Cold Start

The Caps are sure off to a cold start.  The 0-3 record is bad enough, but how they've gotten there has been even worse.  They've been taking too many penalties (18), been doing a horrible job killing those penalties (7 goals allowed), failed to clear their own zone too often, and really not given sufficient effort, even.

There's just no way to sugar-coat it.  They've looked bad, and have been outplayed every bit as badly as their 14-6 goal differential would indicate.  Making it worse, their best players haven't been their best players.  OV and Backstrom have three assists between them; that's not bad, except there's no goals to go with them.  Not only are those two the two best players on the team, but they also kept playing during the lockout, so they should be in the best shape.

The goals have come from Crabb (the lone goal tonight), Hendricks (a nice one in the first game), Ward (a pair of ugly ones in the first game), Brouwer, and Wolski.  That's a very nice amount coming from people who were supposed to be the team's "secondary" scoring.  For being the whole team?  Terrible.

I'm hoping a large percentage of this has to do with the lack of a preseason, but it certainly doesn't excuse the failure in effort, especially in the home opener (which depressed me enough that I just didn't feel up to writing about it).

They're giving up way too many odd-man breaks the other way, and aren't even getting those rushes themselves.  Actually, now that I think about it, I can't remember any odd-man rushes by the Caps.  Ow.

Getting Laich back will help (I hope he'll be third-line center when he returns; I like him a lot more there than I do as a second line winger), but he's only one person.  There are still lots of problems with defensive coverage, especially back-checking failures.

I don't know; this is frustrating, and I'm hoping that a system starts to become more apparent.  It'd be nice if the PK could stop the other team occasionally.  Clearing the zone successfully after getting the puck would be a good start.

Bleh.  Tonight's game was so encouraging, I turned it off after the second period.  I used to get perturbed, a couple of seasons ago, about all the times the team went into the third down by two or three goals.  That was annoying, but at least they seemed to have a fighting chance of making it up, back then.  Didn't appreciate how good we had it, I suppose.


Colder time

I just watched Ice Age: The Meltdown over the weekend with my kids.  They seemed to like it, although I really didn't.  I thought it had some funny moments (mostly with Scrat), but was mostly nonsensical.  Stream of consciousness in movie form comes close to my impression.

What really struck me, though, was something that appeared briefly before the movie even started.  It told me that the people who did it were the same ones who did Rio (which my kids and I both love).

So I was really surprised when the movie started, and I just found nothing compelling about it.  The whole thing just didn't make a lot of sense.  Melting isn't that sudden, and an ice dike can't be strong enough to hold back that much water.  So the whole premise was a bit cock-eyed.  And those proto-sharks, whatever they were, were really pointless and silly.  And, to top it all off, escape via deus ex machina.

I wouldn't say it was terrible, but I certainly wouldn't say it was good.  Now I wish I had the first movie, because I remember that one as being pretty good, but nothing more specific than that.  I suppose I'll need to see about getting it, now.


Not with a bang...

Well, the Caps certainly got the Oates era started with a whimper tonight.  They started pretty strong, jumping all over Tampa, and getting several chances and power plays early.  Unfortunately, they didn't capitalize on any of those opportunities, and surrendered a goal on a point shot (from an amazingly low position for coming from the point) six and a half minutes in.

They equalized two minutes later, with the second power play unit on the ice.  Poti threw the puck at the net, which was stopped by Lindback, but Wolski and Ward were both there, with Ward putting it into the net.

Forty seconds later the Lightning retook the lead when a near-miss by Pouliot led to a complete defensive breakdown and mad scramble.  But Lecavalier found the puck in the high slot before the Caps got even slightly back into position, and put it over the sprawled Holtby and Hillen (trying to play goaltender, and possibly getting in Holtby's way in the process).  That was just an ugly sequence.

That rounded out the scoring for the first period.  Even down a goal, the Caps were looking pretty good with a seventeen:eight advantage in shots.  They had a power play goal, and hadn't allowed a shot in the one power play they'd given up.

Two minutes into the second, things looked even a little better, as Ward equalized again, this time on a delayed penalty.  Again, he did it by fighting to a rebound right in front of the net, and sliding it under Lindback.

But that was basically the high point for the Caps.  St Louis put it through Holtby's legs on the power play three minutes later, and the play favored Tampa pretty strongly for the rest of the game.

The one glimmer came towards the end of the second, when a sloppy turnover playing four-on-four by the Lightning gave Ribeiro the puck.  His shot gave Lindback no trouble, but the rebound went right into the middle of the slot, and Wolski pounced on it to put it in the net.

But that was it for the Caps.  The bolts scored three more times in the third, with the Caps having no answer.  They also spent way too much time in the penalty box (including a minute of five-on-three that led to the first of those three goals), cutting into their chances during that third period.

I'd rather hoped that the Caps would be helped by OV and Backstrom having played together in the KHL during the lock-out, but their line really didn't manage much.  In fact, each of them took a penalty (ok, OV's was a bogus embellishment call), so one might even argue they were a net negative on the game.

Some of the new guys were looking pretty good, though.  Ribeiro and Wolski, in particular.  And Ward was relied upon more than Hunter ever did, with excellent results.  Poti shocked pretty much everyone just by being able to play.  As noted, he did have the assist on Ward's first goal, but it was his misplay that gave Tampa a three-on-one that led to their fifth goal.

Hillen did ok in his debut, but definitely nothing there that makes me anything more than leery if the team ends up leaning on him more later in the season.  Beags was ok as well in his continuing role as "where scoring chances go to die".

Perreault certainly had an off game.  He wasn't covering anyone when the Lightning scored their first goal (unanswered is why he was out there against the Stamkos/St Louis line), and also took the first of the two penalties leading to the five-on-three.  And that was in less than four minutes of ice time.  Ouch.

MarJo was largely invisible in the game (and looking rather different with the moustache).

Carlson and Alzner continued to look quite solid, with Alzner even and Carlson +2.  Hamr also looked decent, if slow.

Holtby did not look good, although not so bad that I'm worried already.  He did miss a couple that I expect him to stop; I'm hoping it was just nerves.

Anyway, there definitely looks to be quite a ways to go for the team.  Hopefully, with some more practices, they can get things together a bit more solidly.  Having Laich back will definitely help; I'd really like to see him reunited with Ward and Chimmer on the third line.

This definitely wasn't what we were hoping to see, but it wasn't a disaster either (for an example of that, see what happened to Detroit).  The season might be a lot shorter than usual, but there's still a long time remaining.


Paging Dr Faust

Watched the recent movie Limitless finally. Was a bit intrigued by what I'd heard of it, and wanted to see how it played out.

I'm tempted to file this one along with Idiocracy (described here), as one that had almost everything wrong, yet was still interesting.

Why was it wrong? Well, it was premised on the old saw (where did that one come from, anyway?) that people only use 20% of their brain. And here is a drug that allows a writer to use all of his. What's wrong about that? Well, every study I've heard of that used functional MRI or something similar to measure brain usage finds that pretty much all of it is used regularly (maybe not every second, but the parts being used rotates quite regularly).

But the idea of suddenly being able to be ten times as smart is, of course, an intriguing one. Watching someone go through that experience is an interesting idea. How well do they handle it? What do they try to do?

Well, Eddie starts by cleaning up his apartment (and life) a bit, and getting a real start on the book he's supposed to have been working on for a while. We also get a look at what the effects of the drug are like as he seduces his landlord's girlfriend by helping her with a school paper (that sounds kind of mocking, but it isn't meant to be. I actually liked that sequence; it did a fantastic job of showing what the drug was doing for him).

Then he finishes the book; ok, that makes sense. Then he gets into finances, making a pretty fair bit very quickly. Then he makes his first overt faustian bargain (the drugs are not yet looking faustian), borrowing from Russian mafia to get seed money for the stock market. He then makes a ton of money in the stock market, getting the attention of a wealthy energy magnate. And this part left me wondering: he had converted $12k into over a million in a week or so in stocks (never mind this is basically impossible in the stock market, even if you can see the future. It can be done in options, but that was never mentioned). Then he takes several weeks working with this energy magnate to help seal a huge merger that will make him $40M.

The question is, why waste the time on the merger? The stock market, at the rate of return he was getting, was going to make him far more money, and in less time. How much less? Well, he had roughly 200:1 return his first week (they gave an exact figure, but I forget it). If he halved that return, he could've cleared $1B in two more weeks.  Compound interest is a miracle, that way. And, of course, he somehow gets so tied up in this merger that he forgets to repay the mafia. Awfully stupid for someone with a four-figure IQ.

And what it comes down to is, in essence, a Faustian bargain. Is it too good to be true?

And this is where the movie really failed, for me. Because it ends up not to be too good to be true. How Eddie ends up with the pills is a bit of a stretch (running into an ex-brother in law on the street, said brother just happens to have this pill, and happens to be willing to give him one. The first two are pretty improbable, but ok. The third part, though, I can't figure. The brother-in-law didn't seem a generous person, and didn't seem at all likely to get anything in return). Finding the health risks was expected (maybe not the exact specifics, but they were inevitable). But the ending gives the whole thing a moral of, "if something looks too good to be true, try it out. Maybe it isn't". Which isn't exactly a healthy life-lesson.

But it still was pretty interesting to watch. And I love the camera work (even that of the '2nd 2nd Asst Director', which appears to have been a real position in this movie); lots of use of very wide angle lenses (including at least one (I think I noted a second, but can't remember it now) use of a fish-eye), and some other distorting lenses as well. There was also some clever use of multiple exposure (or a film analog of that) in several sequences. And they did some other subtle effects as well that worked brilliantly.

One thing I could have done without was all the gore in the violence.  It wasn't terribly over the top, and it didn't feel completely out of place, but it still felt a bit excessive and unnecessary.

Overall, I did think the acting was quite strong across the board. Nobody left me wondering if they were really the person they pretended to be.

Really, I think I liked most of it; just not so enamored of the script. Perhaps a friend (who said this to me months ago) summed it up best, "it felt like it could have been so much more".

Chill Time

I finally finished reading Butcher's latest, Cold Days, a few days ago.

Harry is recovering from being "dead", and now needs to actively take on his duties as Winter Knight. First, he needs to survive being "nursed" back to health by Mab. Then he needs to survive his Court debut. Then he needs to survive his first assignment (not to mention lots of interference by semi- or un-related entities, some well-intentioned and some less so). If he can manage all that, he also needs to figure out his relationships with Karin, Molly, and his daughter.

I had somewhat mixed feelings about it. It was easier to put down (until the last 50-80 pages) than his earlier books, but it did deal a lot more with... larger-scale, I suppose, issues than earlier.  Perhaps going from the tactical view to more of a strategic one.

And I think that... pulling back, I suppose, is part of what made it easier to put down, but I like how it is starting to tie the books together more closely. (I mentioned, previously, wanting to go back and re-read the whole series. It's becoming more necessary; there were a number of references to people and incidents from earlier volumes that I remembered vaguely or not at all.)

What was good? It did a very good job of bringing a lot of Harry's friends back in, quite realistically. The handling of the faeries was quite interesting, and explored a bit more ground than had been seen previously (we even see one in an emotionally vulnerable state at one point; I had begun to believe that was impossible for them). The interaction between Mab and Harry was also quite good (and went in directions I didn't expect). And we find out what the purpose of Harry's island is (and a little bit of its origin). Harry's relationship with Molly goes from complex to absurd; I'm very curious to see how that plays out. And we got a good look at what being the Winter Knight does, and can do, for Harry, both for good and for bad. And at what it might do for (and to) him. Thinking about it, his new relationship with Molly might have an interesting interaction with what the power could do to him. It just occurred to me that Harry's dealings with Maeve in this vein hint at some possibilities there (mostly bad ones, though).

What was less good? It was a bit more predictable than his usual. No, it wasn't without surprises, but it just felt like there were a lot fewer. And, as I mentioned, it was not as engrossing. Neither are exactly major sins.

One subtle thing I liked was that the last several books have had a lot of ripping out of Harry's support system. Not just his friends, but his gadgets and doo-dads. There was a gradual accumulation of those over the first... seven or eight (?) volumes. And they've been getting kneecapped recently. I'm not saying removing those was a good thing, but I liked that we could see some of the limits those removals were imposing on him in this book.

And from an overarching perspective, we see a lot in this book, hinting at where the series is going to be heading. They will be interesting places.

This was not Butcher's best book. Most of the early parts of the series would rate a ten of ten. One or two might even get an eleven. This one was still a very, very good book, just a step or two down from most of the earlier ones. The hints at the future have me just as anxious for the next book as I was for this one, though.


Made it

As can be seen from my updated list of medals, I've finally finished getting all of them.  I guess I did make it to the end; wasn't sure I would.

I'm still missing a couple of medals in my current record (three or four), so I'm curious to see what the game does, if anything, when all are reached.  I'm also curious how much longer I'll keep playing after getting to that point.  I didn't mention it, but I did manage to clear 10km finally (about 200 games after my post that mentioned just missing).

I also, today, finally managed to break my Stomper single run record (though I did kind of like it being at 1066; that's just such a critical year for the English language).  Didn't break it by a lot, but that record had held for about 4500 games, so it was nice to finally see progress there.  That record had lasted longer than my overall record, and far longer than my record for any of the other vehicles.

Anyway, I'm happy about that.  About time to go to sleep.  (I did finish Butcher's latest, to which I alluded in one of the linked posts.  I'll try to finish writing that up soon.  Good book; worth a read.)


Photo thoughts

Been getting up early enough to get some pictures the last couple of days.  Utter disaster this morning, as I couldn't seem to do anything right, but yesterday worked out rather well.

Posted a couple of pictures from yesterday online.

But what I still need to figure out is some good gloves for photography.  Basically, warm enough to keep my fingers ok, but thin enough to still let me push the buttons (no, not the shutter; that one's trivial.  And I could use my wireless trigger, with its bigger button, in a pinch).

The last couple of days I've tried using the gloves I have for playing ultimate frisbee.  They're certainly good on the thickness front, but little, if any, improvement on nothing for warmth.  And it wasn't even below freezing either day.  Not going to cut it.