August 31, 2008

Otakus... *facepalm*

As most of you know, I am generally proud to call myself an otaku, in the English sense of the word (and, possibly, the Japanese sense, too... YMMV).  But there are moments where the antics of other otakus (otaki?) make me just want to crawl under a rock and hide.

To whit, THIS:

Okay, it's Chuck Yeager's myspace page, cool!  Real American Hero, no question about it... now, is it really him?  I dunno, but I could believe it easily enough, so let's just assume it is.  Now, if you scroll down a little bit to the comment section, the first bunch all seem like the usual hero stuff: "Thank you for being an inspiration to me," and things like that.

And then? 

Thank you, Mr Otaku With The Communist Manifesto In Front Of Your Face.  I'm now going to go find a rock, and after I beat you over the head with said rock, I'm going to hide under it.

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August 29, 2008

"The Most Entertaining X-Ray We've Ever Seen."

One lone duck's revenge:

Seems this dog decided to swallow his... oh god, it hurts to type this... his CHEW TOY.  Well, the duckie got his revenge, as the dog required emergency surgery to remove the offended vulcanized anadatae.

Power to the Duckies! 

(ps: I'm glad the dog is okay, click the linky for more x-rays)

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August 28, 2008

RIP Phil Hill

(photo courtesy The Cahier Archive)
The only American-born racer ever to win the F1 Driver's Championship, Phil Hill, passed away today at the age of 81 from complications of Parkinson's Disease.

In 1961, he had one of the greatest years in driving ever.  He won two Grands Prix (Italy, Belgium), finished second twice (Dutch, British), and third twice (Montreal, Germany) to clinch the F1 Championship.  He also won the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of LeMans that year, along with becoming the first man ever to lap the Nurburgring's imposing Nordschleife in less than 9 minutes.

After his racing career, he wrote for Road & Track magazine, doing road tests and articles about classic cars and racing in general.

He won at LeMans three times overall, three times at Sebring, the 1000km Nurburgring twice, and had three Grands Prix victories overall.

Hill was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991.  

F1 UPDATE! would like to express our deepest condolences to Phil's family and friends.

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August 27, 2008

Owtch! That's GOTTA Hurt.

From a statement by the Chicago Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief, Michael Cooke, regarding the resignation of the execrable Jay Mariotti from their sports section:

The Chicago Sun-Times had the best sports section in the city before Jay Mariotti came to town -- that's why he signed up with us -- and his departure does not change that.  We wish Jay well and will miss him -- not personally, of course -- but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days.

Wee-owtchy-owtchy-ow-wow.  (via)

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All In All We're Just A / Nother Duck In Anime

-Hidamari x365, ep07

Hidamari Sketch is just that darn good.

Not as good as Azumanga Daioh, but you know what?  I don't care.  While it's about high school, it sure reminds me a lot of my days as a student at Duck U, and that earns it nostalga points if nothing else.  Four likable main characters (well, 3-1/2... I'm not that fond of Miyako, for much the same reason that Tomo & Osaka are my least favorite characters from AzuDai) doing more-or-less everyday things?  For some people, bamboo shoots in the eardrums would probably be more enjoyable, I'm sure, but I love it.

I'd be incredibly shocked if it gets licensed, though.  A few years back, it would have been snapped up, no question, but now?  I just can't see it, and that's a shame.  Like ARIA, it's a perfect show to sit and relax to.  I know I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Plus: ducks.

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August 25, 2008

Durn Whippersnappers Think They've Invented Everything...

So this evening, one of the new ducklings attending Duck U. stopped into the Bookstore to buy his books.  Never mind that classes started last Wednesday, that's not important... what's important is that he was wearing an Evangelion t-shirt, featuring the NERV logo, similar to this one at Robert's place.

I complemented him on the shirt, and I kid you not, he sneered at me and asked me if I had seen the show on Cartoon Network. 

(crowd gasps, goes "Ooooooohhhhhhhh".)

Now, I don't know what crawled up his arse and died, but if you act like "a joik or woise", you can expect that there will eventually be some sort of return fire... and I was pretty much in a bad mood anyway.  So I decided to have some fun.

I admitted that I only saw an episode or two of the show on Cartoon Network (which is true; I borrowed the box set from a friend, then bought my own set a few weeks later), and started to scan his books into the register. "It's one of those 'Japanime' shows about giant robots, right?"

He said "It's called anime, and it's more about the end of the world, and what it means to..."

I assume he was going to say "...what it means to be human," but I cut him off. 

"I prefer more slice of life shows, m'self.  Azumanga Daioh is probably my favorite, but there's a bunch of others, too.  Shows like Kanon, Clannad, y'know... though Hidamari Sketch is awfully good, and I would have loved another season of Sketchbook, though I can't imagine it'll ever make it over here.  I'm very happy that ARIA was licensed by Nozomi, though I haven't pre-ordered it yet.  Someday's Dreamers is pretty decent, too;  I'm working through that one now.  It's no CardCaptor Sakura, though.  But then, what is?  But y'know, shows like Soul Eater and Toshokan Sensou are a treat, and NOIR is one of the best shows I've ever seen, and those aren't really slice-of-life.  And then you have the classics like Bubblegum Crisis and it's remake, Oh My Goddess and it's remake, Ranma 1/2... you have heard of Ranma 1/2, right?  Came out in the early '90s, maybe a little before your time?  Oh, yeah, and don't forget the legendary Dirty Pair or the Gunsmith Cats OVA... can't go wrong with girls with guns, right?"

At that point, I paused for a moment.  And smiled.  "But I'm not much of a fan of giant robots.  That'll be $258.50."

...and get off my damn lawn.

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August 24, 2008

F1 UPDATE!: European Grand Prix at Valencia 2008!

New track, new street course in fact, but did it bring us excitement?  THIS is your F1 UPDATE!

*STOP US IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE:  During the Ross Brawn/Slappy Schumacher era, Ferrari was known for many things, but one huge reason for their success was that their cars were practically bulletproof.  They practically never broke down, and when they did, it wasn't the engine.  In the post-Slappy era, Ferrari hasn't been quite as invunerable, but they've been pretty solid.  Today, Felipe Massa had a brilliant start from pole, then ran away from everybody.  Lewis Hamilton managed to stay in contact with the Ferrari, but couldn't manage to close an ever-widening gap.  With that gift, Massa had the race in the bag.  And then...

Kimi Raikkonen's engine went splat.  Massa, untroubled, finished up the race by increasing his lead every lap, and eventually won an easy victory.

*MORE PITLANE PROBLEMS:  Last race it was a rash of fires stemming from refuelling rig problems.  This time around, it was Ferrari's newfangled system of lights connected to sensors on the fuel hose.  First, in autonomous mode, it let Massa out of his second pitstop just as a Force India car was pulling by... resulting in a $10000euro fine.  Then on his second stop, Kimi left before the lights told him to, knocking over three mechanics (fortunately, only one of them was injured, and that only slightly despite the reports of him being stretchered off).  Neither incident would likely have happened if there had been a "lollipop man" controlling the stop.  Ferrari might want to reconsider this whole lighting scheme...

*...AND YET, THERE'S NO AMERICAN SPOT ON THE CALENDAR:  Spanish fans packed the grandstands at the new circuit today... until the first lap incident that knocked Spaniard HWMNBN out of the race.  10 laps later, there were visible blue seats.  20 laps after that, whole sections of the bleachers were empty.  What will happen when their hero isn't racing anymore?  Darth Bernie, please note that the USGP routinely had the largest turnout of the year, even though there wasn't an American driver to root for (except for Scott Speed, which doesn't count, because nobody rooted for him).  Just something to keep in mind...

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Felipe Massa.  The only way anybody was going to catch him today was if he screwed up somehow.  He didn't.  Not once (until the post-race interviews).  End of story. 

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Toro Rosso.  Sixth and 10th doesn't sound like the usual TotR performance, but when it's one of the usual backmarkers, one begins to understand the award.  Nice job, guys, but you should have kept the Minardi name going.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  We hate to say it, but none.  There was no passing to speak of today... in fact, this was actually a pretty dull race on-track.  Nice layout, though.

*MOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  By all rights, Kazoo Nakajima deserves this for running into the back of HWMNBN on the first lap, but we here at F1 UPDATE! were all too amused by the shadenfreude.  So instead, this award goes to Ferrari for their travails in the second round of pitstops.  Not only did they let Massa nearly get his car ruined by a Force India, but they also had Kimi run over a couple of their pitcrew, THEN he blew his engine in the next lap.  Niiiiiiiiiice.  Here's your Moooo-ooove!



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August 23, 2008

A Bird Dies In Valencia

Is that what I think it is?

Hello, little birdie!  You must be deaf, eh?

Um... climb faster, you feathered rodent!


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F1 Quals: Valencia 2008!

With the sky ominous and occasionally sprinkling, the track at Valencia really seemed to come alive for today's qualifying session.  As predicted, the new circuit played hob with all teams, throwing their usual precise machinations into a cocked hat.  As an example, McLaren almost always manages to get their drivers on the course last in the closing stages of Q3.  This is a great advantage, as they then know exactly what they have to do to get pole, and can see what the other teams are doing ahead of their cars.

Not today.  Lewis Hamilton went out near the middle of the pack, allowing the Ferraris, the BMW of Robert Kubica, and his own teammate to snipe away at his final time.  The provisional grid looks like this:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Felipe Massa          
Ferrari 1:38.176   
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes   
1:38.464 1:37.954 1:39.199
3 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:38.347 1:38.050 1:39.392
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:38.703 1:38.229 1:39.488
5 Heikki Kovalainen      
McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.656 1:38.120 1:39.937
6 Sebastian Vettel STR-Ferrari 1:38.141 1:37.842 1:40.142
7 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:37.948 1:37.928 1:40.309
8 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:38.738 1:37.859 1:40.631
9 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:38.595 1:38.336 1:40.721
10 SeaBass STR-Ferrari 1:38.622 1:38.417 1:40.750
11 Kazoo Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:38.667 1:38.428
Renault 1:38.268 1:38.435
13 Timo Glock Toyota 1:38.532 1:38.499
14 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:38.559 1:38.515
15 Nelson Piquet Renault 1:38.787 1:38.744
16 Jenson Button Honda 1:38.880

17 David Coulthard's Chin  
Red Bull-Renault 1:39.235

18 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:39.268

19 Rubens Barrichello Honda 1:39.811

20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:39.943

While only Massa managed to beat out Hamilton's final time, it sure wasn't for lack of trying by the other drivers.  Massa, Kubica, Kimi and Heikki all came home after Hamilton claimed provisional pole.  McLaren had to be gnawing their fingernails to the quick when the others were throwing up fast sectors all over the place.

The surprise of the day has to be Sebastian Vettel and Toro Rosso.  Both of the team's cars made it to Q3, with Vettel ending up 2nd fastest in Q1, and fastest of all in Q2.  SeaBass, historically no slouch at all on street courses, also did a nice job though the Q3 results don't show it.  The disappointment, though, had to be the senior Red Bull team of Webbo and The Chin.  Either their engines just don't put out the horsepower to deal with their junior team, or their drivers were intimidated by the track.  Whichever way you look at it, a bad day for them for sure.

So a new track, a new face on row three, and a BMW between the Red Team and the Glare With Wheels.  Should be an interesting run to turn 2 tomorrow!

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August 22, 2008

F1 Practice: Valencia 2008!

Okay, I'm starting to come around on this new circuit.  Earlier, with just the silent footage to judge from and only one car on course, I didn't find it to be a particularly interesting layout.  After seeing 20 F1 cars whipping around Valencia, however, it's a lot more attractive.  A LOT more.

My first impression of the track being like Melbourne needs to be corrected, too.  If you took the DNA from both Monaco and Montreal, then did some weird gene-splicing experiments (since all other problems in the world have been taken care of), you'd end up with Valencia.  Twisty, curvy, but with some high-speed sections followed rapidly by brutally slow hairpins, and some promising passing areas to boot.  There's some potential here, folks.

Bridgestone brought the soft and supersoft compounds to the party, and it doesn't look like there's going to be any out-of-the-ordinary wear issues (unless you're Nico Rosberg, who at one point flat-spotted his tires so badly after a spin that you could SEE the flat spots as the car was moving at 160mph).  It turns out, however, that the tire manufacturer is somewhat concerned about the bridge, of all things.  It turns out that it's not your usual span, but a swinging bridge that splits in half to clear the way to the harbor, and there's a gap of about a half-inch between the two pieces.  That's fine for your everyday street tire, but for a race tire going at 130-140mph?  There may (or may not) be a lot of blowouts come raceday.

Not the most interesting picture, I admit...
Of course the track was very, very green, and very, very dusty.  Pit boxes had to be swept all day just to allow the cars to have a little bit of traction.  However, as the layout rubbers in, the times will drop.  Nobody seemed to have any real problems learning the circuit, either.

I'm getting excited about this race.  Sure, some of it is because we haven't had a race in three weeks, but I think this circuit promises big things.  Since it's new, I'm going to treat it as if it's a wet race: all bets are off, and nobody knows what's going to happen.  If it actually rains, though, not only are all bets off, but the casino is closed.

Quals Saturday, be here or be somewhere else.

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August 21, 2008

Flight Deck Round-Downs... Why?

The early days of aircraft carrier design saw a lot of different concepts that eventually went by the wayside.  Such "innovations" as multiple flight decks (so airplanes could launch directly from their hangars),  transverse-mounted catapults that launched planes perpendicular to the direction of travel (ditto), longitudinal arrestor wires, arrestor gear at both bow and stern (so if one end of the flight deck had a hole in it, the ship could steam in the other direction and launch planes from the undamaged end), carriers without islands, the list goes on and on.  All of these elements made sense, however, and one can see why an Admiralty could think they were good ideas at the time.

One design feature of some early carriers, however, has always struck me as being particularly pointless, with no redeeming features whatsoever: the flight deck round-down.

HMS Hermes
As can be seen in the above picture, a round-down is a sharply sloping portion of the aft end of a flight deck, a location particularly unsuitable to topography of any sort.

IJN Akagi, circa 1927-'35.  Note the "fly-off" decks, right, round-down left.
In the book Shattered Sword, it's mentioned that the Akagi's round-down is so pronounced that it, in effect, shortens her flight deck, as planes cannot be spotted there without having them roll off into the sea.

So why are they there at all?  Throughout all my readings through the years, the only reason I've seen is that they were thought to be aerodynamically helpful for landing planes, perhaps by creating an are of calm air behind the ship.

But even if that were so, doesn't it seem that it'd be a rather ill-positioned lee for an aircraft attempting to land, not to mention small?  Further, they also look like a fairly hostile place to try and land upon in the first place.  Imagine: you touch down on the round-down, crest the "hill", and then?  You're thrown back into the air, much like today's "ski-ramp" carrier decks would do.

Do any of you, my readers, have an idea?  I'm completely flummoxed here!

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August 19, 2008

Ducks In Anime: Behind The Scenes!

-Kamen no Maid Guy, ep01 credits

Ducks are everywhere!

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August 17, 2008

F1 on SPEED!: European Grand Prix at Valencia 2008

Now that the F1 vacation is drawing to a close and the teams are loading up the transporters, it's time for us to put our race caps back on and take a look at the first of the two new circuits on the calendar, the street course at Valencia, Spain.

Usually when you think of street tracks, you think twisty and very, very slow.  With 25 turns, Valencia certainly qualifies for the "twisty" part, but hold on a second!  If you look at them, there's very few of the speed-killing, 1st-gear-loves-me type of turns (three, to be exact: numbers 10, 17 and 25), though the 12-25 complex is overall not visibly quick.

Unlike Monaco, however, this track is fast.  They're expecting the F1 cars to be hitting over 200mph before braking for 12, and just slightly slower than that on the run-ins to turns 2 and 17.  It's also wider and (unfortunately) flatter than Monaco, so there shouldn't be too many times that cars can't physically get by one another.  Still, like any street circuit, there is little to no runoff area, with the track bordered by concrete barriers, so if you make a mistake here, you've got a broken car.  The exceptions to this are turns 10, 12, 14, 17 and 20, all of which have some extra space (but not all that much).  There's even a short bridge here, on the short straightaway between turns 9 and 10, which I predict will be the track's signature.

There's recently been some running on the layout, the most appropriate for our purposes being a F3 race.  What's really nice about that is that we now have some hot lap footage from their practice sessions!  A well-annotated video can be found HERE. Open it in a new window, and watch it with the track map handy.  Early fears were that the new asphalt could not handle the stress may have been proved correct, but weak spots were identified and either have been or are being fixed, so that shouldn't be a problem... they hope.

After watching the footage, it doesn't really feel like a street circuit.  You're only running in built-up areas from around turn 22 to turn 5.  After that, you're going around a harbor area.  To me, the track is kind of like Melbourne.  Technically a street circuit as well, Melbourne runs through a park area on city roads blocked by armco barriers... and while the layouts are completely different, the two tracks just seem the same.

I'm not sure I'm overly fond of Valencia's track, to be honest.  Something feels... off... about it to me.  Like Hermann Tilke tried to force it to be one of his Adventure circuits ("You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike") but couldn't quite manage it.  That's the beauty of new tracks!  I wasn't sure I liked Turkey, either, but now it's one of my favorites.

But to find out for sure, we have to watch, and that's where our friends from SPEED come in!  Coverage begins with one of the most important practice sessions ever live on Friday, from 7am to 840am.  It'll be only the second time the teams have been on track, and while simulations are nice, nothing beats putting rubber to the road.

Saturday, from 7am to 830am, brings us plausibly live coverage of the first ever Quals sessions.  I expect to see a LOT of action, with all cars on track as much as possible, which is different from the more established circuits.  Drivers have to learn the course, after all; again, simulators help, but it's not quite the same. 

And then comes raceday!  Sunday, from 630am to 930am, the Legendary Announce Team will provide coverage for the first ever F1 race from Valencia, Spain!  It's been a long wait, but the F1 Circus is back on track.  Expect a wide-open field for this one; new circuits give the advantage to the team that can give the best setup in limited running.  Expect Ferrari and McLaren to do well, of course, but BMW-Sauber may well struggle: their car appears to be tough to get right at the best of times, with lots of accumulated data to work from.  Honda's test driver drove in a GT-series race here, so he'll be able to give the team a lot of good advice.  Everybody else?  Crapshoot!  There'll be a replay on Monday, from 1130am to 2pm as well.

This should be interesting, to say the least, and the F1 UPDATE! team will be along for the whole ride!

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August 16, 2008

An Unfortunate Encounter

I'd like to relate to my readers something that happened to me earlier today, something that can only be described as confusing, perplexed and, ultimately, sad.

This morning, I went grocery shopping at a local store that has a fairly decent "international foods" section.  You know the type: Mexican staples, Indian chutneys and the like.  There's also a wide selection of Asian foodstuffs, including Japanese things like soba, 10 different types of soy sauce, some microwaveable beef bowls (awful), a couple of different flavors of Pocky, instant miso, sushi fixings, yadda yadda...

I was browsing through the section, trying to decide if I wanted to get a cheap packet of instant miso (I did, eventually) along with the Pocky and some hot sauce (good to add to chili) when an elderly man said to me "you shouldn't buy that (crap)."  I gave him a surprised look and asked, intelligently, "what?"

He repeated his assertion, adding "it's made by the Nips."

By now, my eyebrows had long left my forehead and headed for the stratosphere.  Like an idiot, though, I asked him what's wrong with getting Japanese food.  It's awfully tasty, after all.  He visibly became angry with me as he said (I'm paraphrasing here) "I fought them in the Philippines, they shot me and killed some of my friends, I hate those damn Japs and I will until the day I die."

I want you to imagine my state of mind at this moment: standing in front of me was a man I automatically honor, a WWII vet, and one who fought in the Pacific theatre no less, an area of history I'm fascinated in.  At the same time, though, he's trashing an entire race of people (including some that I'd call casual friends: Duck U has an exchange program with a Japanese college, so there's always around 5-10 students from there attending) for events that happened over sixty years ago, and a culture that I enjoy learning about to boot.

To say that I was confused and saddened just then would be accurate.  I would have loved to have spoken with him about his experiences if he would have let me, but at the same time his attitude (and don't get me wrong, I understand where it comes from: if you're not going to like someone or something, seeing your friends killed and being shot yourself is a pretty good reason) was distasteful at best.

Fortunately, he didn't recognize the baseball cap I was wearing (the Hanshin Tigers, brought back from Japan by a Duck U student for me).  After heaping some more abuse on "the Nips" and scorn on me, he stalked off (as best he could, using a cane and an old person's shuffle) muttering under his breath.

I'm still disturbed by the whole thing.  I think of Brickmuppet, who's touristing in Japan right now, and wonder if there's old members of the Imperial Japanese Army who might want to chew him out, or skewer him with a bayonet if they could get away with it, just for being American.  I think of my DVD rack, filled with anime, and my end-table, covered with pockyboxes... and one of my bookcases, stuffed with history books about the Pacific war. 

And I wonder which of us has the right of it: the elderly man who fought and bled for our country, who's attitudes are over a half-century out of date?  Or myself, who has the more modern attitudes, but who respects the actions of the other man.

In this multi-culti, politically correct world, are the experiences of the old soldier scornworthy?  I'm glad I don't feel the way he does, but is he wrong to feel that way?

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August 15, 2008

It's Happy Fun Time At Duck U!

Really, though, I kinda mean it.  On Saturday, the new students to Duck U move in to their dorm rooms.  Returning students come back on Tuesday, and the new school year begins on Wednesday.

What the campus will look like on Monday...
So it's a little bit hectic around the ol' Duck U Bookstore these days.  Throw in the D. Duck Memorial College of Nursing, who's books we also supply, and it gets even more exciting!

Starting Monday, posts might be a wee tad thin on content (and for all you who are currently saying they already are, well, pbpbpbpbpbth!), but never fear, the F1 UPDATE! crew will keep us all informed about the August 24th race at the new street circuit in Valencia.

Anyway, this is the Duck U Bookstore's Christmas season.  Approximately 25% of our annual sales comes from this next week... Christmas for sure!

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August 14, 2008

Olympic Scandal?

This is bigger than that Chinese gymnast being too young to compete... a lot bigger.

And has deeper ramifications for all of us.


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August 12, 2008

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

...that Momzerduck and Ph.Duck were married, with young Wonderduck as the Best Man. 

Congrats, you two lovebirds, and here's to the next 20 years!

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August 11, 2008

A View From Japan

As you may or may not be aware, The Brickmuppet is over in Japan (too many entries to link, just scroll and enjoy).  Last night (Pond time; it was closer to noon where he was) he sent me a picture with instructions to do with it what I will, as it would be "perfect for The Pond".

He was right, and here it is for your enjoyment:

Not quite as cool as the sailor-suited curry-seller, but still awfully great.  'Muppet tells me that it's a cell-phone drop box for recycling purposes... he thinks.  And a wholehearted thanks to him for letting me use it here at The Pond, too!

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Testing, testing...

Well, this one worked, Pixy, but the larger file still isn't working.

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August 10, 2008

Ducks In Anime: Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun!

-Hidamari x365, ep05

Yuno acquired another duckie while we weren't looking!  Now that's a girl after my own heart!

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