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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: April 2006
In 1994-95 more than 40% of the season was lost to a labor dispute. The fans reacted in 1995-96 by setting a new attendance record. In 2005-06 history repeated itself. An entire season of games was lost and fans reacted by setting a new attendance record. This leads one to ask, does taking hockey away from NHL fans make these fans happier?Not being much of a hockey fan, I do not know.
well, as a hockey fan that lived through both lockouts, let me attempt to answer.
The answer is, I think, pretty simple: if the fans are convinced that the problems that led to the strike are solved, they’ll put the stoppage behind them and come back to the game. They have to feel that there’s been a solution, not just a stoppage. That’s been the problem with baseball’s occasional slow return to attendance numbers: fans generally seemed to believe (and not without justification) that the enxt time the contract was up, they’d have another strike.
After the first stoppage, most fans (and hockey people) felt they’d dealt with the issues; it turned out, that CBA had flaws. This latest stoppage, I think the fans were more or less willing to put up with it because the ownership group seemed determined to fix the problems AND build a better working relationship with the players; if they’d simply outwaited the players and gone off to business as usual, I think it would have been much different.
It didn’t hurt that there were hockey franchises going through bankruptcy, and other franchises up for sale with no takers. It made it a lot easier for the owners to justify the need for drastic behavior. Most fans, I think, realized hockey was seriously screwed up and at risk of failing as a league. That changes your attitude…
We have now written a book that is bound to be read by perhaps dozens and dozens of people. In this book we argue that the story the media tells about labor disputes is not true.
excuse me, but, well, duh. Good news does not sell newspapers. Never has. It serves the newspaper’s purpose to be as negative as possible and emphasize the problems. And sports columnists have a long history of having (and caring about) only a faint aquaintenceship with the facts, because they get in the way of the rabblerousing.
If labor and management in professional sports believe that strikes and lockouts do not threaten future attendance, will these events occur with even more frequency?
No, because they’re still expensive and economically disrupting events, perhaps even more disrupting to sponsorships and non-attendance revenue than gate receipts.
And besides, nobody wants to be the first league to be involved in a stoppage when that changes. Remember when building a new arena or stadium “guaranteed” big revenues? And then Oakland rebuilt the colliseum for the Warriors, and then there was New Comiskey, and…. It’d be a bad idea to assume there won’t be bad side effects to a stoppage, because that’s the kind of arrogance that might well cause them to happen.
- “You know the type of game you’re going to get – we talked about it – it’s Marc Joannette and Warren, who I’ve had my issues with over the years.
And Darren Pang, today on XM, basically agreed with him. And to a degree, so do I. Joannette’s one of the guys that I’d originally put on my “least favorite” list and pulled because I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it from memory with my lack of detailed notes on him. But now that others are saying it too, I feel better about saying “me, too”.
where McTavish loses me, though, is that this is the refs fault. There are good refs and bad ones, and many in the middle. And all along the history of the game, different refs have brought a style and/or personality to games they called: nobody in their right mind would expect a game by Fraser to be called the same way Paul Stewart used to. One reason I really like Walkom as the new head of officiating is that the type of game he called — strong control, quiet personality, stable and consistent — is the type of game the NHL has to be getting everyone to stretch for.
It’s McTavish’s job, and the players responsibilty, to understand how the referees are going to impact the game, and adjust their game strategy accordingly. The good teams do this as a matter of course, and yes, I am saying they scout referees the way they do the opposition. And in reality, McTavish knew what his team was looking at, prepped his team for it, and they didn’t do what he told them to do.
Coming out on the refs in public is really just a way to try to swing a call your way in a later game. it’s politics. and it might well work. I got no problem there, by the way…
Here is, for what it’s worth, part of an email I sent last night about the officiating this year. It sums up my feelings pretty well:
I’m loving the officiating now. Rob Shick and Pollock had a really tough game tonight in San Jose, and he and his partner did a great job in my mind. Sillinger was ready to pop most of the night, and they kept the game from going sideways all evening. It wasn’t an easy night. If you check the tape, early in the first, you’ll see that there’s a sequence and after the whistle, the Preds start yapping at Pollock and giving him grief, and it was clear from our seats that Pollock got a bit stressed, but kept his cool — and Shick noticed it, and held up the faceoff and went over and talked to him for a short bit and got him calmed down and focussed again. A real quiet but veteran move, and it really impressed me. He was talking to everyone tonight (both were, actually), and working to keep tempers down, and the couple of times I thought the game was going to spin nasty, he cut it short with a good but timely penalty. And Sillinger more than deserved the 10 at the end…
So for what it’s worth — I’m really loving the new standards. The more I hear the dinosaurs whine about them (of course Derian Hatcher hates it; he can’t skate, he can’t keep up, he’s obsolete in the new NHL. and that’s great), the more I like seeing the league’s stance. Keep at it. Who would you rather see decide a game? Paul Kariya or Derian Hatcher, anyway? To me, the answer’s simple…
and yeah, I know Sillinger bitched at the press about the roughing call after the hit by McClaren — but it was correct, because it wasn’t a “shove back”, it was a punch to the face. If he’d shoved back, no call. But the tempers were escalating, the hit was legal (not late, but close….), and the response was an angry escalation. And Schick sat them for two, and kept the tempers from escalating any further. It was a key point of the game where it could have spun into chaos (or worse, a Flyers game) — and Schick caught just the right moments to get involved a LITTLE, to prevent it. that’s the kind of reffing I really like — where the refs stay out of it TO A POINT — but catch it before their job becomes aiming firehoses on the cinders and calling the next of kin.
In some way, you can best tell the good refs from the bad refs by how often games they ref spin out into rugby games. The better refs let them play, but not let them take over. The bad refs either clamp down too soon and piss players off, or don’t clamp down soon enough, and spend the rest of the night getting dirty looks from the linesmen, who, of course, are paid to clean up the messes…
With Crawford’s track record in Vancouver and Colorado, I’m not sure he’ll be waiting long to find a new job. But what I couldn’t help but wonder was how different things might look had Todd Bertuzzi not gone after Steve Moore in March 2004. Something tells me that playoff would have looked a lot different with him in the Vancouver lineup.
This is very true, but… who’s ultimately responsible when it comes to defining what is and isn’t acceptable player behavior on a team?
The coach. Marc Crawford may (or may not have) encourage Bertuzzi to go after Moore; Marc Crawford did, however, clearly coach a team where that kind of action (and it’s justification under The Code) was not only acceptable, but expected.
So don’t cry many tears for Crawford over this; his team did what he demanded of them; in this case, it turned out badly.
I keep thinking about Crawford and Bertuzzi, and the environment of, well, goonism that Crawford and coaches like him create (like him, off the top of my head: Cherry, Quinn, Keenan, Sutter to some degree). And then I look at New Jersey and Lamoriello, and Scott Stevens (and a whole bunch more guys, too). How would Scott Stevens have handled returning the favor to Moore? Do you honestly believe Bertuzzi would have been encouraged to do it in the way that led to Moore’s injury?
Which is not to say Steven’s didn’t cause injuries. Ask Eric Lindros. But — what we’re talking here is fair battle vs. goonery. Some teams and coaches demand their players live up to the ideals of the game (without compromise); other coaches crawl behind The Code, and use it as an excuse for their “just win, baby” mentality, and then whine when it goes too far and people call them for what they are: honorless goons with no respect for the game and their fellow players.
because if they did — they wouldn’t do that. The Code is, ultimately, a rationalization of the “win at any cost” manifesto, of street thuggery instead of athleticism. And teams that live by The Code will also die by it — usually whining to the press afterward.
And how much The Code lives in the mindset of a team is defined by, and only by, the coach.
So don’t shed a tear for Crawford here. He demanded a certain mindset out of his team in name of victory. It’s that mindset that convinced Bertuzzi what he did was acceptable behavior. With or without explicit words about Moore, Crawford created the environment that allowed and encouraged Bertuzzi to act.
And I dare you to tell me that if the team was the Devils that the same thing would have happened. Because we all know that on that team it would have been handled, but very differently, and with class.
I’ve been watching our internal leadership conference and spending quite a
bit of time talking in the virtual hallways, and I’ve been surprised at
the intensity of feeling about Mr. McNealy. Yes, there are those
here saying “About bloody time, now we can make some progress” but there’s a
much bigger group that is genuinely emotional about this transition.
Maybe it’s a function of seniority: I never met nor corresponded with Scott, and
he hasn’t been
much of a presence in the company’s conversation in the time I’ve been here.
But there are a lot of smart, seasoned, unsentimental people making it clear
he’s been a major force in their lives, at a more personal level than I’m
used to hearing when people speak about executives.
I’ve been watching the increasing irrelevance of Sun for some time now with some sadness. It seemed to me it was Scott’s time some time ago, and I have to admit I wonder if this move is too late, or if we get to watch Sun follow down the tracks of SGI and Pyramid and Fortune.
Before I went to Mama Apple, I worked at Sun. I was employee 1285. I still proudly display the lucite block they issued the day Sun went public, and it was four very interesting, challenging years. I worked early on on NFS and Yellow Pages (except in the UK), spanning the time from the early Sun-3′s to the first (literally) Sun-4 (my last project was helping push the 4/260′s out the door). I was also the person who forged Scott e-mailing the tstech mailing list asking to be subscribed one year (it’s probably safe to admit that now), but the real fun was when someone else didn’t catch the joke and actually did it… I’ve met Scott a few times, but I wouldn’t bet he’d recognize my name, much less notice me in a (small) crowd.
And when Apple was struggling, going back to Sun was one of the exit strategies I seriously considered.
I’ve got to hand it to Scott, though. Look around Silicon valley. Look around high tech. Count the number of CEOs who successfully steered a company from pre-IPO to the size Sun got to. It just doesn’t happen; guys who are good at managing startups generally don’t transition well to mid-sized companies, much less big ones. He did — and Sun thrived.
I think McNealy made a fatal mistake a few years ago, and today, he’s paying for it. It’s the same mistake Michael Spindler made, one that almost killed Apple.
Both men decided the enemy was Microsoft, and declared the competition was to be a war to the death. If you think about it, there are very few companies that have gone up against that company and thrived. In Spindler’s case, he fought the war on price, dropping the price (and quality) of the macintosh (how many of us remember the Performa line fondly?), only to find out that Mac users weren’t really price sensitive, and, well, neither were Windows users. They still bought Windows, only now we made a lot less per CPU than we used to. By also turning the fight over the OS into an “us or them” fight, he did a great job convincing folks that Apple wouldn’t be viable unless they improved their market share and caught up with Windows — we all know how that particular view on Apple’s market share has helped Apple.
McNealy decided to fight Microsoft in the courts, primarily. If there were victories there, they were pyrrhic. And while he was off fighting the Great Satan Microsoft, he didn’t notice that the real “enemy” had overrun his loyal followers and converted them: Linux and LAMP. Sun was way too late to the game here, and instead of embracing and adopting, they continued to push Solaris in exclusion to Linux. Linux moved onto lower-priced hardware, and as it became accepted and that hardware started competing with Sun. Instead of a workstation running Solaris, more and more users were buying Dell (or Compaq, or GAteway, or IBM, or….) and running Linux. That was the real challenge Sun had to fight, and it was very late to the game. IMHO, if they’d adopted in Linux early on, many of those boxes running an Intel chip would have been Sun boxes running Linux on a Sparc instead.
It was as if the King had taken the army off to fight a battle, only to return to find the kingdom converted to a new religion that doesn’t recognize the King as their leader any more. A technological shift and a bloodless coup — but that’s small solace to the King. And so Sun is increasingly squeezed into the upper reaches of the “so freaking big it hurts” machine business, which is a nicer business to be in than trying to sell Performa’s to Windows owners, but isn’t the kind of business to sustain Sun at it’s old financial and employment levels.
The other problem I see with Sun is they could never quite figure out what to do with Java — and still haven’t. It’s as if McNealy didn’t have the courage to truly open it up and build a business around it (as MySQL so successfully has, or Red Hat); at the same time, they knew they couldn’t charge for it if they had any hope of it being adopted widely — so they seemed to try a middle course that did both, but neither well. And so Java’s done pretty well, but not nearly as good as it might have — and it’s helped Sun somewhat financially, but it really isn’t an answer to the loss of the hardware business.
Can Sun be fixed? Perhaps. I’d like to see Java spun off into its own company, and treated like MySQL. Build the business around the language, not on it. Open it to the community fully, and rally the community on it. Hardware? They’ve lost a lot of momentum to Linux in the lower end of the market; probably tough to pull that back. But have strengths in the Enterprise software — but they need to continue investing in it, and move it forward. I don’t think they have as much as they can.
And this is a tough one, but I think it has to be done: instead of opening up Solaris (too little, too late), move it into an End of Life position, work to the core strengths of the company today (enterprise class hardware and enterprise software solutions) and support their existing customer base while they move their hardawre and applications to Linux. I simply don’t like the financial realities of supporting two OS’s here, and Sun’s actually better off (I think) contributing back to Linux than trying to continue to push Solaris forward. They can turn this into a win-win. Maybe.
My final thought on McNealy: he made a mistake or two, his focus on Microsoft being a doozy that really hurt the company in the long-term.
But look at the string of successes — he’s done so well, for so long, that we should al buy him a new hockey stick and thank him for what he’s done. His legacy shouldn’t be that ultimately he made a mistake, but that he avoided it for as long as he did. (and I really AM sorry he got signed up for tstech, that wasn’t what I expected to happen. Honest. it’s not quite installing a golf course in his office, but… )
How do the sharks look after two games?
They split in Nashville, which implicitly gives them home-ice advantage for now, unless Nashville splits in San Jose.
I was, overall, happy with the Sharks play in both games; Nashville really took it to them early and the Sharks were a step slow and taking bad penalties, but by the end of game 1, they were back in it and Nashville’s penalty problems had started. In game 2, that momentum continues, with the Preds struggling to keep up with the Sharks. Right now, it’s the Sharks series to lose — but if Nashville can adjust their tactics appropriately, they can make it interesting. I’m just not convinced they can right now.
The big adjustment the Sharks made was on the power play; game 1, cross-crease passes were consistently not getting through. Game 2, back it up a few feet, use the point more, and Nashville wasn’t getting in the way nearly as much. The Sharks were also more committed to north-south skating with the puck and transitioning into the zone with more authority, and Nashville seemed a step slow in dealing with it. Confidence and speed and some grit, a nasty combination to defend.
It’s not Mason, either. He more or less singlehandedly kept game 2 from being a total laugher. My three stars for the game were Toskala, Mason, and Marleau. He deserved some credit for not letting the team be blown out of the building.
So, what does Nashville need to do? Keep Kariya flying; keep people in passing lanes on the penalty kill, figure out how to manage BOTH thornton and marleau (they seem to be able to defend one, but not both). They need to react faster, be less passive on defense, but they can’t be too aggressive or the sharks passing seems able to eat them apart. Mason has to stand on his head, and his defense has to get better. They have to stop taking penalties. period. easier said than done.
A big thing for the Sharks is the third line, centered by Mark Smith. The Preds seem to have trouble dealing with the bangers and grinding cycle after defending thornton and marleau, and so Smith gets them skating around and a bit crazy. If the smith line keeps scoring, Nashville’s done.
It’s going to be a fun couple of games in san jose — but Nashville’s got a tough road to stay in this series.
I’m going to be tracking which refs are in the playoffs and how far they go, as well as my evaluation of their jobs in games where I see enough of the action to fairly judge…
Prediction for game 7 Calgary/Anaheim: Kerry Fraser will be one of the refs. I’d personally recommend Don Van Massenhoven to work with him; I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Dennis LaRue or Dan Mariouelli. (answer: it’s Van Massenhoven and Brad Watson. Another good choice, but — Kerry Fraser only three games in the first round? That’s very unusual)
Prediction for Round 2:
These refs will make the 2nd round (around 10 total):
These refs will not make the 2nd round:
Here are the referees in the first round and how many games they’ve reffed. All refs stayed in pairs until the first two series finished, then the pairings shifted around for the last three 1 round games played (with one to go). If I rated a pair in a game, my ratings for them are listed.
Devorski (5) [A-]
Pollock (5) [A A- B+]
Shick (5) [A F]
Watson (5) [B]
Jackson (4) [B]
Joannette (4) [C+ D]
Koharski (4) [A A- F]
LaRue (4) [B+ B+]
Leggo (4) [B+]
Mariouelli (4) [B+ B+]
McCreary (4) [A- A- B+]
McGeough (4) [B+]
Meier (4) [A-]
Van Massenhoven (4) [A- A-]
O’Halloran (4) [B C]
Warren (4) [C+ D]
Hasenfratz (3) [B C}
Kimmerly (3) [A A-]
Peel (3) [A-]
Sutherland (3) [A- A-]
Full-time referees that didn’t make the first round:
Angus, Blaine (1991)
Auger, Stephane (1994)
Heyer, Shane (1988 *)
Kowal, Tom (1998)
Lee, Chris (1996)
Martell, Rob (1992)
McCauley, Wes (2001)
O’Rourke, Dan (1999)
Rooney, Chris (1996)
Spada, Craig (2001)
Walsh, Ian (1996)
(the NHL moved to a two-ref system in 2000-2001; Heyer was a linesman prior to that time).
Referees in the first round with less seniority (1998 or younger):
(so, if I’m Blane Angus, Shane Heyer, Tom Kowal, Rob Martell, Chris Rooney or Ian Walsh, I should have some idea that my boss isn’t happy with my performance; or maybe they’re injured, I don’t have access to that.
Heyer is well-known in San Jose, and we wish he’d go back to being a linesman. Laurie reminds me that Chris Rooney was the ref that gave Joe Thornton the bogus 5 minute major three minutes into his first game back in Boston after the trade.)
The pairs (number of games reffed):
van massenhoven/peel (3)
Van Massenhoven/Watson (1)
(it’s unfortunate, but while Koharski and shick called a good game for game six ana/cal, Koharski missed the call badly on Selanne’s 1st goal, which was good and there’s no way to justify how it was called. Since that was such a significant call in such a significant game, they get flunked for that game. Fortunately — anaheim winning anyway reduces the impact of that call, but we can’t for a second ignore just how critical that call was, and how badly it was flubbed. On the other hand, both teams were exceptionally grumpy (surprise! (duh), and they did a good job of limiting the damage. could have been a lot nastier game than it was.
van massenhoven/peel (A-)
Van Massenhoven/Watson (A-)
NY Rangers/New Jersey
Not exactly a “top 10″, because there are some refs I simply haven’t watched enough to judge properly, but here are a quick list of referees I most want to see in the playoffs this year, and a second list of referees I think are on the bottom of my “most wanted” list.
(and a quick note: given that it takes a ref a couple of years to really get their game legs, anyone on my bottom list with < 100 games in the league is considered on probation. anyone with > 200 games? it’s probably time to rethink your career)
My top refs:
Don Van Massenhoven: With Steve Walkom retired, I think the best ref in the league. Handles a game well, calls it without screwing up the flow of the game more than necessary, works well with the players, doesn’t get intimidated or frustrated. He is in many ways a model for the “new” NHL ref: his personality doesn’t leak into the game much, he’s not intimidated by players or coaches, he keeps a fairly level head and doesn’t let his temper affect the game, but he takes little crap and he’s not afraid to make a gut call at a key time, and he gives the players the leeway to play the game, but if you watch games he refs, they devolve into chaos or fightfests a lot less than other refs.
Kerry Fraser: Best positioning among the refs, always in a good position to see the play. Fraser has two negatives: first, he’s got a distinctive personality, the strongest personality on the reffing circuit now that Paul Stewart’s retired, and he does make mistakes (all refs do, of course. *gasp*) — but when Kerry makes a mistake, it tends to be a huge blooper; mistakes that get remembered. The thing I find amusing is if you listen to the fans on TV, or travel around the arenas, Fraser is just as strongly disliked in every arena in the league, and the fans will tell you he’s “got it in” for their team. To me, that’s actually an indication he’s doing something right… There isn’t another ref I’d rather have in a game 7.
Rob Shick: San Jose gets ol’ “Shickhead” at San Jose a lot, because he’s based out in California (Rancho Murieta). This year, he broke his foot and was out for a while, and we got to see Shick in all his “I’ve been on the golf course for weeks” racoon-tan glory when he came back; he nearly glowed in the dark. I may be the only fan in San Jose arena that doesn’t mind seeing Schick show up; I remember (sigh, I’m getting old) when he was a young and struggling baby ref, back in the Cow Palace days. Today, he’s a good, solid veteran ref that’s capable and consistent.
Don Koharski: are you surprised to see veteran refs at the top of the list? You shouldn’t. You might be surprised to see Koharski on the list, though. But you shouldn’t. He’s had his struggles and some visible problems (no donut jokes, please) — but he’s put those behind him, except in the minds of fans who never forgive, much less forget. Like Schick he’s a solid and stable veteran who knows the game and tries to keep it rolling, but not let it fall off the cliff.
Kelly Sutherland: best skater among the refs; Laurie swears he’s got a figure skating background. Better skater than many NHLers, and a pretty good ref as well. The best of the younger refs with < 300 games (first NHL game 2000). When I went through the games I remembered as well-reffed this last season, Sutherland's name was the one that showed up most often other than the four veterans above.
Wes McAuley: one of the new generation of refs, ex Michigan hockey, played in the minors and italy, then recruited into reffing. Very young (< 50 games in the NHL), but the kind of ref the NHL is recruiting these days, and shows some real potential. We'll have to see how he matures.
My “not so favorite” refs:
Shane Heyer: is by far the ref we most want to NOT see in san jose, which is a problem, since he’s based in Vancouver and does the west coast a lot. One of the two refs who promoted from linesman when the NHL went to the two ref system (the other was Jay Scharrers, who went back to being a linesman), Shane was a pretty good linesman, and as a ref, generally out of his league. He shows both a tendency to be out of position (causing either a non-call, or a bad call based on seeing the end of the action, not the actual infraction, so he calls a lot of dives as penalties, and also a lot of trips where a player fell down. He should probably go back to being a linesman. Also has problems calling games consistently (the holy trinity of bad reffing: falling for dives, missing the play, and calling it inconsistently!)
Mike Hasenfratz: two really young refs, so they still have some ability to come up to speed, but they epitomize the problems refs have trying to ref in the NHL: the fall for dives, they’re inconsistent, they get out of position (or interrupt play by getting in the way), and just generally looking like they’re struggling to keep up with and manage the game. Now, it should be said: the same was true of both Rob Shick and Steve Walkom when they were baby refs (and Walkom might remember that one of his first NHL games ever reffed was in San Jose, and it was very memorable, if not good — San Jose fans carried a grudge (and signs offering free eye exams) for a couple of years after that — yet Walkom turned into one of the best refs in the league… The two-ref system is designed, in part, to help younger refs handle the NHL speed and intensity, but even so, the first 50 games by ANY ref are going to be an adventure…)
Mick McGeough: The good news is that when Mick McGeough keeps his temper under control, he’s a really good, veteran ref. The bad news is: when is the last time you saw a game he reffed when he didn’t lose his temper? And when McGeough gets mad, he gets flakey. I won’t go so far as to say he takes it out on the team that pissed him off — more than he loses his ability to be patient and let the play and intensity develop, and once he’s started that red flush on the neck and the stiff back, teams are best advised to just keep their yaps shut and play hockey. Not that they do. It’s a weird situation: when he gets angry, he doesn’t get vindictive, he merely gets — twitchy — makes snap calls, bad calls, too many calls. And both teams face his wrath. And there are certain players that seem to have permanently hit his “not on my christmas card” list; Laurie and I used to have an over/under on when Bryan Marchment would get his first penalty — now, the joke is that during TV time outs, McGeough skates over the the bench, grabs the phone, and wherever Calgary is playing, Marchment suddenly takes a two minute roughing call. It was our feeling that if McGeough could start the game with Marchment in the box, it might save everyone time and energy….
Paul Devorski: When I went through my list of games I went to and saw this year, and double-checked the ones I remembered as badly reffed — Devorski was the veteran ref most often involved. On the other hand, unlike someone like Mick McGeough, there isn’t a single tendency or problem that stands out to me; it’s just that games he refs just aren’t handled all that well. I guess if you really want to make me miserable, just pair up Devorski and Heyer (or Hasenfrazt) and send them to San Jose for a key series…
And my nominee for worst-reffed game of the year: April 13, 2006, Vancouver @ San Jose, where the calls were random and brutal (and before you look, the sharks won, and the brutality was random, not aimed at either team). Our winners of this year’s “tripped on the blue line” award: Paul Devorski and Marc Joannette.
(maybe next year I’ll feel up to more detailed critique’s of refs like I did years ago; we’ll see. I kinda miss it, but to do it right takes a lot of work. )
yup. time to prove myself an idiot in front of friends and family (and you)
My choice to come out of the Western Conference: San Jose
My choice to come out of the Eastern Conference: New Jersey
Stanley Cup Winner: San Jose
West: Detroit, Calgary
East: Ottawa, NY Rangers)
Detroit/Edmonton: Detroit in 5. Edmonton just doesn’t have the firepower.
Dallas/Colorado: Dallas in 6. I don’t think Colorado stacks up well here; I like Dallas, just not deep into the playoffs this year (if they meet the Sharks, the sharks match up very well against them)
Calgary/Anaheim: Calgary in 6. The series to watch in the first round out west. It’l be interesting to see what’s left of the winner and whether they have anything left for the rest of the playoffs. Low scoring, very physical and the teams don’t like each other.
Nashville/San Jose: San Jose in 6. Lots of folks wanted to go for the seeding with Nashville when Vokoun went down. Not me. Chris Mason isn’t a great goaltender, but he’s good enough to go on a “mission from God” for a series or two. I’m worried this could be an upset by the Predators, but I can’t see Mason taking them a round or two on sheer guts. It won’t be easy, but I think the Sharks can overpower them. (then again, maybe the balloon will pop and the Preds will go out in four. I just don’t think so)
Ottawa/Tampa Bay: Ottawa in 4. Tampa just doesn’t impress me. Does Ottawa need Hasek back to go deep, though?
Carolina/Montreal: Carolina in 5. Sorry, habs fans.
New Jersey/NY Rangers: series to watch in the east in the first round. New Jersey should win; the Rangers won’t go quietly. Could get brutal.
Buffalo/Philadelphia: Buffalo in 6. I’ve been burned too often by Philly in the playoffs to pick them in a series. they always seem to find a way to lose. This year, it’s forsberg’s groin and rathje’s hip, and, oh, pick a goalie that wants to be the starter…
Quick update on my and my current argument with my body…
The fever is gone and the lungs are finally clear, so it looks like we nailed the pneumonia. it’s now clear I was walking around with it for about 6 weeks before the cold made me notice it. The cough is moderating, and I’m almost sleeping through the night. Almost — I’m still really, really tired but the energy levels are recovering. I’m not coming home and feeling like a zombie, so the writing is starting up again. that’s good.
of course, I coughed so much I pulled a muscle in my back, which isn’t fun but is minor — and every muscle assigned to coughing is stiff and sore, so every time I cough the pain ripples a bit. But we’re working on that, too, and in another day or so, it should go away…
I must say, pneumonia sucks. Not because it makes you feel rotten, but because it tends to suck everything out fo you and make you feel — pretty much nothing. The antibiotics helped a lot, on day 3, I got a lot of energy back, and then lost it all again as the body went into full regeneration mode, with me ending up even more tired than before I started treatment. A couple of days ago, I finally started feeling like myself again.
And even feeling like posting here…
As kind of a follow up on the Sonics to San Jose thread….
First, a nice piece summarizing the current state of disorder up in Seattle, courtesy of the Seattle Metroblog. What it doesn’t get into is the economics of the PREVIOUS refurbishment of Key Arena, and how much of that isn’t yet paid off.
(I”m curious, though… there are San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver metroblogs, but nothing for San Jose? shame. What, we’re too suburban for you? grin)
Our background in all of this. Laurie and I have been interested in sports business and finance for years; Laurie’s MBA thesis was a financial analysis of San Jose Muni and whether it made sense to upgrade it LAST time the city had to deal with that question (in 1993, back when Hammer was mayor); it helped the Giants convince the city to spend money on the stadium and keep the baby giants in town (and away from Chico). We were season ticket holders with the Baby Giants for years, until 70 summer nights a year became incompatible with the rest of our life (like work; the last season, I was the guy in the box seat with the laptop trying not to get beaned while finishing up reports). We’ve been season ticket holders with the Sharks since day 1, including lots of long, boring drives to the Cow Palace to watch bad hockey because, well, it was better than no hockey.
Later on, we lived the dream for a year, signing up as the web geeks for the San Francisco Spiders of the IHL the year they came, they played, and they went out in a blaze of, well, ennui. But we actually did get to be part of a pro (well, in theory) sports franchise for a bit and see life from the inside, and it was just as strange and funky as we expected — while we got to spend a year driving up to the Cow Palace to watch IHL hockey, but we also got to sit down with the management team and talk the business side of sports as well, especially NBA and arenas, since the president of the Spiders that year came from the Warriors…. (in the meantime, the Cow Palace went from “gee, it’s great we have hockey, no?” to “boy, is this a pit. but it’s OUR pit, dammit!” — can we just tear the poor thing down and put it out of our misery?)
My personal stance on public funding of sports buildings is guaranteed to piss off both sides of the fight: I believe there IS a legitimate purpose to public funding of public buildings, which tends to piss off folks like Andrew Zimbalist who like to create funding models that “prove” that public funding is a bad idea. At the same time, I also believe the public funding should be limited to the same kind of investment they would make in any business enterprise in the city: it has to foot out, and it has to pay itself back, and no, you can’t assign arbitrary values to intrinsics like “civic pride” and “public image”.
For instance, I think that San Francisco absolutely screwed the Giants — and I wish the Giants had walked down to San Jose instead of finding a way to make it work; on the other hand, Pac Bell Park is an absolute gem, but the financial deal stapled to it sucks, especially compared to the $100 million dollar bonds worth of extortion the 49ers pulled out of San Francisco, but fortunately, that deal is dead and those bonds will never happen. I think the deal between San Jose and the Sharks is generally fair to both sides and been beneficial to everyone. it’s a great example of something that works for everyone, but doesn’t make anyone completely happy (which is a feature, IMHO). I’ve talked to Greg Jamison about it a couple of times, and he clearly feels the city ought to be investing some more money into capital improvements in the building, and I’ve talked to people on the city side who think the Sharks (okay, okay, Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment; the sharks are a separate company, but down that road lies madness) ought to be returning more to the general fund. I think the balance of power here is fairly even, so I like it.
I’ve been watching Lew Wolff handle the A’s situation since he took over the team with great interest. His proposed deal with fremont is a great example of innovative financing that should work for all parties (the only downside: it’s not closely tied to BART, but that can be solved with a bus bridge at reasonable cost). Compare that to the fiasco that is the Raiders, and what Oakland did to the A’s in their lust to bring the Raiders back.
I’ve long in favor of using PSLs for financing, as long as you don’t get greedy and screw them up like the Raiders and Oakland did, because in reality, they’re use taxes on the people most likely to actually use the building; at the same time, these buildings get used for a lot more than just the team’s games, and to that degree, these things are civic resources. Asking the season ticket holders to fund the use of the building by the circus or the monster trucks is just as unfair as asking the city to pay the tab for the season ticket holders…. Where the rational compromise in the middle is, that’s the rub, and these situations have been so politicized that there are rarely any openings for rational compromise any more (another reason to cheer on Wolff in Fremont; he’s finding a way) — and this polarization is directly the result of overly demanding and greedy owners who’ve demanded not fair deals, but patronage deals — and two of the worst of this are the people up in Seattle, and our friends over in Oakland. Although, in reality, the city is as much to blame as Davis is, beacuse they basically opened up the kimono and started throwing goodies at Davis, but someone needed to see how irrational and guaranteed to fail the deal being set up was; nobody did, they’re going to be paying for that for years, or decades. AND lose the A’s as a side effect.
I”m basically that strange geek who, instead of wanting to grow up to be Harmon Killebrew, I grew up wanting to be Buzzie Bavasi. That, of course, never happened (but I did get to meet Bob Bavasi a few times when he was running the Everett Aquasox and we were roadtripping up there in the summers….). I keep hoping that when laurie and I move north in a few years I’ll be able to get a job as an usher for the ‘Sox, just because I think that’d be fun…
Tonight was a little piece of history for me, as the Sharks played the last game of the season against the L.A. Kings. It was the final game in a long, illustrious career for Luc Robitaille, future hall of fame Left Wing.
Tonight’s game was about what you’d expect; there wasn’t much at stake for either team, both sides were committed to not getting hurt, the Sharks skated many of their black aces, and spent much of the game passing it to Joe Thornton to set up Cheechoo for the shot. Other than Mark Smith, who has no off button, and a bit of grumpiness between Doug Murray and the king’s Tom Kostopolous (murray put him into the boards, Kostopolous responded with a crosscheck, and both agreed to meet at mid-ice, shedding equipment along the way — only to be met by the linesmen for 2 minutes each unsportsmanlike — which pleased pretty much nobody). The Ron Wilson seemed committed to giving everyone on the team a shift with Thornton and Cheechoo (except Toskala), so it was clear from the start that the Sharks had other priorities. It was, effectively, a pre-season game in intensity. Nabokov actually had a pretty good game (four goals allowed notwithstanding) given that in three of the cases, there wasn’t a teal jersey within about 15′ of him when the goal was scored. To say he was left to his own devices is an understatement. LaBarbera, however, was quite good when the Sharks got motivation, which was enough to cause the sharks to go back into “we don’t care so much” mode.
I broke tradition and to honor Luc, put on my Gold and FORUM BLUE (not purple!) jammies, um, Jersey, which caught me not a few snide comments and a visit from S.J. Sharkie, and even Sharkie gave me dispensation when he heard it was only for one night, for Luc (as a general policy, I never wear an away jersey of a visiting team, unless I’m pissed at Sharks management at that moment for some odd reason — I’ll either wear teal or something neutral).
People tend to forget that, for me, there were the Kings before there was a Sharks team. My collection includes a signed Rogie Vachon stick and a signed Dave Taylor puck, among other things, and a pair of Kings jerseys (the other is a silver and black Taylor). While Luc joined the Kings after I’d moved north out of Southern California, he was one of the players that came to represent that team for me — and I’ve never fully given up my roots in the sport as a Southern california beach kid who somehow came to love ice hockey. And Luc is really the last link back to the days of the Fantastic Forum, the Yellow and FORUM BLUE (not purple; Jack Kent Cooke hated purple); of being able to buy 12th row corner seats day of the game (Gretzky screwed that up); of showing up to find more visitor jerseys than King jerseys in the stands.
It’s probably the end of a second era in LA, since I fully expect Dave Taylor won’t survive as GM much longer, too. If there ever was a person who defined “Los Angeles Kings” for me, it was Taylor.
So for one night again, I was a Kings fan again. Luc didn’t score tonight, but he had some chances; to be honest, though, he had that look of someone who was a little overwhelmed at what was going on. That this was his last game seemed to be really sinking in. I think he spent as much time watching the fans as we did watching him. And once the game was over, his team came over and mobbed him and celebrated with him.
And then the Sharks did the damndest thing — they all lined up, and waited for Luc to walk the handshake line. And every one of them congratulated him on his life and career, and heads were whacked and hands were shaken and sticks were slapped on the ice, and the entire arena stood up, and we all became Kings fans for a few minutes, congratulating Luc.
And now I’m sitting here thinking — how many players in the league would get that kind of treatment? I can’t see, oh, Chris Chelios getting a standing ovation like that (Luc got two) in San Jose at the end of his career. Yzerman? Maybe. Pronger? (trick question).
But it seemed perfectly natural to do so tonight. And that’s because Luc is — not just another hockey player. As a member of the hockey community, as a role model to youth in LA and Quebec and throughout hockey, as simply the kind of person he is — he’s not just a King, but an ambassador to and for all of us who follow hockey. He is, in a way, the embodiment of why we become fans.
Never the fastest, or more graceful, of skaters, it didn’t come naturally to him. He worked his butt off to succeed, and never took success for granted. I remember early years in the history of San Jose where he’d just eat the Sharks alive — he didn’t just live in the slot, I remember writing about games where I’d said he’d built a vacation cabin there. But unlike other players that made the early years of being a Sharks fan hell, you respected this man; you couldn’t hate him.
And now he skates into the sunset (slowly and carefully). It’s interesting to note that there’s a new youngster on the ice, a guy by the name of Cheechoo, who has that same kind of skating quality, and also the same kind of drive to succeed and commitment to win; and willingness to accept the burden of role model in the same way Luc did. I’m looking forward to watching that kid for many years, and if he comes up to close to the success of Robitaille, then the Sharks are truly blessed.
So to Luc, god bless, and thanks for everything. The game will miss you — but you’ve left the game in a better condition than you came to it, and those you’ve touched, directly or indirectly, are better for having known you. Have a great life. You’ve earned it.
And to Dave Taylor, if you indeed do move on from GM of LA: thanks for being who you are, also. It’ll be sad to see the last direct link to my early life as a Kings fan finally break, if it happens. I’ve always been honored to call myself a fan of people like you (and Jim Fox, and Mark Hardy, and Rogie, and….).
And to the Sharks: great season. Off to Nashville, time to get back to work. There are still sixteen more games to win, and I’ll forgive this warmup if you don’t carry it into Nashville….
(and so some of the Sharks fans in attendance tonight: how can you profess to be surprised and disappointed at the play tonight? Like — you can look at the situation and schedule, and not guess that this game was going to be played that way? You’re better hockey fans than that…. Yeah, a win would have been nice but getting into the playoffs healthy and with the black aces given a tuneup is even more important….)
update: Kings have a press conference today where Dave Taylor is expected to be fired. That didn’t take long. I’m hearing that Dean Lombardi is shortlisted to replace him. Good for Dean: it’s time for him to take the reins again somewhere. Not so good for the Sharks, I don’t want San Jose having to battle a Lombardi-run team 8 times a year in division. (When Lombardi was fired in San Jose, from all I’ve heard, it was definitely time for him to move on; I fully expect, however, that what he learned in San Jose, and the perspective he likely picked up once he got over the immediate pain of being fired, will make him one hell of a GM at his next stop. He’s a great candidate for the Kings)
First, just wanted to send out a shout of “thanks, all! to everyone who enjoyed, linked to, and commented on the Reality Distortion Field piece. Been in the plans for a while, and I had no idea how it would be received. I appreciate the positive feedback I’ve gotten for it.
Almost didn’t happen, along with a bunch of other writing I’ve wanted to do that didn’t happen. Here’s why:
End of march ends a fiscal quarter at Apple. With fiscal quarter comes data center freeze, for the week prior to the end, and the first week of the next quarter. Most corporations do this: you don’t want to risk having a problem that might affect closing the books and getting the financials ready.
So for those of us who deal with the datacenter, about two weeks before freeze, we usually look at our plans for the quarter to see what we told management would get done, scream pitifully, and try to cram everything into those last two weeks, so it doesn’t slip into the next quarter.
Fortunately, this quarter I only had one key machine that needed finishing up. The rest (five new boxes, and the beginning of a Tiger rollout to all of the other 30ish Xserves in our setup) didn’t have to be done, but I figured we’d at least get the new boxes into production.
We ended up getting the key machine done, but it took about a week longer than expected, mostly due to logistics. My primary ops support person took off for Hawaii (how she got vacation the week BEFORE freeze is a story of its own), so we put off the tiger upgrades into April; and as I looked at those new boxes, I sort of decided it just wasn’t worth the last second crunch.
Our peak usage period starts in early november, and we generally run full-tilt until after Macworld; depends on just how much fun Steve has during his keynote. For me, in previous years that’s meant 60-70 hour weeks, 7 day weeks, just stoking the boilers and patching the hulls and pumping the bilges. This year was a lot better, even though we did 2X volume year over year (again), meaning only 50-60 hour weeks, but still I tend to be on call and tweaking pretty much every day. I had three days off around christmas, and a couple of other weekends (OTOH, there were data problems Christmas eve, which another group dumped in my lap, and I stayed up until 1AM solving their problem for them, something I’ve let them know won’t happen again; next time, I’ll let the system miss deadlines and allow them to explain why it happened…)
So instead, I decided the freeze time was a good chance to take a couple of extra days off — I’d been tired and feeling a bit worn out for a while (no weekends? what a surprise); so I warned a couple of my staff that I was going to catch the flu on friday, and what to do if they really needed me anyway. I was looking forward to four days away.
So, of course, that thursday night, I caught a cold. You gotta love Murphy. And I spent the next four days a dead man.
Middle of next week, I’m back at work, still feeling off, still coughing (but that’s normal for me with a cold; anything I catch races to the chest). thursday is a sharks game. After the game, walking up the steps to exit, I realize I’m winded. Really winded. Worse, standing there, I’m fighting to get my breath back. This is Not Good.
So I keep an eye on myself, take it easy. Saturday’s another hockey game. I check myself on the way out — better, a bit. But still, it’s like hiking at 10,000 feet. So I call my doctor, and go in to see him tuesday. He listens to my chest in four places, and in each, he hears cellophane. I win a free chest X-ray.
the X-ray shows, of course, that I either have pneumonia, or I need the ghostbusters. the right lung’s fully involved, the left about 30%. No wonder I’ve been feeling tired and worn out; I’ve been walking around with this for a while. Looking back, at least 4-6 weeks. Probably longer. Catching the cold allowed it to intensify, so when the cold went away again, it took over.
One run of antibiotics and ten days later, today’s the first day I really feel like myself again. The first thing the antibiotics did was take away whatever stamina I had left; by day three, I started feeling enough better to think I could go into work for a couple of simple meetings (actually doing so proved it wasn’t such a good idea).
So today, the fever’s finally gone. The lungs started clearing out on day 3, and finished yesterday. The coughing’s pulled a muscle in my back, and every other muscle assigned to coughing hurts like hell (think about it: your lung is full of fluid. there’s no drainplug….). But I was able to drive to the store, walk to the cough medicine and buy another bottle, and come home without needing a few hours of nap.
I’m probably about 80% of normal, whatever that is. I’ll see how close to a full work schedule I can do next week (last week, I only did meetings that couldn’t be rescheduled and time-critical stuff; unfortunately, it was still a bit more than I felt ready for, but we got through it).
But this weekend’s project: get rid of the cough, so I can sleep more than 2 hours at a time…
It is, however, nice to actually feel up to writing again, though. There’s been a lot I’ve wanted to comment on, especially since we are down the stretch in the hockey season. The RDF piece took over six hours of writing, because I kept having to stop and think it through and rest a bit. But I guess the good side is that I’m entering the NHL playoffs rested and ready…
Now that the Sharks are in the playoffs, and making a legitimate push for 5th seed, we can stop worrying about the post-season, and take a step back and see what other questions linger around the team…
McAuley’s been a disappointment all season, with his offensive game missing. With the recent leg injury (hint: it’s a knee), the Sharks have admitted he’s been fighting through a knee issue all year; he’s now going to have surgery after the season. It sounds like he *could* play if he *had* to, but fortunately, it looks like Stevenson’s stepped up to make that unnecessary.
Remember when the Sharks had a guy on the team named Murray? Doug Murray? Seen him recently? No. Why? He suffered an upper body injury a while back, took some time off. When he came back, he didn’t look right to me. Now — he’s a “healthy” scratch. I’m guessing this is another of the “can play if he has to” category, but I fully expect to hear about surgery once the playoffs are done. Only question for me is: shoulder? or a muscle tear (abs or pec)?
Will Jim Fahey be with the Sharks next year? If he is, will he ever crack the starting lineup again? I’m sure he’s not thrilled to see his job relegated to “press box attendant” — did the Sharks really get that much better on defense, or did something else happen? It was only two seasons ago he was an 18 minute a night guy, coming out of college just like Carle did this year.
Speaking of Carle: were you as surprised as I was that he stepped out of college and into the lineup the way he did? I’ve watched every game he’s played so far, and the transition has been astounding: the first couple of games he looked hesitant and intimidated by the players and the speed, and somewhere around game 3 or 4, it started to click. And now — he’s averaging 16 minutes a game. Who knew?
My guess: Doug Wilson knew. This doesn’t seem to be a surprise to the Sharks organization, in fact, after Murray got hurt, they seemed to not be all that worried. Now I know why. Carle is what we always wanted Brad Stuart to be; he’s Sandis Ozolinsh with a defensive awareness. Watch this kid. he’s special.
Another reason I think Wilson knew: he’s also signed David Setoguchi out of juniors. Setoguchi was very impressive out of camp, essentially, eh was the final cut. Yet now that the Sharks have him under contract, you don’t hear them talking about getting him in the lineup the way they did Carle….
And the big question I have about the Sharks:
Who is the #1 goalie? Nabokov? or Toskala?
They are both good, legitimate #1 goalies. They both WANT to be #1 goalies. And should be. I don’t believe anyone would be happy or successful sharing #1 here in San Jose, someone has to go (and Nolan Schaeffer gets to come up and play #2 — for now… ). But Nabby has a no-trade clause.
Laurie and I have been talking goalies (I’m lucky to have a former goalie in the house, someone who’d make a really good goalie coach to someone), and it’s a tough call; but we both lean to Toskala as the #1. Not because he’s hot now, but because hit style seems to mesh better with the playing style of a team with Joe Thornton on it, and we both feel his technique is less susceptible to mysterious slumps nobody can figure out how to get out of. (laurie also thinks Nabby’s playing style stresses his glove shoulder in a way that could lead to rotator cuff issues down the road).
So we both agree that one of the goalies probably has to go during the off-season. Both guys like playing 60 games, both guys deserve a chance to do so; neither one will be happy being a 1A or second goalie. And in my mind, we have an asset here we SHOULD use to improve the club elsewhere — and let Nolan Schaeffer come up and prove he’s capable of being a #1, too. But Nabby also has a no-trade clause. He won’t go without his approval.
But I wonder how he’d react if Doug Wilson came to him and said “you can approve a trade to
This is the kind of problem GM’s LIKE to have — too many players.
But — is Toskala ‘it’? Or are we giving up on Nabby too easily?
With another loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks are officially out of the playoff race.Full credit to the Sharks for the win, but it was obvious to me that the Canucks didn’t seem like a very desperate team.The Sharks? This was their 4th game in 5 nights, yet they outworked the Canucks and played like it was THEY who had their playoff hopes on the line.
And it was the Canuck’s 4th game in six nights, not all that much better.
We were at the game last night, in our normal seats. I admit upfront I expected to lose the game — a combination of Canucks desperation, Sharks “we’re in” letdown, and the fact that you just shouldn’t expect to sweep back to backs.
The Canucks deserve a lot of credit. They WERE desperate last night. The Sharks have clearly committed to a goal of running the table, not just getting in the playoffs, so there was no let-down there. And the Sharks clearly looked tired. Nabokov looked rusty early, and vulnerable.
There were times when the Canucks looked ready to break it open and win the game, but the Sharks seemed able to (barely) contain them.
The problem for Vancouver? they were exhausted. You could see it in the way they skated, you could see it in their faces.
The reason the Sharks won these two games — it’s a younger team. Six pure rookies starting and contributing. The legs were fresher, the reactions faster, the acceleration was there. With the exception of the Sedin Triplets, the rest of the Canucks seemed stuck in molasses. You could see Bertuzzi trying — but the legs weren’t responding. He sort of lumbered around, trying to make an impact. Auld looked human; worse, during stoppages, he was standing in a way that indicated to me his back was stiff and sore. Carney was — slow, even for Carney.
The Canucks were constantly a step slow, a beat behind — and that led to taking bad penalties.
But — from three rows off the ice, you could see the Canucks trying. They certainly didn’t give up, although when the Sharks went ahead for the last time in the 3rd, it took the wind out of the sails.
Best players: the sedin triplets, Bertuzzi — gave it their all, made life difficult all night for the Sharks. Ohlund to a lesser degree.
Worst players: Just look who was taking the catch-up penalties: Brown (twice), Carney (twice), Morrison. Naslund played 16 invisible minutes and was -2 with no shots on goal; Linden was on for 11 and -1, looking old and tired.
To their credit, the Canucks gave it their best shot — it simply wasn’t enough.
As people who read this blog know, a few years ago, I got involved in a new project at Apple, which has been quite successful for the company. It’s also a project that’s been under a bit of a cone of silence, which has sometimes led to amusingly convoluted postings where I attempt to talk about what’s going on without actually discussion what it is I’m talking about.
I’ve been talking to my business team about this, on and off, and whether this hardcore secrecy is still really necessary or relevant now that the project is maturing. We’ve all finally come to an agreement, with some appropriate restrictions, to open up the kimono a bit, since there’s some really interesting technology involved. I’m hoping to work on a paper for an upcoming comference, hopefully next year’s Etech by O’Reilly.
Until then, this will have to do.
You see — I run the Reality Distortion Field.
Yes, that one.
The RDF has a long history at Apple. It was invented by Steve Wozniak one rainy sunday in 1982 when he was trying to extract a stuck piece of toast from a toaster, and forgot to unplug the thing. At first, he didn’t realize what he had; when he woke up, he took it to a repair shop. There, the repairman offered to fix it for half price — and Wozniak realized something strange was going on.
Soon, he and Steve had figured out what was going on — the RDF affects brainwaves of those within it’s effect field. It’s a really interesting effect: it doesn’t influence how a person thinks, and it can’t make a person change their mind or believe something they know to be false: it merely reduces a person’s prejudices and preconceptions, and makes them more amenable to new ideas. To, well, thinking different. But ultimately, and this it a crucial point — whether you accept an idea is up to you. It just enhances your willingness to listen. If you aren’t; nothing happens.
The original RDF was obviously an analog system. It had all of the problems analog systems tend to have: it was sensitive to environmental conditions, it was hard to set up so it would work reliably, it’s field of effect was limited (and impacted by the square of the distance, meaning you needed to be very close to the source for it to be very effective), and operating the beast took a skilled hand. Most people couldn’t get the field to operate at all, much less operate over a wide area.
Steve, of course, was a natural.
As Apple grew, however, the RDF struggled to keep up.
It took more and more people to operate the machine.
It used more and more energy.
It had to be close to the audience, and it frankly wasn’t very portable. Ever wonder why Steve liked to use Flint Center?
And occasionally — we had our little mistakes.
Eventually, the engineer who kept the RDF running for Steve retired.
You could tell, just from looking at him, what the strain of trying to tame that beast for Steve had cost him. Others took up the challenge, but the RDF just wasn’t the same, or as reliable.
And, of course, you know what that meant to Apple, and to Steve.
But a few years ago, I was working with Guy Kawasaki on EvangeList and we were wondering what future (if any) Apple still had. We were talking to some of the hardware engineers, and they mentioned this new technique they were experimenting with — it’s somewhat similar to what disk drive manufacturers are starting to do — embedding data bits vertically on the hard disk medium to increase data density. Only in this case, they had come up with a way to use quantum mechanic techniques to embed a second data packet onto a TCP packet by stuffing it (more or less) vertically in between the bits that are being sent out across the network horizontally. The interesting thing was that this second packet, which took up no extra space, could hold either digital or analog information in it, and is completely undetectable except to a device built to read the quantum packet.
The engineers saw this as a way to do real-time data compression on networks.
We saw it as the possible salvation of company. If we could make it work.
It took some doing — but it happened. We could, if we had enough hardware, insert RDF analog packets and distribute them globally. Easier said than done, of course, because those packets have to go somewhere, and once they get there, be decoded so they can be released.
so all we needed to do was create a piece of hardware that included the network interface that included the decoder, and convince people to buy them. And then convince the owners to connect to Apple and accept the packets.
That, of course, turned out to be the easy part. A Unix box has the networking we needed, and we could build an ethernet interface that would decode these quantum packets but which wouldn’t look different from other interfaces. And Unix has one thing we could use to distribute these quantum packets:
Network Time. If you look in your system preferences panels, in the the date & time section, you’ll see how Mac OS X boxes (and OS9 boxes before them) connect to time.apple.com. Just about every Apple computer in the world connects to time.apple.com; and every packet time.apple.com sends has a quantum RDF packet inserted into it.
Somehow, Steve got wind of the project. Copland was dead, everyone inside Apple knew that it’d died on the table long ago. If we could create a reliable (and global!) Reality Distortion Field again, he knew he could save Apple. But not from the outside. He needed control of the RDF again.
Gil Amelio never knew what hit him.
That didn’t get the hardware out into users hands, but it was a start. We retrofitted the time code into the existing OS and started building better networking cards with our quantum functionality. Steve and Jonathan Ive went to work on the iMac. Apple went to work on Mac OS X. It was a slow process, but we knew it would be. WIFI was a godsend, of course, because people would bring their own personal quantum-packet-decoders and sprinkle them through audiences for us. Whenever, wherever Steve spoke, these packets would be flying around. As Apple turned around, and more people owned Macs and converted to Mac OS X, more people would find themselves in an RDF field. As more people entered these RDF fields — Steve’s ability to convince them to try OS X and Apple increased.
And this is an important part: the Reality Distortion Field is not, and never has been, about making people buy Apples. It doesn’t. It can’t. If OS X were a crap product, it would have failed, and so would have Apple. All RDF has ever been about is giving Apple a fair shot in a world where Apple was fighting a dominant monopoly, and trivialized by IT organizations that put maintenance of the bureaucracy over serving their user’s needs. All it did was give Apple a fair chance with people willing to be open minded.
The actual creation of these quantum packets is still a carefully held secret — as you might imagine, not everyone would use them for good the way Steve has. One can only imagine if the Soviets had figured out how to do this. Or Pat Robertson.
So for now, this is a technology Apple won’t be releasing into the wild. We hope to, some day. But with OS X’s success in hand and the Intel transition well in hand — we’re starting to question the need for the RDF, and we may well shut the project down. Or repurpose it to other causes, if we can agree on what might be appropriate. After all, for the RDF to be successful, it has to be a true cause, just one that needs a little more open mindedness. a willingness to, well, Think Different.