January 29, 2006

Motorcycles: Mixed Messages

Definitely good and bad in the weekend for me: on the plus side, I finally got Clover back from the dealer I had theoretically given her to for consignment sale back in November.

Dude, sorry you're in the middle of a divorce, but that's still my bike... Still looking to sell her for our trip to Scotland at the end of April (a knitting retreat, of all things).

On the down side, we can't afford the garage where we've been working on the RDs anymore, and are now going to have several frames, engines, and various and sundry bits about the front yard (again). Four bikes, none of them working damnit!

Up side, I got my sidecar home from Seattle - now to get the Honda on the road! Just as a side note: Washington State has a couple weird features on it's highway that I just don't see up here. One is the advertising for whatever company it is that supplies the centre divider - there was a sign every few kilometres bragging about how their product saved lives: don't really know if they're reaching the market they want with me, but... Another was that the speed limit signs are just a number: 30 or 50 or 70, no mention of what the units themselves are of. I thought they had MPH printed on them somewhere, but apparently not. Lastly, I actually got out of my truck after travelling ten minutes or so to see if I had a flat. The highway wasn't so much a single road as it was a series of tarmac slabs, as if it was built by gigantic Romans.

Down side, I wasn't able to make the Vancouver International Motorcycle Show this year. Pisser, that. Ah, well, apparently the Griso isn't coming to Canada this year anyways, and wouldn't be on display. If I had known I wasn't going tot he one, I would have saved for The Amazing Meeting in Vegas. Next year, then! Well, if I can: the Significant Other is agitating for our tenth anniversary to be in Vegas (where we got married, Elvis and all), so more than one trip a year to the same destination is pushing it.

Good news, I found out that Ontario has made testing mandatory for scooters. Why is this good news? By the simple feature that there are going to be fewer boneheads who think that since they already drive a car, a scooter must be a piece of cake, right? After all, two wheels are fewer than four, so they must be half as hard to control...

So once I get my Griso, I have GOT to get me one of these little babies put on... (let the video load - it's worth it!)

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posted by Thursday at 8:39 pm 0 comments

January 26, 2006

Science: Not Bad For a Teenager.

I've been told before that if I didn't believe in God, I must consider the world an unspectacular and dull place. Where could the majesty be? Where is the awe?

Here.

The Hubble telescope is now 15 years old; astrophysics is one tiny aspect of science that provides limitless wonders and brings them to our very eyes.

Awesome.

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posted by Thursday at 11:38 pm 2 comments

January 24, 2006

Politics: There is No Cannibalism in the Navy!

And when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount. Yours, etc. Captain B.J. Smethwick in a white wine sauce with shallots, mushrooms and garlic.

I know, I know: politics is the topic of choice right now. But forgive me, as I have just encountered a movie review with the wonderful title of, I kid you not, You can't fight Islamism with gay cowboys, by Andrew Longman.

How can I possibly resist? Clearly, I can't.

First, a few quibbles about the title. Is "Islamism" really necessary? As a word, I mean. "Islam" would do perfectly well and sound (and look) better in the bargain. That could be the point, I suppose: make the supposed enemy sound strange (see also: assassins having three names), and they're easier to dehumanize. Us vs. Them is always a safe bet for rabble rousers, but why didn't they go with "Muslimaniac" or "Mohammedemon" just to be as inflammatory as possible? And let's face it, it's tough to fight anything only using gay cowboys, except maybe stereotypes. Wait, wasn't one of the Villiage People...? Okay, so you can fight stereotypes and musical taste using gay cowboys, but really that's about it. I suspect fighting "Islamism" with straight cowboys wouldn't have done much either, so would they really have been more effective as a deterrent to alien theology? And weren't you fighting terrorism, not Muslimism (or whatever)? Just asking.

For those not willing to read the entire article, I understand: you don't have any tissues handy to dry your eyes, or perhaps are afraid that gales of laughter will burst recent stitches. For your sake, I'll take a single line that I think epitomizes each paragraph and then add commentary.

"
You can't fight Islamism with gay cowboys."

Well, what more really needs to be said?

"
What precisely is inspirational about the story of Nate Saint if the very person who portrays him in the movie cannot be moved to imitate Mr. Saint?"

Actors, apparently, should not be allowed to act like anyone but themselves. Anthony Hopkins, you're put on notice.

"
Sodomize the Marlboro Man to great music and call this heroism?"

Given the quality of music you know you couldn't call it porn...

"
Iran, the Islamist suicide bomber nation, has expressed at every turn the perfection of its xenophobia for all nations not itself."

Jealous that America's lost it's #1 position?
That was probably unnecessary.
Sorry.

"Has it occurred to these craven fools in Hollywood that there are precisely no, exactly zero, cultures who have survived their own homosexualization?"

What qualifies as "homosexualization" in this case? Or, for that matter, culture? (And why isn't "homosexualization" capitalized?) I suppose if everyone was gay, then yes there would be an issue with reproduction, but good lord, man! I'm sure some of us could take up the slack, so to speak.

"
In a time of war?"

Do not question! There is a war on! Eastaisa is our Enemy! Eastasia has always been our Enemy!


"
I am confident that the American people will rise up and reject the xenophobia without and the deconstruction within."

Xenophobia:
an intense fear or dislike of foreign people, their customs and culture, or foreign things. Like, say, homosexuality. (I combined the last few paragraphs as they're quite short.)

But my favorite sentence? This:

"
There is a war on people and it is an ideological war."

For lack of a nail, a war was lost; and for lack of an editor, a dramatic image was made into War of the Worlds. The only question, I suppose, is did Tom Cruise act enough like a Scientologist for Mr. Longman's taste? And is Mr. Longman actually a long -

Nevermind.

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posted by Thursday at 11:20 pm 2 comments

Politics: I'll Tell You Tomorrow

Bugger.

I just spent three hours on a post about yesterday's election, and I fucking lost it. That is to say, I just got a little grey box advising me that my time is ended, and all is lost with no hope of recovery.

Bugger.

Okay, nutshell version:

Liberals: They lost the government, but not by much. Martin stepping down as PM and party leader is no great surprise, but a lot of cabinet members kept their seats. Next leadership race should be interesting...

Bloc Quebecois: Got a huge majority of seats in Quebec, but lost 6.7% of the popular vote there and four total seats. Oops, looks like neither the mused-upon 50% popular vote nor the hoped-for sweep happened. Those predictions were Duceppe's only real errors.

NDP: Gained seats, lost some power. How's that? Well, the minority is so slim that Harper is not likely to try pushing anything to radical or dangerous to his party, so his social agenda is on the back burner; but in shifting power from Ottawa to the porvinces, he's got a ready ally in Quebec, meaning the NDP is not needed for those things the Conservatives are likely to try in this legeslature.

Conservatives: Gained, but not by much. The balancing act has shifted from Martin to Harper, and it's time to see how he deals with it. The biggest trick is to get Quebec to agree to the above-mentioned shift in powers: the seperatists are in power there, and they don't want to lose the only bullet in their gun. If the Conservatives suddenly look like Santa Claus, they could suddenly find themselves attacked for trying to "bribe proud Quebecers", which is exactly what he'll be trying to do. No change there, then.

The only moment that caused me concern all of last night? It happened during Harper's victory speech. For those of us who watch American politics (whether we admit it or not), there is one phrase that is utterly essential for anyone running for any office. If you hear someone not close their speech with this phrase, you can hear it's absence; it jars you, and there's a moment until you remember why. Anyone who misses using it has no chance of getting elected, no matter how qualified. We've kept England's reticence about using it in politics until quite recently, and it is, to me, not a welcome addition.

Stephen Harper's closing line:

"God bless Canada."

Excuse me while I stoke up the fire: I felt a sudden chill.

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posted by Thursday at 2:15 am 0 comments

January 23, 2006

Politics: C'est Finis

I have exercised my right to vote - might as well get some exercise, anyways - so now I have only one request remaining or this political cycle:

Take down the bloody signs. It's over (for now). Go home.

Thank you.

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posted by Thursday at 11:38 am 0 comments

January 19, 2006

Other: Set the World Right

If any political party still wants my vote at this late date, they just have to promise me one thing: that in their vision of Canada interesting, talented musicians will never have to be the opening act for bland, balladeer wannabe hacks.

Would that be so tough?

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posted by Thursday at 2:49 am 2 comments

January 18, 2006

News Flash: Lord Does Indeed Love Ducks!

[CP] - For those who thought the phrase "Lord love a duck" was either a quaint phrase or a Roddy McDowell/Tuesday Weld movie, this reporter has proof otherwise.

What follows is a transcript of a phone conversation established through an intermediary:

*ring*

Almighty God: Hello?

This Paper: Good morning, sir, Polite Company calling. I hope we didn't wake you.

Him: No, no, I'm an early riser. Thanks for asking, though.

Us: Certainly; thanks for taking the call.

Him: My pleasure. What can I do for you?

Us: ... Really?

Him: Be professional, son.

Us: Yes, of course. Um... where was I? Right. There is a certain phrase that is in frequent use here on the material plane, and I was wondering if I could get you to comment on it...

Him: Which one's that?

Us: It goes: "Lord love a duck." (pause) Could we get a response to that?

Him: That's it?

Us: That's it.

Him: (chuckles) Betty's not going to be to happy with you, you know...

Us: Well, sir, we've got an election going on right now, and we have reaction to the phrase from the five major parties running.

Him: Really?

Us: Yes, sir. The New Democratic Party promised to support ducks whether you liked them or not, and vowed to make sure you continued to love ducks into the future; Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois said, quote: "Who cares? I'm winning!" Then he sang the refrain to "What if God was One of Us?"

Him: The Joan Osborne song? Weird.

Us: That's the one. The Liberal Party proclaimed to always have been in favour of ducks and quickly established a "Duck Identity Day" in celebration, and if we didn't want it cancelled we'd better vote for them; Conservative leader Stepher Harper loudly delcared that he had no majority, never thought about having a majority, wouldn't believe it if he did, and that he was apparently related to one of the Trailer Park Boys and wasn't that "cool".

Him: Did he do that "quotation marks" thing with his fingers?

Us: Afraid so. Then he shoved them in his ears and walked away saying "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU UNTIL JANUARY 23RD!" The only comment we got from the Green Party was a grainy fax reading "Doesn't everyone?"

Him: And you folks vote for these people?

Us: With alarming regularity. So can I get a reaction from you, sir?

Him: Sure, I suppose so. Well, as you know, when I created everything -

Us: I'm actually an athiest, sir.

Him: Fair enough. As many believe - is that better?

Us: Yes, thank you sir. Very reasonable of you.

Him: Well, that whole smiting thing gets a little tired, you know?

Us: Um, have you told Pat Robertson that?

Him: We haven't spoken for ages, not since I let the air out of his tires as a prank back in 1990. He just started IFE and I figured he was losing some of his humility, so... Anyway, that's all in the past. He still doing that goofy anti-aging thing?

Us: Right on his web page, sir.

Him: Oy. What a racket.

Us: Back to the subject at hand, if I may...

Him: Hm? Right! When I created everything (as some believe), that was an act of Ultimate Love, so naturally I love everything that came from that.

Us: And that includes ducks.

Him: Including ducks, yes.

Us: Well, sir, there are those who insist that the phrase is a substitute for another, cruder curse...

Him: And what's that?

Us: Well... uh...

Him: You don't think you're going to shock me, do you? Come on, I'm infinitely old: I've heard it all.

Us: (garbled)

Him: Come again?

Us: Fuckaduck.

Him: Ah, good old Saxon. Fine, straight-forward language, that. Glad I invented it.

Us: Sir...

Him: Some people believe.

Us: Thank you.

Him: Certainly. Well, there is a reasonably common school of philosophy that says that the Divine (usually me) literally exists in all things, that all matter in existence is proof of a Living Me.

Us: Yes?

Him: Which would mean that the phrase would still apply. Since I am all ducks, that would mean that I do, indeed, fuck ducks.

Us: Uh... Do you want to check the transcript before we go to press? Just that I'm not completely sure I can print this...

Him: Oh, I insist, I insist.

Us: Thank you, sir.

Him: You know what else that means?

Us: What?

Him: I did your momma, too. (
laughs)

*
end of conversation*

And there you have it: proof that the Lord (as some believe) does indeed love ducks, in whichever form you wish to use it. Later in this investigative series, we'll take a closer look at Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick, sometimes called a Messiahcicle.

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posted by Thursday at 9:46 pm 0 comments

January 14, 2006

Other: Get Indebted Now!

So there's this commercial running around right now (and has been for a while) from a certain group calling itself the "Get Acceptance Corporation". Apparently, these fine folks will provide you with buckets of cash whenever you want; and all they want is your home. Well, your house, anyways. Who calls it a home anymore? So old fashioned, that.

Anyhow.

A big part of their attraction is that it does't matter how far in debt you are, what kind of job you have, or even if you have a job - they still want your house! Er, I mean they still want to lend you money! They're generous that way. And boy, do they love their quotation marks! Especially around the word "equity", because they know that's a scary word, and simple folk like you shouldn't have to be exposed to nasty "technical" "jargon" like that without being protected.

Because they like your house. You! They like you, not just your house, really; c'mon, baby, don't be like that...

Now, with my meagre understanding of western religion, usury was either expressly forbidden or at the very least condemned as a sin (except, interestingly, for Jews). There has been plenty of banter about what the definition of usury actually is over the last three centuries, but for the most part it's accepted as the wealthy taking advantage of the indebted and making a profit from that advantage (except, interestingly, for Republicans).

Can we say "consolidation loan", boys and girls? I knew you could.

Of course, they do propose to charge a reasonable 5.75%, which is fascinating as none of the disclosure examples they give show this amount. In fact, the lowest amount they show is 10.33%. Can't see it? It's under the big yellow boxes beside the bit reading AER, which takes into account the cost of arranging the loan, a total of (for example) about $55,000 if you borrow $100,000 from them. But they're just here to help you in your time of trouble; just ask them.

Of course, if you don't actually have a job or any other form of income, it doesn't really matter what the interest charges on your home equity loan are, does it?

Because soon enough, it won't be yours anymore.

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posted by Thursday at 1:46 pm 2 comments

January 12, 2006

Other: Upon Further Examination

So I've been mildly depressed of late, and no, it hasn't been because of the near record-breaking number of consecutive days with rain. No, I got the results of my three-day novel back, and my first response was "What? Not even shortlisted?!"

How's that for hubris, eh?

I haven't read a word of the other works entered, but I think mine's better? Sheesh. Still, I know the setting is interesting, and the plot's good and complex enough without being convoluted. And I'm pretty sure I kept most spelling and grammatical errors out.

Anyways, the SO and I recently bought the latest book of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series. I know most of the literary (and faux-literary... is that even a word?) look down their collective nose at fantasy writing, and there's some justification for it. Fantasy writing is not what you would call consistently strong throughout.

This series, on the other hand, is good enough that while we bought the first three in paperback, this one we bought as soon as it was released. She, being the much faster reader, was through it within two days. I decided that it had been so long since I read the first books, I should re-read them to recall which plotlines belonged to what characters, and how the timeline worked.

I discovered something: it was difficult. There is one character especially whose chapters I found hard to read through again; he's a hero, and he dies. The author's perspective frequently shifts from one person to the next, and when you feel the concerns and expectations and faith that family, friends and even enemies have for a character, knowing it will all come to nothing is hard to reconcile.

Which led my thoughts to William Goldman's words on characters: if your audience doesn't feel for your protagonist, who cares what happens to him?

Time to re-read my own little story, methinks.

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posted by Thursday at 10:14 pm 0 comments

January 09, 2006

Hockey: West at the Half

Into the West we go:


ANAHEIM

What Works: While he won’t have another 50 goal season, Selanne could have 40 this year. Getzlaf and/or Perry will finish the season in the big club.
What Doesn’t: Bryzgalov doesn’t get the same goal support that Giguere does, and that’s meager enough.
What Else: That “We won’t trade for Marchant – Oh look! He’s on waivers!” coincidence with the Fedorov trade shows that Burke is a quick learner of the new system.
What’s Coming: Not sure when Ozolinsh will be back from detox; not sure if it matters.
Now What: Bryzgalov may be trade bait for some extra offense. Goalies are at a premium, and Giguere isn’t exactly old.

CALGARY

What Works: Need I say? Kiprusoff.
What Doesn’t: Third fewest goals scored in the league.
What Else: Marchment out with a knee injury – ironic, no?
What’s Coming: Hamrlik due back soon, and he’ll add some offense from the blue line.
Now What: Chemistry drives this team, so I don’t see any major trades. A free agent may be added, however.

CHICAGO

What Works: They’ve got a couple pretty good rookies in Seabrook and Borque.
What Doesn’t: Daze still out, Khabibulin out, Seabrook out…
What Else: Without Daze all season, there’s nothing they could even call a first line.
What’s Coming: It’s possible they could give up on the season and trade Khabibulin when he’s healthy. His numbers are lousy this year, though, so his value may not be great. His ring makes it worth a try.
Now What: Could someone tell owner Wirtz to join even the twentieth century? Television won’t suck out your team’s soul, Bill: you’ve got that covered.

COLORADO

What Works: You young pups, Svatos and Liles, proving they’re for real.
What Doesn’t: Where’d Hejduk go?
What Else: Tanguay becoming a more reliable (and responsible) player
What’s Coming: The Avalanche are a grittier team than before, but the scoring is still there. Losing Konowalchuk hurts, but isn’t fatal.
Now What: Looking for a goalie, but not that hard. The salary cap has a major effect over who comes and who goes, and Aebischer is good enough, so a trade isn’t likely.

COLUMBUS

What Works: Getting Nash healthy.
What Doesn’t: Paging Mr. Fedorov… 13 points in 24 games just isn’t enough.
What Else: Losing Brule hurt more than a rookie should have. He’s that good.
What’s Coming: Not much. Looks like Prusek is out of the rotation, so when will they move him? Or he could be an insurance policy, but…
Now What: Foote going down is bad timing, but otherwise the defense looks good, despite the goals against. More urgent is an offense that can scare people, and that’s not this year. With Zherdev and Brule, maybe next…

DALLAS

What Works: After a bizarre last season, the offense is rounding back into form.
What Doesn’t: Except Guerin.
What Else: Hedberg has been a capable backup (hear that, Vancouver?)
What’s Coming: First in the division, if they can hold off a hyperactive Los Angeles.
Now What: No movement yet. This is a team that likes it’s veterans, so we’ll see if they get rested or ridden leading up to the playoffs.

DETROIT

What Works: Just about everything.
What Doesn’t: Missing Kronwall for a season and Fischer for…?
What Else: Schneider could have his second career 20-goal season. The first was 12 years ago.
What’s Coming: Looks like more of the same, with Legace finally taking the #1 spot from Osgood.
Now What: Both Detroit and Nashville have the decided advantage of playing Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis more than any other teams. How much does that inflate their numbers?

EDMONTON

What Works: The salary cap!
What Doesn’t: Peca is on course for 30 points, a career low for a full season.
What Else: Neither Markkanen nor Conklin have the trust of the team. Conklin, earlier this season considered a US Olympic member, is slightly better.
What’s Coming: This is a young, YOUNG team. Horcoff, Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, and Bergeron are all among the team leaders, and Horcoff’s the oldest at 27.
Now What: Morrison should have been the backup this year, and he will be next year.

LOS ANGELES

What Works: Visnovsky is a serious Norris contender – point-a-game and +18.
What Doesn’t: You didn’t think that just by losing Allison and Deadmarsh, the injury curse would be gone, did you?
What Else: Dmitra’s doing quite well for a 9th round pick, wouldn’t you say?
What’s Coming: The goaltending is solid, young, and in the right order.
Now What: This team has lightning in a bottle: no idea if it will last beyond this year, but this year might be all they need.

MINNESOTA

What Works: Goaltending. The backup (Roloson) has 2.83 GAA and .919 SV%.
What Doesn’t: Scoring. The same backup only has 5 wins in 19 games.
What Else: Welcome back, Gaborik (27 points in 25 games)! If you could give Daigle a kick in the ass, that’d be nice (20 goals last year, 4 so far this one).
What’s Coming: A 7-4 run has earned a reprieve.
Now What: The weakest team in the division, and they still might make the playoffs. Lemaire loves his job, and the fans and GM seem to love him, so the honeymoon is still on.

NASHVILLE

What Works: Walker coming back will do nothing but help.
What Doesn’t: Losing Legwand for at least a month. Never a big scorer, he’s captain material.
What Else: The Czech Olympic team will probably start Hasek. It should be Vokoun.
What’s Coming: Playoffs are a certainty. Hartnell and Hamhuis coming around offensively; now for Legwand and Upshall. Youth is being blended in nicely.
Now What: A bit of a luxury being in their division (see Detroit, above), they can give Mason a few more starts to rest Vokoun.

PHOENIX

What Works: Nagy is aiming at a 90 point season, Comrie’s healthy (so far).
What Doesn’t: Joseph’s gone cold again, Boucher hasn’t taken the #1 from him, and LeNeveu isn’t ready yet.
What Else: Lankow was a bigger loss than Hull. Who knew?
What’s Coming: Utterly unafraid of trades, Sanderson or Morris could bring value back, but only if the playoffs drop out of sight.
Now What: Tough to tell, but probably out of the playoffs against too many teams, including a revitalized San Jose.

ST. LOUIS

What Works: Um… Sillinger’s having a career year.
What Doesn’t: Lalime has been a complete bust, as has starting backup Divis.
What Else: Tkachuk, playing 10 games, is the Blues’ fourth leading goal scorer.
What’s Coming: Not much. If someone wants Lalime, they can have him cheap.
Now What: A seriously bitten team when the salary cap went into effect, pride is all they have to play for this year and the next.

SAN JOSE

What Works: Turning a second line forward, second pair defenseman, and solid, checking centre into Joe Thornton.
What Doesn’t: Despite 8 points in two games (all assists - thanks, Joe!) Ekman still only has 18 points in 35 games.
What Else: Cheechoo also has 10 points in his last five games.
What’s Coming: Preissing is the team’s highest scoring defenseman with 17 points. Marleau plays the point on the power play, but still…
Now What: Nabokov, and thus San Jose, has been very streaky this year. He needs to regain his 2003-2004 form soon if the Sharks are going to reach the playoffs.

VANCOUVER

What Works: The “Three Brothers” line is a real, honest-to-goodness second line.
What Doesn’t: Losing Cloutier doesn’t help, but losing Jovanovski is worse.
What Else: The Cloutier/Auld dynamic was fun to watch, very much a fire and ice pair.
What’s Coming: Jovanovski’s injury highlights how thin the defence is. McCarthy and Bieksa are getting too much ice time, and Ohlund is wearing down in tough match ups.
Now What: Auld isn’t quite ready for the #1 job, and acquisition Ouellet has not been good enough yet, and veteran Flaherty can get claimed in waivers if he’s called up. The team is tight to the salary cap, so a dilemma presents itself…

Surprises so far? Los Angeles and Buffalo, though I think Buffalo is less likely to keep pace than LA. Columbus has also surprised me, as I thought the team was a lot more solid than the numbers show.

Well, that’ll do for another twenty games.

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posted by Thursday at 10:05 pm 0 comments

January 07, 2006

Hockey: Not That We're Fans or Anything

How crazy are Canadians for hockey?

The World Junior Championship relegation game between Norway and Slovakia drew over 5500 fans. The World Juniors themselves sold out eight months before the first puck dropped. We have a day designated by the CBC as "Hockey Day in Canada", and while it's not a national holiday yet, it's probably only a matter of time. I know I've got the games on, while sharpening my splitting maul and kindling hatchet and drinking a beer. Now, where's my toque?


It's the half-way point in the NHL season, so time to look over what's where, starting in the East:

ATLANTA

What Works: Without Bondra, but still scoring like crazy.
What Doesn’t: We’ll see how they do without Holik.
What Else: A recent charge could get them to the playoffs.
What’s Coming: Lehtonen. Management can stop with the sacrifices, now.
Now What: Garnett has been improving, but that’s as much a case of his players getting to know him better as it is his play. When Dunham’s back, he’s down again.

BOSTON

What Works: Stuart and Sturm are doing all asked of them.
What Doesn’t: Thornton still leads the team in scoring, despite playing his last 14 games for San Jose.
What Else: Lots of teams are still scratching their heads over the Thornton trade, wondering why they weren’t asked…
What’s Coming: Eight points and five teams out of the playoffs so far.
Now What: No real reason for optimism here. With five teams well below them, there isn’t even the chance of the #1 draft pick. Need to regain some pride.

BUFFALO

What Works: Goaltending. Miller has grabbed the brass ring.
What Doesn’t: Briere, the only point-a-game man, is out until at least mid-March.
What Else: They’re rolling four lines well and getting some scoring from lots of sources.
What’s Coming: Three goaltenders, one net. Lots of people want goalies right now, too.
Now What: Things are going great now, but they rely very heavily on special teams for goals. Trading Biron or Noronen can change that in a hurry, though other teams will probably try to get Miller.

CAROLINA

What Works: Cole, Stillman Williams, Brind’Amour all scoring since Staal slowed down.
What Doesn’t: Staal slowed down. No biggie, he’s getting more attention now from defenders.
What Else: Gerber is holding steady, and Ward’s doing good enough for a rookie.
What’s Coming: Biggest challenge to the division title may come from Atlanta, not Tampa Bay.
Now What: Think the fans will notice if they don’t get far in the playoffs? This team deserves crowds/

FLORIDA

What Works: Home record of 12-6-2.
What Doesn’t: Road record of Oh-Dear-Lord.
What Else: Huselius had to leave before his game came back.
What’s Coming: Talk of a goalie trade (Luongo can bring a lot).
Now What: Trade talk is on hold with McLeannan injured and, frankly, not playing very well.

LONG ISLAND (New York)

What Works: Still no extended sulking from Yashin. Hooray!
What Doesn’t: Losing three top defensemen hasn’t helped the goals against.
What Else: DiPietro will have to have a stunning finish to get last season’s 5 shutouts.
What’s Coming: And he’ll have to for the Islanders to make the playoffs.
Now What: Probably not much, but with Milbury as GM, you never know…

MANHATTAN (New York)

What Works: Looks like the biggest ego holding this team back was Sather’s. Who knew?
What Doesn’t: No points from the D. Tyutin and Poti’s 13 are tops.
What Else: Four of the top five scorers are Czech, as are Hossa and Rozsival.
What’s Coming: The annexing of Madison Square Gardens by the Czech Republic.
Now What: The chemistry here is great (even with Jagr – go figure), so any serious trade is probably out, but they do need help on the blue line.

MONTREAL

What Works: Koivu and Kovalev both scoring at a point-a-game pace.
What Doesn’t: When they (and everyone else) are healthy.
What Else: Sitting Ribeiro down for a couple of game is a calculated risk. If he doesn’t know why it happened, there could be trouble.
What’s Coming: Anyone need a big centre? Hardly used, good on faceoffs… He was a number three pick in 1994. Bonk for sale! Come get him!
Now What: They don’t have a lot to offer in trade, but what they could use most is some medical supplies.

NEW JERSEY

What Works: Elias coming back from a bout of Hep A with five points in two games.
What Doesn’t: Team +/- is -76.
What Else: Paul Martin’s on defense. That’s all for the political jokes this time.
What’s Coming: I keep expecting these guys to remember who they are and go on a tear.
Now What: Brodeur is already looking forward to next month’s Olympics, where people will watch him play. Why does New Jersey have a team again?

OTTAWA

What Works: Scoring lots; stopping opponents from scoring much. Yeah, that works.
What Doesn’t: Hasek’s back is starting to creak.
What Else: Emery should get more work, to prep him and rest Hasek for the playoffs.
What’s Coming: What could they need?
Now What: We’ll see if Coach Murray pulls a “Bowman”, mixing up his team to prevent stagnation.

PHILIDELPHIA

What Works: Niittymaki taking the number one spot while Esche is injured.
What Doesn’t: The walking wounded. A lot of top players have missed a lot of playing time, including Esche, Primeau, Desjardins, Kapanen, Pitkanen, Stevenson…
What Else: Apparently, they can ignore injuries with impunity; a 27-8-6 record says so.
What’s Coming: A dogfight with Ottawa and Detroit for the President’s Cup.
Now What: They want a playoff goaltender, meaning they might not be interested in the names currently being bandied about (Luongo, Biron).

PITTSBURGH

What Works: Keeping Fleury with the team, bonus be damned.
What Doesn’t: Shrugging when you hear the word “defense”.
What Else: Crosby has proven to be everything advertised, including tremendously composed off the ice.
What’s Coming: With Kovalchuk taunting Crosby, there could be a fantastic rivalry brewing between these two. Lets hope so.
Now What: With Lemieux’s threat to pull the team from Pittsburgh out in the open, he’s going to bite the bullet and pay Fleury the games played bonus this year. Hey, they’re losing money anyways, right?

TAMPA BAY

What Works: Everyone (more or less) being healthy (more or less).
What Doesn’t: The Lightning, of all teams, not scoring enough to support their goalies.
What Else: A very up-and-down year so far, they are in a battle to make the playoffs right now.
What’s Coming: An explosion of some sort from Coach Tortorella.
Now What: Seven empty net goals against shows a team that is close to a breakthrough – in either direction.

TORONTO

What Works: Bryan McCabe. Still.
What Doesn’t: Lindros and Allison both injured… do you hear springs breaking?
What Else: There are nine natural centers playing on this team. A little help on the wings would be nice…
What’s Coming: Kaberle could be tempting trade bait, should they need healthy forwards.
Now What: Can McCabe actually get 100 points this season?

WASHINGTON

What Works: Kolzig, Ovechkin, Witt, Heward, and team lawyers.
What Doesn’t: Too much to list… Well, not really, but there are some vets not pulling their weight (Johnson, Friesen, Cassels) with a lot of not-ready-for-prime-time players.
What Else: Could be Buffalo all over again, if they’re lucky.
What’s Coming: Some long seasons ahead if the youngsters don’t develop as planned.
Now What: What these guys should do is send the youngsters back down for another season and rent some vets for two years. The trading away of Kolzig is going to happen this season, and not for draft picks.

West tomorrow. Probably.

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posted by Thursday at 1:27 pm 4 comments

January 06, 2006

Sex: Stop Queering My Paradigm!

There was a small problem with the freezer at work today, so the boss came in to take a look, as bosses are wont to do. She climbed onto a stool, and - get this - felt along the top of the freezer where she couldn't see to find out if the air was drawing properly. Her fingers got hit by the whirling fan that was noisily drawing in air even as she was mounting the stool.

Fortunately, she wasn't hurt at all, just surprised, but this disturbed me; then when she told me she had shocked herself by touching the points of a flourescent tube while she was installing it, I became outright concerned for a couple of reasons:

1) She is female;
2) I was standing right there.

Before the cries of "sexism" begin, allow me to explain my concern. Men, consiously or otherwise, view themselves as more or less expendable.

Consider:

If aliens landed on the planet, and they had a physiognomy utterly different from our own, and they asked you to explain how they could tell a male human from a female one without being rude, you could tell them to carry around a metal cane that glowed red at one end. Then, when they encountered a human of indeterminate sex, they would point the glowing cane within reach of the human. A female would think, "Hmm, that's glowing red. I wonder if that means it's hot?" and avoid it, just in case. The male would think "Hmm, that's glowing red. I wonder if that means it's hot?" and grab the cane to find out.

You know it's true.

There are reasons why I'm married (fun, companionship, sex that would make a ferret blush) but one fringe benifit I hadn't considered is that she is going to keep me safer than I ever would. Guys are the ones who not only lean out on rickety ladders to paint their house, but do the same thing with a live chainsaw when trimming tree branches. She cares about what we eat; my only concern is getting food of some sort to my mouth. Remember the gentleman who attached a number of balloons to a lawn chair to see what would happen? His explanation was this: "A man can't just sit around." When women hear this, they shake their head; when men hear this, they shrug and nod. We consider the reason to be, well, reasonable.

The conclusion came to me with a shock: she was currently in a gay relationship. (I hope it continues: the girlfriend's pretty cool. But I digress.) Since there wasn't a man around her house (her son doesn't count, as women tend to be more protective of their offspring than their husbands or siblings), was she becoming more and more foolish as time went on?

It comes down to this: by allowing women to have homosexual relationships, are we dumbing down the other half of our species?

For the sake of human survival, I may have to reconsider my acceptance of personal choice in these matters...
posted by Thursday at 8:20 pm 4 comments

January 05, 2006

Other: More Self-Aggrandizement

...Is that even a word?

In any case, welcome to folks from the Skeptics' Circle (one way to spend about four weeks in a constructive manner), hosted this time by Runolfr.

Enjoy!

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posted by Thursday at 12:24 pm 0 comments

January 03, 2006

Other: Bill, Meet Zork

If you have any idea what that title refers to, go here and kill a few hours (and Polonius).

Thanks to On The Fence.

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posted by Thursday at 11:51 pm 0 comments

January 02, 2006

Science: Making Money the Easy Way Pt. 2

To quote (more or less) William Goldman on movies:

"Nobody knows anything. Again, for emphasis: NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING."

Q: Why did Pulp Fiction succeed?
Ask anyone in Hollywood, and you'll get a plethora of different answers. The script was brilliant, a writer might tell you; it was because of the stars, says an agent; the advertising, a producer explains. There is exactly one correct answer.

No one knows.

There are hundreds of thousands of scripts sitting or circulating through studio hands and in studio vaults, and several of these are going to be great, some are brilliant. But they'll never get produced, for whatever reason. Stars apppear in movies that are horrible failures, financially and/or critically, all the time (Hudson Hawk, anyone?). No amount of advertising can save a movie past opening weekend if people don't want to watch it (Battlefield Earth). Complete unknowns occasionally rise to stardom without anyone having any idea how it happened. (Clerks).

Q: How did Pulp Fiction get made?

A: Pulp Fiction got made because Resivoir Dogs succeeded. That's it. Everything else is nodding and appearing wise while saying "Of course, I knew it would be a success, because..." then telling people whatever story makes you look best.

Here's a secret: the exact same thing happens with financial markets. Even the brilliant Warren Buffett will tell you the same thing. He makes educated guesses, and he thinks very hard about what direction certain investments may go in, but they are still guesses. So why is he worth $36 billion? Because his guesses worked. Taking nothing away from his remarkable abilities, and phenominal work ethic, if his first few investments had tanked after forming his investment group, that would have been it for the not-yet legendary investment mogul. Oh, he may well have survived, even thrived once he found (and convinced) new investors to back him, but he would not have had the liquid assets needed to take advantage of the stock market crash; more likely, he would have been extended on the stock market at exactly the wrong moment in history.

So where am I going with this?

I'm going to the December 31, 2005 edition of the National Post. Now, the Post isn't much of a newspaper, granted: it's much more of a collection of conservative opinion pieces strung together with big, big pictures. But I do expect that since fully half to three quarters of the paper is given over to financial news of one sort or another that they'd take that sort of thing seriously.

Apparently not.

The big, big picture on the front of their Financial Post Weekend is Deborah Levin, who is a "professional clairvoyant", specialising in charging $225 for an hour of vague psychobabble. One of the columnists has a lunch meeting with her to ask about the coming year's financial highs and lows, and, as is reasonable, she expects things to be more or less like they were last year, always a safe guess. Safe, because if you make six or seven guesses about future trends, and say all of them will be about the same as last year, huge financial shifts could occur that would only affect three of your guesses, making you 50% correct. That's a fantastic "hit rate" among psychics, and well worth bragging about. Even if she is completely wrong on every guess, all most people will remember is 1) that she was interviewed by the Financial Post, and 2) that the Financial Post is one of the papers that interviewed her (she'll be mentioning this on her "media" page). The number of guesses will become irrelevant: if she got one right, that's what will be talked about, not the five "misses" (though again, be vague enough and almost anything can be turned into a "hit").

She's not alone in this, of course: there are financial psychics all over the place, each adding their own special brand of expertise to anyone who's nervous about entering the stock market, or commodities, or land, or anything else involving investments. But then, who could possibly be nervous about placing their life savings into the hands of a complete stranger? Markets are for those hard of head and firm of conviction, though there are apparently enough who are thick of skull to keep folks like this in business, too.

So, if one of your New Year's Resolutions was to get a bit more money invested, you just might want to ask one little question of whatever advisor you choose: "Who do you think can make better predictions with my money, Warren Buffett or Jupiter?"

The safest place to put your money? Well, here's a million dollars that has no chance of getting lost...

The Easy Way, Pt. 1
The Easy Way, Pt. 3

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posted by Thursday at 8:41 pm 0 comments