July 30, 2007

Tornado Power!

Two difficulties with wind turbines being used to generate power is that:

1) they are fairly low-output producers
2) they need, well, wind.

One way to eliminate these? Trap an artificial tornado and surround it with turbines.

"Hey, Martha! Whut's that sign say?"
"It says, 'Beware of-' WWWAAAAHHHHGGGHH!"

Screw the guard dog, I want one of THESE puppies in my back yard!


posted by Thursday at 11:27 pm 0 comments

What Doesn't Kill You...

...Can still make you really, really sick.

So, funny story. A lot of homeopathic "medicines" can get to market by the simple virtue of not having any medicinal ingredients in them. After all, according to such practices, the more diluted a substance is, the more powerful the medical effects. As this guide says,

"The strength of the remedy is the number of times a remedy has been diluted and shaken vigorously (succussed) or, in some cases, triturated. A 6 means it has been diluted and sucussed 6 times; a 30 means 30 times. The higher the number, the stronger the remedy, however, stronger is not always better - it could "overshoot" the problem. You might want to start low and work your way up. High strengths (200, IM and higher) are rarely taken as often as low strengths.

If you can't get an X but can get a C in the same strength, do it if it's urgent. Both have been potentized the same number of times, thus the strengths are similar."

Follow all that? The more times it's been diluted, the stronger it is.

This was actually a problem for one company, who actually included an active ingredient in an amount strong enough to work for a cold medicine they were marketing. Well, the marketers knew they needed a little something extra for what would otherwise be just another cold remedy on the pharmacy shelves, so they added a tiny little note at the bottom of the box: "homeopathic".

As an added bonus, "natural" remedies are not subjected to clinical trials or an approval process in the United States, so Matrixx (yes, that's really their name) could put their drug on the market immediately without needing to prove that it worked.


Granted, Canada's regulations aren't that much better:

"For homeopathic medicines with a specific use or purpose, photocopied and underlined evidence from at least one homeopathic reference to support the recommended use or purpose of each medicinal ingredient (see chapter 7.4.1 for an explanation of a specific recommended use or purpose). Product Licence Applications for homeopathic medicines with a non-specific use or purpose do not need to be accompanied by evidence supporting their use."

So the applicant only has to be non-specific ("health tablets", anyone?) or supply evidence from a single homeopathic reference to be licenced for sale here.

So how do they work?
From the same guide I quoted above:

"The actual "physics" of this is unknown. When a remedy is made it is diluted and succussed, thus there is less material substance; but, as a result of the succussion, the energy of the original material has been expanded and made stronger."

Some homeopaths decide to take a more certain route with their snake oil sales, calling their wares "complimentary" or "integrative" with standard allopathic practices, which presents a nice little picture of a lab coat done in tie-dye, but in reality means "you should take actual medicine as well as this water-in-a-coloured-bottle I'm giving you".

In fact, Nevada State Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners turned this claim on it's ear (allopathic medicine the "complimentary" one) when it was pointed out that any homeopath that tried to use normal medical practices would "
bring Homeopathy and the other disciplines excluded under 630A.040 under the medical board purview."

Needless to say, this was not something the homeopaths wanted, as they would have to undergo years of further training (ie. become actual doctors) before they could add conventional medicine to their practice.

Now, the problem with calling random ingredients "complimentary" is that some folks might believe you, and if that happens, you have uncontrolled, unregulated substances that people think are medicine mixing with controlled, regulated substances.

This can, as you might imagine, cause problems.

As researcher
Dr. Sunita Vohra says:

"We're not saying natural health products aren't safe. We're not saying they are safe, or that you can't ever use them with drugs, or that you must use them with drugs. There's no way we have enough information to make those sorts of absolute statements."

Of course, some people believe this could be the answer to any health care crisis in the U.S:

"If people wish to go to an alternative provider, they should be allowed to do so. I know of a number of people who have been greatly benefited by some types of alternative care, and as long as the type of care is shown to be safe, I believe a person ought to have that choice."

How about we prove it works, first.


posted by Thursday at 10:05 pm 0 comments

July 29, 2007

"Give Us $1 Billion Or Else...

...We Will Explode Nuclear Weapons on U.S. Soil!"
-Letter delivered to U.S. Congress, July 2007

Terrorist threat?

Rogue State?

Evil Bald Madman With Evil Bald Cat?

How about the Secretaries of Energy, Defense, and State? It's a whole new strategy - and the only way to get Republicans elected in 2008.

Stay with me here.

Basically, the story is this: in 2004, a subsection of the joint military calling itself Advanced Concepts proposed a $1,316,936,000 bill for direct stockpile work - that would be maintaining the nuclear warheads that are now in service in the United States. The idea was to reduce the total number of warheads not by reducing missile weight and improving delivery systems, as is the current trend in research: instead, they wanted to improve the accuracy and payload delivery reliability by totally rebuilding the warheads themselves.

Now, if this works, the number of missiles that will be needed will be reduced dramatically, down to about 2,000 from the 6,000 currently resting tranquilly in silos. As well, the thrust of the development would be to make the warheads "dependable for a long time".

All well and good: the bill passed in the House of Representatives 416-13. Now it's come to Congress, and there are a couple questions yet to be answered that frankly aren't covered in the (as Arms Control Wonk calls it) "thin gruel" of the presented paper. A couple biggies that Congress might want to ask could be:

1) Isn't Star Wars supposed to save us all?
2) So, now that relations with North Korea are finally back to pre-2001 levels, relations with Russia are turning back to pre-1990 levels, and Iran as touchy as ever with the president using religious fundamentalism to stymie human rights advances, is now really the right time to open a whole new chapter in nuclear weapons research? Just asking.

And in that second question lies the biggest problem: will other nations consider this the development of a new nuclear weapon? If so, it breaks the non-proliferation treaty agreed to in 1992, and will lead to other nations pursuing their own programs, enemies and allies alike.

This is, to put it bluntly, not a good thing.

Eventually, these missiles are going to need replacing: according to the JASON group's findings, published in January,

"The Level 1 Milestone Report should indicate that the primaries of
most weapons system types in the stockpile have credible minimum
lifetimes in excess of 100 years and that the intrinsic lifetime of Pu in
the pits is greater than a century. Each physical effect on the lifetime
of selected systems should be calculated and explicitly reported. The
report should emphasize the need to manage margins."

So in about 100 years - the oldest of these weapon systems is 40 years - there is still no chance of a breakdown.

Is this a sensible risk, then? The Federation of American Scientists doesn't think so (both in long form and short).

So what's being offered in return? Simply put, the Three Amigos are threatening that if the funding doesn't got through for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program,

"Delays on RRW also raise the prospect of having to return to underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons."

Yup. Back to nuclear testing, something the U.S. hasn't done since 1992. I invite you to picture the response by North Korea, Iran and Russia, among other interested parties.

So that's it: the strategy by the current white house is to tap in to the fetishistic Reagan Worship still visible in certain quarters or the Republican Party - they're going to recreate the Cold War!

That, at least, was a war they could win.


posted by Thursday at 6:08 pm 2 comments

If You Could...

...Would you drive a Geo Metro from London, England to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia just so you could buy someone else a cow?

I thought you would!

There's something about Canadians traveling stupidly huge distances for other people. Glad to see the insanity continue.


posted by Thursday at 4:19 pm 0 comments

July 26, 2007

Proof Negative

Was it really more than two years ago that I wrote about the utter ineptitude and/or inappropriateness of almost every single Bush appointee?

Yes, but that didn't stop more from happening! From the bizarre attempt to get his personal lickspittle a seat on the highest court to his fundamentalist Surgeon General who was just so certain he (or at least his church) could cure "teh gay" (how'd the last S.G. do, anyways?), the evidence of loyalty being more important than competence is striking.

Don't get me wrong - he seems like a religious person I could talk to just fine - but he's not a very good choice for arguably the most important scientific post in the land. You have to wonder when his loyalty to the American people and his loyalty to Bush and his loyalty to his God are in conflict, where's he gonna go?

But let's talk about the fella who made it - The current and reigning (so far) Attorney General, old V05 himself, Alberto Gonzales.

The is a man whose graduating class at Harvard ('82) took out a quarter page ad in the Washington Post to complain of his lack of independence, and to accuse him of being a danger to the country.

Leaving that aside, consider simply his testimony to congress (so far): if you didn't know who this was, would you have guessed "lawyer from Harvard"? Or just some idiot who wandered in off the street was handed a script and told to "just wing it"?

P.S. Well, it's not like the white house (I'll capitalize that when someone worthwhile is in there) wants good legal advice, anyways.


posted by Thursday at 8:13 pm 0 comments

July 23, 2007

Yes! Oh, YES!

I do love the Yes Men.

If you haven't heard of them, check out this Bill Moyers interview.


posted by Thursday at 7:32 pm 0 comments

A Modest Proposal

Yes, yes; I know. "Oo, a literary reference! We're sooooo impressed!"

But frankly, it's tough to imagine a recent argument being made in one of the local papers being anything but satirical! A quick precis:

According to the writer, our local federal representative has not been very noticeable on the national stage. The reason for this, he proposes, it that she belongs to the 4th largest party in parliament. Wouldn't it be better, the reasoning went, if we had voted for the party that was now in power? Did we learn nothing from the Shuffle Demons' immortal "Pavin' My Road"? Only those who are in power can do anything for us! Anything else, and we're just going to be ignored by the powers that be!

This silliness actually went on for a few days, if you can believe it.

Short form of what's wrong with this argument: it ain't democracy.

Longer form: even when someone from a specific party wins the local nomination, they are supposed to represent everyone in the riding, whether they voted for that member of parliament or not. Obviously, they are going to be more biased toward the majority, and that's certainly fair, but the rest of the population is not to be "ignored"! They've still got questions that need answering, and requests that will be made, and all the rest of it.

*Quick aside - Here's one place where keeping religion out of politics is absolutely vital: there was much discussion of whether the MPs would truly represent their constituents during hot-button debates (abortion and gay marriage) or go with their personal feelings. This goes right up to the Prime Minister's office, where the last couple PMs had been threatened by the Catholic Church if they allowed gay marriage (both were Catholic) - they did anyways, because they both felt that that was what the population wanted. - End of aside*

The belief that the representatives should only toe their party line without any consideration to the locals is not only rather horrible behaviour, it's also political suicide. When former U.S. speaker of the house Tip O'Neill said that all politics were local, he was thinking more that the leader of a party would affect all the regional politicos. Any mistakes or unpopular moves that the party leader made would have to be explained in the back yard of the members of parliament.

While the statement is true, it also works in reverse: should enough of the people in a riding feel passionately about an issue, that feeling should make itself known right up to the Prime Minister's Office. Ignoring the passionate is a big mistake in politics, which is why it sometimes seems like only the freaks and flakes and one-position shrieks get any attention - they tend to be organized, and they'll vote over their one issue before anything else.

As for voting for a small party (one with no hope of election) being "wasted", I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of movements - environmentalism and religious revivalism. Neither of these movements were very important fifty years ago, and yet they both changed the face of politics in ways that are felt even now. When a one-subject party gets enough support to go national, that gets the attention of those currently in power.

Every party in North America has to have an official environmental platform, no matter how ridiculous it makes them look, and that's a direct result of grassroots environmentalism.

The astounding failure of the Equal Rights Amendment to pass doesn't mean that its proposal was worthless - politicians noticed how many votes were going that way, and either modified their positions or lost their seats.

Which is what makes this such a good question for the CNN question period... Thanks to Blue Gal for pointing this out. Same goes for anyone in Canada proposing that the Green Party not be included in debates here.

Waiting until we see who's in charge before begging him for scraps is not what I'm interested in: that ain't democracy.


posted by Thursday at 1:00 pm 0 comments

July 19, 2007

Another Museum Opens

...And the tour runs in circles.

The 65th Skeptics' Circle is up and running at NeuroLogica even as we speak.


posted by Thursday at 10:02 am 0 comments

July 17, 2007

Booze, Prayer, and Harry Potter

Went and saw the latest Harry Potter flick (H.P. in the Order of a Billion Dollars or some such) a day after receiving a reminder that this week's Skeptics' Circle is coming up. In it's honour (and that I'm a sucker for a good marketing tie-in), I thought I'd talk about the benefit Ms. Rowling's series grants to us - skeptics.

Yes, yes, I know that the entire world of Harry Potter and Co. is filled with witchcraft, magic potions, mythical creatures and the like. Likewise, when we hear someone talk about communicating with the dead, or levitating a table, or turning into a cat, we tend to scoff and look for radios, and strings, and mirrors. There is an excellent reason for this:

We can tell the difference between fiction and reality.

This is actually an important distinction, but not everyone seems able to grasp it: odd, but true. You see, I know that hippogriffs don't actually exist. I don't have a problem with them appearing in a fantasy novel or fictional bestiary, because I know it's a fantasy novel or fictional bestiary. If someone were to present me with a biology textbook that had the description of a hippogriff, plus their nesting grounds and dietary habits, I'd have to call that textbook into question.

Wouldn't you?

Well, you might not if that same textbook included a specific belief of your own: say iridology or some other brand of idiocy. There would be a great deal of hesitation in calling too much attention to someone else's nonsense lest your own favorite nonsense get examined too closely in turn. When you really, really want to believe in something and have devoted time, energy, and often a great deal of money to a cause, the last thing you want to hear is that your wished-for something is fake.

Hence the silence provided to faith healers, mediums, and other charlatans who invoke the name of God (or whomever) by many of the faithful. They want to believe in the power of prayer (and the inevitability of miracles) so much that it feels almost shameful to call someone invoking those names into question. There are, thankfully, some exceptions to this rule; but they are few, and barely audible amongst the hosannas ringing forth for the con artists.

The trick here is that the world of Harry Potter is one that is not only internally consistent, but never actually tries to replace reality. There is no confusion about what is in the fiction and what isn't. There are theme camps or parties, but they aren't actually taken seriously, except by the seriously deranged perhaps. No one there actually thinks they can fly on broomsticks.

Even better: what works in Harry Potter, works for a reason. If you fail to mix the right ingredients for a certain potion or get the amounts or incantation wrong it doesn't work. But if you do get the recipe right, it works every time. Not only does the potion get produced, but anyone can use it, whether they believe it will affect them or not.

Just like with reality.

If you want to make wine, there are certain ingredients that are needed: juice; yeast; some form of sugar (glucose, dextrose, a variety of "ose" anyways); some water. The rest is details - aging, temperature, maintaining a good seal to prevent oxidization, other flavourings. But it's a recipe that anyone can follow to make their own wine, and (important point here) anyone who drinks it will become intoxicated, whether they believe it is wine or not.

See how that works? It works by working, not wishing. And that's never a bad thing for children to learn.

Or for adults to remember.

*Quick post script: The Annals of Improbable Research are also remembering his/their contributions to science!*


posted by Thursday at 9:14 pm 2 comments

July 13, 2007

Worst New Olympic Sport Ever

1,500 m javelin catching.

Well, it's not like it hasn't been tried before.


posted by Thursday at 11:50 pm 0 comments

Maybe This Is Weird...

...But am I the only one disturbed by the thought that there was an entire advertising campaign by Post Cereals based around Barney Rubble "wanting at taste" of Fred Flintstone's Pebbles?

The larger, more disturbing question may be why I'm thinking of the ads years after they've gon off the air?


posted by Thursday at 8:33 pm 0 comments

July 12, 2007

Go Here

Read them.

Read all of them.

If that link is expired, here's another.


posted by Thursday at 9:26 pm 0 comments

A Bad Day

So, last night my shifter lever fell off.

Not really a big deal, but it did mean that I couldn't ride today. The nut had gone AWOL, and I couldn't find a replacement here at home, so I wasn't about to ride it the 30 km to work! I had hoped to take the bolt (still, amazingly, attached) to the auto shop today, but couldn't reach the head of the bolt without putting the bike on it's centre stand - which I couldn't do single handedly. Guzzis are not feather-light bikes.

I've found out that my dad's cancer treatment means he's 75% sure - if it doesn't show up in the next 6 months - to be clear of the disease for at least the next five years. Which means a 25% chance the other way.

On a lighter note, a friend who was hoping to get away with the Significant Other and I for (of all things) tea at the Empress can't make it. It's one of our frequent bouts of silliness we engage in, and it's unfortunate she won't be able to make it. Silliness is always funner shared.

So bused it in, stole the truck from the S.O., and got to work 15 minutes late, only to find that work had piled up during my weekend (Tues-Wed). Ended up playing catch-up all day, but after eight and a half without a break, I'm ready for tomorrow. I check the oil (the truck's been pissing it away, and we haven't had time to track it down) and head for home, where I've got the second half of the yard to weed eat. I can only manage half at a time, as I'm ridiculously allergic to grass pollens and we're out of my drugs. But it's okay - I only have to shower to breathe normally again.

There are a couple of delays on the road home, as the construction crews are in full rip/repair mode to correct the hideous damage they did last year, but again it's no big deal as I knew it was happening and expected it.

Driving along a straight stretch, I watch as the driver ahead of me drifts across the oncoming lane and down the embankment on the other side of the highway.

Immediate stop; flashers on; across I go. It's some kind of SUV (Hyundai, I think), and it took out a few small trees, but it's upright. Engine's still on; sounds of someone crying inside; no smell of gasoline or oil; no smoke outside, no white clouds (airbag propellant) inside; all four wheels on the ground (no risk of rollover). Quick scramble through some brambles, open the first door I reach (passenger side rear): one occupant; no blood; seatbelt on; crying.

As good as it gets.

Across to her door, force it open; talk to the driver as I reach across to switch her car (an automatic, thankfully) into park and turn off the ignition. I find her cell phone on the floor, but someone on the road has already called the paramedics. She's stunned, but moving her hands as she speaks (more good news), even though she doesn't feel any pain yet, I keep her in the car with her seat belt on - the car is still pointing down hill, and I don't think she'll be able to find footing on the terrain.

We chat.

She's just come from having coffee with her best friend, where they went over the detail of her husband's funeral. Oh God - this is her only vehicle, and he'll be waiting at home for her! She has to get home. He's home for the last two weeks of his life, and now their only car is wrecked.

I keep her in the car.

We can't get a signal on her cell phone (it's erratic here in the mountains, and perhaps especially down a small hill), but her friend is up on the road and makes the call to the driver's sister, who is at the driver's home looking after her husband.

Her friend, it ends up, was two cars behind me and watched her drive off the road.

She asks where I'm from, and do I know her son, and she doesn't know what happened and what will she do now? She only has one vehicle, and she can just imagine the fight with ICBC to let her keep it, at least getting what needs to be repaired as quickly as possible.

She's starting to feel pain now: in her hip, her back, and her neck. Her friend has made it down the incline, and is now sitting in the passenger seat, and our conversation goes three-way. The friend starts talking in mystical terms, about how this was meant to happen. I shut up for a while - there's a time and a place for everything.

The paramedics arrive, and it's time for me to go. The driver gives my hand a squeeze, and smiles, and says "thank you." I smile back and wish her luck, then climb out to give the meds what information I have. Then to home, where I have to weed eat a beautiful garden in my back yard that my simply amazing S.O. built.

That bad day I was talking about? It wasn't mine.


posted by Thursday at 8:27 pm 2 comments

July 11, 2007

Sicko Critico

So there’s been this movie running about that seems to have a number of people talking; and sometimes in quite surprising ways. So when the director, Michael Moore, came on to CNN, that show decided to run a short critique of the film first.

This was, of course, done without warning to the director.

Considering the same show hands copies of questions being asked to their political subjects well before any interviews, you’ve got to think that the move was at the least in bad taste; at the most a deliberate axe.

But the most surprising thing was the remarkable weakness of the criticism: I’ve started thinking that it was orchestrated by supporters of Mr. Moore. Here’s the transcript, with my own notes in between:

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Sicko" throws hard punches at the United States healthcare system, and it seems just about everyone has something to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moore was spot on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The facts, I think, support what I believe.

Um. Are these two actually contributing anything?

GUPTA: And Moore presents a lot of facts throughout the movie. But do they all check out? Keeping them honest, we did some digging and we started with the biggie. The United States slipped to number 37 in the world's healthcare systems.

It's true, 37 is the ranking, according to the World Health Organization's latest data on 191 countries. It's based on general health level, patient satisfaction, access and how it's paid for. France tops the list. Italy and Spain make it into the top 10. The United Kingdom is 18.


Never mind.

GUPTA: Moore brings a group of patients, including 9/11 workers to Cuba, and marvels at their free treatment and quality of care. But hold on. That WHO list puts Cuba's healthcare system even lower than the United States, coming in at number 39.

Right. Just like what’s shown in the movie.

Moore asserts that the American healthcare system spends $7,000 per person on health, whereas Cuba spends $25 per person.

Not true, but not too far off.

Well, this claim certainly isn’t! The movie claimed $251 per capita spent in Cuba – but that number is from 2003.

The United States spends $6,096 a year per person versus $229 a year in Cuba.

Again, if we go by 2003 numbers, it’s $251 for Cuba, $5,711 for the U.S. Interestingly, businesses in the United States will pay $8,340 per employee in health care coverage in 2007, according to Industry Week magazine, and don’t think businesses won’t consider that when they decide where to build a factory…

And astronomically more money doesn't mean far better outcomes. In fact, Americans live just a little bit longer than Cubans on average. So Americans do pay more, but the United States also ranks highest in patient satisfaction.

Interesting point – if raised in a free-floating, unattached fashion. An interesting follow-up would be why the difference in satisfaction? Is there a lower expectation? Plus, if patient satisfaction is already included in the equation (remember: “general health level, patient satisfaction, access and how it's paid for”) then doesn’t that mean the other three would have to be below 37th? At the very least, one of the four would have to be shockingly bad for the final result to be so low.

And Americans have shorter wait times than everyone but Germans when seeking non-emergency elective procedures like hip replacement, cataract surgery or knee repair. That's not something you'll see in "Sicko" as Americans tell their tales of lack of coverage and suffocating red tape.

Repeat your own words: non-emergency, elective procedures. You also forgot to mention tummy tucks, liposuction and face lifts – all also non-emergency, elective procedures, but they do make a lot of money, and often leave the person paying for them much happier.

The quality of research simply oozes from this report!

It's true that the United States is the only country in the Western world without free universal access to health care. But you won't find medical utopia elsewhere. The film is filled with content Canadians and Brits sitting in waiting rooms, confident care will come.

In Canada, you can be waiting for a long time. A survey of six industrialized nations found that only Canada was worse than the United States when it came to waiting for a doctor's appointment for a medical problem.


Wait, is that something to be proud of? Sheesh, it’s not like Canada is even remotely perfect!

PAUL KECKLEY, DELOITTE HEALTH CARE ANALYST: That's the reality of those systems.

…Says the representative of this company…

There are quotas.

Just like with HMOs.

There are planned wait times.

Just like with HMOs.

The concept that care is free in France and Canada and Cuba, and it's not. Those citizens pay for health services out of taxes. And as a proportion of their household income, it's a significant number.

File under “No shit” and move on. Here’s an interesting definition of “freedom” for you: having both of a married couple get breast cancer, get full treatment, and not have to file for bankruptcy, like two of my friends. Getting 37 doses of radiation at $1500 per shot for prostate cancer, and not needing to get a mortgage, like my dad. Fighting depression all your life, needing years of medication and therapy, but surviving it without being in perpetual debt, as a Significant Other is doing. Hurting your wrist, but not being sure about the damage, so getting it X-rayed just in case – and finding a broken scaphoid, so taking steps to prevent the possibility of being crippled for the rest of my life, like I’ve done.

Over half of the bankruptcies in the United States is because of medical reasons. In what possible way does this help a society, a nation, or individuals? To be free of that fear is an amazing freedom.

GUPTA: It's true that the French pay higher taxes and so does nearly every country ahead of the United States on that list.

As mentioned in the movie.

But even higher taxes don't give all the coverage everyone wants.

One more time (sing with me if you like!): non-emergency, elective procedures. Compare “what everyone wants” with “what keeps people alive” and get back to me when you can find the difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifteen-to-20 percent of the population will purchase services outside the system of care run by the government.

Yup – and those who can’t afford to do so will be covered anyways. C’est weird, eh? I guess those evil socialists are actually allowing some private insurers to operate. Wasn’t that supposed to be illegal or something?

It’s not like the private insurers can compete directly against the government anyways: apparently, they can’t afford to.

GUPTA: So, there's no perfect system anywhere.

Again, file under…

But no matter how much Moore fudged the facts


-- and he did fudge some facts

Which ones? You haven’t mentioned any here.

-- there's one everyone agrees on. The system here should be far better. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

Again, that was just weak. If this was a “report”, I’m freakin’ Marie of Romania.


posted by Thursday at 7:56 pm 2 comments

July 08, 2007

Late To School

I know, I know - should have had my work handed in by last Thursday... Hope the teachers at the New Truth University don't ding my grades too badly!

The Skeptics' Circle is once again in session!


posted by Thursday at 9:55 pm 0 comments

Disloyal, Yes; But It's What I Want

So, I've finally done it. I traded her in. I've gone from a wild young Brit to a classy older Italian.

My 1998 Triumph Speed Triple is not in my possession any more. In her place is a 1978 Moto Guzzi 850T, and I couldn't be happier. Not that I wish to speak ill of my former companion, of course! It's just that she was... well, trouble.

The Triple was a corrupting influence WAY too often for me to use it as a commuter. It was the epitome of a "hooligan bike" - when you rode it, you rode like one. Absolute howl - on the weekends. But I need a daily ride, not just a part-time thing.

Hence the change.

Add to that the fact that I've always wanted a Goose, and you've got yourself a perfect, for me, trade. Nothing wrong with that old transverse-twin tractor engine that I can tell!


posted by Thursday at 8:51 pm 0 comments

July 02, 2007

...And Gone!


Okay: I expected signings to take a little longer than 12 hours, but apparently not! So I guess the defense just takes a quick once over of some of the folks who were available:

Sheldon Souray - Not a great defenseman, but after a season of 26 goals, who cares? Tough guy, too.
Kimmo Timonen - Runs the power play, reasonably durable, has gotten better every year and pulled in 55 points last season.
Brian Rafalski - One of the smartest players in the game. Not a great shot, but 47 assists.
Scott Hannan - A stopper. Don't expect points, but he's one of the few D-men that can shut down opponents without fouling them: always in the right position.
Brad Stuart - Good skater who tends to make the safe play. Heavy shot, but hasn't quite found his range yet.
Tom Poti - Good size, good shot, will get anywhere from 25-45 points. A little erratic, and can get confused in his own end.
Mathieu Schneider - Still putting up numbers (52 points last year), not the most reliable guy defensively. At 38, he's got to be winding down soon, right? Right?
Roman Hamrlik - The physical skills are all there, but not the smartest player on the ice. Has some injury issues.
Tom Preissing - Smart player who controls the puck well. He can put up points, and is more an offensive player than defensive one.
Teppo Numminen - Makes a great first pass, has sound positioning, marvelously consistent. Yeah, he's 38, but if Schneider's here, so's Numminen.

Those are pretty much the best of what's available. But for the tighter budgets, or for some depth, there are others worth looking at:

Craig Rivet - Willing. Not first-pair good, but this guy will do anything for his team.
Brent Sopel - Hammer of a shot and not afraid to use it, but no idea where it'll go. Another player who will do anything asked of him. Can fill in anywhere short-term.
Cory Sarich - Plays the body extremely well. Getting hit by this guy is like having an oak door slammed in your face.
Nolan Pratt - A defenseman in every sense: there's no offense available here. Shut-down guy.
Brad Lukowich - Steady, smart player; okay shot; occasionally injured. One of those utility players that teams like to trade for.
Aaron Miller - You get him if you need a leader, not a scorer. Great attitude, average player.
Jamie Heward - Another wily veteran, but this one has a good shot, too. Experienced.
Danny Markov - Huge hitter, can put up points, and is gleefully aggressive. On the down side, his play frequently leaves him injured.
Jon Klemm - Plays defense, and plays it hard. Don't expect points, or more than 16 minutes a game.
Ossi Vaananen - Loves to take the body, but gets hurt because of it. The defensive version of Markov.
David Tanabe - Often lightly injured, if he could play just a little more consistently he's a potentially great player (and only 26).
Andy Sutton - Anyone that can play five seasons with Atlanta and still be +11 has some good defensive play going on. Has only managed to play one full season, though.
Greg DeVries - Wily veteran, durable, shut-down guy.

Then there's the High Risk/High Reward types:

Sandis Ozolinsh - History of knee trouble, will play 30 minutes a game if you let him. Fantastic offense, not much D. Oh, he argues with management, too. Good luck!
Sean Hill - Getting up in years (37), and sometimes tries to do too much. At his best when he keeps his game simple, but will sometimes imagine he's Paul Coffey. He's not.
Vitaly Vishnevski - Big, BIG hitter and locks a lot of shots. He's down here because he wears down as the year progresses and has frequent brain cramps in his own end. Exciting player, this, but only occasionally for the right reasons.
Janne Niinimaa - Lots of injury trouble last year, but he's always had "huge potential". Alas, he thinks he's better than he is, and has never quite lived up to his star billing. Might get there yet - he's only 32, after all.
Alexei Semenov - Massive (6'6", 235lbs) but uninterested. Only 26, and if you think you can motivate him, you'll have gold. You'll need some dynamite, though.
Daniel Tjarqvist - Makes the safe play out of his zone, but fragile. You may have him for 75 games, you may have him for 40.
Jiri Fischer - Immense talent, no experience. Has a heart ailment, and may retire after being out of hockey for a year and a half. If he decides to play, and you're willing to let him, he's a top four player.
Darryl Sydor - A fading point-producer. Make sure you don't overspend on him, or over use him, as he tends to get bumped off the puck.
Patrice Brisbois - Can produce points, but is nicknamed "Breeze-by" for a reason. Often injured, and massively overpriced ($3 million last season).
Bryan Berard - Huge, huge potential for offense, but now has back injuries to go with blindness in one eye. The eye hasn't been a problem offensively...
Ric Jackman - NHL-level offensive abilities, but every team that has him seems willing to get rid of him, too. Needs to mature, in every sense.

Then there's the goalies. Not many around this year, as the big bumper crop from a few years ago is the same few who are available now - just older or retired. Most of those on this list have been tried as starters at one point or another, and will try getting back there, but are realistically going to be signed as second stringers. Still, a couple stand out:

Curtis Sanford - Stepped in as a lone bright spot for St. Louis two seasons back; then couldn't quite stand up to being a #1. Brilliant attitude for a backup, though.
Jean-Sebastien Aubin - Very streaky. Tends to dwell on the recent past, good or bad.
Jocelyn Thibault - Often brilliant: just as often injured. May be best in a tandem (40-50 games).
Curtis Joseph - Still extremely agile and quick, but starting to lose his mental toughness. Starting to pout if his play isn't going well.
Robert Esche - Often very good, sometimes very bad. Far too inconsistent for a starter, and doesn't seem to like that pressure anyways. Perhaps best as a tandem or frequent backup (30-40 games).
Kevin Weekes - Plays a rock-solid, athletic tight-in game, but loses the occasional long shot. Mentally tough.
Mike Dunham - Big, confident, plays the puck well, and covers his angles. Not as good with his legs, and has injury trouble.
Scott Clemmensen - Backed up Richard Brodeur, so played 25 NHL games in 5 seasons. Who knows what he's like? He's big, at least: 6'3" 205lbs.
David Aebischer - A younger Joseph: fast, relies on reflexes, unflappable. Wants to start, and nothing else will do. May return to Switzerland if less is offered.
Sean Burke - Huge frame, great in the room. Fine teammate.
Mathieu Garon - The best goalie available as a free agent. Fantastic glove have, can shake off a bad game.
Ed Belfour - Still has great legs, very acrobatic. Can get thrown off his game with a bump or two; is a serious problem child off ice; hates being challenged by his backup in any way.
Jussi Markkanen - Often very good, but runs hot and cold: too inconsistent to be a starter so far.
Jamie McLennan - Great attitude for a rarely-used backup. Can play once every 15 games without complaint. Moves side-to-side very well.
Ty Conklin - Acceptable NHL totals, works hard and has the desire to stay at the NHL level.

And finally, I'm dying for someone to sign this guy for an AHL post:

Yutaka Fukufuji - The talent to be a backup is there, but the training isn't. Yet. Incredibly hard worker. Sure, he got jumped on when he was dropped into the NHL, but the guy only had 7 games at the AHL before that! His ECHL and AHL numbers are solid enough for someone to give him a shot.

So, when's training camp?


posted by Thursday at 7:09 pm 1 comments