May 24, 2015

F1 Update: Monaco 2015

A glorious day broke over the Principality, greeting the twenty stars of the F1 Circus as they formed on the grid.  Would the weather stay that way, or would there be rain?  Would the Silver Arrow of polesitter Lewis Hamilton lead the way to victory?  Could his teammate Nico Rosberg earn his third win on the narrow streets?  Or would someone like Ferrari's Seb Vettel or Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo take the win on the shortest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Monaco!

*PREDICTABLE:  When the lights went out and the race began, it went exactly the way everybody expected, with Lewis Hamilton handily beating the rest of the field to Turn 1 and pulling away.  Here at F1U! HQ, eyes rolled like billiard balls on a ship in the North Atlantic... we knew what was about to happen.  And we were mostly right.

*AND OFF HE GOES:  While Rosberg, Vettel and a surprising Daniil Kyvat watched in horror, Hamilton went galloping off over the horizon.  By the end of three laps, he was over two seconds ahead of his teammate.  At a circuit like Monaco, this is as close to insurmountable without technical failure or accident as its possible to get.  The race was going to be for second... and even that seemed to have been locked in place as well.  So, third then?  Nope, Vettel looked to have that nailed down, too.  So, Red Bull fighting amongst themselves for fourth, swell, that's something to look forward to.

*SURE ENOUGH:  Occasionally Monaco will cough up a dramatic race... 2014, for example, when Jules Bianchi earned the points that wound up allowing Marussia/Manor to survive to race in 2015, and hostilities between Rosberg and Hamilton became obvious for the first time.  Usually it requires rain, but that wasn't happening this year... and neither was "a dramatic race."  When the first (and only expected) pitstops cycled through, there had been no major changes: Hamilton led Rosberg by ten seconds, and there was no chance that he was going to be caught.  Vettel was about two seconds behind Rosberg, but there was another 10 second gap back to Ricciardo.  We here at F1U! could be excused for occasionally stopping the DVR and flipping over to watch the Indy 500 (and congratulations to former F1 driver Juan Pablo "The Pope" Montoya for his record-breaking win!  He became the driver with the longest gap between Indy 500 victories, 15 years).  By Lap 60, Hamilton held a 19 second lead over his teammate.

*LEARNER'S PERMIT DENIED:  Toro Rosso's Embryo Verstappen was having himself quite the day.  The 17-year-old's first appearance at the Principality was looking to be triumphant, with a great chance to earn points.  He'd worked himself into 11th place and had the Lotus of Lettuce Grosjean in his sights.  After a lap or two of fencing and dicing, he was close enough to make a move.  On Lap 64, he came down the front straight, tailing the Lotus, then as they approached Ste Devote, he slashed to the inside of the Frenchman... just a moment too late.  His front-left suspension turned itself into carbon fiber flinders on Grosjean's right-rear.  The Toro Rosso, suddenly lacking in front-end grip, speared directly into the Tecpro barriers at Turn 1 in as hard an impact as we've seen in some time.  Fortunately, the youngster was unharmed... but the race was completely changed.

*...THE HELL???:  Berndt Maylander, dozing in the front seat of the Safety Car, was woken up and sent on his way.  A number of teams took advantage of the reduced pace of the race to bring their drivers in for a last minute change to the super-soft Option tires, in preparation for a full-blown balls-to-the-wall divebomb run to improve their positions.  Jenson Button, Felipe Not Nasr Massa, Felipe not Massa Nasr, Sergio Perez all came in, as did Daniel Ricciardo in a last-gasp attempt to move onto the podium; he dropped behind his teammate Kyvat in the process.  Mind you, this is on the single track in Formula 1 where it is almost entirely impossible to pass unless you have a ridiculous speed advantage (and sometimes not even then).

*...THE DOUBLE BLOODY HELL???:  All of which made the next occurrence even more confusing.  Lewis Hamilton, who had lead the entire race handily and was able to make his car practically impassable on wide circuits let alone Monaco, brought his car into the pit lane for new tires.  The entire F1U! crew sat there, jaws on the floor, as the team slapped new boots on the Mercedes and set him back out.  He rejoined the race in third place, behind Rosberg and Vettel.  On Lap 70, the race restarted.

*W... T... F...???:  Rosberg immediately ran away from everybody else, building a two second lead in just a single lap.  Hamilton danced and darted around behind the Ferrari of Vettel, but was totally unable to mount a serious challenge.  Meanwhile, Red Bull told Kid Kyvat to let his teammate Ricciardo past; he was on fresh super-soft tires and could potentially make a move on Hamilton for the podium.  Meanwhile, every F1 announcer on the planet tried to make sense of Mercedes' strategy... and couldn't.  A radio call from Hamilton quickly told the story: "I've lost the race, haven't I?"  As it turned out, the answer was yes.  Ricciardo, unable to catch Hamilton, slowed to let his teammate past for fourth, but otherwise the podium remained the same: Hamilton in third, Vettel in second, and Nico Rosberg was the recipient of a gift victory, his third in a row at Monaco.

*AFTER:  Hamilton seemed right on the edge of doing something unseemly after the race.  He pulled his car over at Portier during the cool-down lap and just sat there for a very long time, like he was contemplating switching off and walking to the apartment he keeps that's a short distance from the track.  He then brought his car to the designated podium spot, just in front of the Prince's Box, and ran over his third-place position panel.  Then came the podium ceremony, where his handshake with his teammate was... um... perfunctory at best.  Then he decided not to show up for the post-race team photograph.  In various interviews afterwards, he seemed calm... not "I'm relaxed" calm, but "I'm about to murder you and your family" calm.  Meanwhile, the team apologized to Hamilton for the call, saying that they made a timing mistake.  They believed that they'd be able to bring him in, change the tires, and get him out before Rosberg went by; they were off by about five seconds.  Team Principal Toto Wolff said that it was done to defend against Vettel changing onto the super-softs, but that inadequate timing information made the decision for them.  See, usually timing is confirmed via GPS locating, but the buildings and tunnels of Monaco prevent GPS from being used.  Thus, the team screwed up their calculations.  Why Hamilton didn't object or ignore the instructions, or nobody pointed out that it's nigh-on impossible to pass at Monaco, will forever remain a mystery.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"What the... really?  Really?  Hahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahaha*snerk*hahahahahaha!" - Nico Rosberg

"Remember Multi 21?  I do." - Seb Vettel

"I'm a champion.  I need to act like one.  After I butcher the pit wall in their sleep." - Lewis Hamilton

The Grand Prix of Canada is the next stop on the European leg of the calendar (wha?) in two weeks... we'll see you there and then!

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May 23, 2015

F1 Quals: Monaco 2015

After the rain washed out the majority of Free Practice 2 on Thursday, eyes were cocked askance at the lowering skies above the Monaco harbor.  Would we get a wet Qual session at the most ridiculous circuit on the calendar?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Monaco:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.588 1:15.864 1:15.098
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:16.528 1:15.471 1:15.440
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:17.502 1:16.181 1:15.849
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:17.254 1:16.706 1:16.041
5 Kid Kvyat Red Bull 1:16.845 1:16.453 1:16.182
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:17.660 1:16.440 1:16.427
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:17.376 1:16.999 1:16.808
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:17.246 1:16.762 1:16.931
9 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:17.630 1:16.775 1:16.946
10 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:16.750 1:16.546 1:16.957
11 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:17.767 1:17.007
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:17.492 1:17.093
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:17.552 1:17.193
14 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:17.679 1:17.278
15 HWIACTBNA McLaren 1:17.778 1:26.632
16 Felipe Not MassaNasr Sauber 1:18.101

17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:18.434

18 L.M. Ericsson Sauber 1:18.513

19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:20.655

20 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:20.904


I don't know why I expected anything different.  Wait, no, yes I do: Monaco is the one place on the calendar where the car/driver balance is tilted waaaaaaay over to the "driver" side.  Which isn't to say a good car isn't a requirement... of course it is.  But if you had told me that HWIACTBNA had dragged his recalcitrant McLaren into Q3, I would have believed you.  As it was, it was only because he was balked on his last flying lap by a yellow flag that Jenson Button didn't make it to Q3.

I'm thinking that this was the best quals performance for Red Bull as a team this season, and isn't that an amazing statement after the past four years?  There's nothing particularly surprising about the rest of the grid, though Sauber and Williams must both be chewing on their mustaches in consternation.

Rosberg is going to have to pull some serious driving stuff pretty darn quick after the lights go out, ere his teammate is going to snap his string of wins at his home race... and if you think Lewis Hamilton doesn't want to do that after Spain, you're crazy.  Plus, heck... it's MONACO.  This is the Big One.  And if Rosberg manages to win, he'll join some rather elite company... the names of drivers who have won Monaco three or more times is pretty impressive.  Ayrton Senna, Graham Hill, Slappy Schumacher, Alain Prost, Sterling Moss and Jackie Stewart.  19 World Championships between them (Moss drags the average down, winning no championships during his career... which is just mind-blowing).  I think it'd be safe to say that Rosberg would be the worst driver of the bunch, which isn't really a knock.

Well, we'll find out on Sunday, the Racing Fan's Holiday!  See ya then!


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May 21, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep07

"In the end, Asuka always ends up on my mind."
-President of the band club

-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep07

A remarkably Asuka-centric episode.  "Remarkable" mainly because she barely says anything, and nothing at all to any of the main characters in a non-ensemble setting.  However, the truth is that she was the focal point.

The Goofy part of her was completely missing this time around, but her screen time was actually quite limited.  However, almost every conversation somehow became about her... and not always in a positive light.  There's an undercurrent amongst the first-year members of the band that she's too perfect, that it's all a put-on, and one can't tell where the REAL Asuka is as a result.

It doesn't appear that the upperclassmen feel the same way.  However, many of them feel something even more stinging about her: that she let the band down.  We finally discovered why there's such a dearth of second-year students in the band club, and it's about what you would expect: a group of them were more interested in socializing than playing.  However, there was a group that DID want to play seriously, and conflict inevitably resulted.  People looked to Asuka to solve the conundrum and... she didn't.  She played neutral to the whole thing, as well as turning down the position of  President.  According to one of the officers of the band club, Asuka thought it out and realized that she couldn't succeed as the President with the club in the condition it was in.

That puts a completely different spin on her "master facilitator" persona, one that's not so flattering when mixed with the fake/phony appellation.  And yet, we still don't really know the TRUE "cute goofball"... we just know what other members of the band think of her.  Big difference there, but it was a fascinating character study cleverly done.  I have hope that next week we'll actually find out more.

Because this one image teases so much about her.  We've seen a few bedrooms over the course of this show, and none of them have been so empty, so sparse, so... lonely.  You'd expect the room to be a riot of color and action and noise, given the "Goofy Cute" that resides in it, but... no.  I fear what this means about her backstory.

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May 19, 2015

Ducks In Anime: The Pictures Tell The Story


-Shokugeki no Soma, Ep04
Click "more" for... the rest of the story!

more...

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May 18, 2015

F1 on TV: Monaco 2015

Ahhhhh, Monaco.  The place Formula 1 likes to imagine every race is like.  The glitz, the glamor, the champagne, the megayachts in the harbor, the casino, the women, the money.  For some reason, I can't imagine Spielberg, Austria, or Mexico City, or Spa-Francopants, or even Austin, Texas being the center of glitz and glamor (though Austin's the center of Weird).  But that's fine.  The sport can have its delusions because at least once a year, they're real.  This weekend the F1 Circus makes its way to the Principality for the 2015 Grand Prix of Monaco.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

Essentially unchanged since the addition of the Nouvelle Chicane (Turns 10/11) in 1986, though there was a minor reprofiling of the Swimming Pool (Turns 13-16) in 1997, Monaco is the slowest circuit on the calendar.  It's also the narrowest, has both the slowest (The Hairpin) and one of the fastest turns (Turn 9, the Tunnel) on the calendar, and is the only place on the calendar with a measurable risk of drivers ending up in the water.  There's no "straight" here, just less curvy areas, and I'm fairly sure that the stretch from the end of the Nouvelle Chicane to Turn 17 is flat... the rest is uphill, downhill or seemingly both at the same time (the exit to the tunnel loses altitude except for a car-length-sized bump uphill).  It takes about six weeks to construct the circuit by putting up the armco barriers, safety fencing, bleachers, activating the pit lane, bolting the curbs into place, welding the drain covers down, that sort of stuff.

Just as the Monaco Grand Prix is different from other races in many ways, so too is the race weekend for Monaco.  Instead of Friday-Saturday-Sunday, instead we have Thursday-Saturday-Sunday.  Such arrangement allows the billionaires to return from their jobs in Switzerland or England on Friday... or not, as the case may be.  It's also one of the few that we here in the US get to see on one of the "Big Three" networks!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Thursday
7a - 830a: Practice 2 on NBCSN live
Saturday
7a - 830a: Quals on NBCSN live
Sunday
630a - 9a: 2015 Grand Prix of Monaco, live on NBC
As always, all times are Pond Central; check your local listings.  Post no bills.

This is also Memorial Day weekend, meaning that Sunday is the Racing Fan's National Holiday as well.  We get Monaco in the morning, the Indy 500 in the early afternoon, and the Coca-Cola 600 in the late afternoon/early evening.  That's a lot of racing, and no, I'm not gonna try it this year.  The open-wheel races, yes, but NASCAR I'll be happy if I get to catch the end.  It's a busy weekend, but a fun one!  See ya 'round, racefans!

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May 17, 2015

Oh Why Not?

Because I haven't seen very many good AMVs for Kantai Collection, here's a mostly good one.

I say mostly because it suffers from the same problem the source song does: it's about a minute too long.  Still, up to that point a fun time is had by all. 

Or by me.  One of the two.

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May 15, 2015

The Thrill Is Gone

We lost one of the true legends of the music industry today.  BB King, best known as "The King Of The Blues", passed away at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 89.

Mentor to other guitar heroes like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Buddy Guy, he also inspired countless number of blues performers and fans worldwide.  Like many rock fans my age, I was introduced to him via the band U2, who featured him on the Rattle & Hum song "When Love Comes To Town," which they wrote specifically for him.

More recently, he hit the radio waves once again with his collaboration with Eric Clapton, "Riding With The King."

As it turned out, BB King hated to sing while playing Lucille, his guitar, so he had a unique call-and-response style to his songs.  That's clearly heard in "The Thrill Is Gone," of course, but I'm fond of the tribute song he wrote for his guitar as well.

More than that, he had a distinctive sound to his playing, in a way that almost no other guitarist did.  Silky smooth but with a hint of dirt to it.  Drop him in a group of guitarists, and you'll always be able to tell which was him.

For music fans of all genres, the loss of BB King is immense.  He will definitely be missed around The Pond, and around the world.

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May 14, 2015

Loss


That just says it all, doesn't it?

I'm sorry.  I'm trying, I really am. 

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May 13, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep06


-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep06

We saw both sides of Our Goofy Adoration this week.  The stern but fair taskmaster alternately teaching and berating the newby tuba player when she was on the verge of goofing off...

...and showing that she's got the chops to back up her assertions in addition to being cute and goofy.  She's clearly serious about this whole music thing, despite not being interested in running the band club.

When handed a new piece of music for auditions, she looks at it for a moment, then plays through it smoothly, error-free, and at tempo.  Meanwhile, the main character of the show, who has played the same instrument for seven years, is clearly uncomfortable with playing, tentative and slow.  While the rest of the series spins around her, Asuka is proving to be the person I want to know more about.  Sure, Kumiko, Hazuki, Sapphire and Reina are the main characters, and their relationships are intriguing, and the show is hitting on all cylinders, but I'll be darned if Asuka doesn't steal every scene she's in.  There's something about her, above and beyond the goofy cute, that makes her interesting.  She's not a main character, but she's making a good argument to be one.

It's clear there's more than 13 episodes in the story of Hibike! Euphonium.  I'm hoping a second season will be announced quickly, and that one of the episodes is Asuka-centric.  I want to know her backstory... for all that I've adopted her as a motif to talk about the series, we really don't know much about her.

I have a feeling there's more to it than we think.

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May 10, 2015

F1 Update: Spain 2015

A beautiful sunny day rose over Barcalounger as the F1 Circus began its swing across Europe today.  For the first time in 2015, someone other than Lewis Hamilton led the Blundering Herd to the grid as teammate Nico Rosberg had the honors of fast lap during Quals, and he was desperate for a win.  So what happened?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Spain!

Here is the most excitement we had all day:

This is Turns 1 and 2 of the first lap.  Nico Rosberg leads the Ferrari of Seb Vettel, who took advantage of a poor start by Lewis Hamilton to move into second place. 

From this point in time until the end of the race, the Grand Prix of Spain was one of sheer tedium.  There was almost no passing on track, no real drama despite the best efforts of the Legendary Announce Team to create some late in the race, and the only excitement came when two separate front jack men got run over by their cars (McLaren's HWPMBNSTITF suffered brake failure, and Lotus' Lettuce Grosjean suffered brain failure). 

It was a reversion to the bad old days of the early-to-mid 2000s, when all passing was done in the pit lanes, races were processionals, and the winners could often be named before qualifying based on tire manufacturer.  Back then, refueling was the gimmick that allowed for races to hinge on pit strategy.  Now we have DRS which makes it impossible for the car ahead to defend a legit passing attempt, and bodywork that messes up airflow over the car behind, making it impossible for them to get close enough to make a legit passing attempt.

Now, I'm not going to say that every race is going to be a Spanish Grand Prix, and we knew coming in that this wasn't going to be the most interesting race in the world ("I don't always race cars..."), but this was really not good at all.  Nico Rosberg only ever lost the lead during pit stop rotations, and then only briefly.  Hamilton never had a challenge for him and, as previously mentioned, could not do anything about Ferrari's Seb Vettel on track.  A quick change of plan to a three-stop strategy allowed him to race hard enough to pass him in the pits for second.  Fourth was Valterri Bottas in his Williams, another near-podium yet invisible race for the Martini-striped car.  The Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen overcame his qualifying woes to pull himself up to a complaint-filled fifth.  The other Williams, driven by Felipe Massa ended up in sixth, with just as equally invisible a drive as his teammate's.

Nobody else was on the same lap.

So from a nearly-literal snoozefest in Spain, we head next to the Principality of Monaco and the streets of Monte Carlo.  When one thinks of Monaco, the first thing that leaps to mind is not passing.  However, it's such a visceral experience that one barely notices as the cars race down narrow city streets past fans wearing clothes that cost more than the F1 cars going by, or lounging on yachts in the harbor, or sunbathing next to swimming pools on the roofs of gigamillion-dollar hotels.  With everything else going on to excite the senses, the Monaco Grand Prix can get away with it.  Not so with Spain, a bare circuit with little visual stimulation. 

Monaco is the one place on the calendar where raw grunt is not needed.  Perhaps there we will see another dent in the Mercedes domination.  See you in two weeks!

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May 09, 2015

F1 Quals: Spain 2015

Hold the phone!  Stop the presses!  From border to border, coast to coast and all the ships at sea, we have breaking news!  Flash!  Here's the grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Spain:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.490s 1:25.166s 1:24.681s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.382s 1:25.740s 1:24.948s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:27.534s 1:26.167s 1:25.458s
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:27.262s 1:26.197s 1:25.694s
5 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:26.773s 1:26.475s 1:26.136s
6 Min Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:27.393s 1:26.441s 1:26.249s
7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:26.637s 1:26.016s 1:26.414s
8 Kid Kvyat Red Bull 1:27.833s 1:26.889s 1:26.629s
9 Felipe Massa Williams 1:27.165s 1:26.147s 1:26.757s
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:27.611s 1:26.692s 1:26.770s
11 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:27.383s 1:27.375s
12 Ohgodits Maldonado Lotus 1:27.281s 1:27.450s
13 HWPMBNSTITF McLaren 1:27.941s 1:27.760s
14 Jenson Button McLaren 1:27.813s 1:27.854s
15 Gamal Abdel Nasr Sauber 1:27.625s 1:28.005s
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:28.112s

17 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:28.365s

18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:28.442s

19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:31.200s

20 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:32.038s


Yes, someone other than Lewis Hamilton has landed the premium spot on the grid for the first time this season!  That it's his teammate Nico Rosberg should come as no surprise to anybody, since he actually had more poles than the rest of the field combined last year.  Pole is important in Spain, as 12 out of the last 14 races at Barcalounger have been won from the first spot on the grid.  However, those two times have occurred in the past four years... i.e., during the DRS and KERS era. 

It's still not an easy place to pass, so you've gotta think Rosberg has an advantage.  We'll know by the first turn!  The race is Sunday morning, we'll see you then!

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May 08, 2015

F1 Practice: Spain 2015

I totally forgot to watch.  Completely spaced on today being Friday.  However!  I did say that I'd get back to you about if the new livery helped the McLaren go faster or not.

A McLaren, blood dripping from its wings, continues hunting for fresh prey.
Jenson Button ended up 7th at the end of P2.  His teammate, HWPMBNSTITF, was solidly in 11th.  So I think we can safely say yes, at least for today the Dark Charcoal and Red livery gave the McLaren chassis a speed boost.  Never mind any other gewgaws and doohickies they may have added to the bodywork, it was all down to the livery.  For what it's worth, Button is still over 1.5 seconds behind times set by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.  In other news, Lotus has installed a particularly aggressive batch of upgrades to the E23 chassis for this race.

All joking aside, and please note they put the tires on backwards, Lotus had a spot of bother out on the circuit today.  Lettuce Grosjean was turning a lap at speed when the entire engine cover tore off like it was never attached.  Normally I would think that this would do terrible things to a car's pace, but this is Lotus we're talking about here.  Ahem.  Here's what it looked like when Lettuce made it back to the pits:

Quals in the morning.  The quals report probably won't be up until the afternoon, though.

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May 07, 2015

Random Anime Picture #97: Transcribing


-Hibike!  Euphonium, Ep05

Meet Yoriko.  A third-year student at Kitauji High School, she is the librarian band club.  As such, she is in charge of marking changes in the sheet music for individual performers, correcting errors, which means she's supposed to work closely with the director.  At least, that's the way it works for professional ensemble librarians.  I assume that her position has at least some passing resemblance to those requirements.

She's playing the piccolo here, but she's been seen practicing with a flute as well.  She has had one line in the show to date, during Ep02: "When you switch from C to D...".  In that one line, she is soft-spoken.  In short, she's what I would usually call a "Skippy" in a writeup if she was important enough to have a scene devoted to her.  Since she hasn't been, she is, instead, a step down from a Skippy, a J Random Student.  She's got a name, but she's still a J Random.

Coincidentally she is also very tall, with only three male members of the band having inches on her.  She's just another J Random, "third-spearcarrier-from-the-left" type. 

Yet, in the perhaps twenty seconds of screentime she's had in five episodes of Hibike!  Euphonium, most of which in an group of people (the picture of her doing the librarian stuff is the only time she's solo onscreen, and that's for perhaps two seconds) KyoAni has managed to work in a surprising amount of characterization and background.  After all, she's a tall, soft-spoken, bookish type with a passion for music (note that she's the only one with her eyes closed in the ensemble picture!) and an eye for detail.  It's amazing what you notice when you look for stuff.  This whole character profile began simply because I liked the picture of her sitting at the desk, transcribing music.  J Random Student?  Skippy? 

Or Yoriko Saika, character.  I wonder what her story is?

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May 06, 2015

F1 Pr0n: 2015 McLaren Revamp

Back in the preseason that now feels so far away, when the McLaren MP4/30 debuted it looked a little something like this:

This morning, McLaren decided that it didn't look ominous enough for the European leg of the F1 calendar and debuted a new livery.

The infamous "glare with wheels" is now completely gone, and the car looks better for it.  The new red striping looks pretty flash too if you ask me. 

I don't understand why there haven't been that many teams that go all black in the past.  Oh, of course there's the historical "nation colors" that gave Ferrari its famous red livery, and British Racing Green isn't just a phrase.  But the only team I can think of that normally used all-black was UOP Shadow in the early '70s.  Minardi's PS01 was mostly black, with white on the upper section of the nose and stripes on the sidepods... and that's about it.  So big props to McLaren for going for drama in lieu of useful speed. 

click for bigger
It's like a high school freshman designed the livery.  How cool is that???  The red stripes have gotta be worth at least 10-20mph on the track, right?  I'll let ya know after practice on Friday!

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May 05, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep05


-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep05
This week, the Goofy Wacko we've come to adore is almost entirely missing.  In her place is a being we've never quite seen before: Deadly Serious Asuka.  I mean, last week she was the voice of reason in a band leader meeting.  This week, she was the stern taskmaster who drove the marching band to levels they didn't know they could reach.

Because she's the Drum Major and darn well in charge on performance day.  She was also the consensus pick to be President of the Band, but she didn't want the job.  Well, no wonder she was so influential last week.

I did say "almost", didn't I?

On a completely different note, if you're not watching this show, you're missing out on perhaps the best work KyoAni has done since the Haruhi movie.  I mean, yes, there's the scene that everybody will be talking about, but they're making sure every single box is checked everywhere.

Sure, just a simple train station, but holy crap, I thought I was looking at a photograph when I saw the screenshot.  Honestly, KyoAni brought their "A"-game for this one, and when they do that, ain't nobody in the same league.

It goes without saying that the reflection of the train's lights in the stream is animated horizontally, but if you watch the scene carefully, you'll see there's also movement caused by the flow of the water.  It's a throwaway shot, on-screen for a couple of seconds at most (and, ohbytheway, the train is exactly as long, end-to-end, as the screen is wide), but there's more care put into it than you'll see in almost all flash-based style animation, and most anime in general.  Yes, I'm fanboying.  Yes, I'm gushing.  No, I don't care.  It's just.  That.  Damn.  Good.

click for bigger
I want this band to play this song.  A little bit of self-referential humor for the studio.  Now if you'll excuse me, I want to go watch this episode again.

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May 04, 2015

F1 on TV: Spain 2015

The slow boat from Bahrain has finally made landfall in the Old World, and the F1 Circus has disembarked in the traditional home of racing boredom, Barcalounger, home of the 2015 Grand Prix of Spain.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we? 
I call it a boring race because it almost always is.  For many, many years, the Circuit de Catalunya was the winter home for testing, with every team putting in thousands of laps annually.  As a result, every tiny rise, every small dip, any bump, crack or irregularity is known and processed through the filter of the teams.  Every single inch of this circuit is mapped and imprinted directly onto the cerebellums of the drivers, to the point that the race has spawned some legendary processions.  Indeed, if there was ever an argument to be made for the necessity of gimmicks like DRS and KERS in Formula 1, this track right here is it.

Over and above all that, there's nothing particularly challenging about this Spanish track.  It's a burrito from Chipotle is what it is.  Filling, and you know you've eaten something when you're done, but real burritos are so much better.  It wasn't always that way... I remember when Sector 3 was ridiculously fast: Turn 10 was a sweeper instead of a hairpin, and the final turn ran in a single arc from Turn 13 to the exit of Turn 16 and cars barely slowed for it.

But those days are dust, now and forever more.  At least we'll have the Legendary Announce Team to bring us coverage over paella and tortas from the Basilica Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
FRIDAY
7am - 830am: Practice 2 on NBCSN
SATURDAY
7am - 830am: Quals live on CNBC
SUNDAY
630a - 9am: 2015 Grand Prix of Spain on NBCSN. 

All times are Pond Central, of course.  Add an hour if, for example, you're in a hospital in Virginia.  Subtract two hours if you're having a Mission burrito in San Francisco.  And if you're in the Midwest, have a breakfast pastry with your sangria.

We'll see you then.

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May 01, 2015

Deforming

There was a nasty wreck during the ARCA series race at Talladega today.  Austin Self got a little squirrely and spun in the tri-oval, not an uncommon occurrence.  As his car flailed around, it caught the hard-charging car of Brad Smith right in the nose.  Along with the obvious damage, Smith's throttle was stuck open.  He went up the track, smacked the outside wall, and then...

Rescue crews actually had to cut Smith from the wreckage of the car, but he was able to walk under his own power to the ambulance, though unsteadily.  Taken to the infield care unit, he was later helicoptered to the nearby University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital for further observation. 

I mention all this because of a screenshot I saw of the wreck... to whit, this one:

The particular stretch of wall that Smith impacted had what's called a SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier installed in front of it.  When hit, it's designed to crumple like a beercan, reducing the strength of the impact before the car makes contact with the concrete wall behind it.  That's why Smith's car looks like it's smooshed to half its size: part of it is inside the SAFER barrier. 

During the NASCAR Xfinity race at Daytona back in February Kyle Busch had a similar accident, except the wall he hit notably didn't have the SAFER barriers installed.  He suffered a broken right leg and left foot.  Certainly there were differences: impact angle, size and weight of the cars, so on and so forth... but that one man could walk away and the other is sidelined and will remain so for an unknown amount of time may very well come down to the way the wall deformed.

F1 doesn't use SAFER barriers; instead, they use tire walls which really do much the same thing, or TECPRO barriers at four or five circuits.  TECPRO is the same idea as SAFER, just with much more foam and less steel.  It's used mostly at Monaco, where it protected Sergio Perez from what would have been a catastrophic injury in 2011.  Compare that accident to Jenson Button's in 2003, when they had a tire wall instead... no give at all.

In most cases for F1, tire barriers are sufficient.  Walls are usually far away from the track, and when they're not, a car isn't likely to hit them (on straightaways, for example).  Tire barriers are "good enough" in those circumstances, combined with the way F1 cars are designed to absorb impacts.  A SAFER barrier might actually hinder the way a F1 car takes damage, come to think of it.

Well, there you go.

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April 30, 2015

Not So Good


I can't explain.  I can't.  Not without whining.  It's my fault anyway.  Way to go, Wonderduck.

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April 28, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep04


-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep04

A rather Asuka-less episode, with the cute goofball having maybe a minute of screentime.  She was remarkably serious this time around, too.  From being the voice of reason in the section leader meeting that actually determined the course of the series from here on out to teaching the newcomers to the bass section advanced techniques, she played the role of "good sempai" to a Tee.

What might not be obvious at first blush is that Asuka has, to date, gotten everything she's wanted in this series.  From corralling three of the main characters to making sure the band is trying for Nationals to subtly siding with the new teacher in the section leader meeting and thus pushing everybody to accept his somewhat abrupt (but effective) style, Our Goofy Fascination is proving to be ridiculously skilled in playing the political game.  One gets the impression that if she was even slightly normal she'd be president of the student council, or maybe dictator-for-life.

You know how there is a school of thought that says that the Star Wars series of movies is actually telling the story of R2-D2?  At least through Ep04, an argument can be made for Hibike!  Euphonium being Asuka's tale, told from the standpoint of the three so-called main characters.  To be honest, I'm not sure if I really believe that or if it's just because I'm doing this weekly thing, but I find the possibility to be intriguing.

Shhhh... don't tell anyone!

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April 27, 2015

War Thunder Ground Forces

I got very frustrated with the game War Thunder, the player community as a whole, and most importantly, its match-maker (which I've learned much more about than what I mention at that link).  Roughly, vehicles have Battle Ratings, or BR.  When you're looking to join a match, the game looks only at your highest BR score, and matches you with a maximum 1.0 BR spread.  So if you have a BR plane of 3.0, you may be matched against a 4.0 BR plane.  In this situation, you would NOT be matched against anything lower than 3.0, though, because then the gap to the 4.0 plane would be too large.  The important thing is that you're only compared via the top rating in your lineup of three planes/tanks/whatever, so if you have a Corsair, a Buffalo and a Peashooter, you're matched up via the Corsair... which means you're going to be sealclubbed after your Corsair is gone.  Further, as you play you earn improvements for your plane... you get a new engine instead of one rebuilt and repaired; you get fresh machine guns instead of ones with worn-out barrels, that sort of thing... but the BR doesn't change.  The difference between a stock plane and one that's fully improved (or "spaded" in player terminology) is huge.  So, you have a stock P-38 Lightning and you're flying against a spaded FW-190D (or whatever)... and you're on the ground, upside down and burning before you know what hit you.

You'll have to imagine the "upside down and burning" part.
Finally, I said enough was enough.  I'm not having fun with the airplanes anymore, and Avatar's been extolling the virtues of the game's Ground Forces feature... eh, what the hell, let's give it a shot.

more...

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