Cloud Central?

I just realized that I haven't posted anything about Adobe's recent decision to discontinue Photoshop as a boxed product, and move it (and most of Adobe's other products) purely to a subscription model.

This is a terrible decision, that I think will hurt Adobe pretty badly.

While I think that it will work for some people (purely on a dollars-paid basis), I can't see it working for very many people.

But first, let's get my biases out of the way.  I don't use photoshop.  I've played around with Elements a few times (in a couple different versions), but have never really stuck with it.  I've thought about going to Lightroom (especially with my recent problems with importing in Aperture), but have never actually used it.

My main problem with Photoshop has always been the cost involved.  I've seriously considered it a few times when I was eligible for student pricing (and even thought about taking a community college course just to get that student pricing), but never did get it.  And I've never really contemplated paying full price for it (though I might if the learning curve was less steep).

Right now, I'm fairly happy with Aperture, DxO, and lots of plugins (nik, onOne, and topaz suites, along with photomatix hdr, ptlens, and ptgui pro (not a plugin, so more of a pain)).  Photoshop would add a few more capabilities (smart removal and color correction would be the big ones, although it wouldn't surprise me if one of the plugins I have does color correction.  But also layers and masking would occasionally be useful) that would be nice to have.

So, with that out of the way, why do I think this is a terrible decision?

Well, the short of it is that I think the subscription model is fundamentally flawed.  I've never bought software on subscription; it just doesn't make sense to me.  Why would this ever be an improvement for the customer?

And for the business, it actually reduces the incentive to innovate.  They're getting their money whether they add new features or not, so there's no real push there.  It likely also screws up testing cycles, as it means new versions will probably have less testing.

And the big problem, of course, is what you do when you don't have the money anymore.  Can you get to your pictures at all?  Everything I see so far is a no.  You won't be able to open up the PSD files, layered or flattened.  So you'll have to export the TIFFs.  Which works fine, but it's a slow process (as far as I know, you can't select several hundred PSDs, and mass convert them into TIFFs).

And what if you have the money at one point, but then don't have the money?  You get screwed, plain and simple.  In the desktop model, you buy it when you have money, and then you can still use it when you don't.  No muss, no fuss.

And if you don't have a stable (and fast) internet connection?  Multiple problems here.  Potentially it could cause issues with the software's periodic phoning home.  More likely, it makes multi-gigabyte downloads problematic.

And students?  Where do they fit in?  There isn't a student pricing, but the bigger issue is that students are generally not good at things like subscriptions.  Nor do they have lots of money.  Will schools pay the requisite number of subscriptions for their students?  I have my doubts.  Will professors want to teach their aspiring artists software that comes with lock-in?  Again, I have my doubts.

And if the students aren't learning Photoshop, who's going to come along to pay that absurd subscription price in five or ten years?  This is actually the big reason why it's a very short-sighted decision.

I've heard a lot of people saying that this is Adobe's way of dealing with piracy.  And I think there's some appeal to that argument, but the real question is, how is that piracy hurting Adobe?  Every study I've seen (that wasn't paid for by the BSA, MPAA, or RIAA) says that piracy helps companies, by broadening their exposure and mind share (to people with little money now, or in parts of the world where it's difficult or impossible to pay for the software).

And to deal with the last argument, that it makes sense for some people (particularly people overseas or who are using many of the other programs in the CS suite).  Financially, in the short term, it probably does.  But it locks in those customers in a way that CS didn't.  First, there's the issue I already mentioned above, about what happens if you can't keep paying for it.  And secondly, you're at Adobe's mercy on pricing, at that point.  If you go to the subscription, and Adobe raises the price (and they will, I guarantee), you're completely stuck with paying the higher price or losing access to your files.  Either way, you're screwed.

So I really don't see this being of benefit to any of Adobe's customers, even the ones who might think it is.  We'll see; there's quite a bit of time for Adobe to try to address some of those issues (especially the end-of-subscription-access one).  But so far, they haven't (other than to say that they're thinking about it).

I think Thom Hogan has it right, from Adobe's perspective, when he says that they won't even think about whether this is the right thing to do for another year or two.  But I also think he's right that this is making a lot of people question their commitment to Adobe software, and that's never a good thing.

I think this is another example of a decision with very wide impact being taken by a bean counter unable to recognize externalities.  That is, long-term effects that don't directly show up on a balance sheet.  And I think it'll be recognized (eventually) as a huge mistake for the company.

Ruminating on twitter

I recently got a twitter account.  I've only sent out a few tweets; I really wasn't planning on even getting an account.  I only got it because work wanted me to do some research on using Twitter's APIs to continuously process tweets to one or more accounts, and it turns out that you need an account even if you only want to write an app (even if the app doesn't require a user to login to their account).

So I'm not the best person to ask using twitter.  In fact, most of the info I get that comes from twitter (for instance, that Tortorella was booted as coach of the Rangers today) comes to me second-hand.  And I'm ok with that, honestly.

But I thought that Paul Graham's take on it was interesting.  It leads me to believe that twitter probably would be better being merely an internet RFC-based spec that wasn't owned by anyone.

And I think it also gets at why so many people were upset when Twitter decided to limit developers of 3rd party apps to 100k tokens (ie: market reach limit) a few months ago.  Everyone felt like it was an open party, and that was Twitter flexing their muscles as the provider, asserting that it is, in fact, closed.

I really don't have any big feelings on the token limit; I think it's a bad decision, and a terrible precedent, but it's unlikely to have any effect on me, since I don't use any 3rd party interface (even if I likely should).

In any event, I think it's an interesting way of looking at twitter, and I'll have to do more thinking about it.


I trawl some of the apple rumor sites fairly regularly, leading to some interesting things. For instance, I remember reading, several years ago, about Apple supposedly working on a 50" monitor. What's interesting about that is that it's probably tied into the same rumors we're hearing, these days, about an Apple TV with a screen.

But that's not the main reason I'm writing this. The reason I'm writing this is that you'll sometimes see really stupid things going across these sites. Witness: double-retina resolution.

Ignoring system-level problems with this (reduced battery life, need for much better GPU, increased heat from that GPU, possibly need for more memory), it just doesn't make any sense to begin with. Retina resolution is already at the limit of what your eye can see. What would be gained?


Are taxes paid?

I haven't heard the whole testimony (and won't) that Apple CEO Tim Cook gave before Congress today, but I've definitely heard some interesting excerpts.

Apple isn't pushing tax shelters as far as they could, no doubt. The fact that Apple accounts for 2.5% of all corporate taxes collected in the US is a pretty good indicator of that.  And a pretty good indicator that a lot more

But the idea that they aren't doing anything to shelter money from US taxes is pretty absurd on its face, as well.

One thing I wonder about: Apple's R&D spending supposedly went up 40% last year. I wonder if that was actually an increase in activity, or, as I suspect, was reclassifying some activity that was already going on to be R&D for tax purposes. I don't know, but it would shock me if a significant amount of that wasn't just reclassification.

Oh, and further proof that Apple is playing games to avoid taxes: their recent bond offering to repurchase shares. This was done purely to keep from repatriating overseas profits (and thereby having to pay taxes on that money).

So yes, Tim, I believe that Apple is using far less than all of the available tricks to avoid paying taxes, but claiming that it isn't using any just doesn't hold up to even casual scrutiny.

And that overseas money? Trapped is not the word for it. You can pay the taxes on it (remember, it's only a tax holiday, which is to say deferment, that's keeping you from paying taxes today. Those taxes should need to be paid eventually (though it is likely that you'll be able to convince Congress to overlook it)) and bring it back today. The only thing preventing that is an unwillingness to pay the piper.

Where am I?

Just ran across this new GPS device for cameras (how new? Amazon's page doesn't list it as available yet).

Anyway, price unknown (although the HK price converts to $150-ish), it sounds fantasic. Sturdy, small, weather-sealed, and out of the way (ie: not on the hot shoe). It also has an extra port for using an external trigger and uses little power. As long as the GPS function actually works, this looks to be everything I want in a camera-mounted GPS device.

Anxious to actually play with one. If worse comes to worst, I'll ask my inlaws to bring one over from Hong Kong next time they visit. But hopefully Amazon will carry them before that.

Talk Wealth Aboard?

I was very cynical and skeptical when Pope Francis was named. I figured he'd be a lot like John Paul II or, worse, Benedict XVI, since he was getting named by a college that was almost (?) entirely their appointees.

But he has impressed me, in the little I've heard from him since then. Most recently, he openly repudiated the culture of more that has reigned for at least the last thirty years.

And that's a big change. I remember when John Paul II was first flying over to the US, he was taking TWA. The joke at the time was that TWA stood for 'Talk Wealth Aboard'. And while I didn't think much of it at the time (too young), it stuck with me, and I eventually found out a lot more about the basis for the joke (my dad told me the joke, and I suspect that to him, it was just a joke, but there's a strong grounding for why that wasn't an inaccurate analysis).

So I'm pleased (and impressed) that Francis is breaking with that. I hope it continues, and that it trickles down through the church heirarchy.

Thinking long-term

I was talking with my dad the other day, and he was mentioning about the unfairness of having to pay taxes for schools even if you're sending your kids to private school (full disclosure: my parents did send me to private schools for most of my primary schooling).

I have no trouble seeing where he's coming from. And my daughter will be going to at least one year of private school; not looking forward to paying both for that year.

But this diary from kos about Michigan schools reflects a large measure of what I'm afraid will happen if that "unfairness" is eliminated. And the inevitable result of pursuit of policies along those lines will be large numbers of uneducated people.

While that situation might ensure that the rich will stay the rich (it will, because they'll be the only educated ones), it means that they'll be the bigger and bigger fish of a smaller and smaller pool. Unfortunately, it seems like they can't look up and see that. Really, in the long term, it won't work out for anyone.

I was listening to something on NPR yesterday evening, and they had one of their normal "ads". Anyway, the group in question (I forget who) said something about helping an "informed and educated electorate", which made me wonder where they're going to find such a thing.

Thanks to the internet, the tools are there to be more educated and informed than ever before, but the media has become completely useless for being informed. And education is becoming less and less available, thanks to policies like those in Michigan. And stuff like "No Child Left Behind", which is some pretty window-dressing for leaving lots of children behind. As the worst aspect of that, just look at the teacher cheating scandals to see where the teacher priorities are in NCLB (not to imply that that's the only failure, but it's certainly the biggest).

This kind of leads to what I see as the biggest failure of the modern GOP: an inability to see government spending as investment. Not to say that every kind of government spending is that, but a sizeable amount of it is, and that kind of spending has a fantastic RoI. Unfortunately, the return is not this year or next year. It might be five or ten years down the road. But if they're careful, it'll be there.

I have no problem whatsoever with cutting waste, fraud, and abuse in the government. The problem is that the indicators on that that exist show that there isn't much of it. And the largest part of what does exist is probably in the DoD (per Donald Rumsfeld), especially in the large acquisition programs. But, of course, those are the only things that the GOP refuses to cut. That's why, I think, they are completely incapable of putting forth specific policy suggestions.

And their inability to put forth specific ideas is hurting everyone. Not just because it has led them to a scorched-earth "Just Say No" policy, but because it makes it impossible to have intelligent debates on policy.

A real opposition party would be good for everyone, as good solutions could be worked out. But when only one party actually wants to find solutions, everybody loses.

A specific example of this is the war on terror. The government has admitted that there is no foreseeable end to that. The GOP could be a constructive opposition by playing this up, and forcing policy discussions towards ending that, and towards limiting incursions on civil liberties in pursuit of terrorists.

But they have no interest in that, because it's an easy way for politicians to make money (through the stock market, even if more direct routes are cut off (and those routes might also be available; I don't know)).

So that just leaves more and more money going to the rich, and everyone else getting screwed.


IRS Scandal (?)

I really don't understand all the uproar over what's going on at the IRS.  Yes, it probably shouldn't have happened (almost certainly not, but I actually haven't heard enough details to be positive), but what is the IRS supposed to do in cases like these?

Well, here's a good run-down from tax policy expert David Cay Johnston:
Congress requires the IRS to review every application for tax-exempt status to weed out organizations that are partisan, political, or that generate private gain. Congress has imposed this requirement on the IRS, and its predecessor agencies, since 1913.

So, it is likely that something that shouldn't have happened, did.  But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the IRS shouldn't be giving blanket approvals for tax filing status (and, perhaps more importantly, for purposes of hiding donations and donors).

There's quite a few other important points made in Johnston's article.  Check it out, and wish that most of those breathlessly talking about Watergate-level scandal had done so (because they obviously haven't).


Depressing end

My wife surprised me this afternoon by letting me know she'd found me a ticket to the Caps game this evening.  Despite my earlier misgivings, I was still quite excited about the prospect.

I had never been to a Game Seven before, and that was fairly exciting.  And the last time I saw a Caps-Rangers playoff game, live, it was Game Four in 1994, when the Caps won 4-2 to stave off elimination.

I was certainly hoping for a similar result tonight, and the Caps came out on fire.  They were putting together a fantastic game (despite some nearly-criminal no-calls) when a Caps attack was stopped by Lundqvist and a jail-break went the other way, ending up as a 4-on-2.  Kreider dropped to Asham just inside the blue line, and his shot went to the top corner.

That was the only goal of the first period, but the Caps had solidly dominated.  Not only were shots 13-9, but blocks were 13-1.  The only thing that kept me from feeling confident that they were get back into it was the officiating (not only was Holtby run twice, but Callahan leveled Chimmer with a hit well after the whistle and Perreault was tripped right in front of the net.  And those are the ones I remember.  I remember yelling more than that, but I forget the details).

The second period actually did start with the tail end of the one power play the Caps got before the game was decided, but they didn't get anything out of it.  The Caps actually kept playing well for a while, but three minutes in, Erskine ended up as the only one back against a 2-on-1.  That didn't end in immediate disaster, as the shot went off the post, but the defense never got set up, and Pyatt was left alone on the edge of the crease to clean up a rebound of a Dorsett shot.

Two minutes later, at the end of some significant zone time, a Del Zotto shot from the point went off of Brouwer's skate, off of Holtby's stick, and off the top of his shin pad, then into the net.  The hole the puck slipped through, there, wasn't even big enough to see.  Really bad luck.

The Caps actually looked pretty good for the rest of the period (except Holtby, who had a couple of other very near misses that he normally just gobbles up), but were unable to put the puck past Hank, despite some fantastic chances.

They were up  26-17 on shots, even better when factoring in blocks, but were losing three-nil anyway.

The only bit of encouragement was that we saw that Boston had come back from 4-1 down to tie Toronto in regulation.

But then, almost right off the opening face-off, Erskine decides to try to beat Callahan one-on-one and loses, giving up a clean breakaway.  Why did he get a two-year extension with a 30% raise, again?

In any event, Callahan, excellent shootout man that is, converted the breakaway to basically put the game away.  Thirteen seconds in.  Fastest goal I've ever seen that wasn't scored by the team winning the opening faceoff.

Six and a half minutes later, Zuccarello put the final nail in the coffin when Green went over to the other side to make a nice poke check on Brassard, but then never got back to that side.  Brassard retrieved the puck and threw it over to that side, leaving Zuccarello alone against Holtby.  Zucky deked Holtby nicely and put it into the net.

From that point, it was basically just a shit-show that I stuck around for, for no real reason.  Hoping they could at least break the shutout, I suppose.  A ton of people left after the fifth goal.  I did text my wife 'Game over', but stayed anyway.

Easily the most depressing playoff game I've ever gone to.  Maybe most depressing game, actually, although I'm less certain about that.  I'd like to say that Lundqvist stole this game for New York, but the defense was thoroughly craptastic.  And I haven't even mentioned the odd-man break from the first period that resulted from the defenseman pinching, and no forward went back to cover the point.

Well, let the offseason begin, I suppose.  The team will certainly have plenty to think about, starting with answering the question of what to do with Ribeiro.  I must admit to having very mixed feelings about him, and I'm honestly not even sure what to hope for.

Update:  I forgot to mention that the officiating did seem fine after the first period, for what that's worth.


Engineer mental exercise

I just re-read the first five books of Leo Frankowski's Cross-time Knight series.  I first ran across the books when I was in high school, and didn't think much of them.  But I tried them again after graduating college, and found them much more interesting.

It's really a more modern take on 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', with an engineer from Iron Curtain Poland (in the late 80s) transplanted into 13th Century Poland, ten years before the Mongols arrived.

It's a very fun read, although not very deep.  Essentially, think of it as industrialization of a medieval land where Murphy's law doesn't apply.  And the hero spends a lot of time bedding very young girls (this part makes total sense in context, but I could still do without it.  Thankfully, he does not go into great detail of how this happens, just notes that it does.  Often).

I haven't read Twain's original, but this version probably makes a lot more sense in at least one respect.  Polish hasn't been through the enormous linguistic shifts over the last six hundred years as English had in the 1200 years prior to Twain's book.  A Connecticut Yankee, unless an Old English scholar, would  find it just about impossible to converse with someone in Arthur's time.  Actually, depending on exactly where they were, they might find it impossible even if they were an Old English scholar (English was remarkably fragmented not long after that.  I don't know, but it's possible it was fragmented back then as well.  If so, going fifty miles could be enough to make the language unintelligible).

Anyway, Frankowski's series is very fun for an engineer to read.  A world of difficult issues were glossed over or ignored, but lots of cool stuff happened and it was neat to see how it was done in a low-tech world.

One thing I do wonder about, though.  Conrad (the hero) is transported back by a time machine, and the relative who transported him managed to provide him with a sword that is ridiculously sharp and flexible.  The explanation for the sharpness is that is has a layer of diamond a couple of atoms thick in the middle (created with the time machine).

Anyway, I wonder what would happen.  My initial thought on reading the books (this is not the first time I've read them.  In fact, it isn't the first time since starting this blog, so I was surprised to find I haven't reviewed them before.  I could have sworn that I had) was that the diamond is not ductile, so his first attempt to test the flexibility of the blade would have destroyed the diamond.  But this time through, it occurred to me that this isn't all that different from graphene (which had not been discovered when the book was written), and it might instead be the case that the sword would just have been completely inflexible.

I do realize now that I knew people in college who would have been completely over the moon about these books.  One of them got me to read Dan Simmons' Hyperion books for very strange reasons (I was in a weird mood when I sought them out.  His descriptions would not normally have done anything for me).

In Cub-ville

We went to see the Nats play the Cubs today.

Started off rather disastrously, as we had a heck of a time finding parking.  My original plan was to park at the Navy Yard and walk, and that's what we should have done.  It would have been a shorter walk, with much less driving around (and saved $25).

The only good thing to come out of that was that the Nats scored in the bottom of the first, while we were walking to the stadium.

After that, it was a whole lot of nothing, as Gio kept the Cubs from hitting it out of the infield, just about.  But he was lifted for a pinch hitter (in the seventh, I think), and the bullpen could not do as well.

Eventually, the Cubs scored in both the eighth and ninth innings, so it ended up as a 2-1 victory for the Cubbies.  Bleh.

It was the first time in a long while that I'd been to a baseball game (first time at all with the kids), and we had a good time.  The kids didn't seem to pay much attention to the game, though.  I tried to explain how the game was played, but they didn't seem to have any real interest.  I'll have to try again later.  Maybe from better seats; they weren't bad, but beyond the outfield is definitely not ideal for a first experience with the game.  And having lots of Cubs fans around us didn't help any, either.

One funny thing did come from it.  Coming home, we were behind a car with Virginia tags, 'ITE URSI'.  Took me a minute to puzzle it out to be 'Go Bears', in Latin.  Really wanted to congratulate them on the cool tag, but wasn't feasible.

Refs should be invisible, right?

I wanted to write about each of the last three Caps game individually, but right now I'm too irate to come close to doing justice to the first two.

The things that jump right out at me are 13-4 (power plays for Rangers vs Caps in the three games) and 2-0 (5-3 power plays in that span).  If they were calling the fouls the same way, I really don't much care if they're tight or loose, as long as they're fair, and as long as they keep the game safe for the players.

A less important note is 6-1.  That would be the number of times the refs/linesmen have gotten in the way of the puck in ways that benefit Rangers vs benefiting Caps.  I really wouldn't think there was anything about that, but the foul calling has been so out of whack, that it makes me wonder.

Frankly, I think it's amazing that the Caps are still alive, given all that.  The turning point in the game on the eighth was late in the first, when Stepan broke into the Caps zone with a step on Erat.  OV came flying in from behind, towards the center of the ice, got his shoulder under Stepan, and ended up throwing both Stepan and Erat to the ice.  I'll give you that it's quite likely that Erat hooked Stepan; I couldn't see it, but the angles weren't great, and it would hardly be surprising.  But the charging call on OV was absurd.

Not only was it pretty ridiculous to call two fouls on the same play, but I have no idea how you call charging when two players are going almost the same direction, and when it's an open-ice hit.  To add injury to insult, Erat was hurt on the play (and this was actually the bigger effect, as it left the lines all jumbled up for the rest of the game) and hasn't played since.  My knee-jerk reaction was to hope it wasn't a broken wrist.  (And no, I'm not trying to imply somehow that the play was dirty, leading to the injury.  It was just a freak, unfortunate thing.)

But it gave the Caps a 5-on-3 to kill (well, technically it ended the Caps power play early, giving thirteen seconds of 4-on-3, then 5-on-3.) when they were already down a goal.

I was feeling pretty upset about that game, thinking there were no positives to be taken from it, but that's not true.  The Caps actually were the better team at 5-on-5 again.  I can't say as it felt like it at the time, but the Caps, despite the power play disparity (especially accounting for how much of that was 5-on-3), were only four behind in shots.  And they had thirteen more blocked, which means they took a lot more shots.  So they were, again, the better team at even strength.

But while they came back from two goals down once, they were only able to get one back the second time they went down by two.

Friday's game got off to a terrible start, as the biggest guy on the ice (Rangers' Boyle) was left alone in the slot in the first minute, and the pass from behind the net found him.  Can't blame Holtby for that one; atrocious defense.  But despite the continuing huge disparity in power plays, the Caps managed to get the only power play goal to tie the game up.

I wasn't quite as upset about the power play disparity in this game, as today's game, but it did tick me off in a number of uncalled penalties that were almost identical to penalties called on Washington.  The first penalty to Washington was a boarding penalty on Chimmer.  I thought it was a fairly weak, but not indefensible, call when it was made.  When an identical hit by the Rangers, much later in the game, went uncalled, I was angry.

Holtby also got called for tripping in an earlier game.  Lundqvist tripped three different Caps in this game, with no calls.

Again, the Caps dominated at even strength, plus ten in overall shots, three fewer on the power play, with almost identical blocks.  So the Caps were up a bunch.

They definitely deserved to get the overtime winning goal when it came (Ribeiro getting the rebound of Brouwer's stopped shot).

But today's game just had me furious.  I was already a bit upset about the call disparity in the previous game (I had forgotten that it was TWO previous games).  In addition, I was watching the game on DVR, and suspected the Caps had lost due to some people I'd seen with Caps jerseys on, walking around, at about the time when the game would have ended.  They didn't look terribly upset, but didn't look happy either.

So when Hendricks' (I think) stick got knocked out of his hands in the first minute, with no call, I was building towards some serious dudgeon.  There was another pretty obvious call missed shortly thereafter, and several blown offsides calls, so I was definitely not feeling good.

And it didn't take long for things to come home to roost, as New York was given three power plays in the first (one of which happened off-camera, but was described as retaliation penalty).  The third of those made me especially upset, as Fehr was called for elbowing while already on the PK.  Live, I thought that was a good call, but on replay, it looked like the elbow was down when they hit, and came up as follow-through.  Again, not pleased.

Happily, the Caps killed all those penalties and escaped the period scoreless.  Heck, they were only down four on shots, despite 3-0 power play difference.  I'd say they outplayed New York again.

The second period was not so kind.  Power plays were even (nobody got one), but New York did outplay Washington on the period, and got the only goal as Brassard's point shot was deflected by one of the Caps defenders.

The third period had the Caps coming up big, winning on shots despite 2-0 against on power plays (one of those was a cross-checking call on Ward that resulted in a Ranger flying feet-first into his own goal.  The penalty was off-camera, but I can't think of a way to cross-check someone into sliding feet-first.  Every cross-check I've seen that resulted in someone losing their balance had them going head-first).  The Caps had a number of great chances, but Lundqvist kept coming up big.  Very frustrating to watch, although the PK was fantastic.  Definitely one of those power plays was killed without a shot (I think both were, but I'm not positive).  They Caps really put some pressure on at the end, when they pulled Holtby, but Hank still stood tall.

All in all, an extremely frustrating game to watch.  But overall, the Caps were the better team.  Only two shots behind (four, if you count blocked ones), but again, five fewer power plays.  I thought the Caps would be behind in 5-on-5 play throughout this series, but they've been ahead almost every game.  Hard to argue with that.

And it definitely doesn't make me feel good about game seven, tomorrow.  The Caps have never won a game seven at home after winning the first two games of a series.  And if the penalty calling doesn't even out, they might as well not even play.

The penalty kill, their Achilles heel all season, has actually been fantastic.  They've allowed only two goals on 25 power plays (by my count).  If they had matched their regular season performance, they'd have been eliminated already.

And the power play has also been excellent, with three goals in fifteen chances (several of those cut short, too, when they took penalties).  A bit worse than their regular season numbers, but you certainly don't complain about 20% conversion.

Let's just hope that they're given a chance tomorrow.  Like I said, I'm not feeling optimistic.

Update:  Forgot to mention two things.  One, Erat's injury (combined with Hershey's elimination from the AHL playoffs) has given an excuse for calling up Tom Wilson, who has looked quite good (well, for a 19-yo in his first NHL action.  His contributions, while positive, have been fairly minimal).  Anyway, just not looking like he's in over his head is quite good for someone as young as he is.

Two, I did think of a way for Ward to have crosschecked someone with the result that he had.  It would have required him to be skating away from the goal with the defender skating towards the goal, and for the defender to have not flipped around to land on his face.  The first of those was certainly not the case, and the second seems awfully unlikely.


Hockey night (not) in Canada

I turned on the hockey game tonight, hoping to see if the Habs lost their minds again vs the Sens, but it wasn't on at all.  Just the Pens and Isles, which is probably the last series I actually want to watch.

But I was stuck with it, so I left it on for a while.  Long enough to see the Islanders outplaying the Pens pretty seriously, and to take a 1-0 lead in the first.  Between periods, I had to turn the game off (had to distract my son for a while), and didn't get back to it until I put the kids to bed.

So I turned it on with a couple minutes left, and was thrilled to see the Isles were still up by a goal (less so that the Pens had scored four in the intervening time, but you take what you can get).  Even better, just after I turned it on, the Isles stopped the Pens just past the blue line, quickly moved it up-ice, and Cizikas put a weak shot off of Fleury's hand (it was an atrocious attempt at a save, on a shot that wasn't even on-net) and into the net.  I'm thinking TVo will be starting for Pittsburgh next time.

The Islanders just played defense to their raucous crowd after that, and kept the Penguins from getting close to scoring.  Glorious.

After their initial shut-out, and doubly so when I heard Crosby was coming back for Game 2, I was quite willing to write off the series (actually, I was almost ready to write it off before it started).  But the Islanders have outplayed the Pens three games in a row now, so they might be able to pull off the huge upset.  I'm hoping.

Penalties poop on party

Well, there was certainly reason not to be terribly optimistic about last night's game. I deliberately didn't talk about Caps earlier post-season failures the other day (so I was annoyed about the write-up from yesterday's Post). But it's true that they've never won a Game 3 after winning games one and two in a seven-game series (they did sweep the Flyers in the opening round in '84).

But they came out really trying to take the game to the Rangers (a little surprising, actually; I'd expected the Rangers to be the ones coming out that way). OV's early roughing penalty was certainly a surprise (thought the call would be borderline for regular season, let alone in the playoffs) which blunted the Caps attack a bit. But they killed it ok, and opened the scoring a minute later when Backstrom tipped in Carlson's shot from the point. Was definitely flying high at that point.

But a couple more penalties (one of which led to a goal exactly two minutes later; initially credited as PPG, later changed to even strength), brought me down to earth. The goal was a bit of a soft one; Boyle snuck it by short-side. Disappointing.

The second period was largely decided by the three consecutive penalties the Caps took. They only allowed one goal, but almost all of the Rangers shots were on the power play. It was a nice shot by Brassard in the slot that beat Holtby. At even strength, though, the Caps were dominant, and tied the game when Green skated in from the point and wristed a shot into the top corner.

The third period did not go at all well. The Rangers scored twice as the defense decided to watch play in the corner and allow players to skate unmolested very close to the goal. Between those two, Beagle did manage to tip Hillen's shot from the point past Lundqvist.

The Caps put up a heck of an attempt to tie the game up in the last couple of minutes, although all they really got out of it were a lot of shots blocked by the Rangers. It was a disappointing end, but it was good to see that the Caps never looked like they were either taking the Rangers for granted (was especially concerned about this at the beginning) or giving up on the game.

Disappointing result, but a very good game nonetheless. Shots were almost even, with the Rangers blocking twice as many. The Caps were heavily positive in both Fenwick and Corsi. Erskine, who I actually thought looked decent, was the only one on the team negative in Corsi. He, Carlson, and MarJo were the only ones negative in Fenwick. Alzner was a beast, at +11 Fenwick of the team's +16.

OV had a pretty good game, and gave MarJo a couple of incredible set-ups that he couldn't convert.

As I said, a disappointing result, but play like this (especially without the six penalties) will lead to a lot of victories. So, encouraging, overall. Next assessment tomorrow evening at 1930. Fingers definitely crossed.


A Pillar of Iron

(With apologies to Taylor Caldwell for the title.  We read that book in Latin class in high school.)

My best friend asked if I wanted to go see Iron Man 3 on Friday afternoon.  I wasn't sure, as I was not expecting a lot more than a bunch of explosions from it, but agreed.

To be honest, I'm not sure what I want to say about it.  It was definitely better than I was worried about it being.  They came up with some clever ways to make life difficult for Mr Stark.  And the way the terrorism angle was put in made a lot of sense (and was well executed).  The twist related to Ben Kingsley's character was fantastic.

I also liked the ways they used the... remote control, for lack of a better term... suit of armor.

I also liked that the 3D was much better done than in Avengers.  Nothing really jumped out at me as not fitting in (there were much fewer totally-CGI pieces, which certainly helped.  The ones that were there were mostly only shown in low light, which doubtless also helped).

About the only thing I didn't like were all the explosions to which people were subjected, without injury, although I suppose that's becoming de rigeur for action movies these days, so I should probably ignore it.  Well, there's also the issue of heating the armor up to the point of it glowing in the visible spectrum without hurting the person inside or destroying the armor.  Not a big deal, but it does seem a bit unlikely.

I thought they also did a good job with Tony and Pepper's relationship.

My friend wasn't thrilled with what they did with Mandarin, but it didn't bug me (to be clear, though, I never read any comics where he appeared.  I knew what he looked like, but had no idea of his powers or tendencies).

So I definitely liked the movie overall.  A different friend asked me earlier today, though, how I liked it compared to the first two, and I wasn't sure of the answer to that.  Mostly, I think, because there was so much time between viewings (I've seen each one as it came out, and not since), but also because very little has really jumped out at me as being either really great or really bad.  Not sure what to make of that.

I still think Robert Downey Jr was an excellent casting choice, and the rest of the cast has been good as well.

Beyond that, I'm not sure what to say.  I enjoyed it, and wouldn't mind seeing it again (maybe with the first two, as better points of comparison).

Oh yeah, and I was greatly amused by the small tie-in with Downton Abbey.  I've recently watched the first three seasons of that, and greatly enjoyed it.  I still need to write up my thoughts on it, but I think that's a fabulous show.

Ranging Afield

Was happy to be able to watch yesterday's Caps-Rangers tilt live, for once. Got the good news at the beginning that the Penguins had lost game two to the Islanders, despite the return of Crosby, too.  I even had the soccer channel tuned when I turned on the TV, and caught thirty seconds of Arsenals game vs QPR along with Arsenal's first goal.

Buoyed by those, I was feeling good as the Caps came out flying, and looking very good.  They were looking good enough, in fact, that I was never especially worried about them losing.  Not even on the couple of occasions when a Rangers shot hit the post.

The Caps were generating so many good chances that it seemed that even if Holtby let one in, they were sure to get it back right away.

But the game stayed scoreless.  The Rangers got an early power play, and it still stayed scoreless.  Hank made a bunch of fantastic saves, and still there was no score.  Matching minors in the second left the play 4-on-4 for two minutes, and still it stayed scoreless.

The Caps were ahead on shots, 25-19, at the end of two, and still no one had put it into the net.  It stayed that way for most of the third.  Both teams had managed to threaten, but still the scoreboard was a tabula rasa.

Then Brouwer got called for slashing as he tried (weakly) to stop a Nash breakaway (this was one of the shots off the post to which I earlier alluded).  But the Caps did a fantastic job killing this one, not even allowing a shot.

I was hoping the momentum from that would carry over, and get them to score.  I was half-right, as they came out firing, leading to several good chances, but Lundqvist was up to all of the challenges and pulled it into overtime.

At that point, my wife, not being familiar with playoff overtimes, asked how long the overtime would last.  When I answered, "Until someone scores", she asked if that was five minutes, or what.  So I had to explain that my answer was complete and correct, and that full-length periods were involved.  She was not thrilled, as my daughter had to go to soccer before too long.

Well, things did not start out great for the Caps, as Oleksy was called for delay of game less than two minutes in.  This was not killed as impressively as the last, but was killed.  It wasn't enough to break my confidence, but it did get me thinking that it was possible that Lundqvist would steal the game for the Rangers.

Three minutes later, though, the Caps were rewarded a bit, as they got a power play of their own (also on a delay of game penalty).

They lost the initial face-off of the power play, but brought it back down fairly quickly and set up the offense.  Ribeiro got the puck up high on the half-wall and started skating in.  Getting close to the circle, he faked a slapshot.  When two defenders went down to block it, he calmly passed it back to Green at the point.  Greenie took the one-timer, and finally broke the King's scoreless streak.

On the whole, there really wasn't anything to dislike about the game.  The Caps played very well, and won.  If Lundy hadn't played a fabulous game, they could have won by several goals.

Erskine had a very good game.  He didn't have any glaringly bad plays, and did have several nice defensive plays to go along with three shots (and I must have noticed all three, because I would have guessed that there were more).  Carlson also did well, with seven shots to go with his four blocks.  And OV was a beast again, hitting hard and often, and creating a number of opportunities for himself and his teammates.  And, of course, you can't overlook Holtby, who has, thus far, outplayed Hank.  In fact, he's improved on his absurdly good numbers from last year's playoffs.  Unlikely to be sustainable, but lovely to see.

And for me, I was also happy that they finished in time to go watch my daughter play soccer.

So now the series heads back to New York, with the next game at 1930 on Monday.


Starting the second season

The Caps game tonight started at seven pm. I wasn't in front of the TV; my son had a swimming class that started right then. When we were leaving, the people working there had the game on, so I had to try to avoid looking at it.

We got home, and I still wasn't able to turn it on right away. Then, when I did, I found out that the DVR didn't record it (since the program title was something like '2013 NHL Playoffs' instead of 'NHL Hockey'). So by the time I did turn it on, half the game was over, and the Caps were just starting to kill a penalty.  Even worse, shortly thereafter, they took another penalty (two, actually, but one of them was offset by Callahan also taking one) to make it a 5-on-3.  Yuck.

I was really feeling down about the team's chances (despite the score being tied), but they killed the whole thing.  What's more, less than two minutes after finishing the kill, Oleksy looked up-ice just after turning around in his own zone, and saw MarJo at the far blue line.  He beamed the passed all the way there, and MarJo was in, alone, behind the defense,  He went a little bit left-to-right, and put it five-hole (above the stick; sweet placement) on Lundqvist.  Sweet play.

Even better, less than a minute later, Perreault's line was generating some pressure when Chimmer got the puck on the left half-wall.  He threw it towards the net and it found its way past Lundqvist (possibly tipped by Perreault; it was hard to tell).  A bit of a lucky score, no doubt, but it was exciting to see.

That was the last goal of the period; it turned out that the Caps had all three of their goals in the second period (OV cleaned a nice rebound next to the net on the power play about three minutes before I turned it on), on only nine shots.

Not thrilled about the nine number.  In fact, the Caps were outshot on the game 36-30.  Even worse, the Caps had more blocks, 25-15.  That's a pretty heavy shot imbalance.

But Holtby stood on his head repeatedly to hold the score there; he had a fantastic game (first star).  I'm happy that he was able to, less so that he needed to.

Anyway, the third period was pretty heavily in New York's favor; if not for a huge flurry on the power play, and for a minute or two afterwards, it would have been wildly unbalanced.

But again, Holtby was awesome, and managed to keep New York off the board for the entirety of the third period.

Well, I might be less than certain about my feelings on the third period, but I'm certainly thrilled about the overall result, with the Caps taking the first game.  Let's hope they can continue that on Saturday; game time is nominally 1230 (not sure if that translates to 1235 or 1300 with heavy pregame.  I'm hoping the former).  I'd love to see a two-game lead heading up to New York.

Heat Map of OV's shooting

I just ran across this article on Ovechkin scoring, this year. The heat map itself is pretty cool; I wish I had the data to create the graphic.

But, the conclusions drawn in the writeup are, to my mind, reversing cause and effect. OV's heat map doesn't show a preponderance of stick-side, low goals because OV is most effective shooting there. It's entirely due to his position on the power play.

That is, he wasn't put in the left circle because that's where his shot goes most, he was put there because he's right handed, and has the best shot on the team. And the result of the system is that he frequently gets one-timers there where the goalie is still trying to get across the crease. To put it another way, the system frequently results in him shooting into a half-empty net, so of course that's the hot spot on the heat map.

I'd like to appeal to his heat map for non-PP situations or to the one for prior seasons, but I don't have the data for those.

And if you'd like to draw conclusions for Hank being (one of) the best goalies for stopping OV, specifically, just look at their matchup history. There's enough games that you should be able to draw some fairly solid conclusions. Having trouble with career playoff stats, but OV has 16-15-31 in 31 career regular-season games. Hand-compiled playoffs: 9-8-17 in 19 games.

That puts OV's career vs Rangers at 25-23-48 in 50 games. Not bad numbers, but noticeably less than career numbers (particularly for the playoffs). So maybe there's at least a hint of truth to it. I guess we'll see when they play the actual games (assuming that ever happens).

Heading to finals

Watched the Dortmund-Madrid Champions League game the other night (auto-record by DVR has to be about the best invention since the wheelbarrow).

And I've got to say that Real Madrid was back. The furious pressure on the ball, especially in the midfield, was back, and they looked very hungry.

Dortmund was playing a little more conservatively, since they needed to not lose by three (four if they managed to score a goal), but was still trying to score until about the 80-minute mark.

But, oddly, despite a number of prime chances by both sides (almost all of Dortmund's chances were in the second half; the first was almost clinical domination with some bad shooting and good goaltending to keep the game scoreless), there were no goals scored before that point.

Around the 80th minute, though, Dortmund basically stopped attacking, and just concentrated on packing in the box. When they got the ball, they basically just tried to clear it, rather than than possessing it. But Madrid finally broke through in the 83rd (Benzema, off a beautiful setup) and 88th minutes, leading a very tense final eight minutes (there were six minutes of stoppage time).

But that ended up being all the scoring; Madrid didn't even really get close after that.

This was a game that, if it were hockey, would have been called 'chippy'. No fights, but lots of disagreements and lots of calls. But there was still a lot of non-calls (some of which were vigorously protested), and I kept expecting the ref to utterly lose control. It was riding a fine line all night, on that, but never quite stepped over.

One other odd note.  Dortmund's right back had a number of throw-ins, and every single one was illegal.  He didn't use his hands equally, and every single one was spinning pretty hard.  I wish they'd enforce that rule.

But the Spaniards will stay home, with the Germans going to Wembley for the final.

I then watched the Barca game the next night (in effect, I watched both games on 3-5 hours tape delay).

And Messi was again on the bench for this game.  I did catch that the problem was a hamstring one.  Those are tough; they get mostly better before too long, but that last bit can linger for a long time.  And if you're not careful, come back just as bad as the initial problem.

I knew he had an absurd number of goals (I knew it was just short of 100 for last calendar year); turns out it was 58 for Barca.  I didn't realize that they're pretty much an average team (in terms of finishing talent, anyway, they've certainly got plenty of top talent in the midfield) without him; second in goals in David Villa with 14.  That's one heck of a drop-off.

Anyway, the big question was how Bayern would be approaching the game.  And they came out very defensively aggressive.  That is, Barca still had the lion's share of the possession, but Bayern was marking very close and putting a lot of pressure on the ball.  So they weren't going to just sit back and let the game come to them.

Barcelona was not content to sit back either, but without Messi they just couldn't break down the defense.  They could get it to the box without too much problem, but not without Munich having lots of people around the point of attack.  As a result, they weren't really getting any good chances.  At least, the chances they got weren't materially better than Bayern's counterattacking chances.

But despite a lot of effort by both teams, there was no score at halftime.

Things started about the same, with Barca dominating possession, and Bayern almost exclusively attacking on the counterattack.

But one of those counterattacks, only three minutes in, found Robben on the right side of the box.  The defense gave him a chance to bring it a hair towards the middle (and, more importantly, set him up on his left foot), and he boomed it across the goal and into the net.

At that point, Barcelona was deeply in trouble, as they now needed six goals without allowing another.  And really, they gave up shortly after.  Xavi and Iniesta were both subbed out within about fifteen minutes of the goal.

They finally found the net two dozen minutes after the first goal.  Unfortunately, it was Pique trying to break up a cross by Lahm, and it found his own net.  It was very unfortunate, as he was making the only play he could (and it would have been an easy goal if he'd missed; the player behind him had an empty net because the goalie had to play Lahm to shoot).

That was pretty much it; Barca didn't even really threaten after that.  Munich even played keep-away a few times, and weren't heavily challenged when doing so.  Mueller managed to get another score a few minutes later, beating a couple of players (including the goalie) to a high cross right next to the goal and putting it into the goal.

Robben really impressed me in the game.  I hadn't even noticed him in the first game (he might have been on the bench for all I know), but he had a number of good chances in this one, capping them with the goal mentioned above.  His passing (and decision-making in passing) were not great, but he did a very good job of giving himself chances on goal.

Mueller wasn't nearly as noticeable this time.  He did have the one goal, but that was about it for him, offensively (he was doing a good job of applying defensive pressure, however).

Lahm also had a very good game, with a number of very good runs up the wing.  It was one of the better games I've ever seen him play, actually.  Alaba also looked very good, especially on the defensive end.

Overall, you have to call the performance a dismantling of an incredibly good team.  Kudos to Bayern Muenchen for playing so well.

So yes, we will have a pair of German teams playing for the Championship.  I'm looking forward to it.  I actually can't decide which team I'd prefer to see winning, so I'll just have to enjoy the spectacle.

Coming out of a BIG closet

I don't have a lot to say about Jason Collins, the NBA center with the Wizards, for publicly coming out of the closet, except that I admire his courage, and I hope this gets us to the point where people will only think about someone's abilities on the field/court, not about their sexuality.