Fasttracking Sunday

I just noticed, a few days ago, that On the Fasttrack does Sundays now.  Somehow I hadn't noticed sooner.  So then I had to go back and get all the old Sundays (to 2010-11-14) and save them to my archive.  And now I still need to update my downloading script to stop skipping Sundays.

In the process of geting them, I found out that the naming scheme on the site has changed a few times.  I guess I just forgot updating my script previously, to account for that.

And now I need to look and see if the Sunday comic appears in the newspaper.

Penn-ciling in a loss

Well, wasn't that a kick in the face?

I was finally able to turn the Caps game on around nine last night (thankfully, I'd remembered to set the recorder), and ended up wishing I'd just gone to sleep earlier.

Given the chance to seize first (and for OV to jump up to equal/beat Crosby), what happened?

Well, they came out pretty flat, and never (outside of the odd shift here and there) looked like they were in the game. In fact, they were doubled up in shots in all three periods (ok, one short in the second), even though they were down by three or four in the third.

I thought they did ok when they managed to get the puck in the offensive zone (and that shot differential gives an idea of how often that happened), but they were badly outclassed in the other two zones. And Holtby did not have a good game; not a terrible one (Crosby's PPG, for instance, I was amazed he was even close to saving), but not a terribly good one either.

Wow; finally looked at the Fenwick close mark (only nine minutes of the game). A complete white-wash. Wow. Hard to believe that's even possible. At evens, it was only 29% for. Man, I knew it wasn't good, but that's far worse than I thought.

I had a little quibbling; I thought there were a couple of penalties that weren't called (the puck-over-glass on Fleury, interference by Malkin on Martin's goal). But I don't think they mattered.

I hope the team takes this as a gut check, and an indication of how far they need to go. Because it sure looks like they have a long way to go (as I've been saying for a while).

I don't know how many other teams have the talent to exploit the Caps like what happened here, but there's certainly a few.

The only positive I can take out of it is that they did manage to get four points out of the last three games, which is better than I'd've predicted (I think I would have been hoping for three, and expecting two). But that's cold comfort, this morning.

Anyway, I guess it's over. Next up is Montreal, on Friday. Let's hope that, at the least, Green is back (and hey, let's try Dima over Urbom, too; it wouldn't be a huge difference, but I'd at least look to see if it is a difference). And maybe pull Fehr out of whatever purgatory he's managed to fall into? Go Caps!


The war of...

I grew up in Maryland, as border-state as a state could be.  And it's below the Mason-Dixon Line (true story: on the way back from Oshkosh, this summer, my dad and I drove past a furniture place called Mason-Dixon Furniture (or something very close to that), and I made some fairly snide comment about not being south of the line (you don't generally hear it mentioned in the north, in my experience).  Then, about a hundred yards later, we passed a sign saying we were crossing that line.  Oops), so you'd think my experience would be in sympathy with the South.

And I have a great admiration for Robert E Lee, which you'd think would make me even more sympathetic to the South.

But the truth is that when, as a teenager, I heard someone call Maryland a southern state, I was frankly baffled.  While I can see (now, at least) several reasons for calling it that, it didn't match my experience at all.

Anyway, I've heard (only in the last ten years or so) people calling the Civil War the War of Northern Agression (in fact, there's a plaque across the street from where my son has a sports class that says it), and I find that ludicrous, on several levels.

First is the fact that the phrase wasn't used until more than fifty years after the war ended (meaning that the Rebs never felt the need to justify their conduct like that).  Second is the fact that the Southern States separately declared secession from the Union whose Constitution they had approved (and came damned close to saying, "We're not giving up our slaves.  nyah-nyah." in the process.  Note the mention of 'slaveholding States' in the first paragraph).

The anniversary of Lincoln's address reminds me of the fundamental point that the states that seceded had fundamentally forgotten, that all men are created equal.  It also makes me wonder about how good a job we're doing about that, even now.  Better than then, of course, but how much better?

An address for all times

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

-Abraham Lincoln, seven score and ten years ago today.


Blues News

I watched last night's game against the Blues nearly live (we'd had a neighborhood gathering earlier, though we ended up having to leave it earlier).

It was definitely a weird game, to start. The Caps got off to a decent start, getting the first six shot attempts (although only one ended up on net). St Louis had the next six (none on net). So, seven minutes in, there was only one shot listed, although six were blocked. OV followed that with another shot wide (off the faceoff), and the Blues then brought the puck back up.

Oleksy got it away from the attacker, and pushed it up-ice where Backstrom deflected it (backwards, between his legs!) to OV just outside the zone. It looked fairly innocuous as OV carried in (1-on-4, for those keeping track at home) and took a long slap shot that found the top corner, wide side. If I'd been watching it after the kids went to bed (as usual), I'd've probably woken them up, I was so surprised and happy to see that go in.

Things went more towards normal after that (that is, no super-long stretches without "shots"). And, let's be honest, the Blues badly outplayed the Caps the rest of the way. A little bit of that was special teams (The Blues had ten power play shots, and three short-handed ones, while the Caps only had three and zero), but even strength shots were thirty-four to fifteen also.

Really, in retrospect, it felt a bit like the Montreal/Washington playoff series from several years ago (Halak starting in goal for St Louis made me think about it, of course), except with the shoe on the other foot. That is, the Caps were sitting back and waiting for counter-strikes. Well, I don't think that's true, but it felt a bit like it.

But OV got another goal when he backhanded in a rebound from an Alzner shot from the slot (which, incidentally, tied him with Steen for league lead in goals scored). And Grabo potted a rebound (from mid-air, no less) of a Chimera shot a few minutes later. Given the Caps only having six shots at that point, Halak was given the rest of the night off.

That was enough to send the Caps into the first intermission with a three-goal lead. And, in fact, it was nearly the end of the scoring. All that remained were the two teams trading power play goals in the second.

But really, the rest of the game was a siege of Holtby. To a degree, that's expected with the score that lopsided. But man, it finished 47-20 in shots. Ouch.

As I said, special teams was much of the story. The Blues looked very good on both the power play and the penalty kill. In fact, their penalty kill matched the Caps power play in shots (as alluded earlier), and the power play... I don't know how they were held scoreless.

But they managed not to fold, and ended up a point ahead of Pittsburgh for the Metropolitan Division lead (how's that for the "damns of faint praise"?).

And now, they get to face Pittsburgh for the chance to keep that placement. And OV gets a chance to catch Crosby for scoring on the season (he's currently one point behind). I don't think there's any real argument to be made that, at this point in their careers, OV is better than Crosby, but it'd still be sweet to see him catch or pass Crosby. Go Caps!

(Update: Right after I finished writing this, I saw ESPN had a poll, asking for the quarter-season MVP. I looked at the choices, and decided I'd rate it as a tough call between OV and Sid (close enough that I'd have to do some research to decide between the two). But I decided to vote for OV anyway, just on general principles. Picture of the results below. Tough call, indeed.)

Winging by

I can't say as I had good feelings about the Caps playing the Red Wings last Friday. I was expecting them to get outplayed, and they did (although it was actually very close).

But they did jump on the scoreboard early with a nice semi-breakaway by Laich (sprung by Oleksy).

Detroit did score the next three goals, although I will say, in the Caps defense, that two of the goals were extremely lucky. That is, Franzen scored from not too far out, despite Holtby being in perfect position; it was an impressive snipe of the short-side corner that didn't appear to be visible at all (which is not meant to take away from Franzen's skill, but just to point out that it was an extremely low-percentage shot). And one of the others (I think Franzen's second) was set up by a nice pass across the crease that went near (or through; it was hard to tell) several sticks and sets of legs to find Franzen uncovered on the back side for an easy tap-in.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that, despite being outplayed, it was a very narrow margin.

But, happily, OV got one back early in the third, and Latta got his first on a rebound (nice example of hard work paying off, that one), eight minutes later.

That was enough to send the game into overtime, where each team has only one goal on the season. And the overtime was a tale of two halves, with the Caps dominating the first half, and the second half just about all spent in the Caps zone.

Part of that was driven by penalties. The Caps got one a minute in, though it was cancelled out a minute and a quarter later when Backstrom got his stick between the legs of Lashoff when falling down (it didn't appear deliberate, but what can you do?). So quite a bit of the overtime was spent 4-on-3.

But the Caps didn't break (somehow), sending the game into the gimmick. Datsyuk came up first. I had mixed feelings about him; I've seen lots of videos of him doing some amazing things there, but don't think I've ever seen him live. So I was torn between wanting to see something amazing, and wanting the Caps to win.

Well, he didn't really even make a terribly good attempt, and Holtby had no problem with it. Grabo followed, and couldn't lift the puck over Howard's leg.

Holtby did not leave me feeling great when he poke-checked Franzen's attempt (his history on those isn't great), but he timed it perfectly to prevent even seeing a shot. OV was next, and... I think he did about the same as Grabo, except on the opposite side. DeKeyser came next for the Wings, for his first career shootout attempt (perhaps a reward for scoring the third goal, earlier in the night?), and had it poked away also.

That left Backstrom to go last. He looked like he was going wide for the shot, but then neatly slid it under Howard for the win (it was a subtle move; very sneaky).

Interestingly, the result left Backstrom's lifetime shootout percentage only .1% behind Datsyuk's. I wonder if it's just because he's less flashy that his success isn't noticed as much (including by me; I was talking to a friend after the game, and said something about OV having a better percentage, but he doesn't. And it isn't close).

Anyway, it wasn't a great game by the Caps, although perhaps a tad better than my expectations (and they won, which did exceed those expectations).

And one thing I didn't mention: the Caps again allowed way too many shots on the PK (credit much of that to Detroit's skill on the power play). There were nine shots in five attempts (with two successes).

And the Caps power play was pretty good, even though they failed to score in four chances. They also got nine shots in those attempts.

One interesting footnote. Detroit lost again in the shootout yesterday (to the Islanders), leaving them with five consecutive overtime/shootout losses (and six losses, overall). I wonder how many times a team has managed five consecutive OTLs.

Anyway, I'll post my thoughts on last night's Blues game separately.


Data amusements

I'm working on some data capture tools, grabbing game data. Anyway, in looking at what's available, I found some interesting things.

One, nhl.com keeps game data back to the 1997 season (less complete in older seasons). Two, I was looking at game number 266 (counted via game start time; haven't looked at how numbering is done for games at the same time), and noticed a couple of somewhat interesting things. Last night's Caps/Blue Jackets was the earliest in the calendar (Nov 12) that game has ever been played; the latest was Nov 26, 1996 (ignoring the lock-out shortened season last year, of course).

The Caps have played in that game three times. The previous time was in 2007, with Zednick getting one of Florida's two goals in their win (OV had Washington's only goal). Ironically, the first time, Zednick also had the first goal (this time, for Washington) in a tie against Carolina.

And the last bit of amusement was that the team logo in the boxscore is the current one, even if it wasn't the one back when the game was played. I noticed that when I ran across one of the Ducks games.

Anyway, nothing terribly deep there, but I found it a bit interesting.

"We'll talk more..."

I was amused to hear, yesterday, as I was driving in to work, that the NSA had identified all remaining documents that Edward Snowden took, and was going to proactively address the media about what is in those documents.

Two interesting things about this. One is that it admits that merely mentioning the existence of these programs is not, itself, a security threat. That's progress, of a sort.

The second, though, is that the NSA has no credibility in these matters. At every step, their MO has been to do one of lying, misleading, or outright denial. And every claim has been discredited, either with already-available info (such as the claim that there were 54 specific terror threats prevented with mass surveillance) or with other documents later released from the Snowden Cache.

So I can't say as I really care what the NSA claims, going forward. Nor, I think, should anyone else.

Jacket is a tight fit

I wasn't able to watch last night's Caps/Blue Jackets game live, although I was close. I watched most of the first period only half an hour or so late, and the rest more like an hour and a half late.

In any event, the roster was basically the same as the last several games (whither Fehr?), with Holtby in goal.

The first period did not go so great for the Caps. It felt like more time was spent in the Caps zone, although the Caps did get several very good scoring chances on Columbus turnovers in their own zone. Happily, the Caps were able to escape the period without any damage done.

The second period started a little better, with the Caps possession numbers improving. It wasn't looking so great when the Blue Jackets got the first power play of the game. But a clear led to greed by Bobrovsky, who tried to play it up-ice off the glass and missed. That led to a couple of decent chances (though no great ones), until a nice play by the Blue Jackets led to a 2-on-1 going the other way. That was broken up by a combination of good defending from Green and good backchecking by Brouwer.

Unfortunately, Brouwer ended up with the puck behind the Caps net (or at least with it under him), but had it immediately stolen away by Dubinsky. And it seems that everyone else on the Caps assumed the threat was already neutralized, because when Dubbie skated in front of the net, not only was no one there, but nobody was even close. When Holtby made a (probably ill-advised) poke check attempt to get the puck, 'Binsky used his long reach to make a nice move around him and put the puck in the back of the net.

Play was pretty even for the next six minutes or so, until Erat made a very nice power move past a defender who ignored the puck. It was just close enough that Bobrovski tried to dive for the puck, but Erat got free just enough to slide the puck to the side, where Carlson dove at it, putting the puck (and himself) into the wide-open net to tie the score. Major kudos to Erat on that one (and to Carlson and Wilson, who both put themselves into position to take advantage).

Carlson, after not scoring in the first thirteen games, now has twice as many goals as the rest of the defense combined (and that includes Carrick's goal). Nice job, John.

The play over the rest of the game was largely favoring the Caps, although the Blue Jackets were still getting good chances. In fact, it felt like they were getting the better of the chances. The Caps got the next goal on the PK, with a clear down-ice taking a weird bounce off the glass, and going right to Wardo, who planted it into the nearly-empty net from a sharp angle, to the surprise of everyone (himself included, I think).

To the surprise of few, it took Columbus just under two and a half minutes to tie the game again, although it took a lucky bounce off a player in the crease (possibly off his stick, although, if so, it hit it between his hands) to do so. To give an idea how much luck was involved, there, the player in question went head-over-heels as the puck was getting to him, and finished the fall by kicking Holtby on the top of his head with his heel.

Three minutes later, Columbus opened a lead when Cam Atkinson's wrister beat Holtby.

Things were looking pretty desperate after that, with the Caps pouring on the pressure, but not looking terribly good in doing so. But Grabo jumped on a rebound of a Chimmer shot from very wide, and put it off Bobrovsky's arm and in to tie the game again with less than two minutes left.

The pressure, from there on, was almost all by Columbus, but the top line (well, MarJo and OV, who followed Backstrom and Grabo, I believe), put a nice play together. MarJo took the puck into the zone, nicely slipped by a check against the wall, got his balance, skated into the middle to put a backhand shot on Bob. And OV, coming from the other side, skated right to the puck and chipped it over Bob's leg for the Caps first overtime goal of the year.

All in all, it was a very mixed bag for the Caps. The top line didn't do well on the game (outside of the overtime goal, obviously). The power play wasn't, as it allowed the shortie, didn't score any goals, and only had two shots in three chances. The PK was pretty good, getting the fluky shortie of their own, and stopping the other chances. The second line was quietly pretty good. The third line played like the top line, getting quite a bit of zone time and a few chances. The fourth line was pretty quiet, although they played less than six minutes (again, why is Wilson here, playing such limited minutes?).

Urbom was pretty quiet; he did get beaten pretty badly in the corner on one early play, but he recovered pretty quickly and looked decent otherwise. Schmidt looked pretty good as well, with some good keep-ins and no mistakes. And Alzner and Carlson were very strong.

One thing that didn't work in the Caps favor was that they were owned, on the dot. The Caps are normally pretty good at that, but they won only 38% of the faceoffs. I have to wonder if that was a significant factor for the power play.

The defense, on the Columbus side, though, didn't seem too good. A couple of goals on uncleared rebounds; some of that is luck, but not all. And Erat's assist; that's probably a bad choice by the defender there, to just play the body. Still, he did put a good check on, and it took a very good play to get around it.

The Caps were behind in 5-on-5 close Fenwick, although it was close enough to have been entirely decided by the shots Columbus took after Grabo's goal. Still, I'd like to see improvement there.

And we're back to the Caps needing to start faster. They can't keep giving up so much possession early on. It's just not a recipe for success.

And now comes a bit of a gauntlet, starting with Detroit on Friday. To make matters worse, Greenie is questionable; let's hope he's up to it, although that would probably give Dima a chance. Still, Detroit's long been a very strong possession team, and one that doesn't make many mistakes. The Caps will need a top effort if they want to win it. Go Caps!


Mos Df?

Nikon introduced, last week, a new full-frame camera, called the Df.  It doesn't really break any new ground, so far as I can tell, technologically, but is designed as a throw-back to earlier film models.  Personally, I don't get the appeal.  Yes, I did my first photography with film cameras (like) the ones it's based on, but it still seems like a waste of time.  I was happy to move to more modern models.

It seems like some people like it, and it doesn't seem bad, but does seem significantly inferior to a D800 at only a couple hundred dollars less.

I guess I'm just not a nostalgic person; but I'd rather see Nikon breaking new ground.

Buried again

Which brings us to Saturday's game against the Avalanche, which certainly had the potential to be a measuring stick for the team.

Well, if you want to use it as such, they certainly came out short.

There was certainly more time spent close, at evens, than I would have guessed, looking at the final score. In fact, thirty-four minutes of it; almost two periods (strictly speaking, the first two periods, less the three power plays during those periods). And that time did not go well for the Caps; they were crushed in all possession measurements for that time.

Even worse, the one score they managed during that time span (by Wardo, continuing his excellent play with his shorter stick), was matched by another Colorado goal less than thirty seconds later. Emotional let-down? Dunno. Sure seems common for this team, though.

The Caps did even things up a bit during the third period, at least in possession measurements. They weren't rewarded on the scoreboard, though, as Varly continued his excellent season (outside of that whole 'domestic violence' thing; that was very disappointing). In fact, they allowed two more goals.

Anyway, it's hard to get terribly upset about the trip as a whole, as it was tough group of games, and they did manage three points in the three games. But I'm fairly happy I didn't watch that third game.

Well, things aren't getting easier, looking forward. Tonight's game against Columbus is the lull before the storm, as Detroit, St Louis, Pittsburgh, and Montreal follow. Let's hope tonight gets things off on the right foot. Go Caps!

Power play central

I didn't watch Friday's Caps/Yotes tilt, although it looks like the Caps played pretty well. It was a weird game, though, with four of six goals scored on the power play.

The lineup was basically the same as against Minnesota (I'm still wondering if Fehr's injured), although, with the back-to-back, Holtby was held back for Saturday's game.

Those four PPGs were scored on thirteen total power plays, with an even split on both opportunities and scores. Because of all that, less than half of the game was played at evens, close (although more than I would have guessed, especially with the Caps having a two goal lead for nearly an entire period).

Overall, it appears to've been a pretty good game for the Caps, although it's impossible to avoid it feeling like a missed opportunity, with the two very late goals allowed. Still, Corsi/Fenwick/shots were all heavily in the Caps favor during those twenty-six minutes of 5-on-5 close play, which is encouraging for the future.

One other bit of slight weirdness. Those two power play goals were scored by Brouwer and Carlson, the former getting a secondary assist by Neuvy. Have to figure Green (with the primary assist on that goal) did just about all of the work, there. Still, congrats to Neuvy for his first point of the season.

Anyway, those two late goals left another game going into overtime, where the Caps again failed to register a goal (despite another power play).

And this time, their run of shootout luck came to an end, as Neuvy failed to stop a shot, and the forwards failed to pot one.

I do wish I could have seen the game. Ah, well.

Wild game

I was able to watch last week's Caps game against the Wild, and it was the challenge that was expected. And I'm not sure if I'd call the challenge one that was met, despite the final result.

Anyway, it started out well enough, with the Caps looking pretty good, despite not getting shots. Then, the Wild got a power play. Although the Caps survived, there were a number of chances.

But they went back to it after the PK, and got their own power play chance a few minutes later. Only nineteen seconds in, Backstrom, next to the net, sent a beautiful (no-look?) pass across to OV in his normal spot. Surprising no one, OV buried it before Harding had a chance to get across to cover the net.

But Minnie was undeterred, and kept their steady attack up, eventually beating Holtby on their own power play late in the first. It felt like the Wild were basically in control for the rest of the game.

It helped that they added another goal (at evens) six minutes into the second, but my saying that isn't really based on the score. It just felt like they were the ones with all the offensive chances, although the Fenwick chart shows the Caps did manage to close the gap towards the end of the third.

There was a Wild attempt to push for a late goal to break the tie, but Washington withstood it to get a regulation point.

In overtime... well, neither team managed to get their first overtime goal, despite some good chances (and some odd line choices by Washington; Chimmer and Ward as a forward line were followed by Grabovski and Backstrom).

Again, it looked like Washington's shooters were outclassed by Minnesota's (without counting Parise; who was apparently hurt blocking a shot late in the game, and didn't appear), but Holtby didn't seem phased. Holtby held up his end of the bargain, stopping all three shooters, leaving Backstrom's lone goal as the winner.

It wasn't a terribly pretty game, although it looks like it was a bit more even than it felt, watching.

For tracking purposes, I'm going to post separate notes of the two weekend games, which I did not manage to watch at all (travelling).

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

Just got back, late last night, from a weekend visit to NYC.  We didn't do a whole lot, but it was a good trip.  The kids loved the Museum of Natural History (as expected).  And we had several very good meals.

One thing we missed was seeing the building that was just certified for its height today; 1 World Trade Center.  I'm a bit disappointed at that, although, given that we went to SoHo and Chinatown, it's probably entirely due to us not looking around for it.  I must admit that I hadn't heard anything about it since the design was approved, several years ago, and had forgotten about it since.


iPhone-ish notes

[I wrote this several weeks ago (9/23, if the file modification is to be believed), but apparently forgot to post it.]

I don't, normally, but this week I listened to Gruber's podcast, The Talk Show. It's kind of weird, listening to. It isn't something that reaches out and grabs you, but it does throw out some interesting tidbits (which would certainly be an argument for editing it down to a more manageable length; which would certainly get me to listen to it more often).

One bit of speculation that I found interesting was the idea that Apple might be starting to move production back to the US in order to have more control. That is, that all the leaks about the iPhone 5c/5s were on the hardware side, and came out of the Asian supply chain. But there weren't any leaks on the software side (ie: from the US). It's an interesting observation, and I wonder if there's something to it.

Also, Gruber has noted, several times, that he thinks the iPad Mini is the best one, despite the technical limitations of the device (compared to the flagship model). I think he showed why that is, in here. He likes to read things at night with just the iPad and a beer. Hard to do that with the 10" screen, since that requires two hands to do it comfortably.

I also hadn't realized the lengths iFixit was going to, to ensure they could post their teardown first. Apparently, they fly to Australia, and buy one there, and can do the teardown there before the phones are on sale where I am, on the East Coast of the US.

They also talked about photo management. I do everything with Aperture, myself, and my experience mirrors much of what they talk about. I haven't tried the new photo management on the phone, but it certainly does sound like certain problems are handled better with that management than they are on my D4 with Aperture. I can do more with Aperture (and with the bigger camera and lenses), for sure, but I can see where the iPhone's management will end up being better for most cases (assuming shot was taken (technically) correctly).

If I do a burst with my D4, it's certainly true that there is no good way to keep only the ones you want. I don't even try; I just delete when I get to Aperture (full disclosure: I almost never delete photos on my camera. I just fill the card up, then reformat it). I'm curious to see what the new iPhone's interface looks like; it certainly doesn't seem at all a stretch that it would be a huge improvement, though.

Oh yeah, almost forgot that they talked about the annihilation of the compact camera market. I disagree that it will result in no camera market. But it will certainly result in massive shrinking of it. Mirrorless will probably take over, and the marketing emphasis for point and shoots will need to become focused on quality. Plus, the cameras will need to get a massive software overhaul, probably driven by what's going on on the mobile side.

Virtual jewelery

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 (often) 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.  And even knowing that, I've bought it accidentally a couple of times; once because I hit play before the screen to ask appeared). Not nice.

Anyway, my high score is now a bit over a million.  I'm thinking that my odds of beating that score are very low, although I've cleared 500k sixteen times (oddly, eight times each on my ipad and iphone).  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.

Learning from history

I'm a bit bemused, hearing commentary looking at the results from last night. I keep hearing people saying that Christie's solid victory last night is a big boost for his (acknowledged) presidential aspirations, but I don't see it. There are two problems I see, with that.

One is that he's moderate. He's shown that a moderate Republican, especially one who gets things done, can win in a blue state. I think that's a strong plus for him, but I don't think it is for Republican primary voters (most of them, anyway). I think most people in "red" states will say something along the lines of, "Who cares if he can win in NJ, I want someone more conservative".

And also, he particularly goes against Tea Party and libertarian followers, because of his effectiveness. He's showing that government does actually work, which those people don't want to acknowledge.

So I see his greatest strengths (as a liberal, I'd strongly consider voting for him. And probably would, if he were running against Hillary. Nothing against either Bill or Hillary, but I think one president in the family is enough.  Although I hear that exit polling of NJ voters show that most of them disagree with that, to the point that Hillary would beat Christie, head to head, in NJ) as being detrimental to a large swath of Republican primary voters. I think he'd do fine in the general, but I just don't see him being able to get there.

I guess we'll see.

Marching down the isle

I wasn't able to watch last night's Caps game until the kids were in bed, which probably means I started it in the first half of the third period. But the important part is that I was able to watch the entire game without interruption (and mostly without commercials, yay).

And it started out looking pretty good, with the Caps generating some good pressure, until Grabo got called for a high sticking penalty. It was a bit of a weird call, though, as his stick came up and hit Tavares as he was going down from being tripped by Tavares.

In any event, the PK unit went to work, but not very well. Five shots were allowed on the ensuing power play, and a goal was scored less than a second after the penalty had expired. The one good part was that Holtby looked very good on the power play; he made several routine stops and one or two very good ones.

Anyway, the Caps showed no signs of a letdown after that, working hard for the rest of the period, even though they weren't able to solve Nabokov.

Going into the second, both teams had close to half their total goals on the season in the second period (the Isles were at half, and the Caps weren't far off), so it was expected that scoring would pick up a bit. And it did not disappoint; the first goal came only three minutes in, with Carlson succeeding on a risky keep-in at the blue line. He pushed it past the forward trying to get by him with the puck, then fired a laser of a shot into the far side of the net.

The Caps pressure continued, and they were rewarded with a power play a minute and a half later. OV potted one on a fairly weak wrister (odd, for him; he rarely shoots at less than full power) off the ensuing faceoff, and things were looking great. But the team had another letdown, as they allowed Okposo to score only seventeen seconds later (the Okposo/Tavares/Vanek line was buzzing all night, even if this was their only score; they caused a lot of problems for the Caps, and had nineteen shot attempts between them).

It was pretty much all Caps from there on out, though. The Caps scored again (MarJo, on a rebound in the crease) two minutes later, and again a minute and a half after that (Urbom on a top-corner snipe from the point off a nice pass from Wilson, who was on his ass a few feet from the goal). And they didn't let up; they kept pressuring, although it took a penalty on newly-acquired Tomas Vanek for the Caps to get on the board again.

Vanek was called for interference with about three minutes left in the period, and it took all of nineteen seconds for the power play to strike again, with OV potting a really nice feed from next to the goal, by MarJo. (Credit that one partially to the Islanders defenseman who failed to cut off that passing lane, although it was a good job by MarJo to see it.)

That finished out the scoring for the period, although not for the game. The other thing that made me happy about this game was that the Caps didn't collapse back into a shell, even with a three-goal lead. Not even when the Islanders tried to make things quite chippy (there were a lot of penalties handed out in the last two minutes of the game). And in Washington's one power play in the third, they managed to get another score, as OV fed Wilson for a tip-in about fifteen seconds into the power play.

It really wasn't much of a goal, but it was a nice reward to Wilson for a very strong game (even discounting the goal and assist, he looked very dangerous all game), although his playing time was still only ten minutes. Congrats to Wilson for converting, and getting his first points of the season; we're looking for more of that. :)

For the rest of the team... Well, OV had a great game (the two goals and an assist were merely the punctuation marks); he was mostly playing with Backstrom and Erat, and those two gave him several one-on-one chances over the course of the game. I really liked watching that line.

MarJo had a good game, and not just on that goal. His line had quite a bit of zone time, and a few good chances. His line was still the weakest, but it wasn't a sinkhole. As long as they can maintain that status, this is looking like a really good lineup.

Grabo's line looked very good again, with a number of good chances, and very good possession.

And the fourth line looked pretty good too. As I said, Wilson looked very good, and the others weren't stopping him from doing things.

On the defensive side, the top defenders looked like top defenders. Schmidt continued his excellent play, although he did make two small mistakes (one was an ill-advised point-to-point pass, and I forget the other). And the third pairing looked pretty good as well.

What I couldn't figure out was why Fehr was a healthy scratch. That is, if they weren't lying about him being healthy. Because if he was healthy, I can't figure it; he's been playing well.

Dima was also a healthy scratch. Hard to fault that one, though; no obvious pick of whom he would replace. Urbom, I guess, would be most likely, but he looked decent enough all night. But I'd like to see more of Dima; he was certainly exciting (in a good way) two seasons ago.

The one thing that didn't thrill me, and that I should mention is that there was some serious line-shuffling going on, primarily in the top two lines, over the course of the game (especially in the second period). I'm not sure I understand that, but it's hard to argue with results.
As I said, I liked the top line, and hope it continues. The second line seems decent, although I'd move Fehr to MarJo's left (since he seems to be the only player Oates will play on his off-hand wing) and send Laich down to the fourth.

I wouldn't mess with the third, and would be left with a fourth of Laich, Latta, and Wilson, which would make a heck of a checking line. And could be trusted for more than seven minutes a game.

The power play was, again, very good. In fact, four of the goals were PPGs. On the six opportunities, the Caps got eight shots in only three minutes and forty seconds. No way to argue with that.

In fact, even though the Caps had one more power play opportunity, they had six minutes and twenty seconds less power play time. Pretty good.

The penalty kill was five for five, but allowed another thirteen shots (not counting the shot that scored right at the end of the first power play). They actually looked really, really good on one penalty (the "holding the stick" penalty that Chimmer took, early in the third), but generally allowed way too much zone time for the Islanders. I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but expecting a .980 save percentage to continue when down a man is highly unrealistic.

The one goal in forty opportunities is certainly nice, but they're there mostly due to luck, not skill. Something has to be done to improve the PK. I'm not sure what needs to be done (getting better at holding the blue line, maybe?), but something certainly does. I hope someone on the coaching staff is thinking about that.

Getting away from that, one last thing to talk about, which is possession. Despite being way down in power play time, and despite being way ahead for about half the game, the Caps still came out of the game with good possession numbers. All-situation Fenwick, they were up one. 5-on-5 close Fenwick (twenty-one and a half minutes, roughly, and it was Corsi and shots, as well) was over 60% in the Caps favor. Really, there was nothing not to like in last night's game.

Minnesota is coming to town Thursday, though, and they're a very strong possession team. That'll be a good test of whether last night was really a sign of significant improvement, or just a mirage. Also, look out for that first period. Minnesota has a hair over a third of their goals in the first, while Washington has less than a fifth of theirs. Also, if it goes to overtime, neither team has an overtime goal on the season. Go Caps!


Crime and Punishment

I heard, today, of another case of a bank (well, really a hedge fund, but that's a fairly blurry line) getting fined for wrongdoing.  In this case, it is SAC Capital being fined by the SEC for insider trading.  I'm glad to see that there's at least a little enforcement here, although I wonder if the punishment fits the crime.

What is known is that the firm admitted wrongdoing (rare, these days), and is being shut off from outside investors (this was also a surprise), and is paying $1B.  That sounds like a lot of money, but I wonder if it really is.

The NPR piece about it, this morning (on Marketplace, I think) mentioned a single one of the incidents on which this case was based, netted $300M.  Which begs the question of whether the firm still came out ahead, even after paying the fine.  Given that they apparently were getting 25% annual returns, and that that was only one incident (though undoubtedly the biggest one), I suspect, in pure dollar terms, that they're still coming out ahead.

If that's the case, you have to wonder if that actually serves as disincentive for those doing the trading.

The one reason I'm not sure it isn't one is that, for one, they're being cut off from outside investors.  That could be a deathknell; we'll see.  And two, there are ongoing cases with eight of the employees as well.  If those eight are nailed to the wall, then perhaps there's a bit of deterrent for the future.  If not, this seems like another slap on the wrist (a la JP Morgan, paying seventh months profits (yeah, that $13B fine seems like a lot until you put it in those terms) for mortgage fraud that robbed thousands (via pension funds, probably tens of thousands) of people out of their homes and/or savings) to the banking industry.

What's My Line?, as social commentary

I mentioned, earlier, that I've recently enjoyed What's My Line, the 50's and 60's gameshow. And there's some interesting things to take away from the show.

Mostly recently, I was reminded of what's wrong with just about all "reality" shows, these days. This clip could have turned into the sort of self-absorbed, meandering soliloquies that characterize a lot of those shows, but every time the contestant appeared that he might wander off into one of those, he was cleverly and politely cut off by the moderator.

But what I really wanted to talk about was some of the mores and assumptions that are different from what we see, nowadays.

For instance, female guests are always asked whether it should be Mrs or Miss (now considered a faux pas), and the host always gets their chair for them.  You can tell, when a pretty lady is about to be a contestant, from the whistles as soon as the audience can see her; I guess that part hasn't changed.

One of them was how long the clips are. Some of them approach ten minutes long, which we'd never see, these days, without commercials. Of course, most of them have product placement, and there are occasional "words" from the sponsor. But there isn't the regular breakup, every five or six minutes (or whatever it is; since I watch almost non-sports TV, I don't keep track), to go to commercials. And some of these would certainly suffer from being broken up.

Another difference is that you will hear the occasional french, german, or spanish (generally no more than a few words at a time, but it does happen) on the show, which would probably not fly, nowadays (other than the spanish, I suppose). R's got rolled, as appropriate, is one change.

Another change is that any humor that tends towards the crude is just glossed over (probably with a laugh or three). There isn't much of that around, now.

You also get an interesting perspective on celebrities of the time, whether they're panelists or guests. It's a much more interesting perspective, I think, than just a straight interview.

Also, when government people show up as guests, they're praised for public service, not castigated. Granted, not everyone would be treating them as lepers, these days, but a sizeable percentage would be (the Tea Party "patriots", in particular). Yes, even the head of tax collection was greeted with applause.

SNAP to the tune, my darling!

I meant to talk about this Friday, but forgot in the evening. But SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; AKA Food Stamps) was cut on Friday as the boost from the stimulus act went away.

But what I wonder about is this. Much of the stimulus act consisted of tax cuts (which, if you're looking to boost the economy, is the least efficient way to do it. The GDP boost from SNAP, for instance, is about three and a half times as much, on a per-dollar basis, as a tax cut for the rich); I believe it was about a third.

Anyway, I wonder if the tax cuts went away as well; I suspect that they're still with us, thanks to stuff like budget battles. After all, why would we risk making the rich lose a few cents of investment return when we can make the poor starve.

I go to a church that is generally very good about this sort of thing (one of these days, I'll write about why that is), but I was disappointed to see no mention of this during mass this weekend. It was especially weird, given that the Gospel reading was about marginalized people. Well, here is a major, current case of people being increasingly marginalized. Slightly disappointing.

Cat-astrophe averted

I watched the Caps game Saturday night, almost live. I must admit, though, that I was paying a lot less attention than I usually do.

The lineup was the same as on Friday, with OV still out, which was disappointing, if not surprising.

What I did notice, while watching, was that the Panthers were generally doing better. What makes the stats look better (for the Caps), is that the Cats spent a lot more time on the power play, and the Caps blocked a lot more shots (23-11, which is actually closer than I thought). What those mean are that many (twelve) of the Cats shots don't show up in '5-on-5 even' analysis, and that the blocked shots don't show up in Fenwick.

The result of that is that the Fenwick, 5-on-5 evens number was slightly in the Caps favor (52.5% for Caps), but Corsi was wildly negative (41.7% for Caps). And all-situations analysis doesn't work in the Caps favor, for either Fenwick or Corsi. Not promising.

But the problem with looking too narrowly at that is that the Cats were on the power play so much because the Caps were mostly chasing them. And if blocked shots are that uneven, it means that the team doing all the blocking is spending way too much time defending.

So, the end result, the win, was good to see (even if it took a shootout, thanks to a nice goal from Campbell and Flash with a couple minutes left).

And I'm almost glad to see that, thanks to that late goal, the 35-ish straight penalty kills streak was broken. I always thought that was pretty fragile, and it is quite a tribute to both Holtby and Neuvy that it happened, but I felt like it was masking some serious weakness in the Penalty Kill. I hope that more attention gets paid to the shots they're allowing. It's still too many.

Unsurprisingly, without OV, the power play did look less powerful, although Fehr did do a credible job of taking OV's position there. But the play seemed a bit less cohesive. Again, no big surprise there.

Ok, what were the good parts? Well, I'd like to say something about playing from ahead, instead of behind, because that's definitely preferable. But that was mostly due to superior goaltending (really, Neuvy had a fantastic game, with several "how did he do that?" saves, and careful reading of above shows he saved eleven of twelve penalty kill shots, which is also great), not due to superior skater performance. What was good was that a) they didn't let up and give up a goal right after scoring and b) they responded to Florida's first goal with their own goal. And Latta and Schmidt both looked good.

But it still feels like they're spending too much time chasing the other team; they need to start being the ones driving play.

I'd like to make an excuse of OV being gone leading to driving play happening less, but the last two games have been half of the team's games on the season with positive 5-on-5 close Fenwick differential. So OV coming back isn't going to do it, all by itself.

I think a lineup shakeup is needed, particularly among the forwards. And the defensemen need to play better, both offensively and defensively, in their own end. And that includes the three at the top of the lineup; I don't think any of the three of them are playing to their abilities. I think the bottom three there have been about as good as one could realistically hope.

But I still don't understand the line combinations, outside of the top line. Well, the "third" line has looked very good, so I wouldn't mess with that. But I think Laich and Brouwer need to be separated (unless you're going to make it a straight checking line, which would be a waste of Erat's talents), and would like to see Fehr moved out of center (Latta looks perfectly serviceable as a checking line center).

Anyway, I think the whole thing's a bit of a mess, and I hope that part of it is that Oates is running experiments to figure out optimal lines.

And, of course, part of the driver with this was the shuffling done to keep Wilson up at the beginning of the season. Backstrom, Grabo, Perreault, and Latta/Beagle would have been one heck of a center group. And that was sacrificed in favor of giving $1.3M Wilson seven minutes a night? Well, water under the bridge, I guess, but seeing Perreault getting a point a game, and killing it in Fenwick, continues to be irritating.

Ah well, need to stop sounding like a broken record, and hope things improve. Next chance is tomorrow night against the Islanders. One odd tidbit for that one; neither team has yet scored an overtime goal, so bet on a shootout if they get to overtime. At least the Caps have superior goaltending; go Caps!


Flying high

Well, I wasn't feeling terribly great going into tonight's Caps game.  OV is out with a shoulder injury (hopefully not for long), and Erskine is out for a fairly long time (went straight to LTIR).  To help cope, Orlov and Latta were both called up from Hershey.

But missing OV?  Ow.  He's fired over 20% of the teams total shots (ie: on-goal, misses, and blocked shots), so it's a tremendous loss.

To add to things, from a personal point of view, I realized about twenty minutes before the game started that it was on NHLN, so my DVR wasn't set.  We were having dinner at the time, and about to go pick up the new minivan we'll need in a month or so.  So I knew I wouldn't have a chance to go home and set it.

Well, I ignored it for a while, but I did check on the game while we were at the dealership to see that the Caps were up four.  It was definitely a muted joy, since it appeared that they were doing well, and I wasn't able to see it.

Well, by the time we finished, got home, and put the kids to bed, the game actually finished, so I didn't get a chance to watch any of it.  And boy was I wishing I had, as I was able to get the highlights shortly after.  7-0?  Ward with the hat trick?  Over half fenwick close?  Which planet is this report coming from?

Obviously, there was a fair bit of puck luck, on both ends.  Especially obviously, the shutout, but shooting 29% 5-on-5 close?  The power play got another pair (in seven attempts), and the PK stopped everything (obviously), but allowed seven shots in five power plays.

Yeah, that power play is really close to a serious crash and burn.  I wouldn't be surprised if they allow three-four power play goals one night very soon.  They're just allowing way too many shots.

Anyway, the other thing I missed was a full line brawl at 5:31 of the third period (eight seconds after the final goal).  I did see some of the "highlights" of that, including Holtby getting his ass handed to him.  Braden, you want to stop the pucks with your body, not his fists.  Most everyone got thrown out, so benches were a wee bit short for the remainder of the game.

Yet Wilson still got the most minutes he'd yet played, despite being one of the ones thrown out.  Go figure.  I guess the fourth was getting a bit more ice time, with that large lead.

And geeze, I just realized that the Caps scored one goal on FOUR shots in the first.  And their shooting percentage went UP over the remainder of the game.  I'm not sure what's more surprising: the pathetic shot total for the period, or that it wasn't their highest shooting percentage of the game.

Anyway, major kudos to Wardo for his excellent game.  Chimmer also did very well, with a breakaway goal of his own and assists on all three of Wardo's goals.  Grabo also had three assists, to round out the incredible night for that line.  Backstrom had a pair of impressive snipes also.

There ended up being a second line of MarJo, Laich, and Brouwer.  I was worried (having heard the line combinations earlier today) that that line would get killed.  MarJo was slightly negative, but Laich and Brouwer were massively negative (-31% and -23%, respectively), making me wonder if they weren't together all that much.  Nevertheless, that does not look like a promising line, and I hope it ends up as a one game experiment.

But overall, there was a lot to like about the game.  Now if only I could have watched it.  Preferably live.

But it's the first night of a back-to-back, so we won't have to wait long to see if momentum carries over.  Let's hope so; tomorrow's being a home game against Florida certainly improves the odds.  And let's hope OV's healthy (yes, I know, that's a long shot).