August 04, 2020

Air Penguins Redux

In these trying times, when all around us is going insane, when hiding in one's house for a month seems normal, when nothing really makes sense anymore, we need to be reminded that, once upon a time, this was a thing:

I first mentioned them ten years ago, but c'mon... flying penguins!  I only wish the video was longer... I could watch it for hours.  The same company has done many other flying things, including a very impressive (but nowhere near as fun) SmartBird, eButterflies, and... OH!  I just found a longer Air Penguin video!

I want to say something inspiring, like "be like an air penguin", but I can't think of anything.  Oh well.

Air Penguins.

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July 28, 2020

This Is Funny

What's the difference between a joke and a rhetorical question?




Well, I thought it was funny.

THIS... this is what I've been saying for decades, this guy just has a better voice and a better editing suite!
Maybe a little NSFW language.  Lighting.  Darn skippy.

EDIT: More Lighting!  Even darner skippier!

What sort of music do wind turbines like to listen to?

They're huge metal fans.

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July 16, 2020

दिवि सूर्यसहस्रस्य भवेद्युगपदुत्थिता। यदि भाः सदृशी सा स्याद्भासस्तस्य महात्मनः।।॥११–१२॥

75 years ago on July 16th, 1945, the Trinity Device was detonated and the world became a different place.  Whether that was for good or ill, I leave as a rhetorical question for the reader.

The title of this post is from the Bhagavad Gita, and is what Robert Oppenheimer originally claimed to have thought when he saw the result of his work:

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.

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July 14, 2020

Grant Imahara

If you read The Pond, you've almost certainly seen Mythbusters, right?  I know I loved the show for most of its run, and while it couldn't really be called "science" it was certainly in the vicinity thereof.  


Less than an hour from when I began typing this, news had broken that Grant Imahara, member of the so-called "Build Team" on Mythbusters, had suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away at the age of 49.  He was known for being the "team geek", the one who specialized in high-tech gadgets and anything needing computers.  Over his entire career, he would probably be best called a roboticist.  He first became known to the public for his appearances on Battlebots, but he also worked for Industrial Light and Magic for years.  Indeed, he was the one in charge of refreshing the old R2-D2s from the original Star Wars trilogy for use in the prequels.  He was also a skilled movie model builder with a list of credits as long as your arm.

However for me, without a doubt, his finest creation has to have been Geoff Peterson, the skeleton-robot from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.  Which brought us this moment of incredible hilarity that even after having seen it dozens of times cannot fail to bring me to tears laughing.
Thank you for being part of my television life for so long, Grant.  Momzerduck liked you the best on the show.  I tended to watch for Kari, but you were indispensable. 

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July 03, 2020

Adventures In Going Outside

Had to break quarantine today to go out and get my Keep Wonderduck Alive and Happy Pills.   90 degree heat with 65% humidity meant the experience was like existing in a damp fire.


Because I'm a lazy bum... and other reasons... I got a lift from a taxi, which meant wearing my handy-dandy face mask.  Nothing out of the ordinary, that's just what life is like in the world of the evildeathbatplague.  One difficulty... I have a goatee that's probably three or four inches long.

Kinda like that, but bushier.  My mustache isn't as majestic either.  Oh, and the goatee is now two-toned... more on that later.  The entire trip only took a half-hour, hardly what anybody would call a long time.  The heat was hot, but hello!  Summertime!  It tend to do that here.  But here's the thing... my goatee was tucked inside the mask.  Once I got home and took the mask off, my goatee was pointing straight forward.  And it would... not... lay... down.  I'm not one to worry overmuch about looking stupid.  It's kinda normal for me, truth be told.  But this was too much for me to take.  I immediately soaked my chin in water and brushed until I couldn't stand it any longer.  It's sorta behaving itself now.  Sorta.

Now then: the two-toned thing.  Not too terribly long ago I realized, much to my horror, that my hair is beginning to show my age.  Now as you can guess, I am not at all vain about my appearance... that'd be horribly stupid of me all things considered.  However, I do have one thing that I'm extremely proud of, and that's my hair.  It's a red-gold color, particularly in the sunlight, except for my mustache which is and hopefully always will be red.  Back in the days of grad school, I had a friend whom we'll call Tweeter.  I may have mentioned her somewhere in the past 15 years, but the search function being what it is, I can't find it.  Anyway, she and I had happened to bump into each other at the library (she wasn't in the theater department) so we grabbed some lunch and began walking towards my office in the theater building.  It was one of those rare wonderfully pleasant days you get in Minnesota during the week-long stretch they call "spring" up there.

Yes, exactly like that, 100%,  Anyway, we're walking along and Tweeter suddenly gets this weird look on her face.  I mean, weirder than I usually got from women.  Finally she goes "Holy crap Slick," because that was the nickname she gave me, "you really are a redhead, aren't you?  You look like your head is on fire!"  The sun had turned my hair into a shining halo of glorious red-gold.  Anyway.  I'm inordinately proud of my hair.  

This actually is what my hair color looks like when the sun hits it like it did that day.  That I'm 52 and show no sign of grey in it that anybody could possibly detect just makes me even more proud. Until a few days ago, when I realized something terrifying: my goatee had grey in it.  Worse, I had a reverse-skunk going on.  Instead of a single grey stripe, the middle 50% of my goatee is red, and the 25% on either side is grey... or at least something that isn't red.  It made me feel really really old... and now today, when it made me feel old and stupid looking.  I'll tell ya, it doesn't make for a great experience.  But I've got my pills, the a/c here at Pond Central is still doing its thing, and I can always shave off the goatee.  My fear is that it'll grow back ALL grey.  That'd be a disaster!  "Anyway, here's Wonderwall."
This is Pink Floyd level of lighting.  When I stumbled upon it, I was flabbergasted... then I watched the whole concert, and was even more blown away.  Forget the quality of the songs... I'm not big on a lot of them... but pay attention to the way the designer plays with the light curtains.  Kudos to Trent Reznor for working with LeRoy Bennett, the designer, to get this look.  It's friggin' beautiful in a way a lot of the songs aren't, and the combination is wonderful.

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June 26, 2020

Because Sometimes You Just Need To Post Trains

Union Pacific was the only railroad to use the 4-12-2, and it was apparently a maintenance nightmare due to a third cylinder powering the second driving axle.  Why was that a problem?  Because it was directly under the firebox, in the center of the engine.  That aside, it is an intimidating-looking beast.

Sometimes, even classic steam engines need a little help.  Here, Norfolk & Southern's 611 gets exactly that... a little help.

I'm a twain!  Choo choo!  It's a Swiss railroad battery-powered shunter from the '20s, apparently rated for a whoppin' 5 h.p. Of course, you don't need much to move cars around, you just need to get 'em moving.

Ever wonder how they keep the switches clear of ice and snow during a Chicago winter?  Yup, they set 'em on fire.

Special Bonus Not-Train Picture

Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V...

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June 14, 2020

Mind Savers

No matter how well we may (or may not) be coping with Introvert Celebration 2020, staring at the same four walls (more if you have access to more than one room) can begin to get anybody a little bugnutty.  I've come across a number of yootoobers that allow me to take virtual journeys to get me out of Pond Central, at least mentally.


It all started, of course, with Rambalac.  I began watching his videowalks long before Social Distancing Is A Thing 2020 kicked in, and he's still my favorite of all of these people I'll be mentioning.  What he does is so uncomplicated that nobody else that I've found does it half as well, which confuses me.  All he does is load up a high-end videocamera with a swell microphone on a stabilizer-like rig, and he goes for walks.  That's it, that's all.  He doesn't talk, there's no music overlaid on it, it's just ambient sound.  And I simply adore having his vids playing while I do my FGO runs, or have dinner, or just to get myself ready for bed. 

In search of something new and exciting, a few months back I stumbled across Railfan Aunz.  Consisting of mostly cab rides of trains, this yootoober leans more toward the not-Tokyo side of Japan, though they spend a lot of time outside of Japan too... there's videos from Australia, Italy, England, Hong Kong and others, too.  Two of my favorite videos are a roundtrip between two fairly rural areas, one out, one back... and during the four hour round trip, the weather changes from heavy snow to zero snow on the ground.  Of course, during the trip back the weather gets bad again.  Throw that onto some rather stunning terrain and you've got a great way to spend a night or two.  The video I've included here is easily my favorite, however.  It looks like a regular train ride in dense-pack Japan somewhere... and then you reach the 3:40 mark.
Yeah.  Not a bad way to commute.

Compared to the first two, Wingin' It With Paul Lucas is totally different.  He's a flight sorta guy, and he literally does nothing but flight reviews for a living.  Fortunately for him, he had a backlog to work through during the Coming Of The Quiet Time 2020.  While I'm fascinated by the Business/First Class flights he's been on, he's not afraid to sit back in the cattle section with the unwashed masses.  He's done everything from 747s to teeny-tiny puddlejumpers in the Caribbean, as well as the occasional train and even a submarine once.  His style has changed radically from the beginning of the channel, for the better I think.  

Finally, in stark contrast to the other three's exotic locales, we come to CTAConnections, the official yootoob channel of the Chicago Transit Authority.  About half of the channel is stuff that nobody will ever watch... the monthly CTA Transit Board meetings... but the other half is filled with historical footage of Chicago's light rail system, as well as real-time ride-alongs of every "color" route... the Purple Line, the Blue Line, etc etc etc.
Around about 20:30 or so on this Red Line video, you may see something really really gorgeous off to the right.

There's plenty of other channels out there that I've taken virtual trips on, but I'll leave those for your own adventures... and if you have anything like this that you like to watch, like a bus trip from London to Paris, let me know in the comments!  Enjoy!

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June 09, 2020

Serious Questions For The Pond Scum

Are you okay?


Has it been difficult dealing with all... this?

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June 03, 2020

Thankfully, Baseball

The KBO, Korea's professional baseball league, is playing out their season these days over on ESPN.  For those of us starved for the sport, it's something of a blessing.  And even in this day and age of Evildeathbatplague, they've got great attendance!


You could almost say the stadium is... um... stuffed.

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May 29, 2020

Elfstedentocht? I Don't Even Know Her!

Every once in a while you get a double-bonus situation that drops in your lap.  I was aimlessly wandering around yootoob, as one does, clicking on whatever struck my fancy... um... fancily.  From a train line that stares Mt Fuji in the face to an absolutely killer electronic track called Turbo Killer to a discussion of Cthulhu's Family Tree to a fan-made Spess Muhreens mini-film to a music video involving very angry ducks, it's been a mix of good and not-so-good (not seen here)...


...and then I stumbled upon something called the Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities Tour in English.  For those of you who, like me, have never heard of it, the Elfstedentocht is a 200km long speed-skating event held when the weather allows in the Netherlands.  As can be guessed by the name, it runs through "the eleven historic cities of the province of Friesland" via canals, rivers, and lakes, beginning and terminating in the city of Leeuwarden, which I'd only heard of because it was the birthplace of the noted spy Mata Hari.

The race has only been held 15 times since 1909, with the most recent having been in 1997.  See, the entire route must have at least six inches of good ice on it... no thinning ice, no mush, and at least a 12-day stretch of sub-zero Celsius temperatures preceding a race.  As you can guess, this is A Big Deal; there's usually just 48 hours warning that the race will actually occur.  Apparently in 2012, the last time conditions appeared perfect, it hovered right below the target for long enough that any tiny temperature increase would have nixed the race.  On the day the "go" would have been given, organizers said "no" for safety reasons, disappointing the 16000 casual skaters, 300 racers, and the entire nation.

In 2013, the Elfstedentocht organizers, as part of a Leeuwarden festival, contacted Public Service Broadcasting and asked them to write some tunes about the race using historical footage from earlier events.  Of course they said "yep!"  

From what I've read, the 1963 race, shown in this second video, was held in absolutely brutal conditions: overly cold, strong winds, and snow gunking up the ice.  Only 69 out of 10000 people were able to finish it, and the winner did not realize he had actually crossed the finish line due to being snowblind.  Broken bones and eye damage were common that year.

I had no idea these tracks existed until they fell into my lap.  A rare bright spot on another shut-in sort of day.  Enjoy!

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May 23, 2020

Well, I Dunno

So I've been sitting here trying to figure out what to write and honestly can't come up with anything worth reading.


This is the point where I say "There's some question as to whether or not I ever did," of course, because that's one of The Pond's normal jokes.  Really, The Pond could write itself... probably do a better job than I could anyway.

The Pond's been such a part of me for so long that I can't imagine letting it go but it's not like I'm doing anything here either.  Any requests for topics?

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May 15, 2020

The Loss Of A (Little) Giant

No, not that one...  Little Charlie Baty.  Come with me on a voyage back in time...


The year was 1987.  Duckford was in the midst of its annual end-of-summer music festival, On The Waterfront.  Yours truly, having wandered away from Vaucaunson's Duck and some others, had stumbled upon a smaller stage... one of seven that year... as the sun had begun to set.  While most of the people attending gathered for that year's headliner... Duckford's own Cheap Trick... to take the main stage, tucked away back here a young Duck was about to be truly exposed to a form of music he'd never heard before: The Blues.  

While Rick Estrin was the frontman for the band, it was guitarist Little Charlie Baty that led The Nightcats.  He "retired" from the band in 2008, still playing with them at certain festivals and shows in Europe, but he certainly didn't stop playing live.
I thought you had to be down on fingers to play Django Reinhardt correctly. His studio stuff didn't stop either.
The album "Skronky Tonk" was on got a four-star review from Downbeat, long the bible of blues and jazz music, and a notoriously stern grader when it comes to music.
While I only found out a couple of days ago, it turns out that Little Charlie passed away in March from a heart attack.  He was 66.  While I probably would have been a fan of the blues even if I didn't stumble into that small outdoor concert tucked into a back corner of a large festival, I think it certainly helped that the Nightcats were my first exposure to them... they were both talented and funny at the same time.  I even bought their album that night... yes, on vinyl.
Thanks, Little Charlie... you were a huge influence on my music tastes, and I may not have realized it until just now.

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May 08, 2020

VE 75

Soviet troops capture the Reichstag

Parisians celebrate 

A reminder in New York that the war still went on.

Lancaster crew and spotlights

75 years on, I'm beginning to believe that we've forgotten what a real threat looks like.  Disappointing.

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April 28, 2020

Iceland!

Land of amazing vistas!


Land of continent-closing volcanoes with names that are impossible to pronounce (or spell)!

It's Eyjafjallajokull, by the way.
Land of broiled puffin!

Yes, really.
What Iceland generally is NOT known for is its popular music.  Oh sure, there was Bjork (and the Sugarcubes) and Sigur Ros, you have to be particularly keyed in to know any others.

Until now.
Dadi Freyr is a DJ/EDM/whatever guy, I can only assume that Gagnamagnio is the band, and that considering this is Iceland, they're almost all certainly related.  I went through much of what he/they have on yootoob looking for another gem like Think About Things, and came up mostly empty.

Fans of Hibike! Euphonium, however, will recognize one tune... for better or worse.
I'll let you decide which it is.

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April 23, 2020

52

It's that time again.  Once again, I commemorate surviving another year by posting energetic birthday candles.  And lo, here it is:

According to the yootoob comments, the fire is actually adhesive burning off the ablative coating of the engine.  Whatever it is, it's certainly spectacular.

Like 52 candles on a birthday cake for one would look like, come to think of it... just without the smoke alarm going off.  I'm not even sure that many candles is legal in a multi-unit dwelling here in Illinois.

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April 16, 2020

Now THIS Is The Sort Of News We All Need

There is an ARIA movie in the works.


It's coming sometime late this year.  If there was ever a year that we need new ARIA content, my god it's this one.

This is a 15th anniversary project for the series.  Information is sparse at the moment, but it's officially sparse, as the announcement is up on the publisher of the ARIA manga's website.  I think we all assumed that after Avvenire, our trips to Neo-Venezia had come to an end.

I've never been so glad to be wrong about something in my entire life.

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April 15, 2020

Happy Not Tax Day!

Last night I fired up the H&R Blockhead website in preparation to have teeth pulled... i.e., do my taxes.  I went through all the usual rigamarole... do you need to update your address, phone number, marital status, shoe size, all that sort of thing... but then, what to my wondering eyes did appear?


A message saying that the deadline for filing your taxes has been moved to July 15th.

At first, I didn't believe it.  I would have heard something somewhere, right?  That's not one of those things you just miss, right?

Right?

Anybody?

So it was just me?  For some reason, I find that I'm not at all surprised.

But woo-hoo!!!  Happy time for a little while longer!

So... how are you?  Holding up okay?  Yeah?  Anything I can do to help you through?

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April 08, 2020

Yep, I'm Still Alive

I've had more phone calls in the past two days from actual human beings than I've had in the past six months, and all because I haven't posted anything to The Pond in the past week.  It's like... people actually care about me or something.


While this whole social distancing/don't go out thing is second nature to me... it's all I've been doing for months anyway... I've begun to see signs that even I need SOME human contact once in a while.  I'm not sure which is more disturbing, that I legitimately thought I didn't, or that it took this long to prove otherwise.  I'm watching a lot of Twitch streams... there are even human faces in a couple of them!

Hope you folks are doing better than me in your isolation!

I'm still playing Fate Grand Order quite a lot, and quite happily. Remember back in 2018, there was a show called Today's Menu for the Emiya Family?  It was essentially a slice-of-life version of Fate/Stay Night where everybody is alive, healthy, and happy.  Yeah, in other words exactly the opposite of the rest of the franchise.  Here's what the ED looked like:
Light and fluffy, yeah?  Well, someone sat down and decided to redo it for FGO.  Here are the results:
Yeah, I'd play THAT game.

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March 29, 2020

Saturday Fright

A short while after I wrote the prior post, I'm watching a twitch stream when the streamer disses Chicago-style pizza with the usual "casserole" comment... which always makes me wonder how they grew up when this...


...looks like a casserole to them.  Must have been a strange childhood, but I digress.  I immediately stood up and told him to "bite my shiny Chicago butt" at about the same time someone else ripped into him as well.  As it turns out, the two of us live relatively near each other, with him being about 25 miles away.  A pleasant coincidence indeed, but nothing more than that really.

And then a while later, he announced in chat that the sirens had just gone off, that there was a tornado warning, and he was heading for the basement.  Now, the weather had been bad all day, but not BAD bad.  After wishing him luck, I hopped onto a local tv station's weather facebook page to see what was what... and they were streaming live which is never a good sign.  They were talking in serious tones and looking at live doppler radar image closeups and sure enough, there was a pretty obvious spot of bother... 

I mean, obvious enough that someone who had never seen a weather radar could have spotted it as meaning something.  A few minutes watching, and bam... they declare it's probably a tornado, no way of knowing if it's on the ground however... and it's right over the town my new chat friend lives in.  A few tense minutes passed until he popped back up in chat... they had just been given the all-clear.  Phew, good news!  Until the weather nabobs said that Duckford was now under a tornado warning... from the same storm!  It was a fast mover, too... 60 or 65 mph.  They spent the next half-hour following the storm as near to live as possible, and the more time passed, the worse things got.

At this point, we were about 10 minutes away from having a tornado hit Duckford, and if the predicted path held firm, it'd be passing about a half-mile or so to the west of Pond Central.  It was at this point that I shut down my computer, grabbed a couple of battery-operated lamps, pulled a heavy comforter off my bed, and took up position in the hallway outside the loo, where I also called up the facebook stream on my phone.  Blanket fort for the win, I guess.

Pond Central has had bad weather moments before.  A few of them had driven me to the hallway just in case.  But never before had I really wished I lived in a first-floor apartment, which are mostly below ground level in my building (built into a hillside).  Instead, all I could do if it looked like the tornado was going to hit was get in bathtub, pull the heavy vinyl curtain closed, thrown the comforter over my body, and hope it all worked out.  The live stream kept coverage on it going, imploring everybody to get to cover immediately.  And then... the rotation weakened as it approached the vicinity of the Duckford Airport, then basically broke up altogether as it entered the city limits.  We don't know if the tornado had been on the ground all the way from Oregon, or if it had touched down for a bit then lifted back up while still being a threat, or what.  What Duckford got was torrential rain... the Airport reported a rate equal to five inches/hour... but that was it.

Back where the tornado had definitely touched down, there were many power poles down, a farm had its dairy barn, outbuildings, and home destroyed (nobody was there at the time), and for a few moments there was a distinct possibility we'd find out what would happen if a nuclear plant was hit by a tornado.  Fortunately there were no injuries reported.  The National Weather Service was on site today trying to figure out details of the tornado... strength, how long it was on the ground, that sort of thing... hopefully we'll know more on Monday.  Impressively, the weather nabobs had predicted where it would have hit Duckford almost exactly.  It would have missed Pond Central, but by less than a half-mile or so.

I'm still a little freaked out.

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March 28, 2020

Well That Was A Thing That Happened

Illinois is under a "shelter-in-place" order, and has been for a week now.  Which, of course, means that this week was the PERFECT time for me to have to go get my monthly meds.  Of course, Illinois' shelter-in-place is my "Tuesday", so I'm probably not infected by the evildeathbatvirus... or I wasn't before the trip out.  As it turns out, my doctor's office didn't give me a full refill of the Keep Wonderduck Alive pills because they need to see me.


In the middle of a huge pandemic.

Yeah.

I grabbed a taxi... don't ask why... and had a gosh-darned-lovely time getting into and out of it.  THANKS, crappy knees!  Also it was pushing 60 degrees and I was wearing a scarf over my mouth and nose.  

You know what?  I'm just complaining.  Human contact appears to be a thing I'm running low on?  Scary that it's taken this long, actually.  Here, have some music.
Anybody out there got anything on their mind they'd like THE Wonderduck's opinion on?

Oh!  Almost forgot! Redditor 3ikal on the Fate Grand Order subreddit took pity on this poor little duck, and made for me a most awesome thing.  Click *more* to see it!

more...

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