Thursday, May 31, 2012

NHL Stanley Cup Finals


Sorry, that had to come out. Once again I am late to the party. Game One was played last night. So without further adieu here is my pick.

Stanley Cup Finals

New Jersey Devils vs Los Angeles Kings     I pick: Kings

The Kings won game 1 yesterday 2-1 in Overtime putting them on the path to the championship. The Devils will win game two and the Kings will win the next 3. So the series ends Saturday June 9th in New Jersey with the Kings hoisting the cup. Fans in Philadelphia will get to see Carter and Richards skate the cup and wonder what might have been.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Top 5 Chris Cornell Songs of Ever

Chris Cornell. The once and future front man of Soundgarden. Lead singer for Audioslave and Temple of the Dog. Ranked 4th in the list of Heavy Metal's All-Time Top 100 Vocalists by Hit Parader. A powerful voice with fantastic range. His lyrics make me tilt my head and go "whahuh?" but his sound is excellent.

5. Searching With My Good Eye Closed - Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

Classic Chris Cornell. I don't understand what he's trying to say.

Stop you're trying to bruise my mind
I can do it on my own
Stop you're trying to kill my time
It's been my death since I was born
I don't remember half the time
If I'm hiding or I'm lost
But I'm on my way

Someone is bruising his mind, but he can do it himself? Someone's killing his time, it's been his death since he was born? He doesn't remember if he's hiding or lost, but he's on his way? Yeah, I don't know either.

4. Show Me How To Live - Audioslave - Audioslave

Hard driving song from beginning to end. I really like the way he gets his voice to bounce from note to note at the end of the song. The lyrics are close to making sense.

Nail in my hand,
From my creator.
You gave me life,
Now show me how to live.
Nail in my hand,
From my creator.
You gave me life,
Now show me how to live.

3. All Night Thing - Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog

This is the last song on the Temple of the Dog album and it does a fantastic job of wrapping everything up. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and this album has always felt like home. It's comfortable and I walk away from it feeling good. It also doesn't feel like Magnetic Poetry which can't be said of all the songs he sings.

2. Doesn't Remind Me of Anything - Out Of Exile - Audioslave

This song is hypnotic. I love the way it transitions from verse to chorus and back. I like not having to decode the lyrics. I also find it strangely uplifting.

I walk the streets of Japan till I get lost
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything
With a graveyard tan carrying a cross
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything

Terrifically vivid lyrics that paint a fantastic picture.

1. Slaves and Bulldozers - Badmotorfinger - Soundgarden

Cornell uses his voice more as an instrument in this song than a tool to tell a story. The repetitive lyrics build tension and the chorus provides relief as his voice soars. It gives me chills when I hear it.

Honorable Mention, Outshined - Badmotorfinger - Soundgarden

I'm looking California, 
And feeling Minnesota oh yeah,

Nuff said!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 5 Best Military Science Fiction Novels Of Ever

Why wait? Let's jump right in.

5. Old Man's War - John Scalzi

First Contact has been made, humans are no longer alone in the universe. The Colonial Defense Force has been tasked with taking humanity to the stars. Setting up human colonies and defending them from attack by hostile aliens. The Colonial Defense Force army is an elite group that is different from other army's. For starters you can't join until you turn 75 years old.

To be honest I've never actually read this book. I listened to the unabridged audio book narrated by William Dufris, and it was Awesome! Audio books are tricky, I've listened to fantastic books turned to hash by an uninspired narrator, and I've listened to mediocre books over and over again because of a skilled narrator. This book is both fantastically written and beautifully narrated.

Dufris does a fantastic job of bringing John Scalzi's characters and worlds to life. The book is fast paced without feeling rushed. Great Book.

4. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Humans have discovered faster than light travel and begin their exploration of the Universe when they run into an alien species called the Fornics. Hostilities ensue. Humans soon discover that the generals who led army's on Earth are out of their depth in space. A solution is set forth with the building of Battle School, an orbiting space station that is used to train children in everything they will need to know to command fleets in space.

I have read the short story version published in 1977 and the full length novel published in 1985 (I actually read the version published in 1991, in which Card made some changes in politics to more accurately represent the times).

A little like Lord of the Flies in space, but with at least the appearance of control by the adults set to watch over them. Instead of being a coming of age story, this is a story of children being forced to grow up sooner than they should. I can happily recommend this story to any Young Adult I come across.

3. The Forever War - Joe Haldeman

Earth has begun it's exploration of space when a United Nations Exploratory Force comes under attack by a group of aliens. Earth puts together an elite group of super intelligent soldiers (IQ's above 150) to find out what happened to the UNEF group and to exact revenge. Star ships in this universe can move from point to point between collapsars, but travel between planets and collapsars must be done in normal space at speeds approaching the speed of light. As the soldiers approach the speed of light they experience time dilation. One year of time for the soldiers in space equals decades back on earth. Each expedition sends these soldiers farther away from the life they knew both in time and space.

Where most books in this genre are filled with brave volunteer soldiers doing their duty, this book is filled with conscripts. Draftees who were picked because of their advanced educations and high IQ scores. The story looks at what happens when the culture and way of life an army is asked to fight for change without notice, leaving the soldiers behind.

2. Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein

This story follows Juan Rico from his time as an enlisted soldier on to his promotion first to Non-Commissioned Officer and then to a commissioned officer. Juan's story is set in the middle of an interstellar war with a race humans call the bugs. The story deals with a multitude of issues such as who should be allowed to vote, the meaning of civic virtue and how one should train their puppies.

This is the book that all other military science fiction books draw from. This book wrote the tropes that everyone else is using to this day. The story has bug shaped aliens, rocket ships, space transports, and most importantly a real cool suit of armor that lets its wearer do all kinds of amazing things. Some of the speeches in here are blatantly political. You can almost see Heinlein thumping his fist on a lectern telling us all how things should be. If you have a beef to pick with Libertarians this could set your teeth on edge.

If, however, you have a soft spot in your heart for the good guys beating the bad guys through hard work and ingenuity, then you'll enjoy this book.

1. Armor - John Steakley

Armor is the story of a person who has been pushed so far past any normal physical and psychological limit that the only thing left is survival. Felix's inability to allow himself to die, even as he expects it, propels him from one fight to the next. His story is told through his own eyes, as he looks out through his armor.

The title of this book doesn't just refer to the suit of armor that Felix is assigned to. It also refers to his mental armor. The armor that refuses to let himself be taken or killed. This book breaks down into three acts. The first and third acts focus on Felix and the planet Banshee where the fighting takes place. The second act focuses on a character named Jack Crow. The pace of the second act is slower than the first and third, but if you can ride it out the third act really pays off. It should be noted that I'm putting this book on the top of my list even with a slow chunk right in the middle. IT'S THAT GOOD!

Honorable Mention

Falkenberg's Legion by Jerry Pournelle 

It was a tough call to not include this story in the top 5. I'll be honest with you, this almost beat out Old Man's War. Falkenberg's Legion has been a favorite of mine since I was in High School and Jerry Pournelle is a wonderful writer. I would recommend this book to anyone.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NHL Conference Finals or Better Late Than Never

This is late coming out, but I've been busy and I'm a front runner anyways, or haven't you read this? At the time of this post the Kings lead the Coyotes 2-0, and the Rangers lead the Devils 1-0.

Eastern Conference Finals

New York Rangers vs New Jersey Devils     I pick: Rangers

The I don't care match-up of the playoffs so far. I'm rooting for the Devils, but I get the feeling that the Rangers will advance to the Stanley Cup. On a side note, how far do the Devils need to go to make Marty Brodeur comfortable retiring? If they win the Cup does he come back next year?

Western Conference Finals

Phoenix Coyotes vs Los Angeles Kings     I pick: Kings

I've picked against the Kings twice now based on the fact that they couldn't find the back of the net all season long. I am now a believer. The Kings will walk all over a Coyotes team that has made it this far using smoke and mirrors. Dave Tippet has implemented a scheme in Phoenix that maximizes his rosters talent, but it won't let them score. Mike Smith has had a heck of a run, but it's all over now. I said it here now, and you can take it to the bank (pay no attention to that donut I put up in Round 2): The Kings are going to win the Stanley Cup. J. Quick is the best goalie left in the playoffs and the rest of the team has remembered how to light the lamp.

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's In The Water

The Portland Winterhawks fell short in game 7 of the WHL Finals last night. So ends their quest for the Memorial Cup, and so continues a favorite saying of a couple of old friends. The Phuc brothers used to say that they didn't know why teams from the Pacific Northwest don't win Championships, but for sure, "It's in the water."

The last team from the Pacific Northwest to win a championship was the 97-98 Portland Winterhawks. Before that you have to go back to the 82-83 Winterhawks. I'm not counting the Huskies shared NCAA football title, BECAUSE IT WAS SHARED! Shared titles don't count. (Co-Champions, what a joke. Get on with that playoff system already NCAA Football!) Before that you have to go back to 78-79 with the Seattle Supersonics, and the 76-77 Blazers.

The late 1970's. Maybe that's when the tainting of the water table in the Pacific Northwest started. There have been teams that have gone to championship games, and series in the meantime. The Blazers had a couple of opportunities in the early 90's. The Sonics made an appearance. The Vancouver Canucks and the Seattle Seahawks both made it to their championship game/series. None of them brought home a championship.

It's in the water. Last year before the deciding game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals Nathan Horton of the Boston Bruins brought some Boston water all the way across North America to pour it onto the ice in Vancouver. The home team had won the first six games of the series. After Horton baptised the ice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver with his Boston water the Bruins went on to win the championship.

As I see it the solution is simple. If I owned a sports franchise, or was the athletic director of a major university in the Pacific Northwest I would not allow any of my players to drink the water. I would provide all the bottled water they wanted. I would tell them that Montezuma's revenge has been creeping steadily north. I would tell them that drinking the water in the Pacific Northwest causes hair loss and a diminished sex drive. I'd truck water in from New York, and Boston. I'd truck it up from Los Angeles, and even from St. Louis. I'd be open to water from almost anywhere but Buffalo, NY. (I'm pretty sure whatever we've got in the water here, they have in the water there.) I would set up a closed water system for each one of the athletes in my organization. I'd include the coaches, the training staff and all of the front office personnel. They would use water from this system for all of their water needs. Bathing, washing, filling water bottles to squirt their dogs to get them to stop barking, ironing, cooking, and washing their cars.

The result? Championships galore! One for everybody! Until someone takes this advice to heart though, us fans will just have to learn to live without championships. You see, it's in the water.