Yearly Archives: 2001

Today’s Attacks

I find myself at a loss for words today.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved, directly and indirectly. I hope all of those you know are okay — but I know for some of you, that won’t be true.

This is a declaration of war on the united states. It should be treated as such. If, as seems likely, this is tied to the Palestinian ‘issue’, it is time to resolve it, the hard way if needed. the time for appeasement or compromise is gone.

It is also an example of how this has become one world — how we can no longer treat the earth as a group of independent countries. what goes on elsewhere in the world affects everyone everywhere, and today’s attacks have finally made this painfully and terribly clear to those of us in the US. Isolationism is a failed attitude, because now, unlike WWI and WW II, the world’s problems have been brought home onto our own soil, and we can’t pretend the oceans will protect us from the problems of Europe and Asia.

My god. There are a few images that are forever going to be burned in my brain, such as the explosion of the shuttle, or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. I’m sorry to say that today’s image of the plane hitting the tower, and later, the towers collapsing, have joined those images.

We need to keep in mind, however, that when the calls by the nimbys start about “how can something like this happen”, we need to remember that if you’re up against someone who’s willing to die for their cause, it’s impossible to stop them — even if you can catch them before they do it, what’s your negotiation edge? And if you’re not willing to die — you’ll hesitate. They won’t.

And that’s why attacks like this succeed. You can’t win an argument with the insane.

Book series: commentary on Martin, Whyte, Brust and White

People who know me, or who’ve read my rants in OtherRealms, know that I’m not a big fan of series. Or more correctly, I feel that few book series justify the number of words written into them, and by implication, the amount of work required to read them.

Which is true; I prefer to explore new places in my fiction, which puts me far away from the mainstream fiction reader that loves to return to the same universe again and again, like a comfortable slipper. To me, however, too often that slipper goes limp and flabby far too quickly. When I was publishing OtherRealms, I coined the term Generic Celtic Fantasy Trilogy to describe what was the most common fad of the time, the pseudo-celtic three book series with one book’s worth of material.

It’s gotten worse, too. Authors are now writing huge, open-ended series which seemingly have no end, and sometimes, no visible purpose other than their kid’s college fund. The textbook example of the large, endless series is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of time, which is actually pretty well written — but, to me, unreadable. Laurie made it to about book four before giving up. But he’s not alone. Anne McCaffrey is writing endlessly about Pern, Ray Feist keeps revisiting Riftwar, and even series that started as three or four book series, like Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, changed stream in the middle — and who knows when Card will finish that series, because those books seem to be multiplying in his office at night. (and in fact, I don’t care if that series ever ends, since I gave up on it a few books ago, when it curled back on itself and bloated).

If I’m so anti-series, then — why is it that the last four books I’ve read have been parts of series? Well, that’s something I’ve been trying to figure out, since I started pulling things together for this piece and realized that I’ve been reading all these series books.

Partly, it’s because I’m not anal about being anti-series: good writing is good writing. A big part of it, though, is the state of the market: it’s difficult to find any fiction that isn’t part of a series. The series book drives the market, and drives sales, because if you like book 1, you’ll pick up book 2. And for authors, creating a universe is a lot of work, and with a very few exceptions, writing doesn’t pay well. I can’t blame an author for re-using material, since in many cases it’s the difference between paying the rent and taking a second job at Starbucks. I even have trouble feeling too upset at what I consider padded, flabby series – since more readers seem to like it that way. I still wonder why Jordan or Card or George R.R. Martin needs 5 or six 700 page books when J.R.R. Tolkien did Lord of the Rings with a word count that barely gets you out of some series preface.

Case in point: George R.R. Martin’s current series, A Game of Thrones. The first book of the series is: A Game of Thrones, 800+ pages of paperback. To be honest, this is a classic kind of book that I usually avoid — it’ll break your foot if you drop the book on it, it’s the first book of a long (possibly infinite) series, and it’s topic matter isn’t (shudder) celtic, but is clearly yet another variation of the english medieval universe fantasy authors have mined for decades.

I started it, though, for one reason — George is a good guy, and more importantly, one hell of a writer. And he pulled it off — the series is quite well written, and he creats a complex, interesting universe where he throws about ten subplots into the air, and juggles them successfully to keep the story moving forward. He made it interesting even for someone predisposed to not like the book, and kept me reading and looking forward to future volumes.

Until book 3 came out. A Storm of Swordswas late, which is always cause for worry: did it run late because the author ran out of motivation? Because the editors felt it needed to be reworked? Did the author block? Misjudge how long it would take? find a problem that required redoing things? the reasons for lateness are infinite, but rarely is the reason “because the author wanted to make it even better”. And I found I had problems with the third book: I got about 1/3 of the way in, and realized I was slogging in oatmeal. Suddenly, instead of juggling all of the subplots in a way that made things interesting, I found it difficult to keep them all separate, or udnerstand how the story was moving forward. I shifted from enjoying the read to seeing it as a chore, so the book kept getting put down and ignored. I slogged through to the mid-point of the book, and finally gave up. Instead of seeing the book as one complex plot full of sub-plots that all tied together, I came to feel like I was watching all of the soap-operas at once, and trying to figure out why it seemed like chaos.

So this series hits what I call the dog days, that point where it seems the author struggles to keep the momentum going and the story moving forward, and in this case, for me, it fails. Sometimes, if you keep going, the author gets a second wind and things fall back together. Other times, they don’t. Either way, in all honesty, I find life too short, so I’m calling it a day and trying something else — but I still think people should take a look at this series, because there are few authors capable of keeping me interested with this kind of material as long as he did. And if you’re interested in seeing how Martin writes when he’s not imitating War and Peace, try A Song for Lya, his first novel — which blew me away when it first came out, blew me away again when I re-read it a couple of years ago, and shows that even as a rookie, Martin was one heck of a writer.

Sometimes, however, it’s not the series that runs down, but an individual book. Such is the case with Jack Whyte’s latest, Uther, the seventh (count ‘em, seventh!) book in his more-or-less arthurian series.

I say more or less arthurian because with book 7, we still have barely run into the future king, Whyte is actually writing historical fiction based in the time of transition in Roman Britain, starting about the time the Romans abandon the island to itself, and through the struggles that lead to the time of the historical King Arthur. I admit up front: I am a sucker for good Arthurian fiction, and even more a sucker for the historical arthurian tales (my favorite continues to be Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset, which is again out of print).

Uther circles back on the series, essentially re-telling the story told in book three of the series (the Eagle’s Brood) from a different viewpoint, this time, from Uther’s. In fact, the author admits he struggled with this until he saw how Orson Scott Card handled a similar problem in his Ender series. Unfortunately, at least to me, Whyte wasn’t completely successful in revisiting, and the book is missing any real tension or intensity (I would also argue that Card’s handling of the Ender series is not what I’d recommend to authors looking to write multi-book series; it is a textbook example of a story allowed to grow out of control and becoming the master of the author — the early books were wonderful things, and unfortunately, as it grew more popular, it seems that every idea to expand the series ended up in the series, which is a great way to make a series longer, but rarely better. A story that starts out with three books of material rarely improves when it’s expanded to five or six — good writing is as much knowing what to leave out as what to put in, but when you put it all in….)

Unlike the Martin series, where I think I finally just got bogged down in the continuing story, I see my problems with Uther as being a problem with a substandard book; I certainly plan on reading the next book — and it’ll either return to what made the series attractive to me, or it won’t. But I gave up on Uther 300 pages in, and I won’t be trying to finish it.

I do very strongly suggest Jack Whyte’s books for Arthurian and/or historical fiction fans. you really need to start at the beginning, though, which is his book The Skystone.

Now to a different kind of series. Author James White died recently, and left behind a wonderful canon of enjoyable, readable fiction. His most famous series was about Sector General, a huge, multi-species hospital in space. Somewhat reminiscent of Keith Laumer’s Retief books (which poked barbed fun at the diplomatic corps), White writes about a hospital that has to treat and heal anyone, from anywhere, including beings that are currently undiscovered — whether they be humanoid or crystalline chlorine breathers.

This is very different beast than either Martin’s or Whyte’s series, in that the books are more or less independent of each other, and you can pick up any of the books and read it without having to worry about missing stuff from other books. Sector General isn’t as overtly satiric as the Retief books, but at the same time, clearly shows just how ludicrous a huge hospital like Sector General has to be — too large, too complex to succeed.

I can safely say that it’s hard to find a bad Sector General novel — and I’m happy to say I’ve probably read 80% of them, and over time, will be tracking down and reading the rest when I’m looking for enjoyable ‘mind candy’ fiction — this isn’t deep or thinking material, but relaxing, enjoyable reading.

The most recent Sector General, and it looks like the final one, is Double Contact. This is, alas, not the best introduction to Sector General, because White chooses to take a few of his characters out of the hospital and wrote a first contact story out in a remote solar system. I found the story a bit contrived and the writing somewhat flat. it’s — okay — but it’s not one of this best pieces.

A better introduction would be the previous book, Final Diagnosis, a more-typical how-do-we-fix-this-before-we-explode story, set in the hospital itself.

Given how difficult it is to find well-written, enjoyable ‘mind-candy’ entertaining fiction, if you haven’t discovered James White yet, do so. This is the kind of series I wish authors wrote more often: independent, unrelated stories in a common universe, where you can pick up any one book and enjoy it, and not have to start with book one or loose common, assumed information. And with White, it’s even better, because each book is well-written and not too-long, bloated, or under-edited.

Finally, a series somewhere between a linear series like GRR Martin’s and James White: Steve Brust’s Vlad Taltos books. His latest is Issola, the ninth book in the series. In this one, as in previous books, Vlad Taltos, Jhereg asassin, gets involved in high intrigues as the various controlling houses of his world compete for dominance — only this time, the conflict is larger and more complex, involving the gods, and — perhaps — even greater beings. Taltos is someone who always seems no more than two steps from disaster, and always seems to find a way out, with his hide more or less intact. And along the way, a lot of really interesting and weird things happen.

One of the nice things about the Taltos series is that none of the books depend on each other. you can pick up any book, and it’ll make sense and be an accessible, enjoyable read. But unlike the White books, the nine books of the Taltos series are teling a larger, sequential story, and Taltos has grown and changed, as has his world — the Taltos of Issola is a very different person than the Taltos of the first book, Jhereg. One of the great joys of this series is watching Taltos grow up and mature as the books progress, and at the same time, watch Brust’s maturation as a writer as well.

Steve Brust is one of my favorite writers, and one of the few writers that I can say I’ve read every book he’s published — and I can only think of one that disappointed me (if anyone cares, you can find my review of it somewhere in the OtherRealms archives, but I think I’ll leave it hidden there…). You can grab any of his books — and come away entertained and educated. But if you want to start at the beginning, and grow with Taltos, start with Jhereg and read the series in order; it adds an extra something to the books.

But it’s very nice that you don’t HAVE to. I wish more authors could, or would, write this way.

Von Rospach Geneology

One of my distant relatives has been tracking the family since it came over from Alsace. She’s put her data up on the web, so if you want to know our family history (since the net’s grown up, I’ve been contacted three or four times by people researching the family tree), it’s here:

And this is a message I sent to Catherine Grundy with what I know to update her page.

Hi, Catherine. I ran into another von rospach lineage person (I sent him your way), and it reminded me I never passed on any info to you. I’ve been trying on and off to get my dad to explain everything, but he tends to get evasive about his past, so he always means to and never does… I figured I better pass on what I have while I’m remembering, becuase if I wait until I ‘get around to it’ it’ll never happen.

According to his records, Charles’ wife was Mary E. MacGoogen, not Mary Anne McGuigan, and he has her date of death as November 3, 1884. The other data matches (born Ireland in 1992). Charles’ birthdate was September 25, 1893.

My grandfather was Charles, Charles Francis, aka Frank. I have his birth as 1891, death as 1956. He married a woman who’s name I’ve gone blank on, who died in the 60s, because I barely remember her. During WW II, Frank changed the family name to Rospaw because of the problems involved in being German in the U.S. during WW II. My father is Cecil Francis Rospaw (birth certificate is still Von Rospach). He married twice. His second wife was Barbara Gee, and I’m his only child (Charles Francis, B1958 Glendale, CA). My mom and dad are still alive, both in their late 70′s.

My dad has original photos of both Charles and Mary, with names attached, and has given me copies. I can put images online if you want them. If I ever get dad to sit down and blab, I will pass it along, but he’s very quiet about his first wife, and that makes it hard to get him to go further back…

hope this helps.

1999-2000 Sharks Year in Review

For your amusement, my year end evaluation of the Sharks…

From: Chuq Von Rospach

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

No, it was simply the strangest of times…

What a year. It was a year that saw major changes to the Sharks, some amazing highs, far too many frustrating lows, and as typical of the Sharks, a strong finish to leave us with a lot less to gripe about than we figured we’d have in January.

The goals for the team going into the season? 90 points (old style points; works to about 94 points new style) and the playoffs. The reach goal? Home ice advantage in the playoffs.

The results? 87 points, 8th seed in the playoffs, an upset victory against the Presidents Cup Blues, and a five game loss to Dallas in the second round with key players injured — a competitive second round, but still a loss. Mike Ricci and Brad Stuart up for major awards, some of the first major league awards with Sharks nominated.

If I’d said we were going to make the 2nd round and lose to Dallas in September, most of this list would have been thrilled.

Somewhere along the way, however, I think most of us came to the belief that this team was capable of more. And I think we’re right.

The only thing the Sharks did consistently this season was be inconsistent. And there lies the frustration. The sharks opened the season with a torrid 27 points in their first 20 games, and finished the season in typical Sahrks style with 22 points in their final 20.

it was the middle 42 games that drove people crazy. The Sharks never sucked: only once did they lose four games in a row. But neither did they thrive: in that middle section, they never won three games in a row, either. A hot start, strong finish: and 40 games of almost-but-not-quite-.500 hockey in the middle?

Enough to make a hockey fan grumpy. Which many were — because the start showed what was possible, and the ending showed the start wasn’t really a fluke. If the Sharks had kept up the pace of the first 20 games, they could have grabbed 111 points. If you look at the closing 20 games, 91 points. Pick a number somewhere in the middle, between 95 and 100 points, and I think that’s a realistic number for what the Sharks *could* have done this season, and didn’t.

The Sharks came close to their regular season goals, but fell three or four victories short. The initial goal was also conservative — in reality, the team finished about 10 points short of what they ‘ought’ to have done, thanks to that mid-season, um, whatever it was. 40 games isn’t a slump, and in reality, they didn’t really slump, since they never fell apart or had a horrible streak. But it wasn’t the real Sharks, either. It was simply a team finding itself.

Which leads to: WHY? Who are these Sharks? The team of the first 20 games? the last 20? The playoffs? the middle 40? Who’s to blame? The team? the coach? Everyone? bad sushi?

I think we can rule out the sushi.

But the answer to the first part is: yes. The middle 40 games are the Sharks of christmas present, the sharks of the last 20 games are the Sharks of christmas past, and the sharks of the first 20 games are the Sharks of christmas future. The Sharks of christmas present, those middle 40 games, are the real Sharks this year: lots of potential, lots of youth, lots of inconsistency. Kids growing up have good days and bad days. Veterans are more consistent, but speed and skill start to desert them. And some of the Sharks, notably Vincent Damphousse, simply had a period of time where you needed to put him on suicide watch. That was the Sharks of today: good heart, good chemistry, good effort (mostly), good attitude, but leaning heavily on youth to perform, and there were nights that didn’t work.

The last 20 games were the sharks of christmas past: Sharks teams always rally late in the season, unless they totally sucked, and found a way. We’ve seen that last ditch rush before, and hopefully, we’ll continue to see it in the future, because it’s better than the alternative.

But the first 20 games: that, I think, we saw the Sharks of Christmas future. For 1/4 of the season, they played well, they played together, and the found ways to win. They just couldn’t sustain it this season.

Blame for this? I’ve gne back and forth with myself here, between the youth of the team and the coaching (especially how the coaching staff handled the youth). Ultimately, I think too many kids with too many responsibilities, and the team depending too much on their performance for wins. Good experience for the kids, but learning on the job is never easy. At the same time, I don’t completely absolve the coaching staff of guilt here — instead of not guilty, mark them as not proven, leaning towards not guilty.

The good news is that this team looks to be ready to make a big jump forward. This year turned into a year of transition: a year where the veteran players moved on (Bob Rouse, Mike Vernon), and the younger players tried to take up the mantle of responsibility. Some days they did it better than others, but by the last 20 games, it was clear this team was finally figuring it out and pulling together — and the playoffs showed what they were capable of.

And yes, we’ve heard the “we’re almost here” refrain before, and maybe that’s all this is again. That’s why games are played on ice, not paper. But — our key top players are just moving into their prime in Nolan and Friesen, our younger players came out of this season stronger and better for the struggles in Marco Sturm, Patty Marleau and Alex Korolyuk (especially the latter), and the supporting cast (guys like Mike Ricci) are solid.

What encourages me more is that this is a group that we can keep together for a number of years. This year is the year the Sharks transitioned from a team building for the future to a team competing. We’re no longer a team of veterans bringing up the kids, we’re now a young team developing towards maturity. It may seem like a semantics, but philosophically, thse changes are key: no longer is this team managed by Bob Rouse, Tony Granato and Mike Vernon: now, it’s Owen Nolan and Steve Shields and Jeff Friesen. The veterans are no longer babysitters, but role players and contributors. And the transition was not without fumbles, but now that it’s complete, it sets us up for better things: if the kids produce.

Will they? We’ll see. That’s why they play this on ice, not on paper.

But I can’t wait for September.

The 1999-2000 San Jose Sharks report card

Team performance: 87 points: C+

coaching staff: C+

Dean Lombardi: B

Strengths: Owen Nolan, Brad Stuart, Mike Ricci, a young, solid, talented core that can grow up together and build into a strong team.

Weaknesses: Steve Shields is unproven; we know he can win when he’s sharp, can he win with his B game? Special teams need improvement. Faceoffs need improvement.

Goal for next year? 95 points or bust.

Player report card:

R 11 Nolan, Owen 78 44 40 84 -1 110 18 4 6 2 261 16.9

what can I say? He is the man. A. A+. I’m as impressed with his +- number as I am his scoring. maybe more impressed. And he IS the Captain; we finally have a model for what Sharks hockey is — it’s Owen Nolan.

C 25 Damphousse, Vincent 82 21 49 70 4 58 3 1 1 1 204 10.3

One of the Sharks that slumped badly in the middle — and redeemed himself enough late that I give him a C+. Even if he doesn’t improve his overall numbers next year (I’d like to see him at 30 goals and 85 points, and I’d lvoe to see Nolan hit 50 goals and 100 points…), he should improve his overall contribution next year simply by avoiding that rough stretch.

L 39 Friesen, Jeff 82 26 35 61 -2 47 11 3 7 0 191 13.6

C: Friesen needs to work on his game still — he has a couple of notches left to engage. His speed is awesome, but he needs to react to the play better, make faster pass/shoot decisions, and be more aggressive offensively. Friesen could be (should be?) a 35-50-85 guy. 60 points isn’t chopped liver, and if Friesen matures at this level, he’ll still be a great player, but he still has the potential to take that next step into being an elite player. He’s not there yet, but he has another year to find it. Maybe two.

C 18 Ricci, Mike 82 20 24 44 14 60 10 0 5 0 134 14.9

A: on most teams, the third and fourth lines perform in relative obscurity. It says something that Mike Ricci has elevated the checking line into somewhat of a celebrity line. How? through hard work, grit, determination and bad hair days. But it’s nice to see the lunchpail guys get some deserved recognition. Scoring goals is fun. What Ricci does may be satisfying, and it’s definitely necessary to successful hockey, but I wouldn’t call it fun. My respect for him is immense, and even as a self-admitted lunchpail-player fan (going back to the days of Jeff Odgers and Robin Bawa), ricci shows what happens when you take a job like this and really sink your teeth into it. well, tooth.

C 14 Marleau, Patrick 81 17 23 40 -9 36 3 0 3 0 161 10.6

C-: Okay, let’s get this straight. We have a kid who can’t legally drink in the states, playing in the NHL, who scores 40 points and just misses 20 goals, and we’re unhappy with him.

Yes, that pretty much defines it. Marleau is the poster child for that 40 game not-slump. He was one of the kids we depended on to step up, and his numbers notwithstanding, he struggled. I’m still very high on Marleau — but his defense is suspect (look at that +-), and his game is still maturing. you’ll take him off my team over my dead body — but Marleau has to use this season as a stepping stone to his potential. His numbers fell back this year, because the responsibility on his shoulders was increased and he wasn’t ready.

My target numbers for Marleau next year are 25 goals, 60 points, and most especially, do it while being an even or plus player. Long term (three years out? four?) this kid can be a 40-50-90 player and a plus player. All it’ll take is time and hard work. I hope he commits to the work…. But he’s got a good couple of years before i start worrying about him turning into Pat Falloon. But the Sharks need to be careful heaping expectations on him; Marleau needs some time to mature.

L 24 Sundstrom, Niklas 79 12 25 37 9 22 2 1 2 3 90 13.3

C-: For a good part of the season, Niklas simply looked lost, as if a beer leaguer had gotten in the wrong dressing room. It wasn’t lack of effort — it was conditioning, comfort level in the system, and confidence. when he finally put it together as the team made the last run, he rescued himself enough to avoid a failing grade, but it was close. The +9 is nice, but Sundstrom should be a 20-35-55 guy and in double-digit plus numbers.

D 7 *Stuart, Brad 82 10 26 36 3 32 5 1 3 0 133 7.5

A: the phrase “this kid is a rookie?” explains it all. He earned his Calder nomination, and he’s only going to get better. What’s likely next year? How about 15-40-55 as a plus player? Probably a stretch, but….

L 15 Korolyuk, Alex 57 14 21 35 4 35 3 0 1 1 124 11.3

B-: had his moments, and had his moments. Still needs to improve his defense, but of the three key youngsters, I think he had the best season overall (Sturm was most consistent and best in the latter third and playoffs….). Alex is a guy I don’t want overly burdened by the defensive side, but as long as he’s near or at even, let him run around and make the other team crazy. Goal for next year: 20-25-45. And I think he has HUGE upside as he matures — 35 goals? I’d think so. 50 goals? don’t bet on it, but I’ve said it before, and I still believe it: he’s the first player I’ve seen on ANY NHL team that reminds me of Sergei Makarov. And if he comes even remotely close, the NHL better watch out.

D 20 Suter, Gary 76 6 28 34 7 52 2 1 0 0 175 3.4

C-: Suter faded down the stretch and in the playoffs, but he’s here, he’s healthy, and he’s a strong, key contributor and should be for another two or three years. The key, I think, is cutting his minutes to keep him fresher through the season. His goal for next year? 10-20-30 and averaging 5 minutes a game less. Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan will make cutting his minutes much less painful.

L 19 Sturm, Marco 74 12 15 27 4 22 2 4 3 0 120 10.0

B: struggled early, finished strong. A great partner for Mike Ricci, Marco is turning into a great third liner. Very happy with his progress — and his biggest contributions come away from the scoreboard. 10-15-25 is fine by me for Marco, but I want to see his +- number ramp up next year. Aim for +10 or more.

R 32 Matteau, Stephane 69 12 12 24 -3 61 0 0 3 0 73 16.4

C-/D+: Matteau is a greybeard, an aging vet. You can’t question his committment, but his contribution is fading. My numbers for next year? He’s not on my roster next year (but taht’s a different article)

D 5 Norton, Jeff 62 0 20 20 -2 49 0 0 0 0 45 0.0

C: could be very good, very bad, and very little in between. The Sharks would have been in trouble this year without Norton — but sometimes were in trouble because of him. The epitomy of the double-edged sword. My numbers for next year? He’s not on my roster next year.

R 9 Harvey, Todd 71 11 7 18 -11 140 2 0 0 0 90 12.2

D: I’m a big Harvey fan. A huge fan of him. And when he came over from the Rangers, he sucked. Sucked badly. A big disappointment. But, as the season wore on, he worked his butt off, contributed where he could, minimized his weaknesses and limited the risks he caused the team — and he has pretty good chemistry with Jeff Friesen. So by the end of the season, he went from “please, god, not Harvey” to “well, Harvey didn’t hose us today” to “Harvey didn’t play badly!” — unfortunately, Harvey not playing badly isn’t nearly good enough. He needs to work his butt off on conditioning, and come in next season ready to play, and play wth an edge. He has a chance to make a real contribution as a third liner. My numbers: 10-10-20, but as a +5 or better player. Upgrading his +- that far will be a reach, but he’s more than capable of it.

D 10 Ragnarsson, Marcus 63 3 13 16 13 38 0 0 0 0 60 5.0

A: the first twin tower. If you’re looking at stay-at-home defensemen, there are very few teams with a pairing as good as Ragnarrson and Rathje. Their contributions are rarely in the scorebooks — because you only see them by the blank spots in the opposition’s scorebooks. 15 points and +15 for Rags are awesome. Just keep at it, Marcus.

D 40 Rathje, Mike 66 2 14 16 -2 31 0 0 0 0 46 4.3

B: What I said about Marcus is true also about Rat, but Rat *still* has the opportunity to go from key contributor to impact player. the difference is his physical game. While some of us have been satisfied with his game to date, many of us also felt there was another notch in his game. That last notch showed up in the St. Louis series. Rathje’s goal for next season is simple: play all season with the game he brought to the last ten games of this season and into the playoffs — 15 points is fine, but Rathje should be at least +5, preferably +10, and I don’t want him to become Bryan Marchment, but he needs opposing players worrying about him more than they currently do. In my mind, he’s in the same situation as Friesen: if this is the real Mike Rathje, great — he’s a heck of a player. But I think there’s a little more Rathje in there somewhere that can make him more of a force.

R 21 Granato, Tony 48 6 7 13 2 39 1 0 0 0 67 9.0

C: Greybeard, the ultimate team guy, the classic aging vet. He’ll run through walls for you, but his contribution to the team is fading. His future with the team next year is iffy. His contribution is primarily off the scoreboard.

C 12 Sutter, Ron 78 5 6 11 -3 34 0 1 1 0 68 7.4

B: What I said for Granato goes here, too, only I rate Sutter higher on the depth chart.

R 22 Stern, Ronnie 67 4 5 9 -9 151 0 0 0 0 63 6.3

C-: What I just said, I say again — only Stern is rated below Granato.

L 26 Lowry, Dave 32 1 4 5 1 18 0 0 0 0 25 4.0

A-: And ditto again, except Dave Lowry defines this role, and does it wonderfully. And that beard…. Of these four greybeards, he’s the one who made the biggest, most key contributions, and my first choice for coming back next year.

D 27 Marchment, Bryan 49 0 4 4 3 72 0 0 0 0 51 0.0

B-: Marchment’s an interesting case. With his league around the league (not ndeserved…), the refs clearly decided he was never going to catch a break again, and he was given penalties for trivial stuff. This really hosed up Marchment’s game at times, expecially last season.

But what it also did, I think, was force Marchment to play hockey — if all you’re going to do is hit people, the refs are going to call it. But when you’re playing hockey, and choosing your shots, you can be even more effective. And that is today’s Bryan Marchment — but you better keep your head up.

As our #5 or #6 defenseman, you could do lots worse. And other teams need to keep their heads up. Marchment’s numbers are irrelevant, as long as he stays plus.

D 43 *Hannan, Scott 30 1 2 3 7 10 0 0 0 0 28 3.6

I: A great start — he’s earned a full-time spot next year on my team. Poise is impressive, he shows some offensive potential, and is fairly mature defensively. But it’s too early to give him a grade; he’s merely earned a seat for the test.

D 42 Sutton, Andy 40 1 1 2 -5 80 0 0 0 0 29 3.4

I: Sutton seemed to regress this year; his hockey wasn’t as good, when he got to play. I still think Sutton has potential, but I don’t see Sutton playing for the Sharks next year. Too many players have passed him on the depth chart, and we stil have a bunch of other prospects coming. His inability to be sent back to Kentucky pretty much guarantees he’ll play for a team less stuffed with good defensemen next year, whether by expansion or trade.


Down with Divisions!

(something I found in my archives tonight, originally posted to the Sharks list in April, 2000)

I’ve decided I want to do away with divisions. they’re arbitrary, they set things up so that good teams like Detroit get stuck down in the seeding below teams with much worse season performances — and they really don’t serve a useful purpose, other than allowing teams to hang a meaningless banner up in the rafters (we’re the champion of the western-pacific-northern-california division! yipee!!)

It’ll never happen, but… Here’s my proposal.

Two conferences. West. East. With expansion, 15 teams in each conference.

Here’s shock #2. Every team plays every other team twice a year. you get a home and home with every team in the league. No more only seeing boston on alternate seasons unless it’s a leap year. At the same time, you want to focus on your conference, where the seeding goes.

So here’s my proposal

First, with 30 teams in the league, you play each of the other 29 teams twice, once at home, once on the road. That’s 58 games.

Then, to focus on the playoffs and seeding, you play each of the 14 teams in your conference 2 more times, for a total of 28 games.

this makes the season 86 games long. I hear you gasping already. Yes, the season is already long, and tickets expensive. but… I think it’s worth it. We’re talking about squeezing one extra game into the schedule every 5-6 weeks, not an exceptionally nasty change — and not nearly as bad as the deathmarch they put the players through in the lockout year. No need to stretch the schedule. and with intelligent scheduling of road trips, you can cut some of the current travel disasters (like, oh, San Jose playing Anaheim/Toronto/Washington/Ottawa with two border crossings and two cross-country flights…)

Further, those extra games come at the END of the season. That’s right, the last 26 games of the season are all in conference. the first 60 can get mixed up in any way, but starting about February, you’re playing the guys you plan on knocking out of the playoffs.

Tough schedule? yup. But so is the current one, and it has all sorts of inequities, both for teams and for fans. And the WAY it’s scheduled creates problems. Yes, there’s all sorts of issues involving building availability and the like, but — in 60 games, a western conference team can make three road trips into the East, of, say, 4-5-4 games each, regionalize each trip (one for Atlanta/Florida/Tampa/Carolina, another for Montreal/Toronto/Ottawa/Buffalo, a third for NYR/NRI/Wash/NJ/etc…) and cut out a lot of the silliness. It might take a human instead of a computer to make a sane schedule, but we all have to make sacrifices (and I’m available on a consulting basis. have white board, will eat tums)

End result?

Everyone gets to see everyone.

SEason results mean something: the best teams get the best seedings. Can you imagine in tennis a 3rd seed being told he has to play the #1 guy instead of the #7 guy because it’d make for better television? But with the divisions….

And you build into strong, hard-core playoff runs, because for the last couple of months of the season, that’s all you see.

And with some thought, you can cut some of the travel problems, despite the extra games.

And each team gets two more home game’s revenue…

And you don’t have Detroit seeded under Colorado because of artifacts of geography instead of how they actually played.



Interesting thing on this. Yesterday on HNIC’s After 40 minutes, John Davidson went into a rant about how the league needs to play more rivalry games (using NJ/Rangers and Buffalo/Toronto as examples) because those are games where the excitement and electicity flow, adn get away from games nobody cares about (which, in his mind, includes pretty much everyone in the west coming east).

someone else (I don’t remember his name) noted that the league has done a study and it shows that very few *players* are significant attendance draws — but rivalry games are a strong draw. Makes sense if you think about it. Mario or Gretzky are draws, but how many people still show up JUST to see Teemu Selanne?

Al Strachan (rightly, for once) jumped J.D. for being New York centric and forgetting the rest of the league — but I think J.D. is right in general, but looking at it the wrong way.

Rivalries are good — but once you get away from the no-duh rivalries, it’s not so easy. There are some trivial-to-choose ones, like toronto/montreal, buffalo/toronto, new york and New jersey, or Calgary and edmonton. But when you get away fro the northeast, it’s a lot iffier. What is the natural rivalry for the Canucks? For the Coyotes? For the Stars?

The answer is — it depends. The rivalries change over time, because out here in the west, rivalries tie more to playoff fights than georgraphy. five yeasr ago, San Jose and Detroit was a pretty big rivalry, but over the last few years, that’s migrated to San Jose and Dallas. San Jose has a decent rivarly right LA, but the rivalry with the Ducks is pretty dead — but San jose and Phoenix? they don’t like each other. San jose and Colorado, also, because of the players moving between the teams (look at the Nolan hit on Foote this week).

Another thing J.D. missed badly — when you work with an Original 6, and spend your time mostly in the Northeast, you tend to forget that it isn’t the only part of the hockey world. It one thing to say “the rangers fans don’t care if Anaheim comes to MSG” — it’s a much different thing to explain to fans in San Jose why toronto isn’t visiting (again), or why we won’t see Boston for two years. His idea makes sense for New York (maybe), if you ignore that over time rivalries change (will he still want to play NJ 10 times when the devils fade to 10 games under .500? doubt it…). It makes no sense in most places in hockey — where having the original six teams visit is a big thing for a big part of the fans, and a significant draw. Don’t believe me? Just come to San Jose arena any time toronto or Boston comes to town. Better yet, come to San jose to explain to them in person why we don’t really need to see them.

I’m all for an unbalanced, conference-heavy schedule. But I still think it’s crucial that the league understand how important it is for these teams to visit. It’s that “we’re in new york, and it doesn’t matter to us” mentality that gave us the current schedule — which disenfranchises the western fans from key teams in the east, and which really shows that they don’t understand how important those aspects are to us out on the west coast.


April fools, 1992. Back at’cha

In 1992, one of the april fools forged postings was a posting forged in my name, bitching about the recurring april fools postings I forged in Spaf’s name.

I never found out who did this, but I’m surprised it took this long for someone to turn around the forgeries back at me. I know it wasn’t spaf. he’d never do something like this. Nope. Not him. Never.

but it was about this point that the spaf forgeries were retired. Purely coincidental…

From boulder!agate!!gatech!mcnc!duke!wolves!apple!
Mon Mar 30 14:02:43 MST 1992
Article: 13 of news.announce.important
Path: boulder!agate!!gatech!mcnc!duke!wolves!apple!
From: (Chuq Von Rospach, mostly-retired net.deity)
Newsgroups: news.announce.important
Subject: The Spafford forgery
Message-ID: <0-812-53167-1@ISBN.Apple.COM>
Date: 27 Mar 92 01:10:45 GMT
Expires: Fri, 10 Apr 1992 08:27:02 GMT
Organization: Aaab bcc cc Ddeeeee’e eeeeeff, ghh hi Iiikkll’l llmm-
nnnnnooo oooopp, rr rrssss sss tttttt tt tuuu veex.
Lines: 37

This is an unauthorized announcement, posted in the public interest by
Chuq Von Rospach’s network-interface AI software.

On April 1st, 1989, an article was posted to USENET over the “signature” of
Eugene Spafford at Purdue University. “Spafford” purported to warn everyone
that April Fools Day is a popular time for people to post forged USENET
articles. “Spafford” mentioned several of the more famous (or infamous)
forgeries, and described ways in which a forged article could be told from
a real one.

The article by “Spafford” was, of course, a forgery, and bore all of the
telltale signs of being one. Spaf himself didn’t know anything about the
article until after it was posted.

On April 1st, 1990, some person or persons other than the original forger
dug out copies of the forged forgery-warning, changed the date and message
ID slightly, and reposted it. The same thing happened in 1991. As a result,
the 1991 article was a duplicated clone of a forged forgery-warning.

Enough is enough. It’s not funny any more. The joke was witty the first
time, half-witted the second, and drizzle-witted the third. We don’t need
to see it again this year.

If you have a copy of the Spafford forgery, and were thinking of re-posting
it sometime in the next couple of weeks: please don’t. It’s been done
and the joke is old.

If somebody does post it, ignore it. Don’t bother writing spaf to tell him
that he’s been forged. He knows. Don’t bother writing Chuq, either… he
has retired from the net to pursue other goals, and I read all of his
mail for him.

Chuq “IMHO” Von Rospach, Enterprise Products Support | GEnie:CHUQ & MAC.BIGOT | ALink:CHUQ
Book Reviewer, Amazing Stories =+= Member, SFWA
Editor, OtherRealms =+= #include <standard/disclaimer.h>

April Fools, 1989 (not mine)

This isn’t mine. but one of the first classic usenet april fools hacks was a posting from Russia (with love). So it’s not surprising that when the USSR collapsed, we’d hear about it on the net…

From apple!vsi1!ubvax!kremvax!gorby Sun Apr 2 22:28:29 PDT 1989
Status: R

Article 3007 of news.misc:
Path: apple!vsi1!ubvax!kremvax!gorby
>From: gorby@kremvax.mosc.cccp (Mikhail Gorbachev)
Newsgroups: news.misc,talk.politics.misc,talk.politics.soviet
Subject: Beyond Perestroika
Message-ID: <3982@kremvax.mosc.cccp>
Date: 1 Apr 89 01:18:05 GMT
Reply-To: gorby@kremvax.mosc.cccp (Mikhail Gorbachev)
Organization: Soyuz Sovietskaya Socialistika Respublik
Lines: 51
Xref: apple news.misc:3007 talk.politics.misc:37179 talk.politics.soviet:1475

This is a difficult message for me to send to the peoples of the
world, but recent events in the Soviet People’s Republics and elsewhere
have made it something that can no longer be avoided.

For some time it has been apparent that Socialism is a dismal
failure. I am convinced that the fundamental internal contradiction of
Socialism lies in Marx’s famous dictum “From each according to his
abilities, to each according to his need.” So simple. So humane

And so fundamentally evil.

Let me explain.

What this dictum accomplishes is to turn all standards of human
worth and dignity upside down. Ability, competence, diligence, skill,
intelligence: All of these are made into liabilities for their
possessor. After all, greater skill does not increase one’s need for
food or housing, does it? Of course not. But since the standard is
“From each according to his ability”, more is demanded of such a
person. More productivity, more work — but no incentive, no
compensation for it.

Worse, the other side of this tarnished coin, “To each according to
his need” makes need — real or feigned — into an asset. The
combination of the two has proved deadly. Such a system penalizes
skill and intelligence, and rewards fecklessness and incompetence.

And we have thus, in the 72 years since The Revolution, reaped the
bitter weed that must inevitably spring from the bad seed of Marx’s
flawed thought. What was supposed to be a classless society is instead
a system of class privilege even more exploitive of the working people
than the regime of the Czars.

Accordingly, in the wake of The People’s Counterrevolution of this
past week, I have taken the following steps:

The Soviet State shall divest itself of all properties held by
collective farms. The land will be sold at auction to the residents.
Members of the Communist Party will not be eligible to bid.

The Soviet State shall divest itself of all factories and other
means of production. These shall also be sold at auction, and again,
Party members are not eligible to participate.

All forces of the Soviet Union will be withdrawn from areas outside
of Russia. The Warsaw Pact countries are encouraged to follow our
example, but whether they do or not is entirely their own decision.

Secretary General of the Soviet Union
Mikhail Gorbachev

The Canonical April Fool USENET posting

This is the classic April Fools forged posting — the classic forged posting warning folks to be wary of forged posting. I started posting this to usenet in the early 80′s, and repeated it every year until Gene Spafford threatened to kill me if I didn’t stop, because it was (of course) forged in his name, and he got all of the mail from people who didn’t Get It (or worse, did, and wanted to know if he knew it was being forged in his name…)

My favorite April Fools piece, by far…

Path: amdahl!walldrug!moscvax!perdue!spaf
From: spaf@cs.purdue.EDU (Gene Spafford)
Newsgroups: news.announce.important,news.admin
Followup-To: news.admin
Subject: Warning: April Fools Time again (forged messages on the loose!)
Message-ID: <>
Date: 1 Apr 89 00:00:00 GMT
Expires: 1 May 89 00:00:00 GMT
Organization: Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue Univ.
Lines: 27
Approved: spaf@cs.purdue.EDU

Warning: April 1 is rapidly approaching, and with it comes a USENET
tradition. On April Fools day comes a series of forged, tongue-in-cheek
messages, either from non-existent sites or using the name of a Well Known
USENET person. In general, these messages are harmless and meant as a joke,
and people who respond to these messages without thinking, either by flaming
or otherwise responding, generally end up looking rather silly when the
forgery is exposed.

So, for the few weeks, if you see a message that seems completely out
of line or is otherwise unusual, think twice before posting a followup
or responding to it; it’s very likely a forgery.

There are a few ways of checking to see if a message is a forgery. These
aren’t foolproof, but since most forgery posters want people to figure it
out, they will allow you to track down the vast majority of forgeries:

o Russian computers. For historic reasons most forged messages have
as part of their Path: a non-existent (we think!) russian
computer, either kremvax or moscvax. Other possibilities are
nsacyber or wobegon. Please note, however, that walldrug is a real
site and isn’t a forgery.

o Posted dates. Almost invariably, the date of the posting is forged
to be April 1.

o Funky Message-ID. Subtle hints are often lodged into the
Message-Id, as that field is more or less an unparsed text string
and can contain random information. Common values include pi,
the phone number of the red phone in the white house, and the
name of the forger’s parrot.

o subtle mispellings. Look for subtle misspellings of the host names
in the Path: field when a message is forged in the name of a Big
Name USENET person. This is done so that the person being forged
actually gets a chance to see the message and wonder when he
actually posted it.

Forged messages, of course, are not to be condoned. But they happen, and
it’s important for people on the net not to over-react. They happen at this
time every year, and the forger generally gets their kick from watching the
novice users take the posting seriously and try to flame their tails off. If
we can keep a level head and not react to these postings, they’ll taper off
rather quickly and we can return to the normal state of affairs: chaos.

Thanks for your support.

Gene Spafford, Spokeman, The Backbone Cabal.