October 10, 2011

Cory Doctorow reviews Terry Pratchett’s Snuff

Filed under: Books, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:06

For my taste, any Terry Pratchett book is an automatic “buy”, but in case you are not in that category, Cory Doctorow has a short review of the upcoming release:

Snuff, Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel is an absolute treat, as per usual. It’s a Sam Vimes book (there are many recurring characters in the Discworld series, whose life stories intermingle, braid and diverge — Sam Vimes is an ex-alcoholic police chief who has married into nobility) and that means that it’s going to be a story about class, about law, and about justice, and the fact that Pratchett can make a serious discourse on these subjects both funny and gripping and never trivial is as neat a summary of why we love him as much as we do.

In Snuff, Sam Vimes finds himself dragged off to the countryside for a first-in-his-life holiday, and of course, the holiday only lasts about ten seconds before Vimes is embroiled in local politics, which means local crime. The genteel countryside may be sleepy and backwards, but it is also seething with secrets, with privilege for the gentry, with class resentments, and with racism.

Vikings finally keep a lead through an entire game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:00

The 2011 Minnesota Vikings had developed a terrible habit of only playing well in the first half of games, allowing teams to beat them in the second half. Last week’s game didn’t fit the pattern, as the team played terribly in both the first and the second half. This week started to look like the pattern had been re-established as the Vikings played an excellent ground game and took advantage of turnovers to jump out to a 28-3 lead at the half (time of possession favoured the Cardinals 2:1 at this point).

Cynics among the fan base were wondering how Arizona was going to come back from that deep a deficit — not if, but how. Well the cynics were wrong: the Cardinals couldn’t come back from being that far down, so the Vikings finally win their first game of the season. The pattern did hold true, though, as Arizona did outscore the Vikings in the second half, just not by enough.

Christopher Gates of the Daily Norseman:

The Vikings were paced by a huge first quarter, in which they tied a franchise record by scoring 28 points in the game’s first fifteen minutes. The only other time they’ve accomplished that was in a blowout victory over the Green Bay Packers on September 28, 1986. The four touchdowns in that game were all touchdown passes by Tommy Kramer. . .the four touchdowns the Vikings got today all came via the ground, with three from Adrian Peterson (from 4, 24, and 14 yards) and a 4-yard run by Donovan McNabb.

The defense keyed the fast start as well, as they were dominant in the first quarter of play. The Cardinals’ first 13 offensive plays consisted of three three-and-outs, two turnovers, another fumble that went out of bounds, and one completed pass. Jared Allen and Brian Robison each had two sacks on the afternoon, and JaMarca Sanford intercepted two Kevin Kolb passes on the afternoon, with Asher Allen throwing in a third.

As several people have noted, Sanford’s two picks now give him the same number of catches on the season as our putative number one receiver, Bernard Berrian (who was deactivated for this game). The other player on the hotseat, quarterback Donovan McNabb, didn’t make a strong case for himself either, completing only 10-of-21 for 169 yards which moves his passer rating to a very mediocre 80 for the season.

Jeremy Fowler at the Vikings Now blog:

But the spotlight is still placed directly on the passing game, which has struggled with or without the inactive Bernard Berrian. Take away McNabb’s 60-yard gain to receiver Devin Aromashodu midway through the third quarter — an impressive across-the-middle throw, to be sure — and McNabb was 9-of 21 for 109 yards.

He was 3-of-10 on third down for the day while routinely missing receivers short on short or intermediate routes — sometimes five or six yards short. Cardinals defenders dropped what should have been two easy interceptions. Percy Harvin, the Vikings’ top receiver, got two targets and caught one pass for 12 yards. “There is no go-to guy right now,” McNabb said. “We’re all still getting comfortable in this offense and working on each other’s timing and chemistry.”

Maybe Christian Ponder’s not ready, and that’s fine. But McNabb must improve the accuracy for the Vikings to survive the next two weeks entering the teeth of the NFC North schedule. Speaking of the schedule…

Dan Zinski at The Viking Age:

Much of the anxiety, expressed by Metrodome fans in the form of boos, was no doubt the lingering result of psychological trauma incurred during the previous three second half choke jobs – but a lot of it was due simply to the shaky play of McNabb. The quarterback once again showed a sometimes alarming lack of accuracy on his passes, and even his better passes were wobbly and not quite on-target. The big pass of the second half, a 60-yarder to Devin Aromashodu, looked like some kind of dying bird fluttering through the air before finally landing safely in the receiver’s hands. And even worse: an attempted short pass to Visanthe Shiancoe that landed five yards in front of the intended receiver, causing the fans to jeer, McNabb to laugh and Shiancoe to get into it with his quarterback on the sideline.

This week McNabb got away with his lame-duck passes, thanks to Adrian Peterson’s hard running and the defense’s uncharacteristic ball-hawking, but that doesn’t mean the McNabb problem has suddenly disappeared. Accuracy remains a big issue for this quarterback and I don’t see that reality changing any time soon. The Vikings were fortunate that this week they faced a quarterback, Kevin Kolb, who is possibly even worse than McNabb. The defense stepped up big and Peterson did his part – even though he once again found tough sledding in the second half – but you can’t expect that sort of performance every week. At some point you need your quarterback to contribute more than 169 yards on 48% passing. A win is great but it doesn’t erase the fact that the passing game is still not anywhere near effective enough for this team to compete consistently.

Does a win keep Berrian and McNabb afloat for another week?

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

It must be bad if the home team is up 21 points and the fans in the stadium are still booing the starting quarterback. McNabb is a tough guy: he’s heard the boo-birds often enough in Philadelphia, but it must be hard to cope with this level of rejection at this stage of his career. Bernard Berrian was benched for this game and his replacement does more than enough to make a case for being his permanent replacement. Will this be the week that the team parts company with their under-productive number 1 receiver?

Tom Pelissero:

The Vikings raced to a 28-0 lead in the first 12½ minutes on Sunday in spite of McNabb, not because of him. They held on despite a remarkable series of misfires that drew boos and chants of “WE WANT PONDER!” from the first quarter to the fourth.

“I can’t worry about that,” McNabb said. “I don’t worry about it at all, because at the end of the day, they look up and they see a win.”

This win was all about a defense that was opportunistic and unrelenting, sacking Kevin Kolb four times and forcing four turnovers on a day top cornerback Antoine Winfield was sidelined with a neck strain.

The offense fizzled after first-quarter touchdown drives of 18, 24 and 25 yards set up by defense and special teams, plus a 73-yarder keyed by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson’s 36-yard pass interference penalty. McNabb completed only 10 of 21 passes, nearly was intercepted twice and threw a handful of others into the ground.

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