April 30, 2008

Working For People

It's simple:

Anyone who lives in a democracy and tries to stop its citizens from voting is guilty of treason.

Help catch them.


posted by Thursday at 5:34 pm 0 comments

April 29, 2008

Mr. Ezekiel Goes To Washington

Thinking about the number of times a certain U.S. presidential candidate has had to answer questions about a preacher he has a tenuous (at best) connection with, it occurs to me that another U.S. presidential canditate should probably answer a question or two about a preacher he is, quote:

"[...]pleased to have the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee."

Is he pleased to have the support of a man who believes that the only peace that can happen in the Middle East is going to be caused by the Antichrist?

"Israel will unite and peace will prevail when the country accepts the false man of peace who steps out onto the world's stage."

Or who's thelogy is still a little shaky, despite is chosen vocation:

"Do not be confused into thinking that Allah is just another name for the same God."

One that believes that the World Trade Centre attacks because of immigration?

"It happened because the United States has an open door policy."

Or a man who's last book, Jerusalem Countdown, is various permutations of the "Nuke Iran Now!" theme repeated for 255 pages?

Or who thought the 2000 election was a chance for the European Union to present an Antichrist of their own, dscussung the chance of political confusion in America would give the opportunity for a "charismatic and strong leader" to take over the world?

Granted Hagee isn't a Dominionist, trying to turn the United States into a new Eden which follows God's Laws alone, but his ideas for international policy can only be called nightmarish at best:

The favorite passages of Pastor Hagee's is Ezekiel 38-39, involving the antichrist's army attacking Israel. What is hoped for is that life will get worse and worse, with war and strife a constant event, and then (of course) the Tribulation and Rapture.

In God's plan (according to Hagee), when America invades Iran, that country will form an alliance with Russia, who will then attack Israel for no immediately aparent reason. God says "Nuh-uh" and the Russian army is toast in the biggest anti-climax since Fred Thompson was Ronald Reagan.

America itself will be either utterly destroyed (or simply reduced to an afterthought) in this great plan - and I'm thinking that this just might be considered, well, a touch antipartiotic.

Surely, someone in the media would notice if a presidential candidate was consorting with a supposed "man of God" was interested in the destruction of the United States. Unless...


Of course! They actually are Leftist America Haters, who are secretly in cahoots with Pastor Hagee!

So NOW it all makes sense! God does, indeed, work in mysterious ways.

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posted by Thursday at 7:45 pm 0 comments

April 26, 2008

The ITF And World Overthow

Further proof that unions are evil, especially the International Transport Worker Federation: they're stopping the unloading of legal and purchaced goods onto Zimbabwe docks, forcing the poor crew to go elsewhere!

"The vessel, carrying millions of rounds of AK-47 ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds, all intended for the Zimbabwe Defence Force, slipped away last Friday for an unknown destination after a court order impounding the weapons was issued by the Durban High Court."

I can't imagine why they would ever do such a thing. They must be Communists...

"Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe yesterday a recount of ballots from the March 29 elections continued amid fears by opposition parties that the ruling Zanu (PF) was attempting to rig the results and reverse the opposition winning control of parliament."


posted by Thursday at 10:22 pm 0 comments

April 24, 2008

Round Two: In The East

The battle continues! Pretty much the only thing all the pundits can agree upon is that the remaining four teams are going to have a rougher go of it than they did in the previous round.

Montreal vs. Philadelphia

Les Canadiens are once again facing a team they dominated during the regular series, going 4-0 against the Flyers: it seems likely that they have learned not to take that assumption with them into the playoffs, after Boston took them to the limit. And the Bruins were a team that would have been out of the playoffs had the regular season gone another two weeks...

Montreal has to use the biggest advantage they have, which corresponds nicely with Philadelphia's greatest weakness: speed. Montreal draws penalties by forcing opposing teams to try catching them, then runs the deadliest power play in the league to make them pay. They picked up 90 goals with the man advantage, more than a third of their total markers; the only reason their series against Boston went so long is the failure of what was their bread-and-butter play: they only managed 3 power play goals, looking like they were waiting for someone to score instead of working for the goal. That will have to change. They could be called the "sharks of the East" because if the Habs stop skating, they're dead in the water...

The Flyers surprised me in getting past Washington, and they'll surprise me again if they get any further these playoffs. The Capitals took advantage of their high-speed, high-impact game to tie a lumbering Philadelphia defense in knots, though Briere's wicked counterstrike ability did much the same to the Caps, resulting in 6 goals and 11 points for the quick center. The signing of Briere took a while to bear fruit, but the fans should be well pleased with him now. That new speed, combined with the newly acquired Prospal, is going to give the Canadiens second thoughts about when to bring their defense on the attack.

Which could be enough to make the Habs second-guess themselves. Their defense has acted as an effective second line this season, forcing opponents to spread themselves thinner while killing penalties or risk leaving forwards to play a cycle down low. The classic play against Montreal in recent years has been to hit their small forwards until they didn't want the puck any more; but with the emergence of Streit adding yet another weapon to an already dangerous blue line, that play no longer pays the dividends it once did. Four of their 19 goals came from the D, and that was enough to make the difference against Boston.

The Flyers defense has been less effective, netting only a single goal in their seven games against Washington, and are less involved in the attack over all. But Montreal doesn't attack the way Washington does, playing for puck control rather than turnovers - "Keep Away" rather than Take Away". This bodes well for the Flyers defense, who want to add another dimension to their attack: the only consistent play they had was "get it to a forward who gets a breakaway", and the more lively Hab defenders won't be as vulnerable to the stretch pass. Timonen is going to get another chance to prove himself, and he's being counted on to do just that.

But to do that, he'll have to get the puck past Carey Price, and anyone who gets tagged for five goals against twice and still has a series save percentage of .925 is someone to beware. He recovered beautifully after being unable to close out a 3-1 game advantage in two chances to shut out the Bruins in game seven, a magic number for all the great players: if you can't win game seven, your career will be a short one. Here Price has an advantage over Biron, with World Junior and AHL victories on his resume, both happening last year. Price understands the stakes he's playing for, and it doesn't faze him in the least.

Biron is playing for himself as much as for his team. This is his first playoff experience in the NHL, and like all goaltenders, the question mark will hang over his career until he proves himself in the second season. So far, he's acquitted himself well, stealing two wins (in game four and the all-important game seven). On the other hand, he was strictly average in the other five games of the series; so which Biron appears, and how much support he receives from team mates, will be pivotal.

Prediction: Montreal has learned it's lesson, and will play hard enough to win the series.

Pittsburgh vs Manhattan

Any time Petr Sykora is your leading playoff scorer, something has either gone horribly wrong or wonderfully right. In Pittsburgh's case, the fact that Sykora has three goals in their truncated series against Ottawa speaks volumes: while Crosby and Malkin were leading in points, goals came from all up and down the line-up with only three players who played all four games registering zero points for their efforts. War horse Roberts is clearly involved, stopping any of the stars on his team from having to retaliate against the agitators who target them by instigating himself (16 minutes in penalties), though his 42 year old body may not be able to take a long series. They simply destroyed whatever resistance the disheartened Senators could manage, picking up an average of 11 points per game while giving up a mere 5 goals against what was an otherwise potent offense. The Penguins like to control the puck, supporting each other in passing lanes and evading turnover situations until the opportunity to strike emerges.

The Rangers are not a high scoring team, despite the presence of one of the biggest offensive weapons in recent years. It's true Jagr is not the player he once was, but it would be foolish to ignore his presence. Part of the reason is the coach: Renney has long believed that defense wins championships, and the team has had enough success that they have decided to buy in to his scheme. The offensive strength of this team is that goals, though limited in number, can come from anywhere: Jagr has found his favorite center in rookie Brandon Dubinsky, freeing Gomez and Drury to create offense on their own lines, making for a line-matching coach's nightmare.

What Manhattan doesn't have is much punch from the defense, whose primary job is to push the puck to the forwards then stop the opposition from getting a breakaway. So long as the forwards come back in support, providing a target for the first pass, it works just fine. But don't expect a lot of points coming from the blue line. This plan also works well against a dump-and-chase team like the first-round opponent Devils; the Penguins, however, prefer to carry the puck at all times, and they can do it at speed.

In contrast, Pittsburgh has one of the highest-scoring defensemen over the past decade in Gonchar anchoring their line, and he has no fear of carrying the puck himself: the last time he had fewer than 54 points was in the 1998-99 season when he only played 53 games - and got 21 goals anyways. His shot is hard, though not exceptionally so, and it is accurate. This is less important than it would be on most teams, as the Penguin forwards know how to take advantage of any puck left lying in front of a net.

Acquiring 6' 8" Gill has made life far easier for Fleury, as well, whose incredible end to the season (1.50 goals against and .945 save percentage for March and April) has happened with Gill in the line up. Those numbers continued through the first round, with Fleury stopping 107 of 112 shots sent his way. He's received a lot of criticism for his play over the past two seasons, and has had people wondering if he was actually the saviour the was signed on to be. This was especially true with the brilliant play of Conklin, signed on when Fleury was injured and providing serious competition for the starter's role: it may have been enough to light a fire under the nominal starter, and Pittsburgh is finally seeing the full potential of the 2003 first overall draft pick.

For the Rangers, Lundqvist is a known commodity at this point. It seems strange to say that about a third-year player, but he's been the starter for Manhattan for all three of those years, and the team has changed their playing style to match what is now their most important player. After getting pummeled by New Jersey in 2006 - his first in the playoffs - he came back to star in 2007 and is proving just as strong this time out, though against a far weaker Devils team. The Rangers have also learned from the past, changing their dynamic from free-wheeling to defensively disciplined, and Lundqvist's numbers reflect that.

The question being, how much will that help against a Penguins team with more weapons than the Rangers defense will be able to stop?

The Penguins are going to the East Finals, and the Rangers are going home.


posted by Thursday at 2:35 pm 0 comments

Intermission Rock!

The latest edition of the Skeptics' Circle is up and rolling, and rock plays a very important part in it.



posted by Thursday at 2:32 pm 0 comments

April 23, 2008

Round Two: Out West

Wow - not a good first round in the NHL. Don't get me wrong - there were a startling number of good games played, and some fantastic intensity - but as for my predictions... Four out of eight ain't bad exactly, but did I really say Montreal would take their series "easily"? Oy. And I was so hoping for a Washington-Calgary final!

Forget the past, move on to the second round:

Detroit vs. Colorado

Oh, my my! Look at what we have here: two team who had some great roaring battles through each team's Stanley Cup runs (between 1994-95 through 2001-02 one of the two teams had appeared in the final six times, with five wins to show for it). They've battled in the playoffs five times, and they had each been well worth watching.

It's going to be no different this year.

Detroit dominated the four regular season games by simply never letting the Avalanche play with the puck: with three shutouts in four wins, they kept Colorado to an average of 18 shots per game. The Avs, for their part, were without Sakic, Forsberg, Foote, or Salei for all of those matches; and leading scorer Stastny missed two with injury. That's a whole lot of skill the Red Wings didn't have to deal with, plus one of the best shut-down defenders in the league. Colorado also knew what they were getting when they chased down Ryan Smyth in free agency: some points, sure, but also a player who will walk through fire to get the Cup.

That being said, the Red Wings can certainly match the firepower of any team, front-to-back. Amazingly, this is the first year the Lidstrom has led the NHL scoring for defensemen, and he's been joined by the perpetually dangerous Rafalski. It's tough to know what to do against this team: both defenders are phenomenal at moving the puck, and playing a dump-and-chase game will leave deadly outnumbered rushes against any team that misses the first check in deep...

Then there's the goaltenders. A befuddled Hasek was pulled before three games were over, and Osgood only allowed one goal in finishing that game and winning the next two. He's a cinch to start this series, and is being backed by an ever-competitive Hasek, who's going to want a shot at redemption. Opposing them, though, will be a startlingly rejuvenated Theodore. Yes, he allowed 12 goals against the light-shooting Wild, but he also faced 200 shots - 57 more than Nashville managed in the same number of games. And any time you're facing a goaltender with a .940 save percentage, it can give your forwards dark thoughts.

This could come down to coaching, which will make for an interesting match of styles. Both coaches like playing four lines, perhaps the biggest difference being that the Avs' Quinnville prefers to match certain defenders against specific opponents rather than give sole responsibilities to a forward line, where the Wings' Babcock sets his grinders out against what he considers the most dangerous opponents, with the defenders to follow. Each coach will move players to different lines to avoid a match-up, and each of these teams is deep enough that the star players will be able to find someone that can take advantage of their skill.

Prediction: I'll say Detroit for this one, if only because they have more to prove after years of being the best team in the regular season, but not making the finals since 2002.

Dallas vs. San Jose

Few predicted Dallas would be here, and fewer still that they'd get here before the Sharks. That Turco has been rock solid has been unsurprising; that they got 20 goals in six games, and their leading scorer was the notoriously easy-to-distract Mike Ribeiro is. He's got the skills (and, alas, temperament) of an artist on a strictly blue collar team, but he's managed to keep the flippant behaviour to a minimum this year - perhaps coincidentally a contract year for him. Brenden Morrow has been a perfect choice of captain, releasing Modano from a weight that was clearly getting too heavy. Scoring on Dallas is now spread out among several playoff-tested forwards, including newly acquired Conn Smythe winner Richards, and memories of last year's embarrassing exit to the Canucks (losing in seven when your goalie managed three shutouts) shifted the burden of victory to the scorers.

San Jose is dealing with years of frustrated expectation themselves, though the fans there haven't traditionally used their goalies as whipping boys. For excellent reason: Nabokov has a career playoff record of 28 wins, 23 losses, and a save percentage of .917. Their offense has never managed to quite keep up in the past; this year, things are looking a little different. They are still relying on Grier to stop opponents, but re-signing Ozolinsh and trading for Campbell would give them the puck-moving defensemen they needed for a high-powered offense to... Well, sometimes it's best if you improvise. The offense has come from Thornton (of course), Marleau (whew!), Clowe (nice bonus) and... Pavelski? The heck's he doing with 8 points in seven games? Still, whatever works!

Which is also the motto of the Star's defense. Dallas sorely misses Zubov, and missed Boucher for three games, but Robidas has held the fort, chipping in a goal and five assists, easing the pressure off the three rookies patrolling the blue line. As for San Jose, Campbell never got his game going against the high-pressure Flames, and odds are he'll feel the same pressure against the Stars. Rivet is the only real threat the Sharks can muster from the blue line after Campbell, and lack a real hammer from the point, so if the match comes down to special teams, that could lose it for them.

Dallas managed ten power play goals against Anaheim, and the expected return of Zubov only make their special teams that more dangerous; but San Jose isn't the Ducks, and they are far better at maintaining discipline. That being said, these two teams did combine for 160 minutes in penalties in their last game of the season - fireworks could start early and often.

Prediction: The biggest difference between these teams is the first round: Dallas played against an oddly unfocused Ducks team, while San Jose was challenged by a fast and determined Flames squad. That crucible gives San Jose the advantage here.


posted by Thursday at 9:14 pm 0 comments

April 22, 2008

Applying Wingnut Logic

1) There have been hunger riots in certain parts of the world (thanks, IMF/World Bank!);

2) There has never been a famine in any Democratic nation with a free and open press;

3) The press is only as free as their least popular members.

Which means governments who decide on an invite-only policy are supporting famine!

Heh. Inaccurate, sure; but fun!


posted by Thursday at 2:29 pm 0 comments

April 20, 2008

But, That's Crazy Talk!

This is weird.

I'm not a fan of Wally's World; going into StuporStore gives me a headache; I actively mock uniforms (especially ties); and I note with some bemusement and slight aggravation that TraveLouse seems to be buying every hotel in Victoria.

But I love working at RONA.

The hell...?

I've been working in the electrical/lighting section of the store, and get asked all sorts of questions about not only wiring houses but interior design and the differences between light bulbs and what the Kelvin rating of fluorescent lights means. Are CFLs inevitable? Have incandescents really been banned in Ontario, and is that going to happen in B.C., too? What's best for my bathroom, and are there any pot lights I can use in an insulated ceiling? Does the electrical code say anything about running underground lines for sub-panels? Are LEDs the coming thing, do halogens make the best spot lights, and what's going on with solar panels? I've got to know the answers, or how to get them.

And I love it.

Plus when people walk into the store, where I work is usually the first place they go, so I get dragged all over the store to try finding the answers to whatever questions they ask about whatever project they've got on the go. The variety of questions is astounding - there haven't been many repeats yet, and for the most part I've been able to leave them smiling, whether I was able to actually help them or not.

I actually look forward to going in to work.



posted by Thursday at 8:55 pm 0 comments

April 17, 2008

Why Can't I Have Someone to Pay My Bills?

A few centuries ago in Europe, the powerful were told by various churches that money was evil, it being the root of all evil and all that. So the noble families pretty much stopped dealing with it. Being a merchant was disgusting and tawdry, and possibly one step away from Satanism.

[Side note: The Jews had no such beliefs (you were allowed to make "a reasonable amount" from your transactions, but usury and the like were still out) and so became wealthy and, when money became as important as land or titles, that provided yet another reason for gentiles to despise/target them. Back to the story.]

The nobility never dealt with money if they could possibly help it - they had others to do that sort of thing for them. There were few standing armies, as those were bloody expensive: when there was a risk of losing their warriors, the lords simply sent them off to their neighbour's place to take whatever they could. Cash was vulgar, and someone else's problem. Few knightly or titled families had any members that could read, never mind ones who knew what accounts were due when!

I do believe we have an equivalent:

"Hillary said that students are being victimized by “predatory” student loans that charge 28% interest rates. I’m really quite serious: Is that true?"


"I heard Hillary quote that same absurd interest rate for student loans at a rally earlier this year, and I had the same reaction. I don’t even know how it’s possible to get student loans with rates that high."


"Tonight, Hillary Clinton said, “That’s why I’m in favor of much more college aid, not these outrageous predatory student loan rates that are charging people I’ve met across Pennsylvania, 20, 25, 28 percent interest rates.” Jonah and Mark H. (and I) wondered how that could possibly be true."

So why is it that so many political conservatives are so bad at money again? Awareness of good money management is so often the anchor of their political campaigns, after all. Money is clearly important to them, so they must know how to use it, right?

Oh... right.


posted by Thursday at 12:06 pm 0 comments

April 13, 2008

It's Digby's Baby

A few days after president Bush casually admitted on ABC news to not just knowing about but approving of torture techniques used on prisoners,

"Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas.

"It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time," said one high-ranking official who asked not to be identified. "They'd say, 'We've got so and so. This is the plan.'"

Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved."

the woman who said it best is one who often does:

"There was a time when the Village clucked and screeched about "defiling the white house" with an extra marital affair or hosting fund raising coffees. I would say this leaves a far greater stain on that institution than any sexual act could ever do. They did this in your name, Americans."

What, you haven't heard about this? Well, welcome to the magic of the Friday Night News Dump!

And could someone please explain why this isn't in the category of "War Crimes"?


posted by Thursday at 9:30 pm 0 comments

Just To Be Sure...

..."Elite" means "bad", does it?

Because from what I seem to remember, when someone was "elite", it meant there were few who could match their accomplishments in whichever field they specialized. It's been generalized to imply someone who is at the top of the social class, certainly, but there again it's tough to argue that being in the top 1% qualifies you as being at least among the elite, don't you think?

As far as I can tell, the more important a job is, the more important it is to have an "elite" in the position. You want the person who designed the submarine you're in to be among the very best at his job, because otherwise you die in a truly horrible way. The person making your pastrami sandwich, on the other hand, can be as nice as you like but doesn't really have to be the best of the best - just good enough to know what mustard is and how to use it.

The electrician wiring your house? You need him to be good. The kid mowing your lawn? Good enough not to require immediate medical attention at any time and can avoid the roses.

In politics, perhaps "elite" means someone who actually speaks about specific people who are in hard times, instead of keeping all statements as vague as possible. Or perhaps it means being able to make complete statements about complex ideas all in one go without fearing that you'll lose your audience. Or even assuming that the people listening to you aren't complete idiots.

That, in politics, would seem to put someone into the realm of the very, very few.

Because surely it doesn't mean a fantastically wealthy coke snorting Ivy League trust fund brat from Massachusetts with a fake Texan accent that no one else in his politically connected oil baron family has who has somehow convinced people they'd "like to have a beer with" him?

Nah. That'd be crazy.


posted by Thursday at 8:50 pm 0 comments

Signs This Is Working, #325

The Significant Other and I are driving along the highway home. We pass a camper's water container that has been there for a few days.

SO: I do believe that's one of those water containers you take camping.

I: It could very well be.

SO: You don't think so?

I: Maybe it's an art piece.

SO: Dramatically But is it... ahhhrt?

I: Ahhhrt?

SO: Dramatic still It... moves me. It grasps at air speaks to me.

I: It speaks volumes, perhaps?

Brief silence

SO: I'll have to kill you for that, you know.

Whatever she thinks, I so totally won this marriage.


posted by Thursday at 7:34 pm 0 comments

April 11, 2008

Bad Argument Addendum

There's been an update in the world of prostelyzers, it seems:

"Hard Hats" are the new "Watch".

This all means I've had another God Botherer drop by the house today. He was a new fellow, apparently just visiting town for a short while, and was brought 'round by a woman who had been here before and perhaps should have known better. Still, much of faith involves believing in the impossible, so they - or should I say he, as she was mostly interested in nodding while staying two steps behind him and off to one side like all the women they've sent so far - worked on converting me.

"Friend, would you expect God, in all his myriad of forms, to expect something different from any of us than he would expect from any other?"

Bit of a shaky start, that. He got rattled off question one when I told him I was an atheist, so what God, in any of his guises, expected was pretty irrelevant to me.

We ambled merrily through the usual arguments, with him bringing out a scripture quote about how the devil clouds the minds of unbelievers, and I pointed out that the front pieces of the Quaran often had the exact same commentary, specifically mentioning Jews and Christians should be pitied because they were blinded by the devil from accepting Mohammed. He countered that the Bible had been around far longer than Islam, and I suggested that this could explain why it didn't mention that faith by name, but the idea remained.

Then it was off to parents teaching their children, and isn't that what God was doing, as a loving parent should? Which made for a lively discussion on the difference between God and humans: humans raise other humans. What's God raising, then? The gnostics believed, after all, that we mere humans could achieve an equal standing with Jesus Christ, without intervention of any church; any chance they were right?

He decided to discuss why his Bible was better than any others: it mentions the name Jehovah over 7,000 times! He was really quite proud of that, so I felt a little sad to remind him of the sheer number of Bibles available in English alone - you can get 114 of them here, for crying out loud - and that perhaps some others of them could make a similar claim? Plus, the fact that I was still an atheist made the point fairly moot.

Then came... I'm not sure how to describe this... He mentioned the complexity of life, and I tried to head off the inevitable by interjecting the rather silly "watchmaker" and "junkyard airplane" arguments. But I may as well have been trying to stop the flow of lemmings on a Disney Special: he kept plowing on with what he was sure was a killing stroke, certain to lay low my resistance and bring forth my joyous conversion (or at least a visit to the local Kingdom Hall).

"If you were out in the woods, and you saw a hard hat, you wouldn't think it got there spontaneously, would you? Well, no! Of course you wouldn't! You'd know that someone would have to have made the thing and brought it with them into the woods."

That this was the exact same argument as the 200 year old watchmaker argument didn't seem to make much difference. So, for his benefit, I went over my own objections to the allusion:

My first objection is that I know what a hard hat is; I see them every day. I've seen them being made, being used, and being discarded. I know where they come from, why they're here, and what they do. I know full well that they are inanimate, nonliving things (I had been corrected from using "organic" and "inorganic" quite a while back). In short, I'm familiar with them; but even if I weren't I could find something to compare them to with relative ease. Their component parts are understandable: plastics of various types; some cloth; adhesives; perhaps metal bits, too. I'm pretty sure I could make one of my own.

Humans, on the other hand, are (as far as we can tell) unique. There is no other place to drop a human into for another intelligence to stumble upon and wonder. For the allusion to work, instead of a hard hat (or a watch) you'd have to create something completely new, made of nothing I'd recognize as flesh or fabric. Even an amorphous blob I could probably guess at - unless it was slime mold which is really really cool, but also pretty confusing categorically speaking.

Anyhow, think you could pull that off? I don't.

Objection the second: if, twenty meters further along, you happened upon a hard hat bush, would you then change your mind? If a whole new species of plant was discovered that sprouted shelled seeds astoundingly hard hat-like, resembling our own invention so closely that they would fool even the sharpest of eyes, would you then admit that the hard hat you found could indeed have gotten there without anyone making it and bringing it with them?

Or would you simply shrug and say "That God - what a prankster! Moving on..."

Because I think I know the answer you'd give.


posted by Thursday at 8:54 pm 2 comments

April 10, 2008

Practical Partying in Your Thirties

There is certainly a down side to sexual shenanigans when you reach... a certain age. This is about as accurate a depiction as I've seen, courtesy of Riegel & Blatt.

The other difficulty is being on-line. I don't demand perfection from somebody, but there are certain standards I do expect. Put another way: would you go to a job interview with last night's beer bong in hand? No? Then don't expect a reply for this:

"hello, i guess we have few questions. #1 lol ... have you had any experience with any other couples or single? what are you guys into sexualy? can you travel? do you have any more pics(maybe some hot ones to)?"

You know, just a basic level of coherence would be nice to start with. That, and not sounding like you're actually a 14 year old boy who found his parent's credit card and is now trying to get some free stroke material.


posted by Thursday at 9:55 pm 0 comments

Footprints in the Sand

...That lead to a hole in the wall where the distinct sound of snoring is heard.

But first, they walk in circles!

Time once again for the Skeptics' Circle to get up and running! You'll find this week's version at Archaeoporn - what can I say, he's really, really fond of archaeology...


posted by Thursday at 6:15 pm 0 comments

April 09, 2008

W16, Western Style

This is the conference that the vast majority of pundits and predictors expect the Stanley Cup winner to come from, and I'm no different. Assuming there aren't, say, four or five upsets the team coming from the West is simply going to be better than the Eastern champion. The coaches strive for strong team play and cohesive systems, relying less on stars and more on style: getting through any of them is going to be a challenge.

But then, there's a reason they play the games...

Organized in order of what I think will be the worst-to-best match ups to watch:

Western Conference

Anaheim vs. Dallas

On the attack: The Ducks play a low-scoring, grind-it-out game, and are quite happy with 2-1 wins. The only player to reach the point-per-game mark was Getzlaf, though Selanne came close with 23 in 26 games, and the rest are far behind. They are delighted to goon it up, having eight players with more than 80 minutes in penalties, hoping to intimidate any team they play into coughing up the puck when they apply a hard forecheck. Their most important line is arguably Moen-(Rob) Neidermeyer-Pahlsson, perhaps the best shut-down squad in the league. Dallas, on the other hand, got 40 more goals than Anaheim during the season, and employ 10 players with 10 or more goals this season, led by Captain Morrow's 32. Advantage Dallas.
On the defense: What could be the best one-through-four in the league anchors the Ducks' blue line, with two Norris winners, a frequent runner-up, and a young stud. They contribute much of the scoring, such as it is, but the easily-distracted Pronger can get his team in penalty trouble early and often. Dallas has a perpetual runner-up for the trophy themselves in Zubov, but after that there's a lot of defenders of the "quietly effective" variety. The nod goes to Anaheim here.
Last line: The Ducks have complete faith in Giguere, often leaving themselves open to odd-man rushes when the defenders go for a low pinch or big hit. Their faith is justified, as Giguere's .922 save percentage shows. Turco showed his playoff mettle last season, losing in the first round despite getting three shutouts, Dallas' only wins. No advantage.
Specials: Anaheim is surprisingly mediocre on special teams, with the 12th best penalty kill and 20th best power play. The Stars come to the series with the second best kill and 13th best power play, but will have to be careful of the Ducks' eight short handed goals... Advantage Dallas.
Need to know: Anaheim can get into tremendous amounts of penalty trouble... so long as opposing teams don't start diving. They're happy to take the punishment if it means reducing their enemies to trembling wrecks who hear footsteps whenever they have the puck.
Prediction: It's going to come down to Richards, and the reason he was acquired from Tampa Bay: his Conn Smythe trophy. He needs to come through, and big, but this is the wrong team to try that against. I'm expecting Anaheim to get through.

Detroit vs. Nashville

On the attack: Detroit seems to be built on impressive pairings, and the first of them is Zetterberg and Datsuyk. They both hit personal bests in goals and points this season, and have a lot of offensive support behind them. Nashville has some scoring too, with young players maturing into starring roles. Bonk apparently decided to go from carving a career out as a "defensive specialist" to being a "mediocre scorer", getting 14 goals but also a stunning -31. Advantage Wings.
On the defense: Lidstrom (70 points, +40) and Rafalski (55 points, +27) are the next pairing the Red Wings rely on. There's the eternal Chelios, of course, and Kronwall available to pick up any offensive slack. On the Predators side are four remarkably similar D-men (some points, slightly undersized) and Weber. They are young and improving, and with luck will make a good show of themselves this playoffs. Detroit gets the nod here.
Last line: Third pairing Osgood and Hasek - though it's a little tough to determine which is actually better, both picking up 27 wins while allowing 84 goals. Ellis has taken the starting role from the incumbent Mason, and is going to get the lion's share of facing Detroit. He says he's happy to start... Ask again nest year, but this time it's Detroit.
Specials: Detroit was 3rd on the power play, and 8th on the kill. Nashville was 27th with the extra man, and 3rd one down. Nod to Detroit.
Need to know: Nashville's a scrappy team - if they can irritate Detroit into retaliatory penalties, they just might squeak this one out. The consideration here is Detroit's experience: they know what's at stake, and aren't likely to make mistakes at this time of year. Advantage Detroit.
Prediction: Red Wings.

Minnesota vs. Colorado

On the attack: And here's where the idea that there are few exciting players in the West falls down: Minnesota's Gaborik is worth the price of admission on his own. On the down side, Rolston is the only other player to have more than 16 goals. For the Avalanche, it's worth noting that they have at least four players whose points-per-game increase come the playoffs, and that doesn't include leading scorer Stastny, who has yet to make the playoffs. Even so, this is a surprisingly equal match offensively... until you consider that four of Colorado's top offensive players had considerably shortened seasons, and they're all healthy now. Advantage to the Avalanche.
On the defense: You could say that every player on the Wild is a defenseman, but to be specific Burns has taken a leading role, contributing 19 of his 43 points to the power play. He'll have to keep that pace up, as two of the top four defense are out for the first round at least. Colorado has added Salei to shore up their blue line attack, where only Liles managed to get over 30 points. They also brought Foote back, making Theodore that much happier. Injuries give the nod to Colorado.
Last line: Speaking of Theodore, he's playing far better than he has for the past two seasons. He's confident, battle tested, and looking to prove himself this year. Backstrom, despite a slightly shaky mid-season, is well in form for the playoffs, and wants to last more than one round. Advantage (narrowly) to the Wild.
Specials: Colorado had a lousy power play, finishing 28th, and a bad penalty kill (21st). Minnesota ended 7th on the power play and 4th on the kill, as befits a Lamaire-coached team. Advantage Wild.
Need to know: Neither team is particularly physical, but neither one shies away from the tough places on the ice. This should be a fast, fun series, but if there are panalties taken, Colorado is going to be dead in the water.
Prediction: Minnesota. I think.

San Jose vs. Calgary

On the attack: Where Thornton leads, the rest will... Well... Hobble along best they can, it seems. Thornton produced almost as many points as the next two Shark players combined, and that's not a good thing. Their real strength may be from their Rissmiller-Grier-Brown combination shutting down opposing forwards while chipping in enough goals to be the difference. The Flames will counter with the second best forward in the league, but after Iginla's 50 goals, there's Langkow's 30 and Huselius' 25, numbers the Sharks can't match. Advantage Calgary.
On the defense: Rivet has been the year-long anchor for the Sharks, but the newly-acquired Campbell has been driving the power play, getting 12 points there in the 20 games he's been with the team. San Jose's biggest concern is getting the puck away from Nabokov and up to the forwards. Calgary's Phaneuf leads mostly a shut-down crew with a power play specialist in Aucoin, and they'll play any game you like. Advantage Flames.
Last line: Kiprusoff has been joined by a much more humble Joseph, both as a reliable back up and as a reminder that he can be replaced at any time (Keenan is not a subtle man). He's over his usual bad start to bring a .920 save percentage from the past month into the playoffs. The Sharks will be leaning on Nabokov (and his 6 shutouts) again, but more importantly on their tighter defensive style to get out of the first round. Close call, but advantage Calgary.
Specials: San Jose had the best penalty kill in the league, and the 8th best power play - thanks in large part to Campbell's arrival. Calgary had the 19th best power play, and the 20th best kill. Big advantage Sharks.
Need to know: The Sharks are a snake-bit team when it comes to the playoffs. In theory, they're the favorite; but if they lose early, they could collapse like a balloon at ten fathoms from the pressures of fan expectations.
Prediction: Flames, but it will take a while.

Hokay, there they are! I fully expect to be right on, say, half my total predictions. I ind of hope not, though: the surprise keeps things interesting.

Next time out, I'll try to figure out why the teams that didn't make it failed. In some cases spectacularly. Should be fun!


posted by Thursday at 7:56 pm 0 comments


The toughest sports trophy in the world to capture is once again up for grabs!

It's a wide-open race this year, though most prognosticators are pointing West, to either San Jose or Anaheim to take it all. There's an excellent reason for them to do so: while some of the best players are in the East, the better teams are on the opposite side. But they play the games for a reason, and it's a tough call to predict any post-season. In fact, it's so unpredictable that I'm not going to bother listing the teams in order. Instead, here are the match-ups ranked from least to most interesting... to me, at least.

Who's doing what where, and how they're going to do it:

Eastern Conference

New Jersey vs. Manhattan

On the attack: Neither team is all that interested in scoring, with Jagr leading the Rangers with one of his worst scoring seasons ever (25 goals, 71 points). Still their emerging youth gives them enough depth to score the nod over the Parise-led Devils (32 goals, 65 points). But it's close.
On the defense: Not much going on here, either; though the Rangers had slightly more offense from the blue line. Both teams preach a shut-down style, with few risks being run. If the Rangers are lucky, They'll have Malik taking a penalty shot once per game. Nod to Manhattan.
Last line: Not as big an advantage as you might think. Lundqvist has been there when needed, and is capable of outplaying even Brodeur in any given game. Just not seven in a row. Nod to the Devils (again).
Specials: Both teams are fairly mediocre on the power play, though the Rangers are 6th in the league on the kill. Nod to Manhattan.
Need to know: The Rangers have owned the Devils this season, taking seven of eight games from them. Even the loss came in overtime, so they still got the point. Combine that with this being the time of year Drury earns his money, and you have a Rangers team looking dangerous. On the other hand, there are few goalies are more money than Brodeur, and the Rangers only managed 16 goals in those seven wins.
Prediction: The Rangers' more physical game and balanced scoring will carry them through.

Montreal vs. Boston

On the attack: Most amazing note from this year? Montreal led the NHL in scoring. Not Ottawa; not Detroit; not Pittsburgh. Kovalev stayed interested all season, and the "A" on his jersey looks better and better. Boston was led by the Invisible Man again (seriously, you'd think 273 points over the past 3 seasons would make Marc Savard more memorable) but the drop after him is precipitous. Advantage Canadiens.
On the defense: Chara is once again earning a lot of attention for the Norris this year, and it's well deserved. He hit a career high in goals and assists, improved his +/- by 35, and has accepted a huge amount of responsibility for his team. Wideman is a sound #2 in his third year, but after that there are no surprises. For Montreal, Markov has apparently decided to replace the off-season loss of Souray himiself, as has the startling Streit. Komisarik looks like he's plateauing as a solid (6'4", 245 lb.) and surly (101 PIM) defender, and Hamrlik completes a steady top four. Advantage Montreal.
Last line: Montreal's Price is the "roll of the dice" that wasn't: he's a high-pressure, high-performance goalie, and always has been. Boston, on the other hand, started with two goalies they won't be using for the playoffs. However, Thomas and Auld are unflappable goalies, each performing far better than expected this season. Advantage, slightly, Boston.
Specials: Boston has an indifferent power play, missing key ingredients for much of the season, and a lousy kill. Montreal has the best power play in the league, and that's all you really need to know there.
Need to know: Chara is Mr. Everything for Boston; look for Montreal to try taking advantage every time he's off the ice - especially by goading him into penalties.
Prediction: As close to a bye as any team is going to get. The Habs own this one.

Washington vs. Philadelphia

On the attack: Ovechkin has more goals than the next three Capitals forwards combined. It's an astoundingly one-sided attack, but that hasn't meant anyone could stop it. But the Flyers are no patsies: there are 6 players each with 20 or more goals for Philadelphia, even with Lupul only managing 56 games. Advantage Philadelphia.
On the defense: Smith, if he makes it back, will have the unenviable job of trying to stop Ovechkin in the first round. If not him, then Timonen will have to sacrifice some offense and focus on minimizing the damage. A very young squad follows those two. Alas, any team that feels they need the slow and often penalized Hatcher is at a disadvantage before they play a game. For Washington, the startlingly productive Green is being allowed to jump into the play, bringing 18 goals and 56 points with him. As for the rest, the point is to get the puck to the forwards, ASAP, and it's something they do reasonably well. Advantage Washington - barely.
Last line: An inconsistent Biron is the man for the Flyers, like it or not, and it will be his first time as starter; whereas Huet has be awe-inspiring in his takeover of Kolzig's position in Washington. Any time you pick up 11 wins in 13 games (and two of them by shutout), you get to start the playoffs. The Caps have a decisive lead in net.
Specials: Philly's 2nd best power play and 10th best penalty kill are 8 and 15 places better than Washington's. Advantage Philly.
Need to know: The Capitals play a hard-forecheck style - I dream of a Washington-Calgary final - and Philadelphia's slow defense is prone to taking bad penalties. If Washington's power play can connect on a quarter of their chances, this will be a short series.
Prediction: Almost impossible to tell. This could be a series of blowouts, or it could be four close-checking matches, or it could take seven. But I'm betting on Washington.

Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh

On the attack: Some awesome scoring is lined up in this match, with Ottawa bringing the biggest line in the game (Alfredsson-Spezza-Heatley) against the most dangerous scoring tandem in the NHL since two other Penguins brought the Stanley Cup to town. It's after the big names that things get interesting, as neither team really has much scoring depth, despite the Pens getting Hossa (3 goals in 12 games) and the Sens acquiring Stillman (3 goals in 24 games). Even up here.
On the defense: Gonchar is the element of surprise for the Pens. He loves jumping into the rush and has an effective shot, and he knows when to let it fly. Whitney adds a second gun to the point, and Gill is there to provide some clear sight lines for Fleury and Conklin. Ottawa has two big men for the front of the net in Commodore and Phillips, and Redden and Meszaros add some puck-moving skills. The easily-avoided Richardson is likely to watch this series. Advantage to Pittsburgh, but it's close.
Last line: A complete reversal of what was expected at the beginning of the season: the Penguins are rock-solid with a young hotshot and a veteran who wants to prove himself; and Ottawa has had personality issues with their young star and a veteran who's been streaky and scarily inconsistent. Advantage Pittsburgh.
Specials: Pittsburgh's power play was 4th best in the league, with the 23rd best kill. Still, that's better than Ottawa's 12th and 22nd. Advantage Penguins.
Need to know: Who's on the ice. This is the first time the Penguins have been completely healthy all season, and the Senators are going to be down some big pieces (Alfredsson, Fisher and Kelly). This is going to be a very physical match up, which may surprise people who think of these two teams as "skilled, but soft". Double check those rosters, and you won't be fooled.
Prediction: Injuries bring down the Senators this year, and the Penguins get their revenge.

Right, then! Off to the West!


posted by Thursday at 4:19 pm 0 comments

April 03, 2008

Teh Babbeez! Won't Summun Tink of Teh Babbeez!

Obama bin in the news again; this time for being a one-man crusade against babies, families, teens, sex, and (of course) Christians. Why this time? Because he was asked about STDs and youth, so he referenced his own daughters:

"But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby."

Now, there are two ways to read this. Either A) he doesn't want toddlers used as corporal punishment, or B) he thinks the massive, life changing repercussions of having a child should be an option rather than a sentence. So we should consider the full reply before racing to judgment:

"When it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include — which should include abstinence education and teaching the children — teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include — it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I’ve got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so it doesn’t make sense to not give them information."

In context, his meaning is clear: baby clubs for all!

But seriously; it would take a special kind of stupid for anyone to think -

"And more importantly he made a statement over the weekend talking about the issue of abortion. If people make a mistake, quote, "I don't want them punished with a baby," unquote." -Sean Hannity

Uh, okay... But back to the real world now. I can't imagine someone believing that -

"I would think that word would be alarming to people and possibly offensive to those who have had babies out of wedlock." -The Brody File

Huh? Aren't you from the same crowd that believe babies are a "just punishment" for people (well, women) who do have sex out of wedlock? You know it: that whole "It's the Woman's Fault for Having Sex, That Whore!" mantra. Oh, and I love that you "talked to" Obama and Clinton, but "interviewed" McCain...

Anyhow, other than the mad few, who would think that a father would actually say his kids were a "punishment"? Especially one running for President? That's just being -

"Obama Thinks a Baby is Punishment" -RIGHTWINGSPARKLE

Okay, now; this is surely the exception to majority -

"Obama's record borders on quietly favoring infanticide." -Confederate Yankee

Look, this is -

"I wonder how pro-life Catholic Democrats will react to Barack Obama’s pregnancy-as-punitive and pregnancy-as-inconvenience-on-par-with STDs rhetoric?" -Michelle Malkin

Er, as well as they love McCain panting for the nod of the virulently anti-Catholic Hagee?

Enough of this silliness. Obama is a pro-choice candidate: it's not like this statement is going to change anyone's mind whether to vote for him or not. People don't often change their minds on abortion, unless they end up having one, but even then it's rare. I'm a pro-choicer myself, so the statement made no real difference to me; but if I held opposite views, I can't imagine voting for Obama anyways.

Bottom line: this isn't a story, it's an excuse to vent. Move on, now: there are bowling scores to worry about!


posted by Thursday at 11:03 am 0 comments