WIdeman putting the puck in the net half a minute after the call.

Things continued to look pretty good for the rest of the period (though slightly in San Jose's favor), but then Wideman missed on a lift check and hit one of the Sharks in the face. They looked like they were going to escape the period despite that, but San Jose managed to put one past TVo with eight seconds left. Ugh. Suddenly, things weren't looking so good.

I didn't realize it until a little bit into the third, but things were actually looking even worse than I thought. Green only took three shifts in the second, and never returned for the third. Ugh. Ugh.

They got things off to a good start in the third, with the checking line potting a goal forty-five seconds in (Ward got it, from Wideman and Chimmer). But things quickly went downhill, as the Sharks' top line put one in on a defensive breakdown (Alzner lost his man) only sixteen seconds later. The rest of the game wasn't terrible, but it sure wasn't good, either, as they ended up allowing two more goals (one and empty-netter), and had very little sustained pressure (MarJo's line had one awesome shift, which I believe was in the third, with basically the entire shift in the offensive zone).

Overall, I'd rate it as a decent game. They came out strong, and played really well for almost two periods before surrendering. The power play looked good in its lone opportunity. The PK was so-so, with one allowed on two chances.

The team was definitely missing Backstrom (and, for half the game, Green). While I hope neither is rushed back before they're ready, I do hope they're ready soon. We'll keep our fingers crossed. One good thing is that both Shultz and Erskine are with the team, and can step in for Green in LA (Geeze, I hope it's nothing serious; but it wasn't anything really obvious, and I only remember him getting hit once. Maybe he aggravated his groin pull. Of course, if so, that'll keep him out for a while).

Anyway, tomorrow night's game is in LA. Let's hope we can learn something from Columbus' win there last night or the night before.


New day, new bug

Ok, extreme irritation here. I was playing Jetpack Joyride again this evening when it crashed and dumped me out to the iOS main screen (this was on my iPhone, not my iPad). Well, that's happened before; not with the latest release, but it's happened. So, return to the program a bit later, and it's at the main game screen. Ok, that might not be unexpected, what mission was I on, again?

The three missions look familiar: reach 500m w/o collecting coins, play 3 games, collect 5 vehicles. Ok, that's not good. Go to the stash. Still have my (485k) coins and upgraded outfits, jetpacks, and vehicles. Ok, that's good. What about badges? Yep, as I suspected, back to zero. Lost badge #013 before I could record it (Badge of Good Luck, maybe?), plus my other 70-ish badges I'd gotten on this device. Grrr...

Guess I'm going to have to restore from backup, and hope it gets things right.

Update: Well, I lost two badges (079 and 013), but the restore got everything else right. Irritating, but I'll live with it, I guess. Oh, and now I see that I managed not to lose the app I'd bought earlier today on the phone. Yay for things going as they should.


Bit of a scare

I put my phone down on my desk last night, turned to my computer, and shortly heard a crash as my phone hit the floor. "Not again," I thought, as I picked it up. Turning it over, it was definitely not a repeat; the screen was shattered. I'm now annoyed at myself for not taking a picture. It actually did still work, but looked like the screen was literally going to fall apart if I tried using it for any length of time.

So, I needed to get it fixed. Any chance of warranty repair? Nope. How much does Apple charge? Hmm... $149 or less. What about Verizon, if I had their equipment protection? Would be $10/mo, and the deductible would be $169. Huh? The insurance is more expensive than going to Apple directly?!? Yep, it is.

Talked to the guy at the Apple store for a while. The good news is that I got the phone replaced right away. The bad news was that it was, indeed, that entire $149 to do it. Still, not terrible. And getting it right away (literally, I walked out of the store with a new phone), is certainly worth more than a couple of dollars.

The scare came when I got it home, and tried to restore it from my backup; it looked like it had lost all of my app data. Most relevantly, all my missions and medals and such from Jetpack Joyride. After going around and around, it did get that right, eventually.

It turns out that it had lost track of which apps were installed (only about half of the ones that I have had installed at some point), which music was on there, and where the apps were located, but the data was there. So life was good.

Mentioned talking to the guy at the Apple Store. He'd looked into the situation also, and said that the only good thing about the Verizon replacement plan was that it covered theft; Apple wouldn't touch that problem. But with how much it costs, I worked it out that the only way to come out ahead on the Verizon plan is if you end up replacing the phone twice a year. Otherwise, you're out a lot of money.

Iowa's finally over

After all the talk about the Iowa caucuses over the past several months (it was back in August that Bachmann won that early straw poll, right? Seems like forever ago), the outcome was ... kind of weird.

Romney won, pending recounts, by eight votes. In a way, that's a good sign for him, as he wasn't strongly competing there until the last week or so. But it was no ringing endorsement, either, with such a narrow margin.

Bachmann lost (finishing sixth of those actively competing), and bowed out of further proceedings. Perry also did poorly, and apparently surprised some of his campaign staff by staying in.

Santorum finishing second, and in such a close finish, would have been a huge surprise two weeks ago. But after a significant endorsement or two, and a strong showing in the last poll, it was only a small surprise. He was one, though, that I hadn't really paid any attention to, so now I've had to go find out his positions on a few things.

Mitt is expected to win by a huge margin in New Hampshire; we'll see if that plays out to script. But, either way, it gets interesting after that. I'm mostly curious to see what happens in South Carolina, where, it sounds like, everybody will be competing.

Plus, Newt said some fairly incendiary things (I know, not a surprise for him) about a scorched-earth attack coming against Romney. We'll have to see how that part plays out, and if it has any real effect. I guess he never got that Reagan message about not attacking fellow Republicans.

So, in the end, Iowa didn't really make anything clear (except that Romney isn't well liked, and that the shine was off Bachmann (unfortunate, that, as it would have been entertaining to see her stick around)). We'll just have to wait for the next couple of rounds of primaries to see if things become more clear.

Flame on!

I watched the Caps/Flames game the other night, but I almost feel like I didn't. I was only half-watching the first half of the game (needed to keep the kids out of trouble), and don't remember a whole lot from the second half.

I did see all of the goals live, which was something.

It was really nice to see the team come out and take an early lead, and then extend it. In fact, the Caps dominated the first period pretty well, with an 8-4 shots lead and a 4-1 scoring chance lead. The second period was slightly in favor of Calgary, with them having a 9-8 shots deficit, but a 6-3 scoring chance lead. But the Caps had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on a pretty power play goal by OV from MarJo, and stretched that margin in the second with a not-so-pretty power play goal from Brouwer stuffing in the rebound on an OV shot and a nice play with Backstrom passing from behind the net to WIdeman in front for the score. The latter play was actually created by MarJo, too, by him taking both defensemen out of the play on the initial rush.

I'm starting to feel less good about the Caps play, overall, though, as it feels like they're giving up too many shots. They're blocking something like half of the shots they're seeing, so it looks better, but I have my doubts about how sustainable that is as a winning strategy. Yes, it worked great for Montreal in the playoffs a couple of seasons ago, but that felt a lot more like a fluke than anything sustainable. Hopefully, I'm worried about nothing.

The power play was pretty good, scoring on two of their three opportunities, but that was only on four shots, so it wasn't quite as good as it looked.

The penalty kill was very solid, stopping all four chances, and giving up only three shots.

TVo, through the night, was looking very good. The one goal he allowed was on a good play by Calgary (maybe helped by a blown coverage by one of the forwards (Ward was closest, although I'm not sure if that was his man)), so we won't hold that one against him. He also had some very, very good stops on Calgary's one or two breakaways.

And OV, again, looked like OV from a couple of years ago. It's a lot of fun to watch. And Backstrom has remained quietly dominant.

Backster did take an elbow to the head in the third, and only played two more shifts the rest of the way. Hopefully, that's just a migraine and not a concussion. The latter would be a serious blow to the team, and apparently tests yesterday were inconclusive. We're keeping our fingers crossed. On the plus side, Rene Bourque, who delivered that blow, got a five-game suspension. Let's hope that dissuades him from trying to scramble the brains of other players.

In any event, the team's about to embark on a pretty rough stretch, with days off today and tomorrow, but then five games in nine days. And those five start with San Jose, in the Tank, where the Caps haven't won since 1993. Ouch. It isn't a lot of games, but still, ouch.


Where is my 'Happily Ever After'?

Over New Year's Eve, we caught a commercial for 'Once Upon a Time', and was intrigued. Wasn't too sure what it was about, but what we could make out sounded very distinctly up my alley. And, happily, the commercial was to say that they were doing a marathon of the episodes that had been released, leading up to a new episode. Happy day.

So, I turned on the DVR to record those episodes. I've only watched two, so far, but it's definitely intriguing.

How do things go wrong in a fairy tale? And can they be set right? And what does revenge at all costs really do for the seeker?

It's looking at all of those (and the third is, of course, the most interesting of the three), and a few other things.

As I said, intriguing. Hoping to find time to watch more of it, soon.

A Very Muppet Movie

I went to see the recent Muppets movie a couple of weeks ago with a friend.

It started out pretty decent, with big, energetic numbers, although showing the ensemble players being tired afterward kind of spoiled some of the effect. Doing that was kind of funny, but in a way that went against what they were trying to do. It kind of defeated the purpose of having the big, ensemble number, I guess.

But it quickly went off the rails when Gary and Walter left town. It just didn't feel like a Muppets production from there on. It's partially because it was trying to be dark for quite a while. It also played up how they were setting up various parts to get the gang together, and such. I have a very low tolerance for such fourth-wall-breaking lines. They work in spoofs, and that's about it.

And I think that kind of points to why the movie didn't really work for me. It was trying too hard to be serious.

At least, I think that's what it was. What is certain is that it didn't have the original Henson magic. It was decent early, and had a few moments later. And that's about it.

In any event, it didn't do much for me.