April 30, 2012

Shouting Into The Wind

So you wanna be a blogger, binky?  You got the skillz, you got the desire, and you've got the website.  You've even written some posts... and nobody is coming to read 'em.  You feel like you're "shouting into the wind."  So whaddya gotta do to get yourself thousands upon thousands of readers? 

My advice to you as the author of a minorly successful blog?  Quit now.  If you're blogging to get comments, you're doing it for the wrong reason.  A blog should be something you do because you want to, whether your cats are the only readers or you get 200000 hits a day.  90% of all blogs go away within one year, say reports from the Institute Of Pulling Statistics Our Of Our Arse.  Of those blogs that last longer, most are completely ignored anyway. 

If you're gonna keep writing and you need to aim for the sky, there are a few things I can suggest that I've figured out over the years.  None of these are things I set out to accomplish, mind you, it just turned out that way.  In short, I got lucky. 

First, you'll need to have a hook.  This sounds cold and calculating, I know, but if you don't have something that will separate you from the hordes of other bloggers out there, you'll just blend into the woodwork.  In my case, it was the F1 writing.  To be sure, I wrote (and still write) about other things, but my F1Update!s, no matter how meh the were in the beginning, that got me an audience.  Sure, I transitioned to other hooks... Twelve Days of Duckmas and my episodic anime recaps come to mind... but F1 was the one that got The Pond going.

Second, even if it's accidentally, you need a patron.  By "patron," I mean another blogger who is already successful who'll send you readers.  In the case of The Pond, SDB was my "patron," having linked to me quite a few times about five years ago or so.  Shortly thereafter, my readership boomed.  I reckon that SDB's patron was probably the Instapundit, but I might be wrong about that.  If it wasn't for those links from Chizumatic, The Pond would have struggled along like those 90% of blogs.

Third, and most importantly, you need to write.  Every darn day, and if not every day, on some regular schedule.  If you don't write regularly, what readers you DO get aren't going to come back more than a few times.  The Pond could be better at this, but I've averaged 26 posts per month for 82 months... and that includes July 2005, when I was still trying to figure out what I was doing (8 posts).  To be fair, a lot of the 2119 posts are 200 words and a picture (Random Anime Pictures) or 100 words and a picture (Ducks in Anime), but it's something.  Now it so happens I like to write about subjects that I'm passionate about, and for those, 1000 words or more isn't out of the ordinary.  But if you don't write more than once in a while, then it doesn't matter: nobody is going to come back anyway.  Let me give you an example... for years, Fred Gallagher's webcomic Megatokyo was perhaps the most popular comic out there... certainly in the top five.  A few years back, his release routine slipped from two or three times a week to once a week... to once every two weeks... to where it is now, once a month if he's lucky.  Now that he's busy not updating, the message boards on the website went from being busy and well-populated (though often insular and exclusionary) to practically deserted.

If you write every day about something you love, in a way that isn't just a blatant copy of someone else, eventually you'll be noticed.  It may take a while... it took two or three years for The Pond... but it'll happen.  And then you won't be shouting into the wind anymore.

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April 29, 2012

Random Anime Picture #69: That Was... Odd


-Nazo no Kanojo X Ep01

What a seriously quirky show.  I'm not even going to attempt to summarize it, I'll send you to Mauser's place for that.  If you can get past the drool, there's potentially quite a little gem here. 

(sarcasm)
There's absolutely no symbolism involved in the show at all whatsoever.
(/sarcasm)

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April 28, 2012

High School Of The Dead Ep06

As you may remember, last episode was quite the action-packed lil' thing.  We met the Japanese Police Force's fifth-best sniper, for example.  We saw four teenage delinquents act all delinquently, and get water-cannoned into the river for their troubles, and good riddance to 'em, too.  I know I was never a jerk such as them back when I was a teenager, some 25 years ago.  Now, I was a well-behaved lad, raised right and all that sort of thing, but c'mon... teenagers arguing with police in armored vans armed with high-pressure water cannon deserves to be taught a lesson by Chuck D.  As opposed to Chuck D... that'd be an entirely different type of lesson.  Though, if you think about it, it'd be exactly the same.  Anyway, Shido-sensei formed his little cult of personality, the larger portion of the Fellowship of the Ring Our Heroes bailed out of the bus, but not before Hirano went all Rambo on Shido... is there a word for last-letter-of-a-word-alliteration?  After they left the bus, the smaller group of Our Heroes appeared out of nowhere just in time to clean up a zombie horde... and the Fellowship was rejoined.  They then decamped to an apartment nearby, apparently owned by Boing-chan's friend, the fifth-best sniper in the Japanese Police force.    Which is where we pick up the action, more or less.

Well, actually, we pick up the action on a nearby bridge which looks very much like the Dan Ryan "Expressway" (aka I-90/94) around 5pm on a Friday afternoon... and how a 14-lane highway can have traffic problems is entirely beyond me.  It may have something to do with the dismounted police officers blocking gaps between cars to form a defensive barrier against encroaching Packers fans zombies.  I mean, in the show.  On the Dan Ryan, the cops wouldn't last a minute.  Getting back to the show, while I applaud the efforts of the shield-wielding police, shouldn't they have adopted a better defensive position, tactically?  Using the cars is clever, but please note that the four-man groups are unable to support each other easily.  The cars are in the way!  If the zombies come en masse, the police are screwed.  And I've just dissected a defensive position to determine its effectiveness against zombie attack.  Thank heavens for the internet.

Oh, but they've got a dog with them, never mind.  Lil' Yappy up there is promptly eaten by a zombie.  No, no, sorry, no, Yappy goes running away.  The undead don't seem to care... or do they?  Hmmm... could that have been foreshadowing?  Bwah-hah-ha-hahahahahahahahahaahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Meanwhile, at the safehouseapartment, the girls prepare to take a bath.  Wait, what?

Cue the sirens and put on your civil defense helmets, HSotD has gone to Fanservice Condition Red!  I say again, Fanservice Condition Red!  Oh god help us, it's a bathtub scene.  This business will get out of control... it will get out of control, and we will be lucky to live through it.

It should go without saying that everything beyond this point should be considered Not Safe For Work.


more...

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April 26, 2012

It Was With The Best Of Intentions

Dragging myself home from another long day at the Duck U Bookstore, I had planned to finish my writeup of High School of the Dead Ep06.  That is, after I had dinner of course... that sammitch that rules all other sammitches: the Reuben.  As I munched, I watched what was turning out to be a bad movie.  As a lover of bad movies (see: Wonderduck's collection of 122 MST3K episodes), I stuck with it... and it was a very bad movie indeed.  When Samuel L MF'ing Jackson is overacting so badly that even a Samuel L Jackson fan is astonished by it, you know there's something wrong with the movie.  Anyway, when the movie came to its welcome end, it was almost time for the Bears to make their first round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.  When THAT was done, I took a shower, and then it was now.  1030pm, and I've yet to type a single word for the Ep06 writeup all night.

Fortunately, it's about half-completed already.  One last big push, and it'll be done.  My guess?  Friday or Saturday, hopefully Friday.  It should be worth the wait, I think. 

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April 24, 2012

Name This Mystery Ship XV

Got a toughie for you today, with an extra bonus: flatdarkmars can't play!

He can't play because he's the one that brought it to my attention... and I had never heard of it.  So take your best shot, folks!  Winner gets a post on a topic of their choice, with the usual limitations.  Good luck!

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April 23, 2012

44

Today is International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.  Today is also World Book and Copyright Day.  It is also the Feast Day for St Adalbert of Prague.  Max Planck was born on this day, and Cervantes died upon this day.  The first video ever was uploaded to Youtube today in 2005.  Hank Aaron hit the first of his 755 home runs today, and William Shakespeare was both born and died on April 23rd.

And in 1968, in a hospital somewhere near Wrigley Field in Chicago, a Wonderduck was hatched upon an unsuspecting world.  Nothing would ever be the same again.


Birthday candle!

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April 22, 2012

F1 Update!: Bahrain 2012

All the hand-wringing and complaints proved not to be enough and the 2012 Grand Prix of Bahrain was to take place as scheduled.  How was the race?  Did protesters manage to disrupt the event?  Did it rain? Could Mark Webber manage to finish 4th in his fourth straight race?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix!

*BACK TO THE BAD OLD DAYS:  When the lights went out, polesitter Seb Vettel was off and away, opening a 2.2 second lead by the end of the first lap.  Other than a failed late-race challenge from the Renault Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, the result was never in question... just like in 2011.  If we're exceedingly fortunate, this was just an aberration and things will return to chaotic-normal in Spain.  If we're not... *shiver*

*WHAT WE WEREN'T SHOWN:

Smoke rises as protesters burn tires at a march in the vicinity of the Bahrain International Circuit. 

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Red Bull's Seb Vettel had an opportunity to regain his glory days of 2011.  He grabbed it off the line, ran with it, and left the rest of the field in the literal dust.   Other than a lap or two during the pit rotations, he lead the entire race.  Even when Kimi Raikkonen pulled within a couple of car-lengths of him later in the race, one never got the feeling that he was in danger.   

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Renault Lotus.  Both drivers on the podium, and only a dominant drive by the reigning world driver's champion kept them from a win... yes, that's a good day for any team.  When it's from a team trying to prove that it deserves to be mentioned with the big boys?  Well done indeed.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 21, Sergio Perez and Dean Maldonado had been scrapping for the past five minutes.  Meanwhile, the Force India of Paul di Resta casually made its way up behind them, looking for some opportunity to get by.

As the Sauber and Williams drivers threw haymakers at each other, the Force India danced in and threw a little jab.

...and came out the other side leading the both of them.  For making it look so incredibly easy, Paul di Resta wins his first MotR!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 10 Lewis Hamilton attempted to pass the winner of last week's race, Nico Rosberg.  For his part, Rosberg decided that he didn't want to let the McLaren by without a fight...

...so he pushed him nearly two car-widths off the circuit.  He then whined back to the pit wall that Hamilton had passed him off-track.  On Lap 25, HWMNBN came up on the Mercedes of Rosberg, and what do you think happened?

That's right!  Rosberg, apparently taking lessons in good driving from his teammate, shoved the Ferrari off-track in the same place he did Hamilton.  While both incidents were investigated by the stewards after the race, neither earned Rosberg a penalty.  They did earn him a Moooo, however, as one suspects that this will come back to haunt him.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

more...

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April 21, 2012

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2012

Teams are bunkering in their hotels.  F1 personnel are commuting to the track in convoys and are being instructed to move in groups only.  The government is preventing journalists from entering the country.  Protest groups are calling for a massive march on the circuit for race day.  Must be Bahrain, which means it's time for Quals!  Here's the provisional grid for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Bahrain:
 

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.308 1:33.527 1:32.422
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.813 1:33.209 1:32.520
3 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.015 1:33.311 1:32.637
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.792 1:33.416 1:32.711
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.588 1:33.219 1:32.821
6 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:33.988 1:33.556 1:32.912
7 Lettuce Grosjean Renault Lotus 1:34.041 1:33.246 1:33.008
8 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.814 1:33.660 1:33.394
9 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:34.760 1:33.403 No time
10 Paul di Resta
1:34.624 1:33.510 No time
11 Kimi Räikkönen Renault Lotus 1:34.552 1:33.789
12 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.131 1:33.806
13 Nico Hulkenberg
1:34.601 1:33.807
14 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.372 1:33.912
15 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:34.466 1:34.017
16 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus Caterham 1:34.852 1:36.132
17 Dean Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:34.639 No time
18 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:34.865

19 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:35.014

20 The Red Menace
Lotus Caterham 1:35.823

21 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:37.683

22 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:37.883

23 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:37.905

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:38.314


Q1 107% Time
1:40.380


Yup, Sebby Vettel is back on pole, but don't panic; this quals session wasn't exactly what you would call normal.  We've got a confluence of factors going on this race: the heat of the track, mixed with the grippy asphalt (originally imported from a quarry in England) and the new rubber compounds Pirelli has used has made the soft tires a little fragile.  How fragile?  How about "you get three hot laps before they fall off the cliff" fragile?  Everybody was using used, or "scuffed", tires for their first runs in Q3 or not doing the first run at all.  Then during the second hot runs (or only hot run in some cases), everybody made errors during the lap, locking up a tire, going off-track... nothing horrible, but just enough to let someone with a clean lap get pole.  That was Vettel, for the first time during the day showing good pace. 

HWMNBN didn't even bother to set a time in Q3, electing to protect his tires for the race.  The same can be said for Force India's Paul di Resta who kept it in the garage.  Undoubtedly the big surprise of the session was Mercedes making a strategic error in Q1 with Slappy Schumacher.  He had a decent but not great time, but the team decided to keep him in the pitlane to protect tires instead of sending him back out.  And then the track "came alive," and the times began to plummet.  At the last moment, Caterham's Heikki Kovalainninninninnie pushed him below the bubbleline and out of Quals.  Later, Slappy said the car had problems with the "mystery vent" on the Mercedes' rear wing, but that seems too convenient.  Nope, they just screwed up.

Speaking of screwing up, it's time to call out Formula One Management, or FOM.  They're the people in charge of television coverage, and their boss Bernie Ecclestone has apparently decided to show Force India what happens when you express legitimate concerns about your safety in a country in the middle of extensive unrest.  Not once did we see a Force India car on screen (save for the tail of one disappearing offscreen left while the camera focused on another team) during the entire Quals session... despite Paul di Resta getting his Force India into Q3.  This strategy, of course, has backfired and actually drawn more attention to Force India and their very real concerns.  A round of sarcastic applause for FOM... I wonder if they'll stick with the policy during the race?

Ah, the race.  This could turn out to be very interesting with the tire situation being so awful... and of course, there's the spectre of the protests hanging over everything.  I don't know what Sunday will bring, but F1U! will be all over it.  Keep your fingers crossed, and we'll see you there!

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April 20, 2012

F1 Practice 2: Bahrain 2012

Despite growing tensions and serious problems showing their ugly face, we have Formula 1 racing in Bahrain this weekend.  And before you race, you practice... even though it's clear that most of the citizenry on that island nation don't want it, the teams don't want to be there, and the international community is unhappy about it.

When you get graffiti that clever, you know there's a serious problem... or the art students are rioting, one of the two.  In this case, there's a serious problem.  The government has prevented journalists from Sky News, the AP, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and Reuters from entering the country to report on the unrest, while allowing sportswriters to cover the race.  There was a 10000-person protest on Friday just north of the track.    A protest group called "The Coalition of the Youth of the Feb 14 Revolution" has called for "three days of rage" during the F1 weekend.  The police/security forces are out in force, and have a heavy presence at the Bahrain International Circuit.

On Wednesday, four Force India mechanics were caught up in a protest that turned into a violent clash with the police.  The explosion of a molotail caught their van, though they were able to escape without damage or injury.  Two of the mechanics subsequently decided they had had enough of the "Peaceful Kingdom of Bahrain" and have returned to England.  During Friday's practice sessions, Force India decided they were best served by not running during P2 and getting back to the hotel... for "logistical reasons."  If one were to read "logistical problems" as "security fears", you'd be closer to the mark.  They'll be there for Quals and the race, but Nico Hulkenberg became the latest driver to come out and openly question why they're in Bahrain.  "We shouldn’t have been put in this position.  Whether it is right or not I don’t really know. It’s difficult to say. I am not a politician, I am a Formula 1 driver, but it should not really be happening should it?"  Ph.Duck points out that there's a huge political aspect here, as India and Bahrain are apparently long-time close allies.

Hacker group Anonymous promised to turn the official F1 website "into a smoking crater in cyberspace."  Shortly thereafter, it was DDOS'd into oblivion for a few hours.

Bernie Ecclestone came out and showed his thoughtful, calm side when he said to the press "I think you guys want a story, and if there isn't a story you make it up as usual.  Nothing changes.  I can't call this race off.  Nothing to do with us.  The national sporting authority in this country can call the race off. You can ask the FIA if they can." 

I'll admit to feeling sick about this race weekend.  I won't be comfortable until it's completely over, the teams are on the planes back to England, and the sport has moved on towards Spain.  Until then, I'll be worried for the safety of the drivers, mechanics, and team members.  The nightmare, of course, is a protestor managing somehow to get a RPG close enough to take a shot, likely at a McLaren (which team is roughly half-owned by a Bahraini investment corporation).  A molotail would also ruin someone's whole day as well.  Hell, a thrown water bottle could kill a driver... one of the worst moments of the 2005 US Grand Prix fiasco was when a spectator, in a moment of anger, displayed an arm better than Nolan Ryan's and put a full water bottle within a few feet of Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari.  So many things could go wrong that I barely want to watch this thing. *shakes head*  F1U! will be here though, fingers crossed and hoping it all goes well.

Quals in the morning.

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April 19, 2012

Name This Mystery Ship XIV

Easy one this time...

Get it right, win a post on a topic of your own choice.  No pr0n, politics or religion, but otherwise it's fair game.  Please, do not cheat with imagesearch or anything like that... I can't stop you and won't ever know you did it, but have some pride. 

Get to work!

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April 17, 2012

Meanwhile Lurking By A Stone In The Mud...

As has been chronicled repeatedly on this here blogthing, as a young fledgeling I was quite into this "music" thing that everybody's been talking about for a while now.  While my tastes tended more towards the Go-Gos, Devo, ABC and others of the "new wave" bent, there was a small portion of my brain that leaned towards what would now be called "Prog Rock" or perhaps "Art Rock."  Mind you, I didn't think of it that way, I just found it musically... interesting, in a way that even the more avant-garde groups I listened to (Joe Jackson, your table for one is ready) weren't.  Bands like Yes, the Moody Blues (Vaucaunson's Duck, please crank your volume), Rick Wakeman, Pink Floyd and their ilk... not my main fodder, to be sure, but not entirely unheard at the Olde Home Pond.  One day, an odd little album made its way into my feathery little wingtips.  This record was reviled by many of the long-time fans of the group that made it for being too different.  This record was also reviled by many of the new fans of the group that made it for being not pop enough.

The album is called ABACAB, and it's by the group Genesis.  While these days Genesis is best known
for their catchy Top-40 radio hits, they weren't always that band.  Originally led by Peter Gabriel, they were (to my ears) a particularly "out there" Prog Rock group, one that was barely listenable at all, despite being particularly talented musically.  When Gabriel left the band, the drummer for Genesis, Phil Collins, stepped up and took over the lead vocals.  They also took a more "radio-friendly" turn with their music at the same time.  While their 1980 album Duke had a couple of crowd favorites for concert play, it was ABACAB (1981) that pushed them off the ledge into the abyss of Top-40 radio.  The track "No Reply At All" borrows the horn section of the band Earth Wind & Fire to great effect, and is probably the reason I bought the vinyl in the first place (even as a young'un, I dug the horns).  Add the title track and "Keep It Dark", and you've got a album full of catchy hooks and pop fame forever, right?

Um... no.  Because on the flip side (ask your parents, kids) of the record, you've got some seriously odd things.  "Dodo/Lurker", with its strange spoken-word drop, "Man On The Corner" which tried to bring attention to the homeless problem, and perhaps my favorite track on the album, "Who Dunnit?", which is pure lyrical weirdness.  It's no surprise that the long-time fanbase  of the band tended to hate ABACAB with the fire of a thousand suns, while the ones that jumped on board because of the singles often found the rest of the album to be not what they signed up for.

Despite this dichotomy of musical styles, ABACAB was on the UK Album Charts for 27 weeks, and reached #1 for two of them.  It didn't do that well at all in the US. 

So why do I mention this odd conundrum of an album up here at The Pond?  Because, for all of its faults and it has several (not least of which is a tendency towards overproduction), I was always quite fond of it.  While the track selection on the album may tend towards the bizarre, there's no denying the musical talent on display, nor its ability to keep you interested in what's going on.   And, as I was leaving the pharmacy where I get the "keep Wonderduck alive" pills every month, there was the remastered edition of ABACAB staring me in the face from a bargain rack, for the low low price of $4.99.  Of course I couldn't resist buying it on the spot.

As soon as I got home, I began listening to the CD and discovered something incredible... I could still remember the *pop*s and *click*s my old vinyl copy had, and found it weird that the CD didn't include them.  Of course it wouldn't, that's obvious, but in my mind, the album has them and that's that.  It's still an excellent collection of music, however... not bad for a 31-year old album that pissed off most of the group's fans.

I wonder what friend GreyDuck, a Genesis fan hisownself, thinks of it?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention something I found out many years ago... the movable lighting instruments that we see everywhere these days?  Like at this Pink Floyd concert, for example... they were invented by what eventually became Vari-Lite for Genesis' concert tour promoting this album.  Lighting Designers everywhere rejoiced.

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April 16, 2012

F1 On SPEED!: Bahrain 2012

So after the excitement and exhilaration of China, we find ourselves heading to the Kingdom of Bahrain for the first grand prix there since 2010.  Let's take a look at the track map.

As you can see, it's a Hermann Tilke track, carved out of the desert like a bunker carved out of a hillside.  Unlike some Tilkedromes, like Malaysia or China, this one doesn't really have much in the way of a personality.  There's no long, long double straightaways like Malaysia, no hope of a great race like we've had three years running at China.  However, the huge run-off areas do give wonderful fields of fire for the soldiers to gun down protesters from the drivers a sense of confidence that a single mistake won't cost them the race.

This is not a good thing.  There should be some penalty for making an error, but in Bahrain, there's nothing of the sort.  The minefields are beyond the grandstands.

There's no elevation change to speak of, so the tanks can't go hull-down race just feels endless... everything looks the same.  Turn 9 feels like Turn 4, except that one has a machine-gun nest and the other a mortar position leading me to wonder just how the drivers keep their concentration.  It's a mystery to me.

As it is, the good folks at SPEED will be bringing us their usual sterling coverage of the riots entire race weekend.  Here's the schedule:

FRIDAY:
P1: 2a-330a streaming
P2: 6a-740a live
SATURDAY:
P3: 3a-4a streaming
Quals: 6a-730a plausibly live
SUNDAY:
Grand Prix of Bahrain: 630a - 9a live

While all of us here at F1Update! Central believe that the sport we love is making a terrible mistake by running this race, we feel it's our duty to our readers to provide the "excellent" writeups that we bring to any F1 weekend.  If they're racin', we're watchin'.

We'll see you then.

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April 15, 2012

F1 Update!: China 2012

No rain in the forecast, a jumbled grid, a first-time polesitter with six World Champions poised behind him, and arguably 10 cars with a valid chance to win.  To say today's Chinese Grand Prix had potential would be something of an understatement.  But did it live up to that potential?  Did we get our third winner in three races?  Or did someone take firm command of the Championship?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of China.

*LIGHTS OUT:  It's often said that Formula 1 is, above all other things, a team sport.  The evidence for that usually lays quite thin on the ground, however.  The start of today's race was a good example of a team's two drivers working together, though.  As the red lights began to come on, nobody honestly expected polesitter Nico Rosberg to hold the lead past a few laps; his Mercedes hadn't shown the staying power.  The same could be said for Slappy Schumacher, his teammate and partner on the first row.  When the lights were extinguished and the race begun, the two German drivers worked together to maximize the team's chances of getting a victory.  Polesitter Rosberg got away blindingly fast, while Slappy's getaway was good but not great.  He very carefully managed to bottle up the rest of the field as they headed through Turn 1 while Rosberg began to disappear over the horizon.  The other 22 drivers could only sit on Schumi's tail and make occasional attempts at a pass, all of which were easily fended off by the surprisingly quick Mercedes.  Rosberg pulled away to a four second lead; hardly insurmountable, but far enough away that it'd take a heroic effort to track him down.

*BORING:  And that's how it stayed for the first 12 laps.  The train held up by Schumacher was released when he went into the pits... a pitstop that turned out to be the end of his race.  Miscommunication between the jackman, lollypopper and a tire changer saw his car released before the front-right tire was entirely torqued down.  A few turns later, he pulled over before the wheel could work itself free.  That was the last bit of excitement we saw until around Lap 45 or so.

*NOSE-TO-TAIL:  One common complaint American viewers often have about F1 is the way the field gets spread out during the course of a race.  "It's not exciting", they say, and it's hard to argue with that point.  Close racing is preferable to having everybody 200 yards apart.  On Lap 46, here's how the field looked:

This is the battle for second place.  Kimi Raikkonen leads Seb Vettel, Jenson Button, Lettuce Grosjean, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Bruno Senna and Pontiff Maldonado, with the whole group separated by two seconds.  There were a couple of reasons for this admittedly uncommon occurrence.  The first was that all of these cars have roughly the same level of performance in comparison to each other.  To be sure, there are differences: the Red Bulls are the slowest on the straights, Renault Lotus the fastest, for example, but everything seemed to be balancing out.  The other reason may have been the most important... tire clag.

This season, tire manufacturer Pirelli vowed that they'd make a tire that didn't wear as dramatically as the 2011 tire did, and for Australia and Malaysia, it looked like they had succeeded.  In China, however, the tire clag began building up early and never stopped.  Drivers were reluctant to leave the clean asphalt to make a passing attempt on the less grippy marbles... leading to Kimi Raikkonen leading a train.

*EXCITEMENT:  The last 10 laps had enough excitement to make up for the rest of the race.  Kimi's tires fell off the infamous cliff, and in the space of one lap fell from 2nd to 10th.  This lead to the uncorking of the rest of the field.  To begin with, Button got past Vettel, then Lewis Hamilton did the same.  As the race neared completion, Vettel's teammate Mark Webber muscled the young German aside to move into 4th place, in a moment that had to feel good after the crap he's put up with the past two seasons.  Leader Nico Rosberg, far enough up the track to not be able to see what was going on, said he had no idea what was happening.  "The pit wall was calling, saying 'Kimi is in second, now Button is, now Vettel...'.  I didn't know what to expect next!"

*WONDERBOY: Years ago, when Nico Rosberg came into F1, we here at F1U! nicknamed him "Wonderboy."  Near as we could tell, he had everything you could possibly ask for in a driver: GP2 champion, the ability to drive fast under pressure, a good bloodline (his father is a former World Champion), and a great hairstyle.  The only thing he didn't have was success in F1.  "Wonderboy" became derogatory, then we stopped using it altogether.  On Lap 56 of the 2012 Grand Prix of China, Rosberg finally began to live up to his billing, bringing home a 20 second victory for his first F1 win, and the first win for Mercedes as a Constructor since 1955.  Button and Hamilton trailed behind, followed by Webber and Vettel.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg.  Other than laps during the pit rotations, Nico led from pole to flag, at one point had a 25-second lead, and was never in danger of losing control of the race.  Easily the equal of many of Vettel's dominating performances in 2011.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  A 2-3 finish is always a good result, though they did throw away any chance at a victory during Jenson Button's nine-second-long pitstop towards the end of the race.  Still, could be worse, they could have thrown away a possible 1-2, like Mercedes. 

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Towards the end of the race, there were so many passes it was hard to choose just one.  After lengthy contemplation, the F1U! team decided to go with the pass that led to the end of Kimi Raikkonen's stay in the points.  Seb Vettel had been stalking the mumbling Finn for a couple of laps, looking hither and yon for an opening.  On Lap 48, he made a go of it.

Going into the turn, he looked like he was going to try going around the outside, so as to be better positioned for the next bend.  Raikkonen, holding the racing line, could not have been particularly concerned.

Surprisingly, Vettel tightened up his turn and undercut the Renault Lotus driver, then stomped on the gas and smashed the KERS button.

He then proceeded to out-muscle the Kimster into the next turn.  In the process, Kimi burned off what was left of his tires' grip, sending him staggering into the clag on the next turn.  Pretty much everybody passed him after that, including two soapbox derby racers, a R/C car, and Narain Kittylitter.  Okay, that last one is too ridiculous to believe, but our point is made.

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  It's unfair to give this one to the recipient, as he really didn't do anything wrong per se, and indeed it could be argued that it's more an example of fine car control than anything else.  But we've gotta give it to someone, and Mark Webber is the lucky fellow.  On Lap 37, the Australian ran very wide off the turn known as "Indianapolis" and discovered that doing so might not be the best of ideas.

A driver the height of Mark Webber pretty much is sitting on the floor of the cockpit with no padding of any sort, and it's well-known that F1 cars are entirely unsprung.  The jolt Webber must have received upon landing had to have been teeth-rattling and spine-compressing.  Despite this, the RB8 showed no ill effects, and he still finished fourth.  Good job, Mark... here's your (undeserved) Moo.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

more...

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F1 Frustration (China 2012)! Oh, Nevermind!

(As I got ready to post this, the signal came back... if I may quote Emily Litella, "Never mind."  It's not raining, by the way.)

A rather burly line of storms is in the process of floating over Duckford and Pond Central as I type...

The "*" is a pretty good generalization of Pond Central in relation to the rest of the city... and where the thunderboomers are... or were.  It's bucketing rain, and there's been some big bass rolls of thunder, but that's all.

Unfortunately, my DISH satellite signal has packed up and gone away.  "Total Signal Loss" is the message, which means who knows when it'll come back?!?  Of course, as I type this, SPEED's coverage of the GP of China has begun, and I'm staring at the "Total Signal Loss" message.

Guess I might be watching the Sky/BBC download sometime in the afternoon.  This might delay the F1Update! a bit.

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April 14, 2012

F1 Quals: China 2012

The 2012 F1 season to date has hinted that it was on the verge of deserving its own nickname.  2011 was Vettel's Year.  2009 was Bizarro Season.  After today's Quals for the Grand Prix of China, I hereby declare 2012 as The Season Of Wackiness.  Here's the provisional grid for the race:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.875 1:35.725 1:35.121
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.763 1:35.902 1:35.626
3 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:36.797 1:35.794 1:35.691
4 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.863 1:35.853 1:35.784
5 Kimi Räikkönen Renault Lotus 1:36.850 1:35.921 1:35.898
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.746 1:35.942 1:36.191
7 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.682 1:35.700 1:36.290
8 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.198 1:35.831 1:36.524
9 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:36.292 1:35.982 1:36.622
10 Lettuce Grosjean Renault Lotus 1:36.343 1:35.903 no time
11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.911 1:36.031
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.556 1:36.255
13 Pontiff Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:36.528 1:36.283
14 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:36.674 1:36.289
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:36.639 1:36.317
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:36.921 1:36.745
17 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:36.933 1:36.956
18 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:37.714

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus Caterham 1:38.463

20 The Red Menace
Lotus Caterham 1:38.677

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.282

22 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.717

23 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:40.411

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:41.000


Q1 107% Time
1:42.931

Nico Rosberg has long been thought to possess a surfeit of talent.  For the whole of his career, however, he's hidden his light under a bushel.  To be sure, he's had five podiums, including a 2nd place in 2008's GP of Singapore, but that doesn't match the predictions made for him.  He's certainly never had a pole position.  Until now.  He turned one hot lap in Q3, then parked his car in the garage and let everybody take shots at him... and nobody really came close.  So not only does Rosberg earn his first pole position, and Mercedes their first pole since St Fangio the Quick did it in the 1955 Italian Grand Prix, he earns the pole and still has a completely fresh set of soft tires for the race to boot.  The past two races, the Mercedes W03 has shown great pace in Quals, but fades away during the race... are we going to see the same tomorrow?  We'll find out tomorrow, obviously, but this seems... different.

With Lewis Hamilton dropping to 7th after his gearbox change penalty, Slappy Schumacher makes it a front-row lockout for the Silver Arrows.  It's good to see Gandalf Kobayashi sitting in third with Mumbles Raikkonen right behind in fourth as well... unexpected, but good.  Really, to be honest, the entire top 10 looks like someone just picked positions at random.  How cool is that?

The big news is what happened in Q2.  Two-time World Driver's Champion Seb Vettel set a time, then put his feet up in the garage and had a danish, confident it would hold up and get him through the knock-out session.  As his time slowly moved down the grid, there was no panic or even reaction... save to get another danish.  Then suddenly, there were a couple of minutes left and Vettel was 11th.  He made it onto the track and even got to turn a hot lap, but to no avail: he'd been knocked out.  He's actually been on pole here in China for three consecutive years before this.

Here's a stunning thought... if either Mercedes driver wins on Sunday, there'll be amazing reactions.  Either a driver gets his first ever win... or Slappy gets his record-extending 92nd win.  I'm not sure which I'd rather see.  God help me.

It's gonna be a helluva race tomorrow!  See ya then.

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April 13, 2012

F1 China Practice 3: Liveblogging!

(PRE-SESSION) Okay, this time for sure!  It looks like we'll have a Bahrain GP this year, more's the pity.  Money trumps human decency, I guess.  *shakes head*  Enough politics, lets get to the racin'.  Or the practicin', as the case may be.

F1Fanatic has a good roundup of reactions to the announcement regarding the Bahrain GP.  It's not pretty.  They're burning Bernie in effigy.  Which just means they're like most F1 fans around the world.

(60:00) And we're off.  It's not raining, more's the pity.

(58:20) I wonder if the teams think we'll be getting rain soon, however.  Nearly the entire field hit the track within the first 90 seconds.  They usually straggle out; if there's rain coming, they'd go out to get some dry laps under their belt.  Who knows?

(56:31) Oh.  Installation laps only.  I should have known.  Seriously, if someone with talent would rather do this, let me know.

(54:26)  Just like that, the circuit is empty of cars.  Oh boy, this'll be exciting!  Red-hot garage action!

(52:51) Speaking of red hot....

Thermal camera shot... that's the front-left tire in the lower right corner, and that big red blob above it is the engine.  Always interesting to see.

(48:19) A HRT takes the field!  Now we'll see some real action.

(45:03) Or not.  Two minutes of crowd shots, paddock look-ins, and one brief moment of a patch of grass.  All of which are, apparently, more interesting than a HRT to the FIA producers.

(41:24) My feed seems to be crepe tonight.  I'll go a minute, then the video pauses, then it continues on like nothing happened.  Weird.

(39:40)  THERE we go!  HRT in the runoff area, and nearly to the kittylitter.  It's now an official practice session.

(37:55)  While it's not raining, the thin sunlight the track is getting isn't doing much in the way of heating of the tarmac.  Nico Rosberg was just crying about having both under- and over-steer, sometimes in the same corner.  The team came back with "the track is cold, deal with it."

(35:15) Vettel is having brake problems.  He went into a corner, applied the brakes, and the clampers on the front-right corner didn't release until he was all the way through.  That's not good at all.  His radio call was not amused.

(33:27)  Lots of people standing around, staring at the offending wheel.  Not so much working going on, however.

(30:00) Half the session gone.  HWMNBN has made an appearance, positioning himself in 10th.  the bells in Maranello are silent.

(28:44) Oooh, Mr Director, I love it when you cut from one McLaren T-bar camera to the other like that... it feels so art-schooly!

(27:03)  HWMNBN jumps up to 8th on the timecharts.  Somewhere, Enzo Ferrari is whirling dervishly in his grave.

(24:44)  Good: Kimi Raikkonen is in 4th.  Bad: Over a second behind the fastest lap.  Ugly: looks like he has a sparkler dragging under his car.  Might have to raise that ride-height, lads.

(23:01) Oooh, Mr Director, I love it when you slow us a super-slo-mo replay of Lettuce Grosjean having a spin... it looks so film-schoolish!

(20:56) Nico Hulkenberg just pegged the meter at 4.8G at the end of the back straight.  From what I've read, that'd be awfully uncomfortable.  Now do it multiple times a lap, over 50-odd laps or so.  We'll pick up your head after it falls off, trust us.

(18:24)  And HWMNBN has improved his time yet again... and still fallen to 12th place.

(15:00)  45 minutes gone, still no sign of Vettel.   I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the brake thing is a concern.

(13:13) There are now only two cars on track, Webber and Button.  Mr Director is showing us neither of them.

(12:45) Red hot mechanic action.  THRILL to the sight of a Renault Lotus mechanic trying to remove a brake housing!  With a hammer, it looks like.

(10:19) To be fair, "hit it with a hammer" is a valid mechanic's device.

(9:09) Button is now #1 on the timesheets.  Meanwhile, the wind howls outside my balcony.

(7:50) Oh look, it's Felipe Massa in his last practice session before he's canned from Ferrari!  No pressure, Felipe!

(7:04) Radio call to Slappy Schumacher: "We're looking for consistent fast laps.  No slow laps, no slow laps."  THAT'S what HRT has been doing wrong all this time, they're supposed to be doing FAST laps!  It seems so obvious in hindsight!

(4:23) So this kid, Hamilton?  He's pretty fast, yeah.

(2:43) Vettel's back... still in 8th, though.

(0:38) HWMNBN is now 18th.  Good.

(0:00) Invisible F1 car!


(SESSION OVER) Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Schumacher are 1-4 on the session's timesheets.  Four Mercedes-powered cars in a row.  Oof... not looking good for the rest of the field, is it?  Fortunately for everybody else, Hamilton has that 5 grid-spot penalty coming for changing his gearbox.

Quals sometime tomorrow afternoon!  See ya then (unless I get up really early to go to work)!

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April 12, 2012

F1 China Practice 1: Liveblogging!

(PRE-SESSION) So we're here, after three weeks of downtime.  Seems like forever, honestly.  What sport are we talking about again?  While we've been asleep, the F1 Circus has been active as usual, adding new aerodynamic fiddlybits here and there, while trying to keep anybody from noticing.  Meanwhile, the wailing and wringing of hands over Bahrain's human rights violations may just keep F1 away for a second straight year... that news will be coming down soon enough, probably before Quals.

(The liveblogging is now located underneath the "more" button.)

more...

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April 11, 2012

High School Of The Dead Ep05

So, last episode we saw Takashi and Rei get their photo taken by a recon plane, rob two policemen and a gas station, and leave a survivor for the undead.  Oh, and about a third of the episode was taken up by a recap.  Which would be like this paragraph turning out to be seven hundred words long... don't worry, I'm not gonna even try to do that to you.  You want a recap of last episode, or of the show so far?  Read the episode posts!  Advantage: The Pond!  So, High School of the Dead, what wonders bring you me with Episode 05?

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking.  The crew has finished its inspection of everybody on board, and apart from Mrs Snodgrass in First Class, nobody has shown any sign of being either infected or already dead.  So as to not disturb the patrons in First Class, she has been moved to Coach.  We will be experiencing a short delay as the runway seems to have been infested with the undead... or as we up here in the cockpit call them, passengers.  Ha ha, just our little joke, we're kidding of course.  We know you have your choice of airlines, so on behalf of all of us, we thank you for flying with Oceanic Airlines today."

Sucking a destroyed zombie into an engine would be only mildly better than sucking a "live" one into an engine, but you can push dead ones off the runway.  Turning living undead into dead undead is her job, and she's quite good at it.

Her name is Rika, she lives on the second floor.  She's the fifth-best sniper in the Japanese Police Special Assault Team, which seems rather a specific ranking.  Me, I'm the third-best duck-based anime blogger whose name beings with a 'W'.  I move up to second if you only count those of us who are currently blogging HSotD.  Rika and her partner were scrambled to this unnamed "floating airport" which is pretty obviously Kansai International to help with a "terrorism" problem.  Terrorism, undead, eh, whatever.  They've got plenty of ammo, but sooner or later, they're gonna run out.  What then?  Well, she's got a friend in the city that she'll have to go find... a nurse at one of the high schools.

Well, isn't that convenient?  Subtlety, thy abbreviation is HSotD.

more...

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April 10, 2012

The Return Of Humvee-kun!

Over two years ago, during the writeup for Ga-Rei Zero Ep11, we saw the reoccurring character of HMMWV-san killed by one of the Spirit Beasts.  But in Episode 05 of High School of the Dead, we see the return of Humvee-kun.

It's back, and it's better than ever.  Keep your eyes open for the Ep05 writeup... coming soon to a Pond near you.

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April 08, 2012

F1 On SPEED!: China 2012

And we're back to the Circus!  After what will be a three week layoff, the teams have made their way to Shanghai for the third race of the year, the Grand Prix of China.  Let's take a look at the track map for the Shanghai International Circuit...

Hermann Tilke's stink is all over this one, it's true.  As much as I'm not particularly fond of the layout, there's no doubt it's given us some really good races in the past few years... heck, in 2010 it was the race of the year.  With this season's lack of predictability, who knows what we're gonna see this time around?  Let's hope it's a good one, because it might be our last race for another month.

There is a growing movement to cancel the Grand Prix of Bahrain again this year; the government is still doing Very Bad Things to the citizenry, the protestors have vowed to cause nightmares aplenty at the Grand Prix, the teams are twitchy about their safety... in other words, exactly like last year.  The GP of Bahrain is scheduled for 4/22.  The next race after it is Spain, on May 13th.  Well, if nothing else, the teams'll have plenty of time to put their changes on the cars before Catalunya. 

Makes for a rather disjointed season, though.  F1U! will be around, doing our best to keep the readers interested, though.  Fortunately, we'll have the aid of the good burghers of SPEED's Legendary Announce Team, bringing us all the action.  Here's their schedule for coverage:

Thursday
Practice 1: 9p - 1030p streaming
Friday
Practice 2: 1a - 240a live
Practice 3: 10p - 11p streaming
Saturday
Quals: 1a - 230a plausibly live
Sunday
Grand Prix of China: 130a - 4a live.
All times are Pond Central.  Subtract two hours for San Francisco, add an hour for New York, and whatever time you feel like making it on the Moon.

I might be attempting a liveblog for P1, and will definitely do so for P3.  The Quals writeup will be late; there's a registration event at Duck U Saturday, and I'll have the Bookstore open from 10a to 3p to serve the incoming fledgelings. 

We'll see you right here then!

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