Feb 26, 2010
A lot of ink has been spilled, and a lot of commentators, not least of whom is Finland's own irritatingly clueless Niki Juusela, have gushed hysterically over how wonderfully Canada played against Russia. We didn't really see that at all; what we saw was a Russian team that didn't seem to be one bit interested in playing. That game wasn't Canada being great, or even particularly good; it was Russia being worse than they've ever been under Bykov. It was astonishing to watch them "play". Our prediction was based on the idea that the Russians wanted to win this tournament. Turns out we were wrong!
As a side note, had the referees actually called penalties for, say, boarding and checking from behind, Canada would have spent the entire first period in the box. In the very first shift, Maxim Afinogenov got run into the boards from behind. No penalty was called, and that was the line throughout. We'd really like to see an international hockey tournament that had any consistent refereeing at all.
The same goes for Sweden. We thought they'd run out of steam in the semis and end up in the bronze game, but they already ran out in the quarterfinals. We don't want to take anything away from Slovakia, who played an excellent game, but really, Sweden didn't even look like they particularly wanted to win.
With our quarterfinal record at a dismal 50%, it's time to take some semifinal guesses.
We believe USA-Finland is a very simple equation. Finland was shut out by Sweden and only managed one garbage goal against the Czechs. A large reason for this is head coach Jukka Jalonen's moronic insistence on playing the Saku Koivu - Teemu Selänne - Olli Jokinen power play combination, which has been totally unable to even set up scoring chances in the last two games. In spite of this, every time Finland got a power play against the Czechs, Jalonen put the same crew on the ice, and they continued to, frankly, suck.
We anticipate Jalonen will do the same, effectively scuppering Finland's minuscule chances to score. Unless he has a change of heart, or the Finnish team decides to show up again like they did in the first two games, Miller will shut Finland out. Whatever the exact score, though, Finland will end up in the bronze medal game.
As for the other game, we'd be mad not to bet on Canada. The only real chance Slovakia has is that the Canadians may get ahead of themselves and get their head in the final game while they should still be playing the Slovaks. So while there's a chance for a Slovak upset, we have to say Canada.
Feb 24, 2010
There's a lot of things that make me ill-disposed toward him. For starters, this is what Miéville had to say about Tolkien:
Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's clichés - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.
In short, Miéville repeats the tired old Marxist critique of Tolkien, which I've always felt is largely based on not bothering to read him. I would submit that anyone who thinks Tolkien's works can be described as "boys-own-adventure glorying in war" cannot actually have read the Lord of the Rings, let alone the Silmarillion, or certainly not with any other purpose that to find things to vilify in them.
That Miéville should regurgitate a Marxist critique that was inaccurate and fairly pathetic even when it was invented is hardly surprising, as the man describes himself, hilariously, as a Trotskyist. He's even stood for the House of Commons on that platform, and unsurprisingly, has failed.
For all these reasons, I've always suspected there might be something wrong with the man, and a surprising confluence of things has absolutely confirmed my opinion. As it happens, I've posted about seasteading a couple of times on this blag. There's a fairly good article on the topic at wired.com, in case you're unfamiliar with the movement. In brief, it means founding libertarian communities on the high seas, to escape the laws of states á la Sealand.
Mind you, I'm of two minds about seasteading; while I personally like the idea, I'm not at all sure that this is the kind of thing the libertarians of the world should be directing their energies toward. So I'm not approaching this as a die-hard partisan.
What provoked this post was the fact that China Miéville, too, has written about seasteading. He authored an article called Floating Utopias: Freedom and Unfreedom of the Seas, in a sensible and unpartisan-sounding book called Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism. The article can be found here. Here's a quote in which Mr. Miéville summarizes both libertarianism and seasteading:
Libertarianism, by contrast, is a theory of those who find it hard to avoid their taxes, who are too small, incompetent or insufficiently connected to win Iraq-reconstruction contracts, or otherwise chow at the state trough. In its maundering about a mythical ideal-type capitalism, libertarianism betrays its fear of actually existing capitalism, at which it cannot quite succeed. It is a philosophy of capitalist inadequacy.
Libertarianism’s nemesis, “the state,” is no less abstract. This is particularly so for libertarianism’s seasteading wing, for whom the political entity “the state” is bizarrely geographically literalized. Their intent is to slip the surly bonds of earth not up but sideways, beyond littoral borders. It is a lunatic syllogism: “I dislike the state: The state is made of land: Therefore I dislike the land.” Water is a solvent, dissolving “political” (state) power, leaving only “economics” behind.
I should point out that Miéville actually has a Ph.D. in international relations, and his doctoral dissertation was on the subject of international law. So by any rights, he should know perfectly well what the legal basis for seasteading is. He just chooses to ignore this and write the ham-fisted strawman attack of the second quoted paragraph. Instead of a considered legal position based on international law, and in the case of Sealand actually upheld by precedent, Miéville gives us "a lunatic syllogism".
I'm sorry, but if the man thinks this is fair treatment, I can't take anything he writes seriously. The kind of bile he's spewing in this article is just too childish to be taken seriously. Either his Ph.D. is a complete joke, or he could have presented seasteading in an intelligent, critical light, but just chose not to. If what he's written there is a fair representation of libertarianism and seasteading, then I guess Obama really is setting up death panels.
To reinforce this image, all I need to do is repost the picture Wikipedia has of him.
I believe I've found the left-wing Andy Remic. I understand his prose is better, but really, I'm past caring by now. I've never met the man, but based on everything I've read so far, he's a class-A idiot.
The real question, however, is not whether to read his books or not. I'm not going to. The real question is this: how much would you like to see a political debate between him and Andy Remic?
Feb 23, 2010
NOR - SUI
We said: 4-1 Switzerland.
The score: 5-4 OT Switzerland. Miss. Wow. A heck of a game, with Norway nearly taking advantage of an unexpected collapse by Switzerland.
LAT - SVK
We said: 6-2 to Slovakia.
The score: 6-0 Slovakia. Miss, but given our poor record of late, it's hearteningly close. With this game, Latvia loses the initial round. Strangely, the only team to shut Latvia out in this group was the one that had the weakest defense.
GER - BLR
We said: 4-1 Germany.
The score: 5-3 Belarus. Miss. If Switzerland struggled against Norway, Germany just plain failed. The Belarusians finally broke out their offensive skills and took the Germans somewhat by surprise, and Germany, shut out in both of its previous games, really struggled to score. We expected both Germany and Switzerland to zero in on these games as their most crucial tests in the tournament, but both were surprisingly shaky. The Germans were unable to transition from their tight defensive game to a more aggressive brand of hockey, and paid for it here.
Our record: 1-3-11; in winners and losers, 12-3.
And now, the big day!
Finnish state TV is calling this "Super Sunday", and it's not so far off. Today the initial groups end and the elimination games are seeded. Also, there's some great hockey with all the proper countries facing each other.
RUS - CZE
Some excellent hockey! Highlights included a flashback to the Torino Olympics when Jagr was skating around with his head down again, and this time Ovechkin cleaned his clock to set up Russia's 3-1 goal.
We said: the Russians will take this in regulation at 5-2.
The score: 4-2 Russia. After days in a row of complete misses, finally we're close.
That completes Group B. We predicted the following group table:
Czech Republic, 3
Actually, this is how it ended up:
Russia, 7 points
Czech Republic, 6
So apart from the Czechs and Slovaks changing places, this went pretty much like we thought.
CAN - USA
Canada controlled the game most of the time, but USA capitalized on its opportunities better, and Miller was stellar.
We said: while it's going to be a hard-fought one, we think Canada will take this one 4-3 to emerge as group winner.
The score: 5-3 USA. Miss. We really expected Team Canada to be better.
Canada, 9 points
The actual table:
SWE - FIN
Worst game of the tournament, both for Team Finland and generally. Hopefully Finland can bounce back to next one.
We said: Finland will beat Sweden, and the Finnish press will start planning the parade route. Finland takes it 5-2.
The score: 3-0 Sweden. Miss.
Our predicted standings:
Finland, 9 points
And the final outcome:
Sweden, 9 points
Our boys let us down, but otherwise the group went like we thought.
Our record for days five and six is one close and five misses. We aren't doing that good.
Our overall record stand at: 1-4-13; in winners and losers, 13-5.
We thought they would be:
Apart from Sweden going straight to quarterfinals and Canada not, we got the teams right, but not the seeding order. If somebody figured Canada would go to elimination games, more power to ya.
Actual elimination match-ups are:
CZE - LAT
CAN - GER
SVK - NOR
SUI - BLR
Our scenario is now in tatters; the final we and the rest of the hockey world predicted will not take place. So here's our revised scenario for the rest of the games!
CZE - LAT
CAN - GER
SVK - NOR
SUI - BLR
We predict the team with home advantage will win each game, though Switzerland and Belarus might well take it to overtime. Obviously we're hoping Canada will stun the hockey world by getting eliminated here, but we aren't going to put any money on Germany. We won't be putting money on Canada either, with the odds our governmet betting agency is giving, offering 1.01 times your bet.
Quarterfinals, as per our prediction:
USA - SUI
SWE - SVK
RUS - CAN
FIN - CZE
USA will win their game against Switzerland, but the other ones are tough to call. Any one of the six teams can win their game.
Slovakia is a mystery to us: they lose to the Czechs but defeat Russia. Overall they haven't impressed us, but neither has Sweden. They have excellent goaltending, though: Halak and Lundqvist have been the top two goalies of the tournament so far. We think Slovakia is the worse team, and they take too much penalties. Slovakia's only chance is that the gold-laden Swedish team is not hungry enough. They looked lackluster even when beating Finland 3-0. Still, we predict Sweden will win.
The most anticipated match-up of the tournament will not take place in the finals, but in the quarterfinals. One of the two teams thought most likely to take gold will go home without a medal. We think both teams have played poorly so far. Russia looked alright in their opening game, stumbled against Slovakia, but recovered in their last game against the Czechs. Canada had trouble getting started against Norway, barely defeated Switzerland, and lost to USA. Russians seem to be improving their game, which Canada has so far failed to do. Having to play Germany won't help with that. Canada has the most pressure, and their game hasn't been very good. Unless they can make it all come together, they will lose. We predict Russia wins, hopefully by a goal by Ilya Kovalchuk.
Finland versus the Czech Republic is Finland's game to win or lose. If the team that played against Germany and Belarus shows up, Finland wins. If the joke of a team that lost to Sweden turns up, they would lose to Latvia, let alone the Czechs. We feel really bad about Finland after the last game, but we think they should be able to win this game. We predict Finland wins.
USA - FIN
SWE - RUS
Much as we wish it were otherwise, we believe we'll see USA - Russia final with Sweden and Finland competing for the bronze. We think Finland will want the bronze more and win the game, and we stand by our original prediction that Russia will take gold.
Feb 20, 2010
A great start for Finland! So far, out of the big countries, we think Finland got off to the best start. As we guessed, Belarus scored off a Finnish defensive bungle, and Finland didn't turn it into a blowout even though they could have. The power play was firing nicely, Kiprusoff was himself, and the only problem we really saw with Finland was what we figured: the defense. Pairing up Lasse Kukkonen and Joni Pitkänen doesn't exactly give us faith.
We said: 5-2 to Finland.
The score: 5-1 Finland. It turned out pretty much like we thought it would, so we say close.
As we predicted, a difficult game for Sweden, and actually a surprisingly good effort from Germany, even though they got shut out. They did beat Lundqvist twice, but only got posts, and frankly, Sweden's opening goal should have been disallowed for blatant goaltender interference. It's also going to be fascinating to see how many more crosschecks to the face Doug Murray can get away with. If anything, this was even closer than we thought.
We said: These teams are really in different leagues, so the difference will swing to Sweden, but only at 3-1.
The score: 2-0 Sweden. We're happy with this one; it turned out to be a sticky game like we thought, and hey, we had the goal differential right. We're calling this one close.
Our first proper miss of the tournament, in the first game whose outcome was seriously in question. Slovakia has a fair chance at winning this, but what killed their game was a failure to score, but much more importantly, penalties. The Czechs scored the winner on a giveaway, and the third goal on the power play at the very end of the third, after a string of monumentally stupid penalties by the Slovaks, including two dumb penalties by Chára, who played one of the worst games we've ever seen him play. The Slovaks frittered away their good rally in the second on dumb penalties, and in the third, they were just plain bad. A big disappointment, especially since the Czechs didn't look very impressive. Jágr wins the Old Guy From Europe sweepstakes, playing a much more impressive game than either Ziggy Palffy or Peter Forsberg.
We said: Realistically speaking, 3-2 Slovakia.
The score: 3-1 Czech Republic. Miss. To be more precise, fail. This is the first game where we got the winner wrong.
So, Day 2 was over, and our scenario was in the trash because Slovakia let us down. Our record was 1-3-2, and it was about to get worse.
It isn't getting any better. The Americans sucked. The score is as high as it is only because of the endearing North American habit of beating up their opponent when they're down. The game was 3-1 coming into the third. It's a real shame for Norway, who put up a gallant fight against practically impossible odds, and came out of it with a score that doesn't reflect the game at all. The Americans are going to be in serious trouble against Canada if their offense and power play are this bad.
We said: This should be the highest-scoring game in the tournament. 12-1.
The score: 6-1 USA. Fail.
SUI - CAN
This is one we really don't mind being wrong on. Just like four years ago in Torino, the Canadians came into the game with a serious attitude problem, and ran headfirst into the tenacious Swiss defence. The Swiss played an excellent, physical forechecking game, and for our money, they're the best-playing team in the whole tournament so far, and certainly our favorites. Canada was absolutely rubbish; the only line that worked at all was the San José trio. After the Swiss tied the game at 2-2, the entire Canadian team seemed to panic. In the end, what decided the game was the inability of any Swiss player to get the puck past Brodeur in the shootout; just one goal from any of the first three shooters would have put Canada away. For that matter, though, had Brodeur not played a superb game, Canada would almost certainly have lost in regulation. Not that Hiller wasn't good, too, but in fact, it was Brodeur who stole the game for his team, not Hiller.
We said: 5-2 Canada.
The score: 3-2 SO Canada. Fail.
SVK - RUS
If Slovakia was a huge disappointment in their game against the Czechs, that was nothing compared to the way Team Russia failed to show up for this game. Today was a day of total offensive failure, and nothing exemplifies it better that the fact that Russia only managed a single goal against Slovakia. Russia was incredibly confused and disorganized; they played far better against Latvia. At this rate, they'll lose the deciding game for the group win against the Czechs and completely junk our predictions.
We said: 5-3 to Russia, if not even higher.
The score: 2-1 SO Slovakia. EPIC FAIL.
A dismal day for our predictions, with two out of three results just plain wrong. Our record now stands at 1-3-5. Ouch. Both of the grand favorites for the gold medal were major disappointments today, with both going to overtime in games that they should easily have won in regulation. In fact, the only team that consistently played well today, in our opinion, was Switzerland. Even they failed in the scoring department in the shootout, making today the worst day in the history of the offense since the First World War.
BLR - SWE
We said: Despite less than 24 hours of downtime, this will be the biggest-scoring game in Group C, with Sweden winning 8-1.
The score: 4-2 Sweden. Miss.
CZE - LAT
We said: 8-1 to the Czechs.
The score: 5-2 Czechs. Miss.
FIN - GER
We said: Finland takes this 3-0.
The score: 5-0 Finland. Miss.
Apart from Team Finland, the failure of the offensive continues. Neither the Czechs or the Swedes were able to convincingly put their opponents away; the Czechs scored their fifth goal after the Latvians optimistically pulled their goalie. The only game we thought would be low-scoring was scuppered by the Germans' strange insistence on taking epicly stupid penalties, and the marvelous efficacy of the Finnish power play.
This is our second Olympic update, and our record stands at an unfortunate 1-3-8. We've only managed to call one score exactly, three were close, and eight missed altogether. On the other hand, though, we got the final outcome right in nine out of twelve games; Canada only beat Switzerland in overtime, not regulation like we thought, and Slovakia surprised us both times, first be being worse than the Czechs and then somehow making the Russians even worse than them. So in terms of winners and losers, we're 10-2. And apart from the Czechs and Slovaks switching places, so far our scenario has survived surprisingly intact.
Given that our predictions were laid down before any games were played, we're quite happy with our dismal-looking record. We're also very happy with Team Finland's play, especially after the power play onslaught on Germany. Also, Teemu Selänne is now the all-time points leader in modern-era Olympic hockey! Go Teemu.
The decisive games are next! Now it starts getting really interesting.
Feb 18, 2010
YLE: Committee Calls for Ban on Semi-automatic Weapons
A committee set up after the 2008 school shooting in Kauhajoki has recommended that Finland ban semi-automatic handguns. It also wants to tighten laws governing gun licenses.
As elaborated in the Finnish media, the government is now preparing to collect all semi-automatic handguns from citizens and ban them. Because the rationale for this is the school shootings, both of which were perpetrated with .22-caliber handguns, they really are going to take away all handguns.
I obviously chose the title of this post to refer to the American gun crowd's perennial fear. The main difference between Finland and the US is that in the States, the Constitution guarantees a right to keep and bear arms, whereas in Finland, the constitution guarantees absolutely nothing at all.
To be specific, 15 § of the Finnish Constitution guarantees the "protection of property", and goes on to add that compulsory purchases of citizens' property are possible "for the general good" and "at full value". So in short, your property is guaranteed protection, except when it isn't.
So not only are they coming for our internets and our speeches, they're also coming for our guns. These are interesting times we live in.
Who am I then? Playing board games and reading. Meeting people. I'm currently doing my compulsory civilian service as an alternative to serving in armed forces.
Board games and reading. I am student of psychology at university of Helsinki.
Feb 17, 2010
The first day of the Olympics is behind us, and we're here to check up on our predictions. Let's look at the games!
We expected this to be a tough game, and it turned out that way. Ralph Krüger's Switzerland plays a very tight defensive game, with a surprisingly competent offense and power play, and they didn't make it easy for the Americans.
We said: It could turn into a blowout, but we expect a fairly close game. 3-1 or thereabouts to the Americans.
The score: 3-1 USA. Spot on!
Our first prediction ever, and it's dead right! We feel quite good about this one.
Given that we remember several Canadian coaches, including a lunatic in garishly colored jackets, have a habit of pontificating about "running up the score", it was fascinating to see Canada score half of the goals in this game after their opponent was totally beaten. Par for the course for Canadian hockey.
As for the game, though, the numbers don't do the Norwegians justice. Luongo's shutout was perilously close to being broken several times, and it took luck keep the goose egg intact. The first period ended 0-0, and Norway played very well until the head coach's inexplicable decision to change goaltenders after the 4-0 goal. Pål Grotnes played an excellent game, as he always does, notwithstanding the ugly 3-0 wraparound goal, so pulling him in the second period was a bit of a surprise. Often coaches change goalies to send the team a message, and this time it seemed to tell the team that the game was over. After Grotnes went off, the fight went out of Norway completely, and the Canadians hammered in another 4 goals. Given that goal differentials do matter in this tournament, and Grotnes was playing excellently, we're not sure what the coach was going for; had he not switched goalies, the game wouldn't have ended up nearly as ugly.
We said: It's easy to see how this could get surprisingly difficult for the home side, but then again, it's Norway. Unless the Canadians fail hideously, we're thinking something between 5-2 or 8-1 to Canada.
The score: 8-0 CAN.
What we failed to mention in the first post is that for purposes of working out our scenario, we pegged this one at 7-1. 8-0 is just outside the spread we gave, and very close to the score we used for our calculations. We're calling this one close. The eventual score is very close to what we used for our scenario, and nearly within the bracket we gave, so we're quite happy with this one as well. Norway was within inches of scoring at least once, and Canada's sticky start kept the numbers below what they might have been.
Until the start of the third period, this game too was going down exactly like we thought: after a lightning start, both teams spent the second period doing pretty much nothing, and the game was 4-0 Russia at the end of the second. Then a minute into the third the Latvians went and scored. Not only did they ruin our prediction, but they made the Russians mad by ruining Nabokov's shutout. They scored three goals on their next four shots, followed by Latvia's second goal. If everyone had just taken it easy at the start of the third, 6-0 looked more than likely, but no. Stupid goal. Weirdly, the refs called this one totally differently from the other two games tonight, with way more penalties going both ways.
We said: 6-0 Russia for the first shutout of the tournament; either Nabokov or Brizgalov will do.
The score: 8-2 RUS. Miss. Okay, we got the winner and loser right, but we won't take any credit for that in this case.
To finish off, a couple of general observations. We've now seen Canada on the ice, but it's impossible to say anything about them based on that game. The first period was just terrible hockey, the second was passable, and in the third there was only one team on the ice. We actually thought the Americans handled themselves better in their debut. All Canada has proved so far is that they can beat Norway, with difficulty. Russia, too, gave some early indications of trouble; their defense wasn't all that great, and Nabokov was surprisingly shaky in the third.
The little countries, though, played far better than the numbers indicate. The Norwegians and Swiss played as well as we expected, but quite frankly, the Latvians were surprisingly good! The old days of the '90s, where the underdog countries played a 1-2-2 trap based on the hook and slash are well and truly gone, and good riddance to them. All six countries who took the ice today basically played the same kind of competitive hockey and put up a proper fight, with the partial exception of the Norwegians.
Overall the differences in international hockey have gotten a lot smaller since the turn of the millennium, and that's a good thing for international hockey. On that happy note, we'll sum up with our record so far:
Tonight, Team Finland debuts, and we look forward to our first complete miss of the tournament when the Czechs face Slovakia, especially if Márians Gáborik and Hossa are both out. We'll be back to check up on our predictions as soon as we can be bothered.
Feb 16, 2010
(we accept no liability for gambling losses; we'll end up with enough of our own to worry about)
The tournament is actually set up interestingly. There are three groups of four teams, which are as follows, with their placement on the IIHF World Ranking in brackets:
Czech Republic (6)
After the first round, the best team in each group advances directly to the quarterfinals, along with the best second-place team. The remaining eight are paired up and play a single elimination game, with the winners taking on the four direct qualifiers in the quarterfinals.
In short, if you can win your initial group, you avoid the "eighth-final" elimination game altogether, and get home ice advantage in the quarterfinals. The "best second" also gets this.
We like this tournament set-up, because the initial games really do matter now. You have to win them, and win them big, because it's almost certain that after the initial round, several teams will have equal points, so goal differentials come into play in re-seeding teams for the elimination games.
That's also what will probably make this a surprisingly tough tournament for the "big countries". The first games will matter, and remember that for all the top-ranked countries, most, if not all, of their team barely gets any preparation time for this tournament at all. It's not easy to be firing on all cylinders right off the bat! (I love mixing metaphors; this one creates the impression of an internal-combustion powered missile being fired off the end of a baseball bat, which is an image I thoroughly enjoy)
This makes predicting outcomes slightly difficult. What makes it even worse is that really, it's impossible to just look at the rosters and say "this country will win bronze". It's going to be a really close tournament. On the other hand, that's what makes this interesting.
That's the introduction over with. We figure that since we're doing this, we might as well provide you with a complete scenario. Having already said that this is going to be a close tournament and a tough one to call, we'll be looking at it from bottom to top. For starters, we'll proceed by group.
First of all, some general observations on the teams.
Canada - Oh, Canada. Clocking in at an average age of 28, the Canadians bring a surprisingly young team. Mostly this is because of bad memories attached to some obscure Italian city that may or may not have hosted the Winter Olympics a few years back. What can we say? It's a fantastic roster, sure, and it's hard not to pick the home team to win the whole thing. Then again, one remembers Torino (even if they don't), and the '08 world champs, also in Canada. It's funny that after everyone spent the entire '90s talking about how Russia was a team made up of moody superstars who would either gel or go out in flames, now Canada is the team with the biggest mental question mark attached. How will they do under the pressure of the home audience, with literally all of Canada watching?
USA - We like the Americans. In general, sure, but also to do well in this tournament. A young, fast, dangerous team, who should have plenty of fight in them. Of course, with youth comes inexperience. Apart from a few exceptions, most of the roster has very little experience of either NHL playoffs or international tournaments. We're also not entirely sold on Ron Wilson, but when it's such a short tournament, who knows how much difference the guy behind the bench will make? We think they'll do well, but the lack of experience could show.
Switzerland & Norway - It's a little cruel to simply bypass the native country of one of our bloggers with a shrug, but sadly, that's the case with Switzerland and Norway. The Swiss have an outside chance of squeezing into the quarterfinals, but really, the only interest attached to them is whether they can give either of the previous two teams a nasty shock in the opening round. Having said that, Norway did surprisingly well at the last two World Championships, and if the Swiss get their game going, they might make life surprisingly difficult for an opponent in an elimination game.
Russia - The record and roster speak for themselves. Under head coach Bykov, the Russians are just plain scary. The only question mark is the defense corps; the goaltending is top-notch, and if we have to explain the forwards, then I'm not sure where to start. The big red machine is back, and the Russians really are the team to beat here.
Latvia - The once proud country of Arturs Irbe, now reduced to a single sentence in our preview.
Czech Republic - We don't like them to do well here. A team of aging superstars and indifferent younger players, the Czechs always step up their game at big tournaments, but there's an inescapable feeling that time has passed by the Czechs. A dangerous team, sure, but not podium material.
Slovakia - Mixed feelings. On the one hand, the Slovaks have great upset potential; on the other hand, that's all they have these days. This team is basically the old world champion team (their youngest forward is Márian Gáborik(!)) with a couple of new guys added on. Like the Czechs, potentially very dangerous, but also like the Czechs, another team that time forgot.
Sweden - Another team we're skeptical about, and not just because we're from Finland. With an average age of 31 years, there's quite a few guys from the old guard with gold medals from Torino still hanging around their necks. How interested are they really going to be in this tournament? Peter Forsberg seems to be, but frankly, we're astonished he's on the roster. With a grand total of 17 games this season, is he really up for this? The only young forwards on the roster are Bäckström, Hörnqvist and Eriksson, so one might say the Swedes also have a bit of a "changing of the guard" issue ahead of them. By the way, why is Stefan Liv on the roster? Where's Johan Hedberg? Anyway, like the Czechs and the Slovaks, on the face of it, the Swedish team doesn't look too impressive. That's no reason to count them out, though.
Finland - For once, we feel good about Team Finland's roster. In individual skills, like always, Team Finland can't hope to match any of the "big countries", but the guys do play well together as a team, especially at big tournaments like the Olympics and the World Cup. We have leadership, world-class goaltending, and we have guys who are still pissed off that we lost to the Swedes at Torino. The new Team Finland top line is making its debut here around Mikko Koivu, so the torch is being passed on, but at least we have someone to pass it to in Mikko Koivu, Tuomo Ruutu and Valtteri Filppula, among others. More thoughts on the Finnish roster on the Finnish-language blog, but suffice to say that the defensive corps is the biggest question.
Belarus & Germany - Sadly, Belarus won't be repeating the miracle of Salt Lake City in this tournament (okay, we hope they will, but it's unlikely). Germany may, like Switzerland, prove a surprisingly tough nut to crack, but if either of these countries makes it to the quarterfinals, we'd consider it a major upset.
To sum up, we see the participating countries falling into five groups:
1. Canada and Russia: the most likely finalists, and quite simply, the best two teams in the tournament.
2. USA: if neither of the above takes the gold home, it's going to be the Americans. Biggest upset potential in the tournament.
3. Finland and Sweden: The five countries mentioned so far will divide up the medals amongst themselves, unless something shocking happens.
4. Czechs and Slovaks: It will take an upset for these guys to be involved in the semifinals, but it's not impossible.
5. The others. The above seven countries, and one lucky winner from the rest, will make up the quarterfinal pairs. If it isn't that simple, that's already an upset. Unless something goes terribly wrong for one of the big countries, these guys don't stand a chance.
Whew. There's our thoughts on where the teams stand. Now we'll break it down by groups, game by game.
USA - SUI
A potentially tough opener for the Americans. It'll be hard for the Americans to make their game gel right away, and the Swiss have the advantage of a longer prep time, and top-notch goaltending from Jonas Hiller. We expect the Americans to come out swinging, but it may get surprisingly sticky if the Swiss have their defensive game together. Remember, they did beat the Canadians in Torino's opening round.
It could turn into a blowout, but we expect a fairly close game. 3-1 or thereabouts to the Americans.
CAN - NOR
It's Canada's opening game in front of their home crowd, with something to prove to the fans. It's easy to see how this could get surprisingly difficult for the home side, but then again, it's Norway. Unless the Canadians fail hideously, we're thinking something between 5-2 or 8-1 to Canada.
USA - NOR
By any rights, this should be a massacre. Team USA should be getting into the swing of things by now, and the Norwegians will have less than 24 hours to recover from Canada. This should be the highest-scoring game in the tournament. 12-1.
SUI - CAN
On the one hand, vengeance for the opening round in Torino; on the other hand, if the Swiss can stick to their game, they can make this a frustrating experience for the Canadians. Having the Swiss stand them up in front of their home fans will really test Team Canada, so there is some slight potential for wackiness here, but really, it would be madness to bet on anything but a Canadian win in regulation. 5-2 Canada.
NOR - SUI
This one's going to Switzerland. If the Swiss can play their game, and they always do, they'll take this one home to finish third in their group. 4-1 Switzerland.
CAN - USA
And finally, the big one in Group A. It'll take more than one unlikely game finish for this not to be for the group win, so this is the big game. This is the young Americans' first big game in the tournament, and while it's going to be a hard-fought one, we think Canada will take this one 4-3 to emerge as group winner.
If this is what happens, we end up with a surprisingly neat group table:
Canada, 9 points
Alas, poor Switzerland and Norway, but them's the breaks.
RUS - LAT
Oh dear. Latvia's fallen far in the last few years, and quite frankly, the only thing that will keep the numbers down here is that the Russians rarely flog a dead horse. Even though it's Canadians who usually scream about not scoring gratuitious goals against an already beaten opponent, they're the ones who do that in international play, not the Russians. As far as we can tell, the Russians just can't be bothered. 6-0 Russia for the first shutout of the tournament; either Nabokov or Brizgalov will do.
CZE - SVK
This is a tough one to call, because this is Central Europe's equivalent of the Finland-Sweden game. As we understand it, there's some emotional involvement in these games, which makes them unpredictable. On the whole, we think Slovakia has a better team in these games than the Czechs, but the Czechs have superior goaltending and Jaromír Jágr. We confidently but unrealistically expect Gáborik to score five goals. As this is also the first game in the tournament for both teams, there is extra potential for weirdness. Realistically speaking, 3-2 Slovakia.
SVK - RUS
The real test of Slovakia's upset potential will be how they do against the Russians. This is the kind of game the Russians can lose; we don't think they will, but they could, so we'd be leery about betting on this one. The Slovaks don't bring a lot to the tournament, but they do have proven goal-scorers, and the Russians' biggest weakness is their defence. Which ever goalie plays for Russia may find himself somewhat beleaguered as this could turn into a proper scoring competition. 5-3 to Russia, if not even higher.
CZE - LAT
Despite all the mean things we've said about the Czechs, this one's a foregone conclusion. 8-1 to the Czechs.
LAT - SVK
Alas, poor Latvia: 24 hours after that beatdown they meet Zdeno Chára and Márian Gáborik, still irate over losing to Russia. This is a horrible group for the Latvians, as it's hard to see them being anything other than a punching bag. 6-2 to Slovakia.
RUS - CZE
The Russians are so going to beat them. The Czechs should go down with their boots on, but they should go down. The only caveat is that if the Russians have defensive weaknesses, and we think they might, Jágr and friends are the guys to take advantage of it. Given the Czechs' rubbish performance internationally of late, and the general bad vibe we're getting from their roster, we believe the Russians will take this in regulation at 5-2.
Again, a strangely neat group table:
Czech Republic, 3
Frankly, this will not happen. It's exceedingly unlikely that neither group will provide even a single overtime game, and we may even see a shootout, but this is a scenario, and this is what we'd bet on. Russia should be a lock to win the group and advance directly to the quarterfinals.
FIN - BLR
Finland's opening game, against a country that is in the running to finish dead last in the tournament. It'll end 5-2, because while Kiprusoff is perfectly capable of shutting out a team like Belarus, the rest of Team Finland isn't. This is the only game where Finland could potentially score a blowout, but we never do; instead, we'll screw up in our own end, miss out more scoring chances than you can possibly imagine, and generally play like Finland does. 5-2 to Finland.
SWE - GER
If Sweden is going to flop in this tournament, this is where they'll do it. Germany is usually a pretty solid team, notwithstanding last year's world champs debacle, and we really don't see much offensive brilliance in Team Sweden outside Nicklas Bäckström and possibly the Sedins, if they feel like it. These teams are really in different leagues, so the difference will swing to Sweden, but only at 3-1.
BLR - SWE
Oh, if only. As it is, though, Tommy Salo isn't on the team, and Belarus aren't what they used to be, so that particular brand of lightning won't strike twice in North America. After butting heads with Germany, the Swedes will relish the opportunity to relax a little and deal out some righteous vengeance to Belarus. Despite less than 24 hours of downtime, this will be the biggest-scoring game in Group C, with Sweden winning 8-1.
FIN - GER
If Team Finland takes this game seriously, and Kiprusoff plays, this is a foregone conclusion. If they take it easy, and Bäckström plays, it might get surprisingly tricky. We're confident Finland will win this, though, and as a World Cup throwback (remember when we last had one of those?), we're saying Finland takes this 3-0.
GER - BLR
4-1 Germany. The Germans grind out their normal defensive game, the Belarussians take penalties and the Germans hit them on the power play. This is the Germans' game, and they know it, especially after their rubbish performances at the world champs lately.
SWE - FIN
In Finnish hockey, this is El Clásico: Finland and Sweden. The underdog and the arch-nemesis, this time with the added bonus of being a repeat of the previous Olympic final. This actually makes us like Finland better for this: it's payback time! Frankly, this game will probably be Team Finland's high point in the tournament; it's all downhill from here on. Nothing motivates our guys like Sweden. Finland will beat Sweden, and the Finnish press will start planning the parade route. Finland takes it 5-2.
We think Finland will win the group and take a quarterfinal spot.
Finland, 9 points
So in short, we think that this is going to be the neatest tournament ever, with no overtime games. We don't, really, but it's almost impossible to predict which of these games will end up in overtime. Some of them almost certainly will, but if we knew ahead of time which ones they are, we'd make a fair deal of money.
In general, our result predictions are rough ballpark guesses; even we wouldn't put money on the exact numbers or a small spread. If we really knew how to do this, we wouldn't give it away for free! So take this stuff with a grain of salt.
If the initial round plays out like we think, the four countries going directly to the quarterfinals are Russia, Canada, Finland and the United states. Here's the elimination round, game by game; at this point, calling scores gets a bit dodgy, so we'll just settle for telling you who goes through, and goal differentials don't matter for seeding purposes any more.
Sorry, guys, you're going to have a rough tournament. Sweden goes through. Of course, this would be a great opportunity for perhaps the most momentous failure in Swedish hockey history, so we'll be rooting for that; it's just that we don't believe in it.
Also a fairly foregone conclusion. The Czechs.
This is really the only interesting game in the whole elimination round. These guys have done this before, and if the chips fall like we think they will, the hegemony of Central Europe is again up for grabs. We think Switzerland will take this, but it may go to overtime. In general, Switzerland has surpassed Germany decisively in international hockey over the past few years, and Switzerland will squeeze into the quarterfinals.
Now we get to the big games. These are the trickiest games to call in some ways, because it's a single elimination game.
Okay, this is the least big game. Realistically speaking, there's simply no way the Russians aren't going to win this. This is the best opportunity to ruin your entire tournament in one game, but they know that. Russia.
This is Canada's big chance to totally fail; if they're going to flop spectacularly, Torino-style, this is the spot. Certainly they're not going to. We don't think they're going to, so Canada wins. At the end of the day, the Czechs don't have a chance if Canada keeps it together.
Potentially tricky. They have superstars, but on the whole, we believe Finland has better goaltending, defense and forwards. If Team Finland plays like they usually do at the Olympics, they should simply be the better team. Finland wins.
The biggest game of the quarterfinal round, and the biggest game of the tournament for the US team. For the Americans, this game is the difference between a disappointment and an upset. A classic matchup between aging, long-in-the-tooth defending champs Sweden and the young, dynamic, up-and-coming Americans. Both teams are perfectly capable of winning this, making this the hardest game of all to call. We think the US will take it, but it's going to be really close, and could go either way.
Russia - USA
This is the end of the road for the Americans. We say if the Russians come this far, they're going all the way. It's possible Team USA can win this, but we don't think so. Russia goes to the final.
Canada - Finland
The obvious answer is Canada, and we don't disagree. However, this is the one place in the tournament where Canada will have a real opportunity to come apart at the seams. This is the first really big game Team Canada has at the Olympics, and there's a very real chance that the easy tournament will have lulled them into a false sense of security, and their minds are already in the final. If there's one goalie in this tournament who can stop Team Canada, it's Kiprusoff. We can see him standing up the distracted Canadians, who then get frustrated, end up in the penalty box, and the Finnish power play makes them pay. However, even though we can see this happening, it doesn't mean that even we think it's particularly likely. Canada wins, but we might take them to overtime for it.
Bronze medal game: Finland - USA
The eternal truth is that the bronze medal always goes to the team that wants it more. We think the Americans will want it more, leaving Finland in fourth place for the first time since Lake Placid. North America hasn't been kind to Team Finland on the whole, but then again, fourth place is better than most would give us.
Gold medal game: Russia - Canada
Boringly, our detailed game-by-game scenario ends up exactly where we were the minute the topic of this tournament was broached: a final matchup between Canada and Russia. Anything else is a huge upset. Those happen occasionally, but pretty much by definition, they're impossible to predict.
The way the tournament is set up, unless either Canada or Russia bungles catastrophically, this will be the first time they face each other at the Games. It should be a true classic for the ages, and because it should, the game is going to suck. We're going to say Alexander Radulov completes his hat trick in overtime to seal the win for Russia. Ovechkin, by the way, scores no points in the semi-final or final, but gets a couple of big hits in and blocks 12 shots.
Having said all this, the real final will be Sweden and the Czech Republic, and no-one will understand why. Seriously speaking, this is our monolithic game-by-game prediction. Because it's so precise, we do realize that just one unexpected result in the initial round will completely derail everything and make everything we've written totally worthless. Nonetheless, we're not just making this up out of whole cloth, but there's a painstaking process behind this, and we like processes.
The way we see it, the Russia-Canada final everyone's expecting seems unavoidable, and someone in the International Olympic Committee really, really hates Norway.
Sadly, we think Torino was Finland's best chance ever to win Olympic gold. The hurdles here are just too big for Team Finland to overcome, so Jere Lehtinen won't be joining the Triple Gold Club this year. However, Teemu Selänne is two points away from tying the all-time personal Olympic scoring record, with 35 points in 20 games before this year's tournament. The all-time record is held by Vlastimil Bubnik from the Czechoslovak national team, at 37 points (22+15) in 29 games, and we confidently expect Teemu to set a new record in Vancouver.
Here's a couple of throwaway predictions:
Team most likely to score 0 goals: Norway
Leading scorer: Patrick Kane
Best goaltender: Evgeni Nabokov
This is the first time we've done a prediction like this, and it was fun to put together. What actually happens is up to chance and the hockey gods; the only thing we really know is that it should be fun to watch. As brutal as it may turn out to be, we'll be back to check how well we did at the end of the tournament. Until then, enjoy the games!
Feb 10, 2010
There's a video, called "promo for Kell's Legend", directed by... Andy Remic. He of War Machine which I tried to read earlier.
I could tell you about it, but really, I can't. Just watch it.
Feb 9, 2010
Helsingin Sanomat International Edition: Suspended sentence for police officer convicted of raping a minor
A Helsinki police constable received a suspended sentence of two years' imprisonment for the rape of a minor.
The crime, which took place in November 2006, was revealed when the victim later contacted an Internet "virtual police" line.
The case was reported in the Wednesday edition of Ilta-Sanomat.
The police officer found guilty of the crime was dismissed after the investigation was completed. No other similar cases have been found in the constable's background.
According to the Deputy Chief of the Helsinki Police Department Jari Liukku, the police have also not received any other contacts from the public concerning the officer in question.
The 51-year-old constable working in the Helsinki Police Department had lured a 16-year-old girl - who had allegedly told him she was on the run from home and had nowhere to sleep - into his car and thence to his apartment by showing her his police badge.
In the apartment the girl had become intoxicated on the alcohol served to her by the officer and had fallen asleep.
After she fell asleep, the constable had raped her twice. He also took pictures of the situation, which he then placed on his personal computer.
The Helsinki District Court handed down a suspended two-year prison sentence.
The article goes on to say that Finland has been internally and internationally criticized for its "nonchalant attitude towards crimes of sexual assault", as they are in HS English.
And rightly so. I read this particular news item while I was still in prison myself, because in Finland, if a person refuses to serve in the army, they are automatically sent to prison with no possibility of a suspended sentence or parole, but if a police officer lures a 16-year old girl into his apartment and rapes her, he doesn't go to prison.
In Finland, a suspended sentence means absolutely nothing. The guy won't go to prison; he'll have a criminal record and probably be banned from working with children, and he'll have to pay some thousands of euros in damages. That's it. From a personal standpoint, the day the sentence was handed down I was in prison, and the police constable was probably in a bar somewhere, celebrating.
I can't really express the way that makes me feel, in writing or in any other medium.
The prosecutor is appealing the case, so it'll go to an appeals court. Hopefully they'll decide differently. The problem is that they can, in fact, quite easily decrease the penalty.
In my previous post, I discussed the impact of the introduction of the "lesser rape" charge, which led to a systematic decrease of sexual assault penalties. If this case, and the plethora of others like it, lead to an increase of, say, the minimum penalties for rape, this will change nothing, as the courts will simply classify more cases as "lesser rape". I dealt with the legalities of this more fully in my Finnish-language blog, so I won't get into that here. Suffice to say that Finnish criminal law, like all other Finnish law, defines everything so loosely that courts are practically free to interpret cases as they like. Even this case could easily have been tried as a "lesser rape" case, because the wording of the law is so elastic. So, in fact, the appeal by the prosecutor may very well lead to the rape conviction being overturned and replaced by a conviction for "coercive sexual contact" and a lesse penalty.
It's almost certain that this case will reinforce the demands made in Finland for making the penalties for sex crimes harsher. The problem is that in the current Finnish justice system, this completely fails to address the core issue. Rape sentences are theoretically severe; the problem is that courts use every excuse to hand down more lenient sentences.
A far more important problem in this particular case is the fact that according to Finnish criminal law, the decision on whether a sentence must be served in prison or as a suspended sentence (i.e. nothing) is entirely up to the court's discretion. So demanding harsher penalties won't change that, either, as even if the minimum penalty for rape is raised, courts can still pass suspended sentences, meaning that the perpetrators will still be getting away with nothing. It'll just be a theoretically longer nothing.
In short, what is needed is not simply an increase in penalties for sexual assault, but a revamp of both the Finnish criminal code and the general attitude of Finnish courts. The simple fact is that in Finland, courts are clearly predisposed to let sexual offenders off with very light penalties, and the vagueness of the law lets them do it. And despite the continued public outcry over this, no-one is willing to do anything about it.
Welcome to Finland, where a police officer can lure a 16-year old girl into his apartment, get her drunk, rape her twice and take pictures of her, and not go to prison.
Feb 7, 2010
Every year players reach personal milestones. This season has seen Alex Kovalev score his 400th goal, Patrik Elias his 300th, and Vincent Lecavalier reached 700 career points. Alex Ovechkin recently reached 250 career goals and 2000 career shots, and more recently still 500 career points. That boy will amount to something one day, you mark my words.
Every season players reach new milestones, but not every season bring new all-time records. We got some last year, courtesy of Martin Brodeur. The big one was of course the new record for career shutouts with his 104th. He's currently at 108 and shows now signs of stopping. He also set career records for most minutes and most games played.
Race for Rocket is more exciting than it has been for a while, with a bunch of players on pace for 50 or more goals. Top five is currently:
A. Ovechkin 39 (59)
P. Marleau 38 (54)
S. Crosby 37 (54)
M. Gaborik 34 (49)
I. Kovalchuk 31 (47)
Goals totals are from 2010-02-06, and the number in parenthesis is extrapolated goal total players are on pace for, which I confidently expect them to fall short of.
I don't think Crosby is going to reach 50 goals this season, for example, though he should comfortably exceed 40 goals for the first time in his career. Not bad for somebody who can't put the puck in from over ten feet out. But boy is he effective around the crease. The combination of strength, balance, and excellent hand-eye coordination served him well in the playoffs, and he's continued that role this season. Maybe he figured he was only ever going to be the second best playmaker on a team with Malkin on it, and he'd be more useful as a (very short range) sniper. With his new-found scoring touch and seven centermen on Team Canada's roster, it might be a good idea to play Crosby on the wing in Vancouver. In fact, I'm rather expecting them to.
The Kids Are All Right
A new generation of NHL stars are well on their way.
Patrick Kane (22 + 39)
Steven Stamkos (31 + 29)
Jonathan Toews (18 + 27)
John Tavares (17 + 16)
Are some of the standouts. Chicago kids are going strong, and Stamkos's second season is going much better. I list Tavares since he is the current Next One, although everybody knows the seasoned veteran Kyle Okposo is the real story on Long Island. Matt Moulson nobody saw coming, though.
Sure, they had a strong regular season last year, too, but this season is better still. Apparently they have now identified and eliminated the one area of their game holding them back: losing. Thirteen game win streaks are not something you see every year. Later today they will try for fourteen.
They have stumbled a little lately, but they are having a great season, led by Ryan Miller's outstanding work in goal.
Where did that win streak come from? Regardless, Sens are riding it up the standings.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Sure, eight place isn't so hot, but it is lot better than fourteenth. They might even make the playoffs again. Maybe.
Rebuilding is beginning to bear fruit for Coyotes. If the team can just stay in business they have a shot at amounting to something.
Los Angeles Kings
After a strong start Kings hit a rough patch, but are now on their second wind and working at a best season since Gretzky days. This season is powered by Anze Kopitar (26+35) finally reaching for superstardom, and a strong season from young Jonathan Quick in goal doesn't hurt either.
They have faded some since their quick start, but are still hanging on to a playoff spot. That's up from last in conference.
In range of a playoff spot, sure, but what happened?
Make Conference Finals one year, lose the conference another. Sine curve is a franchise tradition, though. Reinforcements to Leafs will likely leave Canes last in the East, but Oilers seem a lock for last in the league.
Detroit Clipped Wings
Okay, they have an excuse. Just take a look at this injury list from Christmas break:
Henrik Zetterberg (separated shoulder)
Dan Cleary (separated shoulder)
Johan Franzen (torn ACL)
Niklas Kronwall (sprained knee)
Valtteri Filppula (broken wrist)
Jason Williams (fractured fibula)
Jonathan Ericsson (bone bruise)
Darren Helm (sprained wrist)
Andreas Lilja (headaches)
Zetterberg wasn't gone long, but they lost Holmström to compensate.
Still, they have been straddling the cutoff all season long, and should claim a spot in the playoffs once they get some players back. In the post season there's no telling where their experience will take them. To conference finals with Blackhawks, please.
Frank the Wonder Backup
I'd like to conclude by discussing one of the most underrated goalies in NHL, a man who just can't seem to get a break. Someone who year after year plays backup to goalies with worse stats than himself. Someone who can win Olympic Silver Medal and not get a single start in playoffs for a team that got eliminated in the first round anyway because he supposedly lacks "big game experience". Someone who for past four years has been and for couple of more weeks will be the reigning Olympic Ice Hockey MVP without a starting job in NHL during that time.
Yes, I'm talking about Antero Niittymäki.
Sure, you could argue he's a starter for Lightning this season, but that's just because Mike Smith is injured. During Smith's first absence, when Niittymäki led the league in save percentage, the consensus among hockey pundits was that he had secured the number one spot on the team. They forgot they were talking about Frank the Wonder Backup. Once Smith got healthy, he got all the games and Frank went back to a schedule of weeks of inaction punctuated by back-to-back games. Not surprisingly, his numbers suffered (though he maintained a better record than Smith), no doubt contributing to his undeserved reputation as a streaky goalie. I can understand wanting to play your young franchise goaltender, but you are wasting a starter here, Bolts.
Currently Smith is sidelined again, Frank is starting, and his stats are up again. Sure, his 2.46 GAA is only good enough for fourteenth in the league, but that's still ahead of Lundqvist, Thomas, Quick, Fleury and Bäckström. Sure, his 91.9 save percentage is only good enough for eleventh in the league, but that's still ahead of Martin Brodeur.
Some snapshots from the season overall stats (GAA, sv%):
2.43, 92.1 starting
2.79, 90.6 not starting
2.46, 91.9 starting
Last five games:
1.00, 97.0 starting
This guy is a number one goalie. Somebody give him the job, already!
Odds and Ends
Oh, and last week saw some trades: Phaneuf and Giguere to Leafs, Olli Jokinen to Rangers, and some Russian winger to Devils. More on them later, maybe.