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Showing posts from May, 2010

The Finals begin tonight..

...with the Blackhawks solid, though not prohibitive, favorites to take home Lord Stanley's mug.

This feels a lot like the eve of Super Bowl XX. The Hawks, like the Bears, figure to win. But there's just enough uncertainty to make it interesting.

Maybe it'll take the Hawks six games rather than five.

Go Hawks! ONE GOAL!

Earth from deep space

Quite a sight!

The Japanese get the credit. It's from their Akatsuki probe, which is on its way to orbit around Venus.

This one, on the other hand, is ours, from Voyager I:



...while this one is a joint NASA/ESA production, from the Cassini probe. Earth is the pale blue dot to Saturn's upper left, well to the right of the middle of the picture- the one that makes you want to reach up and brush it off your computer screen. For my money, this is the most amazing of humanity's deep-space self-portraits...



...unless it's this one: a family portrait of the larger members of our solar system, taken by Voyager:

Meanwhile, below .500 or not, don't count the Cubs out yet

Despite the fact that everybody concedes the National League Central to the Cardinals, and have... well, since last season ended, I'm frankly not that impressed with them.

Nor do I think it out of the question, despite the fact that they're a couple of games under .500 right now, that the Cubs might end up winning the division and maybe even saving Jim Hendry's job.

Here are ten reasons why.

Everybody else has written the line, "The clock ran out on 24 last night," so I might as well, too

The role of President Suvarov and the Russians in the murder of President Hassan has been exposed. Snake-in-the-grass former President Charles Logan has suffered massive brain damage in a failed suicide attempt. President Allison Taylor- at the last possible moment- has come to her (moral) senses and once again became the leader she was before she began listening to Logan. And Jack Bauer is once again a fugitive, just as he was at the beginning of the Taylor administration- this time fleeing not only American justice but also the vengeance of the Russian "organs."

President Taylor- the leader who let her own daughter, Olivia, be sent to prison rather than cover up Olivia's role in the murder of the evil Jonas Hodges- might just be forgiven for her participation in the cover-up of the Russian role in the Hassan assassination, impeachable though her offenses might be. After all, she "outed" herself, and her motive for participating in the cover-up was simply a d…

It's the Flyers

Philly closed out the Habs last night, and will be the Blackhawks' opponents in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Michael Leighton, the Flyers' goalie, came up with the Hawks a few years ago. He has apparently improved since.

Meaning no disrespect to the Broad Street Bullies, my call is the Hawks in five. But anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Finals, and teams don't get there that don't deserve to be taken seriously- especially when they've already pulled off a comeback from a three games to none deficit earlier in the playoffs.

On to the Finals!

The Blackhawks beat San Jose yesterday afternoon by a score of 4 to 2, swept the series, and will be favored in the Stanley Cup finals against either Montreal or, more probably, Philadelphia.

Buffy scored the game-winner yet again.

The Sharks- one of the NHL's best teams- did not deserve the humiliation of being swept. But as one of the San Jose sportswriters conceded the other day, the Hawks are simply a better team- and, what is even more important in the playoffs, a team that's jelling at precisely the right time.

Rookie goalie Antti Niemi, "the Finnish Fortress," has played like Martin Brodeur or Jacques Plante or Terry Sawchuck or Glenn Hall in their prime. And he was supposed to be the weak link.

The Hawks are a deep, balanced team that is peaking as it goes into the Finals. If they are a better team than San Jose- and they are- they're better by several orders of magnitude than either the Canadiens or the Flyers. But both of those teams have been playing '…

Byfuglien- pronounced "Conn Smythe winner"

Dustin Byfuglien's last name is pronounced "Bufflin," just like Jonathan Toews' name is pronounced "Taves." There is, however, an alternate way of pronouncing Buffy's name.

Just call him "Conn Smythe winner."

Buffy's overtime goal last night game the Blackhawks a seemingly insurmountable 3 games to none lead over the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. If they can manage somehow to beat a team they've defeated six of the seven times they've played them this season once more out of four tries, they'll be in the Stanley Cup Finals against either Montreal or Philadelphia- neither of which figure to give them much trouble.

Savor this, fellow Hawk fans. Savor this.

After all, the Sac and Fox lived in Iowa, too

It's been cool here in Des Moines- too warm for a jacket, really, and I couldn't wear a sweatshirt to the job I was at. And so, given the playoffs and all, I've been "representing" with the road Blackhawks jersey I bought in St. Catherine's, Ontario maybe twenty years or so ago, worn as an outer garment.

Interesting the "thumbs up" signs and beeps from passing cars it's drawing. Apparently the Hawks' Stanley Cup run is being widely noticed here in the far, far western suburbs- and is making quite an impression. The Pro-Image at the mall is even featuring a Jonathan Toews jersey in its window.

And to think that only a few years ago "Dollar Bill" had driven the franchise into the ground even in Chicago itself. Hopefully a Cup will cement the progress the Hawks seem to be making toward becoming a truly regional team, like the Cubs are.

Obama and the "Born Alive" Act: the facts

(NOTE: This post is from another blog of mine. It was written during the 2008 presidential campaign. Since that blog is soon to be deleted, and since the facts this post relates continue to be misrepresented by both the administration and by the media, I"ve chosen to preserve it by republishing it here.)

One evening in 1999, nurse Jill Stanek of the Labor and Delivery Department of Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois had an experience that changed her career- and her life.

Christ Hospital routinely performed second and third-trimester abortions. Particularly favored are what are euphemistically called "induced labor abortions." Premature labor is induced, the baby is born- theoretically before survival is possible- and the baby is simply left to die. In essence, it's passive infanticide, and not really abortion at all.

Hospital guidelines required that the babies be held until they died, and given the "comfort care" of at least a warm blanket. The trouble w…

Actually, that "artificial life" isn't artificial at all

Scientists claim to have created "artificial life."

They are wrong. To have used artificially-constructed genetic material to hijack and "control" a pre-existent cell is at best to create a kind of biological cyborg. When they do it without the cell, then they will have created life, rather than merely modified it.

I am not going to hold my breath. And I think the glib mischaracterization of the accomplishment both by those responsible for it and by the media says a great deal about the prospects of what they falsely claim to have achieved actually being accomplished any time soon.

HT: Drudge

Anti-establishment gestures, both welcome and silly

Now that I'm out of the parish, I can write about politics again.

Tuesday primary results: Arlen Specter lost the Democratic nomination in his bid for re-election in Pennsylvania (his first race as an actual, rather than a vitual, Democrat), and extremist Rand Paul, son of extraterrestrial former presidential candidate Ron Paul, won the Republican nomination for the Senate in Tennessee.

Hopefully both of yesterday's winners will be losers in November. We need fewer, rather than more, extremists in Washington, and also fewer supporters of the current administration.

Blackhawks' outlook couldn't look much better. So why am I so nervous?

The Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks again last night, 4-2, and now lead the series two games to none. They have yet to play their first game of the series at home. And since they set a record last night for the most consecutive playoff victories on the road, maybe coming home to the UC isn't an unmixed blessing.

If the Hawks win the series with the Sharks, they will play either Montreal or Philadelphia for the Stanley Cup. By rights, they shouldn't have much trouble with either one. But I grew up fearing the Canadiens and their tradition, and (as I've noted before) the last time the Hawks went into the Stanley Cup Finals as favorites (in 1971), they lost to a Montreal team with a hot rookie goalie named Ken Dryden. This year's Montreal team has a hot rookie goalie named Jaraslav Halek.

But no matter. The Flyers, too, have a two-games-to-none lead in their series, and they're objectively a better team than the Habs. It looks at this juncture very much like the Haw…

24 is breaking my heart

First President Taylor goes over to the Dark Side, and now it's revealed that Russian President Suvarov himself- and not merely a renegade faction in his government- was responsible for the assassination of Kamistani President Hassan and the murder of Jack Bauer's girlfriend, Rene Walker. Two previously exemplary characters- beacons of rectitude, even, in an evil world- now turn out to be corrupt, or at least corruptible.

It's enough to make you lose your faith in the goodness of the writers. Disturbing, too, to see Jack willing to kill innocent Secret Service agents in order to pursue his vendetta against Logan and the conspirators.

Funniest line of the season: former President Logan, with Jack's automatic at his temple: "Ok. ok... I was involved in the cover-up. But not the conspiracy. Hey- I'm not the bad guy here!"

Next week's series finale should be a barnburner. Jack has gone so far over the line that it's hard to see how he can come back.…

The road to the Cup looks suspiciously smooth right now

Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Sharks was fun to watch. That makes four out of the five games we've played this year against San Jose that we've won. Hopefully things will continue to go well tonight. The Sharks are a good team, and at this point seem to be the biggest obstacle between the Hawks and the Cup.

Having the two teams with the worst records make it to the Eastern Conference Finals is certainly a good sign for whichever team wins the Hawks-Sharks series. And a Philadelphia victory would make me feel even better in the next round- should we get there. Better to face ex-Hawk Michael Leighton than Halek.

Les Canadiens sont la!

Unbelievable.

After ousting the President's Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in the first round, the playoff team with the worst record- the Montreal Canadiens- knocked the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins out of the playoffs last night. Les bleu-blanc-rouge will play either the staggering Boston Bruins or the resurgent Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Now, I mean no disrespect to any of those teams. But with the demise of the Pens, the only team left in the playoffs that the rational side of me is really afraid of is the San Jose Sharks, who are playing my Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals. The winner of that series should win the Stanley Cup- which statement might well prove to be the hockey equivalent of Frank Chance's now-ironic 1908 question, "Who ever heard of the Cubs losing a game they had to have?" It isn't necessarily the best team that wins the Stanley Cup. It's the hottest team- and in particular, t…

Time for the Blackhawks to break out the bangsticks

Divers often carry special poles called powerheads or bangsticks, which operate essentially as shotguns triggered by impact with a shark. Time for the Blackhawks to metaphorically exchange their hockey sticks for bangsticks.

The Hawks advanced to the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks last night with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks ousted the Hawks' perennial nemesis, the Detroit Red Wings.

The winner of the Blackhawks-Sharks series will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals to face an opponent still to be determined.

ONE GOAL!

Monday's lesson from 24

If you've murdered Jack Bauer's girlfriend, and he has a knife, swallowing something is not an effective means of hiding it from him.

But I guess we really always knew it wouldn't be. Too bad a certain Russian assassin didn't know Jack as well as we do.

Too bad for the assassin, that is. And I don't even want to think about what Jack did with that blowtorch...

The Hawks- hopefully- will wrap it up on tomorrow night

I frankly expected Vancouver to win Game Two, and was surprised to see the Hawks dominate them again, this time at GM Place. But last night's Canucks victory at the UC was no surprise. I've said all along that it would take the Hawks six games- or even seven- to dispose of the pesky Blue and Green.

I just hope it's six. I don't want to have this go to seven games with the momentum Vancouver's- even if the decisive game is played in Chicago.

Everything's going from bad to worse on 24

24 is really getting dark.

First, Allison Taylor- the best president the series has featured since David Palmer- has been seduced to the dark side by her snake-in-the-grass predecessor, Charles Logan, and is covering up the Russian involvement in the murder of President Hassan (despite the warnings of Secretary of State Kanin that she's committing an impeachable offense) in order to keep the Russians at the bargaining table and get the Middle East peace treaty signed. Noble though her reasons may be, she has likely squandered her presidency on a peace built on such a fragile foundation that it would probably be doomed in the real world (once again, the willing suspension of disbelief its fans so readily- and justifiably- accord 24 is making a wholly implausible chain of events somehow plausible in the context of the show.

President Taylor's betrayal of President Hassan's widow and successor is itself a tragedy. As a result, Jack Bauer has gone rogue- again.But last night …

A warning for the Blackhawks from Frank Chance

Well, after letting the Canucks run roughshod over them in Game One on Saturday, the Hawks knuckled down and beat the Canucks with three third-period goals last night, 4-2. Once again they demonstrated an ability to come back and win when it really counts, an attribute which bodes well for their prospects in the playoffs.

Still, I can't help but reflect on one of my favorite quotations from Cub history, from Manager Frank Chance in that world championship season of 1908: "Who ever heard of the Cubs losing a game they had to have?" The irony is a warning against taking anything for granted against a team as evenly matched with the Blackhawks as Vancouver.

The key to this series, as it was in the previous one against Nashville, is going to be somehow finding a way to steal back home ice advantage by winning one of the next two games at GM Place.

I still predict the Hawks in six.