February 28, 2009

Paul Harvey Now Knows The Rest Of The Story.

The Radio world, and America in general, has lost an icon.

Chicago-based radio legend Paul Harvey, often called "the most listened-to man in the history of radio", passed away today at the age of 90.  His "News & Comment" and "Rest Of The Story" programs helped millions of people get to work (or in my case, drive home from work) every day.

He had a unique presentation style, to say the least.  His staccato delivery style, mixed with huge pauses ("I'm Paul Harvey...{pause pause dead air pause pause}... Good Day!!!") when combined with a mellow baritone was instantly recognizable.  From a radio standpoint, dead air is the #1 no-no, but he realized that it could also be a great tool and made it work.

His news show were aimed to appeal to the common person.  They weren't intellectual, they weren't partisan (though he was considered "conservative", it wasn't unusual for him to state his displeasure with conservative issues and viewpoints), they were folksy and... warm.  And he was, without a doubt, the greatest pitchman in history.  He didn't take on a customer he didn't feel comfortable with, and advertisers lined up for years to get a spot on his show.  If he took on a product, they were made.

He'll be missed.

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F1 Pr0n: Force India VJM02!

Why the long face?
It took them long enough, but the new Mercedes-powered, McLaren-influenced VJM02 has finally debuted, and here's a shock... it doesn't look like all the others!  The vertical frontwing braces is similar only to Toyota's.  All the others have a chunkier, shorter system.  However, it's my guess that if there's a team out there you don't want to emulate, it's Toyota.  Could be wrong, however; the new rules may have flattened the playing field.  Or not.

It took the team long enough to roll their car out, which is never a good sign.  The team hasn't had any track time in comparison to the other challengers, and thereby are behind in the testing battles.  Where (let's say) Ferrari has already shaken their chassis down and found weaknesses they could work on in the runup to Australia, Force India still has yet to discover their problems.

Kudos for working their team colors into the livery, though.  While I liked the gold and white of last year's livery, this is more appropriate to the "national" flavor of the team.  Orange, green and white are the colors of the Indian flag, after all... they just need the wheels to have 24 spokes.


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February 27, 2009

Sprained Knee Update

I'm taking an anti-inflammatory that seems to help a bit.  I can actually bend my knee more than 15 degrees now.

Yes, that's exciting.  At least it is to me.

I've also acquired a cane, and it really helps.  Except when I'm on ice... then it doesn't help for squat. 

Still hurts like the dickens, though.

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February 26, 2009

It Could Have Been Worse, I Suppose...

Picture unrelated.
Three weeks ago as I walked from the parking lot to Pond Central, I had the misfortune of slipping on some ice.  While I didn't fall down, my left knee twisted in a way that knees aren't really meant to twist.  It hurt, but it wasn't too bad... until the next day, which was the last time the manager of the Duck U. Bookstore was around (she's on maternity leave). 

That day the pain was pretty impressive, and my knee was awfully stiff.  For the next week, it got better slowly, until it really didn't bother me much anymore.  Oh, a weird step would make it hurt, but nothing too bad.  It was making some really cool popping noises, though.

This afternoon as I walked out of the back room at the store, my knee suddenly felt like someone had hit it with a spiked baseball bat.  I swear it was the worst pain I've ever felt, and this is coming from someone who passed 13 kidneystones in 12 months, and had a foot twisted backwards (not at the same time).  Fortunately, it only lasted a second or two, but ever since, my knee got stiffer and stiffer, and it got harder and harder to find a position that didn't hurt.

Well, tonight I went to a medical clinic, and the doc (who looked like she was maybe 15) took some x-rays and checked the swelling and range of motion.  Diagnosis: severe sprain.

Prognosis: ow.

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February 24, 2009

F1 UPDATE!: Well, I'll Be Damned... It's REAL!

A couple of weeks ago, Official First Reader Mallory asked me what I'd heard about the possibility of a new F1 team being started up here in the States.  I shrugged it off, to be honest, saying that there's been a lot of rumors over the past few years, and until I heard something concrete, I wouldn't put too much faith in this one.

Well, today the concrete was poured.

At a press conference on SPEED Channel this afternoon, the two men responsible for this bit of groundbreaking news, Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor, went over their concept.  Describing the plans as "lean, mean, Skunk Works-style", they don't intend to follow the usual model of F1 teams, i.e. "throw money at it."

"The recession actually helped us out," said Anderson.  "A few years ago when companies were frantic to be involved with F1, and were willing to pay out a $40 million bond just to enter, our plan would have been laughed off the table.  Now however, with the new regulations aimed at cutting costs, it's almost like they were designed for our plans."

The concept was first floated to Bernie Ecclestone in 2006 by Windsor.  "In typical Ecclestone fashion, he said 'Great, make it happen'," said Windsor.  "Both the FIA and (Ecclestone's F1 management company) FOM have been very supportive."

The team will be based in Charlotte, NC.  The home of NASCAR, Charlotte is for all intents and purposes the heart of American autosports.  Most of the NASCAR teams are based within 50 miles of Charlotte, and it's the home of what is generally acknowledged to be the best automotive wind tunnel in the world, "Wind Shear", a full-scale rolling road-style tunnel designed by Anderson.

The two principles have great backgrounds for an endeavor of this kind.  Anderson was the technical director for the Ligier and Onyx Grand Prix F1 teams, has designed a number of Indycar racers, and has five Indianapolis 500 wins under his belt with teams he's worked with. 

Windsor, who readers of F1U! know better as "Smarmy", the track-borne member of SPEED's "Legendary Announce Team", was the team manager for Williams during their 1992 championship season, oversaw Ferrari's F1 chassis and suspension departments, and has been invoved with F1 for decades.

The catch-phrase for the team is "Made In America."  According to the duo, this means potentially everything about the team will be sourced in the US.  One thing that is sure is that USF1's drivers will both be American.  Names already being bandied about are Marco Andretti (who tested for Honda in 2006 and 2007), Graham Rahal, Danica Patrick, and about a dozen NASCAR and IRL drivers.  Foremost amongst those is the name Kyle Busch, though others that immediately leap to mind are AJ Allmendinger, Jeff Gordon (who once swapped cars with Juan Pablo Montoya in a legendary episode of SPEED's "Tradin' Paint"), and American Scott Speed (though, to be frank, Windsor's reaction to that was tepid at best).

Just about the only thing on the car that probably won't be American-made is the engine.  With the new rules in place freezing engine development, there are only a few FIA-approved engine makers; Cosworth is an American possibility, however.

St Fangio the Quick only knows if the team really will make the grid as announced for the 2010 season, but we here at F1U! are taking this one very seriously.  It seems to be the best design concept for a team to come down the pike in a long, long time.  If it happens, there's no question that we'll have a new favorite team, replacing the late lamented SuperAguri and Minardi.

We have a feeling, though, that the car is going to be festooned with sponsor logos, just like a NASCAR racer.  If it gets them on the grid, we're all for it.  We'll keep you abreast of all the developments as they happen... see you in a month for Australia!

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Random Anime Picture #39: All Out Of Ideas

-Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya, ep03

Yes, Yuki's got a police-style light on her head.  Yes, it works.

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February 23, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Yep... made me laugh.  A lot.

Lyrics below:


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February 21, 2009

Clannad Collection 1... a review of sorts.

Boy, ain't that the sad and sorry truth...
Let us all face the disappointing fact that ADV as we knew it is long, long gone and probably never coming back.  The above disclaimer, from the first DVD of Clannad Collection 1 (ep01-12), just confirmed it for me.  Even though they supposedly have the license for the show, ADV's logo or name is nowhere to be seen.  Now they're just the "distributors", which is probably a lot like being the Second Assistant to the Key Grip on a movie set: you're involved, but nobody is going to notice your name in the credits... not even your family.

That's a pity, because we've really been spoiled by ADV's productions in the past.  Tons of bonus material, high-quality subtitling, decent dubs, lovely packaging... all could be found on your average ADV release, and none of it is present in Clannad Collection 1

Understand that I'm a big fan of Clannad, and my past comments on the show (loads of humor, very good story, likeable characters, in some ways better than Kanon '06, yadda yadda yadda) still apply.  Instead of lavishing praise on the show, this "review" is going to savage the actual DVD release.

Let's start with the format: 12 episodes.  That's common for a half-season show, or the first half of a full-season production, yes.  Consider, if you will, Nozomi's recent release of the first half of ARIA the Natural.  12 episodes on four discs (plus another DVD full of extras) in a nice slipcase.  In comparison, ADV/Sentai Filmworks gave Clannad the cheapo treatment: 12 episodes on TWO discs, and the only extras are clean versions of the OP and ED.

As you can imagine, stuffing that many episodes onto a disc has an effect on video quality.  It's not bad, quite watchable.  But in comparison to Kanon '06, by the same production company, there's a visible degradation in the picture... at least to my eyes. 

Which brings me to my second gripe: subtitling.  I know I'm spoiled by fansub groups like SS-Eclipse and the lamented a.f.k., but the subs are miserable in this version of Clannad.  No, not the translation; that reads perfectly well (and I don't know enough Japanese to be able to point out that sort of error anyway).  No, I'm talking about something as simple Quality Control.  For example:

In what professional company would that sort of thing be considered okay?  I've watched the first five episodes, and there's at least one "error of omission" in each.  I've also seen an "affect/effect"-style mistake as well (though not using those particular words; I couldn't find the error as I was taking screenshots for this post).  That's slightly more understandable, but still unacceptable in a professional release.

The next complaint was mentioned by commenter Andy earlier, but not for the same reason that he gave.  This release is subtitle-only, meaning that there's no English voice dubbing.  That's fine; it's a perfectly understandable cost-saving move, and since I rarely listen to the English dub (and only if I'm reviewing a series), I don't miss it.  The problem I have is with the DVD itself: at least on the first disc, subtitles are not automatically enabled!  I've confirmed this on two different players.  Even worse, there's no way to enable them via the menu page... I had to turn them on via the remote (for the TV) or the control panel (for the computer).

The final complaint I have is minor, but telling.  There is no way to jump to episode chapters on a standard DVD player.  For example, let's say you want to watch the second half of the second episode.  To do that, you have to start episode two, then hit the skip button until you get to that chapter.

Taken in all, this release comes off as amateurish.  I've made my own DVDs that seem more polished than this.  I know ADV is cash-strapped, and I should be happy that Clannad has seen the light of day at all, but come on, this is ridiculous. 

Some might consider these to be minor complaints.  Well, perhaps, but keep them in mind when you're looking to spend your money on the show.  I'm not going to say "don't buy it."  If you like slice-of-life shows, it's fantastic.  Even those who don't care for such productions (like half of the Duck U. Anime Club) grudgingly admit that it's good. 

But ADV's production standards have slipped so far from the days of Azumanga Daioh (translator notes and designer sketches in a seperate booklet for each disc) or Bubblegum Crisis 2040 (their "Essential Anime" budget line put the 24-episode series on six dvds, included all the bonus material, and had reversable covers), it's almost sickening.  If these production values are what we're going to be seeing from them for now on, well, I'm going to have a hard time giving them my money in the future.

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February 19, 2009

Here Comes A Teaser...

I just received the first half of Clannad from Bob's place.  I have a few thoughts that I'm going to have to get off my chest, but it's gonna have to wait until Saturday...  it'll be worth the wait, though, believe me.

Oh yes... yes, it will be worth the wait.  It won't be my usual Clannad love, trust me on that one.

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February 18, 2009

Random Anime Picture #38: It's Inventory Time!

-The Melancholy of Haruhi-Chan Suzumiya, ep02

Yes, Yuki with bunny headphones.  I weep for my soul.

It's inventory time at the Duck U. Bookstore... textbooks on Thursday, everything else on Friday.  If you look in the dictionary under "busy" and "stressed", you'll find a picture of a little yellow duck.

How stressed?  When I got home tonight, I put in the Bonus DVD for ARIA the Natural, and watched the little interview with Yui Makino, the singer of "Euforia", the opening song.  Just hearing it made me start to cry.  Nothing on screen, just the song. 

Eeesh.  I'll be glad when Friday is over.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get lost in the world of Fallout 3... it's amazing how good a game that is.

UPDATE: I guess that nearly dying on the way home didn't help my emotional state, either.  It was just warm enough outside today for it to rain... and then the sun went down, the wind started to blow, and all the rain turned to ice.  Then it started snowing.  When I crossed the overpass near The Pond, I wound up heading straight ahead whilst the car was pointed at a 45-degree angle to the direction of travel.  How I kept it off the railings, out of the ditches, and not embedded in another car is entirely beyond me.

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February 17, 2009

It's Been A Long Time Since The Last Ducks In Anime...

...so here's one from my wayback file!

-Negima?! Summer OVA

This one has been sitting around unused since sometime in 2007.  Nice duckie, eh?

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February 15, 2009

Ikkitousen Great Guardians OVA 5

As hard as it is to imagine, these Great Guardians OVAs have actually created a small amount of storyline amongst the ridiculous fanservice.  No, I'm not talking about the "sexy cosplay" theme, but episodes three and four had the lingerie battle between Kan-u Unchou and Kakouen Myousai, that ended with the S&M assault on Koukin.  Storyline?  In my Ikkitousen?  It's more likely than you think!

But what does all that have to do with this OVA?  And who's our lucky contestant this time around?

...KC Royals two.
Wait... that figure behind the titles... is it?  Can it be?

Why did my nose just start bleeding?
It IS!  Ryomou Shimei, last seen rescuing Koukin at the end of OVA 4... and it appears that she's out for revenge.

As always, everything beyond this point should be considered extremely Not Safe For Work, but I'll warn you again, just to be sure.


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February 14, 2009

Happy V-D!

Pizza, beer and Fallout 3 for me and my duckies tonight.

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February 13, 2009

The Rain In Bahrain Falls Mainly...

...in dreams.  This off-season, a lot of F1 testing is being done at the circuit at Bahrain, thanks to the prompting of Toyota's Tech Chief, Pascal Vasselon.  "The weather in Bahrain is perfect for testing.  Never any rain, unlike Jerez, which always has rain."

So Toyota, Ferrari and BMW packed up and went to Bahrain, laughing at the poor suckers who were going to be rained on in Spain.  Ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaa!  See, that's what they sounded like as they laughed.

But they forgot something.  It doesn't rain in Bahrain, true, but it does get a little windy.  And that, my friends, leads to...

Yes, that's right: SANDSTORMS!  For the past two days, Bahrain has been dealing with sandstorms, limiting each team to about 18 laps per car as the track has been closed.

Imagine having that sucked into a 19000 rpm engine...
Oh, and Jerez?  The teams there are averaging about 110 laps/car.  Whoops.

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February 11, 2009

Ikkitousen Great Guardians OVA 4

In the last OVA, we had a legendary lingerie duel between Kan-u Unchou and Kakouen Myousai that ended with...

...to the wailing of otaku everywhere.

Well, next time is here.  Next time is now.

...A New Hope.
...and Kakouen is ready for battle.

Words fail me.
It goes without saying that everything from here on out is even more NSFW than these usually are, but I'll say it again: NSFW.


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February 09, 2009

F1 Pr0n: Red Bull RB5!

So... it's been nearly three weeks since the last rollout, but today Red Bull debuted their Adrian Newey-designed 2009 racer, the RB5.  Just look at that nose shot... spindly doesn't begin to describe it.  And to be honest?  From some angles, these cars are ugly as sin. 

 Not that one, though. 


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February 08, 2009

What If...? #2

Outwardly, Warrant Officer Takeo Koyani, pilot of the G4M, looked calm and capable.  On the inside, however, he was cursing everybody involved on sending him on this stupid mission.  "Fly Admiral Yamamoto on an inspection tour of  the Solomons," they had said.  "It'll be easy, and the morale boost will be enormous."  And so it had, these past few days.  Then that airstrip commander at Rabaul had warned of ambushes coming from Guadalcanal, and yet here he was, flying towards Ballale island near Bouganville... in the direction of Starvation Island itself... in a damned "One-shot Lighter."  Still, here he was, and the flight had been uneventful so far.  Buka was nearby, and some additional Zeros would be lifting off right about... now... to provide additional cover.  Then he'd be... well, not safe exactly, but he'd feel a lot better.

Then the tailgunner shouted a warning.  With a curse, Koyani pushed the nose of the G4M down, picking up speed to get closer to Buka as fast as possible.  Tracers shot past the cockpit, but he heard the unmistakable sounds of bullets whipping through the fuselage.  Dammit, where was his escort?  A solid whump drew his attention to the left wing, where he saw a huge plume of smoke pouring from the engine.  Suddenly, the G4M snap-rolled that direction.  Koyani frantically struggled to level the bomber out, an American P-38 flashed by, the jungle below looked very green.  "We're going to crash, brace yourself," Koyani yelled as he hauled back on the stick.  Dammit, why hadn't he been picked for fighters?  Why the hell was he here right now anyway?   

Some miles away, an IJN minesweeper cruised in the Solomon Sea.  The brief aerial struggle had been in clear view, and the captain radioed back to Rabaul that two G4Ms had been shot down by Lightnings.  That task done, he turned as the man next to him spoke quietly.  "No wonder we lost at Midway.  They've been reading our mail."  The captain nodded.  "Take me back to Rabaul, Captain.  I've got a lot of work to do, and the inspection can wait."

As the minesweeper came about, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto strode from the bridge and began calling for his aides.


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February 07, 2009

Ph.Duck, This is for you.


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An Early Example of Fanservice.

-Rhapsody Rabbit, 1948.

Even more blatant than a lot of today's examples, come to think of it...

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February 04, 2009

Kurokami The Animation: Why Shouldn't I Drop it?

Okay, here's the story.  Not that long ago, I was gushing about Kurokami.  The first two episodes were good-to-very good, the animation was swell, the characters were interesting, so on and so forth.

But something is doing a good job of turning me off the show.  Big time.  Look, here's our main character:

Awww... ain't she cute?
She is cute... and that's the problem.  What do I mean, why is that a problem?


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