May 07, 2010

F1 Practice: Spain 2010!

Other than Nico Hulkenberg leaving the nose of his Williams in a tire barrier, there wasn't a whole lot of interesting stuff occurring on track in Barcelona today.  Red Bull was blindingly fast, McLaren was probably sandbagging, yadda yadda yadda.

However!  This is the first European race of the season, which means that every team has put new bits and pieces onto their cars after lessons learned during the first four contests.  While most of the cars weren't particularly or obviously different, Mercedes has made some serious changes to the MGP-W01.  First off, they've gone back to their pre-season testing chassis layout and in the process, lengthened the wheelbase by moving the front suspension forward.  This was done to make Slappy Schumacher happier, as he just couldn't quite get a handle on the car.  The most visible change, though, was to the airbox.  Let's take a look, shall we?  Here's the first version of the car:

And now, the new version:

The bulbous air intake with the splitter on the inside is gone, replaced by an intake on either side of the "shark's fin."  Not quite as visible is two smaller intakes, just below the top ones.  Those are either for cooling purposes or for their inevitable "F-Duct" modification, copying McLaren's clever rear-wing stalling device that gives them such a straight-line advantage.  Also not quite visible is that their "shark's fin" is now perfectly smooth instead of curved by the airbox.  That's got to improve the airflow back to the rear wing immensely.

In other news, the news is that Ferrari has signed a contract option with Robert Kubica.  From all reports, the team has to make the call by July 22nd.  That would suggest that Felipe Massa will be a free agent after this season, since HWMNBN has a multi-year contract with the red team.  Speaking personally, I believe this to be horrible news, since I actually like Kubica and it'd make me sick to see him with Ferrari.

In some good news, Sauber has finally gotten a sponsor!

Yes, The King has come to F1.  Dear merciful god in heaven, could we actually see McDonalds sponsorship in Hungary?  Could Zsolt Baumgartner be far behind? 

Quals in the morning.

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May 05, 2010

Chekhov's Tank

Over at (warning: not safe for those without a lot of time), there's an entry entitled "Chekhov's Gun."  It gets its name from a famous law of playwriting by Anton Chekhov, which states "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.  If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."  This is an admonition against unnecessary things in a story, and works very, very well.  So when we first see the giant spider tank in Sora no Woto, it's immediately clear that, even though it's in pieces, it WILL be used some time in the series. which point, I closed ZoomPlayer and said "no thanks, no longer interested." 

Until last weekend.  Either caught up or bored with everything else I've been watching recently (K-On!!, Angel Beats, a few others), I restarted the show again... and wondered just what the hell was wrong with me the first time.  I blitzed the 12-episode series in two days, enjoying myself the entire time.  Okay, sure, it's a show about Japanese girls wearing German uniforms exploring a Japanese music school in a Spanish town full of French people celebrating Chinese New Years in Switzerland, shooting South African owls while piloting multi-legged, talking, demon slaying, Amazing Grace-singing, 500mm coil gun firing "son of the god of fire" supertanks from the future, but I'll be darned if it isn't really, really good.

It's NOT "K-On! Goes To War" as people described it when it first debuted.  Music plays a small part in the show (the aforementioned Amazing Grace ties the characters together in a way the series explains quite well), other than the main character being a military bugler.  It's certainly a better looking series than K-On!, without a doubt.

Which is amazing, considering that only a couple of years ago, Kyoto Animation (who does K-On!) was considered the preeminent studio for "pretty shows." 

Having said all that, Sora no Woto isn't a great series, but it is good.  It's entertaining, has a pretty good story behind it, and characters that you get interested in.  The show's downfall is that it's too short.  I think it needed another three or four episodes, as the final story arc changes the tone of the show abruptly from rather light-hearted to a dark war story.  If that arc was extended it would have done the story a world of good... but I don't think it'd support a 24-episode series.  And yes, Chekov's Tank does get used.

If you haven't seen the show, give it a look... you won't regret it.

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May 04, 2010

Just A Pleasant Sunday DriOMGWTFWASTHAT?!??!

Just watch it all.  Trust me on this one.

Okay, now click on more to see, well, more.


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May 03, 2010

F1 on SPEED!: Spain 2010

FINALLY!  After a three-week layoff that allowed the teams to tunnel their way back to Europe from China after the eruption of Mt Eyja... Eyjafjalla... Eyjafjallajokullirokdhsdfoihxcvnkwndlaopijxzwhatever, the F1 Circus is picking back up again!  Of course, there is the little thing about where it's picking up at. 

You see, if there is such a thing as an "average Formula 1 circuit," the Circuit de Catalunya is that circuit.  Let's take a look at the track map:

There's nothing wrong with the home track for the Spanish Grand Prix, but there's not all that much that calls out to the watcher, either.  While Turn 16 used to be an exciting full-speed blast onto the front straight that allowed a slipstreaming car to get a huge tow into a passing position, nowadays you have the whole turbulence problem that ruins a trailing car's aerodynamics.  Other than Turn 1 there really aren't any good passing opportunities.  Heck, the circuit only has one really memorable turn, #10 "La Caixa", but even that is kinda "meh" in comparison to the TRUE famous turns (Eau Rouge, Lowes Hairpin, etc etc etc).

Then there's off-season testing.  While limited, the teams still turn hundreds of laps in the offseason, and most of them are done at the Circuit de Catalunya.  It's been like that for years, and as a result every bump, every wobble, every blade of grass and crack on the layout is ingrained in the institutional memory of the F1 engineering staff.  Any driver who's spent more than a year or two in F1 knows the track well... Slappy Schumacher can probably drive it with his eyes closed, Rubens Barrichello knows its curves better than his wife's, and the DNA of HWMNBN (who hails from Catalunya) isn't actually a double-helix, it's shaped like the track.  Even the track surface is dull, being neither particularly smooth or abrasive.

What I'm saying is that because everybody knows everything there is to know about this place, it isn't a place that lends itself to excitement.  It's like a well broken-in pair of shoes or a 12-year old sweatshirt: no surprises here.  Heck, in 1999 there was only one pass made for the entire race.

The only thing that can shake up the parade is the weather, and rain is uncommon.  However, due to its location, wind can play a big role; it's not unheard of for the race to start with a tailwind down the front straight that changes to a headwind halfway through.  That sort of thing can cause F1 teams to pull out their metaphoric hair as it trashes the aero planning. 

Now, the new fuel rules may change things a little bit... or they may not.  Either way, we'll find out beginning on Friday from 7am to 840am as the Legendary Announce Team brings us LIVE coverage of the day's 2nd Practice Session. 

Saturday, of course, has Quals staring us in the face, plausibly live, from 7am to 830am.  The 2010 Grand Prix of Spain is Sunday, LIVE from 630am to 9am.  There's a replay from 1030am to 1pm (I think; it's hard to tell on the SPEED Boards sometimes).

So that's it!  We're back in the groove with F1, and F1 Update! will be all over it for you!  Paella and flan for everybody!

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May 01, 2010

The Flock

Once upon a time, there was... a rubber duck.  Its name was, and remains, Scooter The Wonderduck.  This is that duck:

Scooter The Wonderduck has been with me since 1989 or thereabouts, and has place of pride amongst my flock of rubber duckies, for he is The First Duck.  He's in remarkably good shape for being 21 years old.  He's got a black smudge on the right side of his chest from falling off a U-Haul's dashboard, and his color has faded a little bit, but he's still a grand example of the species Anatidae Crocinus.  And tonight, my friends, he would like to introduce you to those who have come after him: Wonderduck's Flock.


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