Rangers run ragged

I was only able to watch the first period of last night's Rangers/Flyers potentially-deciding game.  And it started out well for the Rangers, as they were pressuring the Flyers and getting turnovers leading to good chances.  They a did couple of chances as well, but were getting the better of them for a while.

But then the Flyers got a power play, and things pretty much went to hell.  The Flyers kept a lot of pressure on, and ended up scoring with about fifteen seconds left in the power play.

And from there, it was pretty much all Flyers.  The Rangers certainly got some chances, but Mason was up to all of the challenges.

And after I turned it off, things were even more one-sided.  Simmonds (who had the first goal camping out at the side of the goal) ended up getting two more from a similar distance from the goal.  And each team had another pair of goals as well.

So the series heads back to New York for the deciding game.  I'm torn about who I'd like to see win.  In general, I dislike the Rangers a bit less than the Flyers, but the prospect of a Penguins/Flyers series is delicious.

I guess I'll just hope for a good game tonight.

The Nike experience?

I'm listening to the second (I'm an episode behind, I guess) Stratechery podcast, which is working its way towards discussing Nike's impending dumping of the Fuelband as a hardware product.

But along the way, they're talking about the experience of using Nike products and the Nike brand.

This is pretty interesting to me, on a couple of levels.  The first is that I have no idea what they're talking about with the Nike Experience.  I've been playing sports all my life; I just stopped playing competitive ultimate last year.  But I have very little in the way of Nike products.  One pair of shorts that was the cheapest pair I could find in that store (I was on my way to an ultimate game when I realized I had no shorts, somehow); I like them, but it's a pair of shorts.

The other that I can think of is one of my pairs of cleats.  Similar situation, insofar as I was buying them on my way to a game, although it was not a situation where I said, "oh shit, I've got nothing"; I did plan on buying them that day.

I went to a store that was mostly carrying soccer stuff, and needed to find cleats that didn't have a spike on the ball of the foot (was nursing a stress fracture there at the time).  There weren't many options, but those Nike's fit the bill well.

So I haven't really seen "The Nike Experience", despite being an athlete all my life.

The other part of it is that I've never been one to care about branding.  Well, not with general products, thinking about it.  I suppose you could make an argument for books and music, because I certainly had favorite groups and authors.  But when it came to products, the closest I got was preferring Coke products at one time (I hate Coke and Pepsi equally, these days).

Well, until I got to using Apple products about fifteen years ago.  And they've been stable and useful enough that I love them for all non-server uses (linux has far, far better context switching performance, so anything server-related, I'll pick linux.  Probably ubuntu).  I guess I could go to full-time linux use, but I'm definitely more productive on a mac.

When the iPod came out, I was thrilled to get one (it was a gift), and found it was unbelievably better than any of the other competitors that were out, then.

I actually waited a long time to get an iPhone; I wasn't interested in being an AT&T customer (we knew they were part of NSA surveillance; the others we could at least hope were better).  But I didn't rush out and get one when Verizon got them immediately.  I debated and debated, and finally broke down when I heard Verizon was about to end unlimited data plans.  So I got it the last day they offered those plans.

When the iPad came out, I passed on the first generation.  I have a vague recollection of saying I wanted three or four specific features before getting one.  The second generation was close enough that I bought one the day they were announced (and waited a couple weeks for it to arrive).

Anyway, the point is that I'm very deeply into the Apple ecosystem, these days, but it's really the first time I've had significant feelings about a brand.

In any event, the discussion in there was very interesting.



I watched a chunk of the Penguins/Blue Jackets game earlier tonight.  I missed both of Malkin's early goals, but saw Columbus getting comfortably outplayed.

And then I saw the Pens score their third.  I was thinking of turning it off then, but didn't, right away.  But my son was refusing to eat his dinner, so I turned it off not too much after that.  So I missed Malkin completing the hat trick, as well as Columbus coming back enough to make a game of it in the third.  Wish I'd seen the latter part, even if they fell short.

Ah well, Penguins move on.  Not exactly a surprise, but certainly disappointing.

The next round for them will definitely be interesting.  Knowing that Pittsburgh won, I'd almost like to see the Flyers advance, just to see chaos ensue.  But I'd mostly be cheering for the meteor in that series, other than the schadenfreude of watching the two teams abuse each other.

It would certainly make for a pair of series, in the East, of teams that seriously dislike each other.

Cold snap

We finally got the movie Frozen last week. We watched it over the weekend (a bunch of my daughter's friends came over for an Easter Egg hunt), and she (very predictably) loved it.

One weird side effect came out of that, though, which was that I missed the first forty minutes or so.

So I saw the last half, and didn't see the first half until a couple of days later (when we watched it again, just the two of us).

I must say, it was very good; I was impressed.  The music, especially early on, was truly excellent.  The story was pretty good too, and I liked how they got the resolution they did (with one minor caveat).

To get slightly more specific with the music, it opened with music strongly reminiscent of Lion King's "Circle of Life" (despite me generally not liking The Lion King, that's not a dig.  I did love the soundtrack for LK, even if I thought the story was terrible and animation so-so.  And that's not getting into the general part of it being a rip-off of the japanese Simba).

Then it went directly into a song (nearly a sea shanty, if sung much more cleanly) about the wonder and dangers of ice.

After that, we finally meet our heroine and her sister (Anna and Elsa, respectively), as Anna wakes Elsa to go build a snowman.  When they do that inside, we find out that Elsa has magic powers to control and create ice and snow.  Unfortunately, Elsa accidentally hurts Anna in their playing.

That leads to one of the two things I didn't like about the movie.  They see trolls, who are able to heal Anna, and warn Elsa about fear and controlling her powers.  My problem came when they got home, and their parents encouraged Elsa to be controlled by those fears.  Part of that was separating the girls; Anna had her memories of the powers removed by the trolls, and they didn't want her to find out again.  But it was generally amazingly stupid treatment by their parents.

So then we had, I think, my favorite song, where Anna sings "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" to Elsa's bedroom door over the course of several years.

Next comes the passing away of parents, followed by Elsa's coronation.  At the coronation, the sisters do some bonding, until Anna meets Prince Hans.  At that point, things go south, Elsa runs away, freezing the entire region in the process.

Once she gets to North Mountain, Elsa sets up an ice palace to live in, and sings the excellent (and best known) song, "Let It Go", to celebrate her no longer needing to hide her powers.

The rest of the movie details everyone trying to get Elsa to unfreeze the country, through various means.

What I liked most about the resolution was that 'True Love's Kiss' did not solve everything (a first, I think, for a Disney princess movie.  Well, unless you want to count Brave, I guess).  They did even reference that, directly, which had me thinking of Enchanted.

What I didn't like was that Hans' actions came out of nowhere.  As mentioned, I watched the second half before the first, so when I saw the beginning, I was specifically looking for clues, and I didn't see anything.

He also mentioned nobody getting anywhere (wooing) Elsa, which was certainly true, but no evidence was shown of anyone even trying.  For sure, he never put himself in a position to try.  That's a minor detail, of course.

One other, fairly minor, point was that the songs after 'Let It Be' seemed a bit... forced, maybe?  They just didn't seem to flow naturally, as they did earlier in the film.

But the most important point is that my kids (my daughter and my son) both loved the movie.  In fact, my daughter is nearly obsessed with it.  And I enjoyed it too, warts and all.  I especially liked several of the songs.

Several people online mentioned really disliking Olaf.  I didn't think much of his song, but he didn't bother me much (other than occasionally reminding me of the very annoying character he voiced in the Ice Age movies).  And my son really likes him.

So, yeah, thumbs up, overall.

Read carefully

As I've mentioned before, I have FiOS internet/TV service, with which I've mostly been happy.

Anyway, I just got my latest bill, and they've done something weird.  They've made it very difficult to find the due date.  It isn't printed on the payment coupon anymore at all, and is very easy to miss on the statement.

What I can't quite figure out, though, is why they'd do that.  The only thing I can think of is that they're hoping people won't be able to find it, and will end up paying late.  That seems a decidedly hostile way to do business, though; I can't see why they'd pursue it.  It might help them make a few percent more in the short term, but I can't see how it wouldn't bite them in the ass, long-term.


A friend pointed me to this artist's blog (without telling me what kind of blog it was).  Through the first couple entries, I was like, "Not bad, not bad."

But then I was just blown away by the piece "Big Fish", especially all the shots showing the steps in creating it.  After that, all I could say was, "Wow".  (Also check out "Who Did It?" and "Earth to Earth".)

I hope he keeps making works like that; there are some amazing ones in there.  I wish he'd have an exhibit over here; I'd love to see it up close and personal.

Blues smother Reds

I mentioned, earlier, watching Chelsea's duel with Liverpool.  I had been excited to see it, then a friend pointed me to Chelsea playing their B team for the game.  But I ended up deciding (a few hours after the game) to watch it anyway.

To make a long story short, it did not start out as an exciting game.  Chelsea looked like the B team, almost completely conceding possession to Liverpool, and just trying to pack in the box.

Well, they got a big break in stoppage time at the end of the first, when a D-to-D pass to Gerrard was slightly misplayed, then Gerrard slipped, giving Ba an open run to the goal.  Unsurprisingly, Ba beat Mignolet for the score to put Chelsea up.  Despite getting two extra minutes of stoppage time (was supposed to be three, but ended up being five; I'm not sure why), Liverpool was unable to break through, and went into the half down a goal.

So, how did that affect Chelsea's strategy in the second half?  They just about did the same.  When they got possession after blocking a pass, they mostly just cleared the ball.  It reminded me of when I played defense in high school (I mostly played left-half); not what I expected to see from a team in the Premiership, let alone one with title aspirations.

Gerrard was playing like a man possessed; I think he had five shots in the second half (only one of which was really good).

I told my daughter, when there were about twenty minutes left, that I didn't think Chelsea would be able to withstand the siege, and that Liverpool would probably win.

But time kept ticking down, and Chelsea kept preventing really good chances.

As time started to run short, Chelsea did try to possess the ball a couple times, and even got a decent scoring chance on a counterattack.  But Liverpool kept attacking in waves; they were able to get to the outer edge of the box without much trouble, but were basically stuck there.

And time kept ticking down, and Chelsea kept preventing really good chances.

There was only four minutes of stoppage time in the second half (given a couple of long stoppages, including one where two Chelsea players were "nursing cramps" at the same time.  Given that, I expected five or six.

And Liverpool kept attacking, and getting turned back.  And then, they pushed everyone up, and the last defender missed when he tried to pinch to keep the ball up, and Chelsea ended up with a 2-on-zero breakaway.  Mignolet played it about as well as he could have, but Chelsea kept their cool and put the game away for good.  Despite the long stoppage to celebrate, and the ample time left in the stoppage when the goal was scored, the game was called immediately upon the ensuing kickoff.

That, combined with City's victory at Crystal Palace just after, put City back in the driver's seat to win the premiership (probably on goal differential, again).  We'll see how it goes; City might have another letdown, like they did right after losing to Liverpool a week or two ago.

And we'll also note that it was Liverpool's first loss of the calendar year, and that it was at home.  Ouch.  Still, if City falters even a little bit, Liverpool will be in position to win their first title since 1990.

Ducks swim on

I wasn't able to turn on the Ducks/Stars game before the second intermission, last night.  The Stars were already up 4-2, had been dominant at home (so far), and it didn't seem likely to be an interesting game.  But there were no other games on, and I'd already watched the Chelsea/Liverpool playoff game (and the Man City play-in game), so I watched it anyway.

As expected, it was mostly about the Ducks trying desperately to generate some offense.

To be honest, though, outside of one power play, they really didn't do much through the first seventeen and a half minutes or so.  But then Colgliano and Chiasson traded a few punches, resulting in matching minors for roughing.  I tweeted, at the time, that that wasn't to bright (of Cogliano), but man, did it work out well for them.

The rest of the game was all Ducks.  It took them only sixteen seconds to bring the game within a goal (probably helped by pulling Hiller), and they were definitely smelling blood.  They didn't get another in the four-on-four, but they were pressuring a lot, and did score two seconds after it ended (again, with Hiller pulled, of course).

That was just about it for the game, in fact.  It went into overtime, of course, as that goal was scored with less than half a minute remaining.  And overtime lasted a bit less than three minutes, with the first shot on goal (there were no shots that missed the goal, but too lazy to check if there were blocked shots) going in for the Ducks (Lehtinen was pretty far out of position on the goal), and securing the series win.

So congratulations, Bruce, on your second playoff series win (and second series that didn't go to seven games, I believe); good luck the rest of the way.


Odd tidbit

Just went to search for something about old Mel Brooks movie on IMDB.  Searched for 'space balls'.  The movie didn't show up; expanded title hits.  Still didn't show up, even with 200 hits (oddly, to me, there were a hell of a lot of Dragon Ball hits).

Finally remembered that it was 'Spaceballs'.  Thankfully, it was the first hit on that search.

Neutral notations

I forgot to mention a few things when I was writing about the FCC and net neutrality earlier.  One, Wheeler, the Chairman of the FCC, is the former head of lobbying for both the wireless telephone industry and for the cable industry.  So he is hardly a neutral observer.

Two, there's a White House petition to address net neutrality ('tain't much, but 'tain't nuthin).  Similarly, there's an online petition (ditto).  If you care about this, I recommend both of these.  The second site also takes donations for grass-roots work.

And again, contact your Congresscritter and Senators.

Oligarchy stepping on everyone

After being told by the courts that the approach taken to enforcing net neutrality was not a valid one, the FCC has decided that the next approach is just to punt entirely.

The rationale is that the broadband providers are creating "fast lanes" that will enable companies that are willing to pay extra (think netflix, amazon, and google, mostly) to get to consumers more easily.

Unfortunately, this rationale is horribly misleading, because they aren't creating new lanes.  They're just repurposing some lanes for exclusive access to those who want to pay.

In the DC area, on the Virginia Beltway (I-495), there are now what are called HOT (High Occupancy/Toll) lanes.  Basically, two lanes are reserved for those willing to pay to travel on those lanes.  The idea is similar, but the difference is that they didn't take two lanes away from the existing road; they built two extras.

But the broadband incumbents have no incentive to build more capacity for those "toll" lanes; they don't have competition to deal with, so why bother?  Who's going to leave?  Where can you leave to?  If you're lucky, you might have one other choice.  But most people don't even have that.

So when they say there's some consumer benefit to this plan, that's a complete lie.  For an eloquent statement of why, listen to candidate Barak Obama (who appointed the current head of the FCC, who's pushing this plan).
“I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.” Explaining, he said, “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites…. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet — which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

And that was dead on. Too bad he's completely forgotten what got him elected (the current situation with the intelligence agencies is another example of that).
The other part, which he didn't touch on, there, was that it also destroys the next Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or Pinterest, or... The point is that it is heavily in favor of incumbents.
One example that I saw elsewhere (my apologies to the person who wrote it; I can't remember or find it now), was that it could completely destroy a new game, as it gets faced with lag (because the creator can't afford to get into the fast lanes) and can't offer a good experience, through no fault of its own.
So call your Congressmen and Senators, because this is a plan that benefits no one except the incumbents in a few industries. If there were real competition, this idea would be a non-starter, because consumers would immediately abandon any company which tried to implement it.
And when the FCC opens this for comments, give them comments. And put those comments in the form of a Word Document or PDF, as that will force the FCC to actually read them.


Scoring first not recommended

Watched the tail end of the Penguins/Blue Jackets game tonight.  When I turned it on, the Jackets were still down 3-2 after allowing three goals in twelve minutes in the first period.  But they had been battling back, since.

Well, it took them several minutes to mount a chance at all (including killing a penalty), but they had several chances in the last few minutes.

But they weren't able to break through until the final minute of regulation, when Fleury went to play the puck behind his net, fumbled it away, and watched it passed in front and shot in before he could get back into position.  It was a terrible capstone to a pretty good game for him.

And that sent it into overtime.  For the first half a minute or so, the Jackets went right at the Penguins, and had several chances.  Then the Penguins came back, and had a few chances of their own.

But one of those chances was stopped by a Blue Jacket stopping a shot.  It was pushed to neutral, the blocker (Umberger, I think) threw the puck back across to Foligno, who broke into the zone and shot it low, right at Fleury.  And he was rewarded when Flower went Power-less to tie the series.

That leaves the series tied (with the team scoring first giving up their lead in every game, and losing in three of the four).  If that late-game failure gets into Fleury's head at all, I have to wonder if he's going to look like he did in the playoffs the last two seasons.  That would amuse me no end, but we'll have to wait and see.  I think I'd bet against it, but I'm hopeful.

Go Jackets!

Real counters Bayern

I watched today's Real Madrid/Bayern Muenchen match with a great deal of curiosity.

I hadn't seen Madrid this season (at least not in the last couple months), and was a bit puzzled by their play.  Last season, it really struck me how aggressively they were attacking the ball in the midfield on defense.  In this game, they were mostly sitting back and only trying to interfere with passes between Munich players.

I wasn't sure whether it was a change in strategy for the year, or a single-game idea.

Regardless, they spent a lot of time early in the game watching Bayern pass around them.  They managed to keep Munich from getting good chances, but were getting almost no touches.

In fact, after a little while, I was IM'ing a friend with how many touches their most recent possession had.  The longest was twenty-one, until suddenly they had a twelve touch counterattack that went all the way into the back of the net (with some significant luck on avoiding defenders; the final cross went between the legs of two different defenders, ten yards or more apart).

That didn't seem to deter Bayern at all for quite a while, even though Madrid managed two more close counterattacks in the next ten minutes or so (one was pushed high by a Ronaldo only six yards or so from the net).

But despite a bunch of corners, Munich only managed one really good chance, and that shot was blocked by a defender five to eight yards out.

Real actually managed one more strong chance in the forty-first minute, but again pushed the ball over the net (it was a terrible strike, too, as he had time).

But that was about it, and the teams went into the half at one-nil.

The second half was played much more even, possessionally (counting by completed passes, I'd bet that Munich spent much of the first half at over 90% possession).  I don't think either team really had many strong chances, and Madrid was probably ahead there, again.  It had to be a frustrating day for Bayern (and especially for their one striker, Mandžukić, who was largely invisible).

But despite the possession balancing out a bit, the score stayed the same, and the game ended at one-nil.

The game was an interesting chess match, and I'm definitely looking forward to the second leg.


I've been listening to old episodes of Hypercritical lately, and one of those (I forgot to write down which one; maybe #6?) got me thinking about a few things.

The first was talking about old computers, and how magazines used to always just talk about specs for new computers.  I'd never thought about it before, but I think that's due to a few different factors.  One was that magazines were attempting to be unbiased (or, at least, to appear so).

But the big thing, I think, is that most of the magazines (certainly, all the ones I read) covered hardware, and once you get past specs, the rest of it is user experience, which is software-driven.

And given that there were few magazines that covered multiple platforms (PC World would occasionally have a mac- or amiga-focused article, but we're talking one or two a year), there wasn't really anything to differentiate, except the specs.  Microsoft's de facto monopoly played into this as well.

The other part was that there was some discussion of car magazines, and especially of Car & Driver (as that's Siracusa's favorite).  I've never read any of those magazines regularly, but my biggest problem with them has always been that the comparisons aren't terribly useful.  In particular, they do Top Ten lists every year.  That's a fine concept, but the execution problem is that they have so many different categories, that it feels like every car you've heard of has gotten onto the top ten list for its category.  And at that point, unless you're completely restricting yourself to vehicles in one category (which I've never done), it's of very limited use.  And even if you are restricting yourself, if all the competitors you've heard of are on the list, it's still pretty close to useless.

What's desired is something to narrow focus for the reader, and that doesn't seem like it does the job.

Anyway, listening to the old Hypercritical's has been very interesting, and I'll probably keep doing it.

Flawless victory

I hadn't watched any of the first three games, but I caught the end of the Habs series-winning victory over the Lightning, last night.  I saw highlights of the Lightning pulling within a goal when I had the Red Wings/Bruins game on.  I flipped over a couple minutes later to find that the Lightning had tied it up at three.

There was a lot of back-and-forth in there for a while.  The Lightning threatened  several times on build-up, but the Habs had a great breakaway chance (bad pinch by the defenseman during a line change made it a clean breakaway).  But both goalies looked very good, in keeping it tied.

All this time, I thought there were a number of uncalled penalties, on both sides.  And here's where we get to my biggest problem with not calling a tight game.  When the Lightning (Paquette) were called for tripping with two minutes and change left... Well, it was a clear tripping situation, but because they'd been letting so many calls go (including Paquette getting boarded pretty badly only a few seconds prior), it felt like a favoritism call.  (To be clear, I'm not saying it was; I really doubt that it was.  But, as someone with no dog in the race, it felt like it.)

That pretty quickly led to a fluky Montreal goal by Pacioretty, although I missed the goal itself, as I was watching the defenseman who appeared hurt trying to block the initial shot (maybe he was just upset the shot got past him).

Congrats to Montreal, though, for being the first team to move on to the second round (and for their first playoff sweep since the last time they won the Cup in '93).  Boston looked comfortably in control last night to moving on to face the Habs.  That would be a great series, although I'd love to see Detroit push Boston to seven, preferably with several overtime games.

We'll see.


Re-viewing technology

I heard about the Lytro Light Field camera when they came out with their first generation camera, a while ago (it now comes out that that one is basically a prototype).

Well, the one they want to call their first-generation (the Illum) is coming out in a few months.

The technology is pretty interesting; it tracks the direction from which light is incident on the sensor.  There are a few more details in that article, but the short of it is that it allows capture of distance from everything shown, and can compute refocusing the image after the capture.

I'm not sure how well it will all work, but it's definitely interesting.  The big drawback is that the overall level of detail is much, much lower, because it can't put the pixels as close together.

The other big plus is that it might be able to work on non-custom cameras at some point.  We'll see how that works out, but I'd love to see it.

Anyway, it's available for preorder right now, if you've got $1500 burning a hole in your pocket.  I don't know, but I'm certainly tempted.

Riding high

I also watched a bit (the whole first period, I think) of the Dallas/Anaheim game last night.  And it was pretty near all Dallas; the Stars were really flying, and keeping a lot of pressure on the Ducks.

Anderson looked very good in net for Anaheim, though, and kept the Ducks in it.  Despite a number of very good chances, Benn (Jamie edition) was the only one to find the net in that period.

Koivu had an outstanding chance at one point, alone in the slot with Lehtonen down, but was unable to get it past Keri.

In general, I was impressed with the Stars, with their speed and forechecking ability (jealous might be a better word; the Caps only have one line that approaches that).  The hitting was very hard, on both sides of the puck, and I have to wonder how the 40-year-olds in the series are going to do.  We'll have to see on that.

Anyway, I needed to go to bed, so I missed the Stars maintaining their steady attack, and scoring two more goals while allowing none.

So we're still waiting for this series to start, I guess, given that the home team has won all three.

Ending on a low note

I watched the second, and much of the third, periods of the Blue Jackets/Penguins game last night. Things were looking great for the Jackets until a couple seconds left in the second. Then the Penguins worked it around, a Jacketed defender went down too early for the block, it was pulled around him and shot into the net. Time of the goal: 19:59.3. Oof.

The Jackets didn't collapse in the third, though.  In fact, they scored one minute in.  Unfortunately, I had to go change a diaper right as they scored.  So I didn't see either of the two goals that the Penguins scored in the next six minutes.  That was irritating, and depressing.

And it got even worse shortly thereafter.  A Penguins shot from the point by Maata was deflected twice (once by Jokinen, once by a defender; it started out low and right, rising, and ended up high and left, descending.  Definitely no chance for Bob).

And that's where it ended up, unfortunately.  The Jackets got a little bit of pressure after that, but no really good chances.  So it was a very disappointing ending to a game that had been going very well for Columbus.


Applescript notes

My pay stubs come in via ADP's portal, which is frightfully annoying to use on a Mac.  Basically, it doesn't work for crap in Firefox, and you can't use 1Password (or keychain, come to that) to enter your credentials.

But it's been bugging me, so I've been working to automate it.  I've actually got it mostly working (I can go to the newest pay stub, and open that in its own window (it normally opens via an embed), but haven't yet gotten it to save), and just wanted to mention a few things I did to it there.

I should mention, too, that this is my first Applescript.  In fact, I was going to try to do the entire process via Automator, but that proved impossible (well, I couldn't manage to come close, anyway), so I fell back to using Applescript.

The script opens Safari, goes to the portal URL, and enters credentials via
tell application "System Events"
  keystroke "userid"
  keystroke tab
  keystroke "pw" -- yes, this is not terribly secure; using the keychain would be better
  keystroke return
  delay 4 -- needed before next step
end tell

Yes, this is horrible syntax (this is what happens when you have a programming language written for non-programmers), but it is pretty powerful.

Then, it gets really interesting, as I start embedding javascript:

tell application "Safari"
  tell current tab of window 1
    do JavaScript "document.getElementById (\"menuHit.node2\").onmouseover();"
    do JavaScript "for (var i = 0; i < document.links.length; i++) {
        if (document.links[i].textContent == 'Pay Statements') {
    delay 4

    -- you'd think I'd be used to it from java, but I hate these
    -- doubled backslashes
    set linkScript to do JavaScript "function getLink() {
      var pat = /\\d{2}\\/\\d{2}\\/\\d{4}/;
      for (var i = 0; i < document.links.length; i++) {
        if (document.links[i].textContent.search (pat) >= 0) {
          return i;

    set docName to do JavaScript "document.links[" & linkScript & "].textContent.replace (/(\\d{2})\\/(\\d{2})\\/(\\d{4})/, '$3$1$2');"

The interesting parts to, there, are that
  1. You can do javascript
  2. You can get values back from javascript (note that the whole purpose of that function, getLink(), is to enable returning a value via return.  Supposedly (I didn't try it), you can't just return from the javascript.  I thought for loops had a return value, implicitly, but that didn't seem to be the case from the slight experimentation I did.
  3. You can embed applescript variables into your javascript calls
  4. You can use javascript to get regular expression processing in your applescript
Anyway, just thought I'd post about this.  It's kind of interesting to me.  Dunno if I'll keep doing things in AppleScript; hopefully I can find better ways to do things.

Update: I was finally able to save the file by forcing safari to just save it to disk by doing
defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport -bool YES
defaults write com.apple.Safari AutoOpenSafeDownloads -bool NO
(The second of those was optional, but kept Preview from opening.)

Then I just used a shell script (after saving the file name from the embed src) to move the file from Downloads to my target directory.

Oh, getting the filename separated out was a little interesting:
set fileName to do shell script "basename `dirname " & docUrl & "`"

Update 2: Just noticed, with some amusement, that I had about ten tabs open for looking up various applescript oddities.

NHL Recap on the night

I watched roughly the second half of the first period of last night's Flyers/Rangers game, so I saw both first-period goals (and it was a beautiful forecheck on that Flyers goal, much as I hate to say it).

It was looking, for a while, like the Flyers would cruise.  But, boy howdy, did that change in the third.  Thanks to a pair of power-play goals, the Rangers just walked home with it.

And I really wish I'd watched the Hawks/Blues game.  Triple overtime?!?

And wow, did San Jose ever handle LA.  Definitely didn't expect that.  Despite Jones being perfect in his period of work for LA, if Quick has to come out again, LA is in serious trouble.  Although, now that I saw the highlights, you can't really blame Quick for any of the three goals I saw.  Any one of those would have taken a near-miraculous save.


Maestro musings

Mac Power Users has sold me on Keyboard Maestro, and I've been playing with that a bit.

Today, I realized that some of my apps don't update automagically, so I set up scripts to automatically download and install the latest version once a week.

Basically, it's just a shell script that runs, but there are a couple interesting things in the shell script.

One of the apps is dropbox, which has a download link of https://www.dropbox.com/download?src=index&plat=mac

To save that string as a shell variable (so it can be referenced multiple times), I finally figured out that I need to do:
export URL='https://www.dropbox.com/download?src=index\\\&plat=mac'

The parts of note are the single quotes and the double-quoting of the ampersand (those three backslashes).  That enables doing
curl -s -e "$URL" ...
a bit later on.

The other interesting bit is very apple-specific.  That download gets a dmg, of course, which needs to be mounted.  What makes that tough is that there's a license agreement (GPL) to which agreement must be indicated.  Hence,
echo 'y' |hdiutil attach $ONAME -readonly >/dev/null

The utility 'yes' should work in place of 'echo y', but for some reason it wasn't (or at least it didn't appear to be.  It might be that another change in the command, or the line before it, was what got things working, rather than the change to echo).

Anyway, Keyboard Maestro is pretty cool.  I'm sure that I've only scratched the surface of what it can do, so far.

I actually got dropbox to facilitate syncing 1Password on my mac and my iOS devices, but haven't used it for that at all; I've been doing WiFi syncing (MPU did not sell me on 1Password; I've been using that for years.  But they might have gotten me to update to v4, and definitely did get me to get the iOS version).

Sky blue goes red

I was fortunate to be able to watch the Liverpool v Man City game from the weekend, last night.  And it was quite a game, with Liverpool attacking to build-up very quickly.  Kompany broke up the first several build-ups by being in the right place, but City wasn't able to do anything in return.

Five minutes in, things looked like they might be improving, as Suarez was carded for a bad tackle.

But things turned wrong very quickly thereafter, as Liverpool managed a very nice counter-attacking goal, with Sterling providing the finish after a couple of very nice fakes.  Then things got even worse, as Yaya Toure (sp?) had to go off for an injury (a pull or strain appeared to be the likely culprit).  It was less encouraging when his replacement got a yellow card on his first challenge.

Things evened out a little bit after that, insofar as City was finally able to mount a little bit of an attack.  But Liverpool won a corner off a counterattack around the twentieth minute (I almost forgot, but it was a corner instead of a goal due to an amazing save by Hart), and Skrtle converted on a beautiful header from a very sharp angle to make City's task appear nearly hopeless.

Liverpool kept up pressure for the rest of the half, but was unable to score another.

City came out firing in the second half (helped by a smart substitution, putting in... Manlin, maybe?), bringing immediate pressure.  Nasri and Silva looked far more dangerous, all of a sudden, and City scored one about fifteen minutes into the half.  As if that wasn't tense enough, they scored another (it was officially scored as an own goal, for reasons that are beyond me.  Yes, the shot deflected off a defender and the goalie, but I still don't see why that's enough to make it an own goal) only a few minutes later.

That made for a very tense rest of the game.

Liverpool fans were getting very concerned, but they managed to find the back of the net around the 80th minute after a badly failed clearing attempt by Kompany went right to Coutinho.

That forced City to push forward even more, and they were pushing hard when Henderson got a straight red for a hard tackle to put Liverpool down a man in stoppage time.

And that's just about when things went south for me, as the DVR had apparently stopped recording with a couple minutes left in stoppage time.  Thank goodness that was the final result; I'd've been about ready to kill someone if City had leveled after that and I'd missed it.

But it was one hell of a good game, regardless.  I'd been sure for quite a while that City was going to end up winning the league, but now I'm a doubter.  Liverpool will have to falter pretty badly, at this point.


"City to get ultra-fast broadband"

I saw that headline from the BBC (that was the RSS headline), and that a new fiber optic network would be created in New York.  My first thought was, "I thought I heard that the incumbent telecoms wouldn't make that possible in New York for the foreseeable future".  Then, "Maybe I was wrong?"

Then I realized that I had mis-read the one-sentence summary, and that it was York, England, not New York, New York.  And suddenly it all made sense again.  *sigh*


I read, yesterday, about the full lunar eclipse that happened last night.  Here, it started around one AM, reached peak around four AM, and ended by about seven AM.

I debated setting an alarm to help me wake up to observe it last night, but ended up not bothering.  However, I did wake up around four, to go to the bathroom, and decided to walk outside to see how things looked.

Well, I needn't have bothered; the cloud cover was complete, so there was no chance of getting a picture at all.

I wandered back to bed, glad that I hadn't even bothered to search for the camera, proper lens, and heavy tripod.  Still disappointed, though; I've never seen a lunar eclipse.

Supposedly, there'll be another on October eighth; will hope for clearer skies, then.  And will remember to check the cloud map before going to bed.

What is the military?

It was recently reported that the Sgt Maj of the Marine Corps (the highest enlisted soldier in the Marines) said to Congress (in sworn testimony) that "lower pay raises discipline".

And while I'm sure that there's a kernel of truth in that statement (for sure, it forces decisions over where limited resources should be spent), it's also true that it's awfully cruel to soldiers who already sacrifice a lot to serve their country.  Forcing them to choose between keeping the power on or paying the co-pay to see a doctor to see whether a persistent cough is important, for instance.

His response to those charges:
"If we don't get a hold of slowing the growth, we will become an entitlement-based, a health care provider-based Corps, and not a warfighting organization," Barrett said.

I wonder how far he thinks the warfighting will get, without the warfighter.

Marines without weapons are still a force to be reckoned with.  Weapons without Marines are not the least bit scary.

Ab Phablet

I listened to the latest Vector podcast, and I think they missed one big thing (the biggest, actually) driving Asian demand for phablets.

Our family went to Hong Kong for vacation a year and change ago, to visit family over there.  And the biggest thing that struck me was how many people were watching TV shows on their phones on the MTR (Hong Kong's metro; they were going to and from work, presumably).  Seriously, it was a large majority of the young people.

And that's a big application that will look best in 1080p (I'd hate to think how big the tablet would need to get for 4K to make any sense, even ignoring the streaming bandwidth demands of that).  If you're going to spend half an hour or an hour every day watching TV on your phone, you'll damned-sure want to do it with maximum resolution.  So I can certainly see why people would want a bigger phone.

(And while I'm talking about this, let's also point out what this says about our crummy public transportation, that we can't even offer free WiFi on trains and buses.  And what it says about our telecomm infrastructure, even more than what it says about our transportation infrastructure.)

The downside, of course, is that the phone looks ridiculous when you're using it as a phone.  I remember one young lady using one of those phones with a case on it.  It looked like she was holding her purse up to her ear to talk.  Looking cool, she was not.

All that said, if Apple were to make one, would I want it?  I'm leaning towards no, but I'd definitely have to hold it and play with it a bit to be sure.


Going out with a whimper

I actually did watch the last several games of the Caps; all except the Hurricanes game.  And despite me saying how much better off they'd be if they'd lost those last several, they decided to take nine points in those last five games.

The result of that was that they moved up nine spots from where they would have been had they lost out.  In terms of the draft lottery, their chance of getting the top pick dropped from 4.7% (roughly; that's the nominal chance, but New Jersey's guaranteed last place would have made it slightly better) to 0.5% (ditto).

So, did they get all those points by playing well?  Well, fenwick 5v5 close says no; it says that they got very, very lucky.  Part of that was Holtby and Halak playing very well (Holtby, in particular, looked fabulous), and part of it was very good luck at shooting.  The third line, especially, looked very good.

In fact, in that Carolina game that I missed, each member of the third line scored a very nice goal.  Quite a performance.  The downside was that OV got another -2 in that game (tough to do in a 5-2 win, although the shortie allowed had a lot to do with it).

And it should be pointed out that all this happened with Green on the shelf again, as he was injured again.  So the bottom two pairings were Orlov-Strachan and Carrick-Brouillette.  And those two pairs were absolutely brutal at times, giving lots of tests to that goaltending.  In the last game, Stamkos was allowed behind Orlov-Strachan twice in the first period (Holtby saved one shot, while the other went wide; that is not the way to bet, on Stamkos alone).

And it should also be pointed out that two of those games were shootouts, taking the Caps' total on the season to twenty-one (with a 10-11 record.  Thank goodness they didn't match the Devils' winless record (0-13) in the shootout).  Hard to believe that a team can go to the shootout in 1/4 of their games.  I certainly hope that was a record.

Anyway, it was hard to decide on whether to be happy or upset at what happened.  There was some really nice play over those games, but the results really didn't help the team at all.

And finishing with dueling shutouts, and losing when also shut out in the shootout?  Yeah, that was the whimper.  In fact, it was a terrible game.  The Caps had all of seven shots in the first two periods (and eight shots that missed the net); they were just brutalized through that span.  And the third period was only eleven shots; that's not bad, but not enough to make the entire game respectable, either.

A frustrating end to a frustrating season; it'll be interesting to see what happens in the off-season.  I'm betting that both McPhee and Oates are gone (and certainly good riddance to the latter, despite my initial happiness at his hiring).  The big question, in my mind, is if Dick Patrick accompanies them into that sunset.

And then there's the big question of who replaces them.  I really have no idea who that might be, but I hope it's someone good.

Fingers crossed; go Caps!

Golden Sony?

I read David Pogue's recent review of the state of photography with some interest, but I did have a few comments.

The biggest thing I liked about the article was how he kept coming back to sensor size as a proxy for image quality.  It isn't the only thing that matters (my five-year-old Nikon D90 isn't nearly as good as the new D7100, despite identical sensor size), but it does hold within a generation (the one exception I can think of is that medium format doesn't deliver the increased ISO flexibility that it should; I guess the camera companies think it's not worth the cost).

So I really liked that he showed scaled images of the sensor sizes of various cameras.  My one question with the series, though, was whether the sensor size shown for an iPhone is the new 5s size, or that of the prior models.

This part is very important:
the camera companies cranked out new models that basically stuck to the same formula: Big sensor = big camera = big price.

What he fails to note there, though, is that that is a simple fact driven by silicon yields, and that the sensor will, necessarily, go up quadratically with the increase in sensor size.  The sensor isn't the only thing driving unit pricing, of course, but it's by far the largest single factor, because of that yield issue.

I'm going to come back to a couple more general issues, but first let's look at a specific issue he brings up:
If I wanted to buy an inexpensive SLR, you’d better believe I’d get one of Sony’s NEX cameras. Why on earth would I want a camera that’s four times as big, 85 percent heavier, and $50 more expensive — if I could get the same photos from a smaller, lighter, less expensive camera?

The answer is you can't necessarily get the same photos.  If you're just taking pictures of unmoving things, or in very good light, you might be able to do so.  But there are several places where you're going to fall down.  The biggest is in lens selection:
  • Sony has nothing remotely approaching Sigma's 18-35 f/1.8 lens, in relatively normal lenses.
  • How about long telephoto?  I see nothing longer than 200mm, and that only at f/6.3.
  • How about macro?  All I see is one 30mm lens, and that at f/3.5.  That means you need pretty good light, and be ok with a very small working distance (under 1")
  • Fisheye?  Only with a conversion lens.
  • Perspective correction?  Good luck with that.
Then you also need to look at focusing.  The NEX only has contrast-detect autofocus, meaning that it's going to be very slow, comparatively speaking.

Then there's viewfinder vs rear screen.  There are real advantages to a viewfinder, the biggest being that it keeps the camera closer to your body, which has several advantages:  less distraction and greater stability being the biggest two.

Then there's controls.  That extra size on the Nikon gives room for more controls, meaning that you can adjust settings faster.

And how about flashes.  The closer the flash is to the camera, the harsher the light, and more likely to cause red-eye.  It looks like there is an external flash (with a custom plug), though a small one.  Like lenses, bigger does make for better pictures.

And then there's some oddball edge cases like ability to use tethered.  Want to use a tripod with Arca-Swiss quick-release?  Looks like you're SOL unless you want to go to the NEX5, or bigger (and it looks pretty awkward, even there).

Maybe all of those advantages aren't worth $50 (and size and weight) to you, but they are real advantages.

Yes, mirrorless will get to matching SLR, but it's not there yet.

The Sony's are pretty good, and worth considering.  But they (so far) are only for certain styles of photography.

As a more general comment on the review, you should note that Sony's not terribly good with supporting their products, long-term.  Look at the Alpha SLR; they've already basically discontinued that (the new A7* models have almost no connection to the older, pellicle mirror-based cameras, despite the naming).

You should also note that Sony's going in all these directions at once.  Basically, they've got the money (and lack of market share) to be able to throw a lot of stuff against the wall and see what sticks.

Still, several photographers I know and respect have switched (but I should also point out that they're landscape photographers, who are least likely to be affected by Sony's shortcomings).  I'm certainly not saying it isn't worth considering.  Just be aware of what you're giving up, as well as what you're getting.

I'll certainly be watching.  It isn't worth switching, for me, but it might be in several years.  I'd certainly like to reduce weight.  The D4 is a fantastic instrument, but it's definitely a heavy beast.  And I don't choose light lenses for it.


Bring in the oligarchs

I'm a big fan of EJ Dionne; I somehow (not sure how, because it wasn't anything like a normal occurence for me to be reading the part of the paper where his columns end up.  I saved a hard copy of it; I wish I could find it) found myself reading his column one or two days after September 11th, and it was just a fantastic read.  He really did a perfect job of capturing the feelings of it.

So I started reading him fairly regularly.  I soon found that he, like me, is a liberal Catholic, which certainly gives us a lot of philosophical commonality.  I now hear him from time to time on NPR, which I appreciate, and I even heard him give a commencement speech once (at a friend's graduation; I had no idea he would be there).

Well, his latest column talks about how we've pretty much gotten into an oligarchic situation in the US, which is something I've believed for a long time.  But his finish is absolutely perfect:

In his McCutcheon opinion, Roberts piously declares: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” This lovely commitment escaped him entirely last summer when he and his allies threw out Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Suddenly, efforts to protect the right of minorities “to participate in electing our political leaders” took second place behind all manner of worries about how Congress had constructed the law. The decision unleashed a frenzy in Republican-controlled states to pass laws that make it harder for African Americans, Latinos and poor people to vote.

Thus has this court conferred on wealthy people the right to give vast sums of money to politicians while undercutting the rights of millions of citizens to cast a ballot.

Send in the oligarchs.

Put that last line to a Sondheim tune, and remember that the next line of that song is, "Don't bother, they're here."


Just for grins, downloaded an app called Quick 7, which has a short, intense workout with a number of different exercises.  And as an in-app (free) purchase, you can get Quick 4, an even shorter, tabata-based (I haven't looked up what that means) workout that takes four minutes.

I've been thinking I need to get out of my chair more often during the day (incontestably true), and thought it might make a nice break to do that workout every hour or so to enforce getting up.  A five-minute break doesn't seem bad.

Well, this morning I tried it once, just to see.  And granted, I wasn't holding back during the exercises.  But man, I was really tired at the end.  Not "I know I just pulled something"-tired, but oof, was I feeling it.  Maybe I'll do it once more today, but as an hourly break?  That ain't happening anytime soon, if ever.

I'm almost afraid to try the Quick 7, now.  But we'll see.

Few more BMW notes

Been playing around with the 528i some more; I'm getting more and more impressed with the handling.  We had a little rain today, and even on wet pavement, I had to slam it around pretty hard (while accelerating) to get even a little bit of slippage (the turns were too narrow to really try gunning it).

And the interior design is definitely sweet.  Song names in Japanese can't be displayed (was surprised by that), but the controls are very easy to manage, even without looking.  One thing that's a little weird to me is that the cruise control won't stay active when you shut down the engine and turn it back on, but it will still keep the last speed you set.  Strange combination.

But I do really love the control layout.  I can manage things in it more easily than in my car, which I've now had for seven years and change.  The layout is a bit nicer, and the buttons are very well-defined.  Including the key fob.  After a week, I have no trouble using it without taking it out of my pocket, and I can't do that with my own.  It's just a better feel for the buttons (well, mostly; it might also have something to do with me not using mine very often).

Of course, the downside is the cost.  The 528i is about 50% more than I paid for mine, and I don't think it's worth that much more.  Plus, fun as it is, my TL already has more performance than I need (considerably so, if I'm going to be honest).

Well, I have another year or three to think about it; I don't need a new car now.  But I can definitely see the appeal.

End of an era

Well, I didn't watch the last two Caps games.  The first, against the Devils, I missed because I was sick.  The second I'd forgotten about until I heard the result (twenty or thirty minutes after it finished).

It looks like the Caps played respectably against the Devils; 5v5 close Fenwick was slightly in their favor.  And OV scored at evens, which was a nice change from the previous month (it's almost like having Beagle centering OV wasn't a good idea, or something).

They did spend too much time killing penalties (almost ten minutes), as usual allowing too many shots against (15 attempted, 10 on net; it should be noted that that those are slightly better numbers than usual, though.  Still too many, but a slight improvement).

The power play seems to've done merely ok, with ten attempted shots (five on net) over nearly five minutes.

Neither power play scored, however.

The 2-1 loss certainly can't be pinned on Halak, however.  His .935 save percentage is certainly all you can ask of him (realistically, at least).

Going into that game, the Caps were down to only an 84% chance of making the playoffs, even winning out.  So that loss eliminated their realistic chance of making the playoffs.  Which is probably just as well, given how bad the team looks.

As for the Islanders game... They won, in the shootout, but there wasn't much to like there.  Kuzya across net to MarJo back across to Kuzya was a nice goal.  And OV did a nice job setting up Backstrom's goal.  And Holtby did a nice job (stopping a short-handed breakaway, as well as one of the goals being one that looked stopped but trickled through).  But possessionally, it was pretty bad (against a so-so team, possessionally).  Basically, they got lucky to win, especially when you factor in the shootout (to be clear, however, they were lucky even to get to the shootout).

I've gotta admit, at this point I'd be just as happy if they lose the rest of them, just for the minor improvement in draft position (even though it's not expected to be a deep draft; but they could move up as many as five spots).  If they could do it while playing hard, so much the better.

Anyway, next game is Tuesday in St Louis, where we will probably be put out of our misery of a season (after that, a Detroit overtime loss and a Columbus win would be enough to make it a mathematical certainty).


Tipping the piper

Just briefly, the Supreme Court today decided that handing over democracy entirely to the 1% is a good move.  To wit, they decided that private donors can now donate to an unlimited number of federal candidates, and donate as much as they want to a party.

At this point, the current Supreme Court is only a step away from eliminating all limits on campaign contributions.  This is ridiculous.

I think we need a new government agency (well, a new part of the FEC, probably) that will be a transaction controller to force anonymization of contributions.  I don't love the idea, but it at least eliminates possible quid pro quo for political contributions.  If you don't know where the money came from, you won't feel an obligation to help them.

There'd be some work to do, to control how the money is disbursed (you can't just give all of it out as soon as it's received; well, maybe in the last couple days, but not before), but it would improve things, in the same way as adopting voting tactics that made it impossible to directly purchase votes.

Beemer for a day

I drive an Acura TL, normally, but had to take my car into the shop to fix up some damage from a minor fender-bender the other day.  When talking to the rental people, I was asked, "Do you want a beamer?"

I wouldn't have guessed that a neighborhood Enterprise would even have one, but said, "Ok."

When they brought it out, it turned out to be a five-series (528i, maybe?).  By this point, I was shocked.

Now, I've had a few days to play around with it, and it's mostly very nice.  The only thing I don't like is how wide it is, because it's hard to get in and out of my garage.  Oh, and I'm a little annoyed that there doesn't seem to be a lock/unlock button (to get all doors) on the inside.

But, on the road, it's really nice.  It took only a couple minutes, with no manual perusal, to get it to sync with my phone.  It automatically downloads the phone book when I get in, and automatically starts playing music from it, too.

Adjusting the seats was quick and mostly painless.  The only small pain point was not realizing that the headrests were powered as well, so it took me a little bit to figure that out.  But fully-powered seats adjust pretty quickly.  And, of course, there's memory (I think every car with power seats now has this).

The power part is kind of a running theme, and leads to a couple things that are ... odd, but only because of that to which I'm accustomed.  Everything is powered.  Turn signals, paddle shifter, emergency brake; as near as I can tell, everything.  The turn signals, since they don't have the manual catch for releasing them after the turn, feel weird, but they work a little better.  The paddle shifter is a bit odd, since Park is a button rather than a position.

A weird consequence of that is that, to go from park to reverse, you push the shifter forward.  I think I like it, but it certainly feels weird.

Thanks to the width of the car, though, stability is pretty amazing.  I had to push it pretty hard to get the tires to squeal even a little bit (on dry pavement; I haven't driven it in rain, yet).  Most people would not find it comfortable to be in a car turning that hard (though my kids love it, of course).

Anyway, it at least gives a feel for what you're getting for all that money.  Oh, and another thing you get for it.  The console will tell you what version the firmware is (and has the owner's manual, which is pretty cool).  It can also be upgraded.  Mixed feelings about that, for sure.

Update: typo fixed.

It's over

I was going to write about the last Caps games against Boston and Nashville, but after that tire fire of a game tonight against Dallas, I give up.

They actually started out pretty well, getting a number of good chances through the first eight minutes or so of the game.  Then the Caps got a power play.  On the power play, they quickly gave up TWO (!) breakaways, and lost the power play when Carlson hooked Garbutt to keep him from getting the shot off.  All that only took about thirty seconds.

Things didn't seriously go south, though, until Dallas scored on a nice tip-in by Tyler Seguin, and the rout began.  It took a while for Dallas to score a second goal, but that was all on Halak.  The Caps just lost any ability to pressure Dallas, and generally looked lost.

I was going to say they looked lost in the defensive zone, but they looked lost in the neutral zone, too.  And they didn't keep the puck in the offensive zone long enough to come to any sort of judgement there.  More importantly, Dallas did a very nice job transitioning from D to O whenever the Caps gave up the puck, and got several breakaways.

There was the two-man clean breakaway on which Whitney scored.  There was another breakaway almost right away.  It was stopped, but did lead to a goal when, after a shot from the point, Erskine and Brouillette both took the same man, leaving Jeffrey alone at the side of the net, where he beat Halak (a nice overhead shot of the CF).  Those two goals were on the same shift.  By the fourth line.  I almost turned it off right then, and wish I had.

In any event, Oates had had enough, and pulled Halak.  I hope it was to send a message to the rest of the team, because it certainly wasn't Halak's fault they were down three.  Hasek in his prime would have been hard-pressed to do better with that (so-called) defense in front of him.

Anyway, how much did it inspire the team?  They gave up two more odd-man rushes in the next minute (yeah, Holtby looked good, too).

But it took until the last five or six minutes of the second for the Caps to even start catching up possessionally.  To their credit, though, they did continue to catch up (helped by several penalties), and even managed to finish the game tied in Fenwick.  Close, 5v5 Fenwick, however, was not tied.  It was not even close.

And, midway through the third, Jeffrey scored again on a nice tic-tac-toe passing play.  Again, fourth line.  And Jeffrey, it should be noted, had just scored his first two goals of the season.

Anyway, that was enough for me.  I turned it off, and missed the Caps taking their first five goal deficit of the season.  Good times.

So, in the biggest games of the season, the Caps came out flat against the Bruins and got stomped.  Then they played so-so against a Nashville team with no particular motivation, and were lucky to get into overtime.  Then they played a hungry (and fast, it should be noted) Dallas team and just got curb-stomped.  Too bad it's too late to try for lottery position.

I don't know where this team goes from here.  Oates has to go.  He did a very nice job getting OV back on track (and a decent job helping a few other players), but his system sucks raw eggs.  It looked like the Caps were starting to get it at the end of last season, but that now appears to have been an illusion.  They are not improving, and might even be getting worse.

His line combos are baffling, and he shows no sign of recognizing that some of the combos he's apparently liked are just horrible.  That was Laich and Brouwer early in the season, and Beagle and OV recently.  JP from Japer's Rink tweeted a couple of charts yesterday that showed that Beagle is the absolute worst player to pair with OV, both in shots generated and in shots allowed.  And not by a small amount, in either case.

Oates seems to have no recognition of which defensemen are getting the job done, and which aren't.  Hint: Erskine isn't, and has been an almost unmitigated disaster this season.  And, McPhee, nice $2M extension there.  Schmidt and Oleksy were both doing pretty well, but have been buried in Hershey for much of the season.  Carrick has talent, but isn't ready for the NHL, but was allowed to stay for thirty games.

The penalty kill has basically been a disaster all season.  They show almost no ability to stop the other team from getting set up in the offensive zone, and, as a result, allow roughly two shot attempts per minute.  The only reason it looks somewhat respectable is because the goalies have saved 90% of the shots, which is not a sustainable formula.

And Oates' management of the goalie situations have been execrable.  Holtby is far too good a goalie to be allowed to sit as much as he has since Halak arrived.  And how about that three-goalie carousel in the middle of the season, with Holtby, Neuvy, and Gru?  That was genius, right?

McPhee needs to go as well.  He's had one good coaching hire over his career, the talent pipeline is nearly bare.  His desperation trade for Erat, late last season, was a complete disaster (not helped by the fact that Oates seemed to have no idea how to use Erat's considerable talents).  His agreeing to dump Perreault for a bag of pucks at the beginning of the season was mystifying.  Yes, we've gotten to see Wilson more, and he definitely shows talent, but Perreault would have helped the team a ton more, this season.  Especially when Grabo was injured, but even before that the difference would have been large.

Perreault: 691 minutes, 52.3% fenwick for, forty points, and I would bet many more penalties drawn than the fifteen for which he's been called
Wilson: 572 minutes, 46.1% fenwick for, ten points, and we really don't want to talk about the PIMs

And I've ignored, of course, that center is a much more valuable position than wing.

Moving on... I don't know about the players.  Erskine should be waived, for sure.  Even if they only reclaim half of his cap hit and have to play him in Hershey, that's better than playing him in Washington.

Grabo needs to be re-signed, stat!  Penner should be re-signed almost as fast.  I don't think either should be given more than three year deals, though.

I'm slightly ambivalent, because I don't think Laich's been healthy all season (so I'm not sure how much of his poor play is age, and how much injury), but I'm leaning toward saying he should be let go (maybe via compliance buy-out).

Halak should be allowed to walk.  He's pretty good, but unless his contract demands are far less than I expect, he won't be worth it.  In fact, I wouldn't want him to stick around for more than one year under any circumstances (well, unless he'd take about a third of what I expect he'll get, I suppose), and I can't see him agreeing to a one year deal.  Call up Gru next year, and save the money.  The drop in performance will be negligible, at best.

Beyond that, I'm low on ideas.  Volpatti certainly isn't helping the team, but as a league-minimum player on the fourth line, he's not hurting it either.

Beagle hasn't helped the team much this season, although much of the onus on that goes on Oates, for playing him way over his head.  Beagle's a decent checker, penalty killer, and face-off guy.  Use him like that, and he won't be hurting the team at his salary.  As top line center, he's the punchline of a really terrible joke.

Brouwer?  There've certainly been times, this season, when I would've been glad to see him jettisoned (especially when he was constantly paired with Laich), but he's not a bad player.  Can't decide if he's really worth that salary, but maybe he is.  Certainly wouldn't mind seeing him replaced with someone who drives play, though that would almost certainly require trading Troy.

MarJo has improved a lot this season, I think.  He hasn't taken advantage of his speed quite as much, but he's much stronger on the puck, to the point that he's moderately useful in a grinding, cycling game.

Schmidt can certainly be called up; he'll help the team.

All of which really leaves me wondering where the room is to improve the team.  There really is a lot of talent there, and they've terribly underperformed that talent level.  Maybe big changes at the top, combined with one or two small tweaks in the lineup, will result in significantly improved results.  We can hope, anyway.

FWIW, next game is Friday in New Jersey.  I can't decide if I'll bother to watch.