September 30, 2006

F1 Quals: Shanghai!

Rain. It's the great equalizer in Formula One racing. It makes the best teams look like Jordan had returned (*rimshot*), it makes the bottom-feeders... well, still bottom-feeders, but it levels the playing field.

And that's what happened in Shanghai. It took some classic Schumacher driving to get his Bridgestone-shod Ferrari into the 3rd round. Massa didn't manage it at all, and he had to change an engine to boot. He'll be starting from the pit lane, most likely. Schumacher is sixth, which is not as bad it could have been.

But Alonso is on pole, Fisi is right next to him, then the "555 Hondas" (Lucky Strike isn't sold in China. Is it wrong of me to actually prefer the '555' livery?) make up the second row. Kimi is fifth, but I'm expecting a penalty to come down from on high to zap him... in Q3, his right mirror fell off, bounced once or twice, then broke Jensen Button's nose (his car, not his face, though he was lucky it didn't do that, too).

If Alonso can be penalized for 'blocking' when he was 100m ahead of Massa, then what's something like THAT worth?

The rain made for entertaining television, that's for sure. American Scott Speed had the 'best' moment, losing it completely and pirouetting into the pit-lane-in, kissing the armco, and then continuing on into the pits like nothing happened. Bravo Scooter!

And nobody has the faintest idea what the weather's supposed to be for the race. If it's raining, Michelin seems to have a huge advantage. If it's dry... well, it's even then. But on the foul-weather tires, particularly the Inters, Michelin seems to have the better rubber.

Should be interesting, to say the least!

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September 29, 2006

SDB Does Good... And Not So Good.

Steven has taking to feeding the ducks behind his apartment (look at his post at 20060929.1805) , which is a wonderful thing... it shows that the duck-based mind-control rays are working.

But only middling-well, because he's feeding the ducks bread. While any duck will eat bread (oh, BABY, will we eat bread... as Daffy put it, "Drool, drool!"), it really isn't very good for us. Kinda like eating a slice of cake larger than your head. It might be yummy, but that's a lot of cake. To quote our official lobbying PAC, Ducks Unlimited:

"...many people do not realize that a diet of white bread can be fatal to waterfowl. When the birds gorge themselves on bread, they stop eating their natural foods, which are much more nutritious. The birds become malnourished and there have also been cases of birds choking on wads of bread."

Some good cracked corn, or 'duck chow' is the right thing. Just don't throw it in the stream.

But good for you, Steven! Bow to your Duck Overlords!

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September 27, 2006

F1 on SPEED: Shanghai!

Ah, Shanghai. Who can forget last year's race in Shanghai? Schumi runs over the Minardi of Christian Albers on the way to the grid (in one of the weirdest accidents of all time), then spun his way out of the race on lap 23. Juan Pablo Montoya ("My name is Juan Pablo Montoya. You killed my contract. Prepare to drive.") discovered that draincovers and carbon fiber don't play well together. And Narain Karthekittylitter had the most spectacular crash of the season at Shanghai, to boot.

Which brings us to 2006, which finds M. Schumacher 2 points behind Alonso. Of course, this is Schumi's worst track (two races, two DNFs), and Alonso won here last year.

Should be interesting, AND we here in the US get to watch it at a halfway decent hour! Or, at least, not at 630am like it usually is...

Friday, 9/29, at 1am (i.e., what most people would normally call 'thursday night'), we get LIVE coverage of Practice... which is then replayed at 11am Friday. Then it gets fun.

At 1130pm Friday night, we get Inside Grand Prix.
At Midnight, which is technically Saturday, we get another replay of the Practice.
At 1am, then, we get to see LIVE coverage of Quals. 3+ hours of F1, wooyay!

Now it gets REALLY fun:
11pm Saturday brings us replays of Quals... which takes us right into
SUNDAY, 10/1/06.
At 1230am, SPEED! brings us the GrandPrix of China LIVE, with a replay at 1230pm.

I suspect the F1 UPDATE! crew will be watching the live stuff, y'know?

All times central. Subtract two hours, Steven, for the west coast, add one for the east coast, and add the square-root of 83 hours for Ascension Island.

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September 26, 2006

YIKES!!!

I forgot to watch the ChampCar race from RoadAmerica, WI (just up the road from The Pond) this weekend. After seeing the video of Katherine Hegge's crash, I'm glad. Short version: she loses a major chunk of her tail going into a 160-mph turn, whacks the retaining wall, then the car turns into carbonfibre toothpicks as it climbs the catchfence. And she not only walks away, she's smiling afterwards, completely unhurt.

Yikes, big yikes!

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The Reshodding of the Duckmobile

Two new sets of brake pads for the front wheels.

Two new brake rotors for the front wheels.

One new brake caliper (front right) set.

Remember last year's Canadian GP, when Takuma Sato's brakes burst into flames? If he had my car, he never would have had to worry about that... the front right wheel was only 'squeezing' with one side. Geez, no wonder slowing down was a little difficult.

Boo old brakes.
Hooray, Ricottas!

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September 25, 2006

The Melancholy of Wonderduck

Melancholy, hell. I'm frickin' depressed.

WARNING: SELF-PITY AHEAD

I'm lonely as hell.

But, just as important (if not moreso), I'm scared. Irrational as it may be, I'm scared that my ticker might go into overdrive again. Since there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason behind the flips into super-ventricular-tachycardia, I have no way of knowing what (if anything) will set it off. So I'm scared.

And alone. Sure, I can pick up my cellphone and call my folks, but other than them I've not got any friends I can call (heck, I don't even have The Librarian's phone number... we plan anime night via e-mail) to commiserate with.

Or whine at, whichever.

Know what? At times like this, I really hate being an intelligent duck.

(UPDATE @ 112pm: Then I feel like crap for bitching about my life when there's people who had lives that have been a helluvalot harder... like this guy. I fully expect that his coffin'll be dropped.) Please note, he too had a spleenectomy.

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September 24, 2006

Owtch!

Here in the USA, we play real football. How real?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms was taken by ambulance to a Tampa hospital Sunday afternoon and is listed in critical condition, according to reports by several news sources.

But why is he in the hospital? Because, during the game, he took a few hard hits... one of which apparently RUPTURED HIS SPLEEN. He came out of the game after that one.

A few plays later, HE CAME BACK IN AND PLAYED WITH A RUPTURED SPLEEN!

A ruptured spleen! Great googly mooglie. Later news was that Simms underwent a spleenectomy and is "resting comfortably." I have to admit, I like the word "spleenectomy," but anybody who's ever been a patient in a hospital knows that you don't "rest comfortably" there. At best, you're "not dying, uncomfortably."

He's likely out for the season, and there's at least some chance that his career is over. I'm not a Tampa Bay fan, but I wish Simms all the luck in the world, obviously.

spleenectomy.

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September 23, 2006

How To Know When You're Living Right.

When you wake up on your first day of vacation, stretch, dress in soft clothes, grab some juice, step out onto your balcony to greet the morning...

...and you see THIS plane go by...

...you KNOW you're living right.

(note: it's the annual airshow weekend, and The Pond appears to be under the 'standby area' this year)

UPDATE @ 454pm: Weather in the area moved the standby area to the north, I think. However, I DID get the pleasure of seeing the USAF Thunderbirds fly by my apartment around ten times. I'm about 5 miles out from the airport, and I'll say this: the four non-soloists do EVERYTHING in close formation, even if they can't be seen by the crowds at the airshow. Darn near made me mess my feathers when they came directly over The Pond with maybe five feet between them...

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September 22, 2006

V-A-C-A-TION! In the... uh... summer?... sun!

The Duck is on VACATION! My first extended time off since last October! Nine whole days where I don't have to do anything I don't want to do, I don't have to be anywhere (except for Tuesday morning, when the Duckmobile goes into the shop for a new set of brakes) I don't wanna be, and all is right with the world!

The Chicago Bears play the Vikings on Sunday, the Cubs season comes to a merciful end, F1 next weekend, and plenty of time to catch up on my backlog of anime... or not, if I don't want to!

Ahhhhhhhh, it's good to be on vacation!

So, how are YOU folks?

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September 20, 2006

Oblivion: The End!

Well, it's been a long, hard slog, but...

I FINISHED OBLIVION!!!

Well, at least the main quest anyway. I've become the Champion of Cyrodil, I've saved the world from Mehrunes Dagon's evil plans, I reinstalled an Emperor on the Throne (well...), and all is right with the world.

Well, not exactly. There are still necromancers to deal with, and the Blackwater Company to snuff out, and... and... and...

Do you get the idea that there's a lot to do in this game? It's amazing just how much STUFF there is. It goes up there with the Civilization series as "games that I can't stop playing." In fact, I've GOT Civ IV, and I've hardly touched it, and it's one of the reasons I GOT Chiyo-chan, my new computer.

I've always upgraded my 'puter when a new entry in the Civ series has come out (I've usually had to, just to play them), and I've been distracted by Oblivion. It's THAT good.

Sure, there are flaws. The leveling system is a little wonky, and the game has some... interesting AI issues (the two Imperial Guards I saw peppering each other with arrows, apparently fighting over the dead deer between them, for example), but those are minor in comparison to the overwhelming fun factor of the rest of the game.

If you game, get Oblivion. You won't regret it.

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Midlands Dead, Spyker Orange.

If nothing else, the fact that Spyker has taken over the MF1 team means a color change will make their cars a LOT more recognizable on the TV. Instead of the grey and red they've been sporting, which made them almost indistinguishable from the McLaren's 'glare-and-red' in long shots, they've switched to an orange and red scheme.

Which, oddly enough, is the same color orange the McLaren was wearing before the 'pewter' color was slapped on.

The whole team is a mess of copycats, it is!

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September 19, 2006

We Interrupt This Blog... for a repeat.

So, um... remember that whole Cardiac Thing that happened to me last October?

It just happened again.

The good news is that it was NOWHERE near as dramatic as last time. I was home, around 550p my heart felt like it tripped over itself, and *voomph!* it was off and flying.

But even then, I knew it wasn't as bad as last time... but it was bad enough to make me call 9-1-1 and get the EMTs over here. They got me into the ambulance, and while I was on the gurney, before they put an IV into me, my heart stopped being wildman. The trip to the hospital was uneventful --except it was in an ambulance, and they were so unconcerned ("no pain, the heart's got a normal rhythm, breathing normal, and he's making jokes.") that they didn't even bother with the siren. Which is a shame, because the siren is one of the saving graces of being IN the ambulance.

So we get there, and I walked out the back of the ambulance. Down the hall. To the ER room. They hooked me up to the various gizmos ("This is the machine that goes *ping*. It's very expensive."), and...

...I'm fine. My pulse is a little fast (120bpm), but my blood pressure is within my normal range, if a tad on the high side. They dose me with a drug called lopressor, a betablocker, to slow my pulse down, and haikeeba! it comes down to 90 or so.

After a few hours of being on an uncomfortable medical gurney (my @$$ hurts!) the doc says "you're fine. You're going home now." Which thrills me to no end, but, um... aren't we forgetting something?

"We don't know why it happened. We do know it wasn't your potassium or magnesium levels... they're fine. Everything we tested came back okay. The heart is an electrical thing (note: I'm paraphrasing), and you had a power surge. Or a failure. Or something. It may never happen again. It may happen next week. Or next year. But probably not tonight."

Oh. Well. Okay, then. You DO so ease my worried mind, Doc.

And so, I'm home. With a big ol' dartboard mark on the inside of my left elbow, a cheap plastic ID band on my right wrist, and a worried furrow on my brow. Not to mention a few more gray hairs.

But, on the plus side, I'm still alive. I probably could have not called 9-1-1. But remember what I said back in October: "Here's your lesson for the day: IF YOUR HEART IS DOING SOMETHING ODD, CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER IMMEDIATELY."

I think I'm going to sob uncontrollably for a few minutes now.

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September 18, 2006

Yarrrrrrrrr!

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

It's also International It's Pixy's Birthday Day!

I had a great idea for a post... but I've completely forgotten what it was. So here's a bunny with a pancake on it's head. (note: I don't believe that webpage is affiliated with the late Oolong in any way, so click freely)

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September 17, 2006

Klein Leaves RedBull

Christian Klein threw the contents of his trailer's closet into a suitcase, cursing a blue streak the whole time. "Kick me off the team, offer me a drive in ChampCar as a booby prize? What sort of idiot do they think I am, anyway?"

Suddenly, an intense pain in his forehead made him wince. Half afraid, half resigned to what he'd see, Klein turned and looked in the mirror attached to the wall.

The Z-shaped scar was back again, and glowing slightly. Klein blanched and staggered away from the sight, tripping over a suitcase in his panic.

A low, dark laugh echoed through the trailer.

Klein, his eyes wide and panicked, scuttered away from the sound. He was aware of a thin voice moaning "no, no, no" over and over again. Then he realized it was his own. A cold sweat broke out on his brow.

A shadowed shape detached itself from the wall at the end of the trailer, and slowly glided towards Klein, forming the shape of a man wearing a... black racing suit. A dark, ominous man...

"Red Bull Gives You Wings. They certainly gave you the boot, didn't they?"

"Please, no," Klein begged from his position on the floor. "I'm going to find another drive in F1 next season, maybe a third driver slot..."

"Pathetic. You actually BELIEVE that, don't you? I'm here to... disabuse you of that notion, Klein." The dark figure cracked his knuckles. "You know, it isn't often the case, but I do believe I'm going to enjoy this."

Klein whimpered as the figure pulled a large wrench with the word "MINARDI" on it from a back pocket.

Yes, Zsolt was definitely angry...

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September 16, 2006

The Return of the Son of the Revenge of the AMVs!

Well, I've got nuthin'. And when I've got nuthin', it's time for the old standby: AMVs!

(*cue canned applause*)

Thank you, thank you, no really, thank you. You're lovely, I wish I could take you all home with me.

(*cue canned laughter*)

First up on the list of "AMVs that Wonderduck has been watching incessantly" list is She's Just Oblivious from silver_moon. Using footage from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, it's a simple character study set to the song "Sharada" by someone named Skye Sweetnam. "Once upon a time, there was a girl / you wouldn't really call her typical" is how the tune starts, and the moment I heard that, I was hooked. It's perfect for Haruhi, and silver_moon does a fine job matching image to lyric, and movement to music. It's not an effects video, so you can't go into it expecting to be blown out of your shoes by the 'pretty lights'. If you've seen Haruhi Suzumiya, though, you'll love this. It's just right, and probably the best AMV to date for that show.

And if it isn't, this next one is. Bakadeshi went the other way with the video Forever, making an effects-laden video. However, they're very appropriate and VERY skilled. Relying on the 'concert footage' from Ep. 12 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the song "4Ever" by The Veronicas, he turns out an AMV that would be perfectly appropriate on MTV in the days where they showed music videos. In this case, it'd be a video from a movie soundtrack, as the concept skips back and forth between the concert footage (the AMV is humorously labelled as being performed by "ENOZ {featuring SOS Brigade}") and the budding relationship between Haruhi and Kyon. There's no mistaking the look and feel of the two parts, however, as the concert footage has been given a handheld camera's jitter and a 'live' appearance that's quite well done. There's one effect early on that falls into the "pointless" category, and one "look at me!" effect later in the video, but otherwise the whole vid is very well done. Again, a must for Haruhi fans, and a good watch for everybody else. more...

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September 13, 2006

In Praise of Michael Schumacher.

With the announcement of Michael Schumacher's retirement, I came to realize that he deserved a tribute of some sort from The Pond. After all, love him or hate him, he's far and away the most successful F1 driver in history.

But I also came to realize that I couldn't write it. I'm just not a fan of his, and I knew that I'd not be able to do his illustrious career justice.

So, I sent an e-mail to the biggest Schumi fan I know: Mallory M. She's not been seen around The Pond for a while, due to insufficent computer disease, but she used to be a regular 'round these parts.

She also writes a regular column at World Wrestling Insanity, where she moved to after a successful regular beat at the most popular wrestling website around, The Torch.

After the jump, Mallory's Tribute to The Man We Call 'Parky.' more...

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September 11, 2006

September 11th, 2001

There are no words.

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September 10, 2006

F1 UPDATE!: ITALY

Well.

*SCHUMACHER WINS, ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT: That about wraps the storyline, doesn't it? Like him or not, Michael Schumacher is arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time, and while he has been showing cracks in the armor (Australia and Hungary come to mind), he's still a top-flight driver. One gets the distinct impression that he's being pushed out the door by Ferrari -- the scene with Luca diMontezemalo after the race showed he's not all that thrilled with the head of the Fiat empire-- and now the question becomes "what next?"

*ALONSO KA-BLAMMO: Since there wasn't enough drama in the storyline, Fernando Alonso's catastrophic engine failure with eight laps to go means he now only has a two point lead in the driver's championship with three races to go. He has the advantage, but only barely.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: BMW-Sauber. Both cars in the points, a driver that wasn't even racing with the team at the beginning of the season on the podium? Can you even IMAGINE Sauber-Petronas doing that last year? Darn shame it happens in the race Schumi announces his retirement.

*DRIVE OF THE RACE: Robert Kubica, BMW-Sauber. Third race of his career, he leads a handful of laps, outdrives Felipe Massa for most of the day, and ends up third and on the podium? Brilliant job for the first Polish driver in F1 history! Suddenly Nico Rosberg's "rookie of the year" award seems to be in jeopardy, doesn't it? Honorable Mention goes to Michael Schumacher, just because.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: We here at F1 UPDATE! were beginning to despair of being able to name a winner for this award... and then the award was wrapped up and handed to us with a bow on top. Lap 41, Robert the Pole and 'Nando in third and fourth, respectively, come into the pits nose-to-tail for their final stop. Renault gets their man out a smidge faster, but Kubica pulls into the lane RIGHT NEXT to Alonso... and we get the odd sight of a pit-lane-limited drag race to the pit-out. They both hit the line at the same time, but Alonso, showing the consumate skill of a champion (and the remarkable acceleration and grip Renault has at no/low speed) gets the advantage and the place by the first turn braking zone. Of course, it all came to naught when his engine blew both banks a few laps later, but Alonso and his pit crew still gets the MotY.

*MOOOOOOOO-OOVE OF THE RACE: The celebration of the cud-chewing, milk-laden bovine lurking in every F1 driver, the Moooooo-oove for the Italian GP goes to Felipe Massa's attempt to follow Alonso engine-blown Renault thru the first chicane. He flatspots his tires, picks up chunks of powerplant with his front right tire, and drops out of the points at a time that Ferrari desperatly needs every point it can get. Felipe Massa, this Mooooo-oove's for you. (please note, we dislike giving this award to Massa. It truly wasn't his fault he couldn't see through all the smoke, it wasn't his fault his tire got spiked... but in a way, it was. He gets the award, but we're not really sold on it.)

QUOTES OF THE RACE: more...

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September 09, 2006

Quals? Where?

"Oh, yeah! I remember Kimi Raikkonen... he used to be really fast!"

It's hard to remember that last year McLaren and Renault were battling for both titles, Ferrari was a distant third, and Schumi was nowhere to be seen.

How times have changed... except Kimi got his third pole of the year today (by .002 seconds!), Schumi was second, Nick Heidfeld kicked all sorts of tail getting into third, Felipe Massa was fourth, and Fernando Alonso was fifth.

Except he wasn't.

Alonso had a bad day. One of his rear tires came completely apart with just a handful of minutes left in Q3. It ripped holy crepe out of his aft bodywork, and he got zero time to qual. He pitted with something like 1:40 left... and it takes 1:22 to get around the course. He made it back to the line with 2 seconds to spare...
...and that's where the FIA (Ferrari Is All) stewards come in. During the run back to the line, Fernando Alonso was judged to have 'impeded' Felipe Massa. Now, I've watched the tape of those last few minutes a few times, and I'm not sure where the impeding took place. It sure wasn't through the time-trap, when the Ferrari was over 214mph. In fact, from the TV coverage it looks quite clear that Massa wasn't anywhere CLOSE to the hustlin' Renault. They were in the same camera shot, though, and I guess that's enough for them.

And so, Alonso had his three best Q3 times deleted, dropping him to 10th on the grid. Bye-bye championship.

By the way, remember when Schumi straight-lined two chicanes and didn't let Pete Rose by in Hungary? Where were the FIA stewards then?

Oh right... Ferrari Is All.

I still don't know if Parky is retiring. I know what I HOPE he does, though.

In other news, Midlands have been sold to a Dutch/Russian consortium called "Spyker." Car company. They may very well take over operations immediately after Monza. Nobody cares.

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September 07, 2006

F1 ON SPEED!

So this is the weekend that everybody's been waiting for.

Oh, and there's a race, too.

Friday, 7am-8am, we get LIVE coverage of the 2nd Friday Practice from Monza, one of the legendary tracks of F1, and land of the Rabid Ferrari Tifosi.

Saturday, 7a-830a, LIVE coverage of Quals! I have a sneaking suspicion that we're gonna be picking pieces of carbon fiber off the track in Parabolica... it's gonna be wet, they're saying, and the track has been resurfaced since last year. "There's pants grip," David Coulthard's Chin has been spotted muttering.

Sunday, 630a- 9a, LIVE coverage of the Italian Grand Prix... and perhaps the beginning of the end for Parky.

The good lads at Grandprix.com believe that he's hanging it up; Massa and Raikkonen will be the drivers.

The F1 Update! crew is split. Half of us think he's staying, the other half are willing to push him out the door. Quickly.

In other F1 news, Heikki Kovaleinen has been named the 2nd driver for Renault; Kovaleinen and Fisichella... duck and cover, lads!

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