Surveying candidates

I'm a little disappointed to have not been surveyed more, but I was caught by a state poll today.  It was a little annoying how long it went on, but the questioning was kind of interesting.

It stayed pretty even-handed for most of the call, but then they asked whether certain things about (gubernatorial candidate) McCauliffe would turn me off on him.  And the certain things mentioned used some very inflammatory language.  I told them right then that they were engaging in push-polling.

Anyway, I wasn't surprised when, at the end of the call, they said that the survey was being conducted by the Republican governors association.  I suspect they weren't happen when I said that it was a certainty that I would be voting, and that there was no way in hell I would ever vote for Cuccinelli.  And that his lieutenant governor ticket was even scarier (a pastor who says that all religions except his own are the ticket to hell is not someone I want having any sort of temporal power).

Ah well, it's definitely a choice of the lesser of two evils (I don't think McCauliffe is all that great, but Cooch would be horrendous).  The libertarian candidate mostly doesn't sound too bad, although I'm not keen on his idea of gun control (yes, the drug war contributes, but not in a big way, outside of major gang violence).  But even if he sounded great, I wouldn't be voting for him; the chance of Cuccinelli winning is just too horrifying.  Sad, but true.

Whithering war?

I'm sort of wondering what's going on in Syria, now.  Assad's regime is saying they'll hand over their chemical weapons, and the UN will destroy them, and somehow make sure he can't make any more.

It's that latter part that seems terribly ridiculous, to me.  I don't know a whole lot about chemical weapons, but I can't see how that's possible.  If it's even remotely feasible for the rebels to have chemical weapons, as Assad and the Russians have been asserting, then there's no way they could ever remove Assad's ability to make more.  So I think there's some smoke-blowing going on there.

I am glad to see that Iran is at the bargaining table, and some interesting things came out of that, I think.

For one thing, it shows that the sanctions are achieving their intended effect.  For another, we (or at least I) learned a bit more about Iran's backing of Assad.  Iran, apparently, didn't want chemical weapons used for two reasons.  One, they have a lot of memories of Saddam using chemical weapons on them in the Iran/Iraq war, and two, they didn't want the Americans to get involved in Syria.

It's that latter point, especially with Iran pushing them, that makes me think that maybe Assad's agreement on the chemical weapons isn't just a delaying tactic.  I'm not sure it isn't, but I think it's at least possible that he's geniune.  He certainly doesn't want America to enter the conflict openly.

Most likely, America getting involved would cause all hell to break loose, in all kinds of unpredictable ways, but the one thing that would be pretty predictable is that Assad would be gone.  So he certainly doesn't want that.

So, having said all that, I can't say as I have a good feel for what's coming, but I'm damned glad to see that we aren't going to war again in the near term.  And there are even reasons to be optimistic.  Maybe not wildly optimistic, but at least a little bit.

Blitzing game?

I've gotten away from playing the classic bejeweled lately, although I've still been working my way through Candy Crush (I even paid to get past a level once, on 147. I'd played it thirty or forty times without getting close, then ran out of moves with a guaranteed finish in two moves. Of course, playing it again on my phone, I got past it fairly quickly without cheating. *sigh*).

But I've somehow ended up playing Bejeweled Blitz again (which I'd played briefly for a while before finding classic). I can't decide whether I like it better or not. It's harder to stop, since it's so fast-paced (insanely so, at times), but the games are much shorter. And because of the pace, you really don't want to try playing it right before bed.

Anyway, one thing that annoys me finally struck me. When starting a game, you need to hit Play twice, and buy (or defer buying) a power-up in between. Buying that power-up required a button push, with the button placed exactly where both of the play buttons are. That's a subtle way to strongly force someone to buy that power-up (not long before I noticed that, I'd accidentally bought it once, and wondered how that happened). Not nice.

Oh, and the second button, to buy the powerup doesn't happen every time.  So if you think it isn't happening, and it does, you're going to buy it.  Possibly before you realize it's there.

Anyway, my high score just cleared 500k for the first time a few nights ago. Don't think I'll be getting to level 2 on 500k games any time soon, though. While my high score has gone up a lot the last couple of weeks, I don't feel like the average has done much. It seems mostly due to luck in crystal arrangement for variations in score, now.

But I'm still having fun playing.

Perry to carry?

Right now, I own one Caps jersey, a home Ovechkin one. I've been strongly contemplating a second, which would be an away Alzner jersey. If I were to buy a third, it would probably be the little engine that could, Perreault.

Last night, I was watching NHL Network's On the Fly (a rare occurrence), when I saw the chyron show that the Caps had traded Perreault to the Ducks. On the one hand, given Matty P's limited preseason appearances, and the team's liking of Wilson, as well as Fehr and Erat getting shifted to center, this is utterly unsurprising.

On the other hand, Perreault has just been killing the (mostly; he did match up against the Stamkos/St Louis line quite a bit last season) soft minutes he's been given. Coming into the offseason, I was hoping he'd be given a chance to compete for the second center position. I'm not sure he'd be able to handle it, granted. But I would've felt a lot better with him there than with Laich, honestly. More to the point, I'm not sure he wouldn't be able to handle it.

So the trade was a major disappointment to me. And a bit of a surprise; Boudreau never seemed all that thrilled with Matty P when he was here, so I'm a bit surprised Anaheim wanted him.

Looking at the return, I'm even more confused. It said the Caps got John Mitchell and a fourth back. Given that Perreault is McPhee's only post-first-round successful draftee, the fourth seems like a bit of a joke.

Ok, I was about to write about the only John Mitchell on Hockey Reference, but there's now a second one on Capgeek. The former would have been a mind-blowingly bad trade.

The second? I still don't get it. He looks like a career AHLer at this point; three (more or less) complete seasons, with numbers that not only aren't stellar (third of a point per game as a forward), but are trending in the wrong direction. Plus, he's twenty-seven years old; I don't see how you can even call him a prospect. I don't know how these negotiations go, but I'd feel a hell of a lot better if they'd just gotten a first-round pick, without a player coming back. This just feels like giving up something for nothing.

The only rationale I can come up with is that the cap space cleared allows Wilson to stay up. And I'm sure that's why this was done. But I have to wonder if Wilson staying up is worth a roster player, this season. If he was going to be a top-line player, it'd certainly be worth it. But for someone projecting to third or (more likely) fourth line... I'm not following the reasoning.

If he keeps playing like he has this preseason, it's not a bad deal. But the odds of that? Well, less than the odds of a major leaguer getting a home run in any given at-bat (274585/14094448 ~= 1/51), I think. It feels much like the decision not to trade Ribeiro at the deadline last year. A very long shot. Just because you hit on a long shot last year (and even that's arguable, given how the playoffs went), doesn't mean you should play again.

[I should note that I wrote this this morning, deliberately before reading anything else about the trade.  Yes, I don't think the part about a first was terribly realistic, though I wonder whether it should be for a cost-controlled and proven roster player.  Some additional reading says that the odds of the fourth giving a useful player are about one in ten.  Not good odds, but better than I thought.  Also, I'd forgotten that Holtby was also a fourth (and about Eakin, who was traded so quickly).

Having said all that, it feels like giving up a useful player (his scoring rates, on a per-minute basis, are very high-end) for a bag of pucks.  I wish Matty all the luck in the world (at least, when he isn't playing the Caps), but do feel like they gave up on him a bit early.]

All about the brand (sizzle)

I've heard about this branding measure before, and found it a bit amusing.

But Interbrand's measure of brand worth has Apple in the top spot at $98B.

There's a couple interesting things about that. First is that it pushed Coca-cola out of the top spot (remembering that, for a long time, brand was all that Coke had going for it). The reason that's amusing is that, if Apple only made iPhones, their revenue would have still topped Coke's, last year.

The second is that specific value of the brand itself. The company's market cap (the value of all shares available for purchase) is only $438B. So the entire company is worth less than five times that value. This is another reason why Apple's current market valuation is just insanely low. (Full disclosure, I do own a bit of Apple stock, which I bought because I thought the valuation was crazy.)

EPL Thoughts

I did finally get to watch some football over the weekend. I had the Man U/City tilt saved on the DVR (although I accidentally found out the final score on that one beforehand, and turned it off at 3-0), then watched the City/Villa matchup (then the last minute or two of Man U losing to... West Brom, I think?).

I thought City/U was kind of going to be a bellwether for the season, but with both teams following up with losses, probably not.

Just realized, didn't see van Persie. Have to look into whether he's injured. If he is, that's one hell of a big loss.

Might partially explain City outpossessing Man U to a degree commensurate with the final score. Of course, you never know, as Villa was similarly outpossessed by City, but still pulled off the upset.

It sure caught me off-guard. Terrible defense on the go-ahead goal. And the second goal, IIRC, was a pretty fluky one.

Certainly nothing for City to worry about long-term, although I haven't looked at the standings.

Wow, ok, just did look at them. City at 6th and Man U at 12th. Definitely didn't see that coming, although would certainly predict some drop-off from Man U with Fergie leaving. And City already has the best goal differential, so that certainly bodes well for their championship hopes.

Does look like I should be paying a bit more attention to Arsenal and Liverpool. We'll see, now that I've finally remembered to get the DVR set to autorecord.

Judging listening?

I was reading Greenwald's latest notes on NSA spying, and had an odd thought.

When cases come up in court (like the ACLU's case that it has been unjustly spied on, and that that makes the ACLU's business difficult, if not impossible, to pursue), many of the judges likely to rule on the issue are going to, themselves, be Verizon customers. So they will know that THEY have been spied on, as well.

I wonder how that will affect their rulings. Or will the government push to have judges who aren't Verizon customers deciding. The latter would certainly make for some interesting arguments.

Also, for anyone thinking of taking the government oversight review panel even a little bit seriously, check out this summary that Glen points out. In it, you can easily see that this is actually an in-house review that will be focused on excuse-making, not an independent one focused on accountability.



I missed the Caps' first preseason game against Winnipeg the other night.  I just missed that it was even on.  I also missed the second game, against Philly.  That one wasn't on TV at all (supposedly it streamed in Philly.  What a stupid idea: let's go to the trouble of creating the stream, but then block it to a large part of the potential audience).

But I did watch a chunk of last night's game against the Bruins.  What are the odds that three games in a row will go to a shootout?  And that Wrecker would get a winning shot (the one in Philly)?  Or that last night's shootout would go eight rounds?

Anyway, I didn't watch it all the way to the end.

Like most Caps/Bruins games last season, Boston looked much better through the first period, although Washington did get the only goal.  That one came on a very nice feed from Nathan Walker (USHL player, undrafted, presumably playing on an Amateur Try Out (ATO) contract), with Wilson (who did look good, again) providing the smooth finish.

I saw Galiev a couple of times, but, unfortunately, not in the flow of play.

Schmidt (signed as NCAA free agent a few months ago) stood out a few times, both for good and bad.  He had some very nice play on one of Boston's power plays, but then, a few minutes later, had a pretty bad play leading to a good Boston chance.

As a team, they were very erratic (mixed-up lines and lots of sub- (or 'not yet'-) NHL talent will do that for you).  There were some really terribly broken defensive plays in the second period that led to some really good chances that Holtby had to stop.  But the offense was doing quite nicely for a while, too, even taking a 2-0 lead (briefly, and after I'd stopped watching).

I really wonder about a couple of things relative to the preseason.  One, why play so many games so close together?  It seems fine for the players, since they have enough, but it would seem to eliminate much of the benefit for the coaches, as they'll have to play a second game before absorbing performances from the previous game.

Two, why do they do split-squad games?  In baseball, where they have forty or more players around, it makes total sense.  In hockey, when you've got thirty-ish (and need more than baseball does, as well), it seems quite a bit more questionable.  I guess that maybe it's just a way to get more playing time for the more marginal players.

Anyway, I guess that's it until Friday, when the Caps play the Blackhawks.  I assume it'll mostly be the group that played in Philly (perhaps with Grabovski, now that he's finally got a visa).


Let's hear it for small favors

I was very happy to hear, this morning, that Larry Summers has withdrawn his name from consideration for Fed Chairman.  I was shocked; I figured, with Obama liking him, that he was a shoo-in.

I did hear about the three Dems on the Senate Banking committee expressing serious reservations about him, but I didn't think it'd be enough to derail him.  Certainly not so quickly.

Anyway, this is fantastic news.  Now we might not get a Wall Street insider in charge.  That would be a huge change for the better.  It seems that the current Vice Chair, whose name escapes me now, is the most likely candidate.

I don't know a lot about her, but I did see a comparison of their records on various issues, and she was much better.  So maybe there's hope.

Oh, and I can't find it now, but Bernie Sanders (one of those three, from Vermont) had a fantastic remark about how bad a choice Summers was.  I was amazed to hear such a direct rebuke.  Good times.


New phones?

[note: I wrote this a couple of days ago, but am just getting around to posting it.]

I've been thinking about the iPhone 5S since it was released yesterday. I'm contemplating buying one, as my iPhone 4 is getting a bit long in the tooth.

But a lot of what's improved won't do much for me. Finally getting Siri would be nice. The extra CPU power (20-40x as much, judging by the graphs) never hurts, but I wonder if it'll really matter. Maybe some games would run without getting as hot, since the processor won't be taxed as much? If so, that'd give a bit of battery life improvement, which is always welcome.

But in terms of meaningful improvements for me? The camera is really the only thing. I like the larger sensor (I shoot full-frame, so I'm of the opinion that it'll only be too large when they can't get a lens in the housing anymore) and larger max aperture. Those will both help in low light. There's some potential for the larger aperture to allow for creative depth-of-field effects, but my suspicion is that the sensor is still too small for that to be noticeable.

I also really like the 720p slomo output. 120p is freakin' awesome. I can certainly think of some things for which I'd love to have that (although a longer lens would be very useful for many of those).

The burst mode and in-focus picking both have the potential to be big difference-makers as well, although it will require some real testing to figure that out.

The dual-color flash will help in low light, too, and probably in a more dramatic way, most of the time. This is really what I wanted to talk about, though. It'd be great to have something like that as an add-on flash for my Nikon. Of course, the coordination between the two would be difficult to mediate. Probably every company would choose its own solution, so flashes become as interoperable as lenses (which is to say, almost not at all). Plus, there's definitely some issue with the detection; auto-white balance on my SLR is pretty good, but sometimes fails pretty hard (this is why I shoot in RAW. I can losslessly correct in post). In fact, that parenthetical leads to the only major change I'd like to see in the iPhone; RAW output.

I don't know what to make of the M7 motion coprocessor. It's certainly got potential. I'd been contemplating a fitbit, so this might completely obviate the need for one. It might also help me to get up from my desk more often during the workday, which would have significant health benefits.

The TouchID sensor... I'm having a hard time getting excited about it, after finding out that the NSA is grabbing data directly off smartphones. So a fingerprint sensor just says to me, "How about I just give you a fingerprint to put into the records". Hard to get excited about that.

[One good thing I read today is that the part mentioned in the keynote, that it read sub-epidermal layers, means that it's much harder to fake.  Gelatin copy won't work, nor will a dead finger.  Kudos, there.  And maybe that's why they bought the company that makes the sensor, for that differentiator.]

Anyway, not sure yet, but I'm certainly leaning towards upgrading.  If I can keep my current data plan, that would make it a slam dunk.  If not, then it gets a bit more complicated.  We'll see.


Reasons for war?

I still haven't listened to Obama's speech (though I'll certainly read summaries, if not a transcript), and it's sure that the US media isn't talking about this, but it's kind of important.

So far, we haven't heard any evidence that doesn't amount to "trust us", and that's a bit of a problem.

Especially when we find out that our allies aren't quite as convinced as we are.  The lede is pretty straightforward:
Syrian government forces may have carried out a chemical weapons attack close to Damascus without the personal permission of President Bashar al-Assad, Germany's Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday, citing German intelligence.

Kind of destroys any rationale for attacking, doesn't it?


I was recently introduced to the photography-centric webcomic, What the Duck.  I'm currently working my way backwards through the strip archives, and can't believe I didn't know about it before.  Despite being a weekly (well, now it is; it was a daily at one point), it has over 1400 strips, so it's been going for a while.

I must admit, it has me even more pessimistic about being able to make money from photography, but it is pretty funny.  But this strip I found especially funny.  Not because I've ever shown my kids a phone that old before, but because they (my son, especially, who's two) will pick up basically anything camera-ish-sized, hold it in front of their face, and say, "Say 'Cheese'".

(My one complaint about the strip, btw, is that there are no forward- or backward-navigation buttons through the archive.  Very annoying.  And the calendar widget for selection allows clicking on any day, not just a day with a strip.)

Expeed-ing along

I don't pay a lot of attention to the chips inside of cameras, but I found this primer on EXPEED4 by Thom Hogan quite interesting.  Misleading classifications (pointed out himself, a bit, in the footnote) aside, this does give a lot of interesting information.

It's mostly about what's in the next generation of the family of chips that feeds the EXPEED models.  The thing I found most interesting about it, is that it indicates that the EXPEED is actually the limiting factor in why the D4 isn't capable of higher speeds.  There's also a hint that Canon's 1DIV can go faster because it can use multiple processors together for greater speed.  Very neat stuff.

It's also implied that the reason the D800 can't shoot faster wasn't a matter of Nikon trying to force sports shooters to the higher-price D4, but merely that the chip can't handle a faster speed with that many pixels.

Anyway, there's some other stuff with some specific call-outs for features in upcoming cameras, although I wasn't as interested in that.  But if you are, check out the full article.

Beating the Drums

*Thump* *Thump* *THUMP*

Hear that?  Those are the drums of war, beating again.  Once again, Obama's Nobel Prize is looking like an ever-more-foolish selection by the Nobel committee.

Once again, we're hearing the same familiar refrains about how, this time, things will be different.  Somehow, many more people will not be killed (except, you know, THOSE bad guys).  Somehow, this will not be expensive (even though cruise missiles cost over $1M apiece, and the smallest of the plans being contemplated (that I've heard) involves launching several hundred of those).  And somehow, this will increase our standing in the world.

Never mind the man behind the curtain, who would reveal that killing more people in the Middle East would only feed terrorist organizations (no, I'm not echoing what Assad is saying, I'm saying that it would provide more propoganda material for them).  And that we would be violating the UN Charter.  And that it's likely that we're giving up more money (in some form or another) to placate would-be allies to give us cover to violate that charter.  And that we've been allowing a great many people over there to die for a long time (and far more to be violently displaced from their homes).

And that violence never begets peace (unless you completely destroy the violent; at which point you need to rebuild their countries.  Yeah, past experience shows that that's a cheap operation.  And again, that it gives you a lot more terrorists to fight).

Once again, a not-terribly-close look reveals that there is no endgame planned.

Our military has gone off half-cocked entirely too many times in the last forty to fifty years.  Let's not repeat the experiment.

As a weird thought, why don't we instead plow that $0.5B (again, I haven't heard an idea that would possibly cost less than that) into helping refugees and providing medical help to Syrians.  That would be the long play towards winning hearts and minds in the region.  Just think about al Qaeda's reaction to that.  Or Saudi Arabia's.  Or Iran's.

Typography typos?

I've been largely ignoring Yahoo! (not difficult to do, I'm sorry to say to those who work there) for a long time, but I was recently pointed to a critique of the new logo they've seen fit to inflict upon the world.

And I agree with all of the points of that critique.  Plus, I'd add that the chiseling is its own disaster as well, because the shadowing it engenders is completely inconsistent.  Especially focus on which parts of the Y are lit vs not.  Then notice that the ! and the O before it have their shadows on opposite sides.  In fact, the A might be the only letter completely consistent with itself (if the light is shining straight down from above); all the other letters show a left-right bias as well.

In summary, OUCH!

Lineup (for now) Complete

Well, I read in the paper yesterday that MarJo has finally been signed by the Caps.  Yay.

And the cap hit isn't bad, at $2M/yr.  That's about where I was expecting things to go (give or take a couple hundred thousand); he just didn't have any leverage, even though that's probably slightly below what he deserves, based on his play.

I'm glad to see it, although with only $700k cap space left, I'm not sure what the Caps will be able to do for the rest of the season.

That is, they're in pretty decent shape, but could really use another defenseman to push Erskine down to the third pairing, and don't have the money.

There's also the possibility of Kuznetsov coming over after the Olympics.  I don't think there's any money for that, either.

But, in the grand scheme of things, these aren't terrible problems to have.  Maybe McPhee can convince the Toronto brass that they need another heavy-weight knuckle-chucker.  Honestly, with his contract, I'd be happy to see him traded for a bag of pucks (sorry, John.  I don't think you're a bad player, but you're heavily overpaid for what you bring to the table).

And there's also the thought of Wilson.  Not sure how things work if he comes up after the OHL season ends, but they definitely can't afford the cap hit to bring him up to start the season.  Again, not a terrible problem to have.

I think the Caps are in great shape if Dima can work his way back up to the Show, although last season is certainly worrisome in that regard.  But his showing two seasons ago certainly leaves room to hope.  But if he can't, they're going to be pretty exposed defensively.  We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Oh, and it was definitely weird to find out about a roster move in the paper.  Definitely wouldn't have happened on a weekday.

Update: Heard yesterday that Kuznetsov has another shoulder injury, though should be back soon enough to still compete in Olympics (assuming it doesn't keep him from making the team, of course).


Where'd that word come from?

I recently discovered a fascinating book called the Etymologicon.  I can't remember where I ran across it, but the title got me curious enough to buy it.

Since taking Latin in High School (let's hear it for Catholic education), I've been very interested in etymologies.  I even bought the Compact OED some years ago (I'd love to get the full one, but that's prohibitively expensive, plus would take a ridiculous amount of shelf space), just to explore that.

Well, building on that, and on his own readings, Mark Forsyth has organized an exploration through etymologies via short (2-3 page) stories that combine related words into a tapestry of morphology.

I'm actually still only twenty or thirty pages in, but it's fantastic reading.  Not really meant to be read in one sitting, but it makes for a number of very enjoyable sittings.  I'm looking forward to having read all of it.

Plus, I really need to start exploring his blog, The Inky Fool.  If the book's any indication, the blog will be fantastic (and heck, some of the stories are reprints from the blog).

Very funny, and very educational.