The Counterpoint

March 02, 2005

The Minnesota State High school hockey tournament starts today. You can view the brackets here (class A) and here (class AA). We won't have any repeat champions this year, as both Breck (A) and Centennial (AA) lost in section play.

In class A, I would love to see first-year entrants Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl win. They have one of the top two or three players in the state on their team in Matt Niskanen, but realistically they don't have much of a chance. Additionally, I don't see how Warroad can lose. They are the only undefeated team in the state, and have demolished most of the teams they have played. Of the 8 teams in class A, we can rule out at least five: Shakopee, Albert Lea, Virginia, Little Falls, and Duluth Marshall. I like St. Thomas, but they are far too young to be a real force. Totino Grace is the only team, that might stop Warroad, but I wouldn't bet on it.

In class AA, I like last year's runners-up, Moorhead, followed by Holy Angels and Jefferson (Numbers 1, 3, and 4 in the polls). Second-ranked White Bear Lake has been very high for much of the year, but I can't remember them ever winning a quarterfinal game since I have been watching high school hockey. They took down defending champs Centennial, but I have heard from people that were there that Centennial didn't play their best game. The rest of the field will try hard, but Moorhead, AHA, and Jefferson are the ones to beat.

My picks

Class A: Has to be Warroad. Picking against them would be foolish at this stage.

Class AA: My head says Holy Angels, but I am going with the same pick I had last year, Moorhead. There are at most two or three teams that could pose threats (especially AHA), but I think this is their year.

I usually don't pick the favorites, and I feel a little weird picking both number ones. But I don't see Warroad losing, and I have been picking Moorhead pretty much consistently since the mid-90s (the days of Ryan Kraft and Matt Cullen); one of these years they won't let me down.

February 11, 2005

I have been surprisingly busy the past few weeks, whether it be with papers, tests, road-trips or week-long babysitting adventures. Hopefully things will settle down, but for now I just have a few quick hits that I want to talk about:

1. Madison was incredible, as I expected. The fans there are much nicer than they are given credit for, and while they aren't the most intelligent hockey fans (as a whole), they are still incredibly generous. It wasn’t until Saturday night, I believe, that we actually paid for a drink. The games themselves were great; especially Saturday's thrilling, last-second victory. The Gophers still need to pick up the pace if they want to contend this year, but a split in Sconnie is a start. I would love to see them run it up against Anchorage this weekend, just to get in the groove. As far as the road trip, it looks like this is going to be a yearly (and ideally, multi-yearly) thing.

2. Mark Dayton is not going to run for re-election. This doesn’t especially come as a surprise. He was rich enough to fund his own campaign previously, which set a bad precedent because now he lacks the money to do so in 2006, but people still think of him as wealthy. That won't exactly make it easy for him to get donations. The Star Tribune runs down some of the possible candidates, as does this Hugh Hewitt post. Check them both out for tons of info. At this point, I'd say Mark Kennedy has to be the favorite amongst Republicans despite the fact he has yet to announce (word is that he'll do so this afternoon).

3. Finally, Pride On Ice, the popular Gopher hockey web site, has shut down. The site was mostly known for the smart, civil discussions (though there has been some bickering, mostly the tone is positive) on the message board. The discussions will continue at other sites, but most Gopher fans recognize the importance of POI and its contributions to Gopher hockey. I know I am making kind of a big deal about some small-town web site closing its doors, but it meant a lot to many fans. Count me amongst those that will miss it.

February 02, 2005

I was rather impressed by the State of the Union, though not as much as I had hoped I would be. I thought the speech was well written, particularly the foreign policy sections. It layed the groundwork especially well for the president's agenda, and was optimistic in doing so. Bush's delivery, however, left something to be desired. He is not known for being a great orator, and while he seemed more relaxed tonight, his style was still a little pedestrian.

I don't know enough about social security to offer an in-depth comment on it, but I thought the president sold his perspective awfully well, especially with the mention that congressmen already have privatization, and that some are trying to keep it from the rest of the public.

Both sides of the isle seemed to be pretty united on the foreign sections, even if it was because the phrasing made it very hard to disagree with what was being said. Bush was tough on Syria, proud of what was done in Iraq and Afghanistan (without gloating), and optimistic for what remains to be done in the rest of the world. I thought that was the strongest part of the speech.

Overall, I liked the speech but not as much as I expected to. Well written and persuasive, but the delivery was a little off.

My very rough, very unofficial stats:

  • Applause breaks: 64
  • Standing ovations: 33

    As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, "Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth." And we live in the country where the biggest dreams are born. The abolition of slavery was only a dream -- until it was fulfilled. The liberation of Europe from fascism was only a dream -- until it was achieved. The fall of imperial communism was only a dream -- until, one day, it was accomplished. Our generation has dreams of its own, and we also go forward with confidence. The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable -- yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.

  • February 01, 2005

    Flash movies

    Here are two videos I stumbled upon lately, both of which are baffling.

    This first video is possibly of some cheerguys throwing a cheerleader through a basketball hoop. If it is real, it's darn impressive. But it looks fake to me. Still, it's an interesting video. Here is the link.

    This second one is simply hypnotic. I can't even put into words what I feel about this video. I watched it perhaps seven or eight consecutive times and am still no closer to understanding it. Turn up the volume, sit back, and enjoy.

    Both these videos are in flash format.

    January 25, 2005

    I did some Super Bowl blogging over at QWERTY. There is also a book review up; go check them both out.

    As a side note, I apologize for the lack of blogging. I've been awfully sick for about a week, and am just starting to get back to normal.

    January 11, 2005

    I bought Phil Hellmuth's Million Dollar Poker System at Target today. At only ten bucks, I didn't see how I could pass it up. What better way to wind down at night than watch Hellmuth attempt to teach poker while whining about some of his bad luck?

    The DVD itself is rather cheaply produced. Save for some fancy introduction sequences for the various sections, it basically consists of Hellmuth sitting at a table, gesturing, and flipping over cards. Those three features add up to an entertainment value of zero. Hellmuth has no personality at all on this DVD; if you have never seen him play then you wouldn't know him to be the brat that the poker world does. It may have been smarter to hire an actor or look-alike to read his lines for him, if only because we wouldn't feel like we're watching a late night public service announcement put on by Charlie Rose.

    The skills he tries to teach are pretty straightforward: play optimum hands, pay attention to the personalities of the players at the table, etc. He actually says he "invented" animals to label players' personalities, which is especially impressive. Can you imagine his business card?

    Phil Hellmuth
    Professional Poker Player
    Animal Husbandry Expert

    It's almost hard to take him seriously after that.

    The DVD will work very well for beginners. The biggest mistakes that beginners often make deals with hand selection, so the "top ten hands" and the "majority play hands" features will be the most helpful for those looking to improve their games. After that it will get a little more complicated for beginners, so it may be a good idea to watch one section, play some live poker, and then go back and watch the next section. I wouldn't recommend trying to learn everything at once.

    But there is some value for the intermediate players, as well. I found the section on pot-odds to be most helpful. I am the furthest thing from a math wiz; I have trouble calculating anything harder than 2+2 without a calculator. But the DVD offered some simplification techniques that make it very easy to calculate what your pot-odds are and what your odds of winning each hand are.

    The DVD also touches on folding, raising, re-raising, position play, and a few other topics While the tips offered in these sections are helpful, they aren't really discussed in depth. For more techniques on these issues you are probably better off reading a book.

    Was the DVD worth the ten bucks? Probably not, but if it has any real affect on my game then maybe I will re-evaluate my view on it.

    Recommended: Yes, for beginners who are looking to move to the intermediate level.