March 30, 2011

Iowa's Bathtub


The USS Iowa was the namesake for what was arguably the best class of battleships ever built.  Launched in 1942, she was commissioned in 1943.  Displacing 45000 tons, her engine rooms could still move her through the water at a blistering 33kts.  Her main armor belt was 12" thick, while her three main turrets were armored to nearly 20" in thickness.  Those turrets carried three 16"/50cal rifles each, and each of those guns could fire a 2700lb shell over 23 miles.  Twenty 5"/38cal guns formed her secondary battery, and could be used for both anti-aircraft or anti-surface work.  Four of the mammoth warships were built.

But only one had a bathtub.

Late in 1943, the heads of state for the three major Allied countries, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt, were to meet in Tehran for a strategy conference.  The US Navy choose the USS Iowa to take President Roosevelt on the first leg of the journey to Iran, crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  But there was a small snag.  President Roosevelt had developed an illness in 1921, at the time diagnosed as polio, that had paralyzed him from the waist down.  He could only walk by swinging his legs laboriously via a twist of his torso, and leg braces and crutches were mandatory.  FDR was also pretty much incapable of standing without assistance from one or two individuals.  This ruled out his use of a shower, at the time the only form of bathing available on US warships.  As the trip would take quite some time, something had to be installed for his use.  That something was Iowa's Bathtub.

Who knew?

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March 28, 2011

Rio Rainbow Gate! ep12

There are times when I question my own sanity.  Like tonight, for instance.  It's the last night of a mini-vacation for me, four days away from the Duck U Bookstore.  On my DVR are three movies I really want to watch, I've got laundry to fold, and all in all there's plenty of things I could be doing.  Instead, I find myself watching Episode 12 of Rio Rainbow Gate!, a show which is really quite bad.  So this is one of those times when I question my obviously tenuous grasp on what remains of my sanity.  Why in the world do I subject myself to this? 

The virtuous answer would be "so you, my readers, don't have to," but honestly I'd prefer company in my misery.  Near as I can tell, I'm the only blogger regularly covering RRG!; certainly I've looked hither and yon for another and come up empty.  The selfish answer would be "to inflict this misery on others," but I try to avoid being sadistic usually.  The frightening answer is "I secretly enjoy this drek."  While there might be some kernel of truth to this one, there have been plenty of shows I like more that I've written about less... or at all, for that matter.  There's the historical answer: "I'm recording this for posterity, for the chance that future generations will see it and not make the same mistake," which, while admirable, is just bull hockey.  I'd hate to think that we're the only ones in history stupid enough to create a RRG!.   No, I believe there is only one true correct answer.

Two, actually.
Nobody is as saddened by this revelation as me.  I liked to think I had come somewhat farther than that in my thinking as I've gotten older, but apparently maturity has evaded me.  Sad, really... particularly because RRG! is pretty tame as far as fanservice shows go.  But yet, here I am, spending hours blogging about it.  Lord knows it isn't for the plot, the characterization, the action, the artwork or the humor.  So what's left?

We open sometime after the end of Episode 11, with a formal contract being signed by The Owner, evil Cartia, Our Heroine and Rina.  There's to be a final Gate Battle, winner takes all.  If Rio wins, she gets the Gates, The Owner gets Casino Island back and all is cotton candy and unicorn farts.  If Rina wins, she gets the Gates, her revenge on those who ruined her family, and evil Cartia gets to "see the Rainbow," whatever that means. 

But first, The Owner takes Rio and The Usual Suspects on a vacation.  Everybody wonders about the timing of this, and to be fair it does seem somewhat strange.  I mean, it's not like Rio is on the top of her game, even though she's managed a good comeback from her devastating loss some episodes ago.  Well, maybe this will refresh her.  My guess is that The Owner just wanted to see everybody in swimsuits.

Yes, just like that.  But the island they're headed to has a dark secret behind it...

more...

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March 27, 2011

F1 Update!: Australia 2011

The 2011 season picked up where the 2010 season left off, with Red Bull ascendant.  Seb Vettel had dominated Qualifying, and his teammate was directly behind him on the grid, but the surprisingly quick McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were right next to them.  Behind those four stalked the prancing horse, the Ferraris of HWMNBN and Felipe Massa, and the resurgent Renault of Vitaly Petrov.  Could we be seeing a repeat of Red Bull's astounding year, or could one of the others knock them off their drinks cart?  THIS is your F1Update! for the first race of the 2011 season, the Grand Prix of Australia!

*BEFORE:  The weather in Melbourne was glorious.  The sun, low in the sky with the 5pm local start, shined in the clear blue sky.  All of Albert Park seemed to glitter on the television screen, the gray skies of the past two days gone.  Even the traditional flyby of the Qantas 747 seemed more spectacular than normal.

There may be a large percentage of the population of Melbourne that doesn't want Formula 1 in their city anymore, but that doesn't stop them from turning out in droves and putting on a show, I'll give them that.  On the grid, there was a minute of silence in memory and support of those lost and suffering from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Traditionally there has been deep ties between Formula 1 and Japan.  Many, if not all, of the drivers have raced there at one time or another in lower Formula (not to mention the Japanese Grand Prix), and of course Sauber's Gandalf Kobayashi and Virgin's reserve driver Sakon Yamamoto are from Japan.  Honda and Toyota have only recently left the sport, and of course last year's tiremaker Bridgestone is based in Japan, so this was a nice gesture for the sport to their fans in that country.

And then it was time to race.

*DURING:  The strategies up at the front of the grid were all pretty clear.  For polesitter Vettel, it was to stay in front, despite the handicap of a non-functional KERS system, turned off in the Red Bull cars for unreliability reasons.  For Hamilton, get past the 2010 Driver's Champion and keep him there.  For Mark Webber, Vettel's Red Bull teammate, it was a little more complex: get past Hamilton, keep Button behind him, and do well in front of his home nation's fans, something he has not managed to do very well in the past.  For HWMNBN, the goal was to get past the McLarens and stay in touch with the Red Bulls... and for god's sake stay in front of the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, lest there be a repeat (however unlikely) of the race at Abu Dhabi last year.  For those further back in the horde, the goals were infinitely more simple: survive the first turns with the car in one piece, then get on with racing.  When the lights went out, Vettel made it clear that this was going to be a long race by easily keeping everybody behind him, and indeed, pulling out a six or seven car-length lead by the end of the second turn.  Try as he might, Hamilton had no answer for Vettel's start, and indeed had his hands full keeping Webber behind him.  Vitaly Petrov served notice that he was to be reckoned with by leaping into fourth and watching his Spanish rival drop all the way to ninth as he got squeezed by the Thundering Herd.  Button dropped to sixth, caught between the two Ferraris in the first couple of corners, one sliding back in the field, the other, Felipe Massa, making a start for the ages jumping up to fifth.

*AND THEN...:  As Vettel and Hamilton streaked away from Webber, and Webber pulled away from the rest of the field, Button and Massa began a most entertaining duel, one that played up both the strengths of the new technological marvels (KERS and the Drag Reduction System, aka the movable rear wing) on F1 cars these days and the weaknesses.  Massa was clearly slower than the McLaren driver, but judicious use of KERS in a defensive posture mixed with good driving kept the silver car behind him, though close on his tail.  Lap after lap the DRS, which could only be used on the front straight, allowed Button to nearly get past, but not quite.  Must have been frustrating for the 2009 Driver's Champion.  Eventually,  Button made a slightly unlikely attempt at a pass.  He got alongside Massa, but was pushed off-track onto an escape road.  The escape road allowed Button to get past the Ferrari, but in a way that was clearly a violation of the rules and he should have relinquished the position.  Instead, he did nothing of the sort, claiming that he was ahead of Massa when he was forced off-circuit and that he had right of position.  The matter went to the Race Stewards.  Meanwhile, two things occurred that showed that Ferrari are, depending on your point of view, either master strategists or conniving bastards.  First, Massa let his teammate HWMNBN, who had managed to claw his way back up towards the front after his awful start, past him.  This would mean, in effect, that Button would have to give up two positions when the Stewards invariably ruled against him, for he would have to let Massa get by, not the car behind him.  Then, while the Stewards continued their review of the situation, Ferrari called Massa into the pits for new tires.  This forced the Stewards' hands, giving them no choice but to give Button a drive-through penalty, thereby effectively ending any chance he may have had at a podium.  After the race, Button accused the Red Team of playing underhandedly.  Though it pains us here at F1U!, we completely disagree with Button and applaud the quick thinking of the Ferrari planners.

*MEANWHILE: Up and down the field, the DRS/KERS combination showed that they could be used to pass, making the battles down in the midfield quite entertaining.  Towards the front though, it became painfully clear that Vettel was having a field day.  The biggest surprise was the tires.  There was an immense performance gap between the faster soft tires which wore faster and the slower hard tires which lasted longer.  The problem was that the gap was so large that, at least amongst the top runners, the hards were completely unusable.  As an example, Mark Webber pitted from third, changing from soft to hard tires.  This put Vitaly Petrov into third.  As Webber exited the pits, he slipped and slided his way around Turn 1, then put in a few hideously slow laps before coming back in for new soft tires.  All the while, HWMNBN hacked the Red Bull driver's lead over him into tiny bits and indeed, passed him while Webber was in the pits for the second time.  When the Ferrari came in for new tires, you would have expected him to return to the track behind the Aussie, but it didn't happen that way at all.  In fact, he retained a decent lead over the Red Bull driver, all because of a few laps on the hard tires.  Some drivers could make the hards work, however.  Sauber's rookie Sergio Perez managed to pull off a one-stop strategy, starting on the hards and staying with them for around 40 laps.  He finished in seventh, and only the drop-off of the soft's grip happening a couple of laps earlier than expected kept him from giving Button a run for sixth.

*FINALLY:  Really, it was no contest.  Vettel cruised home with an easy 15 second victory over Hamilton, who had a 15 second lead over the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, who was closely followed by HWMNBN and Webber.  If this is any indication of how the season is going to play out, we're looking at a battle for second place in the Championship.

*AFTERWARD:  It had been a great race for the two Saubers.  Sergio Perez managed to pull off something of a coup with his one-stop strategy, finishing his very first F1 race in seventh, while Gandalf Kobayashi came in just behind him in eighth.  After the post-race scrutineering, however, both cars were disqualified for irregularities in their rear wings that violated Articles 3.10.1 and 3.10.2 of the technical regulations.  The team has filed an appeal, but is investigating in-house how the wings failed to meet spec, and may drop the appeal.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  In the last race of 2010, HWMNBN needed to get past Renault's Vitaly Petrov if he was to have any chance at winning the Driver's Championship.  This shouldn't've been much of a problem, as Petrov was prone to making mistakes under pressure, or even without pressure at all.  Instead, with a two-time world champion all over him, he drove smoothly, made no mistakes, and prevented the Ferrari driver from getting by him for position.  He showed that there was quite a bit of skill under his error-prone skin.  Today, with a good car under him, Petrov had a fabulous drive, showing that, at least on this day, he had shed his error-prone skin.  A well-deserved podium for The Red Menace.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  The team finished second and sixth, decent enough.  But what pushed them into "Team of the Race" status the admission by Lewis Hamilton after the race: "That's the longest the car's lasted!"  Of all the heavy hitters, McLaren put in the fewest laps in testing, dealing with reliability issues, and when they were on-track, they reportedly looked slow.  They got something right in the time since the final test at Barcalounger, and that earns them TotR.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On lap 22, Rubens Barrichello was closing in on Gandalf Kobayashi for 9th place.  Normally this would be challenging, since Gandalf has a knack for keeping cars behind him, but it was going to be downright hard this time as there was a limping Slappy Schumacher in the mix at the same time.

When a narrow gap opened between the Sauber and the Mercedes, the ever-brave Brazilian made a run for it.

Slotting his Williams between the Sauber and Slappy, he found himself to the inside coming into the turn, braked late and crossed his fingers.

It got close, but Rubens held his line, forced Gandalf wide, and took the place in a nifty little bit of driving. Well done, Rubens!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOVE OF THE RACE: One lap later, Rubens Barrichello got the bit between his teeth and made a run at the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.  At the same turn as his MotR, he tried much the same pass as before... except this time, it was from farther back and his opponent had the better line.  It could only end in tears.

Barrichello ended up spinning and losing a handful of places.  Rosberg ended up by the side of the track, unable to make it back to the pits, with either his radiator crushed or his oil cooler broken, smoke pouring from the rear of his Mercedes.  Nice job, Rubens... you might be the first to earn both the MotR and the MoootR in the same race!

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

more...

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Programming Note #2


All right, here's how this is going to work.  The F1Update! for the Grand Prix of Australia will go up this evening.  The writeup for Rio Rainbow Gate! Episode 12 will be up on Monday.

Ph.Duck has returned to Duckford after his two weeks in India.  Between watching the race last night and getting up on (mutters quiet obscenities) hours of sleep to get him back home after his 17.5 hour flight afterwards, all of which came on the heels of my Fantasy Baseball League auction (and quals earlier) on Saturday, your host is very tired, very headachy, and just not up to writing right now.

So I'm going to take a nap.  THEN I'll start writing. 

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March 26, 2011

F1 Quals: Australia 2011

The gloves are off.  The field is now level.  We'll finally get to see the true pace of the cars on similar setups: low fuel and soft tires, no-holds barred.  Throw in the stresses of the knockout format and the "new" 107% rule, and we're about to discover who's fast and who's not.  It's 2011's first Quals, and it's for the Grand Prix of Australia.  Let's take a look at the provisional results:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:25.296 1:24.090 1:23.529
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.384 1:24.595 1:24.307
3 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:25.900 1:24.658 1:24.395
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.886 1:24.957 1:24.779
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:25.707 1:25.242 1:24.974
6 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:25.543 1:25.582 1:25.247
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:25.856 1:25.606 1:25.421
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.031 1:25.611 1:25.599
9 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.717 1:25.405 1:25.626
10 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:26.232 1:25.882 1:27.066
11 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:25.962 1:25.971
12 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:26.620 1:26.103
13 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.812 1:26.108
14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:27.222 1:26.739
15 Father Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:26.298 1:26.768
16 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:26.245 1:31.407
17 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:26.270No Time

18 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:27.239

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:29.254

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:29.342

21 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.858

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.822

23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:32.978

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:34.293


Red Bull's Seb Vettel simply blew away the field in quals, never putting a foot wrong and taking a half-second off his pole time from last year.  This is even more amazing when you consider that the teams had been saying that the new Pirelli tires were trending around two seconds a lap slower than the 2010 Bridgestones.  It becomes flat-out astonishing when you realize that he had a KERS failure and couldn't use the power boost on his fastest lap!  He's nearly a full second faster than McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who will be second on the grid.  He's nearly 1.3 seconds ahead of Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button, who'll be starting fourth.  Australian Mark Webber, also of Red Bull, slotted into third.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa has never been fond of the track at Melbourne, and his discomfort showed quite clearly in Q3, managing only 8th while his teammate, HWMNBN, managed a stout 5th.  Indeed, as he rolled out for his first hot laps with two minutes or so left in the session, he immediately spun coming out of the pits, doing a lovely job of flatspotting all four tires in the process.  While others also had problems with grip, the diminutive Brazilian (try saying that three times fast) looked as if his racing line had been coated with teflon all day.

You'll note that Rubens Barrichello has a "No Time" next to his name in Q2.  Before he could get a timed lap in the books, he got a tire onto the grass, spun out and beached himself in a gravel trap.  Towards the end of the session, Adrian F'n Sutil had the Exciting Moment Of The Day™ when he hooked a tire off the pavement on the exit of the final turn.  His Force India immediately snapped hard right, sending him diving for the inside wall of the front straight.  Just as quickly, Sutil gathered the car up in a cloud of tire smoke and got it rotating the other way.  He wound up rotating a couple of times as the car progressed down the straight, but he kept it out of the walls.  As the L.A.T. mentioned, NASCAR announcer Darryl Waltrip calls that "crashing without hitting anything."  Indeed.

You'll also note that the times for the two HRTs of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Kittylitter are in a dark green, as opposed to red.  That means that they've run afoul of the 107% rule and are therefore to be excluded from the race.  The race stewards do have the option of giving one or both cars a dispensation, thereby allowing them to run in the race, but that would probably only happen if the other teams agreed... not likely.  It'd be a shame if they couldn't run, particularly considering their financial troubles and the immense effort the team put in to getting the cars ready to race, but the rules are on the books.

We'll find out soon enough.  The race is early Sunday morning, Pond time.  The F1Update! will be up... sometime on Sunday.  Ph.Duck is returning from two weeks in India sometime around 8am or so, and I'll be picking him up, maybe taking him to breakfast if he has the energy, that sort of thing.  So I'm not sure when I'll write the F1U! but it'll happen Sunday for sure.  See ya then!

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March 25, 2011

F1 Practice: Australia 2011

It's been a long wait, but F1 cars have finally returned to the track to begin the 2011 season!  I think we can officially say "Yay!" now.

As is usual with Practice sessions you can't take any of the times set as gospel, but the usual teams were up at the top and the usual teams were down at the bottom.  The more things change...

It's looking like the biggest factor in Sunday's race may not be the cars, nor the drivers, but the tires.  Both the Powers That Be in F1 and the teams asked new tire manufacturer Pirelli to create a larger difference in tire wear between compounds of rubber.  This shortens the life of the tire, making for more pit stops.  Well, be careful what you ask for, because Pirelli has come through in spades.   Using the soft tires as an example, reports are that it wears in a predictable fashion... until it completely drops off the table at a completely unpredictable point.  Once it does that, the tire is totally worthless.  You might get 10 or 12 laps of performance out of the rubber, but that's it.  Last year, you'd go for 12 laps, then if you took care of your tires, get another 20 laps of decent performance out of them.  Not now... now when the tires go off, a car can expect to lose five or six seconds per lap or even more.  If you're lucky, the tire hits that point when you're near the pit-in.  If you're not....  Even better, and I say that completely unsarcastically, the boffins on the pit wall won't be able to tell the drivers when that fail point is coming.  The driver will have to feel it themselves, and make the call on the fly.  THAT's good for the sport.

What isn't so good is that the new Pirellis appear to be somewhat fragile.  I don't mean in the way it wears, but in the base construction of the tire altogether.  Take a look at this:

This tire was the front-left of Seb Vettel's Red Bull.  All he did was run over a curb and it ripped a big chunk off the surface, revealing the canvas backing underneath.  Before you say something like "this must be an isolated case," one of the Virgin drivers had the same problem... on the back-right, and he didn't run over anything.  They're saying that these things shed rubber like a longhaired cat sheds fur in the summertime.  Something to watch for, that.

Speaking of Virgin, they and HRT seem to be in serious jeopardy of not qualifying for the race due to the return of the 107% rule.  Virgin was setting times fourteen seconds off the pace of the leaders.  HRT didn't get a car on track until there was around 1m45s left in the 90 minute second practice session.  They were too busy putting the car together in the garage and getting it into running shape to even hope to get a timed lap in.  They weren't even thinking about getting the second car into Practice 2, and everybody in the garage, from team principal Colin Kolles to the guy who sweeps up, looked exhausted.  According to SPEED's pit-lane reporter, the mechanics had been working on the car around the clock since Tuesday, and by the looks on the faces of the team members, he wasn't exaggerating.  I suspect that we'll be looking at a 20-car race on Sunday, maybe 22.  We almost certainly won't be seeing HRT. 

Qualifying early Saturday morning.

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March 23, 2011

The Greatest F1 Picture... EVER. And This Time I Mean It.

Earlier today, I was trying to figure out what I was going to post upon tonight.  Really, I had no idea...I was all set to just say "eh" and leave it at that.  Then the Official First Friend of The Pond, Vaucaunson's Duck, saw a comment from reader Dkallen99 and e-mailed me.

The contents of the letter were, essentially, "I dunno, I see the duck."

MUCH better.

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March 22, 2011

The Greatest F1 Picture... EVER.

Earlier today, I was trying to figure out what I was going to post upon tonight.  Really, I had no idea... nothing is going on as everybody gets ready for the first F1 race of the year, or more correctly, nothing interesting is going on.  Rio Rainbow Gate! episode 12 hasn't appeared on the intertubes yet.  I don't have a burning passion to post on a WWII vessel or plane at the moment.  I was all set to just say "eh" and leave it at that.

Then I found The Greatest F1 Picture... EVER.

Short of everything being on fire, there is no possible way to improve upon the perfection of this shot.  Really. 

In case anybody is wondering, that's Jenson Button driving the 2008 McLaren around the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst, Australia.  And a helicopter.  I'm assuming that corner is Skyline.

Bathurst is a circuit that's pretty much unknown to US audiences.  That's a shame, because it's truly amazing. Take a look:


 Almost 200 meters of elevation change.  Crikey.  You go up the mountain, run around the top, then come down again.  The two V8 Supercars races here are a 1000km event... and a 12 hour endurance race.  I've seen a couple of the 1000s, and it's like nothing here.  Hopefully SPEED will pick up the 2011 race... I don't see why they wouldn't, they're showing the V8S series anyway.

Ah, but if F1 cars were to race there... we can but dream.

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March 21, 2011

F1 on SPEED!: Australia 2011

The cars have been delivered.

The crew are busy setting up the track.

That can mean only one thing... Formula 1 is back!  And if F1 is back, that too can only mean one thing... F1Update! is back!  Welcome to the first installment of F1 on SPEED! for the 2011 season.  I'm your host and resident fanatic, Wonderduck, and it'll be my pleasure to guide you through this 18-possibly-19-race year with the usual amount of humor, aplomb and maybe even a pinch of knowledge along the way. 

As you know if you've been reading the off-season reports here at The Pond, the first race of the year was supposed to have been held at Bahrain two weekends ago.  The Bahrainian people had something to say about that (and a few other things too), and the race was postponed and probably canceled.  That means that Australia, long the traditional first race of the year and only recently displaced by oil money, really will be the first race of the season, and there's no better place for it in my opinion. 

Let's take a look at the trackmap for the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne:

Running around a man-made lake in the center of Albert Park, the course is made up primarily by public roads.  Technically this makes it a street circuit, but it doesn't much have the feel of one.  It's best to think of Melbourne as a purpose-built course that just happens to have street cars drive on it every day. 

It's generally considered a fast track, but the shortage of traditional straightaways does make it something of a challenge to pass on.  The drivers generally like the course, often saying that it's neither challenging or boring to drive.  Except when it rains; then it becomes something of a nightmare.  The painted lines on the asphalt that designate lanes during the rest of the year (and earned the circuit the nickname "God's Slotcar Track") become quite slippery in the wet, a hazard not experienced anywhere else save Monte Carlo. 

You can barely see the joins between track pieces.
Combined with the rather close armco barriers, it becomes quite easy to break your car with a moment's lapse in concentration.  Last season the circuit was pretty much smooth, though some ripples were beginning to form in some braking zones.  No surprise really, as the last resurfacing was nearly 15 years ago. 

As with everything else at this place, the asphalt is neither particularly abrasive or easy on tires.  Pirelli is probably very happy with this being the first race of the year; it'll give them a great baseline to work from for the rest of the season. 

All in all, it's great to have F1 back.  As usual, the good folks at SPEED will be bringing us their usual sterling coverage... with some bonuses!

Coverage begins online at SPEEDtv.com on Thursday evening from 830pm to 10pm, with a streaming feed of 1st Practice.  Practice 2 will be broadcast live on SPEED early Friday morning, from 1230am to 210am.  That'll be the first time the Legendary Announce Team will be providing commentary, by the way... all streaming events are strictly ambient sound.  3rd Practice will be streaming from 10pm to 11pm on Friday.

The all-important Qualifying session is plausibly live early Saturday morning, from 1am to 230am.  It'll be interesting to see if HRT, the only team not to have turned any off-season testing laps, will be caught by the "new" 107% rule, and the only place to see it will be on SPEED.

Finally, the first race of the 2011 season, the Grand Prix of Australia, will be televised LIVE early Sunday morning, from 1230am to 3am.  For those of you whose circadian rhythms don't work that way, there will be a replay on Monday, from 12noon to 230pm as well.

Of course, the first F1Update! of the year will go up sometime Sunday!  We'll see you then, we'll see you here!

UPDATE: Of course, all times are Pond Central.  If you're in Oregon, subtract two hours.  Denver, subtract an hour.  If you're in New York, move.  If you're in London, watch the BBC.

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March 20, 2011

Rio Rainbow Gate! ep11

Say what you want about Rio Rainbow Gate! (and you'd best believe I will), say that it's nothing more than weak fanservicey crepe, say there's no characterization and a lame plot, say the artwork is poor to meh... you can say all those things, and I'd agree with you.  However, RRG! earned a place in anime history this week.  Following the horrible earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, most shows currently airing were either postponed until a future date or were broadcast with half the screen covered by governmental messages and warnings, as one would expect with a disaster of such wide-ranging scope and size.  But RRG! was one of the very few series to run at its normal time this week, with a screen clear of notifications.  Either the Japanese Authorities thought that what the nation of Japan really needed after such tragedy, such misery, was a brain-dead anime about young busty gamblers in stupid situations... or RRG! only airs on a small UHF station in a tiny fishing village in the far southwest of Kyushu.  Either way, it actually occurred and that's got to count for something in the grand scheme of things, right?  So it's got that going for it.  Which is nice.  It's probably the only way that RRG! is going to be remembered.  Except by me.  By me, this putrid mess will be remembered as a great source of elemental pain and mental anguish.  It tortures me.  Even with the worst natural disaster Japan has suffered since the 1920s, it still aired on time, which meant that I had to suffer through watching it as if nothing had changed.  Can't even give me a week off can you, RRG!?  No, you're too much the sadist for that.  "Production Staff, we've got one person out there reviewing us.  One.  Well, we'll make that one person feel such agony that it'll be worth it for us."  Bastards.  Have you no pity, RRG!?  Have you no shame?  No?  Fine.  But let the results be upon your head.

We open Episode 11 some amount of time after the ending of Episode 10.  The casino is quietly buzzing with happy people losing money, as casinos are wont to do.  Then interlopers are seen in the lobby.

As the theme song to The Magnificent Seven begins to play in the background, Elmer Bernstein begins to spin in his grave Our Heroes, determined looks upon their faces, gaze upon what will soon become their hunting grounds.  Their goal?  Nothing less than to win enough to break Casino Island and buy it back from evil Cartia's clutches.

Men want them.  Women want to be them.  They are...

...The Usual Suspects.  I guess they decided that the bunnygirl outfits weren't classy enough.  It's almost like the Production Staff read my complaints about the idiocy of Our Heroines wearing their old uniforms even though they were no longer employed by a casino.

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March 19, 2011

RRG! Loves Me

I knew it would happen.  I could simply feel that it was going to happen.  I knew it was only a matter of time.  Lord knows I deserve it for watching this show.  And the Production Staff rewarded me for my devotion and forbearance.

-Rio Rainbow Gate, ep11

Oh heck yes.

This episode falls into the "Epically STUPID!" category, so it might take longer than normal to create the writeup.  But there was a duck, so it's a fair trade.

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March 18, 2011

Last F1 News 'n' Notes For The 2011 Preseason

As we head into the last weekend before the F1 Circus gets going in earnest, let us take a final look at the preseason goings-on, shall we?

First up, good news coming from the doctors of Robert Kubica!  They're saying that he'll be up and around on crutches within a few weeks.  While the worst damage the Pole suffered was to his right hand and arm, his right leg and foot were also badly injured in his rally car crash some weeks ago.  Eric Bouiller, team principal for Renault, told reporters today that "(Kubica) is ahead of schedule on all the forecasts, whether to do with rehabilitation or recovery.  He is proving to be an example to the hospital.  He is extremely motivated, he has the morale, even if it's not rosy every day overall he is maintaining exceptional spirits."  Still no word on if he'll ever be able to drive a F1 car again, but that's of little consequence in the grand scheme of things; picking up a fork looked like it may very well have been beyond him after the crash.  Obviously we here at F1Update! wish him the best of luck.

Next, anybody who's watched a Formula 1 race will be able to testify to the difficulty of figuring out just exactly what tires any particular car was running at any given time during a race.  The softer tire had a green stripe on the sidewall, the harder tire had nothing, and the only way to tell the difference between the intermediate and wet weather tires was the tread pattern... difficult to spot when a car is moving at 140mph.  Pirelli, the new tire manufacturer for F1, has figured out a way to get rid of that problem, and unveiled it today.


Color-coding!  Brilliant!  The color/tire combinations are as follows: 

Orange: Full Wet   Blue: Intermediates   Red: Super-softs  
Yellow: Softs   White: Medium  Silver: Hard
The tires are proving to be somewhere between one and two seconds slower than last year's Bridgestones.  They're also much less sturdy.  We won't be seeing someone going almost the entire race on a single set of tires, like Seb Vettel did at Monza last year.  In fact, Pirelli is thinking three stops for tires per race.  This isn't a bug, it's a feature, a feature the FIA asked for.  Forget about KERS or the movable rear wing, tires are going to be the biggest technical change this year.

Finally, Sauber's Gandalf Kobayashi spoke to the press today about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that his his homeland of Japan a week ago. "Of course I was very worried about my country and so went to Japan after the Barcelona test. I must say the situation is really, really bad," said Gandalf, whose family lives in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.  "I am worried the whole country could disappear – it is just too awful. Since the earthquake and the tsunami news is getting worse every day, there is nothing positive to look forward to at the moment."  Continuing on, Kobayashi said "I feel I have to do something, I want to help – but in fact there is nothing I can do by myself. I think at least for the time being what I can do is to be focused and fully concentrate on the season’s opening race in Melbourne. Originally I was looking forward to this with great joy. Now what I really want to do is my very best to achieve a good result, which perhaps can at least give the people in Japan a little bit of hope and positive news."

HRT will race in Australia with the flag of Japan on their cars in tribute.  Meanwhile, Swiss team Sauber will have the following banner on their cars:

The translation reads "May our prayers reach the people in Japan."  A nice gesture.

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March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day 2011

After last year's debacle, I'm afraid I had to make a tough decision: no alcohol at this year's St Patrick's Day shoot.  Of course, the leprechaun duckies never showed up to the casting call.

However, thanks to The Librarian they weren't needed on set this year.  Corned beef and cabbage was enjoyed by all who attended, much to the duckies' delight (and the duckrechaun's disgust) and a good time was had by all.  And no duckies passed out, even better.

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March 16, 2011

Midway Tragedy

Roughly halfway between the west coast of America and Japan, there lays a small atoll consisting of two significant islands and a handful of smaller ones, mostly surrounded by a low-lying reef.  Called "Midway" for obvious reasons, it was first a location for guano mining.  Later, Pan Am used the atoll as a stopover point for their "China Clipper" service.  As World War II approached, the US military recognized it as having an important location for the defense of the west coast.  Barracks, runways, gun emplacements, a seaplane base, and even a submarine base appeared, seemingly overnight.

Of course, we remember Midway as the namesake location of one of the most important battles of any sort in history.  One aspect of Midway atoll that seemingly every history of the Battle remarks upon are the ubiquitous avian residents, the Laysan Albatross.

Better known as the Gooney Bird for their goofy, clumsy appearance on land, nearly a million of these birds live on Midway today, and there's no reason to think any fewer were there during WWII.  Gooneys are known to have extremely long lives, with the oldest known to be over 60 years old, and possibly older.  It's quite possible that some Gooneys alive today were present on Midway during the battle.

Lost among the tragic news reports coming out of Japan in the wake of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and huge tsunami that followed it, were bulletins from Midway atoll.  Sand Island, the largest of the islands that make up Midway, was 20% covered by water from the tsunami's five foot tall waves, while Eastern Island had been 60% covered.  Spit Islet, the largest of the minor land masses that make up the atoll, was completely inundated.  As a result of this, over a thousand adult Gooney birds were killed, and many thousands of flightless chicks were drowned as well.  "We may see just a slight decline in breeding birds next year, next year and the year after that," said Barry Stieglitz, project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuges. "There will be a gap in the breeding population when these birds that would have grown up this year, would have matured and started breeding for the first time."

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March 15, 2011

Genesis Of An Aircraft Carrier

In 1905, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) showed the world that is was at least the equal of any Western navy by its complete domination at the Battle of Tsushima.  In this climax to the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese battle fleet, commanded by Admiral Togo, annihilated the Russian Second Pacific Squadron at the cost of three small torpedo boats.

By 1906 though, the Japanese fleet was made obsolete by the appearance of HMS Dreadnought in the British Royal Navy.  Realizing that evolving technology had laid their fleet to waste (and terrified by that fact), the IJN made plans for a new and improved fleet of ships.  Called the "Eight-Eight Fleet", it was to be based around eight new Dreadnought-style battleships and eight cruisers.  Designed to be capable of going toe-to-toe with the US Navy, even at this early date thought to be Japan's most likely foe, this battleline was considered the only way the nation of Japan could be made safe.  Though the country had been practically bankrupted by its war with the Russians, the first batch of ships was approved in 1911.

Events on the other side of the world again worked against the IJN's plans.  While Japan had sided with the Allies in World War I, for all intents and purposes she had little to do with the European theater of war.  Instead, she had little spats with far-flung German possessions in the Pacific.  Meanwhile, the war in the Atlantic led to massive improvements in naval technologies for the combatants there.  Suddenly, the IJN again found themselves with seemingly obsolescent ships while their rivals had honed their fleets against the whetstone of war.

The decision was made to scrap the first Eight-Eight fleet plans and start a second.  This second fleet was to be built around a nucleus of the newest vessels of the first, two completed battleships of the Nagato-class, two Tosa-class battleships that were in the process of being built, and four Amagi-class battlecruisers that were in various stages of construction.  They were to be joined by four battleships of an unnamed class that was to carry 18" guns, and four "fast battleships" to accompany the battlecruisers.

The Amagi-class was to tip the scales at over 41000 tons, be capable of 30kts, and carry ten 16" guns on a hull some 826 feet long.  As with all battlecruisers, the Amagis were not particularly well-armored; they were designed to be able to outgun anything they could outrun (cruisers of all sizes and destroyers), and outrun anything that outgunned them (battleships, mostly).  While in retrospect it's clear that the battlecruiser concept was deeply flawed, the thinking of the time was that speed, not armor plating, would be a battlecruiser's best defense. 

Tosa-class battleship
The Amagi's heavier teammate on the battleline, the Tosa-class battleship, was paradoxically smaller than the battlecruiser in most ways.  Coming in at just under 40000 tons and 760 feet long, they were to cruise at just over 26 knots.  Armed with ten 16" rifles of the same type carried by the battlecruisers, their secondary battery of twenty 5" guns compared favorably to that carried by the Amagi.  As with most battleships, the Tosa's armor was to be its strong point.  In short, the Tosas were to slug it out with opponents while the Amagis danced in and out of the battle.

In 1922, the IJN's plans again had to be scrapped when Japan became a signatory to the Washington Naval Treaty.  This attempt to curtail the growing naval arms race ongoing between Britain, America, Japan, France and Italy placed an upper limit on the size of any ship built of 35000 tons.  All work on the four battlecruisers and two battleships came to a halt, in preparation for scrapping.  With the stroke of a pen, both the Amagi-class and the Tosa-class, like the British N3 and G3 designs, had been invalidated. 

Or almost so.  The Treaty placed an upper limit on the size of aircraft carriers of 27000 tons.  However, a provision of the treaty, insisted upon by both the Americans and the Japanese, allowed for the conversion of two ships of a maximum weight of 33000 tons each to aircraft carriers.  The US Navy selected two Lexington-class battlecruisers for conversion. The IJN chose two of their Amagis, the namesake of the class and the Akagi, to be subjects for their conversions.  The remaining battlecruisers were broken up and scrapped.

And then nature stepped in.

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March 14, 2011

ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

I just lost three hours of work that I had put into a post, all because I pressed a button in error. 

I'm somewhat put out by this.

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March 13, 2011

Rio Rainbow Gate! ep10

We open Episode 10 of Rio Rainbow Gate! pretty much where we finished Episode 09, inside some Gate Holder's roll ruler... essentially their magical power.  Casino Island is deserted except for Rio and Dana, The Owner's magician, with no clue what's going on and no way to get out.  And then the Laser Weasels come.

Instead of lasering up and turning Rio into a flaming pile of ash, the Laser Weasel begins running away.  What sort of Laser Weasel runs away?  He's a disgrace to the race is what he is... he's even wearing a frickin' bow tie!  Who would have ever thought there'd be such a thing as a Laser Weasel Nerd?  I'm so disappointed.  Rio and Dana follow the Laser Weasel, and he leads them right to the Casino.

And in the casino?  The Owner, tied up, and some dork in a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras costume... who calls "him"self Joker.  I put "him" in quotes because while everybody is calling Joker "him", "his" voice is so obviously female that I'm wondering about the intelligence level of everybody involved in this scene.  Joker harangues Our Heroine and challenges her to a game of blackjack.  They both end up with the same score: a push.

more...

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March 12, 2011

Rio Rainbow Gate! ep10 will be delayed

With everything that's going on in Japan following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, I just don't find myself much in the mood to be clever about a lousy anime.  Maybe Sunday.

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March 11, 2011

F1 Pr0n: HRT F111

Last season, HRT missed being the worst team on the grid by virtue of finishing 14th three times to Virgin Racing's two.  Despite this unlikely fact, the F1Update! team universally considers them to have been the worst.  This psychological block is probably caused by two things.  First, they did a grand total amount of zero pre-season testing last year.  Their 2010 car didn't turn a single lap until the practice sessions of the opening race of the year, and that was only one car for 20 laps.  Hard to make an impression when that's the limit of your experience, y'know?  The second reason was that their car, the HRT HRT, which they later retconned to F110, was the flat-out ugliest beast out there.  Mud-brown and orange, it just hurt to look at the thing.

Well, no longer.  This year, they're going to get their car on-track for one day's worth of preseason testing (UPDATE: see below).  And this year, the car looks oh-so-fine.

When HRT released renderings of the F111, I asked for a good nose-on shot.  Now that we've gotten one, I have no idea exactly why I wanted it.  It's definitely the steepest nose-droop out there.  The brake ducts are large enough to swallow a track marshal, just like last year.  Sidepod intakes are basically the same as everybody else, more or less.  One thing of note is that the nose incorporates the FIA-mandated camera mounts (the black horizontal structures to either side of the Spanish flag) into the actual design, where everybody else just mounts them to the side.  They're supposed to be aerodynamically neutral, but I can't help but think that doing this is to the F111's advantage.  The front wing is much more complex than I expected to see from the team.

From the side, the most striking thing about the car is the livery.  I said it earlier and I'll say it again: this is how a race car should look.  The eye-catching graphics appeal to the eight-year-old in me, I admit it.  The sponsorship begging is a bit of a turn-off, but hey, they need the money and they've got the space, why not?  Other than the low, droopy nose and the paintjob though, the rest of the car looks pretty average.  It looks like a F1 car, and that's not a bad thing at all.

Team boss Colin Kolles claims that the car will be "significantly faster" than last year's charger.  They've got the same powertrain that the Williams team is using, and we know how that worked last year; in theory they could be a surprise.  My guess?  They might get a point or two for the entire year, if they last that long.  Let's hope they do.

UPDATE:  Late news from Spain is that HRT will not be participating in Saturday's testing session.  They have important parts of their car held up in customs, and nothing they've been able to do have managed to get Spanish officials to release them.  That can't be a good thing.  Even one day of testing would have been a boon beyond measure for the team.

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March 10, 2011

McLaren MP4-26: Srs Bidnez

Sleek.  Graceful.  Streamlined.  Sculpted, molded, polished.  All of these words and more can be used to describe that most high-tech of all racing vehicles, the Formula 1 car.  Able to slice through the air at 200mph or more, stop on a dime, or pull 5-G turns, all while its eight-cylinder engine is turning at at a mind-numbing 18000rpm.  Tolerances are so tight that fluids have to be pre-heated to a viscosity very similar to that of water before a F1 engine can be run.  The car as a whole is made of nigh-futuristic carbon fiber, aluminum, dozens of composites, beryllium, titanium, and many other, more esoteric, materials.  Something as small as a front wingtip being slightly out of position (due to an accident, for example) can slow a F1 car dramatically, ruin its aerodynamics, compromise the grip levels in a turn, and cause brake failure and engine overheating.  As much sculpture as machine, every inch of a F1 car is painstakingly designed to be just so.

And then McLaren rolled their 2011 challenger, the MP4-26, onto the track during the pre-season testing session at Barcelona yesterday.

D'awwwwwwwwww, isn't that cute?  The car is obviously going through puberty... it got its first pimple!

Aerodynamics?  Who needs 'em! 

While it looks like the bracing wires on a Sopwith Camel, in actuality it's a testing rig designed to measure the stresses on the front wing.  At least, that's what they claim.  We here at F1Update! think that McLaren's Chief Aerodynamicist Doug McKiernan is taking his styling cues from something in nature:

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