June 15, 2017

A Long Hot Day

Duckford has been in the midst of a heatwave for the past week or so... highs in the 90s, humid as all get out when it hasn't been raining, either no wind or too much, you know the drill.  Summer in Northern Illinois, it's what's for breakfast.  I've been kinda grumpy as a result of all of this, of course.  I'd rather be cold than hot... at least when you're cold, you can always put on another sweatshirt; when you're hot there's a legal limit to how far you can disrobe.  I'm in the process of finishing up my mandatory overtime for the week... it's 930p, and I only got home about 20 minutes ago... and for the last two hours all I saw were corrected claims and reversals.  One after the other, here's a physician rebilling a claim because the contracts changed and now he can get two more dollars!  Which means working the new claim, then going into the old claim and cancelling that one in a way that we get our money back, then documenting in the new claim AND in another location altogether that you've done that, then pay the new claim.  For two frickin' hours.  There is blood in my eye and murder in my heart.


And tomorrow?  I'm makin' waffles 11 hours!!!  Wheeeeeee!  Pfeh.

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June 13, 2017

Ducks In Anime: For A More Civilized Age

-Kiniro Mosaic, Ep01

Should have been a slam-dunk for me... a laid-back, funny, CGDCT series seems right up my alley.  Except there were a couple of minor problems... it wasn't laid-back or funny.  It tries to be funny, it just... isn't.  Not to me, in any case.  Four of the five girls are annoying... like, fingernails on a blackboard annoying... and the one that isn't tends to be both quiet and spacey, a combination that just... doesn't... work.  It only just barely worked with Azumanga Daioh's Osaka, and believe me, Kiniro Mosaic ain't no AzuDai.  What I'm trying to tell you is "don't watch it."  

Sorry, I'm heartless and cruel... trying to be sad and cute ain't gonna cut it with me, not now.

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June 11, 2017

F1 Update!: Canada 2017

A warm, sunny, and very very windy day greeted the Thundering Herd as they rolled onto the grid at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.  Indeed, it was so windy that a few laps into the race drivers were reporting that they couldn't get to 8th gear coming down the back straight where they had a 30mph breeze in their faces.  While dramatic, it didn't seem to have any obvious effect otherwise.  Lewis Hamilton, second in the driver's championship, was on pole but his rival Seb Vettel was next to him, but ahead in the points.  Their teammates were directly behind them, and then the rest of the field, but one got the feeling that this race was going to be 70 laps of racing between those two for the win, and everybody else was fighting for third.  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Canada!


*LIGHTS OUT:  What we actually got was a race that lasted exactly one corner.  The leaders all made good starts, but Red Bull's Embryo Verstappen made an excellent one from sixth... in drag racing terms, he had the hole shot... and immediately was fighting with Vettel and Bottas for second.  Bottas went inside, Vettel followed the line in the center of the circuit... and then Verstappen went around the outside and cut across the Ferrari's nose.  The result of this was Embryo in second, Vettel in fourth, and a completely ruined front-right nosewing on the red car.  This did not have any obvious immediate effect however, as the race went under a safety car a couple of turns later.  Carlos Sainz Jr made an unwise move that took him across the nose of Lettuce Grosjean's Haas and tipped himself into a lurid spin on the thin strip of grass short of Turn 3.  Unfortunately, grass is terrible for braking and it seemed like his Toro Rosso hadn't slowed at all when it shot through Turn 3 backwards, collecting Felipe Not Retired Massa as he did.  This incident brought out the safety car.

*...THE HELL?:  The race stayed under the guidance of Berndt Maylander for three laps.  Those laps would have been a perfect opportunity to bring Vettel in for a replacement nose, for Verstappen had well and truly borked the original.  The endplate on the right side was essentially missing, and the 37 (estimated) vertical elements were all askew and adrift, practically flapping in the breeze.  This is not a good arrangement for downforce.  When the race restarted, the front wing began to shed pieces and Vettel lost an immense amount of time to the leaders in just a lap or two.  Ferrari finally brought him in on Lap 6, five laps later than they should have.  When he rejoined the race, he was 18th out of the 18 running cars and Mercedes where writing a check to Verstappen for handing them the race giftwrapped on a silver platter.  A handful of laps later, the Red Bull driver's day came to an end when his engine just... stopped working.  It was later revealed that his battery had failed, but for whatever reason it was, Lewis Hamilton's only realistic challenger (no matter how unlikely) had just been removed from the field.

*IN THE MIDDLE:  As the race progressed, it became more and more obvious that Hamilton was going to win barring car failure.  The only question was by how much?  His teammate, Valterri Bottas pitted for tires on Lap 22, passing second place over to the Force India of False Esteban!, then some 18 seconds behind the leader.  The reigning World Champion finally pitted on Lap 32, rejoining the race still in the lead as False Esteban! followed him into the pits for his own tire change.  The Force India had lost 10 seconds in those 10 laps.  Meanwhile Seb Vettel had made it all the way up to seventh place, though mostly because he was off the pit rotation having stopped early.  Things settled down for the next 20 laps or so.

*TOWARDS THE END:  Around about Lap 52 or so, Hamilton led his teammate by about 12 seconds, and he was 14 seconds ahead of Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo and the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and False Esteban!.  There was about a second covering third, fourth and fifth, and the two pink cars looked to be hungry for a podium.  Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was 10 seconds behind them, with Vettel a few seconds back of his teammate and charging hard.  It came as no surprise when Raikkonen came down with a sudden "brake problem" that allowed Sebby to go past and begin hunting down the fight for third.

*THE FIGHT FOR THIRD:  Smiley Ricciardo has never been particularly known for driving a wide car, so if the Force Indias could close up they had a great chance to pass him for a podium position.  False Esteban! was on substantially fresher tires than his teammate, and logically had a better chance to accomplish the task.  However, for lap after lap Sergio Perez stayed in front of his teammate, unable to pass the Red Bull.  The Legendary Announce Team began to criticize the team for not invoking team orders to get False Esteban! into position... but they had.  The team told Sergio Perez to let his teammate by and if False Esteban! couldn't make the pass, Perez would be allowed to take the position back... and Perez said no.  The battle was coming up on traffic, and he surely would be able to take the Red Bull then.  Various attempts by both Force Indias to make passes let Vettel catch up and we had four cars fighting for third place.  Eventually, False Esteban! tried a desperate lunge past his teammate and wound up adrift and floundering.  Not only did he let Perez take the position back, he let Vettel go by him too.  It took only another lap or so for Vettel to dispose of Perez and take fourth.  Considering that he was dead last early, this was an astounding performance for Vettel.

*ALONSO AGONY:  It's no news that McLaren is having a horrible year.  With a Honda power unit that's so down on horsepower that their two cars were literally 10mph slower down the back straight than the leaders, it's been dismal... or it would be, if their engines didn't keep failing on them.  Today, though, things looked different.  Indy Alonso, fresh off his Honda engine failure at the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, was in 10th place with five laps to go.  Now, 10th is hardly anything to write home about, but this would be the team's first point of the season.  There's no question that Alonso is working miracles with this car to get it even that high in the standings.  Which made it doubly painful when, on Lap 69 of 70, we saw his McLaren roll to a stop with a radio call of "no engine, the engine turned off."  Agonizingly, the power unit had failed Alonso again.  In a moment that could symbolize the new attitude F1 has towards its fans, Alonso left his car and went up into the grandstands to hang out and give his gloves away.

*FINALLY:  Even though Vettel had cleared the two Force Indias for fourth place, there was no time left for him to challenge Smiley for third.  He finished just under a second behind the Australian driver in a marvelous example of damage limitation.  Lewis Hamilton led his teammate home by nearly 20 seconds, and he was 19 seconds ahead of Smiley.  An easy race for the Mercedes guys, and one that might terrify Ferrari just a little bit.

In two weeks, we meet again in Baku for the second Grand Prix of Azerbaijan.  We'll see you there!

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June 10, 2017

F1 Quals: Canada 2017

Everything was just about perfect for the fast running of F1 cars today at Montreal: minimal wind, a bright sun bringing the track surface to temperature warm enough to melt the everpresent snow, and everywhere, constantly, the mingled smells of poutine, Tim Horton's, and Labatts.  So what did this all total up to?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Canada, eh?


Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:12.692 1:12.496 1:11.459
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.046 1:12.749 1:11.789
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:12.685 1:12.563 1:12.177
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:13.548 1:12.580 1:12.252
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:13.177 1:12.751 1:12.403
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:13.543 1:12.810 1:12.557
7 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:13.435 1:13.012 1:12.858
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:13.470 1:13.262 1:13.018
9 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:13.520 1:13.320 1:13.135
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:13.804 1:13.406 1:13.271
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:13.802 1:13.690
12 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:13.669 1:13.693
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:14.051 1:13.756
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:13.780 1:13.839
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:13.990 1:14.293
16 Stoffewaffle McLaren Honda 1:14.182

17 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:14.209

18 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:14.318

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:14.495

20 Tipsy Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:14.810


Q1 and Q2 were essentially uneventful.  Everything played out exactly as you'd expect them to, and only the discovery that Pleasant Stroll is in real life a true-blue dyed in the wool Canadian.  And he has a pet moose named Archimedes.  That plays hockey.  Defenseman.  Moose.  Whatever.  Defensemoose.

In Q3, though... we got what amounts to a declaration of war for the championship when Lewis Hamilton became the first ever to break the 1:11 barrier.  A moment later, Seb Vettel brought his Ferrari across the line, fimishing a mere +.004 seconds behind.  In-car footage showed that somewhere near the beginning of the lap, he had to jerk the steering wheel to catch a spin... it actually takes longer to read the description than it did for it to happen... and one little twitch was enough to cost him pole.  Obviously we were gonna have a fun second run... and we did.  Hamilton drove what could be called The Perfect Lap, lowering his track record even farther.  Vettel had no answer and finished just under +.400 seconds behind.  All of which suggests a dramatic race tomorrow... let's hoping!

And no marmots.

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June 07, 2017

F1 on TV: Canada 2017

If Suzuka didn't exist, there's a very good chance that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal would be my favorite track on the F1 calendar.  Of course, in this world Suzuka does exist, but at least Montreal has poutine, right?  Why do I bother saying that?  Because this week, the Noisy Circus is in Montreal for the 2017 Grand Prix of Canada!  Here's the track map:


You want fast?  Canada can do fast; that back stretch from the Hairpin to the final chicane is as fast a run as you can find in F1.  You want slow?  That Hairpin I just mentioned is pretty darn slow, particularly as you're coming off a full-speed blast from the first chicane.  You want marmots?  Boy, does Montreal have marmots!  And every now and again, you get a four-hour rain delay!  You can't beat fun north of the border, you betcha.

And here's the schedule for the Legendary Announce Team's broadcasts!  Take a close look at the networks, we're all over the darn place this weekend!
Friday
Practice 2: 1p - 230p  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 12p - 130p  live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Canada: 1p - 3p  live on NBC

All times Pond Central.  Accept no substitutes!  Sometime afterwards of course there will be the usual F1Update!, so ask for it by name.

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June 06, 2017

D-Day Stories By The Greatest Announcer Of All Time

Two years ago, when Vin Scully was still calling ballgames for the Dodgers, he decided to tell a few stories about the events of D-Day.  Being Vin Scully, the result was amazing.

Today is the 73rd Anniversary of that heroic, terrible day.  

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June 04, 2017

Midway 75 Years Later: Never Call Me A Hero

A few months ago, somebody named "Nick" showed up in the comment section of a post I wrote on the passing of "Dusty" Kleiss, the last of the Midway dive bomber pilots.  He was looking for information on the picture of Mr Kleiss I had used... where I got it, maybe where the hi-res version is located, that sort of thing.  As it turned out, I remembered where I found it and a little bit of research found that the hi-res version was available via the AP.  I took the time to send Nick the info in an e-mail and thought that would be the end of it.

As it turned out, I was wrong.  Nick was an editor at HarperCollins, and he had been looking for a good photo to use for a book that would be coming out about Mr Kleiss.  I expressed enthusiasm for such a project, and said that I'd be buying it as soon as it came out.  I also pointed him to the Battle of Midway Round Table, and pointed out that it would be of great interest to them as well... after all, Mr Kleiss had been a member himself!  Not long after that, Nick said "I'm sending you a copy of the book."  I'm certainly not going to turn that down!  I also pointed out that it won't make a difference to any review I write... though I really really hoped it'd be good.  The book showed up a couple-three weeks ago, ahead of the official release date, and I began to read through it.  So what do I think about Never Call Me A Hero by N Jack "Dusty" Kleiss (with Timothy and Laura Orr)?

It's delightful.  His service in the Pacific takes up a little over half of the book, more or less, with the remaining pages devoted to the rest of his life.  Kleiss was a habitual note-taker, and he apparently kept everything he could.  His logbooks and diaries of his time on USS Enterprise make up much of the basis for his recollections, copies of official reports and other primary source documents fill in the rest.  But clearly just as important, if not moreso, to Kleiss are the letters he wrote to his girlfriend (later wife) Jean and their relationship.  He was clearly a man deeply in love with his girl, a love which stayed with him even after she passed away in 2006, after more than 60 years of marriage.  We also get to read about what he did after he left the Enterprise, then after retiring from the US Navy in 1962, two topics about which the historical record had previously been essentially silent.

But the real reason we've come to Never Call Me A Hero is his role at the Battle of Midway.  After having read the book, I came away with a sense of both pride and sadness from "Dusty".  Pride in that, while he repeatedly says that he was "just doing his job," the job the US Navy had trained him for, he and his fellow pilots knew they had just been a part of something big.  It's also clear, though, that in many ways June 4th, 1942 was the worst day of his life.  Very shortly before the big attack, he had a talk with his best friend, Tom Eversole, about what was being loaded onto his plane: a Mk.13 torpedo.  Lt Eversole flew a TBD Devastator in VT-6, and after the earlier missions the Enterprise had been on, raids on the Marshall islands, Admiral Halsey had made it clear that as long as he was in command, not a single TBD would ever go to the flight deck carrying a torpedo.  Admirals Fletcher and Spruance had other ideas.  As their conversation came to an end, Kleiss went to his plane thinking his friend was going to die.  Worse, he believed that Eversole thought he was going to die, too.  Even worse, they both knew it would be for nothing: all Mk.13 torpedoes had a flawed trigger mechanism that prevented it from actually exploding when it hit a target.  That usually wasn't a big deal though, since the Mk.13 also tended to malfunction when dropped from a height into the water... kinda like the way a torpedo bomber releases a torpedo.

In a very real way, reading Never Call Me A Hero brought the Battle of Midway to life in a way my prior reading never did.  We all know the names, of course: Dick Best, Earl Gallaher, Wade McCluskey, and many others.  But that's pretty much all they are: names.  But to Dusty Kleiss, they were friends, bosses, someone he had lunch with the day before.  Pilots that he had known for a year or more, some that he just barely knew, even one that he disliked intensely.  More than anything else, that's the value of the book: it gives a human touch to the titanic events of June 4th thru 6th, 1942.  They call it the battle that changed the course of the war.  For Kleiss, it changed his life forever.  He tells us in a matter-of-fact way about the actual attack runs he performed on the Kaga, the Hiryu, and later the Mikuma, gives us some feeling about what it was like to swoop down on a target and plant a bomb dead center, but it feels... I'm not sure how to put it.  Almost detached, but with a huge amount of emotion just behind the facade.  It's a fascinating part of the book, not just the tale being told, but how it's being told as well.  We also get to see a part of the battle that I'm not entirely sure has been talked about before: what it was like afterwards.  Knowledge that they'd won a huge victory, bringing a measure of vengeance to the men and ships killed at Pearl Harbor just a few days under six months earlier... but also his reaction to returning from the first attack and seeing just four stunned men sitting in VT-6's ready room.  Realizing that his own squadron  had taken losses that would have been considered catastrophic a few days earlier, but now meant that VS-6 had more remaining crewmen than the others on the Enterprise.   The intense anger when The Powers That Be tried to send the dive bombers on a ridiculously long search/attack mission... with 1000lb bombs slung underneath, restricting the amount of fuel they could carry, and the resulting yelling match between the squadron leaders and the bridge staff.  Eventually, the satisfaction of a job done well. 

After Midway, Kleiss was reassigned, leaving the Enterprise and VS-6 for a training position on the mainland, teaching trainees how to be dive bomber pilots.  Once the war ended, he bounced around the Navy high command in technical billets.  For example, he was in charge of the team that designed (well, modified a British design) and installed the steam catapults on the new USS Enterprise (CVN-65).  After leaving the Navy, he became a high school physics teacher.  And he never talked about Midway.

Until Walter Lord began writing Incredible Victory, his outstanding book on the Battle of Midway... and the first to really use statements from the men who were there.  Marines in their slit trenches on the sandy atoll, riding out the Japanese attack.  Army B-17 crewmen, harassing the Japanese fleet from 25000 feet.  Navy backseat gunners.  Fighter pilots.  Dive bomber pilots.  Even after a six-page reply to Lord's written questions, Kleiss remained reluctant to speak about Midway.  Though it's never explicitly stated in the book, I suspect there was a bit of survivor's guilt involved.  He does wonder why he was allowed to live when his friends and comrades died around him.  On those occasions when family of his friends in VS-6 wrote him, asking for recollections of their father or grandfather, he always had trouble replying... because such-and-such died when his Dauntless caught fire and burned down just before crashing into the ocean.  Then, in 1992, something changed.  It was 50 years later, and he realized that he didn't just want to talk about those wonderful, awful days in June, he had to.  He began attending conferences and anniversaries as a guest of honor, mainly because it was a great way to reconnect with his old buddies from the Enterprise, but to share his role in the battle as well.  Finally towards the end of his life, his goal was to get his memoirs written and published before the 75th Anniversary of Midway.  N. Jack "Dusty" Kleiss didn't live to see his autobiography published, having passed away on April 23, 2016, but he knew it would be.

Never Call Me A Hero doesn't tell us anything about the events of Midway that we didn't already know.  What it does do is distill everything down to the level of one human caught in the middle of the greatest victory the US Navy has ever had.  It makes us connect with the man, the pilot, the dive bomber pilot, of the Enterprise in a way no other book has before or will again.  It's a fascinating story of a man in the middle of history, and who played a major supporting role in how the history resolved.  If you are a Midway historian, you will want to read this book.  If you like biographies, you'll want to read this book.  The book is not essential to understand the Battle of Midway, but you will come away with a better appreciation for the human side of war.  It wasn't just SBDs and A6M2s and Kates and Buffalos.  There were real people in those cockpits, people who lived and died due to their skill, or the skill of their enemies, or just the luck of the draw.  That's important to remember.  "Dusty" Kleiss never considered himself a hero... the men who never came back, they were the heroes, he said... but though he might have denied it, he was certainly a brave man who influenced the direction of the world on those three days in June, 1942.  It's a good story and well told.  It's a fitting memorial to the Last Dive Bomber, and to the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.

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June 03, 2017

Ducks In Anime: Stand Alone Duckie


-Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ep26
A few months back, I stumbled upon GITS:SAC running on Cartoon Network at, like, 4am.  I was struck by just how great the show looked, particularly since it was first broadcast in 2002.  Oh, sure, there are moments when it looks... not so hot... but by and large, they're outnumbered by the drop-dead gorgeous visuals.

For a while there, Production IG was the company to go to if you wanted a show to look top-shelf.  Sort of the way KyoAni is now, I suppose.  I gather they were the first to really devote themselves to digital animation.  Surprisingly, GITS:SAC avoids most of the oddness of early computer animation; only some cars look like they've been pasted into the scene.  I find it hard to ding the series in any way, really.  The storyline is a little clunky at times, but on the whole it all works.  Hard not to recommend it.

...and the rubber duckie has a red sailor hat and kerchief on.  Bonus points for that!

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May 31, 2017

Aria The Avvenire Ep03

"But Wonderduck," I hear you say and honestly I should get that looked at, "that came out in July of last year!"  And you are absolutely correct, it certainly did, good on you!  "No, that's not what I mean," you're saying crossly, "I mean 'why in the world are you only blogging about it now?'"

Oh, that's very simple.  I only just watched it last night.  Look, let me explain why I, as devoted a fan of the ARIA franchise as there is, didn't watch the last episode of the long-awaited special that was released with the new BD boxsets.  I don't know if anybody else does this, but if I'm hotly anticipating something I often... wait on it.  A new book I've been looking forward to for months?  It's going to sit on the table for a few weeks.  New episode of ARIA?  Oh yeah, that's gonna wait.  Part of it is anticipation: "I'm so excited about this that I don't want to lose that feeling!"  Another part is fear: "Please please please let it be as good as I hope.  If it's bad, it's going to feel awful!"

So I've been saving it for a dark and unhappy night.  Last night, in the middle of a bout of self-loathing (I may be on happy pills, but they don't work miracles), I decided it was time.  I settled into my chair, got as comfortable as my various injured body parts would let me, and pressed play.

Just from the first few minutes, I knew two things.  First, oh god they got it right on the button.  Second, I could see where this was going and I was going to be a sobbing mess by the time it was done.  If you're a fan, you'll note the people in the picture above: three generations of undines (plus Grandma).  The three newbies in the aprons, the main characters on the left, and the "old guard" on the right... except someone's missing.


more...

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May 29, 2017

F1 Update!: Monaco 2017

A brilliantly perfect day in the Principality greeted the Circus as they made their way through the streets of a small French fishing village, heading to the starting grid of Formula 1's premiere event.  Ferrari hadn't won here in an unbelievable sixteen years but had a front row lockout today, Kimi Raikkonen over Seb Vettel.  Behind them were the Red Bulls of Embryo Verstappen and Smiley Ricciardo, separated from the two cars from Maranello by the Mercedes of Valterri Bottas.  Would church bells be ringing in Italy?  Would energy drinks be spilled in Austria?  Would slide rules be set down for a moment in Germany?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Monaco!

*LIGHTS OUT:  Ste. Devote, the first turn at Monaco, is rather notorious for its ability to cause havoc at the start of a race.  It's quite common to see one or more cars crash out of the race there, nose buried deep into the pillow-covered armco, while the rest of the field scrambles to get out of the way.  Not this year: everybody made it through the first lap clean and clear, with no position changes anywhere.  It took nearly ten laps for much of the field to start to spread out, with the two Ferrari drivers opening up a six-second gap to Bottas.

*EXCITING AND TENSE:  Those two words do not apply to what was going on in Monaco today.  It's notoriously difficult to pass on the narrow streets of the Principality, but now that the cars were 8" wider with wider tires and greater grip, it was proving to be nigh-on impossible.  Thus we were treated to nothing less than a high-speed parade.

*IT'S THE PITS, MAN:  It is an immutable fact of Formula 1 that, in a team, the car ahead will pit first, before the car behind.  This is usually an advantage for the leader for different reasons.  For both Ferrari and Red Bull, that's how it worked today: Verstappen hit the pits on Lap 32 for his only stop, Raikkonen on Lap 33, Ricciardo on Lap 38, and finally Vettel on Lap 39.  In both cases however, the second car came out ahead of the first car.  Raikkonen went from a two second lead to being a second behind after the pit rotation, Verstappen wound up in fifth, shuffled back behind Bottas while his Australian teammate ended up in third.  When the Legendary Announce Team said that "the conspiracy theorists will be saying that Ferrari engineered the position change," they were only saying what everybody was thinking.  That's the way it's done in F1.

*WHOOPS:   Jenson Button was having what could only be considered a successful race in his borrowed McLaren.  Taking over Fernando Alonso's seat while the Spaniard was racing in the Indianapolis 500m, Button was within range of a points-paying finish.  All he had to do was get past Pascal Wehrlein and he'd be a cinch to eventually end up in 10th.  The problem was, Wehrlein had no interest in letting the Brit go traipsing past.  The cameras cut away to watch something else.  A few laps later, we were treated to this view:

It was quickly realized that this was Wehrlein's Sauber, leaning up against the barriers at Portiers.  The good news is that this is a very slow speed corner, the bad news is that F1 cars never end up on their sides so the marshals had not the first idea of what exactly to do, there's no procedures for that.  At least, that's the way it felt as it took seemingly forever to get the Sauber back on its wheels and Wehrlein out.  The German took a ride in the Medical Car as a safety car period was called, but this was mostly a formality: he was fine.  It took only a moment or two for people to wonder where Button was.  It turned out that he was in the run-off area passed the exit of the tunnel.  He had made what could charitably be termed an "optimistic" move to the inside of Wehrlein and interweaved tires with him.  Wehrlein ended up heading for the harbor, while Button suffered a broken suspension.  Amusingly, he was handed a three grid spot penalty for the next race and two points on his Superlicense.  Of course, this was a one-off race for (now most likely) permanently retired Button.

*TO THE END:   The safety car bunched the field back up, of course, but the restart went the way they usually do: the leader got away scot clean.  This was, shall we say, rather unsurprising, given Ferrari's suspected tinkering with the standing earlier.  The field stayed the way it had been for a while: Vettel over Raikkonen, Ricciardo over Bottas over Verstappen.

*POST-RACE:  Somebody is not happy at Ferrari.

Reports are that Raikkonen's engineer was throwing a serious fit in the garage after the race.  On the podium, Kimi's face looked very much like he had just been handed a three-week dead ferret.  It's clear that he has his opinions as to what happened out there.

*OH YEAH:  Over in Monaco's sister city of Indianapolis, Fernando Alonso made a great showing at the Indy 500.  He spent the entire race in the top 10, led a good number of laps, and was in contention to win when his Honda engine let go.  That was the second Honda-powered car to retire with a bum engine, which makes it clear that it isn't just their F1 engines that have reliability problems.  As previously mentioned, Takuma Sato went on to win, much to F1U!'s pleasure.

The next race will be at Montreal in two weeks!  See ya then, eh?

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May 28, 2017

GANBATTE ~TAKU~!!!

The last "favorite driver of The Pond", Takuma Sato, won the Indy 500!


He had to get past former F1 driver Max Chilton, then keep Helio Castroneves, who was looking for his fourth Indy 500 win, behind him for a handful of laps. 

In 2012's Indy 500, Sato was in second place behind Scotland's Dario Franchitti with one lap to go.  He tried to go under Franchitti into Turn 1 and wound up in the wall instead.  He'd never been so close before or since.  Until today.

We here at F1U! aren't afraid to say we were cheering for "Super" Sato loudly in the final few laps.  We're also not afraid to say that the Indy 500 was a damnsight more interesting than Monaco was.

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May 27, 2017

F1 Quals: Monaco 2017

When you take high-tech high-speed race cars, put most of the best drivers in the world behind the wheels, and drop them into the streets of a small French fishing village, weird things can happen.  When those weird things occur during Quals, you get some very interesting prospects for the biggest race on the Formula 1 calendar indeed.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Monaco:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:13.117 1:12.231 1:12.178
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.090 1:12.449 1:12.221
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:13.325 1:12.901 1:12.223
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:13.078 1:12.697 1:12.496
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:13.219 1:13.011 1:12.998
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:13.526 1:13.397 1:13.162
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:13.530 1:13.430 1:13.329
8 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:13.786 1:13.203 1:13.349
9 Jenson I'm Back Button McLaren Honda 1:13.723 1:13.453 1:13.613
10 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:13.476 1:13.249 No Time
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:13.899 1:13.516
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:13.787 1:13.628
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:13.531 1:13.959
14 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:13.640 1:14.106
15 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:13.796 1:20.529
16 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:14.101

17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:14.696

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:14.893

19 Pascal's Wager Sauber Ferrari 1:15.159

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:15.276


Okay, let's deal with the elephant in the room first.  Lewis Hamilton had been complaining ever since Thursday's practice sessions that he was having trouble getting heat into his tires, particularly the rears.  This means a loss of grip, and around Monaco a loss of grip basically means your car is a mass of carbon fiber shards waiting to happen.  While he notably didn't have a wreck, he was only 10th in Q1, over a half-second behind the leader.  In Q2, he very nearly threw his Merc into the barriers at Massanet after a lurid twitch that would have left a lesser driver sitting in a chassis missing half of its suspension, much of a sidepod, and perhaps a wing or two.  After that, he went back to the pits for some adjustments and got randomly selected for a weighing by the FIA.  He didn't lose that much time there, but what was lost would never come back.  With time running out on the session, he returned to the track for a hot lap.  Through the first two sectors it looked like the team and driver had finally figured it all out.  True, it wouldn't have been the fastest time ever, but it was almost certainly going to get him into Q3.  But then, ahead of him at the Swimming Pool, the McLaren of Stoffelwaffle had kissed the armco and was on the side of the track in a bad state.  Marshals immediately threw the waved double-yellows, which meant that everybody coming upon the scene had to abandon their lap... like Lewis Hamilton.  And there was no time for another attempt.

In other interesting bits, RAIKKONEN'S ON POLE!  Amazingly, this was his first pole position since 2008, some 128 races ago.  His Ferrari teammate, Seb Vettel, is right next to him, just .004 of a second ahead of the remaining Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.  And if we needed any more evidence that Monaco is a place where weird things can occur, both McLarens with their wind-up motors made it into Q3... though neither will start in their provisional positions.  Jenson I'm Back Button will have to take a 15-spot penalty for changing out his MGU-H and his turbocharger overnight.  And Stoffelwaffle has a three-spot penalty from the last race for his accident with Felipe Not Retired Massa.  It also shows that this is a place where sheer grunt is not as important as maneuverability, because let's face it, the Honda engine in the McLaren is a dog.  The chassis, however... that's another story.

The race is in the morning on NBC... see ya then!

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May 26, 2017

(Quiet Moaning)

Two days.  23 hours at work.

I'm too old for this.

Still, some good did come from it... I discovered audiobooks today.  Believe it or not, I've never actually listened to books on tape/cd/whatever before.  With an Amazon Prime account, you get a free trial of Audible: two books.  So I thought, what the heck, why not?  I've always wanted to read Ready Player One, plenty of people have said it's good, so I downloaded it last night and started listening to it this morning at work.  Surprise #1: it's read by Wil Wheaton.  Surprise #2: he does a great job.  Surprise #3: holy crap that's a fun book!!!  I got some seven hours (out of 15) into it, and had to stop myself from starting it back up here at The Pond.  If you've read the book, Our Hero has just arrived at The Distracted Globe for a Very Important Birthday Party.

I never did like Joust, though.

Three days off... in a row!  How ever will I manage to stand it?

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May 23, 2017

Motorsports on TV: Memorial Day Sunday

The race fan's holiday!  If you're completely insane, it's possible to go from 630am until 930pm on the couch watching 1260 miles of live auto racing in three major categories.  We're only going to concentrate on two of them, however: the Grand Prix of Monaco and the Indianapolis 500.  Here's the track maps:




Two more dissimilar tracks you cannot find in motorsports.  Monaco, with its two mile long course, is actually a shorter lap than the one at Indy (2.50 miles).  It's also somewhat more narrow, and a little bit slower.  None of which detracts from the race one bit... in fact, that's exactly what makes Monaco so special: modern, high-tech, multi-million dollar F1 cars racing through the streets of a small French fishing village.  Meanwhile, over in America, you've got lower-tech open-wheel cars blasting around a superspeedway at 230mph making four turns per lap and almost never touching the brakes.  If one was that sort of person, one could suggest that the two tracks are perfect analogues for Europe and America.  Fortunately for all involved, I am not that sort of person.

This year, of course, there's a particularly interesting reason to watch the Indy 500, in that McLaren F1 driver Fernando Alonso has decided to forego Monaco to compete in The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.  He's taken to the format quite well, qualifying fifth and even holding pole for a short time.  To be sure, qualifying position means little at Indy, but it's still quite the accomplishment for a rookie, particularly one that's never driven an indycar before.  Alonso is hardly your run-of-the-mill rookie, it must be said, and veteran watchers of the series say that the Spaniard has a legitimate shot at winning.

Of the 33 cars in the Indy field, there are (or were) six former (or current) F1 drivers involved.  Alexander Rossi, last year's winner, drove for Manor in 2015.  Takuma Sato drove for Jordan, BAR-Honda and SuperAguri in a seven year career.  Alonso is considered one of the best drivers in the world.  Max Chilton drove for Marussia in 2013-2014.  Juan Pablo (The Pope) Montoya had a six year career in F1.  And Sebastian Bourdais, who will not be making the race due to a massive crash in qualifying that broke his leg and pelvis, drove for Toro Rosso in 2007 and 2008.

In any case, the NBCSN's Legendary Announce Team will be live at Monaco for the race... here's the broadcast schedules:
Thursday
Practice 2: 7am - 830am  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7am - 830am  live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Monaco: 630am - 9am live on NBC
2017 Indanapolis 500: 11am - 3pm  live on ABC
2017 Coca-Cola 600: 5pm - 930pm  live on FOX

All times Pond Central.  Please note that Practice 2 is, indeed, on Thursday, not Friday.  Monaco tradition and all that.  Also note the inclusion of NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on the schedule.  I did something like 1100 miles of the three races one year... I don't recommend it.  However, if you want to try the triple-header, you now know when the third race is.  F1 Update! will come along sometime afterwards... see ya there!

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May 21, 2017

Random Anime Picture# 128: Ridiculous School Outfit

Even from a medium where over-the-top school uniforms are the norm, this has got to take the cake:

-Roku de Nashi Majutsu Kōshi to Akashic Records, Ep01

Seriously?  Come on, Japan... really?  The best and oldest magic academy in the most powerful country in the world, magically, and they dress their female students in that?  Forget about the practicality or lack thereof of a uniform like that, how in the world could the school expect the male students to concentrate?

Unlikely uniforms aside, there's not much new to this show.  Which doesn't mean it's not entertaining, because I'm enjoying it a lot.  It's just that we've seen it before.  It's a relatively pretty series when it gets the chance to be, but again, nothing earth-shattering.  It's one of those titles that will be forgotten shortly after the last episode airs.  It will serve its purpose, selling light novels, and that's all it'll be.  There's no shame in not being an awesome, awe-inspiring, game-changing series... most of them aren't.  Still, I like it.

I'm not sure why.  I'll have to keep watching to figure it out.

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May 16, 2017

Definitive AMVs

Let me explain the title.  In my mind, there are certain Anime Music Videos that capture the spirit of their subject so well that it becomes the (say it with me) definitive AMV for it.  It could be a character study, or an overview of a particular series, or less often, the AMV is practically synonymous with a song.  

To me, it feels like it's clear almost instantly that "this is it, this is the one!"  It will come as no surprise to me if people disagree with my choices... I can't help what other people think, even if they're terribly terribly wrong... but that's the beauty of this sort of thing.  If you and me think entirely alike, one of us is superfluous, right?  Enough chatter!  Let's get to watchin'!


more...

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May 14, 2017

F1 Update!: Spain 2017

Another breezy but nice day greeted the assembled F1 field as they made their way to the grid today at Barcalounger.  The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton was on pole, having beaten rival Seb Vettel to that position by .051 seconds during Quals.  Behind them we found their teammates; Valtteri Bottas was coming off the first race victory of his career, and Kimi Raikkonen, is apparently loved by children everywhere.  Back behind them were the Red Bulls of last year's winner Embryo Verstappen, and Smiley Riccardio who was on record saying that the team could win this race "...if the Mercedes and Ferraris crash."  Optimism, you've gotta love it!  But how would it all work out in the end?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain!

*START AND HEARTBREAK
:  When the lights went out the two Mercedes, equipped with what they were calling "new starting procedures (wink wink)" got off the line much quicker than they've done of late.  This did not stop Vettel from getting the lead on Hamilton into Turn 1, but behind them all was chaos.  Bottas went down the inside of the turn with Raikkonen directly outside and just ahead of him and Verstappen coming up on the outside of him.  We here at F1U! are somewhat divided on what happened next, but the upshot was that the Ferrari and the Mercedes bumped.  Whether it was because the older Finn squeezed the younger Finn, or if Bottas was being a little optimistic is open to interpretation.  After the bump, Raikkonen's car jerked a bit to the left, where it immediately made contact with Verstappen.  The two went off, with the Ferrari's left front tire pointed to the right and nearly perpendicular to the direction of travel.  The amount of smoke it was generating as The Iceman tried to nurse it back to the pits was dramatic to say the least.  Verstappen looked okay for the most part, except for a spray of sparks issuing from underneath the front of the car.  Both drivers would retire very soon after.  Behind them the McLaren of Indy Alonso, who qualified a miraculous seventh, was boinked by the Williams of Felipe Not Retired Massa, forcing him through the gravel of the next turn.  The McLaren was undamaged but lost quite a few places and could never challenge for points as a result.  Meanwhile, up in the stands, a young Ferrari fan was distraught by the retirement of one of his heroes.


*MOTORING ON:  Vettel had the lead, it is true, but he could not manage to do much with it.  After getting a 2.50 second lead on the Merc, it held steady there.  However, it was that way solely because of Hamilton's efforts.  Around Lap 7 or so, he radioed in that it wasn't easy to keep pace with the German, and the effort involved in doing so was clearly audible in his voice.  Things looked interesting for the rest of the race.

*MIDWAY
:  Vettel pitted on Lap 14, opting to put on another set of soft tires and coming out in fourth (quickly turning to third after passing Ricciardo) some 11+ seconds behind Bottas in second.  Hamilton stretched his softs out to Lap 21, by which point he was losing great gobs of time to the fresh-rubbered Ferrari.  Crucially, Mercedes put him onto the medium tires.  He rejoined in third... at which point, Mercedes made the decision to have Bottas take one for the team.  It took Vettel a few laps to catch up to the Finn, but it took him three full laps to get by the defensive-driving Bottas.  The next lap, Hamilton breezed past his teammate with a thank-you thumbs-up, only some four seconds behind the Ferrari.  Bottas would pit on Lap 25, rejoining in third, but so far back he would never see the other two again.  The gap between Vettel and Hamilton would open to 6.1 seconds.

*TURNING POINT:  Some 10 laps later, the McLaren of Stoffelwaffle would be knocked out of the race by Massa, who apparently hates McLaren.  As the orange car was dragged out of the kittylitter, a Virtual Safety Car period was triggered.  Hamilton would pit at the very end of it, rejoining on Lap 37 in second place, and back on soft tires.  The next lap saw Vettel come in for the rules-mandated switch to medium tires.  Meanwhile, the Merc driver blazed around the circuit on cold tires trying to take advantage of his opponent's idleness.  It worked beyond anybody's wildest dreams.  Vettel returned to the circuit just as Hamilton was about to go past.  The two dragraced down to Turn 1, Vettel on the inside.  In the turn, the red car went wide, basically hipchecking his rival off-track in a legal but decidedly stiff move.  Hamilton would return to the track less than a second behind the Ferrari.  The chase was on.  Vettel, like Bottas before him, drove a very wide car indeed, never giving the Brit a chance.  Until, that is, Lap 44, when Hamilton got a perfect exit from the final turn and used the DRS advantage down the front straight to steam past Vettel.  Behind them, Bottas' engine, four races old, gave up the ghost with a sound like the turbo had ingested a ferret.  It was now a straight one-on-one fight, Mercedes vs Ferrari, lead driver vs lead driver.

*TO THE END:  While we here at F1U! like to be overly dramatic every now and again, it turned out that the race was over at that point.  Hamilton would open a three-second gap over Vettel, thanks to the soft tires on his car.  The Ferrari would not go away, though, and the Merc driver had to continue to drive as hard as he could.  All it would have taken was a single mistake for Vettel to regain the lead, but it was not to come.  Lewis Hamilton would cross the line about three seconds ahead of Seb Vettel.  Meanwhile, Smiley Riccardio would finish third for his first podium of the year.  The distance between the top two teams and everybody else was clear, however, as the Red Bull was over 65 seconds behind the leader.  The rest of the field had been lapped by the Hamilton/Vettel battle.

*A HAPPY ENDING:  Back in the middle of the race, Ferrari team members contacted the production team from FOM, asking if they could give them some information.  Soon after, we got to see one of the coolest F1 moments ever:

The team had found the crying kid and brought him and his family down to the Ferrari hospitality trailer and he got to meet Kimi Raikkonen, have pictures taken with the Finn, got his hat, the works.  It was a ridiculously sweet moment in a sport and team that has in the past often been quite standoffish.  The boy, who's name is Thomas, would also meet fellow Frenchman Lettuce Grosjean as well as getting to visit team Renault and Nico Hulkenberg.   I think we all know who's winning Show & Tell next time.

Next time, we are in Monaco for the crown jewel of F1... oh, and some oval race in the States, too.  See ya then!

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May 13, 2017

F1 Quals: Spain 2017

A lovely if breezy day greeted the F1 Circus as they took to the track in Barcalounger for go-fast day.  There were some differences to be seen however: upgrades could be spotted everywhere you looked.  Mercedes had the best of them, a pair of bargeboards with titanium-tipped claws on their ends:

Kiss any pushy Ferrari's tires goodbye!  Mercedes looked like they had recovered their teamwide mojo through the practice sessions, leading people to believe Quals would be an arse-kicking of historic proportions.  On the other hand, the Red Team had to perform a near-literal miracle just to get Seb Vettel on track, as they had to do a full engine change in the two hours between the end of P3 and the start of Q1.  Meanwhile, one of Red Bull's drivers was on record saying they could win... if both Mercedes and both Ferraris wrecked.  So just how badly did the Silver Arrows trounce the rest of the field?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.511 1:20.210 1:19.149
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:20.939 1:20.295 1:19.200
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:20.991 1:20.300 1:19.373
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:20.742 1:20.621 1:19.439
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:21.430 1:20.722 1:19.706
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:21.704 1:20.855 1:20.175
7 Indy Alonso McLaren Ho_da 1:22.015 1:21.251 1:21.048
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:21.998 1:21.239 1:21.070
9 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:22.138 1:21.222 1:21.232
10 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:21.901 1:21.148 1:21.272
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:21.945 1:21.329
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:21.941 1:21.371
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:22.091 1:21.397
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:21.822 1:21.517
15 Pascal Triangle Sauber Ferrari 1:22.327 1:21.803
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:22.332

17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:22.401

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:22.411

19 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Hon_a 1:22.532

20 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:22.746


Oh.  Sure, Mercedes got pole, but it was only by .051 seconds and needed Vettel to completely bollix the final chicane to get that.  The top four cars are covered by less than .300 seconds.  So much for Merc Upgrade Domination.

In what has to be the most unimaginable result thus far, Indy Alonso dragged his McLaren, powered by the execrable H_nda "power" unit, into Q3 and seventh on the grid.  At the moment, for McLaren this is akin to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series... long spoken of, but never occuring.  Some may scoff at a mere seventh place, but considering that Alonso's teammate Stoffelwaffle was saved by a last-place start only by a Toro Rosso whose driver said "the car was not driven by me today, it was driving on its own" after being knocked out of Q1, seventh has got to feel amazing.  Let's just see if Alonso can make it to the grid this week...

Race Sunday morning... see ya then!

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May 10, 2017

F1 on TV: Spain 2017

Short on time, but I didn't want to leave y'all hanging this weekend!  We've got Barcalounger this week, here's the track map for the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain:

Last year, Spain gave us the sight of the two Mercedes taking themselves out and the youngest F1 winner ever.  This year is... slightly less likely to give us such enthusiasm, but we can only hope!  The big reason to watch Barcalounger is that, as the first stop on the European leg of the F1 calendar, this is where the teams bring their first batch of big upgrades.  We already know that Red Bull is going to sport a bigger dorsal fin, and that McLaren is going to replace their Honda Fit engines with ones from an Accord, but what else will we see?

Whatever it is, the Legendary Announce Team will tell us about it!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Spain: 6a - 9a live on NBCSN

All times nominally Pond Central.  Of course, as per usual, another sterling installment of F1Update! will follow along eventually.  See ya then!

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May 08, 2017

Definitely Sometime

I keep starting a post on AMVs, get about a paragraph or so into it, then lose interest and go off and do something else.  Like this, right now.  Except at least you're reading this, as opposed to all the other posts I started and deleted.  So, yeah, posting.  Not exactly the most amazing thing ever, I admit, but at least it's something... right?

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