December 31, 2009

Happy New Year To All!


So 2009 heads into the record books, and I, for one, am glad to see the back of it.  The passing of Momzerduck made this the worst year ever, personally, and sure makes 2010 look bleak.  Still, there were some good things that occurred in the past 365 days.  Consider:

In Formula 1, the season started off with Honda kicking the bucket late in 2008The pieces were picked up by Ross Brawn, however, so we had a full 20-car grid.  However, something strange happened a week later, something that became the story of the year: nobody could touch the Brawns' pace at the final testing session.  It seemed to be because of their twin-level diffuser, which four other teams protested (and were denied), but nobody really thought anything about it, really.  A rookie team based on the bones of a bad team?  Still, it was a nice story...

...and then Jensen Button took pole for the first race of the season, followed closely by his teammate Rubens Barrichello.  Brawn won the Australian Grand Prix with a 1-2 finish to boot... in their first race ever.  Button won the next race, in Malaysia, which became F1's first rain-shortened race since 1991.  If that wasn't enough reason to declare it Bizarro Season, Red Bull took the next race with a 1-2 finish of their own.  Throw in the fact that Ferrari at this point hadn't collected any points at all, and we knew we had the oddball of all oddballs on our hands. 

The only thing that put a damper on the season as a whole was the horrible incident involving Felipe Massa and a spring off the rear of Barrichello's car.  His season was over, and for a while it was thought his career as well.  Michael "Slappy" Schumacher was named to replace Massa at the same time BMW announced they were withdrawing from F1 at the end of the year.  Schumacher had suffered a neck injury in a motorcycle racing accident some months previously, however, and couldn't handle the physical aspect of driving, leading to his pulling out of the seat... which was then given to Luca Badoer.  Badoer promptly peed the chance down the leg of his firesuit, recalling the legendary "Fast" Yuji Ide in the process. 

Renault wound up in the midst of scandal when Nelson Piquet Jr accused the team of forcing him to crash in the 2008 Singapore GPThey were found guilty and team principal Flavio Briatore was given a lifetime ban.  Ever since, Renault has been making noises like they intend to quit the sport; it hasn't happened yet, though they sold a major stake in the team recently.

The Grand Prix of Belgium brought us the most Bizarro occurrence in a Bizarro season: Force India took pole!  Even more incredibly, they finished the race in second, the team's first points-paying result, and their first podium.  Giancarlo Fisichella promptly bailed on the team (in what ended up being my headline of the year) and took over Luca Badoer's place at Ferrari... where he was almost as slow.

The Japanese Grand Prix brought us the weirdest qualy session I've ever witnessed, with some repaving in the Degner Curve being the main culprit for the three red flags and multiple yellows.  One of the red flags was for Timo Glock's accident, which knocked him out for the season with a fractured vertebra.

The penultimate race in Brazil essentially brought the Bizarro Season to an end in fitting form: Jenson Button clinched the Driver's Championship for Brawn, which also clinched the Constructor's Championship.  Not too bad for a team that didn't exist a month before the season started.  A few weeks after the season ended, so did BrawnGP: they were sold to Mercedes-Benz... who then signed Michael "Slappy" Schumacher to drive for them in 2010.

Three new teams were tabbed to join the F1 Circus in 2010 as well, including America's very own USF1.  Toyota withdrew and was (essentially) replaced by Lotus, while Sauber took over BMW's old slot.  All of this sets the stage for an incredible season in the new year!

On the Anime front, The Pond was a little... sparse this year.  I didn't stop watching, far from it, but I didn't really write much about it.  The world's first doujin anime, based on the Touhou series of games, was released with an incredible voice cast but lackluster animation.  Kurokami's first episode promised great things, but the show quickly managed to disgust me with fetishistic levels of violence meted out against the main character.  ADV Sentai Filmworks released Clannad on DVD, but I had a few complaints about the actual release.  Please note that this wound up not stopping me from getting the rest of the series, or the followup Clannad ~After Story~ for that matter. 

It's not exactly anime, but the visual novel Katawa Shoujo had a demo released.  Many people were disgusted by the subject matter, but I liked the game quite a bit.  But then, I found myself enjoying KissxSis, which has somewhat "iffy" subject matter as well.  Unlike most of the rest of the anime blogosphere, I also liked the new Haruhi Suzumiya series.  Finally, my long-hoped-for wish for a crossover between Formula 1 and anime came to light, in not one but two different series!  There was even a F1 reference in the second Haruhi Suzumiya novel.  I also met a fellow anime blogger for lunch one day.

Then there was my WWII musings.  The Hosho got a post that was nearly as long as it was.  I found myself fascinated with the Sangamon-class "Jeep" carriers, a nearly ignored type of ship.  My best writings, though, of course were based on the Battle of Midway.  The third in my "What If...?" series dealt with the issue of timing on that June 6th morning.  Correcting the conventional wisdom regarding the Tone #4 scout plane actually earned me a mention in an issue of the Battle of Midway Roundtable, much to my surprise.  I also turned my thoughts to dive bombing and why it worked so well, yet disappeared so quickly

So, that about covers the year here at The Pond, but I can't end it without thanking Big Poppa Pixy for his hosting of this blog.  I would be remiss if I didn't also thank you, dear readers, for coming back here every so often.  You've made it all worthwhile, and you're helping me make it through the worst stretch I can imagine.  Thank you.

Happy New Year, everybody! 

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December 30, 2009

The Flock Has A Sad Today

Twenty-two years ago, Christine Christopher and Ian Knight of Ringwood, England, rescued a small, injured duckling that had been abandoned by its mother as the runt of the litter.  They named it Edward, a name that turned out to be a poor choice when the duck began laying eggs.

Renaming the duck Edwina, the two nursed the little duckette to full health then returned it to the lake where they had first encountered it.

Edwina followed them back home, where she became fond of tea and toast.

For two decades, Edwina lived with the couple.  This past July, the British Trust for Ornithology claimed she was the oldest known wild mallard in the U.K.

"She hadn't been well over Christmas.   Her legs were a bit wobbly, and she wasn't her normal self.  We were planning to take her to the vet."

This past Monday, Edwina was found dead in her duckrun at the age of 22.  She was buried in the family garden with an ornamental duck placed on top of her final resting place as a memorial.

The Pond sends its condolences and thanks to the Knights for their care of Edwina.

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December 29, 2009

Some F1 News and Reactions

As you remember, Michael "Slappy" Schumacher has returned to F1 as a driver for the new Mercedes team.  His contract is for three years at a reported £7million per, after which he'll become a spokesman and consultant for Mercedes-Benz.  Sounds a lot like his old setup for Ferrari, actually.  The Daimler Executive Council, directors of Mercedes' parent company, is grumbling about the cost of the contract, saying that the laid-off workstaff can't understand the whole thing and thinks that Mercedes should, instead, pull out of F1.  That won't happen, but they have a point... after all, Honda, Toyota and BMW thought that way.

Luca di Montezemelo, Ferrari head honcho, is putting a brave face on Slappy's leaving, saying that it's good for F1, and if something is good for F1 then it's good for Ferrari.  Inside, though, you've gotta think that he's seething.  Throw in the fact that Slappy will be teaming again with Ross Brawn, the combination that led to five Championships for Ferrari, and di Montezemelo must be wondering where the luster behind the red cars has gone.  I think it disappeared when Lucky Luca unceremoniously shoved Slappy out the door back in 2006.  Schumi didn't want to go, but Ferrari wanted Massa and Raikkonen instead... and forced arguably the best driver in F1 history to retire.

Of course, if Slappy is back, of course there have to be rumors that lil' brother Ralf will be returning to F1 as well, this time with Toro Rosso.  I think I speak for all F1 fans worldwide when I say "No.  Please, no.  Just... no."

2010 is going to be a very interesting season, just chock full of built-in storylines.  For example, Britain (McLaren, Button, Hamilton) vs Germany (Mercedes, Rosberg, Schumacher), McLaren vs Ferrari vs Mercedes, Hamilton (2008 Driver Champion) vs Button (2009 Driver Champion) on the same team, four new teams on the grid (or five if you include Sauber coming back), Alonso vs Massa at Ferrari... and that's just off the top of my head.

Speaking of new teams, there are visible signs of life at USF1!  They (finally) activated their website, which you can see here, but more importantly there's a video on it that shows (amongst other things) substantial progress on the building of the actual chassis... and a good idea of what the car will actually look like.  On the wall in one shot of the video, there's a CAD print of a F1 racer:

...which doesn't actually mean anything, you're saying to yourself.  To which I'd say, I agree entirely.  Except for the extended sequence that's shown a few moments later, as the team makes the monocoque and the nose of the car out of foam, plastic molds, and then finally carbon fiber.  Here's a screenshot from that:

Please note that the verticals lean backwards, just like they do in the CAD drawing.  Carbon fiber isn't cheap, it's not likely that a new startup like USF1 would be making noses just to fark with us.

I think we now know what the USF1 car is gonna look like.  Now if only we had a rolling chassis to drool over...

Finally, one piece of good news to report!  SPEED officially announced that they've re-upped their contract with Formula One Management, meaning that they'll continue to be the network to cover F1 for the foreseeable future.  The Legendary Announce Team will be back, as well.

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December 28, 2009

Bears Beat Vikings In OT

...and the NFC road to the Super Bowl now has to go through New Orleans.

Say "thank you", Ubu!

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December 27, 2009

The "Win A Book From Wonderduck" Contest!

Last year around this time, I stumbled upon and purchased a copy of A Dawn Like Thunder by Robert Mrazek.  This book, an oral history of Torpedo Squadron 8 off the USS Hornet, amongst others, may have been the best piece of military history to come out in 2008.  Certainly it was the best that I read!  I liked it so much, I reviewed it here, only the second book review I've ever done here on The Pond.  Well, my uncle JoeDuck gave me a copy of the trade-paperback version of A Dawn Like Thunder for Christmas!  A fantastic gift indeed, but I surely don't need two copies of the book... but here's YOUR chance to Win A Book From Wonderduck!

The book in question.  Duck not included.
Tell me why I should send you a copy of this book for your library!  You can write it on your blog if you have one (just include a link to the post here), or you can write it here if you don't.  Feel free to accompany the post with charts, graphs, pictures, bribes, ducks, whatever you think it'll take to win the contest!  As long as it's legal.  One entry per person.  Do not taunt happy fun ball.  Entries must be in by 1159pm (Pond Time) on January 2nd, 2010.  I will be the sole judge of this contest and my decision is final.  Other than that, there are no rules!  Go wild! 

I'm looking forward to this!

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that I'll handle the shipping, so no fear that way.  As long you've got a location that FedEx ships to, that is.  US residents only, I'm afraid, as I can't handle the cost of shipping this to, say, Australia.  Sorry, Pixy.

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December 25, 2009

The Twelfth Day of Duckmas 2009


We wish you a Merry Duckmas
We wish you a Merry Duckmas
We wish you a Merry Duckmas
And a quacky New Year!

Good tidings we bring to you and your flock
Good tidings for Duckmas
And a quacky New Year!

Oh bring us some tasty rye bread
Oh bring us some tasty rye bread
Oh bring us some tasty rye bread
So we can nibble all year!

For The Pond's readers we have just one wish
Please have a Merry Duckmas
And for the rye bread, we don't need us a dish!

We wish you a Merry Duckmas
We wish you a Merry Duckmas
We wish you a Merry Duckmas
And a quacky New Year!

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December 24, 2009

Eleventh Day of Duckmas 2009


Gotta have cookies and milk for Santa, and who better than the gingerbread duckies to get them ready?

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Home Again, Home Again

I've made it back from Albuquerque.  I've been home for about an hour or so... about 10 hours after Ph.Duck and I left Uncle JoeDuck's place.  Read that again: 10 hours!

We got to the Albuquerque International Sunport at 1145am Mountain time for a 1pm flight.  Breezed through security while giving the screener a good laugh when he saw the World Market holiday rubber duckies in my carry-on, went right to our gate... and saw that the flight had been delayed until 2pm.  Weather at O'Hare was piss-poor and getting worse.

Oh, great.  JUST peachy. 

Still, we did board at 2pm and did take off at about 215pm, so American Eagle got that part right.  A rather bumpy climb to altitude later (it was actually snowing in Albuquerque today), and we were on our way.  It was on the descent to O'Hare, however, that the flight took an ugly turn.  As soon as we left cruising altitude, we were in the clouds, and we wouldn't escape them until a minute or so before we landed.  That, my friends, was not pleasant... not in the least.

Turned out that we had some exciting crosswinds across the runway.  It's rather disconcerting to feel the plane heel from port to starboard and back a few times when you're about to touch down, lemme tell ya.  We touched down fairly hard, the pilot slammed on the brakes immediately, reversed the engines, threw out the anchor, and even dragged his feet to get us to stop.  Slipping and sliding, but eventually we did stop.  Then we starting taxiing to our gate... and went right by it.  One nice scenic tour of the O'Hare "back lots" later, we approached our gate again... and again, went right by it.  WTF???  The Captain then gets on the intercom and says, essentially, that American Airlines couldn't get their act together and there were a few extra jets blocking the gate.  Oh joy.

So again, around we went.  About halfway through this third circuit, I look out the window and see a BIG PLANE!!!  RIGHT THERE!!!  MOVING FAST!!!  Our pilot slammed on the brakes, the BIG PLANE!!!, a Continental Airlines widebody, slammed on the brakes, and disaster was avoided... but not by enough to suit me, everybody on the right side of the plane, and our collective bladders.  Meanwhile, the head flight attendant is chatting on her cellphone and snapping her gum.  Oi.

At 7pm Central time (about 2 hours late), we deplaned into chaos.  While Ph.Duck went in search of the loo, I found myself chatting to a pilot.  According to him, O'Hare had been screwed up all day.  Seems flights are scheduled so tightly at the world's busiest (or second busiest, depending on how you measure it) airport that one little problem causes a cascading series of backups and delays... and the weather had been causing havoc.  Depending on when you were looking outside, it had been raining, snowing, sleeting, freezing rain, ice storming, rain of frogs, meteorites, hail of fire, you name it.  Again, according to this pilot, at one point there were four hour delays on some flights east.

Bladders emptied, Ph.Duck and I went off to catch the bus back to Duckford.  When it finally showed up, 20 minutes late, the driver told us that the roads were "sheer ice" and it might take two hours to get home.  Well, it didn't... it only took 100 minutes, instead of the hour it usually takes.  The roads in Duckford were... well, wet and sloppy.  I suspect by sometime on Xmas Eve, they'll be ice rinks.  At 1045pm, I walked through the door of Pond Central exhausted, tired, and hungry... and home.

There's no place like it.

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December 23, 2009

Schumi's Back... And This Time, It's For Real!

Michael Schumacher announced this morning that he will be returning to Formula 1 as a driver for the Mercedes GP Petronas (nee Brawn) F1 team.

Somewhere, Rubens Barrichello just yelled something obscene very loudly.

More to come once I get back to Pond Central. 

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The Tenth Day of Duckmas 2009


Blitzen, Rudolph and Comet were sure they had an interloper in their midst, but how to prove it?

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December 22, 2009

Lunch With A Blogger

The staff of The Japanese Kitchen (Sushi Side) had not a clue the importance of the two people who walked in around noon today.  One, a tall man with a Russian accent.  The other, a duck from the Midwest.  Both are anime bloggers and greatly enjoy Japanese food.

The orders were for simple fare: croquettes for both, gyoza for the human, cali rolls for the duck. While the croquettes and gyoza were tasty indeed, the sushi wouldn't've made it to the table without inquiries as to where it had gone to.

In between bites, they chatted mostly about either linux or anime... go figure.  It turns out that, for the most part, what show one liked, the other did not... save for Azumanga Daioh and Kampfer, of which the duck had only yet seen a couple of episodes.

Still and all, a good time was had.  Comestibles were masticated, beverages were imbibed, and the tall one was kind enough to pick up the tab.

Thanks for lunch, Pete!  A pleasure to meet you, and my offer stands: you ever make it out Duckford way, lemme know!

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The Ninth Day of Duckmas 2009


I attracted a little bit of attention while I took this shot, I'm afraid.  Security attention, to be exact.  See, this particular mall was the one where a dumb bumbler had planned to set off hand grenades during christmas rush three years ago, and I guess they're a little shy about the whole "people taking photographs" thing.

The security guy whipped out his iPhone, took a look at The Pond (and last year's 12 Days of Duckmas), then let me finish taking the pictures.

There were also three generations of women from one family shopping that stopped and coo'd over the duckies, so that was fun... at this point, I'd like to say hello to the Trotten family (I hope I got that right)!

Ph.Duck and I are returning to Duckford tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting. 

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December 21, 2009

The Eighth Day of Duckmas 2009


All the ducklings loved to hear Santaduck's stories of Christmases past...

...and the cookies afterward.  Can't forget about those.

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December 20, 2009

The Seventh Day of Duckmas 2009


We arrived safely in New Mexico late last night.  There are mountains here...

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December 19, 2009

The Sixth Day of Duckmas 2009

Ducks... at... niiiiiiiiiiight!

Amazing what a digital camera set to a 4 second exposure and a 10-LED flashlight can do...

I really like the concept of the picture; too bad half of the lights on the tree were off.  I've been doing test shots for this one for the past three days.  Nice to see that all the planning paid off.

Later tonight I'm heading to New Mexico until the 23rd, but the 12 Days of Duckmas will continue uninterrupted!

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December 18, 2009

The Fifth Day of Duckmas 2009


Say it with me now: "Four wingsFour freakin' wings!"

The picture of Angel that I used last year was easily my favorite, and this one doesn't measure up to that one.  It was actually my fallback photo, in case the planned one failed... which it did.  If you'd like to see an example, click "more"...



more...

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December 17, 2009

Xmas With The Librarian

It's the last Thursday before Christmas, and since I'm going to New Mexico for a few days on Saturday, The Librarian and I decided to make tonight our Christmas celebration.  So, after watching Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which is great by the way, we exchanged gifts.

She got the book I Slept With Joey Ramone, written by Joey Ramone's brother, and the box set of Monster (thank you VERY much, Robert!).  And me?

Look, The Librarian gives the best presents.  Last year, she conspired with Momzerduck to give me the Rubber Duck Factory.  This year, though, she nearly beat that.  She gave me this:

It's a body pillowcase, in case you can't tell, featuring Nagisa and Sanae Furukawa!  Even better, it's a promo item, meaning it wasn't actually for sale.  Better still, I think it's from the game as opposed to the anime, since KyoAni's logo doesn't appear anywhere on it.  That's far from certain, though.

Yes, I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but it's amazingly cool anyway!  Thanks, The Librarian!!!

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The Fourth Day of Duckmas 2009


Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of year...

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December 16, 2009

The Third Day of Duckmas 2009

It's Frosty the Snowduck!

Once again, I find myself with more than one picture that I liked for this entry.  Click on "more" to take a look...


more...

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December 15, 2009

The Second Day of Duckmas

Happy Hanukkah (a few days late)!

I took a lot of pics for this one, and I really couldn't decide which one I liked the best.  In the end, I went with the one above, because the stained glass looks nice, but I can't not post the other one.  Click "more" to see it...

more...

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