March 31, 2010

Ducks In Anime: HidaSketch Hoshimittsu Is Over

-Hidamari Sketch Hoshimittsu Ep12

And so the most recent entry in the HidaSketch franchise has come to a close.  As with the earlier series, I'm sorry to see it end, but this time we saw a dud episode or two for once.  Not bad enough for me to avoid the next show, or to prevent me from buying it if/when it gets released, but there they were.

Of course the Core Four were still great fun to be around, and Nori-chan did grow on me nicely, but Nazuna never past a whimpering child with an inferiority complex big enough to choke a hippo.  I can't imagine her replacing, say, Hiro when she and Sae graduate, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when that occurs.

Other than the one or two episodes that turn the new girls into main characters, Nazuna more or less stays in the background, leaving the Core Four plus Nori to have the spotlight... fortunately!  Otherwise I'd be wondering why Ume Aoki hates us me. 

On the other hand, Nori has proven to be the most sane of the series.  Down-to-earth, not as prone to flights of silly as the others, and more than willing to point out the others' weirdnesses, I almost wish that the series revolved around her.  It'd make the silly more silly, and probably better... every comedy team needs a straight man, after all.  Though her idea for tomato sherbet was a little... odd.

It's the ducks, though, that push HidaSketch from "good" to "great".  Gotta love 'em... Yuno certainly does.

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March 29, 2010

F1 On Speed!: Malaysia 2010!

For many, many years, the most hated man in Formula 1 was either Max Mosley or Bernie Ecclestone.  It was thought that their meddling with the rules was to blame for the "processional" style of racing we've seen for a while, and there's no denying that they certainly deserve their share of brickbats.  But even more deserving of slings and arrows is a man who's face we've seen but rarely.  He is responsible for the designs of either nine or 10 (depending on how you lay blame) of the 19 circuits on the F1 calendar.  He has a knack of placing turns at just the right place to ruin any chance of passing, or to take what should be a good turn for a pass and destroy it by changing the radius mid-bend.  This man is named Hermann Tilke.  The Grand Prix of Malaysia is held on one of his circuits.  Here's the track map.

To be fair to Mr Tilke, his race complexes often have stunning architecture involved, and Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit is probably best known for having the longest continuous fully covered grandstand in the world.   Beginning shortly after Turn 14, it runs down to Turn 15 then pivots around a central parasol, continuing down the main straight until ending near pit-out.

The fact that I'm writing about architecture might give you the impression that I'm struggling to come up with something nice to say about this racetrack... and you'd be entirely right.  Other than the Turn 1-2 complex, an off-camber descending corkscrew of turns that I've always been fond of, there's not all that much to like about Sepang. 

Unless you like rain, in which case boy do I have a circuit for you!  Last year's race was the first in a long, long time to be called on account of weather before the half-way point, meaning all points scored were halved.  The big deluge soaked the track for such an extended period that the sun set before it was safe to drive on again.  Oh, guess what?  There's rain in the forecast again.  What a shock.

Still, SPEED will bring us its usual high-quality coverage beginning at 1am Friday morning with LIVE footage from Friday's Second Practice, until 240am.  Saturday has plausibly live coverage of the Quals session, from 3am to 430am.  The actual race is on Sunday, from 230am to 5am, with a replay at 1030am.  Unfortunately, the Legendary Announce Team will be down a voice all weekend, as the ringmaster, Bob Varsha, will be working the Palm Beach Barrett-Jackson collector car auction.  I believe they said Lee Diffie will be filling in, and he's certainly knowledgeable enough (he does the same job for Australian TV coverage of F1), but he's not The Varsha.

We'll be here with our sterling reportage all weekend, so don't forget to drop in, Dear Reader.  And my other reader is welcome, too.

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March 28, 2010

F1 Update!: Grand Prix of Australia 2010!

Rain was spritzing down as the cars came to the grid.  Would it make a difference?  Let's find out... this is your F1 Update! for the 2010 Australian Grand Prix!

*LIGHTS OUT:  To say that the start of the race was frantic might be understating the case.  Mark Webber, who has never had much luck at his home race, had a miserable start from the second spot on the grid, somehow managing to stay in third as the likes of HWMNBN and Jenson Button were breathing down his neck while scrapping with each other.  Meanwhile, Felipe Massa looked like he had a rocket strapped to the back of his Ferrari as he leapfrogged to the rear wing of polesitter Seb Vettel as they closed in on Turn 1.  It was there that the scrap between Button and HWMNBN was joined by Slappy Schumacher.  Button was inside of the Ferrari, and Slappy tried to go around the outside of the two just as HWMNBN attempted to close the door on the reigning World Champion.  Unfortunately, he attempted this despite Button's nose being equal with the Ferrari's cockpit.  HWMNBN got punted into a spin, which also collected Slappy, breaking the Mercedes' nose in the process.  As the Ferrari pirouetted gracefully down the track, the field immediately jammed up behind him as they tried to pick their way around the red car.  Renault's Robert Kubica found the narrowest hole it was possible to sneak through and jumped up to 4th from 9th on the grid in the process. 

*AND THEN:  In the run down to Turn 6, the Sauber of Kamui Kobyashi shed its front wing for no reason that anybody could say.  He wasn't tangled up in the mess at Turn 1, and came through the start cleanly.  Still, the wing came off unbidden and went right under his front tires.  The car reacted by getting slightly airborne, which had a detrimental effect on the Sauber's traction and steering ability.  It then whipped into the inside wall at high speed, at which point it continued following the wall until the barrier made the turn.  Unfortunately, Kobyashi's car, most of its right side gone, couldn't even steer, let alone turn.  Bouncing over the curb at Turn 6, it plowed directly into the side of Nico Hulkenberg's Williams, climbing overtop of it in the process.  Both cars ended up dead in the kittylitter on the outside of 6, Hulkenberg looking rather surprised to be there.  Seb Buemi's Toro Rosso was also involved, ending his race there as well.  The Safety Car was called out immediately, bringing an end to a rather crazy first lap.

*CHANGING SHOES:  Early in the five lap Safety Car period, the drizzle ended and the guessing game began.  What team would bring their men in for slick tires first, and would it be the right choice?  There was still weather in the area and any moment could see the rain return, but a rapidly drying race line would render the Intermediate tires useless in short order.  On Lap 6, the first hot lap after the safety car pulled in, Jenson Button felt his tires going off and quickly came in for soft tires on his own hook.  Returning to the track, it looked like he made the wrong call as he immediately did some agricultural racing, but by Lap 9, he had set fast lap of the race.  That was enough for all the other teams, and the call went out: pit for new rubber.  Everybody but the Red Bulls and Button piled into the pitlane, with Vettel going in on Lap 10.  When he came out on the softs, he remained in the lead, with Webber and Button behind him.  Webber pitted on Lap 11, losing 5 places in the process, from which deficit he would never recover.  At this point, the standings were Vettel, Button, Kubica, Nico Rosberg, Massa, Lewis Hamilton,  Rubens Barrichello, Pete Rose, and HWMNBN, with Vettel pulling away rapidly.

*NOT AGAIN:  The lead was up to five seconds when, on Lap 25, Vettel saw sparks shooting up from his left-front brakes.  Too late to pull into the pits, he continued on while informing his crew of the problem.  There were also increasingly heavy vibrations in the car under braking, never a good sign.  And then, it happened.  Touching the brakes for Turn 13, something important broke and the Red Bull was thrown headlong into the kittylitter, beached and out of the race.  Button, gifted first place, swept by, Kubica and Hamilton following.

*CHOICES, CHOICES:  Suddenly, the question stopped being "will anybody catch Vettel" and became "does anybody dare to do the whole race on one set of soft tires?"  The requirement of using both compounds of dry tires was removed with the use of the Intermediates, so nobody had to stop.  But could the soft tires last 50 laps, or 52 in Button's case?  Only time would tell, but nobody felt confident about it.  Slappy was the first to stop for a second set of soft tires, and immediately turned in fast lap of the race.  That was enough for pretty much everybody to swing in... everybody but Button, Kubica and the two Ferraris.  The standings at this point was Button, Kubica, Massa, HWMNBN, Hamilton, Webber, Rosberg, and Vitantonio Liuzzi.  Suddenly, McLaren looked to be in the catbird seat.  They had the leader of the cars that were trying to go with one stop in Button, as well as the leader of the two-stoppers in Hamilton.  If the tires of the one-stoppers failed completely, Hamilton looked to be perfectly positioned for the win.  As the laps counted down however, it began to look more and more likely that Hamilton, who had been driving an absolutely brilliant race, had been scuppered by the decision to get new tires.  On Lap 56, unable to get past the defense-minded HWMNBN, his frustrations boiled as he keyed the mic: "Whose idea was it to bring me in?  It was a horrible idea."  Then it all became moot as Mark Webber missed his braking point and plowed into the back of the McLaren, sending them both into the kittylitter.  Both were able to continue, but Hamilton was dropped to 6th as his teammate cruised across the start/finish line with a 12 second lead over Kubica, having made his soft tires last a seemingly-impossible 52 laps. 

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Jenson Button has always been called a smooth driver, easy on his tires and his car in general.  With this race he showed exactly how smooth he was, keeping his soft tires intact for basically the entire race without costing himself much in speed.  That his teammate Lewis Hamilton was complaining that his second set of tires had gone off after 16 laps points out the skill involved in protecting the rubber.  An amazing drive, with a wonderful dose of driver-inspired strategy on top of it to boot.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Ferrari showed that they've got to be considered the favorites for the Constructor's Championship by finishing 3-4 in a race that HWMNBN was truly lucky not to finish sixth or seventh.  That both drivers were able to go the whole race on one set of softs will not be lost on the rest of the pit lane, either, particularly in that neither driver is known as being gentle on their tires.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: Lewis Hamilton had already passed his teammate, Mark Webber, Rubens Barrichello, and Felipe Massa at one point or another during the race, and he was staring at the back end of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, sitting in 4th place.  The two silver cars are pretty much evenly matched, with very little to choose between them on the whole.  That fact made what happened next even more impressive, as Hamilton charged around Rosberg on the outside of Turn 11, a place where nobody ever passes.  He had the inside line for Turn 12 and made the pass stick, ending an amazing move in 4th place.  Pity it was all for naught in the end.  Honorable Mention goes to Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton (again) and Felipe Massa for their Lap 16 shenanigans:  Webber passes Massa at Turns 1 and 2.  An opportunistic Hamilton follows Webber past the Ferrari, then powers past the Red Bull driver.  Going into Turn 3, Webber is overoptimistic and blows the turn, taking Hamilton with him off-track (though with no damage to either), and Massa drives past them both to reclaim 5th place.  Just a  fun sequence.

*MOOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Red Bull's Mark Webber was having a terrible race, all told.  On Lap 57, it just got worse.  Desperate to get past the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, he made the sort of rookie error that even Yuji Ide would have cringed at.  As he approached the braking zone for Turn 12, Webber was apparently distracted by something bright and sparkly and forgot to apply pressure to the left pedal until it was much, much too late.  The Red Bull plowed right into the rear of Hamilton's McLaren, punting them both into the kittylitter with all the grace of a monster truck on ice skates.  Hamilton was able to return to the track with no visible damage, though a place lower than he had been, but Webber left his front wing in the gravel.  He wound up finishing 9th, and lucky to do so.  Good job, mate!  Here's your Moooooooo-ooove!



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Good Morning F1 Fans

While I get the sleep out of my eyes after the late night of F1 watching, maybe get some breakfast in me, here's some grid girls to make the wait for F1 Update! a little easier.

You're welcome.

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March 27, 2010

Weather Report: Australian Grand Prix 2010 (UPDATED)

We're 10 minutes from lights-out for the Australian Grand Prix, and it has just started to rain... but it's just a drizzle.  It might get harder, it might run for a while, so nobody has a clue what type of tire to put on.

For the record?  I'm giggling like a schoolgirl.

UPDATE 1am, recon lap: Looks like everybody is playing it safe and going with Intermediate tires.

UPDATE end lap 01: Safety Car!  Felipe Massa made a rocket start to 2nd, Kubica went from 9th to 4th, Alonso HWMNBN and Slappy got deranged, breaking Slappy's nose.  But the big one came when the Sauber of Kamui Kobyashi had his front wing come off (AGAIN), sending him into a wall, then across the track where he collected the Williams of Nico Hulkenberg in a massive accident.  Safety Car lasts 5 laps or so.

UPDATE end lap 11: Everybody is back on slicks now, but it's beginning to rain again.  Oops.  I'm just going to watch the race now unless there's a major occurrence.

UPDATE end lap 26: Major occurrence!  Seb Vettel crashes from the race lead, maybe a broken suspension.  Button is now your leader!

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F1 Quals: Australia 2010!

Rain threatened in Q3, but held off just long enough to get the session completed in the dry.  So who's on pole?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid:

Pos  Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:24.774 1:24.096 1:23.919
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:25.286 1:24.276 1:24.035
3 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:25.082 1:24.335 1:24.111
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.897 1:24.531 1:24.675
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:25.548 1:25.010 1:24.837
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:24.788 1:24.788 1:24.884
7 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:25.351 1:24.871 1:24.927
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:25.702 1:25.085 1:25.217
9 Robert Kubica Renault 1:25.588 1:25.122 1:25.372
10 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:25.504 1:25.046 1:26.036
11 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.046 1:25.184
12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:26.061 1:25.638
13 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:26.170 1:25.743
14 Pete Rose
BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.089 1:25.747
15 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:25.866 1:25.748
16 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.251 1:25.777
17 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:26.095 1:26.089
18 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:26.471

19 Heikki Kovalaininnie Lotus-Cosworth 1:28.797

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:29.111

21 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.592

22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.185

23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:30.526

24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:30.613

The big surprise is Lewis Hamilton, knocked out in Q2.  He claims that he was balked on his final hot lap, and it is true that he came across two cars somewhere in sector 3.  However, both cars were off the racing line.  Further, the TV director had us in-car with Hamilton's McLaren at that portion of the lap; if he lifted off the gas or blipped the brakes, you sure couldn't tell from the engine note or the onscreen displays of RPM.  I think he's just looking for an excuse; his teammate was fourth in Q2, after all, and ended up fourth on the grid after Q3.  Just a bad performance for the 2008 World Champion, and as it turns out, for the team.  Reports are coming in as I write this that Hamilton may not have had enough fuel for a final hot lap, though he crossed the line with time remaining on the session clock.  If so, that'll rank up there with the two Ferrari blunders early in the '09 season, when in separate incidents both Massa and Raikkonen sat in their garages with what they thought were safe times, only to see the track come alive and the rest of the field sweep by them, dumping them out in Q1.

Another mild surprise was the relatively poor showing by the two Renaults.  Kubica, and to a lesser extent Petrov, had been quite quick during the three practice sessions.  Having Petrov knocked out after Q1, and Kubica needing a late push in Q3 to get past the Force India of Adrian Sutil, must have been a disappointment for the team.  Petrov had a slight moment on his final flying lap in Q1 that sent him just far enough off-track to ruin his chance to make it to the next session, but I'm sure there were still some rueful glances thrown about.

Of course, all six of the new cars went out in the first session, though the Lotuses (Lotii?) are making some small amount of progress out there.  Virgin, as we know, can't be a threat until they rebuild their car because of their too-small fuel tank.  But spare a moment for Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok.  The HRT HRT is just brutal.  While they did last the entire Q1 session, a minor miracle in and of itself, I don't think any driver could get more than a second out of that beast.  We did an onboard lap with, I think, Chandhok, and the steering inputs that he had to enter, just to make a turn, looked like he was trying to hack chunks off a slab of meat with the wheel.  Just constant, nigh frantic, back and forth sawing at the steering wheel.  Other teams would consider the HRT HRT to be in an emergency situation in every single turn.  Compare that to the smooth, almost negligible, steering required by Jenson Button and his McLaren, and it becomes obvious: the HRT HRT is just not ready, at all.

Blame the ban of in-season testing.  The one thing that the new teams need to improve is track time, and because of the rules, they can only get that at the races.  In baseball, it'd be like drafting a player out of high school, then only being allowed to play him if he's in the big leagues... no minor league playing time once the majors start their season.

Race coverage begins at 1230am Sunday morning... see you there!

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March 26, 2010

Australia Second Practice 2010

The good news is that Kamui Kobyashi's front wing didn't fall off in the second practice session.  The bad news is that it rained.  Twice.  While some teams tried to take advantage and get some running in the wet, most of the teams quickly discovered that the track was too wet for the dry tires, but not wet enough for the intermediates.  Rubens Barrichello said it best when, over the radio to his pit crew, he simply said "we're not learning anything.  We know the white lines are slippery."

Picture from the 2009 Australian Grand Prix
It's those lines that earned the Albert Park circuit "God's Slotcar Track," by the way.  Because of the ooky track conditions, nobody could really decide what shoes to run.  As a result, a lot of teams very quickly chewed through their tires.  P2 was, essentially, a waste of time for the most part.

So let us, instead, look at what's going on around F1!  The big news up and down the pit lane is the rather embarrassing announcement that the virgin Virgin Racing VR-1 was built with... a fuel tank that was too small.  Oy.  The team estimates that it really needs to be about 21 liters larger for their car to have the ability to run a race distance.  After going to the FIA, begging and groveling, they've been given dispensation to install a larger tank.  The problem is, however, that F1 cars are built to such tight tolerances that to install a bigger fuel bladder requires a complete redesign and rebuild of the chassis.  The amount of work needed to be completed will mean that the new chassis will be a whole new car... and that should mean new crash testing and all that sort of thing.  It goes without saying that the costs of all of this rework will be astronomical... and for a new team, perhaps too much to carry.  Of course, the chances of the VR-1 actually finishing a race for the forseeable future are slim to none, so maybe they won't bother.

Speaking of the new squads, Hispania Racing Team got a grand total of zero complete laps in P2 from their two cars.  Bruno Senna's car had a telemetry/electrical  problem and never left the pits, and Karun Chandhok's HRT HRT made it 100m out of the pit lane before it died, apparently of embarrassment.  To be fair, they did complete 43 laps in the first session between the two drivers.

Darth Bernie Ecclestone told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport that he intends for F1 to be back in the US in 2012.  "I'm trying to get F1 to the US in 2012, opposite Manhattan in New Jersey with skyscrapers in the background.  The track would be just fifteen minutes from the city centre of New York. It would be something great," said the F1 Troll.  I'll believe it when it happens, says the F1 Wonderduck.

Finally, the weather forecast for Australia is great: thunderstorms all afternoon and evening.  Which means a wet race, which means fun fun fun!  Except for one tiny detail... remember last year's Malaysian Grand Prix, when it rained so hard that the race was delayed, then called at about the halfway mark because of darkness?  The Australian Grand Prix will be starting at 5pm local time, and it will be twilight-ish at the end of the race.  If it rains during the race... 

Quals are late tonight; I'm going to try to stay awake for it.

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March 25, 2010

Australia First Practice 2010

Since SPEED doesn't provide coverage of the first Friday practice session, I'm afraid I can't be sure of what's going on, but it seems that Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi is having a bad day.  To whit:

Yes, having your front wing come off in the tight confines of Australia's Albert Park is probably the very definition of "having a bad day."

From what I've been able to find out, earlier in the session he hit a pylon and lost his wing, ending up in the kittylitter (causing a red flag for the session).  The car was returned to the pits , the nose repaired and he went back out... and then the nose fell off on it's own?  That's gotta be a horrible feeling for a driver.

Coverage of P2 will come around sometime Friday evening.

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March 23, 2010

Random Anime Picture #53: Aria Bowling

For a lark, I decided to watch the first episode of Sketchbook ~full color's~ this evening.  I'd forgotten just how much I enjoyed the whole laid-back pace of the show... and then this came across my monitor:

-Sketchbook ~full color's~, Ep01
I nearly fell out of my chair, I was laughing so hard.  I completely forgot that was in there!

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March 22, 2010

Ga-Rei Zero, Episode 12

Last episode, the Schoolgirl In Black took on The Agency... and won, killing KDad, The Boss, Motive Power Kiri, one of the Nabuus, the HMMWV and a gazillion grunts, turned Mr Laser Weasel into a bowl of pudding, and scarring Isayama along the way.  It looks bad for the Tokyo, and by extension the entire world.  But don't forget that the Schoolgirl in White, Kagura, has taken up the mantel of Byakuei's Master.  It's time for a showdown!

But first, it's time for some red-hot paperwork action!  Actually, Kagura returned to the office, only to find a note from Mr Laser Weasel.  We never get to see what it says, but "I quit" seems to be a good guess.  Maybe "I'm running in abject terror" would work, too.  Isayama, quite sensibly, says that it's better that way; no use in him getting killed because he can't actually bring himself to hurt his former fiancee.  What's left of the Disposal Team is going after the Schoolgirl In Black, even though she just kicked their butts all the way 'round Tokyo, across the Kanto plain and nearly to Hokkaido.

"Take me with you.  Take me... Yomi."  Okay, now it's time for a showdown!


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Until It Is Here, Here Is Something Else

I've begun work on the writeup for the final episode of Ga-Rei Zero.  While you're waiting, please enjoy this picture.

-Hatsukoi Limited ED

Unfortunately, she never actually wears that outfit in the show...

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March 21, 2010

F1 On SPEED!: Australia 2010!

After the snorefest that was Bahrain two weeks ago, the F1 Carnival heads to Australia this week.  On the whole, the semi-street circuit at Albert Park in Melbourne brings us an entertaining race every year, so we can only hope that this year is more of the same.  Let's take a look at the track map:

The Australian track runs around a man-made lake in a large city park.  For those of us in the US, imagine a racetrack in New York City's Central Park, and you've got the basic idea.  It uses tarmac built specifically to be part of the circuit, parking lots and public roads to create the layout.  Because of this, there are a ton of slippery spots all the way around the track due to the painted lane stripes.  These stripes are what gives it the nickname "God's Slot Car Track."  Due to a resurfacing in 1996, it's pretty smooth and thus easy on tires, though some braking zones have some surprise ripples.  It's not particularly hard on brakes.  The track is wide and forgiving for the most part.  Basically, it's an easy circuit to drive.  But, like most street circuits, there's armco barriers all the way around and very little runoff area where there isn't armco.  You get off-track here, and you've usually broken your car.

The other interesting feature of the race is the start time, 5pm local.  The sun will be in the drivers' eyes all day as they come down the main straight and the run from Turn 2 to Turn 3, getting lower all the while.  That's just gotta be annoying.

Well, the good folks at SPEED will do their darnedest to bring us their usual stellar coverage.  Friday's second practice session comes to us live from 1230am to 210am on Friday morning.  The Quals are Saturday morning from 1am to 230am, more-or-less live.  The Grand Prix of Australia itself is Sunday morning from 1230am to 3am, and there are no replays scheduled that I can find... so either stay up late, record it, or miss it altogether!  All times are Central Pond Time; subtract two hours for San Francisco, add one for Cleveland. 

See you then!

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March 20, 2010

Computers, HidaSketch Style

Things like this never fail to amuse me endlessly.  One of the two new characters in Hidamari Sketch Hoshimittsu, Nori-chan, has a computer in her apartment, something none of the other girls has.

As an aside, I've completely changed my opinion of Nori as a character in the show.  Before, I didn't like either of the two new girls.  While I still dislike Nazuna, who behaves like a scared puppy (minus the carpet wetting, at least on-screen), Nori has shown herself to be just as interesting and charming as the Original Four.  But I digress.

Nori has a computer, and you know that if there's a computer in a slice-of-life show, it's gonna be used sooner or later (Chekhov's Keyboard?), and like as not, we're going to see it booting up.

So do we all, Shaft, so do we all... on a tangental note, HidaSketch might be the first show by Shaft that I've really liked, though they did split credit on G-On Riders!, so that's arguable.  Anywhodles, the boot screen makes me wonder about Nori-chan's uncle, the builder of her computer...

"I've got a Computer Acronyms For Dummies book here, let's just choose some at random."

Though you've got to like the BIOS name and version...

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Reliving The Nightmare

It was six months ago today that Momzerduck passed away.  I still find myself wondering why the telephone doesn't ring around 7pm every night.

Wow.  I thought I could write about how I'm feeling, but I find I can't without losing it.  Instead, I'll just leave this here:

I miss her so very much.

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March 19, 2010

Midway: The Forgotten Plane

The list of aircraft involved at the Battle of Midway reads like a roll call of legendary planes.  The best fighter in the world in 1942, the A6M Zero.  The Aichi D3A Val and Nakajima B5N Kate, striking arm of Kido Butai.  The F4F Wildcat, sturdy and resilient.  SBD Dauntless, the premiere dive-bomber of WWII.  The hapless Brewster Buffalo.  The tragic TBD Devastator.  The PBY Catalina played a major role in finding the Japanese fleet.  Even the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-26 Marauder and TBF Avenger made small but dramatic appearances in the battlespace.

Oft neglected amongst all these stellar names, though, is a little-known dive-bomber flown from Midway by Marine squadron VMSB-241 known as the SB2U Vindicator. 

Designed to a 1934 US Navy requirement, it entered squadron service three years later.  On the whole, the Vindicator was a bland, inoffensive airframe with no outstanding qualities or drawbacks.  The US Navy's first monoplane dive-bomber, it could carry a 1000lb bombload and was armed with two machine guns, one on a flexible mount for the observer and one firing forward.  Like many planes of the time, the rear fuselage and tail were fabric covered.  Powered by a 825hp Pratt & Whitney engine, it could cruise at 150mph and maxed out at 243mph.  While equipped with dive brakes, these were found to be dangerously ineffective, meaning that pilots were forced to extend the landing gear when performing a steep diving attack.  This limitation was countered somewhat by use of a reversible-pitch propeller.  It also had a habit of shedding fabric from its airframe in a steep dive.

When war broke out in Europe, France was desperate for aircraft of all types and placed an order for 90 V-156 (the export version of the Vindicator), though only 40 were ever delivered to the Aeronavale, and 24 entered squadron service.  Though originally acquired to serve on the CV Bearn, that ship sortied only rarely and never with any V-156s on board.  Thus when the German blitzkrieg rolled into France, the Vindicator operated from land bases only.  Most of the French aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and the rest were quickly worn out from nigh-constant (and mostly ineffectual) use.

The British Fleet Air Arm also used the Vindicator, though they called it the Chesapeake.  Amusingly, their pilots gave the plane the epic nickname of "Cheesecake."  Intended for use on escort carriers for anti-submarine duties by 811 Naval Air Squadron, it was quickly discovered that it was wholly unsuitable for such short flight decks.  Withdrawn from carrier duty, 811 Squadron's Chesapeakes were replaced by the Fairey Swordfish and used for training.

The US Navy put SB2Us on four of its carriers between 1937 and September 1942, the USS Saratoga, Lexington, Wasp and Ranger.  It provided stout service but was quickly phased out of carrier service when the SBD Dauntless became available.  It was around this time that the Vindicator earned its second great nickname when it became known as the "Wind Indicator."  Aboard the Ranger and Wasp, the Vindicator provided cover for multiple Atlantic convoys, while in the Pacific the Navy gained valuable experience in operating dive bombers off of carriers pre-war.  Despite this, no Navy SB2Us ever saw combat. 

Vindicators taking off from Midway, early June 1942.
It was in service with the US Marine Corps that the Vindicator experienced its first (and last) action.  The Marines were provided with a variant of the SB2U, the -3 with more armor and a much larger fuel tank.  The fuel tank allowed VMSB-241 to fly the 1200 miles from Hawaii and Midway, which was at the time a world record for single-engined planes over water.  The squadron reinforced Midway just before the battle itself.  There were 11 Vindicators in VMSB-241, along with 16 Dauntlesses.  Squadron leader Lofton Henderson put his best pilots in the SBDs, leaving the SB2U-3s, under command of Major Benjamin Norris, to be flown by true rookies, many of whom had never actually executed a dive bombing attack.

On June 4th, 1942, this mixed squadron attacked Kido Butai.  With their higher cruising speed, the Marine SBDs arrived over the Japanese fleet some minutes ahead of the slower Vindicators.  While the Dauntlesses went after the carriers and thus were treated rudely by the Japanese CAP, Major Norris realized that, with his slow planes, his detachment stood no chance of surviving a run at the CVs.  Wisely, he and his rookies executed glide bombing attacks on the nearest Japanese capital ship, the battleship Haruna.  The 11 SB2Us scored a few near misses, which did no damage to the battlewagon, while losing two planes to Zeros, while battle-damaged Vindicators ran out of fuel on the flight back to Midway.  As with the TBF and B-26s, the SB2U-3's main role in the Battle of Midway was to keep Kido Butai busy defending itself from attack, preventing it from launching an attack on the American fleet.

By early 1943, all Vindicators had been withdrawn from mainline duty, reduced to training roles, and subsequently forgotten.

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March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day 2010: The Aftermath

He never could hold his liquor...

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St Patrick's Day 2010

Sure'n a happy St Patrick's Day to you from all the wee duckies of The Pond!

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March 15, 2010

Ducks In Anime: Yuno's One Of Us

So in the newest episode of HidaSketch, Yuno gets locked out of her apartment and ends up spending five nights away, one night with each of the other residents of the complex.  When she finally gets back into her place and discovers that the place smells horrible due to a rancid pot of soup, she stays another night with Miyako.  But what does she grab from her apartment as it airs out?  Her duckie.

-Hidamari Sketch Hoshimittsu, ep10
And later that night, as she takes a bath in Miyako's tub, she apologizes to her duckie for leaving it alone in the dark for so long.

Of all of the duckie appearances in the HidaSketch franchise, and there are a ton of 'em, this is the one that convinces me that Yuno is, in fact, a duckie fan and not just someone who has a duckie in her bathroom.  Give her a few years and she'll be visiting duckplanet and too. 

That's a darn fine duckie.

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March 14, 2010

F1 Update!: Grand Prix of Bahrain 2010!

All the effort in the offseason is done.  The long hours spent designing, fabricating, assembly, testing, retesting, redesigning, and re-retesting are over.  Now it's all for real, and which team, which driver, which car is the best... all the questions are about to begin to be answered.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the first race of the 2010 season, the Grand Prix of Bahrain!

*THINGS LOOK THE SAME:  When the lights went out and the grid began to move, Red Bull's Sebastien Vettel pulled away from his spot on pole and immediately began to assert his dominance over the rest of the thundering herd.  While HWMNBN got past his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa going into Turn 1, neither Red Car was able to hang with the Red Bull driver.  Within a couple of laps the lead was up to two seconds and showed no sign of decreasing anytime soon.  Ominously however, Vettel's teammate Mark Webber showed signs of a mechanical problem going into Turn 2:

Webber (left) pretends to be a WWII destroyer.
Webber's smokescreen caused a kerfluffle that sent both Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil into spins that ruined each drivers' race.  Sutil in particular was in good shape when the lights went out: his was the only car in the Top 10 on hard tires, and if things went the way they had in Practice and Quals, everybody else would find their soft tires failing quickly, leaving Sutil the way clear for a potential podium position.  The spin dropped him down to 18th and killed his tires.  Webber, however, showed no signs of performance loss from whatever it was that caused the smoke.

*FARTHER BACK: Almost as interesting a question as "who's going to win" was "how are the new teams going to do?"  Well, if you had Lap 1 in the "When will one of the new cars fail" pool, you're a winner.  HRT's Karun Chandhok, with only a few laps in the car under his belt, discovered that the new section of the Bahrain International Circuit has some serious bumps hiding in the turns.  Hitting one of those sent him onto a curb, and henceforth into a wall.  The good news for the team was that it wasn't a mechanical failure that ended his day.  The next casualty from the new guys was Virgin's Lucas di Grassi who had to retire with a hydraulics problem on Lap 2.  His teammate, Timo Glockenspiel, followed him into the garage 14 laps later with a bad gearbox.  The other HRT driver, Bruno Senna, lasted 17 laps before something peacefully broke at the rear of the car.  If one considers the Sauber team as "new," you can count them amongst the New Casualties as well, with both cars dying from hydraulic failures by Lap 28.  The last of the new teams, Lotus, had both cars make it to the finish one of their cars finish the race, though two laps down.  The other one broke something in the hydraulic system on Lap 46... so close!

*...AND THEN:  Seb Vettel's lead settled down around five seconds going into the pitstops.  Ferrari had told HWMNBN to push as hard as he possibly could however, and the lead started to drop.  By Lap 32, it was down to 1.2 seconds.  A radio transmission from Red Bull to their driver told the true story, though: "Just keep the gap intact.  He'll burn his tires off."  Everybody seemed confident, and Vettel had surely shown that he could easily keep HWMNBN behind him.  And then Vettel's car broke.  The engine note changed, dropping from a high-pitched scream to a throaty growl, and immediately both Ferraris swept past him with the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton doing the same a couple of laps later.  For the next ten laps, the question was how many other cars would get past him.  While Nico Rosberg, Slappy Schumacher and Jenson Button closed right down on Vettel, with Rosberg being only a second behind, none of them were able to get past the crippled car.  Up ahead, HWMNBN and Massa brought home a Ferrari 1-2 with Hamilton joining them on the podium.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: HWMNBN.  He got past his teammate at the start, drove a solid race, put pressure on Vettel and stayed close enough to the Red Bull to take advantage of its exhaust header failure spark plug failure when it occurred.  He eventually won by 16 seconds.  Yep, that's a pretty good run.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Ferrari.  In 2009, the Prancing Horse suffered one of their worst seasons ever.  They only had one win (Spa), one of their drivers nearly died, and they had the nightmare of Luca Badoer qualifying and finishing dead last three races in a row.  So a 1-2 finish must be something of a redemption for them, and there is already muttering up and down the paddock that we'll be seeing a lot more of this in the coming months.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  We'll think of one eventually, but right now it looks like the changed rules might have actually made it more difficult to pass.  If so, this is not good.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Nico Hulkenberg was having fun early in the race.  Other than having to take evasive action due to the usual first turn hijinks and thus losing a few spots, he was racing with a Toro Rosso and a Sauber for position.  On Lap 3, however, he just flat-out lost the car.  The rear snapped one way, then the other, and then the car just went sliding completely out of control, cutting across two sets of curbs. 

It's just a good thing the Toro Rosso guys wear brown pants.  Welcome to F1, Nico Hulkenberg!  For your unforced error, you're the first 2010 winner of the Moooo-ooOTR!



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March 13, 2010

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2010!

So the first qualifying session of the 2010 season is in the books, and while some things have changed, the results sure look the same.  Let's take a look at the grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1

1 Sebastian Vettel

2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:55.313

1:54.331 1:54.242
3 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:54.612

1:54.172 1:54.608
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes

1:54.707 1:55.217
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Benz GP Ltd

1:54.682 1:55.241
6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:55.298

1:54.318 1:55.284
7 Slappy Schumacher
Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:55.593

1:55.105 1:55.524
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:55.715

1:55.168 1:55.672
9 Robert Kubica Renault 1:55.511

1:54.963 1:55.885
10 Adrian F'n Sutil
Force India-Mercedes 1:55.213

1:54.996 1:56.309
11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:55.969

12 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:55.628

13 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:56.375

14 Pete Rose
BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:56.428

15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:56.189

16 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:56.541

17 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:56.167

18 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:57.071

19 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:59.728

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:59.852

21 Heikki Kovalaininninninnie Lotus-Cosworth 2:00.313

22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2:00.587

23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 2:03.240

24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 2:04.904

A bunch of new rules changes that we need to talk about before we get around to discussing the grid.  First off, all qualifying sessions are now done on low fuel.  Prior to this year, teams had to declare how much gas they'd start with in the race, and carry that in Q3.  Since there's no refuelling in-race now, everybody gets the same amount of gas (more or less).  Another switch is that the cars in Q3 have to start the race on the tires with which they set their fast lap.  In other words, if they used (say) soft tires to qualify, that very same set must be on the car to begin the race.  Finally, teams are limited to 11 sets of dry tires for the entire weekend, and can only use six sets during the race itself, three of each compound. 

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at how the cars'll line up for the race!  No shock at the top of the grid, what with Seb Vettel and Luscious Liz on the pole.  Perhaps a small surprise in Massa beating his teammate, HWMNBN, particularly considering the rumors that Felipe is a little twitchy being back in the cockpit.  No surprise at all is that Nico Rosberg handily beat his teammate, Slappy Schumacher.  Schumi's been unhappy with his car all weekend, and has been right around 8th on the timesheets the whole time.  World Champion Jenson Button must be disappointed to be picking up right where he left off last season with a lukewarm qualifying session.  His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, is probably also disappointed, despite ending up fourth on the grid... he always expects to be on pole when he's got a halfway decent car under him.  And a big 'attaboy' to Force India for their 10th-12th qualys.  I'm amazed, but we might have to consider them halfway serious contenders!

Really, though, we need to give the techies at HRT a round of applause.  Despite a major gearbox problem that prevented Karun Chandhok from getting any track time in the three practice sessions, the team pulled an overnighter to get the car in running order.  Of course, Chandhok ended up 24th, but he got seven laps under his belt, each one faster than the one before it.  His first flying lap was 2:11, and taking six seconds off the time is pretty good.  Okay, yes, he's nearly 11 seconds off the pace, but good job anyways!  None of the new teams could be considered quick, however.  Actually, "quick" isn't in their vocabulary... yet.

So here we go!  The first race is right around the corner, and I can't wait!  See you tomorrow!

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