Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Frozen Tundra

Schools are closed again today. Last night, the dreaded wintry mix laid a crust of icy goodness on top of the snow.... and more importantly, glazed over the roads. I'm just surprised MoCo waited until 4:50AM to announce it. There was sleet and freezing rain in Anne Arundel at 10:30 last night, so I know it was no better in the DC area.

With the weather, the AI meeting last night was cancelled, which meant that Pat and I could watch the Bruins game live instead of on DVR-delay. Marc Savard took an iffy high-sticking penalty seconds into the play, and Mike Green scored just as Savard left the box. It was a good start, despite a terrible interference call on Chris Clark just afterwards. Clark was pushed into Bruins netminder Tim Thomas by one of Thomas's own teammates, and the referee decided it was Clark's fault. Fortunately, the penalty killers did was they were supposed to do, despite Steckel being scratched. A bad pass later by Ovechkin netted Shawn Thornton his fourth goal of the season, but an interesting turn of events with :20 left in the period saw Tomas Fleischmann attempting the Alexei Kovalev "skating on top of the puck" manuever (not intentionally, but that's what happened), fall down, and Michael Nylander able to make the quick shot past Thomas to put the Caps up 2-1 going into the break.

A power play in the second period allowed the Bruins to tie it up, and there was a derth of scoring in the third. Trying to fire his team up, Donald Brashear engaged in some fisticuffs with the Bruins's Bitz, and both were awarded coincidental fighting majors for their performance. Then, with about six minutes left, when everyone knows that the next score is likely going to be the game winner, Alexander Semin gets a weak cross-checking penalty. Was it in retaliation for the stick-in-the-throat towards the end of the second period? Who knows. But it put a lot of pressure on the PK unit, and fortunately, they came through for the team. Overtime it was.

The first minute of overtime looked very solid. Then came the Backstrom hooking penalty. Yeah, Backstrom. The PK took to the ice again, and the first minute was good. Then, the unthinkable... Bruin David Krejci makes a cross-crease pass, Shaone Morrisonn in position... the puck goes between his legs, hits a skate blade, and deflects into the net. Theodore didn't have a chance. :(

The good? Overall, Theodore looked good in goal. Ovechkin, despite a hard fall into the boards (brought about by a hook from Zdeno Chara), seemed uninjured in his return during the third period. He wasn't happy about being told to go to the locker room though (presumably for observation/evaluation). Karl Alzner was paired up with Jurcina again. Sergei Fedorov had an amazing play to keep the Capitals alive in the second period.

The bad? The penalty killers are still struggling. The power play had six chances and couldn't connect on any of them (though the Mike Green goal was essentially a PP one, since Savard had only just been released from the box and was not in the play yet). The team looked lackluster when Ovechkin went to the locker room with five minutes left in the second -- this was a real problem, considering they were on the power play, and if anything, seeing their top player hurt should have shook them up to play even harder.

A couple of days off, then the Red Wings come to town. The Caps can play with the big dogs when they put their minds to it. Let's see how this East/West matchup goes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's Snowing Again

It's snowing again.




With any luck, I'll get to sleep in tomorrow too. :)


I drove around a bit in the WRX, and it was fun. I probably shouldn't be driving the WRX with it going to be in the auto show and all, but it's AWD. I couldn't resist. :)

I Was Wrong

It snowed. Not a whole lot, but enough that I didn't have to go to work. It was a pleasant surprise. I might post some pictures later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tooling Around, Wishing For Snow

The first day of the second semester is tomorrow. I'm ready to go, but I don't want to. So, of course, I'm playing around online, killing time and hoping that there's enough precipitation that I don't have to go to work tomorrow. I know what's going to happen though... it won't do anything until midday, if then.

So, I find a little blog exercise of "which of these 100 things have you done?" and I figure I'll do it. The ones I've done are bolded.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (my brother does, but I guess that doesn't count ;) )
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland /world (Walt Disney World, twice)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (so tasty too)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked -- sort of. The Camaro acted like it was out of gas, and a random guy saw me walking with the gas can I'd just bought and asked if I needed a ride, and I took him up on it.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (more than once!)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (of both the moon and the sun)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (several times)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language -- does a computer programming language count?
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Guide Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (several times)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (not on purpose :( )
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (lots of them)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial (my favorite one)
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job :(
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone -- not "officially", but it was obviously broken (5th metacarpal in hand, and a toe)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book -- just some stories and other various articles
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (the Green Terror :) )
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (The Gazette)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life -- I guess this a matter of opinion
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (some hockey players here and there)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one (too many times)
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake -- not because I wasn't there, but because it smelled funny
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day
(on more than one occasion)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Down on the Farm

Pat and I drove up to Hershey on Friday night to see the Capitals farm team, the Hershey Bears, take on the Pittsburgh farm team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. I've been to Giant Center in Hershey several times before, but only for autocrosses. Kind of like going to a Redskins game at FedEx Field, it was weird being inside the actual building, instead of just playing around in the parking lot. So, decked out in Capitals colors (me in the Semin jersey, and Pat in a "Rock the Red" longsleeve), we brave the rush-hour Baltimore Beltway and I-83 north to get to the arena in just shy of two hours.

Well, I was disappointed right away when we went to enter, and the security guards wouldn't let me bring in my camera. I have a digital Canon EOS Rebel XT, and I had my 50/150mm lens in the bag, as well as the regular lens. I was told, "We actually have a no cameras policy," (supposedly on the back of the ticket, but we didn't see said "policy," so it must have been on the part of the ticket stub that the gatekeeper takes), "but we bend it and do allow cameras with lenses no bigger than a credit card." Say what? I have no idea what "no bigger than a credit card" is supposed to mean. Annoyed, and getting moreso by the minute by the older guard who kept at the "sorry, we're just enforcing the rules" spiel even though I hadn't said anything besides "okay" and was taking the damned camera back to the car, I stalked off before I said something that got us tossed.

So, ten minutes later, we finally get through the gates and the warmups are going, so we scope out the seats in 123, row H. Very nice view of the goal, where the Bears will be shooting twice. Makes me all the more irritated for not having the camera, but oh well. We grab some food and drink, get back to our seats for the anthem (Pat was happy there was no "O" cheer), and watch the farm team do their best Capitals imitation.

And a great imitation it was, from the flurry of shots that wouldn't go past Pens netminder John Curry, to the lopsided officiating that gave the NE Pennsylvania team multiple 5-3 chances, it was very much like being at the Verizon Center. Though, with only an estimated 7000 in attendance, I now understand Karl Alzner's comments about how loud VC is.

Some impressions on the game :
  • I forgot how fight-prone minor league hockey is. Before the first period was done, there were already two fights, one with coincidental roughing majors, and one with coincidental cross-checking minors.
  • Karl Alzner is just as steady of a defenseman with the Bears as he is with the Capitals, despite not having as skilled of teammates.
  • I don't think I've seen so many different jerseys in one arena before, even at VC with nearly three times as many people. From memory, I saw jerseys of : Capitals, Bears, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pittsburgh (Steelers and Pens), Flyers, New Jersey, Phoenix, Montreal, Carolina, Minnesota NorthStars, Eastern AllStars, and even a Chiefs jersey with Hanson on the back.
  • I've never seen a major penalty for interference called, and I can't believe it was called when it was clear that none of the officials saw what happened. No one in the stands saw what happened either, only that one of the Pens laid on the ice long enough to draw a whistle, but the trainer never came out and only the Pens goaltender talked to the referee before Chris Bourque was penalized. Bogus.
  • A mascot deathmatch between the Bears mascot CoCo and the Capitals mascot Slapshot would be cool. In lieu of dragging the eagle up to Hershey, the organizers could just bring in the Red Robin mascot that was already there.
  • I've forgotten how annoying it is to park at the actual arena. It was like being at the Capital Centre again, especially on the way out. You'd think that our experience leaving the Wachovia Center last month would have prepared me, but we've been spoiled with the Metro stop right there at Verizon.
  • A majority of the Bears playing have suited up for the Capitals at least once so far this season : Alzner, Collins, Helmer, Sloan, Andrew Gordon, Osala, Aucoin, Giroux, Machesny, Bourque, Lepisto and Mink. Varlamov's obviously played with the Caps too, but he was scratched for an injury. And I know Quintin Laing's played with the Caps before, but I don't think he's done so this year.

So, in the end, the Bears squandered a two goal lead with a bad penalty by Sean Collins, and the questionable major on Bourque. The Pens scored seconds after Collins came out of the box to make it 3-2 with about 30 seconds left in the second period, then scored again with :25 left in the Bourque penalty. It was impressive that the Bears were able to hold off the Pens for nearly four minutes of penalty killing to start the third, but it really put a hold on the offense. Curry stoned the Bears for the rest of the period, and despite some incredible chances -- including a one minute power play for a slashing call against Curry -- the Bears couldn't end it in overtime. The shootout ended with the Pens getting 2 past Neuvirth and the Bears only 1.

Next time, I bring the point and shoot camera, and I put it in my coat pocket.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stardom!

I just got word from Ian Baker that "there is space, lots of it," and so my WRX should be one of those present at the SCCA booth at the Washington Auto Show at the beginning of February!


Needless to say, I'm psyched. :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Do You Remember Your First?

Pat and I took our friend Pete Johnson to his first hockey game ever last night. It actually started in the afternoon, as we opted to get tickets for the "Caps on Tap" bar tour, and so arrived at Verizon Center around 2:30 to check in. Section 406, row B, middle of the row seats -- not too far off from our regular partial season ticket seats, so that was nice.

The bar tour was pretty cool. Too often, Pat and I arrive at Verizon and then wait 45-60 minutes at the Green Turtle for a seat, then end up rushing to our seats. I like to see the pregame warmups -- just to see who is scratched, who is skating there, and then not in the game, that sort of thing. The bar tour gave us an opportunity to check out some of the surrounding bars that will likely prove to be better options than fighting the mass of people at the Turtle.

We hit the Irish Channel first, and judging from the clientele, we were the first of the bar tour people there. We actually opted for some Irish beers and appetizers instead of just the $2 Budweiser products -- how can you go into an Irish bar and not have Irish beer? Well, that and Pat wouldn't stand for not having Guinness on tap. Nice atmosphere, friendly barkeep and host, good service. This bar rated high on our "visit again" list.

Next up were the two bars in Gallery Place -- Lucky Strike and Bar Louie. Lucky Strike turned out to be a bowling alley. Very cool place with comfy sofa and easy chair seating. I remarked to Pat and Pete that it reminded me of one of the community lots in The Sims 2. Bar Louie was a bit more generic, and didn't seem to have much in the way of character.

RFD and the Rocket Bar came next, along 7th street. RFD reminded me of the old Donnelly's or Bushwackers in Frederick, as it was a smallish place with a bar along the left hand wall (as you walk in), and was moderately packed. Almost a stereotypical bar atmosphere there, while Rocket Bar was a basement level pool hall/bar. Pretty much just pool tables, with a bar in the back.

Last on the trip was the Penn Quarter. Again, this was a stereotypical bar, reminding me of the Olde Town Tavern in Frederick. A cramped space downstairs, along with a cramped space upstairs, bars in both areas. A lack of a bartender upstairs (or at least one that was paying attention to the customers) sent us back downstairs, where we sucked down our beers quickly before heading back to the Turtle to turn in our now fully stickered maps. Seven bars in just about two hours... yeah, we were feeling good.

The doors opened at 5:30, and I wanted to do the Pick-A-Stick, so we got in line there. What is "Pick-A-Stick"? You pay $65 for a random hockey stick, and if it wasn't signed, you get to meet Karl Alzner after the game so he can sign it for you. All of the money goes to Washington Capitals Charities, so it's for a good cause. I ended up with a stick signed by Alexander Semin, which was fitting, even if Pete was wearing my Semin jersey while I sported the Brooks Laich shirt. :)

The game itself was a good, hard-hitting, tightly played contest. The remarks in the media have deemed it "playoff like," but I prefer to think of it as the Caps playing smarter hockey than they had against the Oilers or the Blue Jackets. Mistakes were minimized (though still made), and Theodore was obviously seeing the puck well. The Caps did a much better job of capitalizing on mistakes the Bruins made, though they didn't make they "pay" all that much.

Partway through the first period, Pete got a text message from the bar tour coordinator, telling us we won one of the prizes for hitting all of the bars. We met him on the second level during the first intermission to pick up a puck signed by Donald Brashear -- again, very fitting, as Pat was wearing his Brashear jersey.

Overall, a winning night, and one that Pete enjoyed very much. Caps hockey has hopefully caught another one. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Long Night

I missed watching the entire first period, as I was still at school, preparing my sub plans for tomorrow. I listened on the radio, but by the time I walked out of the building, Malkin had already scored on the power play.

It's so difficult to tell the tempo of a game from a radio broadcast. You can't see the fire in the eyes of the players, you can't see the interaction that leads to misplays, and stupid penalties.

Then, I made a stop on the way home, and when I get back in the car, I hear that Kozlov's scored to tie it up!

I get home shortly thereafter, and proceed to watch the Capitals slowly pull themselves out of that dark hole they'd fallen into. 1-2. 2-2. 3-2. 3-3. They are putting shots on goal, but not just winging a puck from the blue line. Laich's in the crease, mucking it up. The power play has some bobbles, but otherwise, things are looking a bit more solid, a bit more in control.

Then the breakout. 4-3. Theodore can be seen smiling through the grill of the mask while he takes a shot of water; when he's not confident, you don't see those pearly whites. 5-3. And the short-handed, empty-netter to finish it off.

And I have a sub for tomorrow. It'll be a good day. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Mice Are Still Blind

I have not been particularly impressed with the NHL referees that have worked at Verizon Center of late.

Probably the biggest gaff that went unrecorded (and, amazingly unremarked on) was the blatant offsides of Petr Prucha of the Rangers when he scored on the Capitals on 1/3. Many people at the arena weren't aware of it, but from my seats, I could see the press box replays, and even the Madison Square Garden announcers were shocked that it wasn't called offsides. It was obvious, to the point that I wondered aloud if the power play awarded to the Capitals seconds later wasn't some odd way of the refs saying, "here's one for you guys," in return.

I also think the Capitals may be trying too hard. Brooks Laich said earlier today that he felt like the team let Boudreau down this past weekend when they dropped two in a row (against the Canadiens and the Blue Jackets), sealing the Canadiens' coach Claude Julien as the second-in-East assistant coach for the All-Star Game. Earlier this season, I saw Laich working his ass off for every shot on goal he was able to get, and I felt he was working so hard to stay at the levels he reached in the final third of last season, he was actually getting simply quantity, not quality chances.

My belief is that is part of what happened this evening. The team felt they let their coach down by not getting him into the All-Star Game, and so they came out charging. But, look at the shots on net; virtually every one of them hit Roloson in the logo. That is great for an NFL quarterback, but not so good for an NHL sniper. Like several "easy win" games this season, they went with quantity of shots over quality. Granted, there were certainly some quality shots that just didn't make it, through luck in some cases, skill in others, but too many of the Capitals shots were textbook saves for Roloson, and it was no surprise that he was able to make the saves that he did.

I'm hoping they reevaluate their game on the trip to Pittsburgh, otherwise, a Sidney Crosby blindsiding nut-punch is going to be the least of their concerns.

I know all about trying too hard. I do it all the time at the National Tours and the National Championships. When I sit back, and "just ....... drive" (oh, Chris, we still miss you), I do just fine, or at least as fine as an outclassed F-stock Camaro or a underwhelming stock-class WRX will do. But when I get stressed out, and start overdriving, that's when the terminal understeer sets in. Calling Wendover?

Igloo tomorrow night, and then back in DC for Saturday. My fingers are crossed.

Another Day, Another...

...fill-in your own blank. It's the new year, calendar-wise, but it's still the same old year, school-wise. We're heading into the end of the second quarter, which means two things :

1) students whining about "how can I bring my grade up?"

b) final exams are starting at the end of the week.

The final exam thing is sort of nice. It means a bit of a break for me, as they are all mostly multiple-choi... I mean, "selected response," and so they are easy to grade. Since we don't hand them back to the students (can't, in the case of the county exams), I don't even have to really write intelligible feedback on them either.

#1 is a bit more bothersome though, especially with our administrative push to get rid of a student's "zeros" at virtually any cost. My snap answer is, "invent a time machine, go back nine weeks and kick your past self into doing the work and studying for tests to begin with." Needless to say, they generally don't like that answer ("they" being both students and administration). My alternative answer is, "don't screw up next time you take the class." This one goes over even more like the proverbial lead balloon.

I don't understand the idea that a student who waits until the last week of the quarter should have the opportunity to make things up, when they've had x weeks to do so already. It's not fair to the students who do what they are supposed to do (ie, turn completed work in on time, or ask for things the day they come back from an excused absence), and it teaches nothing about responsibility to let a student make up things whenever. Talk about setting a kid up for failure...

The grading policies and my school's implementation of them are disgusting. I can understand the need for consistency from teacher-to-teacher, when dealing with the same subject. However, the requirement to allow for retaking of quizzes or redoing labs, and the "minimum 50%" rule that are mandated by the county do nothing but allow students to acquire underdeveloped study skills and allow students who really haven't mastered material to get credit for a class. When I have a "top science student" in my anatomy class who routinely scores an uncorrected 30-40% on quizzes, and retakes every one of them to boost his score up to an 80-90%, but then bombs the chapter test with the usual, uncorrected 30-40%, this tells me that the policy is not beneficial.

This sad state of affairs is only compounded by the complete lack of motivation on the part of most of the non-honors students. Attain a 30% on that last quiz? Obviously, that's something to brag and laugh about with your friends! At least most of my honors-level students have the decency to be ashamed of their poor grades. Unfortunately, though, too many of them simply accept the grade and move on, without ever asking themselves "why?" and more importantly, "how can I do better next time?"

These students are the future, and already they are caught in a vicious cycle of repeating their own history, over and over again. Worse still, the obvious is pointed out -- behaviors have to change -- and yet, nothing is done. I can't force them to self-reflect, and I do my best to open their eyes, too often for naught.

Enough venting for now though. I have papers to grade, and a hockey game to watch tonight. Maybe that will elevate my mood.

Welcome

Another blog. Joyous day, eh? We'll see what this ends up as....