Apr 30, 2010
San Jose - Detroit
In all honesty, we expected San Jose to lose to Colorado already, so to make a long story short, Detroit in six. Granted, Phoenix took Detroit to Game 7, but in that game Detroit's big players stepped up. By contrast, while San Jose's "big three" were Team Canada's best line at the Olympics, they're notorious playoff underperformers. San Jose has pretty much taken over Detroit's old gimmick of winning the conference in the regular season and crashing out of the playoffs in the first rounds, so now's their chance. Detroit has more playoff experience, better individual players playing a better system, and better coaching.
Vancouver - Chicago
This blog firmly supports the Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup, if only because if they manage to win, then Toronto becomes the team with the longest time elapsed since last winning the Cup. We'd also love to see Marian Hossa make history by appearing in three consecutive Stanley Cup finals with a different team every time, and finally win it. That said, we have to reluctantly say the Canucks are going to win this one. It might well go to seven games, but we'll say Vancouver in six. The real question marks are, on the one hand, Luongo and the Canucks defense, and on the other hand, Chicago's youth. They had a good run last year, though, so it's entirely possible the Hawks will win this.
The trouble with handicapping the West is that because of the time difference, we rarely see many western games. For example, today's Wings-Sharks game is on at 4 a.m. local time. Watching them is a bit of a challenge, so our views on the West are most likely to be far less sound than those on the East.
Then again, we're frankly relieved that an illness that struck down 75% of this blog's contributors prevented us from embarrassing ourselves with the first round in the East. We would most likely have gone 1-3. That was a very, very silly first round.
Pittsburgh - Montréal
Question: Can the Habs pull off a second upset?
Boston - Philadelphia
Who could have guessed we'd even see this series? Despite the brusque treatment I just gave the Habs, huge kudos to both the Habs and the Flyers for coming up big in the playoffs after a questionable regular season. Unfortunately, both of our NHL TV providers refused to show anything but the Caps and Pens, so quite frankly, we didn't see a single game of either the B's or the Flyers' series. I admit that the TV focus on S I D N E Y C R O S B Y pisses me off for this reason as well. Because of it, we don't know how Boston, the worst offensive team in the regular season, managed to get past Ryan Miller, or what the heck happened to the Devils, who I expected to see in the conference final against the Caps. So, working on the basis of the regular season, we have to say the Flyers in six. Bearing in mind that the Flyers' major weakness ever since the lockout has been team defense, it's not impossible that Boston will get their scoring going and power through. Any way you look at it, the fact that one of these teams is going to be in the conference final would have seemed incredible just a couple of weeks ago.
Speaking of team defense and the Caps, well, there it is, really. A lot of virtual ink was spilt (sent? posted? wired? transfer protocolled?) over the Capitals' goaltending before the playoffs started, but I keep insisting that with the Caps and the Flyers, the problem is not in goal. Yes, the Flyers have gone through something like 50 bargain-basement goaltenders since the lockout, and managed to give up the best guy they had for nothing to free agency. You'll find him in the previous post on this blog, if you're confused. Similarly, while Varlamov was great last year, Theodore had a catastrophic start this year and Varlamov wasn't that much better.
However, neither of the last two teams to win the Cup had anyone decisively better between the pipes. Fleury isn't nearly as good as the Canadians make him out to be; the simple fact that his team has to win playoff games against Ottawa 7-4 says enough. Also, I defy anyone to seriously argue that Chris Osgood was ever even one of the five best goaltenders in the Western Conference. I haven't got the issue right now because of logistical problems we're having, but Detroit's general manager explained their philosophy very simply after they won the Cup: "we don't spend money in goal." Team defense is much more important than goaltending, and it's defense that's letting both the Flyers and the Caps down.
With Washington, the problem is easier to address. If they hadn't made that idiotic giant deal with Michael Nylander, they could invest in a solid blueliner or two, and be ready to make a real run for the Cup. The fact that they made it to the conference finals last year and were only eliminated with considerable help from the referees is testament to the sheer ability of their forwards and offensive D, but it's the back end that's letting them down. In the Flyers' case, the problem is slightly stranger. Ever since the lockout, it's seemed that no matter who they have on the blueline, their defense plays terribly. The problem has survived several changes of personnel both on the bench and behind it, so it's really hard to understand what causes it, but it persists nonetheless. Having just said that the Flyers will win their series against the Bruins, this is what could come back to bite them.
I titled my previous hockey post "He ain't all that", referring to Cindy, erm, Sidney Crosby. Overall the first round series against the Sens is a good indicator. Yes, he had 14 points in 6 games. One of the 6 goals was a gamewinner, and in the decisive sixth game of the series, Crosby had no points and was a -2. Even nhl.com had to admit he was rubbish, but they inexplicably maintained that Malkin was even worse. Malkin had a power play assist, and despite having more even-strength ice time than Crosby, he was +0. In that game, the Pens were behind 3-0 at one point. Who started the comeback? Matt Cooke. The anointed messiah of hockey was nowhere to be found.
Even though I maintain the Pens are given special treatment by the league, there's no question they're a good team. Ever since the NHL selected Crosby as its "face", the media has focused on him to a ridiculous extent. Even in the nhl.com recap of Game 6, in which Crosby did nothing, he's the first player who gets quoted. Ever since he was made captain, the media can give him credit for everything the Pens do, because it's all supposedly due to his "leadership". When we know that he's a kid barely in his twenties with a monstrous ego problem, this seems more than a bit unlikely. But intanglibles aside, it's enough to look at any of the big games the Pens play. Quite simply, who scores big goals for the Pens? The third and fourth line. The people who decide big games for the Pens are the likes of Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis.
All the sound and fury about Cindy manage to obscure the fact that what lifts the Penguins above many other teams in the league isn't Cindy or even Malkin, but their third and fourth lines. In big games, it isn't Crosby or Malkin who step up to score big goals, but the third and fourth liners. The only big goal Crosby's ever scored was at the Olympics, and quite frankly, there's no way that shot should have gotten past Miller. Crosby is an egoist, pure and simple. He does ridiculous stuff like his stunts in the Pens' last regular season game against the Islanders; CBC showed him skating two complete circles around the Isles' zone on the power play, desperately looking for a scoring chance to win the Rocket. His scoring mostly comes in bunches, especially when his team is running up the score. I thought that game against the Isles was despicable. But whatever you think of Crosby, I maintain it's a fact that the constant focus on him leaves the guys who actually put in the hard work and score the game-winning goals in the playoffs in the shadows. And that's just fine with the superstar.
The funny thing is that I'm basically reiterating a very Canadian hockey ethic here. Running up the score, putting yourself before the team and not giving credit to the muckers and grinders is exactly what Canadian "old time hockey" fans accuse "Europeans" of. Yet when Cindy does all these things, they idolize him. There's a fantastic double standard in Canadian hockey culture when it comes to their superstars, and Crosby is the ultimate example.
Apr 28, 2010
The title was probably a reference to an article on Page Six Magazine on January 2009 by Kirsten Fleming (titled "Henrik Lundqvist: The World's Sexiest Ice Man). And even though Mr Pretty Boy was named on People magazine's list of Most Beautiful People in 2006 we don't care.
The writers of this blag believe only one person can carry the title of the World's Sexiest Ice Hockey Player:
Of course, his brother isn't too bad either.
Some other names we came up with (in no particular order) are Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selänne:
and Ilya Kovalchuk.
And if we have to have a Swede, why not Zeta?
Even though Alex Ovechkin is not good-looking in any traditional sense, he has animal magnetism so he made our list.
This is by no means a definite list of hot hockey players, just a selection we came up with when discussing the subject (we agreed on most, too. No gender divide here).
Let's finish with another pic of our favourite, just because.
Apr 21, 2010
I propose: each results night, give one contestant immunity from elimination for the following week. This would free them from the pressure of threat of elimination and allow them to do one performance without other considerations than how they want to do things as an artist. I believe this would benefit the show.
As judge Kara DioGuardi said in a recent interview it's "about taking a risk and showing people a side of me they never have seen." Granted, she wasn't talking about American Idol.
Apr 18, 2010
At nhl.com, you can read all about how Sidney Crosby was "stupendous" and "magnificent", saving a goal and brilliantly setting up Letang's game-winner.
Then again, if you actually watched the game, you might have missed all the stupendousness and magnificence. What Crosby actually did on the game-winner was skate back and forth behind the Ottawa net and then pass to the point. I mean, how stupendously magnificent is that? For what it's worth, contrary to what's being reported, he didn't save a goal, either; the puck he batted away from the goal-line had already stopped. All in all, the Pens played a miserably bad game. You won't read that in the media, though; instead you'll read about how brilliant Crosby is.
I know I'm completely biased about Crosby, because I just can't like the guy one bit. The fact is, though, that he's an interesting study in how we create stories in sports. There is so much effort being put into portraying Crosby as the greatest hockey player ever that even in a fairly lackluster, very even game where no-one really stood out, we get headlines that scream CROSBY CROSBY CROSBY. If Pascal Dupuis had 1+1 and "saved a goal", you'd actually get to read about the game. But when it's the anointed messiah of hockey, this is what happens.
The Penguins won largely because the Senators only have one line that's capable of generating any kind of offense at all, and it's the third line. Jason Spezza has been so bad that I think Cory Clouston should bench him. He doesn't look like he even cares.
I hate to talk about the referees, but I have to. On CBC, Don Cherry showed Max Talbot's two dives in the first period, both of which were an Ottawa penalty. They were disgusting, sure, but what's really disgusting is that the refs fell for it. I went on and on about this last year, but now I feel justified, because it's happening again. Watch any playoff game where the Penguins are doing badly. In the third period, the refs are going to start calling soft penalties on the other team. It happened in both games of the Ottawa series, just like it happened in last year's Caps series. I find it astonishing, but it keeps happening.
Perhaps they're just skilled at playing the refs. In every NHL playoff game I've seen, the losing team pretty much immediately leaves the ice. Not so in Game 1, where Crosby inexplicably skated over to the referees to bitch at them instead of heading off the ice. I don't recall ever seeing that before.
In general, I find the refereeing in these playoffs to be really confusing: mostly they're letting everything go, but in almost every game they occasionally call penalties that I would consider soft in a regular season game, let alone in the playoffs. It's just that in the Pens games, they're all going Pittsburgh's way.
As an aside, I was positively shocked that Andy Sutton didn't get a penalty for his hit on Jordan Leopold. I thought it was the right call, which is why I was so shocked.
This time the referee bias is hardly likely to matter at all. Unless Ottawa suddenly finds scoring, and it doesn't seem likely, the Pens will take it in six. The Senators just can't score, and the fact that they couldn't put the Penguins away in Game 2 probably lost them the series.
Finally, we learned last night on CBC that they're now calling Crosby's combination of a "save", goal and assist a "Sidney Crosby hat trick" in Pittsburgh. That's a little disingenuous, as this is the only time he's had one of those, and like I said, he didn't actually save a goal. So we'd like to suggest a more realistic Sidney Crosby hat trick:
- a retaliatory slash to the leg of a player who hit him
- a second assist
- viewer's choice: either diving (vintage) or crying to the referees (playoffs)
Whichever one you go with, he's had plenty of them.
Apr 10, 2010
Here they are. In blue, countries that are home to an active NHL player. I'm not using the frankly moronic system the Hockey Hall of Fame uses, where players are ranked by their country of birth, but rather the country they are eligible to represent in international hockey. In red, countries that are represented in F1 by an active driver in the 2010 season.
So at the end of the day, the NHL and F1 only meet in Finland, Russia, Germany and Switzerland. As you can see, this is a more exclusive combination than one might think! The map also highlights how much of a northern hemisphere sport hockey is.
Apr 9, 2010
56.6% of total greenhouse gas emissions are CO2 emissions created by burning fossil fuels (IPCC, AR4, Figure 1.1b). According to the US Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, total world CO2 emissions in 2006 were 8230 million metric tons. This subdivides by type into 1521 mmt (million metric tons) from gaseous fuels, 3108 mmt from liquid fuels, 3193 mmt from solid fuels and some 400 mmt from cement production and gas flaring.
The IPCC's Working Group III, Assesment Report 4 (link):
The largest growth in CO2 emissions has come from the power generation and road transport sectors, with the industry, households and the service sector remaining at approximately the same levels between 1970 and 2004 (Figure 1.2). By 2004, CO2 emissions from power generation represented over 27% of the total anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the power sector was by far its most important source. Following the sectoral breakdown adopted in this report (Chapters 4–10), in 2004 about 26% of GHG emissions were derived from energy supply (electricity and heat generation), about 19% from industry, 14% from agriculture, 17% from land use and land-use change, 13% from transport, 8% from the residential, commercial and
service sectors and 3% from waste (see Figure 1.3).
[IPCC III, AR4, 1.3.1]
Sources of direct global CO2 emissions in 2004 were as follows [IPCC III,AR4,1.3.1], in GT CO2/year:
Electricity plants: ~10 GT
Industry (excluding cement production): ~5 GT
Road transport: ~4.5 GT
Residential and service sectors: ~4 GT
Deforestation: ~3 GT
Other: ~2 GT*
Refineries etc. ~2 GT
International transport (incl. aviation and marine tpt): ~0.5 GT
(*: "Other domestic surface transport, non-energetic use of fuels, cement production and venting/flaring of gas from oil production)
10% of the emissions counted as deforestation are from burning wood as fuel.
So in short, the most significant source of CO2 emissions is electricity generation, closely followed by industry and road transport. It's worth noting that that bugbear of the environmental movement, air travel, is way down on the list.
This strongly suggests, at least in my opinion, that any policy aiming at reducing CO2 emissions would need to focus on these areas.
Apr 8, 2010
Apr 7, 2010
With these data from a wide variety of communities, cultures and countries we can better evaluate the thesis that an abundance of sexual explicit material invariably leads to an increase of illegal sexual activity and eventually rape. Similarly we can now better reconsider the conclusion of the Meese Commission and others that there exists "a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and … unlawful acts of sexual violence" (Meese, 1986, page 326). Indeed, the data reported and reviewed suggests that the thesis is myth and, if anything, there is an inverse causal relationship between an increase in pornography and sex crimes. Further, considering the findings of studies of community standards and wide spread usage of SEM, it is obvious that in local communities as nationally and internationally, porn is available, widely used and felt appropriate for voluntary adult consumption. If there is a consensus against pornography it is in regard to any SEM that involves children or minors in its production or consumption.
Lastly we see that objections to erotic materials are often made on the basis of supposed actual, social or moral harm to women. No such cause and effect has been demonstrated with any negative consequence. It is relevant to mention here that a temporal correlation between pornography and any effect is a necessary condition before one can rationally entertain the idea that there is a positive statistical correlation between pornography and any negative effect. Nowhere has such a temporal association been found.
For those of you not up on the history of pornography, the Meese Commission produced the infamous hatchet job properly referred to as the final report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography. In brief, the Meese commission heard testimony from several "experts", all of whom were rabidly anti-porn radical feminists, including the lunatic Andrea Dworkin, and Christian Conservatives of all shades. Unsurprisingly, the report came to the conclusion that pornography directly caused sex crimes and violence against women; equally unsurprisingly, it did so without any evidence or even a pretense of science.
I post this just in case anyone needs an easy reference to proving that based on everything we know, pornography has no harmful effects at all.
Apr 5, 2010
Apr 4, 2010
While I was writing my previous post on Obama's oil plans, I ran into this little gem on the BBC website. As it's Easter, it seems appropriate to post on religion.
BBC: 'Sorcerer' faces imminent death in Saudi Arabia
The lawyer for a Lebanese man sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft has appealed for international help to save him.
Ali Sabat was the host of a popular Lebanese TV show in which he predicted the future and gave advice.
He was arrested by religious police on sorcery charges while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2008.
His lawyer, May el-Khansa, says she has been told Mr Sabat is due to be executed this week.
And people ask us what we have against religion.
Unfortunately, in these times it's necessary to insert a footnote. Yes, we did say religion. I'm absolutely convinced that several Finnish-language blogs, if their authors see this story, will run with it as an example of how barbaric Islam is. Certainly I don't disagree that executing a man for sorcery is appallingly barbaric, but the fact of the matter is that this barbarism is a universal feature of religious thinking.
For instance, it is a living controversy in American Christianity whether or not practising yoga is devil worship. You see, American fundamentalist Christians actually believe the Hindu gods supposedly invoked during yoga are real, so doing yoga is worshipping the devil. That they don't kill people for practicing yoga is due to Western law, not religion. Of course, that doesn't mean they don't kill people.
BBC: Killer of US abortion doctor George Tiller gets life
A US court has sentenced an anti-abortion activist to life in prison for murdering the prominent abortion doctor, George Tiller, last year.
Scott Roeder, 52, said he shot Dr Tiller at a church in Wichita, Kansas, to save the lives of unborn babies.
In my opinion, any kind of religious conviction requires a deliberate blurring of the limits of reality. If you're going to steadfastly maintain that there's a bearded guy sitting on a cloud watching you, or a flying spaghetti monster touching you with his noodly appendage, it seems reasonable that you might get a bit confused about what's real and not in general, too. For instance, Harry Potter. Here's a wonderful quote from a crackpot Christian website:
J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, has gone through an awful lot of research. She is very accurate (otherwise we would have witches all over the country and the world saying 'this is not a true representation of our religion'.) This is a true representation of witchcraft, and the black arts, and black magic. And yet we have people that say this is merely fantasy and harmless reading for our children.
A true representation of witchcraft. In case anyone's confused, yes, they're saying witches exist and can do magic. Harry Potter is wrong because you can learn magic from it. Or, from www.chick.com, the guy with the comics:
It is important to understand that each of the above magical artifacts exists in "real world" sorcery and witchcraft. They are just as real as swords, saddles or cross bows. Thus, role-playing in this sort of game prepares the player for thinking like a magician. How seriously they take that preparation is something we need to consider.
D&D teaches you magic. Just reading that page hurts my brain, by the way. Here the author justifies taking on this heinous threat to, well, everything:
"But It's Only a Game!"
Defenders of D&D often complain that it is only a game. Playing chicken with cars is "only a game" until someone gets killed. So is Russian roulette! I am frequently told to "get a life" or write about something more important than D&D, like social justice or world hunger. The devil would sure like that.
It needs to be emphasized that a spiritual deception which draws people away from Jesus Christ is much more dangerous than automotive chicken or people dying of starvation. People who write such things are - in all Christian charity - deceived. Down through the ages, no institution has done more to help the poor, the orphans and the starving than has the church of Jesus Christ. I would just ask them where are the rescue missions and orphanages started by D&D gamers?
Concerning the metaphor about Russian roulette or "chicken," some D&D defenders have said that it is a ridiculous or extreme comparison. But remember what the Lord Jesus said:
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell."-Matt. 10:28.
Yes, the life threatening consequences of chicken or Russian roulette are deadly serious and not to be minimized. But any game which draws people away from a true understanding of Jesus, God, salvation and the cosmos IS soul-destroying in the truest possible sense of the word. That is incalculably worse. We only have our bodies a few scant years before they turn to dust. Our souls we will have forever, and what if they have been destroyed by playing D&D? They may well end up in the fiery blackness of hell.
Remember: he's serious.
But surely all this is just the ravings of individual lunatics? I mean, if you represented a worldwide organization facing a crisis over allegations of systematic abuse of children, not even a religious person would be insane enough to fly off the handle and play the Hitler card?
BBC: Pope's preacher compares abuse row to anti-Semitism
preacher has compared criticism of the pontiff and Church over child abuse to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews.
The Rev Raniero Cantalamessa was speaking at Good Friday prayers in St Peter's Basilica, attended by the Pope.
In his sermon, he quoted a Jewish friend as saying the accusations reminded him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism".
His comments angered Jewish groups and those representing abuse victims.
Father Cantalamessa said Jews throughout history had been the victims of "collective violence" and drew a comparison with recent attacks on the Roman Catholic Church.
There were some good responses.
Peter Isely, spokesman for the US victim support group Snap, said the sermon had been "reckless and irresponsible".
He said: "They're sitting in the papal palace, they're experiencing a little discomfort, and they're going to compare themselves to being rounded up or lined up and sent in cattle cars to Auschwitz?"
"You cannot be serious."
Oh yes he can. Is he comparing uncovering child abuse to genocide, or comparing Jews to pedophiles? I can't figure out which one is worse. But remember: according to the Vatican, turning in a Catholic priest for molesting children is like sending a Jew to the gas chambers.
The difference between Saudi Arabia and the United States is secularism. I happen to think it's a good thing.
Apr 3, 2010
Oil firms could be given the chance to explore for reserves off the US coast for the first time in decades, under plans outlined by President Obama.
The White House says drilling will be allowed off Virginia and considered off much of the rest of the Atlantic coast.
The plans would overturn moratoriums on exploration put in place in the 1980s.
Analysts say the move, designed to cut dependency on foreign oil, is aimed at appeasing Republicans to help pass Mr Obama's climate-change proposals.
Here's a prime example of environmental policy. Yes, the United States is ridiculously dependent on oil. At the same time, its gigantic greenhouse gas emissions are contributing very powerfully to global warming. So what's the Obama administration's solution? Drill for more oil!
To make this case very briefly, in my opinion, the convergence of several trends offers a unique opportunity for true vision in politics. First, the sorry state of the American automobile industry. Secondly, increasing awareness of the strategic impacts of US dependency on imported oil. Third, increasing awareness of the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. President, how about doing something to address all these concerns at the same time? Don't invest in more oil; invest in hydrogen or electric vehicles to replace petroleum-driven cars. There is significant technology emerging in both: a hydrogen supply network is operating in LA today, and electric cars continue to take giant leaps forward. Making an investment in these forms of propulsion now could restore the US automobile industry to global leadership. And hey, you're basically the chairman of the board of every car company in the States except Ford anyway after the bailouts.
But instead, Mr. President, you make a little money letting people you don't know drill for oil. So much for green jobs, right?
I firmly believe that the biggest obstacle to fighting global warming is, at the end of the day, the unwillingness of governments to pay more than lip service to actually doing anything. Here's another example.
Apr 2, 2010
The procedure was simple. All citizens eligible to vote would gather in the Agora, pick up a shard of pottery provided for this purpose, and write the name of an Athenian they wanted ostracised on it. After everyone had deposited their shards, the votes were counted, and the person who got the highest number of votes was exiled. He was forced to leave the city and not return for ten years.
Ostracism was used as a powerful weapon to control strongmen in Athenian politics. Whenever any leader got too powerful or influential, he would eventually find himself ostracised. After a ten-year absence he could freely return to Athens and to politics; he did not forfeit his property or his civil rights, but he was not permitted to reside in the city or participate in politics.
I say bring ostracism back. One of the biggest problems currently facing all Western representative democracies is the democrary deficit. In most countries, certainly here in the Nordic countries, there is simply no way for citizens to get their voices heard. We really have no effective means of protest. In a multi-party representative democracy, there's almost no way to vote against a politician or their party; even if you vote for their mortal enemy, they might still form a coalition government. In Finland, we've now had the same prime minister for far too long, because even though a rival party won the last election, he was still appointed prime minister.
If we could ostracize politicians by popular vote, it would introduce a very real check to their activities. I would suggest holding an ostracism vote every year or every two years. The politician who receives the most votes must resign all their offices and leave politics for, say, five years.
I have literally thought about this for minutes, and it seems like a fantastic idea. I'd like to see Finland implement this. Would there be a more reliable way of getting rid of corrupt politicians who abuse their position? As it stands, it is virtually impossible for a Finnish politician to be impeached. Lately, the only way to get rid of a minister is to get them to send dirty text messages to an ugly blonde. I'm not sure what kind of a check or balance that technically is, but as near as I can tell, it's all we've got at the moment.
So I say bring ostracism back. Let every person of voting age go to the polls each year and ostracize one prominent politician for five years at a time. I actually think that if we did it, it might bring about something unthinkable: politicians might actually have to listen to people. If a popular movement of some thousands of people would be enough to vote a minister or MP out, they would actually have to pay attention to minority opinions.
It would put more power into the hands of the people. That's what this is supposed to be, a democracy. Ancient Athens had a far more effective way of checking political ambition and hubris than we do. Isn't it time we changed that?