August 31, 2012

F1 Practice: Belgium 2012

They say that the one thing to remember about the circuit at Spa-Francorchamps is that it's either raining or it's getting ready to rain.  So it shouldn't be a surprise that the weather was rather damp for both practices today.  How wet?

The most data the teams got was after the session, when the various drivers went out onto the grid to practice their race starts.  The most laps anybody turned in P2 was five; the fastest lap was 2:49.354.  That's nearing a minute longer than a normal lap pace.  The teams realized that the only things they could learn today was how many pieces they could shatter their cars into, and stayed in the pits.  There are no small offs at Spa-Francopants.  We did learn some things today, though.

For example, a couple of years ago there was something of a conversation about that chalet at the top of Eau Rouge.  Well, during the Legendary Announce Team's Rain Delay Theatre today, we discovered that it's actually a hotel.  Yes, I'd like to stay there.  No, I wouldn't want to pay for it.  Something else interesting:

McLaren has done something interesting with their sidepods; my first thought when I saw this picture was an additional air vent, perhaps to glom more cooling air for the engine, or the radiators, or something.  At least, that's what it looks like from the front.  From the side and back, it becomes much more obvious what's going on:

It's just a modification of the bargeboards, designed to keep airflow ducted over the sidepods.  Aerodynamics are just about everything in F1, and there must be some teeny tiny improvement to be gained from it.  Cost?  "If you have to ask..." 

Quals and the race are supposed to be dry, but remember: at Spa-Francoamerican, it's either raining... or it's getting ready to rain.  See ya then!

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August 30, 2012

Right, Here's The Plan...

Okay, Helltime (Saturday will be my 24th out of 27 days, 220 hours worked in those days) at the Duck U Bookstore is coming to an end... I actually got to have lunch this afternoon... so I need to start thinking about getting back into the swing of this place.  Here's the plan for the coming long weekend.

Friday night will see... whatever it is I can generate for P2 from Spa-Francophobe.  Quals is Saturday, but the first football game of the season is also Saturday, and I've got to be at the Bookstore for that.  It looks like Hurricane Illinois-Has-It-Too-Easy is causing the local weatherfolk to drink heavily and throw up their hands in despair, vis-a-vis rain on Saturday, so we won't be taking the mobile store* to the field.  Seriously, I've never seen a forecast swing so radically before: it started out with a 20% chance of rain on Tuesday, shot up to 60% on Wednesday, Thursday morning weatherunderground was saying 80%, now it seems that the weathergeeks have passed out with 40% on the screen.  That's a high enough chance to keep us indoors... we don't have a roof over our heads, and rain would cost us $3000 in cash register equipment alone.  Anyway, unless I get up early enough to watch Quals live, the writeup for that won't be up until sometime Saturday evening. 

Sunday, of course, will be devoted to the Grand Prix of Belgium.  Labor Day has the potential to see Ep02 of Ben-To... or not, depending on just how wiped out I really am.  Either way, Ep02 will go up next week for sure.

So stock up on your Picky and Bretz, because it'll finally be happyfuntime again!  Now, where's my bed...?

*note: not actually a bookcart from the Duck U Bookstore.

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August 28, 2012

Quite The Fight...

So I'm sneaking around inside a mansion when a mercenary/guard literally walks into me, blowing my every attempt at stealth all to heck and gone.  Nothing left for me to do but to run him through and hope he doesn't manage to alert anybody else.  Alas, his dying scream brings half-a-dozen other guards a-runnin'.  It's time to get all fighty and stuff.  When the dust clears, I notice this...

...okay, it was a fairly intense fight, but I was never in any real danger, even against six well-armed mercenaries.  Guess I might have gotten a little carried away?  Maybe?  A bit?

"Dude, like, I'm soooooo sorry I killed you so hard you were embedded in a wardrobe... dresser... thing.  Bad on me, and I apologize.  We good here?"

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August 27, 2012

F1 on SPEED!: Belgium, man, BELGIUM!!! 2012

*tap tap tap*
*ahem* this thing on?  No?
My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Hermann Tilke forever.  We begin bombi... what?
We're live?

Welcome, my friends, to the return of F1!  The long, long summer break is over, the teams have been let back into the factories, the drivers their cockpits, the media their free meals.  And where better to restart the season than on the greatest circuit on the F1 calendar, Spa-Francorchamps?  Let's take a look at the track map:

Over the years, I've written a metric farkton about this piece of racing heaven in the Ardennes forest, and I'm sure I'll write more in the future, but for now let's concentrate on the usual bits of information.  The first thing you notice about Spa-Francopants when you're not looking at an overhead map is the elevation change.

That's looking down from Radillon to Eau Rouge, and you begin to understand just what sort of hill-climbing this place entails.  But, as they say in Brussels, "what goes up must come down," and Spa-Francoamerican does that with a vengeance.  For example:

This is looking from Turn 09 down towards Pouhon, and it keeps plunging down until you reach Fagnes, more or less.  Then you even go slightly uphill returning to the start/finish line.  If you're susceptible to road sickness, this is NOT the track for you.

Fortunately for all of us, the Legendary Announce Team does not have that malady, and SPEED will be bringing us their usual sterling coverage of the entire race weekend!  Let's take a look at the schedule, shall we?
P1: 3a - 430a, streaming
P2: 7a - 840a, live
P3: 4a - 5a, streaming
Quals: 7a - 830a, live-ish
Grand Prix of Belgium: 630a - 9a, live!

On the other hand, the F1 Update! crew has been working 60 hour weeks and this one is no different, with the first football game of the season at Duck U on Saturday.  Who knows what the coverage will be like for P2 and Quals?  The race, though?  Oh, we'll be here for it for sure!  See you then... I'll bring the waffles, you bring the sprouts.

UPDATE: We here at F1U! would be remiss if we didn't wish Bernie Ecclestone a happy wedding!  The F1 Supremo/Troll, 81, married Fabiana Flosi, his 35-year-old girlfriend/marketing director last weekend.  Through our contacts in Switzerland, we've had the pleasure of seeing the actual service; here's a short clip!  Good luck, you two wacky kids!

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August 25, 2012

Not Bad... For A Lieutenant.

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, passed away today.  He had been ill since having cardiac surgery at the beginning of the month.  The term "hero" is bandied about a lot these days, but if there ever was a man who deserved the title, Armstrong would be him.  He was a Naval aviator for two years, reaching a rank of Lieutenant (jg) in the Reserves.  He resigned his commission in 1960.  He received his engineering degree from Purdue, became a professional test pilot, and flew both the X-1b and X-15.  He was one of the first pilots selected to fly the (failed) X-20 Dyna-Soar project before joining NASA's astronaut corps.  He'd become the second civilian in space (behind the USSR's Valentina Tereshkova) during the less-than-successful Gemini 8 flight.  His next, and final, spaceflight was Apollo 11.  After that mission, he resigned from NASA in 1971, taught at the University of Cincinnati until 1979, then entered the business world until 2002. 

Momzerduck once told me that I watched Armstrong's walk upon the Moon.  As I was 15 months old at the time, I don't remember it, but she always said that's why I became such a space nut.  If so, then I need to add my personal thanks to Neil Armstrong.  I never met him, but he apparently had quite the influence on me. 

Through it all, though he's famous for walking on the Moon, he was first and foremost a pilot.  The following quote is as good a way to remember that fact as any, and better than most:

"Pilots take no special joy in walking: pilots like flying. Pilots generally take pride in a good landing, not in getting out of the vehicle."
- Neil Armstrong

He'll be missed.  He'll be remembered.

UPDATE: Armstrong's family released a statement this evening that ends with this wonderful sentiment: "For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."  

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So Tired... So So Tired...

Friday, 2pm.  It had been a miserable day, full of FAIL and spite, but I could take solace in the fact that my 55-hour week would be over in 180 minutes... not that I was counting or anything.  Then the phone on my desk rang.  It was the Duck U Veep that I report directly to, asking me to be open on Saturday for five hours.

So tired.  So very, very tired.

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August 22, 2012

Did Brickmuppet Visit Pond Central?

So last Friday morning, I get into the DuckMobile, buckle in, put the key in the ignition, turn it, and...

...nothing.  After a sound similar to that which a lonely puppy makes escaped my throat, I tried again.

...rapid clicking noise.  A third try gave the clicking noise with the sound of the engine trying to turn over.  On the fourth try, the car started.  Well, that's no good.  A quick call to Ph.Duck obtained the loan of his car for a few days while mine went to visit the Official Mechanic of The Pond.

Yesterday, I got the call from Tom, and he started with "I've got good news and bad news."

My expression when he said this
"The good news is that your battery was old and dead; your car starts fine now.  The bad news is that you've got an oil leak."   At that point, I started laughing.  THAT'S the bad news?  I knew I had a leak, I wanted y'all to fix it!  "Well, it'll be a bit difficult, what with where it's located, maybe cost a couple hundred in labor."  Do it.  "Are you sure?"  DO IT!  I want my car to stop dripping.  I want to stop having to put a quart of oil in it ever three weeks.  DO IT!

A couple hours later, it was all done for under $500... including the battery, parts and labor.  The oil pump needed a new seal, and it had leaked all over the timing belt, ruining that fairly important item.  They told me that the battery failure was actually a good thing, otherwise it was only a matter of time before the belt failed.  There were some other, smaller, things that they fixed while they were at it, too.  All in all, though, the DuckMobile is running like it's six or seven years old now, instead of sixteen.  Well worth the cost.  Just wish it hadn't happened the day before all heck broke loose at Duck U... that silence took a few years off my life!

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August 20, 2012

K-On!! The Movie

Okay, let's get this right the heck outta the way: if you liked K-On! or the sequel K-On!!, you'll love The Movie.  If the combination of cute girls doing cute things while playing cute music cutely didn't or doesn't appeal to you, then skip it... this is definitely not for you.

Azu-nyan thinks there's something wrong with you, though.
For all of you that do like such things, or are KyoAnimaniacs, or both, then The Movie is a must-watch.  It finishes the school career of the Original Four members of the Light Music Club: Mugi, Mio, Ritsu and Yui... and it's time for the rite of passage known as the graduation trip.  The decision is made to visit London, and they decide to bring Azuna along, since she's been the driving force behind the club.  And then, say it with me now, hijinks ensue.

If you're wondering just how they could afford such an extravagant trip, just... well, be quiet and let the rest of us enjoy it, kthnxbye.  That little excursion into reality aside, the movie is chock full of fun moments that fans of the show or the characters will absolutely adore.

If you don't know what this is a tribute to, I'm speechless.
Of course there's plenty of music, and wonder of wonders, there's even three or four performances!  I think that's twice as many as the original two series combined had, which was my biggest complaint with the show.  It's a show about a high-school rock band, why so few "live" performances?  But I digress.

If there's one thing we learn from The Movie, it's that Kyoto Animation has lost absolutely none of the zip off their fastball.  It's not the best looking thing they've done (that'd be The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, that franchise's movie), but it's certainly the liveliest, most vibrant production they've put together.  AND it looks great, too.

It goes without saying that The London Eye is turning in this scene (in fact, I didn't notice that until I was putting this post together).  What's most impressive is that everything that should be moving, is.  No static backgrounds for KyoAni, nope.  It's all understated in its grandioseness, if that makes sense, but it's still a tour de force for the reigning champion of anime visuals.

If there is any major fault with The Movie, it's in the story.  The trip to London is nice, but the over-arching plot of the Original Four trying to write a farewell song for Azuna got a little old for me, as did the laser-lock the thing had on Yui and Azu-nyan.  K-On! works best when the entire ensemble gets into the act, and that happened only rarely here.  It's not a deal-breaker by any means, but when Mio's most memorable moment is this... know there's a problem.  Having said that, I'll still give K-On!! The Movie a solid four stars out of five, and I'm not even that big a fan of the franchise.  I'm pretty sure I never finished the second series, for example.  It's just a fun, lighthearted romp... a fuwa-fuwa time, one might say.  Go watch it, you might actually smile!

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August 19, 2012

Good-bye Free Time!

There are a couple of reasons for the title of this post.  The first is simple: this is the week classes start back up at Duck U.  The first-year fledgelings moved into the dorms on Saturday, everybody else comes in on Tuesday, and the first day of classes is Wednesday.  Eep.

The OTHER, primary, reason is because of an e-mail I got from my Uncle JoeDuck.  Contained in this innocent-looking missive was a link to this site.  Oh god, the time I've already lost there... just at random, I clicked on "W"... and eventually found this:

Click the pic for full advertising goodness.
Go to the site and marvel at the wonderment that you will find... it isn't all advertising.  In fact, most of it isn't old ads, but just... stuff.  It's as time-sucking as tvtropes (link withheld to prevent then entire internet from disappearing into this post).

Posting may be sparse this week... or may not be; we'll see.

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August 18, 2012

Saturday Night Tunage XV

And now, by nobody's request whatsoever, Wonderduck Productions in conjunction with The Pond Entertainment presents... DJ Wonderduck with another installment of Saturday Night Tunage!  It's an eclectic mix of old and new music tonight, always with an eye on keeping your ear intrigued.  And some '80s, too.  So lets just get right to it, shall we?  Surely!


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August 16, 2012

Traffic Sucks In The Tunnel (and other bits)

Still, David Coulthard seems to be making good time.

The team says he reached 190mph in the Lincoln Tunnel on this demo run to promote next year's Weehawken Grand Prix.  Somewhere offscreen, there's a taxidriver cursing a blue streak.

Then there's this, which is pretty much how I feel when I hear an interview with a grumpy F1 driver:

Finally, Pastor Maldonado went home to Venezuela a few days ago and did a demonstration run in downtown Caracas.  Since this is Pastor Maldonado, we know what happened next:

Gotta feel sorry for the guy... it's been weeks since he's been able to run into someone!

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August 15, 2012

I Have Joined An Elite Group.

Every hobby has a "holy grail."  For us American rubber duck collectors, it's usually the Tolo Duck.  For those who collect baseball cards, it's the American Tobacco Company's T206 Honus Wagner.  Car collectors have different tastes... for one, it'll be a cherry '68 Mustang fastback, but another will only look at Dinos... for whatever reason.  But when you're an amateur military historian of the Pacific War like I claim to be, what's the goal?  Kaigun, Sunburst, Shattered Sword, The First Team, A Glorious Page In Our History... all of these are on The Shelf.  In the comments of that post, CXT mentioned a title I wasn't familiar with.  I looked into it and immediately began salivating: it seemed like it pushed every activation button in my brain at once.  Full of histories and detailed to the extreme, it was exactly what I look for in a mil-hist book.  That it's also considered one of the best references of all time helped a lot, too... until I took a look at the prices.

Holy jumpin' guacamole on a stick, $300???  Yeah, not so much.  However, I kept an eye on the Amazon price listing... every now and again, it'd drop to $200, and I vowed to myself that if I had the cash on hand if the price fell to $150, I'd go for it.  It still felt ridiculous spending that much on a book, but then I realized that college students spend twice that much and more on books all the time.  Eh, whatever, it's only money.  Last Friday, I clicked the link to Amazon, and...

Holy jumpin' frijoles in a hot tub, $150.  I couldn't click on the purchasing link fast enough.  Today, this Holy Grail that has been out of print for at least 10 years and had a list price of $75 in 1997... was delivered unto my hands.

And just what is this paragon of the mil-hist world?


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August 14, 2012

Ben-To Ep01

I've discovered that there's always a certain excited anticipation in my thoughts when I start an episodic recap for a new series.  Like a runner in the blocks waiting for the gun, a parachutist standing in the door waiting for the signal to jump, a F1 driver waiting for the lights to go out, a fast-food employee waiting for the french fry machine to go "ding", I find myself wondering in what direction a show will take me.  Will it be serious, like the early Ga-Rei Zero reviews or snarky like... well, like everything else?  So, Ben-To, how will I be watching you?

This is Our Hero... and I think I know which way the writeups will be going.  It's nice when the show makes it easy for you, isn't it?  Y'know, in some ways, this series will be quite difficult to recap because I really liked it.  Heck, I'm on record as liking it before it even started airing, and it did nothing to change my opinion as I watched it.  It's not perfect, though... in fact, there's enough flaws that I should be able to do terrible, awful things to the poor thing.  Probably undeserved, but what the heck, it's what I do.

So enough talk... let's get ourselves into the underground world of martial arts combat for supermarket prepackaged dinners.  Ben-To begins now!


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August 12, 2012

Just Another Skyrim Picture

Even now, after eight months and over 200 hours of gameplay, Skyrim can still throw things at me that make me just sit back and gawp in amazement.

click for the full picture... I recommend it.
On those occasions that I get all introspective and crap, I remind myself just how much computer gaming has changed over the years.  When I got my first real computer, "pretty graphics" looked like this:

...or this: it's just mindblowing to see stuff like this:

I love living in the future.

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August 11, 2012


Y'know, or maybe not.  My broadband connection has been down almost all day, other than for a hour or two around 5pm.  As a result, I've gotten zero work done on Ben-To! Ep01.  Hopefully, my connection will be alive tomorrow (yeah, right) so I can do it then.  Until then, here's another teaser for you.

Because I'm nothing if not nice and friendly to my readers.

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August 10, 2012

All Right Already, Hold Your Horses!

11pm.  I'm sitting in the throne control living room of Pond Central.  I receive a text message.  Brickmuppet is having lunch in an Italian restaurant (spaghetti and steak) somewhere in the heart of Tokyo on his way to Harajuku to be swarmed by cosplayers wanting to speak to a native English speaker.  If I miss my guess, he'll also be shopping, but what do I know?

This text message, from 14 hours in my future and halfway around the world, is berating me for not having finished my writeup for Ep01 of Ben-To

Saturday night.  I promise.  Okay, maybe early Sunday morning, but tomorrow.  I've got the final registration day for incoming Duck U fledgelings tomorrow morning, but after that I'm off until 830am Monday.  So I'll get it done, I promise.

I mean, if someone's gonna text me from flippin' JAPAN to prod me into doing it, guess I'd better do it, eh?

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August 08, 2012

Telling A Tale

Around here, adventures tend to start in the usual cliched ways.  Beggars tell a story for a bit of coin, or an innkeeper mentions a rumor, and the usual suspects go running off brandishing their sword and shield knowing that this time, they'll strike it rich.  Certainly some have succeeded in the past: old Greyfang the Portly there, he slew the Witch of Glammistor and hasn't needed to work since.  Doubtless there's been others, but I'll be switched if I know who. 

Every time they go out, a couple less come back.  "Firedrake got Beardy Ned over by the Rocks," they'll claim, then drink to their failure by reminiscing about the poor sod.  Gripping tales of exciting adventure, sure, when Ned probably just fell off his horse and split his skull open on a rock.  "Helmet will save yer life," I told 'em, but did they ever listen?  In a pig's ear they did.  Just like their fathers before 'em, not that any of that lot knew who their fathers were.  Killed in the Great Marsh War, probably.  Lots of men went that way, called to the colors to fight in one godsforsaken spot or another.  Marshes don't seem like a place you'd want to fight for if you ask me, but what do I know?

Never can tell, though.  Occasionally there's reason enough for a war, though usually not so much.  "Prince Pureblood didn't like that batch of goldblossoms from Kroom, we've got to defend our honor!"  Queen Soggybottom oops-I-meant-Songbird-pardon-me tried to take over Salain-to-the-North because she thought that big mountain they've got would look good on the back of our coin.  Reckon she'd be right, too, except Salain-to-the-North kinda liked their mountain.  Sadly, they had a lot more swords than we did, not that our General Whats-his-name was any great tactician. "Towards those ugly bastards," he'd yell and forget about flanking maneuvers or that sort of thing.  Units charged and broke and ran, and he'd just yell for more.  "Victory will be ours, men, or we'll die trying!"

Well, he was half right.  Xenophobic dolt died trying to win against the Salainisti, and good riddance.  You like the story?  Zip me a coin, friend, and I'll tell you about the treasure General Whats-his-name had with him...

UPDATE: Since nobody seems to see it (I told Muppet what it was), there's a little trick hidden in the story... see if you can spot it!

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August 07, 2012

All Along The Watchtower

The weather the previous few days had frankly been lousy.  The ships had been pitching and rolling in a way destined to make everybody who wasn't either a natural sailor or possessing good sea legs rather uncomfortable.  Alas, most of the men on board the fleet were neither.  Still, nobody begrudged the weather; it kept them hidden from eyes that would be very interested indeed at their presence.

As the sun broke over the horizon that morning, the fleet broke into two task groups.  TG Yoke headed to the north, while TG X-Ray steered south, towards the larger of the cluster of islands.  Simultaneously, escorting ships raced ahead to deliver a short, sharp bombardment.  Overhead, planes wheeled around the sky, swooping down to deliver their payloads, then return to their carriers.  Below, the transport vessels began disgorging men and machines into landing craft for the run to the beach.

In the landing craft, the men were tense and prepared for everything.  Everything, that is, except for what they got.  While to the north resistance was remarkably heavy, to the south the landing craft and amtracks were pretty much unopposed.  By the end of the first day, somewhere around 10000 men were well on their way to having landed on that island to the south.  The main enemy being reported was a nigh-on impassable jungle.  Still, nearly 1000 yards worth of progress had been made and the major objective was near at hand.

In the coming days and months the battle for this island would become a meatgrinder for both sides, chewing up men and machines and spitting them out with total disregard.  On that first day, however, the landing on the southern island gave no indication of what was to come.

The day was August 7th, 1942.  The island was Guadalcanal.  70 years ago, the War in the Pacific entered a new phase: the Allies went on the offensive.  That phase would continue until the end of the War.

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August 06, 2012


If you haven't seen it yet, here's this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for Breaking News Photography.

Yes, that's Curiosity descending under a parachute towards the surface of Mars.  It was moving around 900mph at the time, approximately a minute before the rover was deployed via "SkyCrane"... i.e., dangled down to the surface on wires while the rest of the capsule hovers above the planet on rocket motors.

And it all worked.  Man, can us humans do some swell things sometimes.

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August 05, 2012

This IS The Future

I live in Duckford, IL.  It's quite a bit like any other city in the USA of similar size.  I'm sitting here in Pond Central, creating this post on software administered by someone I consider a friend... who lives in Australia.  I've never met Pixy, maybe never will though stranger things have happened.  Less than 24 hours ago, I received a text message from Brickmuppet, another friend that I've never met... who lives in Virginia.  However, he sent the text message from somewhere in Japan... which looks an awful lot like Michigan, as Steven says.  Steven's another friend I haven't met, who lives in Oregon.  I can only assume his work on cellphones back when such things were new-ish had some influence on the text message I got from Japan.

Which undoubtedly bounced off a satellite somewhere.  Meanwhile, my TV is currently tuned into the 2012 Olympic Games in London, which has athletes from 204 nations and one small group of independent athletes participating, the signal for which is also being bounced off a satellite, perhaps many of them, to arrive here in Pond Central.  As I'm watching that, I'm also recording NASA TV as they prepare to broadcast live coverage of our attempt to put a new rover (named Curiosity) on Mars via a technique that Rube Goldberg would find entertainingly complex.

None of this was really possible 44 years ago.  Heck, 20 years ago most of this would have been a pipe dream.  I didn't even receive my first text until two years ago.  And none of this is particularly exceptional today.  Well, Curiosity is, but we've seen rovers on Mars before. 

This IS the future!  We're living in it right now.  Science Fiction has nothing on the wonders we experience and take for granted every day.  I can hardly believe how lucky we are.

UPDATE 1232am 8/6/2012: Curiosity made it down, telemetry confirmed.  Pictures are forthcoming.  Oh my god, that was amazing!

UPDATE 1234am 8/6/2012: A picture has been transmitted from Mars, Curiosity has wheels fully deployed.

UPDATE 1241am 8/6/2012:

Curiosity's shadow on Mars, sent just a couple of minutes after the landing.  How frickin' cool is that?

UPDATE 1252am 8/12/2012:  The landing data is coming in, and pretty much everything was about as perfect as you could hope.  For example, at touchdown Curiosity was moving laterally at .044 meters/second.  Still no report on how far they missed the planned touchdown spot, but the last information they said was "around 1.5km".  After traveling about 154 million miles, missing the target by a mile or so is... eh, pretty okay, I guess.  Heh.

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