September 29, 2011

F1 Distances

A short while ago, I was speaking to Ph.Duck about the Grand Prix of Singapore.  As is usually the case when I get to talking about Formula 1, my brain (shriveled and vestigial as it may seem at times) actually made an interesting observation, one that I'd never thought of before.

Formula 1 has the weirdest way of calculating distances ever.  No, not the distance on track, that's all in miles or kilometers or hogsheads or bushels or rods or something like that.  No, I mean the distances between races.

Unlike the rest of humanity, F1 seems to measure such things in weeks.  As one would expect, this results in a somewhat skewed view of the world.  For example, from Yas Marina Abu Dhabi to Sao Paolo Brazil is roughly 7200 miles.  The distance between Spa Belgium and Monza Italy is roughly 500 miles.  Yet to F1, they're the exact same distance apart: two weeks.

In fact, most of the racing world is two weeks distant from any other point in F1-land.  There are exceptions to this, of course.  It takes a full four weeks to get from Budapest to Spa, for example.  Oddly, the time it takes to go from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to Shanghai China (one week) is the same as Barcelona to Monte Carlo.

I'm not entirely sure where I was going to go with this incredible realization, but imagine if it took the same amount of time for the rest of humanity to go anywhere.  Going to work?  Better pack a lunch, it'll take you a week to get there.  Heading to the loo?  Two weeks, minimum.  God help you if you go on vacation, it'll be time for you to come home by the time you get there.

Looks like I wasn't going anywhere.

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September 28, 2011

Request For Proposals

Okay folks, here's the deal.  I want to write about something related to the Pacific War, but I'm currently tapped out of ideas.  The books I've been reading recently (Kaigun, Blossoming Silk Against The Rising Sun, A Glorious Way To Die) have been fascinating, but haven't led to any huge sparks of inspiration.  So I come to you, virtual hat in virtual wing, to find out what YOU want to read about.  Got a hankerin' to find out something about the Anti-Aircraft cruiser in WWII (though I don't know why you would)?  Lemme know!  If I think it'd be a fun topic to write about, I'll do it, even if it isn't about the Pacific War!  Here's your chance to influence the direction of The Pond!  Can I use any more exclamation points!!!!11!!!

picture unrelated, but funny nevertheless

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September 26, 2011

Graphics Card WIN!

Ladies and gentlemen, our long national nightmare is over.  Chiyo-chan once again has a graphics card installed.

Okay, it's from a company with the odd moniker of SPARKLE, and yes, the cooling fan is a lovely shade of purple, but make no mistake, the GT240 is no wimp.  For all intents and purposes, it puts up the same sort of numbers as Nvidia's legendary 9800GT, but it does it while drawing 106w less power... and only requiring a single slot in my case to boot.  Doesn't even need an auxiliary power connection!

Now it's not a new card.  Heck, SPARKLE doesn't even list the GT240 on their products website anymore.  However, for my needs, it's perfect.  Just for a lark, I installed Fallout 3 and fired it up... and OMG, what a difference a few generations make!  If you'll remember, my previous card was a 7600GT, a high-midrange card released in 2006.  The GT240 first came out in 2009, though the version I have was released in 2010.  This thing is quite the upgrade.

If you've played F3, think back to the first view you get of the Capitol Wasteland after you leave Vault 101... y'know, from the scenic overlook point?  THIS view:

click to embiggenate
From this point, you can see off in the distance the remains of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building.  Off to the right is the town of Megaton.

That was not what I saw when I first played the game with the 7600GT.  What I saw basically ended at the water tower, and even that was somewhat indistinct.  That first time, I was ambushed and killed by a mole rat... that didn't draw in until it was actually attacking me.  I got used to taking a few steps and then zooming in, just to be able to see what was ahead of me.  That first game, it took me an hour to find Megaton... I kept walking past it.  It was like the entire Capitol Wasteland was enshrouded in dust or fog.  That was quite atmospheric, but kinda hard to play.  Eventually, I got it set up so I could play the game, but the tradeoff was no grass and a somewhat mannequin-like appearance to everybody.  I mean more mannequin-like than Bethesda games usually look.

Now, though?  I can actually SEE... and the game doesn't slow down.  Chances are I could even turn the settings up to "ultra-high" and it'd be playable.  Details keep popping up that I'd never seen... Moira Brown, the lunatic shop propriator in Megaton, wears a stained t-shirt under her stained and wrinkled jumpsuit.  When I played, neither had stains, and the wrinkles were kinda more like suggestions.

What I'm saying is, it looks more like what you'd expect the End Of The World to look like.  Sorta.  I guess.  You know what I mean.

The only negative I've noticed with the GT240 is that it doesn't play well with Windows Media Player on HD videos.  However, since ZoomPlayer still handles them quite well, I'm not concerned in the least.  The fan has a very quiet hiss to it, too.  When the rest of Pond Central is quiet, I can hear it... but the moment there's any other sound in the living room (the TV, a fan in the window, a radio) it's drowned out.  I'll get used to it easily enough.

I give the GT240 1GB GDDR5 two wingtips up, and the official Wonderduck Seal of Approval.  If you need a single-slot, low power graphics card, this is the one for you.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and ransack a grocery store for some post-apocalyptic goodies.

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September 25, 2011

F1 Update!: Singapore 2011

It was 92° and humid as the cars formed up on the grid for race start.  Would the heat cool off the red-hot Seb Vettel, who could clinch the World Driver's Championship this race?  Or would the cold-silver McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, lined up next to the polesitter, ruin the party?  Or perhaps the fire-red Ferrari of HWMNBN could start nibbling at Vettel's nigh-on insurmountable lead.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Singapore!

*LIGHTS OUT!:  As the race began, all the usual tropes about the start of F1 races applied.  The Red Bull of Seb Vettel made a good start and immediately began to pull away from the field.  His teammate had another installment of the Mark Webber Lousy Start© series, giving Lewis Hamilton a chance to get past.  When the Australian defended his position by drifting to his left, he left the door open on the right-hand side for both McLaren's Jenson Button and HWMNBN to streak by into second and third respectively.  While it was a blisteringly exciting beginning to the race, from then on it was all Vettel, all the time. 

*DOMINATION: By the end of the second lap, the lead was already 3.5 seconds over Button.  By the end of Lap 6, it was 8.2 seconds.  By Lap 15, Vettel's lead was nearly 12 seconds over the Briton, and nearly 30 seconds over the Force India of Paul di Resta, who was in third place by virtue of not yet having stopped for tires.  When both Vettel and Button pitted for tires on the same lap and Red Bull's crew got their man out in 3.2 seconds, it was clear that the race was over; the only remaining question was "would Vettel clinch the championship today?"

*AS IT TURNS OUT:  Earlier in the week, we here at F1U! said that is Vettel won and HWMNBN finished off the podium, Vettel would eliminate the Spaniard from contention and thereby clinch the championship.  While the first part of the equation was undoubtedly true, it didn't take into account Jenson Button.  While Vettel opened up a 20-second lead on the McLaren driver at one point, as long as Button finished second, the driver's championship could not be clinched.  Appearing to realize that, Mark Webber began to close up the gap to the McLaren, but at no point managed to get closer than five seconds to the Glare on Wheels.

*ENDING: While the race was surely over by the first turn, that doesn't mean there wasn't some glimmers of hope for those who aren't rooting for Sebastian Newmacher Vettel.  With some ten laps to go, the Red Bully's lead over Jenson Button was roughly ten seconds.  With six laps to go, it was 8.6 seconds and dropping rapidly.  At first we here at F1U! thought that Vettel had just "dialed it back" to conserve fuel or to limit wear on the engine... but then we realized that Button had just ripped off the fast lap of the race.  Then he did it again.  Vettel may have slowed, but the British pilot had the bit in his teeth and was pushing hard.  When he was balked by backmarkers with five laps to go, it looked like the game was up; he lost nearly two seconds in the first sector of the track alone.  Once past the slowboys however, Button again gave it the beans and the gap to the leader continued to drop.  While it seemed awfully unlikely that the McLaren would catch the Red Bull, it sure looked like it was going to occur.  Three laps to go, 3.7 seconds... two laps, two seconds... when Seb Vettel swept across the line, Jenson Button was only 1.7 seconds behind.  That's pretty amazing, considering that Vettel had nearly thirty seconds in-hand at one point in the race.  Mark Webber, who apparently ran the tires off his car in his attempt to catch up to the rocket-powered Button, finished a distant third, nearly thirty seconds adrift of the McLaren.  Ferrari's HWMNBN was fourth, some 25 seconds behind the Australian.  Fifth went to Lewis Hamilton over a minute back of the winner.  Sixth went to Force India's Paul di Resta, who, while 111.067 seconds behind Vettel, was the last man unlapped.

*STANDINGS (AND FALLINGS):  Seb Vettel has eliminated everybody from contention from the Driver's Championship... save for Jenson Button, holding on by the proverbial skin of his teeth.  With five races remaining in the 2011 season, there are a maximum 125 standing points available.  Seb Vettel's lead... is 124 points.  If Button wins every race from here on out, and Vettel finished lower than 10th in every race, Button will win the championship.  If anything else occurs, if the Red Bull driver manages to come in 10th in one of the next five races, the season is over.  So while we can't quite hose down Seb Vettel with champagne yet, the bottles are standing by.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Seb Vettel led from lights to flag today, yet he's not getting the DotR award.  Jenson Button was in second place by the first turn and stayed there the rest of the race, in the process showing his teammate just who's in charge at McLaren... and he's not getting the DotR either.  No, today's Driver of the Race is going to Force India's Paul di Resta, who drove the hell out of his steed and finished a brilliant sixth after losing fifth place to a pissed-off Lewis Hamilton on Lap 55 (of 61).  Good tire strategy, mixed with a shedload of pace and a Button-like ability to protect his tires from excess abuse, kept him on the first screen of the SPEED leaderboard all day long.  The rookie has been impressive all season, but today he did it towards the front of the field and got to show his skills to the world.  DotR material for sure.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  We here at F1U! so want to give this to Force India.  This was the first time all season both of their cars were in the points (6th and 8th), and as just mentioned, di Resta's drive was helped along by the team's excellent tire strategy.  But we just can't do it.  Red Bull gets it with their 1st-3rd result, a pit crew that's second to none, the perfect chassis, you name it, they got it.  FIndia gets an honorable mention though.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 10, Mark Webber blew the doors off of HWMNBN for third place in a pass that we here at F1U! were sure would be the MotR.  We were wrong, because 24 laps later he again passed the Ferrari driver for third place.  Except this time, it was even more amazing because of how and where he did it.  The field was jumbled by the Safety Car that had just gone in as Lap 34 began.  HWMNBN was just ahead of Webber as they came through Turn 9, but a mess of slower cars were in front of the two as they approached the tricky Turn 10, the "Singapore Sling" left-right-left corner best known for being Gandalf Kobayashi's launching pad both in practice and in Quals.  As they approached the braking zone for the turn, Webber slipped to the inside of the Ferrari and decided that he didn't need to actually brake.

The Spaniard, apparently caught by surprise by Webber's decision to forgo the clampers, made no immediate attempt to make life hard for the Aussie.

As they got to the point of no return, Webber threw out the anchor, dragged his feet, did everything but put the RB7 into reverse, to slow down... and did it all without a puff of tire smoke.  HWMNBN, his jaw bouncing off his lap, could only watch in amazement.

But it would all go to naught if the Red Bull overextended himself into the turn and got too much curb at Gandalf's Launching Pad.  Didn't happen.  Webber looked like he was on rails as he went through the most dangerous point on the track, completing the pass with style and finesse... and earning the MotR in the process.

*MOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  At the end of the race, we were going to give the Moo to Slappy Schumacher for his use of Sauber driver Sergio Perez' car as a take-off ramp.

No.  Instead, we're giving this to the driver who is rapidly becoming one of the most clumsy in the field: 2008 World Driver's Champion Lewis Hamilton.  In today's incident, he was harrying Felipe Massa for position on Lap 13.  Either because he misjudged where his front wing was, or out of sheer cussedness, Hamilton wound up applying a liberal dose of carbon fiber to the Ferrari's rear tire in a maneuver that was completely unneeded.  He was faster than Massa and could have passed him at nearly any point on the circuit the next lap.

The result?  A punctured right rear for Massa, which disintegrated on his way back to the pits.  This dropped him down to 16th, never to be seen again.

On the other hand, Hamilton lost the entire left-side element of his front wing.  Despite this, he stayed out for another lap in a car with a distinct lean to the right.

He also earned himself a drive-through penalty and some after-race sarcasm from Massa.  He wound up finishing fifth.  Just think what might have happened if he had controlled himself a little better... a podium?  Second?  For ruining both Massa's race and your own, Lewis, here's your Mooooooooo. 


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September 24, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage X

Yes, DJ Wonderduck is back, and I'm cleaning the dust off my turntables to bring you another theme entry!  I was sitting around last evening, pointedly not doing anything of value on a Friday night, when I decided to do a video search for "Live Aid", that amazing series of concerts in 1985.  While I was watching Queen burn down Wembley Stadium, the idea for this post hit me.

Longtime readers know that I used to work in the radio biz.  As near as I can figger, at least two of my readers (Brickmuppet, Greyduck) did so as well.  Well tonight, I pay tribute to the technological marvel that used to be the best way to hear music before you bought it.  Ladies and Gentlemen and Ducks, here's to Radio!  For my younger readers, there was once a time when music flew through the air instead of through cables and wires.  It was a wonderous time, a time of booming voices and catchy jingles, a time of fun and joy.  Now, it's all digital this and iPod that and auto-frickin'-tune and on and on... bah.  Get off my damn lawn.


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F1 Quals: Singapore 2011

Well, that was an interesting result.  I don't know that I've ever seen this before.  Before we get into it, let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2011 Grand Prix of Singapore:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:46.397 1:44.931 1:44.381
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:47.332 1:45.651 1:44.732
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:46.956 1:45.472 1:44.804
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:47.014 1:46.829 1:44.809
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:47.054 1:45.779 1:44.874
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:47.945 1:45.955 1:45.800
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:47.688 1:46.405 1:46.013
8 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:48.819 1:46.043 No Time
9 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:47.952 1:47.093 No Time
10 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:48.022 1:47.486 No Time
11 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:47.717 1:47.616
12 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:48.061 1:48.082
13 Seventy Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:49.710 1:48.270
14 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:48.753 1:48.634
15 Bruno Senna Renault 1:48.861 1:48.662
16 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:49.588 1:49.862
17 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:48.054 No Time

18 The Red Menace
Renault 1:49.835

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:50.948

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:51.012

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:52.154

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:52.363

23 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1:52.404

29 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:52.810

Q1 107% Time

Q3 was very weird.  First, Seb Vettel went out, turned one hot lap then parked it, in effect saying "take your best shot, kids."  Of course, nobody could touch him... or at least, nobody handicapped by their teams' mistake.  Lewis Hamilton put up a decent time, good enough to put him second, was pushed into the garage for tire changes and strategy... McLaren was going to send him out at just the right time, so he'd be the last man on track.

Except... um... they forgot.  As the clock ticked down to 2:00 remaining, Hamilton was sitting in his car, waiting to go back out.  There was no urgency in the garage, until people realized "hey, it takes 1:44 to do a hot lap, what'll it take to do an out-lap?"  Whoops.  As the clock ticked past 1:50 remaining, Lewis ripped his gloves off angrily and exited his car, any chance he had to improve his time gone.  Immediately, his teammate beat him for second, then Mark Webber shoved them both down to the second row.

But at least he protected his tires.  Slappy Schumacher can't even say that.  Mercedes sent him out for his only run, but too late.  The session clock expired when he was entering sector three, with about half a lap left to go.  So no time for Slappy and a set of tires with unneeded wear... good jorb, guys!

The Force India team got both their cars into Q3 for the first time this season, then promptly said "we can't really do any better than this" and kept their cars in the garage.  While they were probably right, it still seems... unseemly... to do that.  Still, strategery goes a long way in F1.

The part that I was surprised by, however, was the uniformity of the top 10: each row is a different team!  Red Bull on row 1, McLaren on row 2, Ferrari makes up row 3, Mercedes holds row 4, and Force India row 5.  While I'm sure that's happened before, I can't recall when.

Oh, and Red Bull's sweep of pole position for the season continues.  That's 11 for Vettel, three for Webber, 14-for-14.  If Vettel wins and HWMNBN finishes off the podium, Seb gets his second Driver's Championship.

F1 Update! will come along tomorrow afternoon sometime; see you then!

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September 23, 2011

F1 Practice: Singapore 2011

The day night dawned fell clear and dry as the F1 Circus prepared to take to Singapore's Marina Bay Circuit for Friday's 1st Practice session... and then the teams waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  What was going on?

The curbs installed around the track were coming up!  Before the practice began, a support series session brought the problem to light.  As a result, Practice 1 was delayed a half-hour as the marshals attempted to rectify the situation, then gave up and completely pulled the curbing off the track at four different turns.  Then the F1 guys took to the streets of Singapore... and it happened again.  Felipe Massa straddled a curb and... well, the above picture was the result.  Out came the marshals, off came that curb as well.  This is just a weird situation.  It's the fourth time the Singapore GP has been run, and there's never been a problem like this before.  Oh sure, the drivers complained about the height of the curbs after the first race (with Massa describing them as "little tortoises that would wreck the car"), but having them come up?  Never before.  What's going to happen overnight is that the marshals will remove the curbing at Turns 3 and 7 altogether, paint a white line where they were and the drivers will be told that crossing the line will be seriously frowned upon.  At Turn 14, the entry curb is to be removed entirely.  Finally, at Turns 10 and 13, they intend to repair the problem and make sure it doesn't happen again.  Whatever it was; nobody has said what caused it in the first place.  I'm sure the drivers are all super-confident now.

There were no repeats in P2, though the curbing did manage to catch out Gandalf Kobayashi.

One does tend to lose grip when the tires aren't on the track surface.  Amazingly, this little maneuver did not end in a pile of carbon fiber and tears.  Somehow.  It did point out how little margin for error there is around this circuit, however.  There are no runoff areas around this place, and precious few escape roads at the end of the fastest portions of the track.  You make a mistake at, say, Turkey, you have miles of asphalt to go before you hit anything.  Here, you make a mistake and there's a wall right there, all set to eat you... which happened a couple of times today.

Surprise surprise, Seb Vettel was fastest in P2, go figure.  He was two-tenths of a second faster than the King of Singapore, HWMNBN (two wins and a third place in the three races here).  Lewis Hamilton was third, with Massa fourth.  Mark Webber was 5th, .891 seconds behind Vettel.  Everybody else was at least two seconds slower.  Now of course this is practice, which means you can't really pay any attention to the times, but yeesh.

Quals start at 9am Pond Central time on Saturday... we'll see you here right afterward, okay?

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September 21, 2011

F1 on SPEED!: Singapore 2011

Take the narrow, confined layout of Monaco, then mix in the hot and humid atmosphere of Malaysia.  That's what racing on the Marina Bay Street Circuit at Singapore is like for the drivers.  Oh, but there's a unique twist, too... let's take a look at the track map for the 2011 Grand Prix of Singapore!

The unique twist?  The whole race is run at night under the lights, adding another layer of stress and headache to the drivers' experiences.  Then there's the fact that, unlike Monaco, the city doesn't shut down for the race.  As you can see from looking at the map, there are highways that fly over the circuit at a couple of points.  All of that lends itself to a visual spectacle unmatched in Formula 1.

It also creates a completely unheard-of problem.  At one place on the track, a length of subway runs under the circuit.  In the past, Red Bull's gearbox has suffered malfunctions from the electrical impulses coming from the trains!  Other teams may have had similar difficulties, but haven't mentioned them.  Because of all of this, many drivers have been quite outspoken in their dislike for Singapore.  Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa in particular have been harsh in their assessments of the layout.

However, it looks great on TV.  What else can we ask for?  Well, how about something that's never occurred in the long history of F1?  We've never had a wet night race before, but that's what we're looking at this weekend.  All three days of the race weekend are forecast to be occurring under stormy skies.  At least the teams will get plenty of practice on how their cars behave in such conditions.  We're still going to have a ton of retirements if it rains, though.

We'll get to see it all thanks to the good burghers at SPEED, thankfully!  Here's the weekend schedule:

Friday: 1st Practice: 430a-6a streaming; Practice 2: 830a-1010a live.
Saturday: 3rd Practice: 6a-7a streaming; Quals: 9a-1030a live.
Sunday: 2011 Grand Prix of Singapore 630a-9a live; 2p-430p replay

Of course, we'll be all over it all, right here at The Pond!  See ya then, see ya here!

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September 20, 2011

The Day Everything Changed

It's been two years since Momzerduck passed away.  It's amazing how much of that day and weekend remains crystal-clear in my memory, like it happened just yesterday... and how much of it remains just a grim haze.  I remember the Bears beating the Steelers that afternoon.  I remember having pancakes for brunch at a crowded Greek restaurant.   And above all, I remember the last hour or so in that room at the U of Chicago ICU.  I can close my eyes and experience it all again, which I really don't enjoy.

But most of all, I remember how much Momzerduck loved me and how very much I miss her.

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September 19, 2011

Patrol, Bomber, Consolidated Aircraft

There was nothing particularly revolutionary about the PBY Catalina's design.  It had a long range and was fairly sturdy, but it was neither fast nor maneuverable.  Yet the Consolidated Aircraft design Model 28 was produced in greater numbers (at least 4000) than any other flying boat, served in the militaries of 29 different countries, is one of the best-known and most-loved planes of all time, and is still flying today.  What was it about the Cat?

The answer: versatility.

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Ahoy Ye Scurvy Ducks!

Whitebill the pirate wishes to remind you that today is International Talk Like A Pirate day. 

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Well, I don't know if the writer's block is gone or not.  The "big guns" I mentioned in the last post was going to be a full-on episodic review of Rio Rainbow Gate! Ep01, but I discovered that I couldn't bring myself to do it.  The reactions I had in the first five minutes were enough to put that thought out of my mind: cold sweats, shaking, nausea, and the sudden urge to hurt someone... anyone... and a sudden bout of self-loathing for willingly attempting to inflict the show upon myself and others.  I just couldn't do it.

I ordered another graphics card, a GT240 by SPARKLE, this evening.  1GB of GDDR5 should make it pretty good for a low-power card (it draws its power from the PCIe slot only; no extra connections needed).  It's probably the best I can do considering my system is five years old and its design only allows for a single-slot card.  I could have put a 9800GT in... with liberal use of a dremel tool (which I don't have) and a willingness to hack bits out of the back of my case (which I also don't have).

I have Monday and Tuesday off.  The reason for that will be revealed soon enough.

With any luck, I'll actually get the PBY post done on Monday.  I've run through it enough in my head that it should be fairly straightforward, though time-consuming, to write... except for one thing.  I can't seem to get it to flow well.  Eh, either I'll figure it out or I won't.  It'll be a voyage of discovery for us all.

Suddenly, the Hosho appears!

I'm going to bed.

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September 17, 2011

Writers Block? ME?

Sunuvabeetchmartin.  I've got writer's block.  I've sat here for the past hour trying to put something interesting on the screen, and it ain't happening.  Words aren't flowing worth a darn, every bit of verbiage is a struggle.  I've had blogblock, where I can't come up with something to write about, before but I've got something to post this time... and it isn't coming.

I'm afraid there's only one cure: more cowbell drop the subject I'm working on for a while and pull out the big guns... like this one.

Yup, that big.

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September 16, 2011

Graphics Card FAIL!, Part Two: The FAILening

In our last installment, Our Intrepid Hero ordered a dual-slot graphics card instead of a single-slotter.  Chagrined but infinitely wiser, he then began researching graphics cards that would actually fit into his computer, power supply and budget.  A few hours later and a decision reached, the order went in for Nvidia GT240 as released by PNY.  Only 512mb of video ram, but it's GDDR5.  Various benchmarks and tests suggest that it was faster than the 1gb of GDDR3 on many of the other GT240s out there.  And $59 with a $30 rebate?  Score!

The order was accepted, the credit card was charged, and all was right with the world.  Until Monday evening, when I still hadn't received a notice that the card had shipped.  Nor on Tuesday morning.  When I looked back at the above linky, it now said the item was backordered.  Huh? 

A quick call to TigerDirect confirmed that yes indeed, the card was backordered, but that an order had been placed with PNY to get more in, and if I hadn't heard anything else by Friday, I should call back.  Which I did, at lunchtime today.  And lo, I was informed that "there is no delivery date."  Ah.

In my many years of experience working retail, I've learned that when I hear "no delivery date," that means that there's a very good chance that there will never BE a delivery date, ever.  And so, I've canceled that order.  So two weeks after I first placed an order for a graphics card, I'm still without one.  I suspect that if I order another one from TigerDirect, it'll be eaten by a Pale-throated Three-toed Sloth or something before it ships.

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September 14, 2011

Sugar. Spice. And Everything Nice. These Were The Ingreedients Chosen To Create The Perfect Ducks In Anime.

-Powerpuff Girls Z, Ep21

The original Powerpuff Girls was an intelligent, engaging, entertaining and funny romp of a show, one that never failed to make me laugh at its aimed-at-adults humor.  The Japanese, seeing it as homage to Super-Sentai style anime, thought it would be a good idea to remake it in their own unique way.  Thus was born Powerpuff Girls ZIt was a magical girl show, with three normal little girls becoming "Hyper Blossom," "Rolling Bubbles" and "Powered Buttercup."  It was also turned into a kids show.  In short, it was everything the original was not... in particular, it was not funny or clever in the least.  But it did have a rubber duck in one episode.  In fact, the rubber duck was even the main "villain" of Ep21 "Quack Quack Attack".  Given life by the "black light" that created monsters, the duck eventually grew to enormous size.

Left: Steven's worst nightmare.  Right: PPG fans' worst nightmare.
The duckie wound up accidentally terrorizing the city of Townsville as it tried to find its owner, which it loved very much.  All it wanted to do is be reunited with the little boy that dropped it one day.  Eventually it was, it returned to normal duckie size, and all was right with the world.  The End.

But hey: rubber duckie.  That's the only worthwhile thing to come out of PPGZ, right there.

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September 13, 2011

The Duck Collector's Holy Grail

I'm sure that most of the readers of The Pond are aware that I collect rubber duckies.  The Flock is nearing 500 members, so I've got all shapes and sizes of duckies: huge duckies, tiny duckies, devil duckies, cast iron duckies, the list goes on and on. 

It's also no surprise to my readers that I'm a fan of anime.  In particular, I tend towards what are called "slice-of-life" shows.  In recent times, the best slice-of-life show to air was called Hidamari Sketch, which starred a rubber duck and six art-school students.  This particular rubber duckie, called Yuno's Duckie, is quite possibly the duckie I wish to have in The Flock the most... but that's a personal thing, my own wish and desire.

However, for serious American rubber duckie collectors there is one particular style of rubber duckie that is very difficult to obtain.  It's called a Tolo duckie, so-called because of the maker, Tolo Toys.  They're a UK company that sells children's toys and playthings... and they don't sell here in North America at all.  Back in the days when the internet was fresh and new, I stumbled upon a website that, amongst other things, had a "webcam" of a rubber duckie doing things (sitting on a balcony, sitting on top of a computer monitor, sitting in a combat boot, stuff like that).  That particular duck was my first exposure to a Tolo duck (though I called it a "chubby duckie" instead), and I immediately wanted one... and this predated my heavy-duty duckie collecting!

How hard is it to get one here in the US?  Over at The Web's mecca for rubber duckie fans,, there was a forum thread where the participants wound up getting a dozen or so of them from a shop in New Zealand, but only after places in the UK and Australia wouldn't do it.  So a chubby Tolo duckie is, truly, the Holy Grail for any rubber duckie fan.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends, Romans, countrymen... I have gained the Holy Grail.

According to Ph.Duck, this was the only rubber duckie anywhere in Northern Europe.  Y'see, he was visiting family in Sweden last week, and went looking.  As he put it, he purchased the duck from a British toy store chain in a Danish city using Swedish kronor while waiting to get on a French-made airliner to fly to America.  I would have loved to have seen the look on the customs agent's face when Ph.Duck answered "A duck" to the usual question "Do you have anything to declare?"

Even better, Ph.Duck had no idea there was anything particularly special about this duckie, had no idea that I would practically wet myself with excitement when I pulled it out of the bag at dinner last night.

It's actually hard for me to believe that I have my own "chubby duckie", after all these years.  Thanks, Ph.Duck!

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September 11, 2011

F1 Update!: Italy 2011

A bright, beautiful sunshiny day met the F1 Circus as they formed up on the grid at Monza.  The Red Bull of Seb Vettel sat on pole for the 10th time this season, but seemed to be down on speed.  Would either of the two McLarens be able to disrupt his plans, or would he run away and hide on the fastest track of them all?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Italy!

*LIGHTS OUT:  At the front of the field, the leaders had perfectly acceptable starts, but things were different down towards the back of the grid.  HRT's Daniel Ricciardo went into anti-stall, jammed in 3rd gear, then stalled anyway.  Since he was starting 23rd, there was nobody to run into the back of him other than his teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi, who managed to get past easily.  We'll come back to Liuzzi in a moment.  Back up with the leaders, Seb Vettel was passed heading into the first turn.  The surprise came from who did the passing.  Ferrari's HWMNBN, the hopes and dreams of Italy propelling him forward, sneaked by the Red Bull on the inside and led the Thundering Herd into the first turn.  Just for a moment, the cheers of the partisan crowd drowned out the screaming of 23 V8 engines turning at 18000rpm.

*TOTAL CARNAGE:  Vitantonio Liuzzi either had God's Own Start or a RATO unit stuffed up the tailpipe of his HRT, for he had passed five cars right off the bat and was heading to the inside of victim number six with a big head of steam.  Then two things happened: first, the RATO unit ran out of oomph.  Second, victim number six decided that he didn't want to be passed by a HRT, even one with an Italian driver at Monza, and moved over enough that the opening up the inside was no longer there.  Liuzzi, being a hot-blooded son of Italy, decided to try and pass anyway and wound up with his right wheels on the grass.  The car immediately snapped to the left.  Now at this point, a great driver would gather the car up and continue on with maybe a slightly elevated pulse rate.  A good driver would save the car, maybe spin, and rejoin the field at the back of the pack, wiser and still racing.  But this was Vitantonio Liuzzi.  He immediately overcorrected and found himself sideways on the grass, moving around 150mph and not slowing down in the least... just as the Thundering Herd filtered through the first chicane.

Nico Rosberg had to be feeling pretty good about his chances today.  He had a car that had shown a good turn of speed through the weekend.  Further, he was on an alternate tire strategy from everybody else in the top ten.  He had started the race on the prime tire (medium rubber), and if he could manage to stay in contact with the leaders, he'd be able to attack on the option rubber when everybody else switched to the prime late in the race.  Meanwhile, Renault's The Red Menace looked like a definite contender for points today as well.  As the two of them guided their steeds through the chicane side-by-side, neither of them saw what was bearing down on them from the right side.

Liuzzi slammed into the side of the Renault, which was then driven into the side of the Mercedes.  All three cars were ruined and came to a halt in a pile of carbon fiber in the center of the track.  Rubens Barrichello's Williams had nowhere to go, but he somehow managed to get whoa'd up in time to avoid becoming the fourth victim of the wreck.  He came to a stop completely blocked by the pileup, but he was able to eventually continue.  Liuzzi was hit with a five-spot grid penalty for the next race for being a dumbarse causing an accident with his lousy driving.  Berndt Maylander was duly summoned to the track, and a three-lap Safety Car period commenced while the Italian track marshals went on strike broomed the carbon fiber off the track.

*GAME ON, RACE OVER:  When Maylander pulled over and the race resumed, HWMNBN and Vettel jumped away from the rest of the field, led by Lewis Hamilton.  Hamilton has shown that he has no idea how to react on restarts in the past, and he hasn't improved a jot since.  Vettel was all over the back of the Ferrari for one lap, during which time the two McLarens and the sole remaining Mercedes managed to close the gap.  Then going into Second Lesmos the inevitable happened and the Red Bull passed HWMNBN.  By the end of the lap Vettel had over a second on the Ferrari.  By the end of three more laps, he had a 10 second lead and the race was functionally over.  The only hope the rest of the field had was that the Red Bull pit crew would make a mistake.  They didn't, despite the psychic attacks of F1 fans the world over (minus Germany and Austria).  The remaining 30-odd laps were merely formalities to discern who would finish second.  That honor went to Jenson Button, nearly 10 seconds back after Vettel went into cruise mode with five laps remaining.  HWMNBN finished third with Lewis Hamilton all over the back of him.  Slappy Schumacher finished fifth.

*THREE INTERESTING STATS:  If Seb Vettel wins the next race, he will clinch the Driver's Championship with four races left to go.  Sometime during this race, Vettel led his 500th lap of the season.  Nobody else has led as many as 100 laps.  Finally, the first five finishers were all past World Driver's Champions, with 12 trophies between them (Slappy 7, HWMNBN 2, and one each for Lewis, Jenson and Sebby).

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Seb Vettel.  There's no question that Vettel is a good driver, but one knock on him is that he can't race in a crowd.  Well, he put the lie to that when he passed HWMNBN for the lead.  The best car + one of the best drivers = pure gold.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  Even though they made a fundamental error in car setup, running too much rear wing and therefore hamstringing their top speed on the fastest track in F1, the team made it work.  The drivers compensated, and the pit crew performed amazingly.  At one point, they got Hamilton in-and-out in three seconds flat.  Red Bull has claimed that they've done a sub-3.0 second stop in practice, but that's not under race conditions.  Three seconds is probably the best you'll see all year.  A second/fourth finish is about as good as anybody could hope for these days.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Seb Vettel saw his race strategy ("Get in the lead, get over a second ahead, cruise to victory") blowing up in his face.  One of the toughest drivers to pass, HWMNBN, was in front of him and three drooling silver cars were snapping at his heels.  If he didn't get ahead of the Ferrari, he was going to be in trouble fast.  So for a lap and change after the Safety Car came in, he harried the Spaniard like there would be no tomorrow.  Then going into the Second Lesmos, he saw a narrow opportunity and jumped on it.  Difficulty: it was to the outside of the Ferrari.  Probably muttering "In God and Adrian Newey I trust," Vettel steered himself into the gap.

Even the incredible amount of downforce generated by the body of the Red Bull couldn't keep Vettel from sliding wide as he pulled alongside the Ferrari, and he put two wheels into the grass.

Remember what happened to Liuzzi back at the start?  Vettel simply gathered up the car and continued on as if nothing happened.  Then it simply became a drag race down to the Variante Ascari... and Vettel was on the inside.

After this pass for the lead, the race was over.  A helluva nice move with a fine example of car control thrown in... yeah, that's a Move of the Race!

*MOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  Since Lap 1 incidents are not eligible for either MotR or Mooo-otR awards, Liuzzi's attempted shortcut across the first chicane can't win this.  Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed the complete absence of Seb Vettel's teammate Mark Webber from this F1U!.  That's because he took himself out of the race early.  At the same time that Vettel was working on HWMNBN, Webber was trying to get past Felipe Massa's Ferrari.  Unfortunately, the Australian tried to pass Massa in the first chicane.  He was on the outside of the first bend, which would put him to the inside of the second bend, but Massa had the racing line and squeezed Webber hard.  Instead of backing out, Webber tried to make it work anyway.  He hopped the curb and plonked right into the side of the Ferrari.  Massa spun, and Webber's nose went bye-bye.

Keep an eye on that wing endplate marked "Total".  Webber continued on, hoping to make it back to the pits to get a new nose.  Perfectly logical, the car was still moving and tires didn't seem to be cut... and hey, around Monza not having a nose wing probably helps on the straights!  Unfortunately, there are some turns around this circuit, and heading into Parabolica, Webber got a little carried away.

Oh look, there's that endplate again!  It was jammed under the chassis, taking even more downforce off the car.  Steaming into Parabolica, Webber couldn't get slowed up at all and drove right off the track, through the kittylitter and into the tire barrier.  Congrats, Mark Webber, you earned yourself the Mooooo-oooove of the Race by self-inflicted stupidity!



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F1 Update!: Italy 2011 ARRRRRGGHHHHH!!!!

Because my right thumb touched a button on my new wireless mouse, I just lost my F1U! for Monza.  It was nearly done, too, after three hours of work.  Excuse me while I nip off and shoot myself.

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September 10, 2011

Graphics Card FAIL!

When did the Nvidia 9800GT go dual-slot without me noticing?  Looks like my choices are now the GT240 or stick with onboard.

This is the first time I've ever regretted getting a BTX-style computer.

UPDATE: Just to clarify, the title of this post really should be "Reading Comprehension FAIL," since it's my own darn fault.  There were pictures at TigerDirect and Amazon that would have made it perfectly clear that the 9800GT wouldn't fit into Chiyo-chan, I just didn't bother.  Wonderdumbarseduck, that's me.

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F1 Quals: Italy 2011

Monza.  Where speed is king, and everything else is just rubbish.  Would the Red Bull boys continue their sweep of the pole position?  Or would someone... anyone... knock them off?  Well, let's check!  Here's the provisional grid for the 2011 Grand Prix of Italy:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:24.002 1:22.914 1:22.275
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.976 1:23.172 1:22.725
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.013 1:23.031 1:22.777
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:24.134 1:23.342 1:22.841
5 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:24.148 1:23.387 1:22.972
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.523 1:23.681 1:23.188
7 The Red Menace
Renault 1:24.486 1:23.741 1:23.530
8 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:25.108 1:23.671 1:23.777
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.550 1:23.335 1:24.477
10 Bruno Senna Renault 1:24.914 1:24.157
11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:24.574 1:24.163
12 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:24.595 1:24.209
13 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:24.975 1:24.648
14 Hesychast  Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:24.798 1:24.726
15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.113 1:24.845
16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:25.164 1:24.932
17 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.879 1:25.065
18 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:25.334

19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:26.647

20 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:27.184

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:27.591

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:27.609

23 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1:28.054

24 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:28.231

Q1 107% Time

Nope.  Red Bull makes it 13-for-13, and Seb Vettel becomes only the second driver in F1 history to have at least 10 poles in a season more than once (he did it last year, too).  The performance was so dominating that both McLarens aborted their final runs at pole position, though to be honest Hamilton backed off because he screwed up a chicane, smoking a tire in the process.

Then just to add insult to injury, Vettel finished his final lap even though he knew both McLarens had given up... and made the final difference an even half-second.  Yeesh.

Even though the best he could do was fourth, HWMNBN and Ferrari have to call this one a win.  They fully expected their best to be the third row of the grid.  There's a lot of pressure on the Red Team; it's their home race, after all, and "Italy expects...".  Last year, HWMNBN brought the tifosi a win.  This year?  I'll be stunned if anybody can catch Vettel, but as they say, "that's why they run the races."

The race is tomorrow... see ya then!

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