November 30, 2011

FIghter Argument Taking Longer Than Expected

I spent 90 minutes researching one of the planes, and typing details up took another hour.  At this rate, I'll be done sometime around next July.  Yeesh.  I don't want to keep y'all in anticipation for too long, though.
While you're waiting, have a Wildcatfish!

I love that name...

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November 29, 2011

F1 News Flash: ...And Mumbles Makes Six!

Big news from Renault today as it was announced that they had signed former World Drivers Champion Kimi ("Mumbles") Raikkonen for the 2012 season.  His return from self-imposed semi-exile means we'll have a record SIX different Drivers Champions on the grid next year as he joins Seb Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Slappy Schumacher and HWMNBN.

We last saw Mumbles driving for Ferrari in 2009, after which he left the sport to become another in a long line of Finnish rally drivers.  He then drove a limited schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (driving the #15 Perky Jerky Toyota Tundra) and one race in the Nationwide Series, the Triple-A league of NASCAR.

Raikkonen is probably best known for being the sole Ferrari driver I could actually stand, even when he won his Championship in 2007.  Unfortunately, his signing comes hard on the heels of the announcement that Robert Kubica, injured in a rallycar accident before the 2011 F1 season began, will not be ready to drive for the beginning of 2012.  That probably means that he's out of F1 permanently, I'm afraid, as Renault really wanted him back.

It seems likely that both of Renault's 2011 drivers, Bruno Senna and The Red Menace, will be kicked to the curb, with Lettuce Grosjean taking the second seat.  The Red Menace does come with a metric farkton of sponsorship money, however, so that's not for sure yet.

In his introductory press conference today, Raikkonen said "Rmbmbmbmbmbbmmbm mrnmrbmmrmmbbmbr mrrrbrmmrbml."

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November 28, 2011

Which Fighter Is Best? Part I: Introduction

If you stick two or more WWII otaku in a room, supply them with beer and pretzels and a suitable collection of Avalon Hill games, close the door and walk away, three things will happen:

1) the beer will disappear;
2) a game will be played (probably not Source of the Nile, however);
3) an argument will break out.

Unless the argument is about the rules of the game being played ("Of course a T-34/85 can move in a lake hex... the rules don't say it can't!"), it will invariably be one about "which is best".  Best tank, best rifle, best navy, best game, best way to carry dice (Crown Royal bag), best infantry, the topics one can choose from are endless.

Except amongst the grognards I know, the discussion always veers to "best fighter."  There would never be any structure to these arguments, devolving quickly to people championing their favorite plane, sometimes (depending on the amount of beer consumed) quite heatedly.  Almost always the answer would end up being the P-51 Mustang, because, well, look at it

But is it really the best fighter of World War II?


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November 27, 2011

F1 Update!: Brazil 2011

The skies above looked ugly, big black clouds approaching the Autodromo Juan Carlos Pace seemingly from all directions.  It wasn't raining yet, but every driver on the grid and every mechanic in the pit lane had an eye cocked towards the heavens, looking for the first hint of drizzle, downpour or deluge.  Would rain be the deciding factor in this, the last race of the season, or would we get a straight-up run to the checkered flag?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Brazil!

*LIGHTS OUT:  As we've come to expect, once the race began Seb Vettel streaked away from his pole position to open a 1.1 second lead over his teammate Mark Webber.  After two laps, it was 2.4 seconds and this began to have all the hallmarks of a battle to see who would be the first to finish the race AFTER the Driver's Champion.  But all was not well inside the guts of Seb Vettel's RB7.

*INTERLAGOS HATES GEARBOXES:  Around Lap 14 we first got evidence that this race was not going to be going all Seb Vettel's way.  A radio broadcast from the pit wall said it all: "We need you to short shift into second gear."  A couple of laps later came another call: "We have a gearbox problem.  Short shift for second and third gears."  As the race went on we were treated to more such calls... and Seb Vettel's unintentionally humorous responses.  For example, on Lap 25 the team's message was an audibly more urgent "we have a serious gearbox problem, short shift please."  In response, Vettel ripped off the fastest lap of the race thus far.  Then, finally, the team made it perfectly clear to their World Champion that he had to baby the gearbox if he wanted to finish the race: "Short shift every corner, every lap."  If nothing else though, Vettel wanted to race, impending gearbox failure or no, for he replied the way a racer should: "If I do that, I'll fall behind!"  Alas, the radio was cut at that point, for we suspect the pit wall's response would have done justice to a pissed-off Marine drill sergeant.  While Vettel's situation proved to be the most amusing, his was not the only car to be plagued by a balky gearbox.  McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was warned that he had a dying gearbox and that there was nothing he or the team could do about it.  A few laps later, an ugly grinding noise announced that the ratios had departed this Earth and headed to gearbox heaven.  Force India's Paul diResta and Renault's Red Menace also had gearbox issues but they held together long enough to complete the race with little reduction in speed.

*RAIN.  PRECIPITATION.  MOISTURE.:  As the race began, the FIA's weather prognosticators  reported that it was going to rain, it was just a question of when.  They had good reason to believe this; you could see rain falling in the city of São Paulo just beyond the Autodromo Juan Carlos Pace's walls.  Repeatedly the purveyors of precipitation sent warnings to the teams: "Rain in five minutes." "Rain in 10 minutes." "Rain expected inside of 30 minutes."  On Lap 35, Ferrari tweeted that there was going to be rain in just a few minutes... and immediately brought HWMNBN in for a set of dry weather tires.  Confusion reigned amongst the Legendary Announce Team.  Finally, the masters of moisture gave up, saying that they didn't expect any rain until after the "current checkered flag."  As Bob Varsha said, "what, there are more than one?"  In the end, the expected rain never did fall and the race proceeded apace.

*TOWARDS THE END:  After the Red Bull pit wall blistered the ears of their youthful wunderkind, his Australian teammate began to close in at the rate of a half-second per lap.  On Lap 30, the Driver's Champion pulled aside to let Webber go by.  A good call, as racing a hobbled car against a teammate's healthy vehicle never ends well.  Suddenly everything became much more interesting, for while first place in the Driver's Championship had been locked up a month ago, there was still an active battle for second, third and fourth.  The only hope Webber had to finish second was to win the race and for McLaren's Jenson Button to have a breakdown and for HWMNBN to finish fourth or worse.  If Button got even one point, he'd be second no matter what the Red Bull driver did.  The failure of Hamilton's gearbox gave hope that Button's would suffer a similar fate, but the Ferrari driver seemed to be firmly ensconced in third place.

*AND THEN...:  Going into the final round of pit stops, the order was Webber, Vettel (driving a gritty race), HWMNBN and Button.  All four drivers put on the harder tires and set sail for the end of the race and the season.  It looked like Button would finish second in the Driver's Championship, followed by HWMNBN and Webber... except for one thing.  If there was a single overarching problem with the Ferrari F150° Italia all year, it was that it was terrible on the harder tires.  If there was one thing that Jenson Button had proven again and again this year, it was that he could make his McLaren MP4/26 work well on any tire compound... and today was no exception.  He began to take huge chunks of time out of the Ferrari's lead, leaving no doubt what was about to occur.  On Lap 61, Button simply cruised past HWMNBN for the bottom step of the podium, coincidentally handing third place in the Driver's Championship to Mark Webber.  However, the race was not yet over, for as Button dealt with the Spaniard, Seb Vettel began to show signs that his gearbox was making his life a nightmare.  He completely blew a turn, taking to the asphalt runoff area to continue the race.  If that continued, Button had a slim chance to catch him for second place.

*THE END:  While Button was snipping a half-second off of the gap to Vettel per lap, the lead was much too great.  Mark Webber swept across the line for his first (and only) victory of the year, followed some 17 seconds later by Vettel's limping Red Bull.  Button was next to cross the finish line 11 seconds later, followed by HWMNBN with a similar gap. 

*FINAL DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: Vettel, Button, Webber, HWMNBN, Hamilton, Felipe Massa.  Curiously, Grizzly Nick Heidfeld, who hadn't driven since Round 11 in Hungary, still finished in 11th place.

*FINAL CONSTRUCTOR'S CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Williams, Lotus, HRT, Virgin.  If you took all the points from third through 12th and added them together, you'd have a total of 772 points.  Red Bull alone had 650.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Seb Vettel.  At one point in the race, he radioed to his pit wall that he felt "like Senna in '91."  In that particular Brazilian Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna won the race despite having only first, second and sixth gears.  Here, Vettel kept his crippled gearbox going well enough to not only finish second, but finish second easily.  While we still don't know exactly how bad his gearbox damage was, the increasingly strident calls from his race engineer suggested it wasn't good.  A sterling drive for the two-time World Champion in difficult circumstances.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  Really, how can you not give it to them?  They finished 1-2, they coaxed an ill car for some 60 laps across the finish line (when their biggest rivals couldn't get one of theirs to last 10 laps from when the problem became apparent), and heck, they just squashed the sport all season long.  Just tip your cap to them and move on to next year.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  In Formula 1, particularly in the age of DRS and KERS, a pass can come at any time two cars are close enough.  There are certain places and times, though, that a pass just doesn't occur.  In the S-Curves at Suzuka, for example, or Turn 1 at Monaco.  It just isn't done.  Another of that sort is Turns 6 and 7 here at Brazil.  Fast right-hand sweepers of decreasing radius, blowing those will ruin the entire middle sector of Interlagos, if it doesn't pitch you off into the Brazilian terrain.  So of course it's ridiculous to expect to be passed there, and it's even more unlikely that you'll have to defend against a pass on the outside of the turns.  So on Lap 11, when HWMNBN closed in on Jenson Button heading down the short chute to Turn 6, Button probably felt pretty good.

...and then the Ferrari, tires apparently covered in stickum, Krazy Glue and honey, swooped to the outside of Button and blew the metaphorical doors off the McLaren.  A heckuva pass in a very unlikely spot!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  Rule #1 when performing a tire change: tighten down the wheel nut.  Rule #2: make sure you follow rule #1.

Thanks, Virgin Racing.  We knew we could count on you to give us a laugh today, and you didn't disappoint.  The wheel nut's bid for freedom gave us a chuckle during a tense race.  Here's your Mooooo!



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November 26, 2011

Some Thoughts About This Latest Re-Install

My graphics card still doesn't play well with HD WMVs on WMP10.  It all works on ZoomPlayer though, so it's all the same to me. 

What's a little weird is that, somewhere along the way, XP lost the drivers for my (integrated) sound card.  No surround sound, in other words, which is odd.  It's not a big deal, since the subwoofer still works perfectly well and I had a marginal surround setup anyway.

I'm now using FireFoxy 3, and... it'll take some getting used to. 

I dunno if Microsoft Security Essentials is working or not, though it says it is.  One thing that I really like about it already is that it isn't nearly as intrusive as my former antivirus program.  For as long as I've been blogging here at The Pond, it's always taken a long time for any page inside the blog to load... as long as two minutes or more for the "New Post" screen, for example.  Now?  A couple of seconds, max.  Uploading pictures takes nary any time at all, where it used to take for-frickin'-ever... which made all those picture-laden RRG! posts even more painful, if that's possible.

That's all, nothing really to report.

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F1 Quals: Brazil 2011

The year was 1991.  Operation Desert Storm liberated Kuwait from the Iraqi military.  The New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV.  Boris Yeltsin was elected President of Russia.  Red Grange passed away.  Mount Pinatubo erupted, killing 800.  The first Sonic the Hedgehog game was released by Sega.  The Warsaw Pact came to an end.  Danny Thomas passed away.  Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested.  The Super Nintendo was released.  Linus Torvalds first reveals the Linux kernel on Usenet.  Rajiv Ghandi was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers.  The Minnesota Twins defeat the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series.  The Halloween Blizzard catches a Grad School student named Wonderduck by surprise.  The Soviet Union officially dissolved.  Freddy Mercury, Dr Seuss and Gene Roddenberry all pass away.  And a 21 year old Brazilian named Rubens Barrichello starts his first Formula 1 race.  In 1992, the very next season, Nigel Mansell set a record earning 14 pole positions in that season.  Today, Rubens Barrichello may be qualifying for his final Formula 1 race, and Seb Vettel has a chance to break Mansell's record.  But did he?  Let's look at the provisional grid for the 2011 Grand Prix of Brazil:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:13.664 1:12.446 1:11.918
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:13.467 1:12.658 1:12.099
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:13.281 1:12.820 1:12.283
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:13.361 1:12.811 1:12.480
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:13.969 1:12.870 1:12.591
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:14.083 1:12.569 1:13.050
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:14.269 1:13.291 1:13.068
8 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:13.480 1:13.261 1:13.298
9 Bruno Senna Renault 1:14.453 1:13.300 1:13.761
10 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:13.694 1:13.571 No time
11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:13.733 1:13.584
12 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:14.117 1:13.801
13 DJ Squire
STR-Ferrari 1:14.225 1:13.804
14 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:14.500 1:13.919
15 The Red Menace
Renault 1:13.859 1:14.053
16 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:14.571 1:14.129
17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:14.430 1:14.182
18 Murshid Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:14.625

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:15.068

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:15.358

21 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:16.631

22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1:16.890

23 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:17.019

24 Tim O'Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:17.060

Q1 107% Time

It wasn't even close.  Not only was Seb Vettel the only driver to break 1:12.000, his 1:11.918 time was only a half-second off the Interlagos course record.  That time was set in 2004, when the cars had unrestricted V10 engines and could have all manner of bargeboards and winglets to increase downforce.  Further, a tirewar was in progress between Michelin and Bridgestone, thus providing wildly grippy (though grooved) tires.  So yes, Seb Vettel blew the field away with a lap that looked like he was on rails.  Everybody else, even his teammate Mark Webber, seemed to be having problems with grip, sawing at the steering wheel to correct and recorrect their paths through turns.  On the other hand, Vettel's pole lap looked like he was just on a casual drive through the country.  Amazing, simply amazing.  We've seen something here today we may never see again, unless Vettel happens to the 2012 season as well.

As far as the race tomorrow goes, there's a high expectation of rain during the race.  If that happens, it's a crapshoot as to who'll win.  No way I'd bet against Vettel though, no matter the weather conditions.

I hope he appreciates what's going on.  The race is Sunday, see ya then!

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November 25, 2011

The Never-Ending Re-Install II

Great googly moogly.  I started this latest reinstallation of my computer's operating system around 10am Friday morning.  Six freakin' hours later, I had finally... FINALLY... completed all the downloads, updates, installs and reboots.  Never mind such things as loading up the usual suite of programs, of which only Firefoxy is now installed.  I had to take a frickin' nap, I was so exhausted!  Or maybe it was because Thanksgiving was exhausting, one of the two.

UPDATE:  In the comments, Steven asks what the above picture is.  Would you believe it's a water tank?  It's part of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, just outside of Kasukabe, Saitama, Japan.  Built to prevent flooding of the city during typhoons, there's also five containment silos and about 6.5km of tunnels involved.  Combined with the pumps in the 177m x 78m x 25m water tank, it can move 200 tons of water per second into the Edogawa River.  I first became aware of it from Ga-Rei Zero, where it's the location of the climactic scene of Ep01.  See the below picture from how it looked there!

...and then the Schoolgirl In Black kills everybody.
There won't be a post about the Brazilian Friday Practice because, quite honestly, it was the same as always.  If something significant had occurred I'd let you know, but other than a chance of rain sneaking in for Sunday, a sighting of Racey The Owl, and Force India going completely insane...

Force India's mascot for the race.  I should send them a rubber duckie.
...nothing really happened.  So I'm going back to finish restoring my computer to full operating status, and I'll see you all for Quals in the morning!

UPDATE: Does anybody have the uTorrent 2.2.1 installer sitting around on their hard-drive?  The version I have is 2.0.4, and it won't update... and I've heard bad things about 3.0.  Lemme know in the comments!

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November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I like pumpkin pie.  A lot.  So much that I'd be perfectly happy having pumpkin pie all year round.  Which is why I don't let myself have pumpkin pie more than a once or twice a year.  Thankfully, today is one of those times.

That's a good start, yep.  For my readers here in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving!  If you're not in the US, have a grand Thursday! 

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November 23, 2011

Dragons Weep

When I was a young duckling of 9 or 10 years, confused and frightened by the divorce of my parents, I discovered the genre of writing known as science-fiction.  While my first book was Frank Herbert's Dune, and my favorite author Robert Heinlein (whose status remains unchanged some thirty-plus years later), the first series of books I ever read was the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.

I don't know how I found it, to be honest.  It may have come my way via Official First Friend of The Pond Vaucaunson's Duck, which means it probably came from the library of Vauc's father, Dr John.  It may have been one of the many books I read when I visited mid-state Illinois.  It's even possible I stumbled upon it on my own.  However it occurred, I remember being utterly fascinated by the combination of ugly politics, high action, (what I now think of as shallow) characterization, and everywhere, everywhere there be dragons.  Psychic dragons. 

As a young'un, I totally loved the whole Pern universe.  I inhaled the six books in the series (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums, and White Dragon) as fast as they came my way, then read it again.  And again, because I knew that the story was over.  Then Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern came out, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven: it was a prequel, which meant plenty of time (and stories) for more books!  I was slightly confused by Nerilka's Story, the next book, because it told the same story as Moreta, just from a different point of view... nowadays, I find that sort of thing to be very clever, perhaps an offshoot of my love for secondary characters (don't tell me what Kirk does, tell me what Redshirt #4 did).

And then, somewhere along the way, I "grew up."  Oh, I still read the Pern books when they came out, but the critic in me began to notice the fairly bland characters, the overly-simple plotting, the incredible amount of Mary-Sue-ing and on and on.  I began to think of McCaffrey's world as one for a younger Me.  I was excited to have The Masterharper of Pern come out, as it finally filled in the backstory of my favorite character of the universe, Robinton.  Then... the books kept coming, but I stopped reading.  Then they kept coming, but with Anne McCaffrey's son Todd's name on the cover, and I rolled my eyes.  Not for me, thank you very much.  I had moved on to deeper, harder science-fiction.

Today, Anne McCaffrey passed away after suffering a massive stroke.  While I haven't opened one of her titles in years, inside of me that scared nine year old mourns the loss of a very creative writer, whose books helped shaped the sci-fi reader I am today.  Thank you, Anne.

UPDATE: Friend GreyDuck has similar thoughts.

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November 21, 2011

F1 on SPEED!: Brazil 2011

After 18 races across 17 countries, the F1 Circus pitches their tents for one last time for the final race of the season.  This time, we find ourselves in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, racing on the track formally known as Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, but more commonly known as Interlagos.  Let's take a look at the track map:

It's no secret that I dislike the circuit at Hungary, nearly to the exclusion of all others.  The one track I despise more than the Hungaroring is paradoxically one of the more popular races amongst the F1 drivers... this one.  To be honest, my dislike of this circuit has nothing to do with the track itself.  Indeed, this is the sort of layout I would quite like normally.  A lot of elevation change (the run from Turn 1 to the end of Turn 3 is all downhill, and from Turn 12 aka Juncao to Turn 15 is all uphill), fast sweeping turns, a "technical" section that is relatively inoffensive... it's a challenging track, and one that's really quite appealing.

Except I hate it.  It's completely irrational for me to dislike Interlagos, but there's an emotional aspect involved.  As I've mentioned in the past, it always feels gray on race day (even when it isn't).  The racing line for Turn 15 goes right through the pit-in, and with the positioning of F1's cameras at Turn 1, looking all the way down the front straight, it always looks like cars are going to crash into the pit lane barriers at 170mph.  The pit out is the longest in F1, too.  Furthermore, the track is positioned between two man-made reservoirs that provide water to São Paulo, leading to the name "interlagos," literally "between lakes."  The pressure of the water has caused the surface of the track to wrinkle, leading to a very bumpy surface.  A resurfacing in 2007 did not entirely solve the problem.  All of these things make this a track I really don't like.

The fact that it's the final race of the season might have something to do with it, too.

Still, this is what we've got this week and it's not a Tilkedrome, that's gotta count for something.  Pirelli is bringing a new soft tire compound to the race, one that they say is less conservative than the previous rubber.  The medium compound will be the "hard" tire this time around.  Interlagos isn't a particularly hard track on the tires, so expect the softs to last for a while... unless Pirelli has put the razor blades back into the compound like they did back at the beginning of the season.

Whatever way it works out, the good people at SPEED! will be bringing us the Legendary Announce Team all weekend long!  Let's take a look at the broadcast schedule, shall we?
6a - 730a: Practice 1, streaming
10a - 1140a: Practice 2, LIVE
7a - 8a: Practice 3, streaming
10a - 1130a: Quals, plausibly live
930a - 12noon: 2011 Grand Prix of Brazil, LIVE.  There's also a replay from 11a-130p on Monday.

And then that's it until January, when we'll start to see F1 Pr0n with the rollouts of the 2012 cars.  Of course, F1U! will be all over this weekend, with a desperation born of the end of the year.  It helps that the whole weekend is at times where I can actually watch it live!  We'll see you then!

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November 20, 2011

Photojournalism Teaser

A while ago, I said I was working on a "photojournalism project."  It's taking much longer than I expected.  It's also costing more than I expected; supplies have run around $50 or so, and there's more coming... mostly batteries. 

While you wait for this massive project to be completed, I'll leave you this teaser:

No, I'm not going to give you any point of reference for it... you'll just have to either wait or figure it out for yourself.  Heh.

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November 19, 2011

Disaster Averted

As I mentioned in the comments of the post below, following what seemed to be a perfectly harmless link late last night/early this morning dropped me into a world of computer nightmare.  To whit, my computer was infectorated with some nastyuglyick.

My anti-virus program is proving to be more turnstyle than blocker, I have to admit.  To be sure, it notified me of the nastyuglyick, asked me if I wanted to block it... and then let it through anyway.  That's not the first time that particular sequence of events has occurred, either.

Oddly, this nastyuglyick didn't really seem to do anything other than do annoying crepe.  Much of that, I'm sure, is down to the wonders of Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware program, which did yeoman's work in cleaning and polishing my computer.  I've done nine passes (including three full scans and one full scan in Safe Mode) with that greatest of disinfectorators, and I've been clean for the past six.  Tack on a system restore to Thursday night, and I think a disaster has been averted.

Since last night/early this morning when the nastyuglyick first hit, there's only been one symptom... but it was a doozy, and I only just now finished fixing the last of the affected items.  Somehow, the nastyuglyick changed every file folder to "hidden" status except for one: the programs folder, and everything in it.  Every icon on the desktop was hidden as well, except for My Documents, the Recycle Bin... and My Computer.  Everything else was missing, including everything under the START button.  With the programs folder still being visible, I was able to run The King of Disinfectorators directly.  With My Computer still being visible, I was able to get into Help & Support... which gave me a link to System Restore.  And lo, it was cured.

Which doesn't mean that I trust that assumption, oh no.  There's a Windows reinstall in my near future... fortunately, it's the week o' Thanksgiving, which means the Duck U Bookstore closes early on Wednesday... and I won't have to be back until the following Tuesday!  I'm taking Monday off so I can devote my undivided attention to the last race of the F1 season on Sunday... all day, if need be.  I suspect the reinstall will be done on Black Friday, that day that all retailers love and all retail employees hate.  As I no longer work in "traditional" retail, I don't have to worry about it, and indeed for the past 7 years I've never left Pond Central at all on Black Friday... I refuse to inflict that on myself for any reason, now that I don't have to.

So, a question: anybody have personal experience with Microsoft Security Essentials?  Is it as good as the reviews suggest?  Does it work?

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November 16, 2011

Canards dans l'animation: Je ne parle pas francais

-Wakfu, S02E14
Now that, my friends, is one smug looking duckie.  As one would expect from a floating convenient censorship device.  Not that he doesn't have reason to be smug...

...after all, rubber duckies get to hang out in bathtubs with teh hawt chix0rs. 

Yes, he has a reason to be smug.

Interesting show, this Wakfu.  Or, more correctly, interestingly animated show.  From what wikipedia says, it's all Flash-based, yet it's much better than any Flash cartoon coming out of the US.  To be honest, if I didn't know better I'd say it's animated the same way as any anime, just with a more cartoony look.  A look that fits the tone of the series, I might add... though since I've only seen the one episode, I'm hardly an expert on the thing.  A fun way to spend 20 minutes, though.

(tip o' le chapeau to Mauser for the pointer!)

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November 15, 2011


I find I just don't have much in the way of spare spare time these days.  I'm working on a huge bit of photojournalism and playing Civ V and getting the Duck U Bookstore through inventory and playing Civ V and reading 3000 pages of fiction and playing Civ V and trying to catch up on my anime and playing Civ V and you get the picture (and playing Civ V).  Inventory was today, so that'll loosen things up a bit; I won't be coming back to Pond Central as exhaustipated as I've been. 

The fiction came as something of a surprise, as other than the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, I've not done much "casual reading" the past few years.  What happened was that we got a shipment of remaindered books at the Bookstore, including a copy of Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber... for $3.99.  I picked it up, started reading... and kept reading.  I then picked up the next three books in the series and read those, too.  I finished the fourth book last night, so that'll loosen things up a bit.  I won't be coming back to Pond Central exhaustipated and craving another fifty-odd pages.

The photojournalism... well, you're just gonna have to wait for that one.  On the Anime front, I'm watching Fate/Zero and Ben-To as they come out, and I'm casually finishing up Yuru Yuri and iDOLM@STER from last season.  Ben-To has turned out to be the surprise hit of the Fall... a surprise to everybody but me.  From the moment I heard of the concept, I loved it. 

So I'm sorta not focused on the blogginating at the moment.  That should change soon, but unless CXT coughs up his topic from winning the last Mystery Ship contest, I'm not looking hard for anything to write about.  That's okay, Civ V is waiting...

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November 13, 2011

F1 Update!: Abu Dhabi 2011

The grid formed up under a bright but setting sun for the penultimate race of the season with the familiar sight of Red Bull's Seb Vettel on pole.  However, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button obviously had the measure of the RB7.  On this track where passing is a rarity, the run to the first turn could be decisive.  Which car would lead the field?  THIS is your F1U! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.

*SHOCK:  The lights went out, releasing the Thundering Herd to charge down to Turn 1.  In what had to be the least surprising outcome ever, Vettel not only held the lead into the first bend, but quickly showed that everything we had thought about the McLaren's advantage over the Red Bull was false.  As the Red Bull powered into and through the turn, it opened a four or five car-length advantage over Hamilton and we here at F1U! threw up our hands in disgust.  And then...

We still haven't heard exactly what caused Vettel's right-rear tire to deflate, sending the Red Bull into a spin just as he turned into Turn 2.  It may have hit a carbon-fiber shard left over from the earlier GP2 race.  When the car accelerated off the line, it may have had enough grip to torque the tire off the rim.  It may have had a slow puncture even before the race began.  Whatever the reason, by the time Vettel got his car back on track for the slow, difficult crawl back to the pits, tire flailing at the rear bodywork the whole time, the entire field had gotten past.  By the time he made it to his pit stall and officially completed his first lap, the field had mostly finished the second.  Mechanics swarmed the Champion's car, but a fast and thorough inspection of the right-rear made it clear that the damage inflicted by the shredded rubber was too bad to allow the RB7 to continue.  Seb Vettel had retired from a race for the first time this season.

*AWE:  With Sebby out of the picture, the mantle of "dominating leader" fell to Lewis Hamilton.  By the end of the first lap, he had a 2.5 second lead over the Ferrari of HWMNBN who got into a scrap with Jenson Button for second place, aiding Hamilton's attempt to pull away.  Once things settled down, it became clear that the McLaren would not be headed in any way.  Farther back, Jenson Button fell to 4th place, passed by Mark Webber, when his KERS unit failed.  While he was eventually able to get it working again, for the rest of the race he would wind up having to reset it every two or three laps.  Back up at the front, it was obvious that we were looking at a strategy race.

*PITS:  With Lewis Hamilton able to open a lead but not able to run away and hide, any excess time spent in the pits would be crucial.  Of course, pit stops have always been important in F1, but it's been rare this season for the pit crews to be decisive.  At a track where a pass was difficult to pull off, and even harder to make stick, time lost or gained in the pits would be a bonus beyond horsepower's abilities to create... or make up.  As it turned out, that's exactly what occurred: cars that had quick stops were able to maintain their positions, and those with poor stops lost position.  When Button had a good first stop but Red Bull had an uncharacteristically slow one for Mark Webber, Webber fell out of the race for third place.  As it turned out, he never recovered, even with the team switching him onto a three-stop strategy... with the third stop, for the mandatory run on the harder of the two tire compounds, coming on the final lap.  On the second round of stops, HWMNBN stayed out two laps longer than Hamilton, trying to open up enough of a gap to jump the McLaren for the lead.  Any sort of gap he had been able to create was thrown away by a methodical, safe... and slow... stop from the Ferrari mechanics.  Where McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull routinely spit out stops in the 3.5 second range or even faster, it took Ferrari 4.5 seconds to service HWMNBN.  Going into the stop, he had maybe a 50/50 chance to keep the lead.  Coming out, Hamilton had easily gone past, regaining the lead and holding it for the rest of the race.

*ENDING:  The rest of the race was somewhat anticlimactic.  Hamilton took his third victory of the season by over eight seconds over HWMNBN.  Jenson Button had managed to keep his recalcitrant KERS unit functional enough to take third, some 20-odd seconds behind the leader.  Mark Webber looked like he was going to have a tough time finishing fourth; his lead over 5th place Felipe Massa was right on the edge of the "pit delta", the amount of time it took to drive into the pits, get serviced, then rejoin the race.  The delta time was 20 seconds, and he had almost exactly that much of a lead.  But then Massa made the matter moot by spinning and handing Webber 15 seconds to play with.  Somewhere in the Red Bull compound, a bemused Seb Vettel could only wonder what could have been...

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  HWMNBN.  Hamilton had the better car, the better pit crew, and the better strategy.  Yet he just could not dispose of the Ferrari driver, who hung grimly just off the tail of the McLaren, never letting him get free and clear.  All of this was done with a Ferrari that wasn't as fast or nimble as his opponent.  Probably one of the most impressive drives for second I've seen in a long time.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  When Sebby went away, the boys from Woking knew they had a chance to play Bigfoot... and they took it.  Even a balkly KERS unit in one of their cars didn't prevent them from getting both drivers on the podium.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  To be honest, it's hard to give this award today.  There just wasn't all that much passing of note.  We suppose we'll have to give it to both Mark Webber and Jenson Button, for their duel on Lap 3.  Button led the pair into the long long straightaway.  Webber got to use the DRS and just barely managed to get past the McLaren when they swooped into the chicane.  However, there were TWO DRS zones today, and now Button got to use it to counter-attack... and immediately blew Webber's metaphorical doors off.  Highly entertaining, but not exactly dramatic.  A tepid "Meh" to the Abu Dhabi track, and a "meh" MotR.

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  Another "meh" for this award.  There just wasn't that much bad driving occurring.  The most bovine maneuver had to be Felipe Massa's spin when he had a chance to finish fourth.

To be fair, he did have some damage to the right element of his front wing from running over some debris, and he was on the harder tires.  A spin is a spin, however, and it did kill any hope he had of his best finish of the season, so Felipe Massa: A Moooooo is you!


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November 12, 2011

Ducks In Anime:

-Hidamari Sketch x SP Ep02

I'm a firm believer in the magic of rubber duckies.  Really, there's nothing a rubber duckie can't improve.  I'm glad the folks at SHAFT agree with me, at least as far as HidaSketch goes. 

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F1 Quals: Abu Dhabi 2011

Now THAT'S how you do a qualifying session.  Let's get right to it; here's the provisional grid for the 2011 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:40.478 1:38.516 1:38.481
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.782 1:38.434 1:38.622
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.227 1:39.097 1:38.631
4 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:40.167 1:38.821 1:38.858
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:41.380 1:39.058 1:39.058
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:41.592 1:39.623 1:39.695
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:41.120 1:39.420 1:39.773
8 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:42.605 1:40.554 1:40.662
9 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:40.595 1:40.205 1:40.768
10 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:41.064 1:40.414 No time
11 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:41.311 1:40.874
12 The Red Menace
Renault 1:40.955 1:40.919
13 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:41.737 1:41.009
14 Bruno Senna Renault 1:41.391 1:41.079
15 DJ Squire
STR-Ferrari 1:41.386 1:41.162
16 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:41.613 1:41.240
17 Vicar Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:42.258 1:41.760
18 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:42.979

19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:43.884

20 Tim O'Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:44.515

21 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1:44.641

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:44.699

23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:45.159

24 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth No time

Q1 107% Time

Pole #14 on the season for Seb Vettel, tying the record held by Nigel Mansell.  That's impressive enough, but how he did it today was the real story.  To be blunt, this should have been Lewis Hamilton's pole.  He had been fastest in two of the three practice sessions and in the first two quals periods.  When Jenson Button crossed the line on his final hot lap in Q3, Hamilton was just a few seconds behind him on the track.  It came as no surprise when Button's pole time fell to Lewis, though the .009 second time differential did cause some raised eyebrows and amazed chuckles here at Pond Central.  And then the cameras cut to Seb Vettel.

Red Bull had gotten him out last for the final run to pole, and he had clear track in front of him.  While he'd been quick in Q1 and Q2, it wasn't the normal Red Bull Dominating Performance®... you never got the feeling that he had something in reserve.  It seemed like Vettel had been getting the most out of his car could give today, and for whatever reason it just wasn't as good as the McLarens. 

But then Vettel began his final hot lap.  The first two sectors were good, but nothing that would put him on pole.  Third, maybe.  In the previous two races at the Yas Marina Circuit the Red Bull chassis always stood head and shoulders above everybody else in the final sector, but not this year.  The McLarens had been trading purple numbers between themselves for Sector 3 all weekend.  Everything pointed to Vettel having no chance to be on pole.  And then Vettel was perfect.  That's the only way to describe that final sector... the perfect line, catching just the right amount of curb, putting just the right amount of pressure on the brakes and gas pedals, the absolute minimum of steering input used, gears changed at exactly the right moment.  When he entered Sector 3, he was nearly .2 of a second behind Hamilton's pace.  When he exited, he had pole by .141 seconds.  Truly astonishing, and after seeing it I wondered how he didn't have 18 poles this season.  However, and this is an important note, his pole lap was still slower than Hamilton's fastest lap in Q2.  The McLaren and the Red Bull cars are, for all intents and purposes, equal.  It should come down to the best driver between Hamilton, Vettel and Button for the race... and I'm not sure that doesn't mean Jenson Button won't win.  We'll find out on Sunday!

You'll note that Rubens Barrichello did not turn a timed lap in Q1.  He had an oil leak in his Cosworth engine, his seventh of the season's allotment of eight.  The team wants him to have a fresh engine for Brazil, so to protect the seventh engine they decided not to put any extra avoidable stress on it.  This decision brings up an interesting statistical note.  Barrichello has made 330 starts in his F1 career, far and away the most in F1 history... and tomorrow will be the worst starting position he has ever had, either 23rd or 24th, depending on if he is placed ahead of, or behind, his teammate Vicar Maldonado who has a 10-spot grid penalty.  Rubens has driven for some truly, epically bad teams: Honda, Jordan, Stewart.  In some of those years, there were 28 cars on the grid.  He's never been this low at the start ever.

In any case, we might just have ourselves something of a race tomorrow.  F1U! will be all over it, see you then!

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November 11, 2011

F1 Practice: Abu Dhabi 2011

A sunny early evening at Abu Dhabi greeted the F1 Circus as they took to the circuit for Friday's second practice, and it appears that something unexpected has occurred.  The combination of Pirelli tires and a race run in both day and night may not be the most awesome thing ever.  Everything was fine and dandy while the sun was up and the track was warm... but when night fell and the asphalt began to cool, the Pirellis just sort of surrendered any vestige of grip they may have had. 

First, Mark Webber looped his Red Bull underneath the hotel.  Then his teammate, the reigning Driver's Champion Seb Vettel, lost it heading into Turn 1, sliding all the way across the vast expanse of runoff area until he gorked his car into the SAFER-like barriers.  He was unhurt, but the right side of the Red Bull was toast.  About ten minutes after this, HWMNBN came racing down towards Turn 1 and not only did he lose it just like Vettel, he wound up planting his Ferrari into virtually the same place as the Red Bull. In the Spaniard's case, he wound up going into the barriers backwards, causing untold amounts of damage to the hazard flasher.  Throw in Felipe Massa nearly reaching the barrier in P1 and Lewis Hamilton nearly having an exciting moment in P2, and you start to notice a trend here. 

Other than that little bit of data, the other interesting thing that crawled out of the Abu Dhabian desert is that neither Red Bull was particularly fast around the track today.  Jenson Button lead the way in P1, Hamilton in P2... with the two Red Bullies ending up 5th and 6th.  I've always said you can't trust practice times, and I'll stand by that statement, but you don't usually see a Red Bull a full half-second behind the leader in any session for any reason.  I'll keep an eye on this, but for some reason I'm still expecting to see Sebby on pole after Q3 comes to an end on Saturday.

Meanwhile, we learned that Sauber's Pastor Maldonado is going to take a 10-spot grid penalty for Sunday's race.  He's had to use a ninth engine on the season when you only get eight.  Vaya con dios, Sauber and kiss that seventh place in the Constructor's Championship goodbye as Toro Rosso is looking awfully decent so far. 

I mentioned earlier that the difference between 5th and 8th place in the Constructor's Championship is measured in the tens of millions of dollars.  Oddly enough, the Legendary Announce Team was talking about that very topic today.  While the actual numbers are shrouded in mystery and skullduggery, whispers suggest that last year, Red Bull was awarded some $85 million for winning the Constructor's Championship... and Williams' sixth place earned them a $60 million check from Darth Bernie's bank account.  Some $660 million was paid out to all the teams in 2010.  Understand this: $60 million would be enough to fund some TEN high-ranking NASCAR teams for an entire year.  Yeah, there's some money floating around F1.

Quals in the morning, see ya then!

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Veterans Day 2011

At 11 o'clock in the morning of the 11th of November, 1918, silence fell across the Western Front.  No shots rang out.  No artillery rounds exploded.  The cease-fire that would lead to the end of World War I had finally been declared.  Around the world, people everywhere celebrated... and mourned.

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson made November 11th Armistice Day, a national holiday.  In his proclamation, he said:

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."

After World War II, a movement began in Emporia, Kansas, to turn Armistice Day into a holiday honoring all vets.  In 1954, Congress officially replaced "Armistice" with "Veterans", and the day has been known as Veterans Day ever since.

Today, we honor all those who have served our country, and remember those who gave their lives in her service.

Without you, we wouldn't be able to do the goofy things we do today.  Thank you.

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November 10, 2011

Just For The Record...

I gots nuthin'.  Nuthin', I tell ya.  And so I'm posting to tell youse that I've got nuthin', so youse don't come here thinkin' I got sumthin', cause I gots nuthin'.  I'll have sumthin' tomorra, and I hope to have sumthin' really swell on Saturday, but right now?  Nuthin'.  But I'm not gonna leave youse with nuthin', nuh-uh.  If I leave youse with nuthin', youse might t'ink that nuthin's all I'm ever gonna have, so here's sumthin' to keep youse from t'inkin' dat.

See, dat's sumtin' fer nuthin'.  One t'ing it ain't is nuthin' from nuthin'.  'Cause nuthin' from nuthin' leaves nuthin', and you gotta have sumthin' or you gots a song that ain't gots no melody, I wanna sing it to my friends.  Will it go round in circles?  Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky? 

See?  Nuthin'.

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