Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012 Predictions

With the NHL playoffs about to begin, I figured I'd better get my predictions up here. This has proven to be a fool's game, although I hit the jackpot last year in my playoff pool, correctly picking players from Vancouver and Boston to make the final. Can't expect that lightning to strike twice.

These picks are influenced strongly by my fandom, as I like the Canucks and Penguins and would love to watch that final, although I also like the Sharks and haven't picked them to upset the Blues. Overall, I've not made any radical picks here. Perhaps choosing the Predators for the western final is a stretch, and a lot of people seem to think that the Flyers will knock off Pittsburgh in the first round. I fully expect to have to revise these after the first round.


Round 1
  • Vancouver vs LA -- Canucks in 6
  • St.Louis vs SJ --Blues in 6
  • Chicago vs Phoenix -- Hawks in 5
  • Nashville vs Detroit -- Predators in 7

Round 1
  • NYR vs Ott -- Rangers in 5
  • Boston vs Washington -- Bruins in 6
  • Florida vs NJD -- Devils in 5
  • Philly vs Pittsburgh -- Penguins in 7
Update: Well, I blew it big time, and have already gone down in flames in my playoff pool. Canucks and Penguins for the SCF is going to be difficult now. Here are my revised second-round predictions (made before the second round started):


Round 2
  • St.Louis vs LA -- Blues in 6
  • Nashville  vs Phoenix -- Nashville in 5

Round 2
  • NYR vs Washington -- NYR in 6
  • NJD vs Philly -- Flyers in 5
Beyond that, I've gone for a St.Louis/Rangers final, with St. Louis winning the cup. Considering my record in the first round, the odds of either team making the final just fell to zero. 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

reading watching listening

The finished books have been piling up again, which means it's time for another reading/watching/listening post. As always, recent random photography experiments provide the disconnected decoration. I see that watching and listening haven't been a priority as winter wound down.


The way we read in the evenings around here, our bedtime routine takes an hour and half every night. It's ridiculous, yet I look forward to it, especially when we're really into a good book. Here's what I've been reading aloud to the kids:
  • The Books of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau -- there are four books in the series about a society that emerges after living underground for 200 years. The middle two books are ok, but never really grabbed us, so the girls and I plowed through my favourites (books 1 and 4) City of Ember and The Diamond of Darkhold. Very pleasing reading, with lots of references to environmental and sustainability challenges we're facing, without being preachy. 
  • ice-internal-folds
  • The Wednesday Tales series by Jon Berkeley was really incredible, and I have no idea why these three books don't seem to be very well known: Palace of Laughter, The Tiger's Egg, and The Lightning Key. The writing is beautiful, the magic interwoven convincingly, the characters are compelling...all three were a wonderful surprise, and we were sad to leave this world behind when we finished it last week. On par with the best of new childrens' literature. 
  • Moongobble and Me -- now we're getting into Ezra's reading list, and although we're still plowing through a dozen or so picture books a week (and graphic novels by the bushel), these short chapter books are what he's gravitating to. This simple series about a bumbling wizard and his sidekicks was a very welcome break from a steady stream of Magic Treehouse books.
  • D'Lacey's Dragons of Wayward Crescent has completely hooked Ez, and I haven't at all minded plowing through the four books -- great fun, fast pace.
  • orchard-buds
  • I'm so happy to be able to introduce Ez to the books the girls loved a few years ago. Fergus Crane is among the best of the bunch, and we devoured it (yet again) in a couple of weekend sessions. Looking forward to trying Corby Flood with him as well (same series).
I've been doing ok with my own reading as well, following a few themes and rabbit trails:
  • The introvert advantage : how to thrive in an extrovert world, by Marti Olsen Laney -- this was a lot like the last book I read about introversion, with a couple of key differences: she uses a much tighter definition of introversion, which I appreciated...and she herself sounds like a genuine introvert, which often doesn't seem to be the case.
  • Please Understand Me I and II by David Keirsey -- some of this stuff about introversion got me thinking about personality types again, so I plowed through a few books on the topic. Some of you may remember the post I did four years ago about Myers-Briggs types and I still find this stuff fascinating. These two books are a bit rough around the edges, but I felt it was worth the effort to find the hidden gems. Also tried What type am I? by Renee Baron, which was a bit fluffy and mostly felt like review. 
  • snow-trees
  • Nurture by nature -- I just started this one, and I'm looking forward to seeing if I can glean any insights about the personality types of my kids, and how we might parent them more effectively as a result.
  • I've been doing some reading lately on the history and psychology of belief. The first is called The Believing Brain , and it started with three personal case studies of people who had had religious or deconversion experiences. It also delves into non-religious beliefs that may not be easy to prove, and tries to connect the dots between those and religious faith, not as successfully.
  • Even better than that one, though, is a book by a brilliant author named Robert Wright. I had read two of his previous books and really dug this one. It's called The Evolution of God, and I couldn't put it down. Epic scale, digging back into early human cultures to try to find the common threads in what we've believed over thousands of generations. Even more ambitiously, he ponders what the future of belief might be -- especially in the Abrahamic religions. I didn't agree with everything in it, but highly recommended, no matter what your own beliefs might be. 
  • ice-frost-patterns
  • You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, a brilliant guy I've paid attention to online for many years. I'm drawn to his iconoclastic tone and willingness to question stuff we take for granted, especially on the web. Looking forward to digging further into this one, as I'm only a couple of chapters in.
  • Big thanks to Steve for sending me searching out stuff about Japanese woodblock prints. Two books that really smacked me were Shin Hanga and Printed to Perfection  -- although Steve will probably be mortified, I was more drawn to the "new prints" from the early 1900s than the old masters. Incredible stuff.  
  • Steamboy -- visually incredible animation, odd story...the technology themes and amazing landscapes and scenes kept me watching till the end despite the lack of discernable plot.
  • Castle in the Sky -- glad we bought this a few years ago, as it's great to revisit Miyazaki's stuff every once in a while. This was better than I remembered it from a year ago.
  • Astroboy -- I didn't have much hope for this one, but found it surprisingly entertaining. Some really cheesy Hollywood touches, but overall pretty decent. The kids really dug it; especially Ezra, who is so into Robots these days, it's not even funny.

I haven't been as methodical with finding and sorting music lately, but have still dug up some gems: an incredible double bass player and composer named Edgar Meyer, a shockingly addictive earworm called Home by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, everything by Ólafur Arnalds and a total hodgepodge of other stuff. When I pasted these next three videos in here, they represented three strong emotional responses I had to the pieces of music: tears, pure aggression, and laughter.

Poem for Carlita by Mark O'Connor.
Yo Yo Ma is my hero -- his playing throughout his collaborations with O'Connor is incredible, and from 6:18 till the end, his expressiveness on the cello brings me to tears. This live performance is better than the album version, and the video adds an element of appreciation for me:

Metallica --Disposable Heroes
I've sometimes waxed poetic about Metallica's golden age in the early '90s, but I have to give them credit here. This is a recent video, and they still bring it; they really are one of the few bands big enough to master the stadium concert, filling it with energy and controlled chaos. This gives me goosebumps and makes me want to climb a mountain right now. 

Rap-X -- Kyak
I guess my cousin Richard knows these guys, and posted it to Facebook. I don't know how earnest it is, but I laughed my ass off and thought it was fantastic. This isn't a style of music I'd usually be drawn to, so maybe it's the frozen Alberta landscape in the video that grabbed me.

Rap X - Kyak from Ted Stenson on Vimeo.

And finally, this one didn't elicit any emotional response, but talk about solid pop gold. This would fit in fine in the culminating scene of any John Hughes teen film from the mid-'80s, yet it feels fresh:

The Big Pink -- Stay Gold

And a few more bonus pics: