March 31, 2009

F1 On Speed!: Malaysia 2009!

Hot on the heels of the entertaining Australian Grand Prix at God's Slot Car Track, we find ourselves at the first of the Hermann Tilke "Adventure" circuits ("You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike"), the Sepang International Speedway, Kuala Lumpur.

Let's take a look at the track map:

Unlike Australia, Sepang actually has some long straightaways.  These would call for a low downforce setup, but doing so will ruin you on the turny bits.  Generally, you go for a comprimise solution and hope the car won't do you in.

This year, however, it's anybodys guess what the correct setup will be.  New aero rules and the slick tires means that nobody has the faintest idea what to do.  The three practice sessions'll be key, for sure.

Except for one thing: Sepang is legendary and/or notorious for the ever-changing weather.  It's not unheard of for the race to begin in the high 90s F. with bright sunshine and stifiling humidity... until the torrential downpours come halfway through the race.  If that happens, you really can throw every team's plans into a cocked hat.

Oh, and by the way?  The forecast calls for a wet race.  New slippery cars and rain?  This has the potential of being a Force India win: they're not fast enough to have problems in the wet!

On the whole, however, I'd rather be at Spa-Francopants than Sepang.  Like most Tilke tracks (Turkey excepted), it's rather dull, with little jinks thrown in at just the right place to screw up a passing attempt (turn 12, I'm looking at you).  To the circuit's credit, I DO rather like turn 2: it's like a miniature version of The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca (and yes, that IS a F1 car in that link): decending and off-camber at the same time.  That's about the only thing I like about Sepang, though.

STILL!  It's F1, and the good burghers at SPEEDchannel will be bringing us live coverage all weekend, starting with Friday's second practice from 1am to 240am central time.

Unfortunately, that's the last time that coverage will be at a human hour.  Quals comes to us plausibly live on Saturday from 4am to 530am... will we see another Brawn front row lockout, or will a Red Bull or Toyota sneak in?  Please note that the Quals writeup will probably be very late on Saturday, due to a prior engagement that is, to put it mildly, unbreakable.

The live race coverage will be starting even earlier on Sunday, with SPEED going live from 330am to 6am.  A replay will be shown from 1230pm to 3pm for all those people who aren't nocturnal.  Will it be Rubens Barrichello's time to shine?  Vettel?  Trulli?  Glockenspiel?  Or even something really unexpected, like a McLaren or Ferrari?  Sunday will tell the tale!

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March 30, 2009

Random Anime Picture #39: Red Sky At Night


-Air TV, ep01

Say what you want about KyoAni and their habit of doing Key renai visual novel adaptations, they sure do make 'em purty.

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March 29, 2009

F1 Update!: AUSTRALIA 2009!

Welcome to the new season of Formula 1, and the new season of F1 Update!  It's been a wild offseason, full of rules changes and political manueverings, but that's all over with.  Now it's time to go racing, and there's no better place to start than the more-or-less traditional place to begin a season, Australia!

*A DAY AT THE RACES:  With the two Toyotas relegated to the back row for technical infringements (and choosing to start from the pit lane) and Lewis Hamilton's McLaren nursing a gearbox change, the field took to the grid and we got our first taste of the sun shining right into the driver's eyes due to the 5pm local start time.  When the lights went out, the polesitter Jenson Button made a good getaway, but his teammate Rubens Barrichello did not.  His BrawnGP lurched forward, then freewheeled before accelerating again.  By that time, though, he had already dropped five places and jammed the entire field together as those behind him scrambled to avoid rear-ending the 'mobile chicane'.  The first six cars made it through the first turn unscathed, but Barrichello proved to be a catalyst for danger.  The Brawn, Mark Webber's Red Bull, and the BMW of Grizzly Nick Heidfeld all tried to be on the same racing line at once, which never works.  When Rubens' car was bumped from behind by Heikki Kovaleininninnie's McLaren, a chain reaction occurred, sending the BMW spinning with a rear puncture, the Red Bull needing a new nose, the McLaren to the garage with a snapped front suspension, and the Brawn with a damaged front wing... which still managed to hold together long enough for Rubens to break off the damaged bits on Kimi Raikkonen's right rear tire 10 laps later in an ill-considered manuever.

By the end of the first lap, Button had a nearly-four-second lead over Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull... and that's about where it stayed for the first stint.  Vettel couldn't get closer, Button couldn't (or wouldn't) get farther ahead.

On lap 17, Vettel pitted from second and the Williams of Nico Rosberg pitted from third while Button turned in fast lap of the race, making one wonder if this was going to be a complete runaway for the Brawn.  It was then, however, that Kazoo Nakajima got a little too much curbing under his Williams, sending him careening nose-first into the wall at the exit of turn four with the remains of the car ending up dead on the racing line.  The safety car took forever to be called out, allowing Button to pit beforehand. 

It then took forever for the SC to go away, with the front of the field being Button, Vettel, Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica, and Kimi Raikkonen, with Rubens Barrichello 10th.  It was during this round of stops, though, that the lowering sun first began to play hob with the drivers, as the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella completely missed his pit box, having to be pushed into the correct position.  It was obvious that he simply couldn't see which was his until he was nearly past it.

Once the SC dove back to the pits on lap 24, the Renault of Nelson Piquet Jr and Nico Rosberg's Williams were dicing for position into turn one when the Renault suddenly snapped into a spin and sailed off into the kittylitter for no reason that anyone could see.  While the cars had been close to touching, there was still daylight between them.  Local yellow only, and the race continued.  Again, Button opened up a 3.9 second advantage, but Vettel again hung with the Brawn at that point.

The final round of pitstops was nearly a disaster for Button, and he couldn't get the car out of second gear, preventing the fuel rig from being installed until after the tirechange was done.  This reduced his lead over Vettel to less than two seconds, and made the race very close.  Felipe Massa's Ferrari retired at this time with an unexplained problem, while his teammate brushes a wall and has to retire with one would expect to be suspension damage a few laps later.

With four laps to go came the defining moment of this race.  Button and Vettel were on the super-soft tires which worked well... for a couple of laps, then would go off.  Third-place Robert Kubica in the BMW, on the other hand, was on the medium compound tires and making up gobs of time on both cars.  In the space of one lap, the Pole managed to make up nearly three seconds on Vettel and began to harry the Red Bull driver badly.  On lap 56, Kubica makes his move, but the two collide and tie up with each other.  Vettel loses his entire front wing and ends up in the grass, Kubica loses half his nose and steams onwards.  A few hundred yards later, the two of them lose their cars at the same time, the lack of downforce sending them skittering into the wall.  The BMW is a total loss, the Red Bull somehow keeps moving, though with one tire at right angles to the direction of travel.  Vettel eventually has to park the car, though not until he turns nearly a half-lap in a dangerous state (he is later fined $50000 for this transgression). 

The race essentially ends at this point... and Rubens Barrichello, who had been steadily working his way back from the disasterous start, is in second place, for a Brawn One-Two.  Jarno Trulli is in third after starting from the pit lane, and Lewis Hamilton is fourth after starting from the back of the grid.

*CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN:  At this point, it looks as if all the changes to the technical regulations accomplished exactly what the FIA intended, that of allowing cars to be able to close up to one another more easily, so as to be able to pass.  We saw a lot of nose-to-tail racing, and a plethora of passes.  For once, the FIA got it right.


more...

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Ducks Of A Feather

It appears Digicolleen over at The Duck Show and I were thinking the same way this morning... or at least our duckies were.  A couple of hers are in Hawaii (wellllll...), while three of mine had been pestering me to let them go sunbathing.  I promised I'd let them this morning.

The result?

Three inches of snow and ice fell on Duckford last night.  Oopsie.

(The F1 Update! is coming this evening.)

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March 28, 2009

F1 Quals: Australia 2009!

In 1970, the brand new March racing team, with Jackie Stewart at the wheel, took pole in their first Grand Prix at South Africa.

The last time Rubens Barrichello was on the front row in a grand prix was 2004.

Jenson Button had his last pole in 2006, in Australia.

Today, all of those numbers changed. 

Here's the provisional grid for the 2009 Grand Prix of Australia:

Pos Driver
   
    

Team      
Q1Q2 
Q3
1 Jenson Button



Brawn-Mercedes
1:25.211     
1:24.855   

1:26.202
2 Rubens Barrichello 



Brawn-Mercedes
1:25.006 1:24.783
1:26.505
3 Sebastian Vettel


RBR-Renault
1:25.938 1:25.121
1:26.830
4 Robert Kubica


BMW Sauber
1:25.922 1:25.152
1:26.914
5 Nico Rosberg


Williams-Toyota
1:25.846 1:25.123
1:26.973
6 Timo Glockenspiel


Toyota
1:25.499 1:25.281
1:26.975
7 Felipe Massa


Ferrari
1:25.844 1:25.319
1:27.033
8 Jarno Trulli


Toyota
1:26.194 1:25.265
1:27.127
9 Kimi Räikkönen


Ferrari
1:25.899 1:25.380
1:27.163
10 Mark Webber


RBR-Renault
1:25.427 1:25.241
1:27.246
11 Nick Heidfeld


BMW Sauber
1:25.827 1:25.504

12 HWMNBN


Renault
1:26.026 1:25.605

13 Kazoo Nakajima


Williams-Toyota
1:26.074 1:25.607

14 Heikki Kovalainen


McLaren-Mercedes
1:26.184 1:25.726

15 Lewis Hamilton


McLaren-Mercedes
1:26.454 no time

16 Sebastien Buemi


STR-Ferrari
1:26.503


17 Nelson Piquet Jr



Renault
1:26.598


18 Giancarlo Fisichella


Force India-Mercedes

1:26.677


19 Adrian Sutil


Force India-Mercedes
1:26.742


20 SeaBass


STR-Ferrari
1:26.964



A front row lockout for the new Brawn Racing team, as well as fast-lap?  Ferrari 7th and 9th?  McLaren 14th and 15th?  The only thing that seems like last year is Force India down near the bottom.

Understand, Brawn's domination wasn't a fluke.  They were fastest in all three Q sessions.  Barrichello's Q2 time was close to the all-time track record, set with a V10 engine with a couple hundred more horsepower.  The FIA has also revealed that the Brawns had about 7.5 kg more fuel on board than anybody else, so not only are they fast, but they're faster than everybody else while being able to go longer between pitstops.

This is looking really good for the newbies, and really, really bad for everybody else.

Particularly Lewis Hamilton.  You'll note that he barely made it into Q2, at which point he stayed in his pit box and didn't get a lap in.  That's because he had a gearbox failure that, eventually, required a complete change.  Because of that, he has to take a five-spot penalty and moves to the back of the grid.  Except for one thing...

In breaking news, both Toyotas have been excluded from the qualy results, and therefore will be starting from the back.  A FIA technical delegate noticed some questionable flexing of the rear wing and notified the stewards.  The stewards tested the rear wing elements, found that they broke article 3.15 of the Tech Regs, and stripped the team of their times, and rightfully so.  Now the question becomes, will the team be allowed to fix the problem with their cars in parc ferme, or will they have to do the work during the parade and recon laps?

We'll know more tomorrow!

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March 27, 2009

F1 Practice: Australia 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Bizarro F1!  Where up is down, left is right, dogs and cats are living together, and the best the reigning driver's champ could do is 18th.  We are living in weird and wonderful times, my friends, weird and wonderful times.

Now I usually admonish anybody from drawing conclusions from times run in practice, but these practice sessions are very different than normal.  Testing in the off-season has been limited, and from here on out, it is banned entirely.  No longer are Friday practices just for checking fuel mileage and tire wear... now it's the only chance you get to give "fixes" a trial run, or to get used to the car at all.  Everything is a long-distance speed run, practically at race pace.  It has to be, because you can't rely on the third driver to put 500 laps on the T-Car (archaic term, I know) while the engineers change the angle of a fin from 14.22372o to 14.22375o.  So at least for the Australian practice sessions, you really can start to make legit predictions about how the cars are going to perform in the race.

And, to be blunt, it ain't lookin' good for the two teams that won championships last year.  Ferrari ended up with the 10th- and 11th-fastest times, over a second behind the leader's pace.  McLaren was 17th and 18th, over 1-3/4 seconds behind, and in the cases of both teams, it didn't look like flukey... they looked slow.

Particularly the Glare With Wheels.  Who knows exactly what's wrong, but only once did either McLaren look racey... and that was when Lewis Hamilton was pushing the car waaaaaaay beyond what it could safely manage.  That he managed to get most of a lap in at that pace before the rear end stepped out on him says loads about his ability... and that he was able to gather the car back up after the Glare tried to kill him also points out how good he is.  However, the fact that he had to fight the car tooth-and-nail just to stay alive points out how bad the McLaren is.

Ferrari looked, and was, faster out there, but having said that, they're still not good.  Massa and Kimi went off countless times, and Massa in particular had one moment where... well, the rear of the car had gone so far out that it looked like it was trying to emulate an old Dead Or Alive song.  And HE saved it, too... how is entirely a matter of conjecture.

So who looked fast?  The Diffuser Three.  Williams' Nico Rosberg set a time of 1:26.053 for fast lap, but it wasn't just a one-off... he was consistently around that time all day.  Second was Rubens Barrichello in the Brawn F1, only 1/10th of a second behind.  Third was Jarno Trulli in the Toyota, about .200 behind Rubens.  Mark Webber's Red Bull snuck into fourth quickest, but then came the rest of the Diffuser Three: Jensen (Overrated?) Button (Brawn), Timo Glockenspiel (Toyota), and Kazoo Nakajima (Williams).

The best HWMNBN could manage was 12th, with the two BMW-Saubers right behind Giancarlo Fisichella's 13th-placed Force India.  Adrian Sutil's FIndia was on top of the timesheet for a good chunk of the day before declining to 9th.

The day belonged to the three rebel teams... now to see if they can do it in Quals on Saturday!

In other questions answered on Friday, Avatar's query about lighting with a 5pm start turns out to be excellent.  The 2nd Practice on Friday began at 430pm local time, and by the end of the day, the sun was right in the drivers' eyes as they came down the front straight, and shadows were ugly all the way around the circuit.  It'll be a definite concern.

Another question that was posed by Steven about KERS and can it be charged at the beginning of the race, or what?  Turns out it CAN be charged before the race, even before it leaves the pits.  The bad news is that it takes about two hours.  The worse news is that it's such a sensitive process that if it's done just the teensiest bit wrong, it could burn out the batteries used in two-and-a-half of the teams.  Williams is using a flywheel system, so no batteries there. 

Yes, two-and-a-half teams.  McLaren, Ferrari and one of the BMW-Sauber cars.  The other BMW, the one driven by Robert Kubica, will not have KERS installed.  Turns out theres an excellent reason for that: Kubica (fatso that he is), weighs more than his teammate, Grizzly Nick Heidfeld, and the extra weight of the KERS system PLUS Kubica's lardbutt would counteract any advantage it might give.  Let's take a look at the Big Guy, shall we?


They can't even keep him away from the buffet long enough to take a photo of him... just horribly disgraceful.  How can he look at himself in the mirror?

Oh, it's gonna be a FUN season!

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March 25, 2009

Australia is right around the corner (UPDATED)

...and if F1 is right around the corner, so is controversy.  Depending on how things go during Thursday's practices, it's expected that Toyota, Williams and Brawn will be racing with the spectre of eventual DQ over their heads.

Y'see, it appears that those three teams may have found a loophole in the rules regarding the rear diffuser.  Nothing illegal, mind you, just perhaps maybe not in the exact spirit of the technical regulations.  Or, maybe, the other teams are just upset that they didn't think of it first.

Toyota's diffuser

McLaren's diffuser
The diffuser is the black bit directly under the warning light, below the level of the rear axle.  Its purpose is to slow the air moving underneath the car as it flows behind the chassis, which increases downforce.  It also cleans the air up by minimizing eddys and vortices, thereby reducing drag.

The main difference between the two designs is minor, but telling:  McLaren's runs straight across, but Toyota's center section (immediately beneath the light, obscured somewhat by the glow) is arched, thereby violating the maximum height allowed.

But it really doesn't, because the arched bit is NOT part of the diffuser, but of the rear crash structure.  It just LOOKS like part of the diffuser... and acts like part of the diffuser, too.  The other two "diffuser teams" have similar (though slightly different) designs.

The other seven teams followed the rules literally, as evidenced by the straight-across version demonstrated by the McLaren design.  And so, chances are good that there will be a protest levied against the "Diffuser Three".  Because it doesn't violate the rules, it will be upheld by the track stewards.  There will then be an appeal to the FIA, which won't be reviewed for at least three or four weeks.  Until that time, whatever results the teams gain will basically be provisional, with the possibility of being negated by the FIA.

Can we just have a race without any complaining?  Please?

UPDATE: Four teams protested the diffuser design.  The stewards and the FIA deliberated for six hours, then decided the design was okay.  So step one is in the books, and next will be the more formal appeal to the FIA.

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March 24, 2009

A Lap of Australia

...or at least the track at Melbourne.


2007, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari.
Voices by the Legendary Announce Team.

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March 23, 2009

F1 On Speed!: Australia 2009

You have no idea how good it was to type that title.  Finally, all the blathering, all the complaining, all the bickering that is the F1 offseason is about to end.  Finally, all that matters is horsepower, downforce, speed and skill... because the 2009 F1 season is, finally, about to begin.

And where better than the quasi-traditional starting point for the season, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, or as I like to call it, "God's Slot-car Track."  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

In some ways, Melbourne is the "perfect" F1 track.  It's fast, but has some nice turns that require good low-speed performance.  Yet many turns are high-speed and challenging (#5 and #11 in particular), where a brave driver can keep his foot in all the way through.  It's a temporary circuit with some sections that are permanent as well.  Smooth, but some bumpy areas (but not too bumpy) in the braking zones to challenge the suspension.  It's a great track for the drivers to get used to racing again (not like they haven't been driving all winter), easy but not too easy.

Having said all that, last year's race saw 14 cars break down or crash out, leaving only seven competitors to take the checkered flag (there was one DQ as well).  Ambient air temps around 100oF had something to do with that, of course, but reliablilty will be an issue in this race as well, what with the new rules and all.  This year's race will be starting at 5pm local time instead of 1pm, so the temps may be lower... or not.  It's weather, who knows?

Either way, the good folks at SPEEDchannel will be bringing us their usual excellent coverage all weekend long!  First off, we'll get LIVE coverage of Friday's second practice session from 1230am to 2am.  That's followed with (plausibly) LIVE coverage of the season's first Quals on Saturday from 1am to 230am.

But then it's time for the real deal: the Australian Grand Prix LIVE Sunday morning from 1230am to 3am.  There's also a replay from 330pm to 6pm on Sunday afternoon.  As usual, all times are Central.  East coasties, add one hour, y'all on the west coast take two hours away, and those of you in Guam, well, you're on your own for this one.

And F1 UPDATE! will be here with all the news as the 2009 F1 season gets under way! 

It's about bloody time.

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March 21, 2009

Ikkitousen Great Guardians OVA 6

As they say, all good things must come to an end.  Fortunately, all bad things come to an end as well... in this case, the Ikkitousen Great Guardians OVA series.  Unable to out-ecchi the previous Dragon Destiny series of OVAs, the animators went the silly and icky route last time... can they redeem themselves with one final flurry of fantastic fanservice?

...purl two.
And who is our final challenger in the "sexy cosplay battle?"

It's Squintygirl Shiryuu!  I'm sure most of you are saying to yourself, "who?"  And for good reason, she's practically Ms. Not-Appearing-In-This-Film, but what the heck, let's get her on stage!

As always, from here on out everything should be considered NSFW.

more...

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March 20, 2009

Remember That New Format For The Driver's Championship? (UPDATED)

....um, not so much, apparently.  Earlier today, the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) filed an official protest with the FIA, saying in effect "we all really hate this idea, and you've got lugnuts for brains if you think we're going to stand for it."

The FIA, showing how much backbone they have, immediately caved in, saying "...if, for any reason, the Formula One teams do not now agree with the new system, its implementation will be deferred until 2010."

At which point, the FIA will try to screw the sport up again, and with any luck they won't have bribed Ferrari to accept the format by then... but for now, it's back to the points system.

Which is the right way to do it, of course.  You can discuss how much a win is worth, and how much second is worth, and so forth (FOTA suggested 12-9-6-5-4-3-2-1 earlier, instead of 10-8-6-etc etc, which I'm fine with), but it's clear that the points system works.  Why screw with it?

Oh, right... to let Ferrari win.

UPDATE: It turns out the FIA was violating their own rules by imposing their "solution"!  Article 199 of the International Sporting Regulations reads:
"Changes to sporting rules and to all regulations other than those referred to in b) above are published at least 20 days prior to the opening date for entry applications for the championship concerned, but never later than 30 November each year."

So nearly four months late.  And THIS is the organization in charge?


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March 19, 2009

The Return of Anime Night!

It's been a long while since The Librarian and I have gathered at Pond Central for dinner and some anime.  Over the past few months, life has just gotten in the way.  Oh, we've gotten together every now and again for dinner, but the legendary Anime Night looked to be a thing of the past.

Until tonight.  Tonight saw the return of the tradition.  Dinner from Panda Express, a long bit of conversation and laffs, then four episodes of some series.  But what series?  It's been so long since the last Anime Night, we decided to start something new.

"They're all insane."

That was the comment uttered by The Librarian after the first episode of our new show.  And what show was it?

YES!  Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes!
Azumanga Daioh has long been my acknowledged favorite anime, but it's been a couple of years since I last watched it.  The Librarian has seen an episode or two, but a really long time ago... so this promises to be a really enjoyable few weeks. 

To be honest, I had forgotten how much fun AzuDai is... and just how good it is, too.  The animation quality is still quite good for a seven-year-old show (it suffers in comparison to, say, Gurren Lagann or Clannad, but so do most series), but there are many more still-shots than I remember.  Sound and music is excellent, but there's no question the heart and soul of AzuDai is the characters... and those don't suffer from age in the least, and likely never will.

A better ensemble cast you will never, ever, find.  Just a bunch of kids and their (eccentric) teachers, going through life in their own way... without angst, without serious problems, just enjoying themselves.  Just what this tired duckie needed.

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March 18, 2009

Nanoha GamerS

I've been shamefully lax in praising a particular screenshot-based comic that I've been following.  Over at Moe Check!, DKellis has taken the third Nanoha series, "Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS", and given it the DM of the Rings treatment.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, DMotR takes the Lord of the Rings trilogy and... well, looks at it as if it was a D&D campaign.  Each major character is being run by a person around a gaming table... and it hits every D&D nerve you could possibly have.

DKellis has done the same with StrikerS, creating Nanoha GamerS.  If you like the Nanohaverse, you owe it to yourself to read it now.  It's very, very funny, and yet strangely true to the series at the same time.

...except for the whole "Nanoha as psychotic killing machine" part.

No, wait... that IS true to the series, isn't it?

Anyway, I've taken the liberty of stealing one part of one entry as a teaser for anybody who might be thinking about reading:

Courtesy of MoeCheck!  Thanks!
...Fisto!

Go read... you won't regret it!

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March 17, 2009

New F1 Driver's Championship Format!

In a surprise move, the FIA decided to change the format for the Driver's Championship.  Instead of the driver with the most points winning the championship, now it'll be the driver with the most wins (in the event of a tie, points will be the tiebreaker).

Under this system, Felipe Massa would have won the 2008 championship over Lewis Hamilton, six wins to five.

Other than the champion, points will decide all the other positions.  In theory, this could mean that the champion could have fewer points than drivers behind him. 

Consider this possibility:
Driver A has eight wins but the rest of his races are DNFs, for 80 points.
Driver B has zero wins, but 18 third-place finishes... for 108 points.
Driver C has seven wins, and eleven seconds... for 158 points.

Under this new system, Driver A is the champion, even though Driver C had a much better season, and Driver B's season would be one for the history books as well. 

Funny, didn't we hear something like this plan from Ferrari at the end of 2008?

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March 16, 2009

Happy St Patrick's Duck!


He's not well painted.  His orange beard is, frankly, ugly on a duckie.  But y'know what?  I don't care.  It's a happy St Patrick's Day Duckie, and I like it!

He's also the only St Patrick's Day duckie I've ever seen, come to think of it.

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March 15, 2009

Want. Want! Wantwantwantwantwantwantwantwant!

So The Brickmuppet and I are chatting, and he tells me that his pal BOB (who is never mentioned on his website) is going to be carrying a "collectible game" that uses rubber duckies as game pieces. 

Oh.  Oh my.  Yes, please.

Duck Duck Go! does, in fact, use rubber duckies as pieces, but they move around a hexagon board as guided by random movement cards, all the while being chased by a "bird dog" that can cause all sorts of havoc to your plans.

The rules (pdf) are simple enough to be understood in just a couple of minutes, but can become complex enough to require strategic thinking, which I really didn't expect.  All in all, methinks I see a new addition to the Flock's collection sometime in the future.  You can get it from APE Games, or from your favorite game retailer, of course.

There is one rule that I think they missed, though... they advertise "100 different duckies" are available as playing pieces (I've already got 34 of them, by the way), but none of them have 'special powers'.  The advanced game introduces action tokens, yes, but that's not quite the same.  For example, a Halloween duckie could scare the bird dog once a game, which would keep it from bonking you.  A Christmas duckie could give a gift of one hex of movement to any duckie (or the bird dog), which could make the target miss a bouy (or the drain!).  The possibilities are endless... which could make this game even more fun! 

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March 13, 2009

Giddiness at Barcelona

"We can't match their pace.  And I think nobody can." - Felipe Massa

"That they should be so quick just isn't normal." - HWMNBN

"...it is faster over the race distance than the Ferrari!" - James Allen, F1 broadcaster

What are these rather knowledgeable people talking about?  Why, none other than Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello in the Brawn Racing car.  Over the past few days of testing at the track at Barcelona, Brawn Racing not only had the quickest lap times but also turned more laps per car per day, showing a substantial level of reliablity to boot.

Just to make it even more impressive, the laps turned were pretty consistent throughout the runs, meaning that the BGP001 is gentle on the tires.  All of this combines to make the new team's performance somewhat legit.

In one way, this shouldn't be surprising.  One of the reasons that Honda's racer was so horrendous last season was that the team gave up on it early (some say as early as 2007) to concentrate on the 2009 new-spec car.  That would give them a head-start on everybody else, even though they're also behind in practice time with it.  That would also explain why their nose looks so different from everybody else's... perhaps they found something the others haven't.

I think it's a little early to predict a win in Australia like some have done, but it'd certainly be quite the story, wouldn't it?

In other testing news, McLaren has come right out and said that their car is currently too slow to compete for wins.  Speculation is that the chassis is having a problem with rear-end aero (much smaller rear wing), meaning that the drive wheels don't stick to the ground, and that means slow acceleration (lots of wheelspin is bad).  Of course, it's a long season... if McLaren is bad and Brawn is good at Australia, there's a pretty decent chance that those positions will reverse by the end of the year.  McLaren has a lot of money and engineering talent that it can throw around to be bad for very long.

Still, this is already shaping up to be a potential doozy of a F1 season... two weeks to go!

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March 11, 2009

The Most Dangerous... um... Jam?




It's so wrong, but so, so right.  I want a jar.

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March 10, 2009

Very Cool Stuff From "Santa".

As most of my regular readers are aware, I've long been fascinated by the War in the Pacific.  For thirty years (at least), I've been a voracious reader of anything I could get my wings on related to that conflict.  While I've been interested in anything that happened in those years, over time I've also narrowed my focus down onto the Battle of Midway.

As I read the incredible book Shattered Sword, I became aware of something called The Battle of Midway Roundtable (BOMRT).  Calling itself "an international forum focusing on the 'Incredible Victory' at Midway, the turning point of the Second World War in the Pacific," it's something of a clearinghouse for information on Midway.

The most important part of BOMRT, however, is without a doubt the weekly newsletter.  Members ask questions, which are then answered by other members... and the breadth and depth of the knowledge available is immense. 

Currently on the member list are 45 veterans who were actually present at the Battle of Midway, ranging from a Marine on the atoll, to PBY pilots, to Dauntless pilots and gunners, to crewmen from all three US carriers, to the lone TBF Avenger pilot and crewman to survive that plane's baptism of fire (Bert Earnest and Harry Ferrier, flying from Midway as part of the detachment from Hornet's VT-8, both of whom are covered extensively in the book A Dawn Like Thunder).

One member of the BOMRT has gained the nickname of "Santa Claus".  Annually, Ted Kraver goes to a major used book sale and picks up a bunch of military history books.  He then gives them away to other members of the BOMRT as a 'thank you' for the past year's worth of insight and experiences. 

This year, I was one of the lucky recepient of one of Santa's gifts:

Zero Fighter by Martin Caidin and Saburo Sakai... not the duck.
The duck is the mascot of the Duck U. Bookstore.

Thank you very much, Ted Santa!  I'm looking forward to devouring this one.  Incredibly cool of you.

Membership to the BOMRT is free, by the way, and if you have any interest in the Pacific War you owe it to yourself to join.  Why wait?  Do it now!

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March 08, 2009

The New Noses

As we're all aware, F1 has some new aerodynamic rules that have, for the most part, made the cars look pretty much alike.  While doing the "F1 Pr0n" series of posts, though, I've noticed that there's one place that the teams have been showing a surprising amount of individuality.

That's the nose, and particularly how the front wing is mounted to the pointy end of the car.  There seem to be three main schools of thought on how the wing should be attached under the new rules, and we'll take a close look at them in a second. 

First, however, let's take a look at how the nose of a F1 car has been designed over the past three seasons:

 The 2006 Ferrari nose came with an extra element slung beneath the wing, but had a simple short mounting.

The 2007 SuperAguri nose had a fairly complex, medium-length mounting system, and of course a raised bridge-style wing.

The 2008 BMW nose had a short length mounting, and a very convoluted wing.

Now onto the 2009 noses!

more...

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