October 15, 2017

...Just For One Day, We Are All Grape.

If you're the type of person who reads The Pond regularly, then there's no doubt in my mind that you've heard the story of Grape-kun.  If you are new here, or read The Pond only for the F1 ("I only read it for the articles!"  Kids, get your parents to explain), let me give you a quick version of this tale of devotion and love.


Earlier this year, the Tobu Zoo in Miyashiro, Saitama Prefecture, held a promotion that saw standups of characters from the anime series Kemono Friends placed in various animal enclosures.  This actually makes more sense than many such ideas in Japan, as Kemono Friends is about animals in a large zoo that, due to exposure to unobtanium, have become anthropomorphized.  The show was a popular one, and attendance had increased in other zoos that had done the same promotion, so why not?  In Ep08, we are introduced to an idol group called "PPP", which is made up of anthropomorphized penguins.  At least one of the members of PPP had their promotional standup put in the penguin enclosure at Tobu Zoo.  Where it was encountered by a Humboldt Penguin named "Grape-kun".

A little bit of backstory here.  Grape-kun was over 20 years old, and ten years ago he had been dumped by his mate.  He had been single ever since.  However, park keepers quickly realized that Grape-kun was enamored of the standup of Hululu that had been put in the penguin enclosure.  He would spend the entire day by the rock she was on, would go into a known courtship pose, and would have to be separated from Hululu so he would remember to eat.  When the promotion ended, all of the standups were removed... except for Hululu's, as zookeepers were afraid of what would happen to Grape-kun if they did.  The story hit the twitters in May and quickly went worldwide.  Grape-kun had a waifu, and anime fans around the globe found they were relating to a Japanese penguin.  Hululu's voice actress met Grape-kun, Tobu Zoo's attendance went through the roof, fans made pilgrimages to see the pair, and there were (and are) calls for Grape-kun to become a character in the next season of Kemono Friends.

On Friday, Grape-kun passed away at the age of 21.  According to the zoo, he had suffered a short illness.  He had been removed from the enclosure, but Hululu's standup had been with him until the end.

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October 14, 2017

That's A Thing

I've got nothing for ya.  Braindead after a long, fruitless week, I'm having problems even thinking about being clever.


"So, pretty much like the last 12 years then, huh?"
That's not fair.  I was clever once.  Go back and reread the Ben-To! writeups, those were pretty good.  I really liked Ep08's... that's the one with the Claude Rains joke.  I should really try doing something like that again.  Oh, did you know that the OST for Ben-To! is flippin' amazing?  
I've got this on my playlist at work, and every time it comes on, I wonder if the folks on Sirius/XM's "smooth jazz" channel know about it.
GD, you should like this track in particular.  This one came on the mp3 player Friday night, around 9pm at work, I'm the only person in the entire building, and most of the lights were off... I near to wet myself when the whispering started.  Good times, good times.

"Why is there a puddle on the floor?"  "I don't think I'm hungry now.  Ew."
Ah, the clever Wonderduck witticisms.  Pee humor, everybody loves that!  Anyway, that's all I got, eat some oreos!

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October 12, 2017

#CRYBARFDIE

So the Cubs are playing the final game of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals as I write this.  It's kind of a slugfest, and I'm kinda going insane.  The Cubs lead 9 - 6, but that means nothing right now.  


While I chew through my lower lip, here's some music:

Marnik - Hocus Pocus
Tip o' the chapeau to Brickmuppet for unintentionally pointing out this track.  Is it the deepest of tunes?  Oh hell no.  But sometimes all you want is a good beat and a filthy drop.

Sakkijarven Polkka - Girls Und Panzer OST
Because sometimes all you need is a Japanese rendition of a Finnish example of a Polish style of music.

Cross fingers the Cubs win.  I don't wanna know how I'm gonna feel if they lose.

UPDATE, around Midnight or thereabouts:

Longest post-season baseball game ever.  Brother, can you spare a pitcher?

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October 10, 2017

Random Anime Pictures #137: Kettenkrad!

-Girls Last Tour, Ep01
I've always thought that halftracks were neat.  It's a truck with treads!  It's a tank with the front of a truck welded on!  It's chocolate in peanut butter!  They really were a great idea, but overly complicated to keep running and much more expensive to build.  I mean, sure, they had better off-road skillz than a wheeled vehicle... until they threw a track.  At least with a truck, you can keep moving with a flat tire.  All you could really do when you were missing a track on one side is go in circles.  While halftracks are actually still in use by militaries here and there, particularly Israel, for the most part they stopped being common by the '60s, when the surviving WWII-era vehicles finally wore out.  The Kettenkrad, above, was the smallest halftrack in common use, the Wehrmacht using it as a tractor for light artillery pieces and as a tow vehicle for the Me-262 jet fighter.  It looks like a tankette and a motorcycle had a child.  What I didn't realize until recently was that it didn't entirely steer using the front wheel.  Turn the handlebars past a certain angle and the inside tread locked, allowing the other tread to push the kettenkrad into the turn.  That's kinda good thinkin'!

Oh, the show?  It was the only series this season that I was really looking forward to, because I've seen the manga here and there and it looked interesting.  Turns out to be the cutest, most relaxing post-apocalyptic journey story ever!  I mean, except for the picture above, but even that's adorable... mostly.  Other than the gun part.  The situation isn't quite as serious as it looks.  Mostly.

This is going to sound strange, but Girls Last Tour feels a lot like Flying Witch.  Oh, they're really nothing alike, but they both have a sense of calmness to them.  Which is quite surprising, considering the two are travelling through a country devastated by war.  We don't know where they're travelling to, and it's not clear they do either.  At the moment, they just are.  There's probably a serious story lurking underneath it all, but I kinda hope not.  Sometimes, two moeblobs travelling around in a kettenkrad is all you need.

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October 08, 2017

F1 Update!: Japan 2017

The nicest day of the weekend greeted the Herd as they made their way up to the grid.  Unlike Friday Practice, which had buckets o' rain coming down when it wasn't falling in sheets, or Saturday Quals, which was gray and dreary, the sky was blue and the sun was bright as racetime approached.  Lewis Hamilton sat on pole... again... with a new track record... again... and looked ready to win... again.  Normally having your rival next to you on the grid isn't the most comfortable feeling.  The Ferrari of Seb Vettel sat in the second spot, but his team had removed the engine cover on his car with just minutes to go and were working feverishly.  They got him buttoned up in time, but the German couldn't have been happy.  So how did all that work out?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Japan!


*LIGHTS OUT:  Hamilton didn't have the best of starts once the race finally began, but that turned out not to be a big deal because none of the cars around him did either.  Behind him, last week's race winner, Embryo Verstappen, got past Vettel's Ferrari in a slick little move at just about the same time that Carlos Sainz, in his last race with Toro Rosso before he moves to Renault, buried himself in the tire barriers sideways.  The accident was stiff and the car was out of the race, but because of its location the marshals had to bring out heavy machinery to carry it off.  We here at F1U! would be lying if we said that we didn't have flashbacks to the tragic 2015 Grand Prix of Japan at this moment.  Fortunately for everybody's sanity, a Safety Car was immediately summoned as Lap 2 began.

*HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND:  It became obvious that whatever it was that Ferrari had been working on in Vettel's engine before the race, they hadn't gotten it repaired.  Once the race restarted, he was almost instantly swarmed over by three cars.  The Ferrari was clearly down on power... we later found out he was over 20mph in the hole... and the team soon told him to return to the pits and retire the car.  The culprit that crippled this high-tech marvel, this paragon of racing?  A spark plug.  We can only assume it had only been made with a core of Californium, instead of the usual metal smelted from asteroids.  In the garage, Vettel clearly realized that any chance he had of winning the driver's championship was realistically gone.

*THE REST:  Hamilton opened his lead over Verstappen's Red Bull to around five seconds or so, but couldn't quite get away from the Dutchman.  Every time he would look to be pulling away, someone else would wreck and a Virtual Safety Car would be called out.  The last one, called out when Pleasant Stroll had a wheel rim failure, let Verstappen be in position to narrow things down to less than a second after the restart.

*CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR: For a couple of laps right at the end, it looked like we actually had a race on our hands.  Verstappen actually appeared to be faster over the entire lap, but getting past another car on the fairly narrow Suzuka circuit is difficult at the best of times.  When your target is Lewis Hamilton and his closest rival is in the pits?   Unlikely, to say the least.  Throw in hitting traffic at just the wrong time, and Verstappen never had a chance.  He'd follow Hamilton home in second place, just over a second behind.  It was an easy drive for the Mercedes driver, but he had to drive a clean race... one mistake and the Red Bull would have been past him.  That mistake never occurred.  The other Red Bull of Smiley Ricciardo finished third, almost 10 seconds back.

Not the best race of the season.  In fact, I'd go so far as to call it dull, the final few laps notwithstanding.  It is probably going to be the most important race of the year though, as Hamilton now has a 54 point lead over Vettel with four races to go.  Indeed, if he wins the next race and Vettel finishes sixth or below, the championship ends right there.

And that next race?  We return to Austin Texas for the US Grand Prix in two weeks!  See ya then!

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October 07, 2017

F1 Quals: Japan 2017

Oh dear.  This bodes ill for tomorrow's 2017 Grand Prix of Japan.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.047 1:27.819 1:27.319
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:29.332 1:28.543 1:27.651
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.352 1:28.225 1:27.791
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:29.475 1:28.935 1:28.306
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:29.181 1:28.747 1:28.332
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:29.163 1:29.079 1:28.498
7 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:30.115 1:29.199 1:29.111
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:29.696 1:29.343 1:29.260
9 FelipeNot Nasr Williams Mercedes 1:30.352 1:29.687 1:29.480
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:30.525 1:29.749 1:30.687
11 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:30.654 1:29.778
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:30.252 1:29.879
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:30.774 1:29.972
14 Unemployed  Palmer Renault 1:30.516 1:30.022
15 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:30.565 1:30.413
16 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:30.849

17 Pierre Ghastly Toro Rosso 1:31.317

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:31.409

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:31.597

20 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:31.885


It's hardly unusual for Lewis Hamilton to be on pole.  For him to be on pole in so dominant a manner is another thing altogether.  This season, there's usually been some sort of realistic threat from some other driver to take pole, even if Hamilton still ended up with it.  Not today.  At no point during the quals session today did he look even mildly disconcerted.  Just a massive curbstomp of a quals.

The one saving grace for Seb Vettel is that he'll actually be starting second, not third, as Bottas has a five-grid-spot penalty to deal with.  On the whole, Ferrari has looked good over race distances this year, better than they do during Quals.  That may not matter, though, because of just how massive the Merc looked today.  

Sorry this is short and late, been working today.  Race overnight, see ya afterwards sometime!

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October 04, 2017

Of Two Minds

It was announced earlier today that ESPN has won the rights to carry Formula 1 races here in the US, beginning in 2018.  And by "won", I mean "they were probably the only bidders."


That's not snark.  The powers that be at NBCSN came out and said "we chose not to enter into a new agreement in which the rights holders itself competes with us and our distribution partners."  This is widely assumed to mean that Liberty Media / FOM will be launching a worldwide streaming service next year.

It looks like ESPN will be using the World Feed announcers, instead of bringing in the Legendary Announce Team to provide commentary.  I am... displeased... by this development.

While I'm still not overly fond of Leigh Diffey (L), preferring instead the dulcet tones of The Varsha, losing David Hobbs (C) and Steve Matchett (R) will hurt.  For me, they are the voice of Formula 1.  They've been there for almost every race of my F1 fandom (save for a painful few races that were shown on CBS... "they're CRASHING over the curbs" will haunt me forever), and I will miss them if they're gone.

On the other hand, it just became a LOT easier for people to watch Formula 1 in the US.  Most of the races will be on ESPN2, three will be on ESPN proper, and two will be first-run on ABC (Monaco will be shown live on ESPN, then tape-delayed on ABC as well).  More visibility is better than less in my book.

Stay tuned, friends.  A new world is coming to our fandom.

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October 03, 2017

F1 on NBCSN: Japan 2017

I'm afraid I don't have a whole bunch of time to do this, so let me be brief.  Here's the track map for the 2017 Grand Prix of Japan:


It's my favorite circuit on the F1 calendar.  To me, it's everything you could possibly want from a track.  There is not one single bit of mickeymousing anywhere, even the chicane is pretty handy.  130R used to be the most fearsome turn on the calendar.  Now the drivers are talking about taking it flat-out and pulling maybe six G's in the process.  If that happens, I'll expect to see someone's head popping out of the cockpit like a champagne cork.  The Circuit of the Americas stole their Esses from here, though Suzuka's are tighter.

And oh yeah, there's a FREAKIN' BRIDGE involved.  It's a figure-8 track... next up, F1 comes to the Duckford Speedway for a night of quarter-mile high-banked oval racin'!

Here's the broadcast schedule for the race weekend, brought to you by the Legendary Announce Team and Pocky, the world's favorite chocolate-dipped biscuit stick! 

Friday
Practice 2: 1201a - 130a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 1a - 230a  live on NBCSN
...and...
2017 Grand Prix of Japan: 1130p - 2a Sunday,  live on NBCSN

Again, note that both Quals and the race broadcasts begin on Saturday according to NBCSN.  I'll be along eventually with the F1U!.  See ya then then, shall I?  Yes, let's.


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October 02, 2017

F1 Update!: Malaysia 2017

A gray, gloomy sky over Kuala Lumpur greeted the Thundering Herd as it made its way to the starting grid.  Polesitter Lewis Hamilton had to be experiencing mixed feelings as his Mercedes sat in its prime spot.  On one hand, he was on pole having put in a great lap during qualifying.  On the other, his Mercedes was acting like a temperamental diva.  The team couldn't dial it in for long stints and little technical gremlins were running around the insides of the power unit.  On the whole, though, it was a good position to be in, particularly considering his main rival, Ferrari's Seb Vettel, was dead last after a technical failure in quals.  Just behind Hamilton sat birthday boy Embryo Verstappen's Red Bull.  The Dutchman had celebrated his 20th birthday the previous day and the Red Bulls were feeling particularly racy the whole weekend.  So what happened next?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Malaysia!  


*BEFORE: After a qualifying session that saw him take second spot on the grid, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was asked what his goal was for the race.  "I'd like to get more than 100 meters," replied the Finn, a reference to the race in Singapore two weeks prior.  He didn't.  Some engine glitch kept him in the garage until the very last moment, then the team sent him to take his place in the starting lineup.  Once there, the mechanics began working on the car again, taking the rear bodywork off so they could tinker with the power unit.  Ultimately this proved fruitless, the team pushing the car back to the pits to work on it while the rest of the cars went on their way to take the start.  In the end, Ferrari would retire the car.  We can only assume Raikkonen got himself some ice cream.

*LIGHTS OUT:  The run down to Turn 1 in Malaysia is one of the longest on the calendar, plenty of time for mischief to be perpetrated by those desperate or unaware.  Throw in Embryo Verstappen, not known for his love of carbon fiber (unless it's in tiny pieces), being up at the front and Hamilton had to be wondering if HE'd make it through the first turn in one piece.  The weather played a part in the start, despite there not being a drop of rain in the sky.  Earlier in the day, it had rained and the grid was damp... or, to be correct, half the grid was damp.  It seems that half of the track had been resurfaced some time in the past.  The two surface materials used, left and right, were not the same.  As a result, the even-numbered side of the grid was visibly wetter than the odd side.  Once the race began, the cars starting on the right side of the grid all made better starts than the ones on the left.  It didn't matter much in the long run, but there you are.  For a wonder, the entire field made it through the first set of turns without too much damage... or indeed, any at all that we could see.  By the end of Lap 1, Hamilton led Verstappen, who led Valterri Bottas in third.  Remember that Seb Vettel guy, starting back in 20th?  By the end of Lap 1, he was 13th, and quickly moved up to 12th.

*AND THEN...:  At the beginning of Lap 4, DRS was enabled, and the Red Bull in second place was within the one-second zone of the leader, though only just.  The rear wing slot popped open, and voila!  12mph bonus to Verstappen's speed down the straight.  He made up the gap to Hamilton quickly enough, but looked to be too far back to make any sort of move.  Wrong.  The Dutchman decided that he didn't need to brake until it was almost too late, zipped past the Mercedes on the inside, and made the move stick out of the twisty complex at the end of the front straight.  As it turned out, the Mercs were having problems with their KERS systems not recharging fast enough, and Hamilton had been caught with his battery boost not able to produce as much power as it should.   If it had been, there may have been more of a defense made.  Or perhaps not; Hamilton is leading the Driver's Championship, and with Vettel far, far behind on track, there was no need for the Brit to tempt fate by dueling with the birthday boy.

*MEANWHILE:  Vettel's Ferrari was making steady progress on-track.  The man he picked off for 12th, Nico Hulkenberg, was having some difficulty with his car so he pitted earlier than expected.  Concerned that he would undercut them in the pits, four other drivers pitted for new tires, promoting Vettel into sixth place.  He would take care of Sergio Perez for fifth place on Lap 19.  Fifteen places in 19 laps... pretty good work, that.  

*UP FRONT:  Verstappen was doing to Lewis Hamilton what Hamilton had regularly done to any car that wasn't a Mercedes for much of the past four years: he was driving away.  The lead would reach nine seconds and stay right around that amount for a very long time indeed.  Meanwhile, behind those two worthies we find the other Red Bull, that of Smiley Ricciardo camped out in third, but nervously glancing in his mirrors all the time.  That's because Vettel, after having a nice little scrap with Bottas, had moved into fourth position.  Worst still for Ricciardo, Vettel was on fresher, faster tires and was turning laps a full second faster than anybody else on track.  All of that had to be sitting in the back of the German's head... if only his car had worked on Saturday, this clearly would have been his race.

*CATCH AND RELEASE:  The Ferrari steadily closed in on the Australian, filling the Red Bull's mirrors like a T-Rex chasing a Land Rover.  Then, as Lap 48 turned into Lap 49, with the Ferrari pit wall telling him to "attack now", Vettel made his move... which Ricciardo smoothly blocked as they approached the braking zone for Turn 1.  The Ferrari driver backed down, and shortly thereafter began to lose time to the Australian.  He had raced his tires off, and he was unable to challenge again.

*THE END:  For a wonder, Red Bull's Max Verstappen cruised home with a lead that was nigh on 13 seconds over Hamilton's Mercedes.  Ten seconds behind him came Ricciardo, who's gap over Vettel for the final podium spot had opened up to 15 seconds... a marvelous display of damage containment by the Ferrari driver.  It had looked like Hamilton would have buried his nearest challenger.  Instead, he barely managed to buy the shovel he would need to start digging.  Throw in the temperamental state of the W08 recently, and Hamilton had to have some concerns.

*...THE HELL?:  As the drivers were on their cooldown lap, we were treated to camera shots of Verstappen being happy in cockpit, with lots of yelling over the radio.  He had become the youngest driver in F1 history to win a race, breaking Seb Vettel's record by over a year... or he would have, if he didn't already hold the record, having won his first race in 2016 at the age of 18 and change.  And then the cameras frantically cut away to show us this:

Vettel had been behind the Williams of Pleasant Stroll as they were on their cooldown laps, with the Ferrari moving somewhat faster.  When they approached the next turn, the Ferrari driver went past Stroll.  There was a coming together and the Ferrari ended up a shambles.  The Williams, on the other hand wasn't even scuffed.  Both drivers blamed the other.  It is the opinion of F1U! that Vettel probably should never have put himself in that position in the first place... he's got a championship to fight for, and while this happened after the race, suspension damage often causes collateral damage to the engine or gearbox.  Changing those would give a penalty for the next race.  Reports are that the gearbox is undamaged, but those reports weren't coming from Ferrari.  Very, very bizarre, and not the first time this season that Vettel has done something stupid.

So that's it for Malaysia.  Next race is next week, at F1U!'s official favorite circuit, Suzuka in Japan.  See ya then!

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October 01, 2017

Malaysia 2017 Delayed!

Sorry everybody, I got started on the F1U! much too late for me to get it done Sunday.  It'll be up Monday night.


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September 30, 2017

Meanwhile, In Another Racing Series...

Sometimes when you have a bad day, you can't identify what caused it.  You're just having a bad day.  Then  there are the times where you know exactly why you're having a bad day.  This past April, the Blancpain GT series had a bad day.


You can probably see where this is headed.  Click here for the video, it's... quite something.

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F1 Quals: Malaysia 2017

It's rare that you can look at a particular moment in time as it's happening and say "there.  Right there is the point everything changed."  I am of the opinion that we experienced that today during Quals.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Malaysia:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.605 1:30.977 1:30.076
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:32.259 1:30.926 1:30.121
3 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:31.920 1:30.931 1:30.541
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:32.416 1:31.061 1:30.595
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:32.254 1:30.803 1:30.758
6 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:32.527 1:31.651 1:31.478
7 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:32.838 1:31.848 1:31.582
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:32.586 1:31.778 1:31.607
9 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.768 1:31.484 1:31.658
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:33.049 1:32.010 1:31.704
11 Felipe Not Nasr  Williams Mercedes 1:32.267 1:32.034
12 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:32.576 1:32.100
13 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:33.000 1:32.307
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:32.650 1:32.402
15 Pierre Ghastly Toro Rosso 1:32.547 1:32.558
16 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:33.308

17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:33.434

18 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:33.483

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:33.970

NC Sebastian Vettel Ferrari No Time



The moment came, not during Practice 3 when Seb Vettel's engine started making unfortunate noises, nor when Ferrari decided to replace the entire power unit between sessions.  No, it came whenever it was that a Ferrari mechanic neglected to feed the hamster in the new turbo unit just before Vettel went out with just a couple of minutes to go in Q1.  The team had done an amazing job just to get his car to this point (you try changing your car's engine in two hours!), but during his out lap the German's turbo actually made an audible "foop" sound and stopped working.  And right there, right at that moment, we saw Lewis Hamilton clinch the World Championship.

Oh, to be sure, there's plenty of races left.  I just don't think they're going to matter after tomorrow... assuming no rain or stuff like that.  Hamilton will increase his already large points lead, and among the remaining five races only Japan and Brazil could be considered the sort of tracks that the Ferrari likes.  It was looking like a good fight, but... oh well.

I find it curious that the final five places on the grid are held by Ferrari-powered cars. Hm.

Race at 2am Sunday morning.  I don't think I'll be staying up that late.  See ya tomorrow!

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September 28, 2017

"You Have Chosen... Poorly."

I have been driving for maybe 34 years altogether, and I know that I'm good at it.  My last ticket was back in 1987, given to me by a cop in a bad mood that pulled me over for turning left in an intersection when the light turned red.  So, yeah, I didn't even deserve the ticket I got, and it's long past showing up on my record.  I am safe, controlled, and well-behaved.  I turn my brights off before an oncoming car can see them, for heaven's sake.  But this morning, I had to make that most terrible of decisions every vehicular operator must make at least once in their motoring lives.


I was driving to work, a beautiful fall day in the offing.  The blue skies were lightly dotted with fluffy white clouds, the sun shone warmly (but not too warmly) upon the land, and there was even a pleasant breeze to enjoy.  My trip to work takes about 10 minutes or so from parking lot to parking lot, and as I drove I took a moment to admire the scenery along my route.  It's a kind of semi-rural street, if that makes sense.  There are homes, but spaced much further apart than they'd be in a city or town, and many of them border cornfields or very large lawns.  Trees line the road on either side, set back a bit but still looming over the drive.  Deer are a not-uncommon sight, particularly at night as they do deer-like things.  I've even seen notadogs, canine-shaped animals that I'm sure are not the friendly family pets we've come to know and love,  peering out of the overgrowth.  It's also very hilly, almost rollercoastery... there are times during the winter that I avoid that route out of fear.

So there I am, driving along at a brisk pace, when up ahead of me I spot a dark shape in the middle of my lane... clearly a dead animal.  Raccoon, possum, biggest damn squirrel ever, something like that, too far away for me to tell right then.  And it was then that I had to make The Choice.  I had three options in front of me.  First, I could drive right over it.  Or, I could go off the road to the right... this was a bad idea, for there was a drainage ditch just a couple of feet off the roadway, the bottom about eight feet below street level (though only a few feet below the level of the yard attached to it).  There was no run-off area otherwise.  Or third, I could swerve into the oncoming lane of traffic.  So really, no choice at all.  I positioned the Duckmobile just slightly off-center right to the deceased animal, as that particular model year had a weird mounting for the exhaust system/muffler that makes it visibly hang lower than the bottom of the car.  There wouldn't be any problem clearing the recently-departed furry thing.  And then, just as it passed below the front of my car, I realized that I had just made a terrible, terrible mistake.  It was bigger than I expected... and it had a white stripe on black fur.

The sound the skunk's body made as it hit the underside of my car was... not pleasant.  But the smell... oh god, the smell.  Even worse?  It wasn't going away!  The smell clung to my car like the skunk was... still...

I looked in the rear view mirror.  The skunkcorpse wasn't there.  And then, suddenly, it was, bouncing down the road as it scrubbed off all the momentum it had gained by being stuck underneath my car.  The sudden urge I felt to... um... "review inputs"... was not entirely due to the stench that followed my vehicle.

I have never been so glad to leave my car and head into work.  And I have never felt more trepidation than I felt this evening as I left the pleasant, airconditioned, mostly smell-free, office.  There was only the faintest whiff of skunk's revenge.

I took a different route home.

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September 27, 2017

F1 on NBCSN: Malaysia 2017

The circuit at Malaysia was one of the first true Tilkedromes, and for the most part I'll be able to forget it quickly.. which is what we'll all need to do, because this is the last race that'll be taking place there for the visible future.  The promoters decided not to cough up the $Insane needed to get the rights to hold a F1 race, and thus will their contract lapse.  Let's take one last look at the track map, shall we?


The circuit was resurfaced last year, which took care of most of the bumps a track gets over the years as the asphalt/concrete/whatever settles.  Oddly, they also raised the inside of Turn 15 by a meter in an attempt to improve the passing there.  Nobody is entirely sure if it worked.  Well, there's always the chance of rain, right?

Speaking of rain, here's the broadcast schedule for the race weekend, presented by the Legendary Announce Team:
Friday
Practice 2: 2a - 330a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 4a - 530a  live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Malaysia: 2a - 430a  live on NBCSN

All times, of course, are Pond Central.  Check your local listings just in case I screwed up the conversions.

Speaking of screwing up, Kid Kvyat has lost his drive with Toro Rosso, at least temporarily.  His performance has been... um... lackluster, so the team is bringing in Pierre Gasly on a trial basis.  Gasly appears to be a Talent, having won the GP2 series last year (over the famous Tony Snazzy who drove a couple of F1 races earlier this year).  He's part of the so-called Red Bull Junior Team, their young drivers program, which has sent at least six drivers to F1 before Gasly: Christian Klein, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Smiley Ricciardo, Embryo Verstappen, Seb Vettel... and Kid Kvyat.  Gasly is also French.  Sacre bleu.  With a name like "Pierre", you were maybe expecting Polish?

Speaking of "Polish", it's looking more and more like Robert Kubica, the moron who threw his F1 career away by entering a rally race and nearly dying, is going to be returning to Formula 1 either sometime this year, or at the start of next.  Renault has been taking a good, hard look at him in test drives, and despite having an arm that looks like a swizzle stick, he's apparently done well enough to be in contention.  More surprising is that he can actually exit the car within the FIA-mandated time with that, but there you go.  I'm Polish as well, so that part of me wants to see him again... he sure looked like a champion-in-the-making... but the rest of me just thinks he was an idiot and doesn't deserve another try.  Yes, I'm confused.

Which isn't anything new.  See you soon!

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September 23, 2017

It's Saturday... Whoopsie

I had a thought towards actually doing something this evening.  Instead, I wound up taking a six hour nap.  Six freakin' hours!  


That wasn't the plan.  That wasn't the plan at all.

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September 21, 2017

Random Anime Pictures #136: Smile Again


-ARIA the Avvenire, ep01
I've felt better of course, but the march of time slows for no man.  As easy as it would be to continue to feel miserable, I have to get back to what passes for life around Pond Central.  Thanks for indulging me for a few days.

Of course, this post's title is also one of the EDs from ARIA the Natural.  Almost seems like I planned that or something. 

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September 20, 2017

Eight.

I was actually doing...well, pretty okay, really!  Sure, I went to bed early last night, but that was only because I had a lot of overtime to do at work.  Right.  Then I woke up this morning, was in a horrible mood, went into work, and got into an even more horrible mood.  I'm home now, as "a little birdy" told my boss why I was so down.

Some days are harder than others.  Today will always be one of the hard ones.  You guys, the readers of The Pond, make it easier.  Thank you.

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September 18, 2017

F1 Update!: Singapore 2017

Sometimes we hate it when we're right.  


THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Singapore!

*BEFORE: While it always rains in Singapore in the afternoon, there's never actually been rain during the race.  And up until about 20 minutes before race start, it looked like that was going to stay the case.  But the clouds above the city-state suddenly began to flash with sheet lightning and the strategy wonks in the pit lane all started to cry in unison.  The rain came shortly thereafter, building in intensity until the gazebos began to sprout on the pit straight.  Teams waiting until the very last moment before they bolted on tires.  It worked out about 50-50 between Intermediates and Wets, with all the serious runners on the lesser of the rain rubber.  The recon lap showed that the front straight was the driest past of the circuit, with some parts looking like pontoons were needed more than tires.  Worse still were the huge clouds of spray coming up from all the cars: only polesitter Seb Vettel had an unobstructed view.  Everybody else could see between "almost nothing" and "completely blind." 

*LIGHTS OUT: When the race finally began, both the Ferrari of Vettel and the Red Bull of Embryo Verstappen made... um... meh starts.  Not good, not bad, just there.  As they charged down to the first turn, Vettel began to move to his left, squeezing in on the young Netherlander.  Verstappen held his ground until the last moment, then drifted away from Vettel....  Behind those two, Kimi Raikkonen, the driver of the other Ferrari, had a better launch than either of them.  This was something of a wonder, as the Finn hasn't been doing much of anything well of late.  Today though... today he came charging up the left of Verstappen with plenty of room.  Except that was the exact moment that the Red Bull driver began to evade Vettel's Ferrari....  Meanwhile, if Raikkonen had a good start, the McLaren of Fernando Alonso took off like it had rockets strapped to the sides.  Starting in eighth, he found heading towards the outside of Turn 1... but ahead of him, Bad Things were about to occur.

*BAD THINGS:  Events occurred very quickly now.  Verstappen, moving away from Vettel,clearly never saw Raikkonen coming up on his other side.  Firm contact was made, snapping the right-rear suspension on the Ferrari like a twig, and causing the red car to swing across the Dutchman's nose.  Raikkonen then speared into the left sidepod of Vettel with a lot of oomph (technical term).  The situation looked something like this:

Vettel would continue on through Turn 1, while Raikkonen began waffling around the left side of the straight, out of control but slowing... but not quickly enough.  Verstappen, for a wonder, appeared to be completely undamaged at this point, and was accelerating into Turn 1.  Around the outside of Turn 1, Alonso's demon start continued.  Raikkonen, still out of control, never turned at all.  His slide took him directly into the side of Verstappen as he began to make Turn 1. The two cars, embraced in a mutual death dance, careened across Turn 1, slamming into Fernando Alonso, a victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The McLaren would actually get airborne for a moment, but continued on, undoubtedly with a driver asking what the hell just happened.  Raikkonen and Verstappen were out of the race.

*IT GETS WORSE: A few moments later, we saw the OTHER Ferrari rolling backwards down the run from Turn 3 to Turn 5, missing its nose all the way back to the suspension mounts.  It took a few minutes for what had happened to be revealed.  Raikkonen had hit hard enough to punch a hole through a radiator, which promptly began dumping coolant... all over the rear tires. Soon enough traction was lost, and the Ferrari's control went away.  It then hit the wall with the nose, and found itself coasting backwards.

*OH, BY THE WAY:  Before the race, Lewis Hamilton had said that it was going to take a miracle for him to make the podium, let alone win.  When Vettel spun out, Hamilton's Mercedes was suddenly just handed the lead.  It seems the racing gods were listening.  Not only did he lead the race, but his closest challenger in the Driver's Championship had been knocked out of the race.  It had to be a jubilant Brit in the Mercedes cockpit as the field circulated behind the Safety Car.  The race was not over, though.  Usually the Mercedes will dominate any race, but there was a reason Hamilton had been starting fifth.  This car, on this track, with this team, just could not appear to take the fight to either the Ferraris or the Red Bulls.  But at a single stroke, three of the four cars he had to be concerned about were out of the race, and the fourth, Smiley Ricciardo's Red Bull, was behind him, not in front... on a circuit that is nearly as hard to pass on as Monaco.

*RACING:  Once Berndt Maylander returned to his dark slumber, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Hamilton would gallop away into the... um... sunrise?  It's a night race, so we can't say "gallop into the sunset".  Anyway.  He did nothing of the sort, at best opening up a five second lead over Ricciardo... until Lap 11, when the Toro Rosso of Kid Kvyat buried itself in the Tecpro barriers.  Maylander was awoken from his eternal sleep and the field once again bunched up behind him.  

*TIRE WHERE?: This far into the race, with the rain easing off, it only made sense to pit for new Intermediates.  The track was still wet, but drying nicely (if slowly: Singapore's high humidity saw to that), so Red Bull brought Smiley in for fresh Inters.  Surprisingly, Mercedes did not, much to Hamilton's chagrin.  When he began to complain about the call, the pit wall pointed out that Ricciardo likely would have done the opposite of Hamilton in any case.  If the Merc came in, Smiley would have stayed out and taken the position boost.  This would not be the last time this race that Lewis would complain incorrectly.  Once the race restarted, he found himself at a point in his tire life that was absolutely golden.  His worn Inters had enough tread to deal with the drying surface, but not enough to be damaged by overheating in the drier sections.  By Lap 24, Hamilton had opened a 10 second lead on the curiously slower than expected Red Bull.

*TIRE THERE!:  Some of the backmarkers had decided to go for slicks by now, and as long as they didn't get too far off the (now nearly dry) racing line, they were working to an extent.  Smiley took the plunge, on Lap 28 and took a massive amount of time out of Hamilton's lead in just the one lap he had before Mercedes brought in their guy.  It didn't last, however.  Once the silver car was on slicks, he again began to pull away from the Red Bull.

*...HOW IN THE WORLD?:  One could be forgiven for not being surprised when Berndt Maylander was summoned for a third time ("Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Maylander Pitlane wgah'nagl fhtagn"?).  What was surprising was exactly why.  Sony Ericcson dropped his Sauber as he passed over the Andersen Bridge between Turns 12 and 13, coming to rest pointing backwards at the narrowest point of the circuit.  Worse yet, the location on the bridge meant that a mobile lifter had to be brought on circuit to recover the stricken Sauber.  Hamilton immediately began complaining that the situation could have been handled with a Virtual Safety Car instead of throwing away his lead.

He changed his mind when he actually came across the accident site behind the Safety Car for the first time and was able to get a good look.

*THE END:  Once Maylander was allowed to return to his rest, the race continued much as it had before.  But now, with an eye cocked to the skies and another expecting another wreck, the Merc pit wall had a strange request for the race leader.  Specifically, they told him to slow down the pace and close up the field.  The thinking was that if Hamilton got too far ahead, Ricciardo would get a "free" pit stop in the event of another safety car.  See, it'd be quite possible that the SC would be called out after Hamilton had passed pit-in.  With a big enough lead on the Red Bull, Smiley could possibly pit before Hamilton, who would have to trundle around the circuit slowly while the Red Bull was stopping for fresh tires.  Hamilton would then have to pit himself while Ricciardo was right behind him, bunched behind Maylander.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lewis came back on the radio and said "I'm not comfortable driving like this," to which the pit wall said "do what you want, then."  He kept himself comfortably in the lead until the two-hour time limit was reached and the race ended three laps early, finishing 4.5 seconds ahead of the Red Bull, who was ahead of the other Mercedes of Valterri Bottas.

*OH THAT?:  Remember how we mentioned it seemed like the Red Bull was oddly slower than expected?  It turned out that Ricciardo's gearbox was not working correctly and there was fear that it wouldn't make the finish line.  While the driver has said that it hadn't made a difference, one suspects that he's not entirely telling the truth.

Next race, two weeks from now in Malaysia!  See you then.

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September 17, 2017

Singapore 2017 F1U! Delayed

Due to unexpected but totally unavoidable things occurring, I'm going to have to do the F1U! on Monday.  It's going to take a while, and I don't have time to do it Sunday night and this race deserves my full attention.


Sit tight, everybody.

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September 16, 2017

F1 Quals: Singapore 2017

The Quals session for the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix was one of the most anticipated in quite some time.  Not only is it the sort of circuit that Mercedes is expected to be slower than normal around, but Red Bull had introduced a number of improvements to their car, sending them to the top of the timesheets in all three Practice sessions.  This included the fastest lap ever around the Marina Bay street circuit, set by Smiley Ricciardo.  Ferrari was expected to be in the pole hunt as well, with what is probably the most balanced car on the grid right now.  So what happened?  Here's the provisional grid:



Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:43.336 1:40.529 1:39.491
2 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:42.010 1:40.332 1:39.814
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:42.063 1:40.385 1:39.840
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:43.328 1:40.525 1:40.069
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:42.455 1:40.577 1:40.126
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:43.137 1:41.409 1:40.810
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:42.586 1:41.277 1:41.013
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:42.086 1:41.442 1:41.179
9 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:42.222 1:41.227 1:41.398
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:42.176 1:41.826 1:42.056
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:42.472 1:42.107
12 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:43.594 1:42.246
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:42.544 1:42.338
14 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:43.626 1:42.760
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:43.627 1:43.883
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:43.756

17 FelipeNot Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:44.014

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:44.728

19 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:45.059

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:45.570


For a while there, it looked for all the world like Embryo Verstappen was going to take his first pole position, not to mention wresting the title of "youngest pole sitter" from Seb Vettel.  But right at the end of Q3 the Ferrari driver pulled an incredible lap out of his fundament, one that came as such a surprise to him that when he was informed of his pole, he let loose with a scream that could very nearly only be heard by dogs.  The question is, how long will he get to enjoy the primacy of his position?  Verstappen is not known for his... um... restrained driving style, and there's got to be a non-trival chance that we'll see a shattered pile of red carbon fiber parked at the side of the track somewhere in the first lap.

In other news, McLaren finally shot their partnership with Honda in the face.  The team then announced that they'll have Renault power units in the back of their chassis.  "But Wonderduck," I hear you say because I've got super-hearing, it's a duck thing, "didn't Renault say they couldn't support any more teams above the three they're working with now?"  Indeed they did, my friends!  Which brings us to the next part: Toro Rosso has announced that they'll be running Honda power units next year!  This is legitimately a no-lose situation for them.  Remember, Honda was McLaren's sole major sponsor for the past three years, not only providing them with engines but giving them a LOT of money to boot... I've heard upwards of $150million, though I don't know if that's per year or over the life of their partnership.  So, undoubtedly there's a substantial financial aspect to the deal.  The other part is, while yes, the engines have not been swell, McLaren has done the really hard part: they had to deal with the "wow, our engines suck" part of development.  We're seeing signs that Honda is starting to come around, and there's some pundits that are saying that the Honda could be BETTER than Renault's lump next year.  And if it's not?  Well, Toro Rosso is hardly burning up the charts anyway, but they'll be ahead of the game financially.  As I said, no-lose.

Race in the morning, see ya then!

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