August 30, 2015

Photoshoot, Ga-Rei Zero Style!

Some time ago, I was talking about a "creative project" I was working on... y'know, the one that needed 60 sets of chopsticks, a trilobite, something donated from Texas, two different styles of gift tissue, four thumbtacks and a big binder clip?  It's fairly clear to me now that I'll never actually finish the damn thing, simply because the effort involved is somewhat beyond me at the moment... i.e. I can't be arsed.  However!  That doesn't mean that I can't reveal that which has been completed, and J Greely was right... the stuff WAS being used as a photo studio though not a tabletop one.  More of a bookcase, really.  You'll see, later.  But what was I shooting?

Almost 18 months ago, I sugested that there were two more figmae waiting to be photographed... but what I didn't say is that they were a matched set: Kagura and Yomi from Ga-Rei Zero!  Though they're fairly old Figma (Kagura is #066, Yomi #067 in a collection that's announced number #269 recently), I was able to pick the pair of them up for a song... in new condition, to boot.  I just checked online, and nowadays they cost individually what I got both for in 2014.  Anime figures: investment material!

Of course, the best part of Ga-Rei Zero is the relationship between these two.  It's no spoiler anymore to say that they go from best friends to a duel to the death, and if nothing else, that gives a LOT of picture-taking opportunities.  Let's continue, shall we?


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August 26, 2015

Her Eyes

Back in 2008 or so, I was flooping around after finishing up my first AMV, "...Angel", feeling like I needed to make another one but not having any inspiration.  Oh, there were a couple of aborted attempts, but nothing that got any farther than a couple of clips on a timeline and call it a day.  Then there was a Formula 1 video I thought about doing (F1MV?) and never got around to... and then my copy of Adobe Premiere went away in a virus-induced format-and-install, never to be seen again.  Of course, it was then that inspiration sneaked up behind me and whupped me upside de haid but good.  And like with the first AMV, it happened at the Duck U Bookstore.  Since it's been nigh on seven years since then, I don't remember what I was doing at the time... probably folding t-shirts because t-shirts always need to be folded, that's what they're for... when a song came on the instore music system.

As with the first time, it had less to do with how much I liked the song as how the entire AMV sprang to life in my head as the song went on.  That I did (and still do) like the tune is an added bonus, something I can't particularly say about "Lips of an Angel", the song I used for "...Angel".  Certainly by the time I was done, I hated that drippy piece of musical treacle.  There was one huge difference between the two ideas, though: I had Premiere the first time lighting struck, and I didn't the second time.  The constant badgering of my brain trying to get me to make "Her Eyes" into the AMV in my head drove me to make some... unwise... decisions on the downloading front, not that my antivirus programs did anything to help matters.  Antivirus matadors, more like it: "oh look, a virus?  Ole!"  Anyway, after being unsuccessful on many fronts, I decided to make an effort at tabling my brain's nagging for a while.  And then The Dark Years occurred.  2008 and 2009 were particularly horrible experiences, and while 2010 and 2011 were remarkable for blog output (all those writeups!), the AMV faded, stored away in a closet somewhere in my brain.

Jumpcut to a few days ago.  I've put the entirety of my "loose tunes" music collection into one mega-playlist (iTunes suggests that I can now go 47 hours straight without hearing a repeat, and that's without any of the hundreds of albums included), and I've hit the shuffle setting.  I'm sitting at the computer doing... something and the music is playing, playing, playing and... a song comes on.  And the lightning bolt strikes again.

Indeed, by the time he hits the first chorus, there were tears rolling down my face.  Not because it's a sad song, but because of how intense my brain's reaction was.  If you've never had a serious "eureka moment" like that, I literally can't explain it to you.  If you have experienced it, you know exactly what I mean and I don't need to explain it.  It certainly doesn't have to be AMV-related... authors and woodworkers, papershufflers and athletes, bloggers and... uh... people who do real things can all get hit by such inspiration.  I've been truly honored to have it happen a few times (not all AMV-related), and I hope it'll happen again in the future.  "But", I hear you screaming, "what's the damn concept, Wonderduck?"

Some years ago, there was a fairly popular anime, spawned a damn religion, come to think of it... maybe you've heard of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya?  I can hear you groaning to yourself, but remember this: the concept for this AMV came to me in 2008, well before the second series, well before Endless 8, well before the movie and all that jazz.  It was still fresh then.  Of course, people hyped the new series to Pluto and beyond, then were disappointed when it only reached the Moon, but that's beside the point.  One thing that really drove people loony in a good way was the first series' ED, what with the dancing and the choreography and the glavin and...  ...but y'know, I was always struck by an image from the OP.  To whit, this one:

The universe in her eye, as we find out when we zoom in closer and discover stars and galaxies.  It's a great image, and the song fits so perfectly with it I'd almost think that Pat Monahan had seen the series.  And the intervening years, quite honestly, have done nothing but made it easier to make the AMV... after all, it's more than doubled the available source material, and in the process solved the one blank space I had in my mental storyboard (how the hell was I going to do "tells me that she's lived about a hundred lives..."?  Well, now I know!).

The one, nearly trivial, aspect of the creation of the AMV is that I still don't have a video editing program worthy of the name.  Or any idea how to extract video from mkvs.  Or time.  But those are all minor details. 

The lightning has struck again.

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August 23, 2015

F1 Update: Belgium 2015

Before we get into the F1 stuff, please send good thoughts out to former F1 driver and current IndyCar racer Justin Wilson.  During today's race at Pocono, he was hit in the head by the nosecone of a wrecked car.  Airlifted to a nearby hospital, he is, as of 750pm, "unconscious and unresponsive" with a "traumatic brain injury."  I'm no doctor, but the replays looked bad.  Good luck, Justin...

UPDATE 8/24/15: Justin Wilson died in hospital today.  He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Clear skies at Spa today, an absolutely perfect day to go racing... which means nothing at this huge track in the Ardennes.  Rain can appear with no notice whatsoever here... and has!  Often!  During races, too!  So would anything get in the way of polesitter Lewis Hamilton's march to victory?  Would Seb Vettel and the resurgent Ferrari make a statement during the race?  Or would another team haul themselves up after the month-long summer break?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Belgium.

*RACE... NOT SO FAST!: As the formation lap came to an end, the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg was in some distress, clearly some problem with the power unit somewhere.  Once he came to a halt in his grid spot, the car decided that it had worked hard enough for the day and shut down.  This resulted in an aborted start, everybody went around on a second formation lap while Hulkenberg's car was put out of its misery and rolled away.  Then, as the field approached the grid for the second time, the call went out to Carlos Sainz in his Toro Rosso: "come to the pits, do not take your grid position."  It took some two laps to fix whatever ailed the car, but he eventually did participate... only to retire it on Lap 36.

*RACE:  When the lights officially went out, our polesitter did what he always does: ran away over the horizon, never to be seen again.  Behind him, things were made interesting by Nico Rosberg's less-than-stellar start which saw him shuffled back to around fifth place.  He would eventually make it back up to second, but it took a while.  For the most part, however, this was not a particularly exciting race.  While there was quite a bit of passing, almost all of it was due to the DRS being very effective down the Kemmel Straight.  You'd see the DRS open up and the trailing car would just blow past the car ahead (which is going 190-200mph) like it was someone's Toyota Camry.  That's not to say there were no passes that required effort... local boy Embryo Verstappen pulled off a couple of beauties, though ultimately settling for eighth, while Kid Kyvat earned a lovely fourth in his Red Bull.

*TIRE WHERE?:  Seb Vettel and his Ferrari clearly could not hold pace with the Mercedes duo today, but he was still good enough to have third place pretty much sewn up with just a couple of laps to go.  While under pressure from Lettuce Grosjean in a remarkably resurgent Lotus, a fight between a four-time world champion and someone nicknamed for a leafy green vegetable was only going to end one way.  That is, until the Ferrari's right-rear tire unzipped from outside to in, throwing chunks of rubber and tire carcass high into the now-cloudy skies.  The sidewalls remained more or less intact, which allowed the red car to stay on an even keel.. flashback to Friday's second practice, where Nico Rosberg had a right-rear tire failure due to damage.  In his case, the car wound up on the wheel rim, meaning he was essentially driving on the floor of the car.  This does horrible things to grip levels and sent him careening down the track totally out of control.  Luck alone kept Bad Things from happening in that particular instance.  Back to Sunday, and Vettel still had the ability to steer, just, but not the ability to race.  He fell to 12th, totally out of the points.

*PARTY LIKE IT'S 2013.  THEN CHECK YOUR WALLET LIKE IT'S 2015: Taking his place in third was the aforementioned Lettuce Grosjean's Lotus.  Two laps later, the likable Frenchman had brought the team their first podium finish since Grosjean finished the 2013 US Grand Prix in second place.  Shortly after the team finished celebrating, baliffs moved in on Sunday night and impounded the team's traveling equipment due to an ongoing legal dispute with former driver Charles ToothPic.


"We cannot believe just how disinterested we were in covering this race." - the F1U! crew.

Two weeks from now, the Circus reconvenes in the Church of Speed itself: Monza.  See you then.

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August 22, 2015

F1 Quals: Belgium 2015

Another day of blue skies and perfect weather at Spa-Francopants... something is obviously wrong with the environment if we can go two days without rain at this track.  But how did the good F1 folk do on the track?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Belgium:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:48.908 1:48.024 1:47.197
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:48.923 1:47.955 1:47.655
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:49.026 1:49.044 1:48.537
4 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:49.353 1:48.981 1:48.561
5 Sergio Perez Force India 1:49.006 1:48.792 1:48.599
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:49.664 1:49.042 1:48.639
7 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:49.688 1:48.806 1:48.685
8 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:49.568 1:48.956 1:48.754
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:49.264 1:48.761 1:48.825
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:49.109 1:49.065 1:49.771
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:49.499 1:49.121
12 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:49.469 1:49.228
13 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:49.523 1:49.586
14 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:49.288 No Time

15 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:49.831 No Time

16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:49.952

17 Jenson Button McLaren 1:50.978

18 HWIFernando AlonsoA McLaren 1:51.420

19 Will Stevens Manor 1:52.948

20 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:53.099

Oh look, there's a Mercedes on pole... that's never happened before!  And Lewis Hamilton is driving?  I'm shocked I tell you, shocked.

Actually, the surprising thing is that Vettel is 9th after completely peeing a good final hot lap down his firesuit's leg at the final chicane.  The other Ferrari never made it out of Q2 after having existential car failure.  Everything else was basically as we've come to expect.

Except for one thing.  The two McLarens have accomplished something never before seen in F1... between them, they've racked up 105 places worth of grid penalties for this race!  Basically both cars have completely new power units in them, from transmission to ICE to batteries.  As McLaren/Honda has pretty much used their allotment of component changes for the season, they knew this was going to happen no matter what they did.  Then came the rule change at Hungary that said that if a car could not serve their grid penalties in one race, they just start last on the grid... previously they had to take time penalties as well.  As McLaren was probably going to be starting towards the back anyway, why not take what realistically amounts to a two-spot penalty and change their engine every race from here on out?  Give Honda more data to work with for the rest of this season-long test session?

I figure the other teams would have problems aplenty with that, but for now?  Go for 100-spot penalties each, boys!

The race is tomorrow morning; I'll do my best to get something up tomorrow night... I'm having brunch with out-of-town family.  See ya then!

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August 20, 2015

Wonderduck's Pond: The Livejournal Of Anime Blogs

Before I get into what friend Brickmuppet calls "banality", I will give you all a chance to head for the hills.  As a thank you for dropping by, even if you don't want to read about My Life, allow me to post some cheesecakey-like-product in the style of SDB:

The real reason to watch Vividred Operation: Hot Dark Girl Rei and her kickarse scarf... and did I mention that, once upon a time, I did an Episodic Writeup of the show?  I did, and you should go back and read them, because they're pretty good.  Anyway, onto the banality!


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August 18, 2015

Alive, But Only Just...

So, here's a little bit of what's going on in my corner of this big pond we call life!

At work today, I noticed that a spot on my neck down around where it meets the front of my collarbone was feeling a little sore.  No biggie, I recently got a new electric shaver (cheaper than blades!) and I've noticed a tendency for my skin to get a little irritated if I'm not careful... and it just so happens I shaved this morning.  I have red hair and a rather thin beard, so I can get away with shaving once every two or three days easy, and I was in a hurry this morning, so I musta dug in a bit.  Why is this important?  Follow with me as I tell the tale, my friends!

After work, I hopped in the DuckMobile and headed to my local laundromat.  I'd been putting off doing it for much too long... indeed, far past much too long.  Any reasonable being would have done laundry a couple of weeks ago.  Unreasonable beings would have done it last week.  And then there's me, but at least I was gonna do it today!  I pulled in, pulled the two laundry totes from the trunk, winced at the smell of hot dirty laundry (it was roughly 85 and sunny today), and... discovered that I'm old.  Holy crap, fifty-plus pounds of less-than-fresh duds were quite uncomfortable to drag, let alone carry.  But I did, indeed, get them inside and into washing machines.  Two hours and $17 in quarters later, it was finished.  I broke the zipper on one of the totes, yayforme, and then I began dragging everything back to the DuckMobile.

Did I mention that it was raining hard enough to make fish say "nah, too wet"?  Because it was... and thunder, too!  All that sort of good stuff was happening as I got my no-longer-as-dry-as-it-had-been laundry to the car.  Of course, I was drenched by the time I closed the trunk and got into the driver's seat... and then it REALLY started to rain.  The parking lot of Pond Central had a torrent of water in the gutter, and a helluva lot more was coming down to join it.  I had two choices... 1) I could sit in the car until it stopped, which at the time seemed like sometime Thursday; or B) I could make the run with 50lbs of laundry from the car to the entry portal to the staircase leading to Pond Central.  I chose B).  I chose poorly.  Once I was finally under cover, I was completely soaked... and the laundry totes were wet too, making it very important that I got into Pond Central fast.  Did you know that hauling 50lbs of laundry up a good flight of stairs is quite the workout?  Holy crap.  I got inside without blowing an artery, quickly dumped everything out of the laundrybags, and got out of my wet clothes.  It was then that I got a good look at my neck.

Holy crap.  It may have started out as an irritated spot from my shaver, but it appeared that the collar of my undershirt was working on it all day.  Then came the rain, and suddenly a WET collar was working on it.  There wasn't any blood, but I'll be darned if I know why not... it looks like someone had taken a cheese grater to my neck!  I'm gonna have to wear something loose-fitting tomorrow, that's for darn sure.  But for now, I'm going to sit in my comfy chair, have something to eat, watch something mind-numbing, and relax a bit.  Hopefully you've enjoyed this insight into the so-called life of Wonderduck, your humble host.


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August 16, 2015

F1 on TV: Belgium 2015

So the summer break for the F1 Circus is coming to an end.  The teams are putting their tents up, rebuilding the carnival rides, letting the efalumps out of their cages, and letting the clowns out of their cages.  Meanwhile, the drivers are returning from their vacation locations...  Jenson Button, for example, was in a villa in St Tropez during the break, and when thieves introduced knockout gas into the air conditioning they got about €300K worth of stuff.  Lewis Hamilton was spotted canoodling with singer Rihanna in Barbados and New York.  Kimi Raikkonen drank heavily, which means his break was business as usual.  And Fernando Alonso wore a hat.  But if we have to end our month-long slumber, there's no better place to do it than the track we head to now.  Here's the map for the Grand Prix of Belgium, at Spa-Francopants:

It's legendary.  It's fast as hell.  It's the longest circuit on the calendar.  It's steeply uphill from Turn 2 to Turn 4, then most of the rest of the lap from Turn 7 on is spent going downhill to Turn 17.  And it usually rains.  That's about all you need to know about Spa-Francoamerican, really.  It's a lovely, lovely track, a true classic, one the Circus has been coming to for hundreds of years.  They even raced here during WWII.  It's true!  In 1941, a Panzer III defeated two AMR 35s and a SOMUSA S35 in a rain-shortened race, and the 1944 race was won by a M22 Locust and a pair of M4s over German entries of a Panther, a new-model Panzer IV, and the very late entry of a Maus despite cold and snowy conditions.

I made that up.

In any case, it's the usual race schedule for us here in the US.  Let us take a look at what the Legendary Announce Team will be bringing us and when:
Practice 2:  7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Quals:  7a - 830a live on CNBC
2015 Grand Prix of Belgium:  630a - 9a live on NBCSN

As is usual, I'll be watching everything, with a quals report sometime Saturday and a F1U! sometime on Sunday... however, I'm having brunch with six family members on race day, so I have no idea when I'll be able to watch, let alone write.  But we'll be here.  Eventually.  Look forward to it, won't you?  And if you aren't going to look forward to it, don't tell me.  Let me keep some of my illusions, 'k? 

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August 14, 2015


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August 12, 2015

Not Giving Up On Gakkou Gurashi

Though to be honest I probably should.  Between work and life in general, I'm finding it difficult to crank out the writeups for Gakkou Gurashi... heck, I'm finding it difficult to generate the time to watch it, let alone spend the four hours-plus a good writeup takes.

But I want to do this so very much.  But, y'know: the spirit is willing, but.... Yeah, its kinda like that.  It's a LOT like that.  It IS like that.  Once I get a handle on everything, I'd expect regular programming to return.  I'm just not there yet.

The show's worth the effort, though.

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August 10, 2015

Random Anime Picture #100: Wha?

-Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Ep08

I may have been the only person who actually liked BGC2040 more than the original.  Actually, I may have been the only person who actually liked BGC2040, period.  That's okay, I can live with that.  It's an exciting show, and the music is top-notch stuff if you like electro-industrial-post-punk-ishly.  Which, as it turns out, I do.  The animation still holds up too, despite being nearly 20 years old.  And the character designs are a helluva lot nicer than the semigeneric '80s stylings of the original.

But maybe that's just me.

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August 08, 2015

Failing Twice

I've started two separate posts today.  The first was a true story about a time I impressed a date with my singing ability, and the second a humorous attempt to ask if any of my readers had a spare mp3 player they weren't using.  The first didn't... couldn't... capture the awesomeness of the moment, and the way I was going about the second just made me cringe (as does the need to ask).  So I've written about 1000 words today that nobody will ever see, and I think that's for the best.  So instead, I'm just going to post the music videos I was using in the posts because I like the songs.

Here's the one that I sang in an empty beer patio.

She knew I was a theatre guy, but she wasn't expecting me to have a singing voice.  Or to use the entire area as my personal stage... Vauc, it was the Olympic's, if you're curious.  In any case, it was a perfect night, and sometimes the heavens align just right.  Vocal magic ensued.

The second one was this:

The room I work in has somewhere around 100 people in it, and the background noise of 100 keyboards alone is enough to drive someone mad.  Earplugs don't work... all I can hear then is my own breathing, which is distracting as hell.  Most people have mp3 players or some variant thereof, but I can't currently afford one that can shuffle.  So if any of The Pond Scum has a spare mp3 player you're not using and would be willing to send me, let me know in comments.  I'm ridiculously embarrassed to ask, but there you are.  My brain does dredge up songs that it'll replay in memory, and this was one of them recently.  So was this:

Some years ago, an argument was posted at one of them there news aggregate sites that Eminence Front was the quintessential '80s song.  I disagreed, believing that Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight holds that title.  But I listen to Eminence Front a helluva lot more.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.  If you're curious about the first story, I can try to make it interesting enough to post.  If you're able to help out on the second, you'll have my undying gratitude.  And if neither works out, at least you've got these songs.

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August 05, 2015

You Can't Get THAT Lucky...

I haven't forgotten about y'all.  I know you're out there, looking for that Wonderduck Blend of entertainment and... um... y'know, stuff... that you've come to know and love enjoy like tolerate not despise experience.  I wish I could be giving it to you more right now, but it's very hard to sit in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day working, then come home and... sit in front of a computer for a couple of hours.  I've found the two-or-three hour nap in the evening then up until 1or 2 in the morning works fairly well for me... but it does leave not as much time for blogging than I would wish for.  Until I can get my speed up over there, I need to be rested and rarin' to go in the morning... I'm not to the point where I can go on autopilot yet.

So until then, bloggin' might be a bit more hither and yon than usual.  Please forgive me, and I'll try to keep up with That There Zombie Show Writeups.  And other stuff, too, when I can.  As is, I've just gotten home from work and dinner with The Librarian, it's nigh on 9pm, and I need to get a nap.  Because I'm old and crotchety and stuff like that.

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August 02, 2015

Gakkou Gurashi Ep02

Hello, hi, and how are you?  A surprise shortage of work at work hied me home very early on Monday, so I thought what better way to celebrate not having to stare at a computer screen all day than by staring at a computer screen all day and being allegedly funny in the process?  Some time back, I did a little not-quite-a-writeup for Ep01, and decided that if Ep02 kept the energy and interest up, I'd make it a full writeup series.  It did, and I am!  If you're not familiar with the show, read that there linky to Ep01... it'll give you the basics  Or you can just be confused, one of the two.  Now, a word of warning to y'all... I haven't read the manga, and I'm probably not going to anytime soon.  What this means is that I am not interested in knowing what the manga does, says, doesn't do or say or hints at about characters, situations, or coming activities.  If you feel a burning need to say something in the comments about future events, don't.  This is a writeup of the anime series.  Okay?  We cool?  Don't make me be a big awful meanie.  I may be good at it, because I'm a rotten bastard at heart, but I don't like to be a big awful meanine.  So lets put all that behind us and get on with the recappin'!

We open with lovely watercolor-like memories narrated by Kurumi, aka "Shovel Girl."  She was the manager of the school's track team... not because she particularly liked running or jumping or throwing the discus or putting the shot or playing 47-man Squamish, but because she had a thing for a guy, one of the upperclassmen, on the team.  Yes, it's an honest-to-gosh case of "Notice me, Senpai!"

And notice her he does.  And why not?  She's a lovely girl with twintails and she's clearly crazygonuts over him, and even though his hair covers his eyes and really he should get that trimmed a bit, he isn't blind.  Late one afternoon, they're on the roof of the school...

...and he reaches for her.  Ah, young love... ain't it swell?   Even if you can't see his eyes through the thatch he calls hair.  His parents have often said "you really should get that cut, Skippy," because that's his name: Skippy.  "You look so much nicer with short hair.  And you'd be able to read the blackboard better, it'd help your grades."  But Skippy, being a rebellious teenager, and yes, even the Japanese have teenager problems, just keeps on growing his hair and saying "I'll live like I want."  And right now, it appears that what he wants is Kurumi.

Specifically, her brains.  I'll have you know that when Skippy's hand reached through the letterboxing, I actually jumped a little in my seat.  I may also have whimpered like a sad puppy as well.  The possibility even exists that I may have wet myself a tiny bit.  I'm not proud of that, but there you are.  And then ZombieSkippy eats her.  The end.


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I'm A Little Peeved Right Now

I just lost about 2000 words for the Gakkou Gurashi Ep02 writeup.  It was done.  Complete.  All I had to do was add one picture and my final thoughts, and it would be posted.  Then my broadband connection died and when I tried to open the "paste picture" box the entire tab gave me the "session timed out" screen.  Of course, when the internet came back, I went back to the edit screen and everything was gone.  Every.  Stinkin'Thing.  Three or four hours of work, vanished.

Did I save at any time?  No, I was too busy having fun.  I want to swear SO badly right now.

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July 30, 2015

Best Thing I've Seen All Week

So a few folks in the city of Cesena, Italy, decided they really, really wanted the Foo Fighters to come play there.  They called some friends.  They practiced a bit.  This is what they ended up with:

1000 musicians, 350 of them playing guitars.  The drummers looked like they'd drilled together for a decade, not a few hours.  I'm not ashamed to say that there were some tears in this duck's eyes while watching the vid.

No way the Foo's say no to this... not after featuring it on their Facebook page.

EDIT: Dave Grohl said yes!  In Italian, no less.

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July 28, 2015

Random Anime Picture #99: Carnivale?

-Mnemosyne, Ep04
The day started out well enough.  Got to the office, had a nice pull on the whiskey bottle, patted the dog, molested the co-workers, y'know, the usual.  Then the mysterious armed men swung in through the window via helicopter zip-line, giving us just enough time to escape.  They shot the dog, though.  Then while we were making our escape in some french-looking peoplecarrier, a bunch of armored cars blocked our way.  They took one of my co-workers hostage, flew him away in a chopper.  Then they herded me and the other co-worker into the backseat of our car, shot us a dozen times each, chucked in a grenade for good measure, and drove away.

We got better. 

These were the only clothes we could find... why are you laughing?  Then I got sucked into a jet engine and turned into a fine red spray.

I got better.

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July 26, 2015

F1 Update: Hungary 2015

A beautiful summer day greeted the assembled masses at the circuit located just outside of Budapest.  A breeze was blowing, the sun was shining, the sky a brilliant blue.  Yet down on the starting grid, a completely different feel was being experienced by the men and women that make up the F1 Circus.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Hungary!

*JULES:  In the 11 seasons we've been covering Formula 1 for The Pond, the F1U! crew has seen members of the F1 Community participate in two moments of silence.  The first was in 2005, a tribute to the recently-passed Prince Rainier III, the long-time benefactor of the Monaco Grand Prix.  The second was a few months later at Silverstone, just three days after the 7/7 bombings in London.  In the first, the drivers were respectful and well-behaved.  In the second, the drivers were... to be charitable, boorish.  Jenson Button was smiling and laughing, and most of the rest of the F1 bunch were clearly not feelin' it.

But this time was different.  This time it was for one of their own.  Jules Bianchi passed away last weekend, nine months after his terrible crash in Japan last year.  Today, the drivers and teams said goodbye.  The drivers placed their helmets on the ground and formed an incomplete circle... a gap which was filled by Bianchi's parents and family, who placed their son's helmet in the center of the amassed helmets.  The team principles stood just outside the circle, while the rest of the team members stopped their labors on the grid as well.  Understated, yet very very effective.  And then it was past, the drivers decamped for their cars, and we'd like to think that Bianchi's helmet was the last one left.

*START:  Right from the beginning we had signs that this was not going to be the usual race at Hungary.  We don't often have blown starts, for example, but when Williams' Felipe Not Nasr Massa was unable to place his car in his starting box, the amber and green lights started flashing and the field perambulated around the circuit once again.  Massa was given a penalty, the Blundering Herd took its places on the grid once more, and when the red lights finally went out, chaos reigned.  Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo had a miserable start from fourth on the grid, then made contact with the Williams of Valterri Bottas and wound up somewhere near the Carpathians.  His self-removal from the front pack allowed the Ferraris of Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to just swarm over and around the front-row Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.  By the end of Turn 2, both Ferraris were ahead of both Mercs, with polesitter Hamilton shockingly in fourth.  It would get worse for the reigning World Champion when he dropped a wheel on to the grass outside the Turn 6/7 chicane and went off into the kittylitter.  Though he was able to extract himself, by the time he returned to the racing surface he was in 10th place.  At the end of the first lap, Vettel led his teammate by over a second, and was nearly four seconds up on third-place Nico Rosberg.

*AND THEN:  Things settled down a bit after that.  By Lap 25, Vettel had six seconds in hand over Raikkonen, who was 10 seconds ahead of Rosberg.  Ricciardo and Hamilton were both 30-odd seconds behind the leader, both driving well and quickly.  The fact of the matter was, though, that the Ferraris were looking crazy fast today and seemed unlikely to be caught without external forces coming to play.

*EXTERNAL FORCES: Force India had been having a not-so-great weekend.  They had brought their B-spec car to the Hungaroring, and were expecting big things.  They certainly got them.  On Friday, the rear suspension on Sergio Perez's chassis failed, sending him into a bouncing, tumbling wreck that came to a halt upside down.  During Quals, neither car could make it into Q3.  Earlier in the race Perez was mugged by Pastor Maldonado's Lotus, punting him off-track, airborne, and into a spin.  While he could continue, one could not be faulted for thinking "what else could go wrong?"  And then on Lap 42, Nico Hulkenberg's front wing fell off as he headed down the straight into the braking zone for Turn 1.  While it went right under the front tires, it did not tarry long, emerging from behind the Force India in a shower of carbon fiber shreds.  Hulkenberg speared directly into the tire barrier outside the run-off zone for the first turn, though with much speed scrubbed off... thankfully, the front wing did not keep the brakes from working for long.  Hulkenberg emerged unscathed, though shaken somewhat.  First a virtual safety car was called out while recovery efforts began, then the slumbering Berndt Maylander was awoken and sent out in the real safety car as cleanup of the huge amount of carbon fiber took place.  Indeed, the field was led through the pit lane as the front straight may as well have been covered in razor blades and caltrops.  But the arrival of the safety car meant that Vettel's lead, now up to 25 seconds over third-place Rosberg, was now gone.  However, with Raikkonen between Vettel and Rosberg, it didn't seem like there'd be much chance for a threat, even with a reborn Lewis Hamilton in fourth.

*MORE EXTERNAL FORCES:  Then the radio call came in from the Finnish Ferrari driver... there was a weird sound in the cockpit and he was down on power.  All too soon the reply came back: his MGU-K unit, previously known as KERS, had packed up and gone home.  This would leave the second-place Ferrari down about 150hp.  The stage was now set for an interesting run to the finish.

*NO MORE SAFETY CAR:  Raikkonen's job was now to hold up the silver cars as long as he could.  This wound up being about five seconds in the case of Rosberg, who blew the metaphorical doors off the Ferrari nearly as soon as the race restarted.  Behind them, however, chaos reigned again.  Ricciardo forced his way past Hamilton with the two making contact.  The Red Bull lost some bodywork, the Merc had a front wing so badly damaged that it needed to be replaced, and quickly.  Hamilton would also be given a penalty for sloppy driving for this.  In the meantime, the other Red Bull, driven by Kid Kvyat, also got past Hamilton, while Valterri Bottas took a Toro Rosso wing to the rear tire, leaving him with a slow puncture that got worse just as he tried passing the stricken Hamilton.  While there was no harm done as a result, it got dicey for a moment or two.

*TO THE END:  On Lap 51, both Ricciardo and Kvyat passed Raikkonen, who would retire his car shortly thereafter.  The two Red Bulls then set off after Rosberg, who had a windscreen full of Ferrari ahead of him.  Ricciardo's attempt to pass the Merc cleanly almost worked.  In what the stewards termed a "racing incident", the Red Bull gave Rosberg a flat tire at the cost of a nose.  In one of the stupider things we've ever heard, Rosberg after the race said that he had expected Ricciardo to give him space, despite the two of them fighting for position.  It doesn't work like that, Nico.  Both drivers had to pit for replacements of their damaged parts, and Kvyat moved into second place with five laps to go.  After his nose change, Ricciardo managed to haul himself up to third, while Rosberg had somehow contrived to fall back behind his teammate and rival.

*THE END:  When Seb Vettel finally made it across the finish line, he led Kvyat by five seconds (increased to 15 with the addition of a 10sec penalty), and Ricciardo by 25.  Fourth place was taken by the 17-year-old Toro Rosso driver, Embryo Verstappen.  And in a miracle comparable only to those of Saint Alexander Hergensheimer the Dishwasher, the newly renamed Fernando Alonso brought his McLaren home in fifth place.  Hamilton, Lettuce Grosjean, Rosberg, Jenson Button, and Sony Ericsson rounded out the top 10.


"This hasn't been an easy weekend for anybody in Formula 1... the minute's silence for Jules was very emotional, and it was very tough to get in the cockpit straight afterwards.  But, today, we respected Jules and we respected the sport." - Fernando Alonso (note: real quote)

And now the F1 Horde goes on its mandatory Summer Break.  The next race will be August 23rd, in a little town in the Ardennes Forest.  We'll see you in one month at Spa-Francopants!

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July 25, 2015

F1 Quals: Hungary 2015

Hungary.  Joy.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Magyar Nagydíj:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.890 1:22.285 1:22.020
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.979 1:22.775 1:22.595
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:23.312 1:23.168 1:22.739
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:24.408 1:23.230 1:22.774
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.596 1:23.460 1:23.020
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:23.649 1:23.555 1:23.222
7 Kid Kvyat Red Bull 1:23.587 1:23.597 1:23.332
8 Felipe Not NasrMassa Williams 1:23.895 1:23.598 1:23.537
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:24.032 1:23.781 1:23.679
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:24.242 1:23.805 1:24.181
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.115 1:23.826
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:24.623 1:23.869
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.444 1:24.461
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:23.895 1:24.609
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:24.563 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.739

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:24.843

18 Felipe Not Massa  Nasr Sauber 1:24.997

19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:27.416

20 Will Stevens Manor 1:27.949

For what seemed the first time all season, the Mercedes were actually forced to use their soft tires in Q1, lest they be bumped from quals altogether.  There's a huge performance gap between the soft and hards this time, two seconds or so... it's usually half that.  Other than that, though, nothing particularly exciting went on.  Oh sure, Red Bull seems to have made good use of the past three weeks, looking awfully racy as a result, but with Merc domination it all seems somewhat futile.

Probably the highlight of the session was Fernando Alonso's car failing towards the start of Q2.  Feeling like he had a chance to make it to Q3, it took his lame car as far as it could go... just short of the pit-in.  When it stopped?  He hopped out and pushed.  Soon, he had an entourage.

Yes, that's Alonso waving to the fans while steering his car with one hand while at a fast jog in a firesuit on a 95 degree day with high humidity.  Yes, that's also a cheeky trackworker waving to the crowd, too.  It almost pains me to point out that the second his car came to a halt on-track it was ineligible to continue the session, but that's just me.

So.  Race tomorrow morning.  F1U! sometime after.  Then the summer break, one month until the next race.  See ya then!

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July 24, 2015

Random Anime Picture #98: Big Guns

I forgot how much I enjoyed Mutsu's smile.

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July 21, 2015

Apologies And Admissions

So.  Last week, I announced that Gakkou Gurashi was to be the subject of my next foray into Episodic Writeup territory.  Further, I declared that "I should have the writeup done on Saturday."  The sharper-eyed of you may have noticed that, in fact, no such thing has occurred.  There is, of course, an obvious and understandable reason for that bit of fail, but it doesn't explain the ever-increasing amount of time that a writeup hasn't been posted.

Part of it is the incredible mental exhaustion I feel when I come home from work.  Claims processing is hard... a lot harder than I expected.  I'm catching on, but it still requires a lot of concentration.  I've learned that a couple hours worth of naptime when I come home is nearly a must for me to have any sort of functionality in the evening.  There's also a general malaise that's come over me the past... oh, lets call it just under a week.  And by "malaise", I mean "screw everything." 

Does it sound like I'm making excuses?  I suppose it should, since I guess I am.  Sorry about all of it.  "Don't be sorry, just do the writeup."  Yeah, it works exactly like that all the time.

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