On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me A squid in a pear tree. On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Five golden squid, Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Six squid a-laying, Five golden squid, Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Seven squid a-swimming, Six squid a-laying, Five golden squid, Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Eight squid a-milking, Seven squid a-swimming, Six squid a-laying, Five golden squid, Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Nine squid dancing, Eight squid a-milking, Seven squid a-swimming, Six squid a-laying, Five golden squid, Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Ten squid a-leaping, Nine squid dancing, Eight squid a-milking, Seven squid a-swimming, Six squid a-laying, Five golden squid, Four calling squids, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Eleven squid piping, Ten squid a-leaping, Nine quids dancing, Eight quids a-milking, Seven squid a-swimming, Six squid a-laying, Five golden squid, Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree. On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Twelve squid drumming, Eleven squid piping, Ten squid a-leaping, Nine squid dancing, Eight squid a-milking, Seven squid a-swimming, Six squid a-laying, Five golden squid, Four calling squid, Three French squid, Two turtle squid, And a squid in a pear tree!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The Hockey News has a blog entry on the shoot out that nicely agrees with most of my thoughts on the NHL's shoot out. The shoot out was put in place after the Great Lock Out of 2005-2005. It was intended to be a way of ensuring that every game had a winner and a loser. There were two problems with this idea. The first was the assumption that the fans wanted a winner and a loser for every game. Many fans were quite happy to award a tie if the two teams both played well and deserved a tie. The second was the idea that shoot outs were a fair and exciting way of determining who won a close game. They are not fair. The odds of scoring in a one-on-goalie situation are about fifty-fifty. The goalie either guesses what the skater is going to do and stops the puck, or he does not. In many ways shoot outs are little more than a coin toss.
It is the exciting part that I want to type about today. The above-mentioned blog entry makes the point that fans love the shoot out. I hate to admit it, but that is true. And it is not just the NASCAR cross-over fans that love it, it is the life-long hockey fans who have have taken to it too. I realize that many fans still hate the shoot out. Some refuse to watch it. Others are waiting fot the day that Gary Bettman gets run over at a Zamboni crossing so that things can go back to the way that they were in the mythical glory days of hockey (which usually means when the speaker was ten years old). However, the reality is that the shoot out has proved to be popular amongst a wide swath of hockey fans. It is unlikely to go away, and people will miss it when it does. Even I have to admit that it is fun to watch.
I still dislike shoot outs. I would rather see regular season games that end in a tie after three periods be declared a tie. No five minute overtime. No shoot out. Play-off games should continue the way that the are with teams playing until someone scores the winning goal. However, if the shoot out does stay, I am not going to lose sleep over it.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
It has been a busy couple of months, so I have let this blog fall by the wayside since August. In the last two months Joan and I bought a house and moved into it. It is a fairly large house in a nice neighbourhood in Greenbelt. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to the centre of town, and about fifteen minutes in the other direction to walk to the elementary school. There is a bus stop about five minutes away where I can catch a bus to work, or to the local subway station. All in all the location is great. Greenbelt is one of the few places left in the US where it is possible to carry out everyday activities (like shopping and getting to work) without a car. It is amazing what a sense of freedom not needing a car gives one. The car is in the driveway for when I do need it, but knowing that I can just walk down to the store to pick up some milk and cigarettes is a very nice feeling. It makes Greenbelt (at least the part of Greenbelt that I live in) actually feel like a town instead of just a storage shed for people like so many suburbs do.
The down side to owning a house is that there is no landlord to ring up whenever something breaks. For the most part that is not a big deal. Most of the minor things that go wrong in a house are fairly easy to fix, but when something major happens it is nice to be able to off-load the problem onto someone else. Our new house needs a bit of work, but for the most part it is in fairly good shape, and nothing needs doing quickly. This means that we can do the repairs and upgrading on our schedule, which will probably take years.
And now, I need to walk down to the centre of town, get a haricut and some groceries, and then walk home and rake up the leaves.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I have been watching the games of the 29th Olympiad and I have been pleasantly surprised by NBC's coverage. The previous Olympic Games were almost unwatchable in the US. The tv coverage was awful. This time, however, the US networks seem to have gotten it right. I do wish that they would show more events where US athletes are not amongst the front-runners, but that is just US nationalism rearing its ugly head. Every nation showcases their own athletes, and the US is no different.
Monday, August 04, 2008
The longlist for the 2008 Man-Booker Prize has been announced. The full list is given below.
|The White Tiger||Aravind Adiga|
|Girl in a Blue Dress||Gaynor Arnold|
|The Secret Scripture||Sebastian Barry|
|From A to X||John Berger|
|The Lost Dog||Michelle de Kretser|
|Sea of Poppies||Amitav Ghosh|
|The Clothes on their Backs||Linda Grant|
|A Case of Exploding Mangoes||Mohammed Hanif|
|The Northern Clemency||Philip Hensher|
|The Enchantress of Florence||Salman Rushdie|
|Child 44||Tom Rob Smith|
|A Fraction of the Whole||Steve Toltz|
I hate to admit it, but I only recognize one entry in this year's long list, and that is Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence. The other authors and books are unknown to me. This is a bit embarrassing, but in my defense I have not had a lot of time to read over the past year, and my local library does not carry most of these titles. Not having a lot of time to read is not a good excuse. The reality is that when I have sat down to read books I have tended to read pulp rubbish like Sandworms of Dune (yes, I am a Dune fan) or non-fiction. In fact, most of my recent reading has been non-fiction. I certainly could have made more of an effort to keep up with the literary world. The other reason, the lack of these titles in my local library, is hard to overcome. I get most of my reading material from my town's public library. It is cheap, it supports public libraries, and I usually have a good selection of books to choose from. The fact that they only carry five of the thirteen Man-Booker nominees is disturbing, but given that the Man-Booker prize is for fiction by a Commonwealth author, not a US author, that is not too surprising.
So, my goal for the next month is to plough through as many of the five titles that are in my local library as I can in the next month. I expect to get through two or three by the time that the short list is released. The short list will be announced on 9 September and the winner will be announced on 14 October.
Here is an interesting video of scientists at Melbourne Museum in Australia dissecting a giant squid. This video is not for the squeamish, but if you do not mind seeing squishy internal organs flopping around, and various squid bodily fluids flowing, then it is a fascinating insight into how the anatomy of giant squid is studied. Unfortunately, I am a bit squeamish. I never liked the idea of dissecting things in high school, and for years I used to shoo flies out of the house instead of just swatting them (I have gotten over that now). Dissection was one of the things that kept me out of the biological sciences. It is partly responsible for me being an astronomer instead of a marine biologist. After seeing this video I do not regret my decision, even though it does mean that I will probably never get my name on a scientific paper about squid.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
The Hockey News has decided to rank the logos of the thirty NHL teams. The team logo ranks reflect only the opinions of The Hockey News editors, but it is an interesting list. The first thing that caught my eye is that The Washington Capitals rank 22nd in a league of thirty teams. The reason give is
"Love the uniform, love the secondary eagle logo, but we need more than words for the primary."
After getting over the disappointment of my favourite team being ranked in the bottom half of the league I realized that The Hockey News was right (as they so often are). The Capital's logo is boring. A hockey stick stuck in the middle of the name of the team does not stir feelings of pride. In fact, I barely notice it. The classic logos, such at Montréal's and Boston's are emblematic. They have come to signify not just the team, but hockey itself. Now asking that The Washington Capitals be a team that is synonymous with hockey is asking a lot. In fact, given that most people in the DC area care more about bowling and poker than they do about hockey, it is even a bit silly. Still, the Caps have Alexander Ovechkin, who is perhaps the most recognizable name in hockey today, and he has signed on with the Caps for the long haul. Any attempt to build a fan base around Ovechkin is going to involve turning the Caps into one of the NHL's signature teams. To do that the Caps need a better logo. Come on fans, put on your thinking caps and let's see some ideas. After all, there is not much else to do sportswise in August.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I am watching the Pittsburgh Penguins lose game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, and I am not happy about it. In general I do not care much for the Penguins. They have a silly name, and I do not consider Sidney Crosby to be the greatest thing to ever happen to hockey. He is a great player, and he is on track to become one of the game's superstars, but I am really tired of him being the face of hockey, and the saviour of the NHL. The NHL does not need a face, or a saviour. It needs to remember who its fans are and make sure that the games excite those fans. Hockey is not NASCAR. Hockey is not poker. Hockey is not the NBA. So stop trying to be. The fans of car racing, card games, and hardwood courts are not going to become fans of hockey. The sports are too different and appeal to very different demographics. The NHL needs to understand this. However, I doubt that that is going to happen while Gary Bettman is running the league.
Anyhow, enough about the state of the National Hockey League. What I really want to say is that I am feeling disappointed that Pittsburgh is probably going to lose to Detroit tonight, which will give Detroit the Stanley Cup. I really hate Detroit. This hatred dates back to when I was short and the Red Wings used to beat the Vancouver Canucks. In fact, in the 1970s, the Red Wings did not just defeat the Canucks, they humiliated them in almost every game that they played. Three decades have not healed those wounds. However, what really burns me up about Detroit is their blatant octopus abuse. It is a tradition in the motor city to toss an octopus onto the ice to celebrate goals, wins, and good fights. This is not acceptable. Octopuses are meant to be admired, either while diving, or at an aquarium. Octopuses are not meant to be sprawled across a sheet of ice. So, while I generally like the concept of traditions, this is one tradition that needs to end.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sunday, May 04, 2008
The Washington Capitals are out. The New York Rangers are out. The Montréal Canadiens are out. The Vancouver Canucks did not even make it in. All of my favourite teams are being systematically eliminated in this year's Stanley Cup race. The only team left that I really care about is the Philadelphia Flyers. So far, they have done very well. The eliminated both Washington and Montréal, but I suspect that they are not going to be so lucky when they face off against Sidney Crosby and the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins later this week. The Flyers have gotten as far as they have by being a scrappy team, and by riding the outstanding goaltending of Martin Biron. However, they have also been lucky. They barely beat the Capitals in teh first round, and the Capitals only barely made the playoffs themselves. They also got lucky when they faced a Montréal team that played well below their capability in the quarter-finals. They will not be so luck against Pittsburgh. So, while I will be rooting for the Flyers, my prediction is that the Penguins will end up representing the East in the Stanley Cup finals.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Well, what can I say about the Caps now? They barely staved off elimination on Saturday, and have generally played like a team that is looking forward to the golf course. The Philadelphia Flyers are a tough team, and were vastly underrated going into the playoffs, but the Capitals should have been able to make it a close series. But what have they done? They folded. They barely won the first game, and did not deserve to. Then they lost the next three, and deserved to. Now, they have managed to force a sixth game, but I am not optimistic that they can win it. The Flyers are hungry, and they are playing that way. The Capitals do not seem to have that hunger. I hope that I am wrong. Please Caps! Prove me wrong!
Sunday, April 06, 2008
I got back from a week in Los Angeles on Friday evening. I was there for the High Energy Astrophysics Division meeting, a meeting of the US high-energy astronomy community, of which I have found myself a part for the past five years. All in all it was a good week, and I learned a lot there. Some of what I learned was scientific, and some of it was political. High-energy astronomers can be a self-absorbed group at times. This is not meant to be a knock at the people I work with, but a comment on how easy it is to forget that there is a bigger world out there than what we see on a day-to-day basis. And part of that bigger world has blossomed into the Washington Capitals making their first playoff run in several years!
Last night, while I was enjoying the best meatloaf that I have ever eaten, the Capitals defeated the Florida Panthers to secure first place in the NHL's southeast division. Now, being first in the NHL's southeast division is akin to being the smartest member of the US Republican party, but it does guarantee a berth in the playoffs. The NHL's odd seeding structure guarantees that a division winner gets one of the top three seeds in each conference. So, Washington won the third seed when, if they had had to compete based on points alone, they would have barely slunk into the eighth seed. But I am not complaining. The Caps are in the playoffs, and I spent all of today doing happy dances. I get to grow a playoff beard this year!
So, now that the Caps are in the playoffs, what are their chances? How far are they going to go? To be honest, I do not expect them to make it out of the first round. The Caps have a lot going for them. They are a young team with a lot of talent; they are on a roll, having won 11 of their last 12 games; and they are going to be playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. However, many of those 11 victories where tough slogs where the Capitals barely won. They have often had to overcome poor playing early in the game. They will not have the luxury of doing this in the playoffs. The Caps have split the season series against the Flyers, and the Flyers have been fighting hard to make it into the playoffs themselves. Despite their recent problems, though, the boys from Philly have a fundamentally strong team that has the ability to defeat the Capitals. I suspect that they will. The season series looked like this.
|Nov 2||Phi 3||at||Was 2||loss|
|Nov 23||Was 4||at||Phi 3||OT win|
|Jan 13||Phi 6||at||Was 4||loss|
|Feb 6||Was 4||at||Phi 3||win|
There you have it. The Caps lost two games in regulation time, won one in regulation, and won one in overtime. That is not a record that inspires confidence. I hope that the Caps can pull it off. It would do wonders for the team to make it into the quarter-finals, and having Ovechkin playing for more than one round would be a publicity coup for the NHL. In a perfect world the Penguins and the Capitals will play in one of the rounds so that the world can see several games of Crosby vs Ovechkin. That would settle once and for all who is the better player. My money is on our favourite Russian.
So, bring on the first round!
It's time for me to do another happy dance!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
There has not been much squid news over the past week or two, so I do not have much to write about tonight. I was down at my local library last night and I was a bit disappointed at the lack of material on cephalopods. Every book but one was aimed at children. The only book for grown-ups was Richard Ellis's The Search for the Giant Squid. This is not a bad book, but I read it long ago, and it is a bit dated. There have been some big breakthroughs in giant squid over the past couple of years. In particular, live giant squid have been filmed, Dr Steve O'Shea tried to rear larval giant squid in captivity, the existence of the colossal squid has been confirmed, and much has been learned about the behaviour of architeuthis dux. There is still a lot that we do not know, but I think that enough has happened recently that a new book on our favourite cephalopods is warranted. I wish that I had the time to write it.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The NHL season has three weeks to go, and the Capitals are still in the playoff race. Of course, they are barely in it, but there is still a chance that Ovechkin and Kozig and the boys can make it into the postseason. And once they get there anything can happen. The Caps won their game against Boston this afternoon by the score of 2 to 1 in the shootout. They are not play all that well, but they managed to pull off a win and get two points. Combined with the Fliers' disastrous performance against the Penguins earlier in the day the Caps are not only two points behind Philadelphia. That means that they only need to make up three points to secure the eight and final playoff spot in the East.
Can they do it? To be honest, I doubt it. The Fliers are in the middle of self-destructing, but they do have a fundamentally good team, so if they just rediscover that they can pull through. The Capitals are playing well, but they are still a weak team in some ways. They tend to choke, and they do not have any experience in desperate attempts to make it into the playoffs. I hope that I am wrong, but I am worried. So, it is going to be an exciting ride for the next three weeks. With luck, I will be growing a playoff beard this year.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Sunday, March 02, 2008
The Capitals have 16 games left, and they are three points out of first place in the anemic Southeast division. They have the talent and the ability to win the division, but I worry that they do not want it badly enough.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
I found an idea for a sandwich in a promotional calendar from my local grocery store. I eat a lot of sandwiches since they are about the only thing that I know how to make to put in my lunch bag for work, so I tend to get bored with my menu. When I saw this idea I decided to try it out. The first thing that I did was bake a loaf of bread. It was generic white bread except that I used half white flour and half semolina flour to insert a bit of variety into my life. Once the bread was made I made the sandwich by adding these ingredients onto a slice of the bread.
- guacamole, spread reasonably generously
- a couple of slices of smoked turkey
- a layer of spinach leaves
- a slice of havarti cheese
- a sprinkling of fresh chopped dill weed, not too much
- sliced cucumbers
That's it. I have been eating this for lunch all week, but now the turkey has run out so I need to think of something else for tomorrow's lunch.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
John McCain won the Florida Republican primary yesterday. For what its worth he seems to be the best of a bad lot, so I suppose that I am rooting for him to be the Republican presidential candidate this year. Not that I am rooting for the Republicans to win in November, but of all the Republican candidates he seems to be the sanest and has the most realistic world-view. His mindless support for the US war in Iraq is troubling, but let’s face it, there is no way that the US can pull its troops out of Iraq without that country, and perhaps that entire region, descending into chaos, so we really have no choice but to stay and help clean up the mess that the botched occupation made. John McCain has the military experience to realize that this will not be an easy job, which is better than some of the other Republican hopefuls who seem to have a bit of a Pollyanna view of the occupation. If we are going to stay in Iraq we may as well be realistic about it. We need to take on advisory and security roles and not try to impose a political or social system on the country. We also need to recognize that the country may not survive and prepare for that possibility. What we need to avoid is getting drawn into protracted combat operations where one faction in the country is attacking one of the other factions. We also need to recognize that we are there to keep the country, and region, stable. We are not there to promote democracy or export freedom, or fight terrorism. John McCain is the only Republican who appears to understand this.
On the Democratic side Florida was supposed to be a non-event. Florida lost its Democratic delegates because it held its primary earlier than the Democratic Party wanted, so all of the Democratic candidates had pledged not to campaign there. For the most part the candidates honoured that. The problem was that Hillary Clinton ran a ghost campaign that essentially said “I am not campaigning, but if I were then this is what I would be saying”. For the most part I think that Clinton would make a good president, and I would be happy to support her if she becomes the Democratic candidate, but things like this make me worry that she is not an honest person. She won in Florida with 50% of the vote. Obama got 33%, and the rest split the vote between them. What really worries me is that Clinton and Obama will battle this out to the bitter end, and that the battle will get more and more bitter as it goes on. This will benefit no-one except the Republicans. The increasingly nasty fighting between the two camps will just weaken the Democratic Party, disillusion their supporters, and provide ammunition for the the right when the presidential campaign starts. Please, Democrats, stop! Both of these people will make good presidents. Let the primary system do its job and stop slinging mud at each other. A Democratic victory in November is not a sure thing. In fact, it is quite possible that the Democrats will collapse on the campaign trail and the Republicans will win again.