March 31, 2013

Vividred Operation Ep10

Okay, here we go... we've reached double digits on this show.  I totally didn't mean for that to rhyme; now I feel like I need to make this intro paragraph into a bad song or something, and I think I'd rather saw my leg off with a rusty nail file than do that.  To be blunt, this show doesn't deserve the effort.  It's not as bad as some people have made it out to be, but there's no real way to say it's been good.  Having said that, it's a lot better fodder for one of these writeups than, say, Girls und Panzer.  That was a good, entertaining, well-written series (the OVA I covered notwithstanding), and the recent ending was excellent.  I've not seen the ending of Vividred Operation yet... actually, I haven't even seen Ep10 yet... but I can't imagine it's going to be as good as GuP's.  What I'm saying is "go watch Girls und Panzer, it's really good."  However, I'm not telling you to leave here... we've got to finish this show together.  And we will, before the next Formula 1 race on April 14th.  On this I swear to all that's... um... swearable.  But before we get to Ep11 and Ep12, we need to get through Ep10, and the first step in doing that is this:
I'll admit, there are times that it's easier to do these reviews than others.  Hot Dark Wet Girl Rei is in the shower, providing us with a handy recap as to her motivation to destroy the Phlebotinum Engine: in her "parallel world," it went nuts and destroyed everything.  The infamous unseen THEY promise to restore it good as new, as long as Hot Dark Moist Girl Rei succeeds in destroying this world's Phlebotinum Engine.  Sure.  Makes sense to me.  Then her parakeet starts screaming like a little girl that had her American Girl doll taken away and in this show, we all know what that means.

Croooow! is being a dick again.  It knows that the parakeet freaks out when it's around, so of course it parks its feathered butt right on top of the cage.  Oh, and for the record?  While Hot Dark Damp Girl Rei stalks over, we hear the parakeet screaming and flapping its wings frantically... but there's no movement inside the cage.  Mmmmmm... you can just smell the quality animation!  Croooow! notes some... shall we say disobedience? from Hot Dark Drying Girl Rei, and does that trick with the eyes that it does.

Suddenly, there's a glare of light across the camera and Hot Dark Nekkid Girl Rei is on all fours, making the sort of noises you'd associate with a Japanese porn video, and the towel falls off buythedvds.  It's good to be the bird... until it goes too far.  It threatens to kill Hot Dark Towelless Girl Rei if she doesn't swear obedience to it, and she calls bullhockey.

Sure enough, it's just a servant of THEM and can't kill her.  Score one for the Dark Girl.  The scene ends with a standoff... Hot Dark Girl Rei explains that she'd use all her remaining arrows on the next Alone if she could be there when it first appears, and Croooow! prevaricates on whether or not it can tell her.  Sounds like her plan could work, and work big.  She's got this in the bag, yay for her!

Except for that whole "she wins, our world dies" part.  That's kind of... a bummer.


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March 29, 2013

It's Fantasy Baseball Time Again...

...and as I need to do research for my team, the Generics, all blogging at The Pond is hereby and forthwith suspended until the auction is over.

After this post, that is.  Because if I suspended all blogging before this post, I'd already be breaking my suspension, wouldn't I? 

The auction is tomorrow morning.  It's not like I'm going to be gone for a long time or anything.  Probably not as long as some might wish.

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March 28, 2013

Take A Lap Of Monaco... With Six Strings.

I dunno if it's "real", or if he recorded it ahead of time, but I'll be darned if I care.

I like the bit with the window shades... and note the slight echo on the guitar at that point, too.

It's not content, but hey, it's better than looking at my BP numbers, right?

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March 26, 2013

"How I Spent My Tuesday Night," by Wonderduck

Like this:

Around 515pm tonight, I was sitting in my office, counting down a cash register, when my heart skipped a beat.  Eh, no biggie, happens every now and again to pretty much everybody.  For me, it's gotten relatively routine... my doc told me it wasn't anything to worry about, after all.  And then it happened again.  Still, no worries... I've had it happen twice like that before.  Then it happened yet again.  And again.  For the next five or ten minutes, my heart was doing this oddball stuff.  When it happened twice in a row and I got all sweaty, I knew there was something very not good going on.

As I write this, it's around 1130pm, and I just got back from the Emergency Room.  Good news!  No heart attack, not even a "silent" one.  In fact all my blood test results came back clean... except for one.  It seems I'm hypothyroidic, which would account for some things that I was putting down to getting older.  I'm not a 25 year old anymore, after all.  The thyroid also has a definite tie to heart rhythm. 

So tomorrow, I get to call my doctor and make an appointment.  But I'm still alive, despite my body's best attempts at making me the opposite.  You guys can't get rid of me that easily.

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March 25, 2013

"...and Screw This Whole Area In Particular."

It's hard for a ship to look proud when painted in Measure 32, but somehow the USS Aaron Ward (DM-34, ex DD-773) pulls it off in this picture.  Like James Bond, martini shaken not stirred, dressed in a clown costume.

Originally a Sumner-class destroyer, the Ward was taken in hand right after launching and converted to the last of 12 Robert H Smith-class minelayers.  All the conversion did was remove the torpedo tubes and add minelaying equipment (which, it might be noted, was never actually used by any of the Smiths in WWII).  Otherwise, they were treated as any other destroyer.  Joining the fleet at Pearl Harbor on February 2nd, 1945, she received additional training in and around Hawaii before joining TF 52 at Okinawa on March 22nd.  She served there for around a month, leaving station occasionally for supplies and such.  On April 30th, 1945, she took station at Radar Picket #10 off the coast of Okinawa.  She beat off one attacker early in her stay, but bad weather kept Japanese aircraft out of the sky for a few days.  That all changed late on the afternoon of May 3th.  From roughly 4pm to around 730pm, she was attacked by at least a dozen kamikazes.  Of those, she was hit by six.

Gone was the neatly turned-out destroyer-minelayer.  Left behind was a legend.

27 of her crew were killed in the attacks, but the ship was saved.  Arriving in New York under her own power in August of 1945, she was judged not worth repairing.  She was decommissioned in September of that same year, and scrapped in 1946.

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March 24, 2013

F1 Update!: 2013 Grand Prix of Malaysia

Well, that was different.  Going into the 2013 Grand Prix of Malayasia, all the talk was about tires and rain.  The race was supposed to be run in the middle of a deluge, and both Red Bull and Mercedes had come out publicly and called for Pirelli to return to last year's tires.  Heck, Red Bull even flat-out claimed that these tires were designed the way they were to specifically not work well with their car.  Coming out of the 2013 Grand Prix of Malaysia, all the talk was about something entirely different.  This is YOUR F1Update! for today's race!

*THE RACE:  Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport.  The best equipment, the best technology, the best drivers, the best mechanics, the best strategists, you name it, F1 is where it's at.  But every now and again, the best will sometime pee their abilities right down the leg of their firesuits... a driver turns left instead of right, a team sets themselves on fire (metaphorically, it is hoped), that sort of thing.  Rarely, however, it appears that everybody involved with the sport goes completely bugnutty at the same time.  That's what we got today at Sepang.  The weather didn't help any; as the cars made their way to the grid, rain was falling fairly heavily at some places on the circuit.  Five or six cars wound up going off on the recon lap, though none of them suffered more than a broken nose.  The race began with everybody on the Intermediate tires, and right away someone suffered a bit more than a broken nose. 

HWMNBN's Ferrari bumped into the back of Seb Vettel's Red Bull in the first turn complex, deranging his front wing drastically.  However, he didn't appear to suffer any in performance, being able to keep the rest of the field (including Mark Webber, who had a great start) behind him.  Still, from the sparks flying from the dragging wing, it was pretty clear that he had to pit at the end of Lap 1.  According to the Legendary Announce Team's on-site reporter, Ferrari's mechanics were in the pit lane, new nose at the ready, as he came running down the long back straight... and drove right past pit-in.  The team later said that they told him to stay out, hoping to get one more lap done before they changed the Spaniard onto slicks.  We here at F1U! think that HWMNBN made the call on his own, and the team is covering for him.  Whichever it was, it was a stupid mistake, one that every announcer on the planet was decrying the second he went past pit-in.  Just a few seconds later, they were proven correct.

HWMNBN's wing came off, slid right under the "tea-tray" and popped his front tires off the ground right when he should have been braking for Turn 1.  Once the tires ended up back on the tarmac, it was too late and he just skidded straight on into the kittylitter.  Beached, he was out of the race on Lap 2.  But that was merely the first of a parade of unforced errors committed by these, the best teams in motorsport.

*PITS.  STAHP!!!  STAAAAAHP!!!:  All the first round of pitstops needed to make everything perfect was circus calliope music and mechanics coming out in clown shoes.  It all began with Shiv Hamilton, current driver for Mercedes, trying to stop at his old team McLaren's pitbox.

Then Jules Vergne, leaving his box, ran into Charles ToothPic, coming in for his first stop.  During the next round of stops, around Lap 22, Force India brought Adrian Sutil in for a stop, and spent what seemed to be an hour trying to get tires off the car.  It may have been a design flaw, but the team wound up retiring (pardon the pun) both Sutil and di Resta for safety reasons. 

*THEN IT GOT UGLY:  On Lap 28, Seb Vettel was on the hard tires, and behind his teammate Mark Webber, on the mediums.  Vettel began to bitch over the radio that Webber was too slow and the team tell the Aussie to let him past.  As he was saying this, Webber was in the process of turning the fast lap of the race up to that point.  By Lap 40, the race had settled down: Webber led Vettel, then there was a decent gap back to Shiv Hamilton, who led his teammate Nico Rosberg.  Thanks to some blisteringly fast pit-in laps, Vettel managed to finish his final pitstop and come out right on Webber's tail.  The two began to duel for the lead while Team Principle Christian Horner began to chastise Vettel: "Come on, Seb, this is silly."  Red Bull has standing orders: after the final pit-stop, their positions are locked: the driver behind at the last stop must stay behind the leader.  Both drivers had been given orders to turn down their engine power as well, better to preserve them for later races.  Except Vettel decided to ignore both instructions.  Meanwhile, down at Mercedes, Rosberg had been talking to his pit lane, pleading that he could pass Shiv Hamilton.  THEIR Team Principle, Ross Brawn, had to get involved and explain that Hamilton had been instructed to drive to a time, protecting tires.  The difference is, Rosberg and Hamilton obeyed their boss.  Vettel, knowing that his teammate had turned his engine power down, decided to blow off team orders.  He passed Mark Webber, though not without some effort, and rocketed away into the distance.  Webber's firmly extended middle digit let us know his opinion.

:  The race ended with Vettel leading Webber, then Hamilton ahead of Rosberg.  There was much symbolism involved in the way the Red Bull drivers crossed the finish line: Vettel swerved close to the inside wall, where the mechanics were gathered.  Webber, on the other hand, took the checkered flag as far on the other side of the track as it was possible to go, clearly signifying his distaste of the goings-on.  Hamilton and Rosberg crossed nose-to-tail, both close to the wall.  Then, in Parc Ferme, Webber parked his car first and was nowhere to be seen when Vettel finally pulled in; instead of waiting for his teammate, he just went into the "green room."  By contrast, Shiv Hamilton waited to speak to Rosberg before going up to the podium.  In the green room, the tension between the Red Bull teammates was obvious, and it got worse during the podium celebration and post-race interview.  When it came time to spray the champagne, Webber immediately moved very far away from Vettel, who went in the other direction, with Hamilton.  Neither congratulated the other, neither even looked at each other.  Then, during the interviews, the less than pleased Webber ended his statement with "...and in the end, Seb made his own decisions today, and will have protection as usual, and that's the way it goes."  Meanwhile, Hamilton said in his interview segment that "to be truthful, Nico (Rosberg) should probably be up here instead of me."  There's clearly going to be some rather heated discussions in a couple of teams between now and the next race in China.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Felipe Massa.  He finished fifth, kept his car clean, and showed what he can do when his teammate isn't in his way.  A solid performance for a driver resurrecting his career.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Lotus.  The first team to get both cars across the line without their drivers wanting to kill each other.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Vettel's pass on Webber towards the end of the race was pretty nice.  Other than being done against team orders, against a teammate with a purposely-slowed engine, that is.

*MOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  HWMNBN's decision to blow off the team and keep going on a broken front wing on Lap 1.  OR Ferrari's decision to keep HWMNBN out with a broken front wing, whichever way you think it went.  Just dumb.



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March 23, 2013

The Ugliest Warship In Any Fleet

You may remember a few months ago, I wrote about a pair of ships named the HMS General Wolfe and the HMS Lord Clive, a pair of Royal Navy monitors that shipped 18" guns.  That little post sent me on a quiet search for more monitors, coastal defense ships, that sort of thing.  And oh, but did I find some fun ones!  For example, which would you rather have, a 7000ton ship with 11" guns or a 4000ton ship with 10" guns?  Just wonderfully mind-altering designs flowed to me.

And then I stopped.  I stopped because I encountered a ship that was far and away the ugliest thing I've ever seen afloat... and that includes bifurcated ships and French aircraft carriers.  Ladies and gentlemen, I found a 3000ton ship carrying 15" rifles.  Ladies and gentlemen, I found the Italian Faa di Bruno.

Technically a monitor, in truthfully this tremendously ugly thing was a barge with a bow tacked on.  Her hull, not seen here because it had about two inches of freeboard, had a concrete cofferdam ten feet thick.  It had a top speed of 3kts if the tide was behind it, driven by a 450hp engine.  And it is hideous.

If you know of any ship uglier, leave it in the comments.  Then gouge out your eyeballs.

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F1 Quals: Malaysia 2013

They say that there are two things that are inevitable in life: death and taxes.  I'd like to add a third entry: it rains in Malaysia during F1 time.  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2013 Grand Prix of Malaysia:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.899 1:37.245 1:49.674
2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:37.712 1:36.874 1:50.587
3 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:37.314 1:36.877 1:50.727
4 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.513 1:36.517 1:51.699
5 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.619 1:36.449 1:52.244
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.239 1:36.190 1:52.519
7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:36.959 1:36.640 1:52.970
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.487 1:37.117 1:53.175
9 Adrian F'nSutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.809 1:36.834 1:53.439
10 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.702 1:37.342 1:54.136
11 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.363 1:37.636
12 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.931 1:38.125
13 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:37.722 1:38.822
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.707 1:39.221
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:37.493 1:44.509
16 Bob Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:37.867 No time
17 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:38.157

18 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:38.207

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:38.434

20 Charles ToothPic Caterham-Renault 1:39.314

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.672

22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:39.932

Q1 107% Time

Q1 was dry, and it became apparent that the big teams were protecting their hard tires for the race.  This trick very nearly backfired for Seb Vettel, who was 15th at the end of the session, a mere quarter-second away from being knocked out.  This being F1, however, you can pretty much expect that Red Bull planned it that way all along.  Right.

Q2, on the other hand, saw everybody lined up in the pit lane, waiting for the track to go green.  Rain was coming, and lots of it... 35 miles away, the Malaysian Open golf tournament had just been called for the day by torrential rains, and the clouds rapidly heading towards the race course promised a similar fate for the guys in the fast cars.  Thus, the plan was to get on track, put in a banker lap, then hope to get something faster in before the rains come.  This was duly accomplished by everybody... except for Paul di Resta, who never completed his first hot lap.  Instead, he drove back to the pits and the Force India mechanics started to do the usual maintenance... wipe down the car, clean the radiators, check telemetry, that sort of thing.  It was seemingly only as the rain began to fall that people realized "hey, he doesn't have a time yet."  Too late: he was five seconds off the pace of the next slowest car.

On the gripping hand, Q3 started off wet, but with little rain falling.  Intermediate tires were the way to go, and a dry line quickly began to form.  As the final session went on, one began to wonder if anybody would risk putting on a set of slick tires... it was that close to the cut-off time where the dries were as good or better.  If the session was 15 minutes long, someone surely would have tried it.  Alas, Q3 is only 10 minutes in length.  Remarkably, Seb Vettel took pole by nearly a second over Felipe Massa, despite running less rear wing than anybody in the field.  I'm not sure what that means for the race... nothing good, I expect.  It's supposed to be plagued by heavy rains... if it turns out to be dry, Vettel will run away with this.  If it does rain... well, I truly don't know.

Fortunately, we'll find out Sunday morning!  See ya there for F1Update!

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March 22, 2013

F1 Practice: Malaysia 2013

Hello, howdy and welcome to Malaysia's Sepang International Race Circuit, where it is currently hot, humid, about to rain, and...

OMGWTFBBQ!!!  IT'S THE VARSHA!!!  HE'S BACK!!!!1!11!!!  Okay, he's filling in for Leigh Diffey, who's calling the IndyCar season opener this weekend, but THE VARSHA IS BACK!  SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! We've got the entire Legendary Announce Team together again for the first time!

Everybody's terribly concerned about the tire situation for the race.  Pirelli has brought the hard and medium compounds to the track, and from all reports the hards aren't lasting more than a handful of laps on the hot, hot asphalt.  They rubber is just blistering and boiling off.  One would assume that means the mediums will explode into flame the moment they hit the first turn, but as it turns out, they didn't wear quite as badly as the hards.  No, I can't explain it either.

Esteban Gutierrez had a little problem with his Sauber: the fire extinguisher built into the car went off.  While he was driving it.

I can imagine this would be... disconcerting.  And, considering that the temperature and humidity were both in the 90s, perhaps refreshing as well.

And then it rained, and everybody stopped driving.  Mark Webber actually said that the slicks worked better on the wet track than they did in the dry.  That's Australian humor, I suppose. 

I've half-arsed this post.  Sorry about that.  Quals in the morning.

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March 20, 2013

Vividred Operation Ep09 Nutshelled

To be blunt, however, the title of this should be "Ep09 NutSHOTted."  Because, oh my god, that's the least of what the Production Staff deserves.  Episode 08 was, in my opinion, the best of the series so far, full of drama and character development.  I really enjoyed watching it, mostly because it required that Team Aquos to succeed without the RHF, who is really the Kryptonian in the woodpile.  Everything has to run through her, because only with her can they reach the ultimate potential of the Vivid System amd become completely unstoppable.  Just like Superman.  And it becomes boring, just like Superman.  So seeing "The Jordanaires" succeed without her was quite nice.  Now, it's common for there to be a dropoff after such a tour de force, I understand that.  I do, and was actually expecting it.  I mean, let's face it, this is Vividred Operation we're talking about here, not ARIA or some excellent show like that.

What I didn't expect was what we got.  What we got was an episode that honestly made me angry with the pointlessness of it all.  I wanted to inflict deep hurting on the Production Staff.  And they would have deserved it, all of it and more.


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March 18, 2013

F1 on NBCSN!: Malaysia 2013

After a rousingly entertaining Grand Prix of Australia, the traveling band of oddballs known as Formula 1 makes its way to Koala Lumper for the 2013 Grand Prix of Malaysia... and a more different circuit you could not find.  Let's take a look at the track map:
The Sepang International Circuit has the honor of being our first Hermann Tilke design of the year, and oh boy aren't we the richer for it?  Well, the two long straightaways broken up by the hairpin is nice, but the rest of it?  If there was to be an international symbol for "meh", it would be the trackmap for Sepang.  Or the logo for Windows Vista.  One of the two. 

Combine the uninspired layout with stupidly high humidity and temperatures, and you've got a race that's brutally difficult for the drivers.  However, that's all tempered by the fact that it supposedly always rains right at race-time.  Since the switch to the 5pm local start time in 2009, we've had wet races twice: last year and in the inaugural race.  The forecast for this weekend is cloudy for Practice and Quals, and Biblical Apocalypse for the race.  If that occurs, then the Pirelli tire choice of Hards/Softs won't come into play.  As is, the tire manufacturer expects three stops if it doesn't rain... which means the teams'll do two.

Here's the NBCSN broadcast schedule for the race weekend:
1a - 230a  Practice 2 Live
3a - 430a  Quals Live
230a - 5a  Grand Prix of Malaysia
5a - 530a  F1 Extra

Looks like first practice was only being shown for Australia, which makes sense... first race of the year, first F1 broadcast ever for the channel, it gave 'em a chance to work out the kinks and so forth.  As it was, I thought NBCSN did a perfectly acceptable job.  They'll get their second chance this weekend, and F1Update! will be... um... paying attention.  We'll see you then!

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Vividred Operation Ep08

After looking back at it, I realized that I've been dealing with this bronchitis thing for three darn weeks.  No wonder I'm so bloody tired!  At least the antibiotic has been working its magic upon me for these past seven days... I feel a lot better.  Now, I'm sure y'all are reading this and saying something to the effect of "well, that's nice, Wonderduck, but what, exactly, does this have to do with Vividred Operation?"  A fine question, and I'm proud of you for calling me on it.  Keep the duck honest, I always say.  Well, since I feel better, I'm much more likely to do a good job with this writeup!  I mean, the last two have been done while I've felt miserable, so this one oughta be fantasmic!  Or something like that.  I dunno.  We'll find out.  As you may remember, at the end of last week's episode the RHF had been zorched by a seemingly-defeated Alone and was plummeting from the sky while the rest of Team Aquos watched helplessly and Hot Dark Girl Rei chuckled darkly to herself.  So where do we start this episode?

Ladies and gentlemen, the Production Staff went somewhere that even I didn't go, and it's AWESOME.  I saw this scene, of medical staff rolling RHF down a hall while Team Aquos crowded around her broken body and immediately knew I'd seen it somewhere before... I just couldn't figure out where.

It did eventually come to me, and it may be telling that I was under the influence of a cough medicine that contains a decent amount of codeine when it finally clicked.  We're in Ep09 of Ga-Rei Zero!  The more I think about it, the better VividGaRei OperationZero sounds to me.

Is that what Hot Dark Girl Rei is shooting at the Alones?  Fragments of the Death Stone?  Is RHF going to turn into The Schoolgirl In Black?  When's the pocky eating scene between Rei and Himawari?  Did I really just say that out loud?


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March 17, 2013

F1 Update!: 2013 Grand Prix of Australia

Hello, greetings and welcome to the new format of F1 Update!, the venerable (not vulnerable) flagship of The Pond.  In the past, F1U! has evolved from a simple e-mail to a light-hearted romp to a much more formal, almost regimented, review of each race.  Today, we here at F1U! are going to take it away from that style to a more conversational tone.  There are undoubtedly going to be people who won't care for this change, but we're doing it because, to be blunt, it takes too much time to do it the more formal way.  When the race is two hours and the F1U! takes four, there's something wrong, and this new style aims to fix it!  So let's get to updatin'!

*FIRST RACE:  The most exciting part of any F1 season isn't the end, but the beginning.  Nobody has the faintest idea about which teams are good, which need help, who the surprises are going to be, and perhaps most importantly, how the tires are really going to last.  Offseason testing is one thing, practice sessions give you clues, but it isn't until the lights go out, you've got 300 pounds of fuel on board and a Lotus trying to get past you that you know how things are going to work out.  When today's race began under cloudy skies but on a dry track, the front-row Red Bulls started exactly the way we expected them to.  To whit, polesitter Seb Vettel galloped away and began to gap the field, and second-place Mark Webber had one of his patented Lousy Starts©, dropping from his starting position to seventh in a heartbeat.  It looked very much like a repeat of Australia 2011 was in the offing, but once Vettel got out to a two-second lead, it stopped there and began to shrink.  Behind him, the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and HWMNBN, followed by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, kept in touch and forced him to run hard.

*TIRE WAR:  One of the things you can't be sure of during the offseason is how the tires will last.  Yes, everybody knows the super-softs won't last as long as the mediums, but they'll be faster, yadda yadda.  What's important is exactly how long they'll go, and with the top 10 qualifiers on the super-softs to start the race, it was hardly a theoretical question.  Answers came quickly: Vettel pitted on Lap 7, and everybody in the top 10 had stopped by Lap 12... the two Mercedes, coming in last, were coughing up a full second a lap to the fresher medium-shod cars.  Once everybody stopped, we had a surprising leader: Force India's Adrian F'n Sutil.  He had qualified 12th and thereby got to start on the tires of his choice, the longer-lived mediums.

:  It quickly became quite obvious that Sutil wasn't a fluke.  He made his mediums last some 20 laps, long enough that HWMNBN actually made a (strategic) second stop before Sutil made his first.  The race clearly was going to be one of tire maintenance: he who made the fewest stops and could keep pace in worn tires was going to win.  Sutil's Force India clearly was gentle on its tires, but the Lotus of Raikkonen was, too... and was a faster car, to boot.  It was quickly clear that Force India's strategy was to hope for rain, not a bad plan this weekend, all things being equal.  If it came before they had to stop for the mandatory super-soft tires, the team would win their first ever race... and the forecast was changing every minute and from team to team. 

*AW DRAT: Unfortunately, all of Force India's prayers to Indra went unanswered, and Sutil wound up having to stop for super-soft tires.  These proved to be even worse than they had been earlier, giving him two good laps before they went to heck.  He wound up falling all the way to 7th, and only a questionable team call kept his teammate, Paul di Resta, from passing him.

*UP FRONT: While every eye was turned to the excitement of Sutil's story, Kimi Raikkonen's tire care had put him firmly in front, leading HWMNBN and Vettel.  In fact, once the Finn drove past Sutil for the lead, it was clear that the win was going to be his, and that's the way it worked out.  In fact, it wasn't even close: Kimi finished 12 seconds ahead of HWMNBN, who was 10 seconds clear of Vettel, who was 11 seconds up on Felipe Massa.

*WHAT DID WE LEARN?:  Having good pace in practice and qualifying means nothing when it comes to the long distances of the race.  Being easy on your tires is better than one-lap pace.  And that McLaren is in serious, serious trouble: they finished 9th and 11th, and never once looked good.  There's even rumors of them switching back to last year's chassis.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Adrian F'n Sutil.  His first race back after being out of the sport in 2012 turned out to be pretty decent.  If a rain shower had come by around lap 35, the race would have been his... and the sky looked like it could have happened at any minute.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Ferrari.  HWMNBN's second place is hardly a surprise.  Felipe Massa's fourth-place finish at a track he hates probably has to be counted as a surprise.  They've got a nice jump on the constructor's championship already.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 32, Ferrari's HWMNBN was going to pass the Mercedes of Shiv Hamilton.  It wasn't a question of "if", but when and that's all there was to it.  Didn't mean that Shiv was going to make it easy for the Spaniard, however.  When the Ferrari made its move, Hamilton held off on braking for as long as possible... and maybe a little longer.  When he did finally step on the clampers, he immediately locked up his front-left tire and had zero ability to steer.

HWMNBN, who was past the Merc driver and just about to begin the turn, saw what was going on next to him (though with a smoke trail that long, it'd be hard to miss) and decided that he didn't need to turn right then... it could wait.  While this let Hamilton keep the place for a few more seconds, it did keep the Merc out of the Ferrari sidepods.  For that quick reaction, HWMNBN gets the Move of the Race.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  A remarkably clean race today, with really only one bit of poor driving.  On Lap 25, Papabile Maldonado was heading down to Turn 1 and did what hundreds of drivers had done before him: he moved as far outside as possible to get the best angle into the turn.  And then the Williams driver went a few inches too far, his left side tires leaving the pavement and hitting the grass.  The result was preordained.

He was out of the race on the spot, the only car to be eliminated via a method other than technical fault.  Here ya go, Maldonado: have a Moooooo-ooove!



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March 16, 2013

F1 Quals: Australia 2013... Q2 and Q3

After yesterday's soggy session, it looks like we've finally got a grid for Sunday's Grand Prix of Australia!  Let's take a look, shall we?

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:44.657 1:36.745 1:27.407
2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:44.472 1:36.524 1:27.827
3 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.456 1:36.625 1:28.087
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:44.635 1:36.666 1:28.490
Ferrari 1:43.850 1:36.691 1:28.493
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:43.380 1:36.194 1:28.523
7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:45.545 1:37.517 1:28.738
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:44.284 1:37.641 1:29.013
9 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:45.601 1:36.901 1:29.305
10 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.688 1:36.644 1:30.357
11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:45.930 1:38.067
12 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:47.330 1:38.134
13 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:44.871 1:38.778
14 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:46.450 1:39.042
15 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.300 1:39.900
16 Valtteri Lipless Bottas Williams-Renault 1:47.328 1:40.290
17 Papabile Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:47.614

18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:47.776

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:48.147

20 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:48.909

21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:49.519

22 Charles ToothPic Caterham-Renault 1:50.626

Q1 107% Time

From reports, Q2 started out wet but drying, and Q3 finished on the supersoft tires.  I don't think anybody is going to be surprised by the men on the front row; if we're lucky, the Red Bulls won't dominate the whole year.  I think the surprise has to be McLaren just being... slow.  We'll see if it carries over through the race and the season.

The race is in a few hours, we'll have the F1U! tomorrow!  See ya then!

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F1 Quals: Australia 2013... RAINED OUT!

When the time came to start Q1 for the Australian Grand Prix... they postponed it for a half-hour due to wind, rain and general miserableness.  From what the New Legendary Announce Team said, just after the V8S support race ended, the skies opened up with a fury not often seen in these here parts.  Rain came down in buckets, the wind tore branches from trees and umbrellas from hands, and very quickly the track became undrivable.  It took frantic action from the track marshals, the broom brigade, some random birds, and a brief cessation of rain for the session to start at all. 

Once the 20 minute Q1 did begin, some began to wonder if it should have, as it took only a single lap for cars to begin leaving chunks of themselves scattered around the circuit.  Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, both Caterhams, Mark Webber, Sergio Perez, Esteban Gutierrez, Paul di Resta, and Papabile Maldonado all had exciting rides.  Webber, Perez, di Resta and Maldonado DIDN'T damage visibly their cars, though only through luck.  Eventually the session came to an end, with the following being knocked out: Charles ToothPic, Geido van der Garde, Max Chilton, Jules Bianchi, Esteban Gutierrez, Papabile Maldonado.  ToothPic is 22nd, Maldonado 17th.

Unfortunately, in the stretch between Q1 and Q2, the heavens opened up again.  Scheduled to begin at 6pm local time, Q2 wound up being delayed by 10 minute intervals to 650pm.  At that point, with heavy rain still falling, the radar screen a lurid shade of green for 500 miles, the sun setting at 738pm local and two Qual sessions left to run that would equal 25 minutes on their own, the decision was made to postpone until 11am Sunday morning local (Saturday night, 7pm Pond Central Time).  At that point, the action will resume with Q2.  Alas, we won't be getting coverage of it here on NBCSN, but I'll report the results when they become available.

On a historical note, this is only the third time Quals has been postponed in 10 years... and the other two occurred in Japan due to various typhoons.  No Great Australian Boat Races, though.  Pity, that.

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March 15, 2013

3/15/2009: Never Forget

"A bat that apparently had trouble flying instead tried to hitch a ride on the space shuttle Discovery, NASA officials said.  The animal was last seen clinging to the foam of the external tank of the space shuttle moments before the Discovery launched, officials said.  NASA had hoped that the bat would fly away on its own, but admitted the bat probably died quickly during Discovery's climb to orbit."

May we all be as brave when we are afraid as Space Bat.  Now he belongs to the stars.

To Space Bat!

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F1 Practice: Australia 2013

A vaguely gray day greeted the sparse crowd at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, but nobody cared.  Nobody cared because the red light of the offseason had been replaced by a green light, a light that signified that the 2013 Formula 1 season had finally begun.

Then every car in the pitlane came out, ran for the entire length of P1 and P2, and left us as fans exhausted and wanting more.  That was the theory.  In practice, Practice 1 was roughly half over before we saw our first flying lap.  The first 45 minutes saw the teams bring their cars out for an installation lap, making sure that every bolt was tight, every hose connected, every fluid topped off and so forth, then bringing them back in to check everything all over again.  Then, and only then, did anybody even think about going back out for head-to-head white knuckled racing action.  Or another install lap, take your pick.  Seriously.  I mean, I expected it; they DID just ship their cars halfway around the world AND this is the first race of the season, of course they're gonna work to make everything exactly right.  But still, the people in the stands weren't even getting red-hot pitstop action.  What they got was a lot of nothing.  AND YOU'LL LIKE IT!

Once the session really began, and all the way through Practice 2, it became perfectly clear that while some things had changed, like McLaren seeming dreadfully slow, some things hadn't: Red Bull and Seb Vettel remained on top of the timesheets.  In dominating fashion, it might be pointed out, nearly a half-second ahead of their nearest rival in P2, Nico Rosberg.

Even that little bit of news had a dark lining, as Mercedes' newest driver, Lewis Hamilton, speared into the barriers with five minutes to go in P2, reporting that "something's wrong with the car."  Right after that, the Mercedes pit wall told Rosberg that he had a gearbox problem and he needed to pull over and shut it down.  That's somewhat ominous, what when both Mercs fail to finish the session like that...

Even more ominous could be the performance of the two McLarens.  Jenson Button could only manage 11th on the day, and Sergio Perez a humbling 13th.  Handling seemed to be an issue for the glares with wheels, as they tended to porpoise and tremble into corners.  Steve Matchett was suggesting that the suspension was too stiff, and he may very well be right... or maybe it's something not so easily fixed?  

The boys at Maranello must be ecstatic with Ferrari's 6th and 8th finishes, particularly considering last year's debacle in Australia when they were closer to the back of the grid than the front.   If so, Team Lotus are probably calling their doctors after four hours, for they finished P2 4th and 5th. 

But of course, this is only practice.  You can never judge the true worth of a car from practice, just because every team is operating differently.  For all we know, McLaren could have been running under a heavy fuel load all day, and once the weight burns off they'll handle better.  Red Bull could have been running minimum fuel (note: they weren't).  Maybe Mercedes accidentally used French Onion instead of Ranch in their gearbox.  We just don't know.

Except... we kinda do, don't we?   We'll find out for sure Saturday at Quals!  See ya then!

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March 13, 2013

My Favorite Joke...

I note that the Roman Catholic Church elected a new Pope today.  Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has now become Pope Francis, the first of his name.  I've always been somewhat in awe of the position Cardinal Bergoglio now holds; whether one is a follower of his faith, some other, or none whatsoever, the Pope is the head of an organization that counts some 1.3 billion followers.  That little fact deserves some respect, right there.  But his elevation to Pontifex Maximus allows me the chance to roll out my all-time favorite joke, which is, alas, limited in times that it can be told and still be funny.

But first, some background.  It is a winter's morning in 1992.  The sky is blue and clear, with a sort of vividness that only occurs when it is bone-achingly cold... which it is.  There's maybe a foot of fresh white snow on the ground, everywhere but streets, parking lots and sidewalks.  None of the many people visible seem to notice the cold, however.  That's because this is Minnesota, and the residents are used to it being below zero.  Well, that, and everybody has on big hulking parkas that'd keep the wearer warm on the surface of Pluto.

Amongst these huddled masses, enter Wonderduck and his fellow grad student in lighting design, Mike.  Mike and Wonderduck get along pretty well; they're both from Illinois, outsiders to these here Northerners.  Further, they're currently the only theatre tech grad students and have the same grad advisor.  To say they spend a lot of time together would be something of an understatement: they have the same classes, work on each others productions (example: Mike is a show's lighting designer, Wonderduck would be his master electrician, and vice-versa), help teach the same classes, and so on.  The main difference between them is that Mike is pushing 40, while Wonderduck is in his low 20s.  Both have an interest in history, however, that often left the other grad students bored and confused. 

On this frigid morning, Wonderduck and Mike are walking from their reserved parking spots towards the theatre building, about a three-block stroll.  Normally not a problem, on mornings like this it could be considered something of a trial for us Illinoisans and our thin "southern" blood.  As we make our way towards the warmth of the tallest building in the city, we turn a corner that reveals the northern edge of the campus.  The theatre building is there, and just to the west, across a wide expanse of courtyard (that I was known to fly kites from, even in January, but I digress), the Freshman Dorm building. 

As anybody who's experienced bitterly cold days like this one will attest, things like vehicles and buildings appear to smoke a lot when it's frigid, and this day was no exception.  Small cars would go by, leaving clouds of exhaust to rival any jumbo jet contrail.  Buildings seemed to have their own external microclimate, wreathed as they are in clouds of steam condensate.  For whatever reason, however, on this day the Freshman Dorm was pumping out enough of this stuff to make any nuclear power plant cooling tower feel inadequate, and it was all a pure, pristine white.

At this point, Mike turned to Wonderduck and said "wow, look at that."  Wonderduck, suitably impressed, nodded and said to Mike "Yeah.  You know what that means, right?"

A beat passed before Mike replied with excellent comic timing: "The freshmen have elected a Pope?"

Exunt two grad students, laughing uproariously.

And now you know why my favorite joke is only funny at very limited and specific times. 

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March 12, 2013

F1 On NBCSN!: Australia 2013

F1 is back.

Everything is right with the world.

As is tradition, the new season is opening in the Land Down Under.  Beautiful Albert Park, Melbourne, will host the Australian Grand Prix for the 18th consecutive year, and to say that this should be a revealing race would be something of an understatement.  But first, let's take a look at the track map:

It's the same old circuit that it's been for as long as I've been watching F1, and that's a really good thing.  What we have here is probably the most balanced of tracks on the calendar, in that there's no "technical" section.  See, I just cringe when I see "technical" or "stadium" used as a descriptor for a part of a race circuit.  It's just a nice way of saying "slow and pointless".  For example, please look at the track map for Interlagos in Brazil.  Can YOU guess what the "technical" section is?  If you said "from Turn 7 to Turn 11," you're right!  It's just there to slow the track down as the cars go up and down and up and down.  Awful.

And Australia doesn't have any of that.  Oh, to be sure, you slow down, but it's never for more than a corner, maybe two tops, before you're back to racing.  It's organic.  It flows.  It's a challenging layout, but not so challenging to be a bad way to start a season... imagine if Monaco was the first race of the year!  HRT would have won every season simply because they couldn't go fast enough to hurt themselves if they bumped into the walls... but I digress.  On the whole, drivers uniformly love the track.  The single most unique part of the track is that it's very much a street circuit at heart.  Almost the entire map can be driven by the public year-round; Albert Park is a working public park, after all.  There's even one bit that cuts through a parking lot!  As the tarmac is really road, that means there's all sorts of oil, transmission fluid, radiator drippings and crud that falls out of working engines over daily use embedded in the asphalt.  Throw in the lines painted to signal lanes and the like and you've got what can be a very slippery surface, particularly if it rains... and guess what's in the forecast for Quals and Race Day?  Well, at least a chance of the wet stuff.  Personally, I don't want it to rain... I want to see these cars out on a dry track so we can get an idea of what's what!  Don't get me wrong, rain is fun!  Let's have it in Malaysia, next weekend.

But before we talk about the second race of the year, we need to see the first.  This year, for the first time in my adult life as a F1 fan, the races will not be covered by SPEED.  In fact, in a few months, SPEED itself will go away, turned into FOXSports1.  Y'know the saying "Meth: Not Even Once"?  Fox's version of the aphorism appears to be "SPEED: Not Anymore."  I've gone astray again.  NBCSN, new channel, new coverage... mostly the same old Legendary Announce Team!  Steve Matchett and David Hobbs, the mechanic and the driver, make the move over.  Leigh Diffey takes over for The Varsha, a role he's used to as he did the same at SPEED whenever Bob was doing car auction coverage.  And, if you trust the tweets, The Varsha may be rejoining the Legendary Announce Team later in the season.  Will Buxton's Exuberance  remains the pit lane guy.  But when do we get to experience this new group?  Let's take a look:

11pm - 1230am  Practice 1 (delay) on NBCSN
1230am - 2am  Practice 2 (live) on NBCSN
1am - 230am  Quals (live) on NBCSN
1230am - 3am  Grand Prix of Australia (live) on NBCSN
3am - 330am  F1 Extra, whatever that is, on NBCSN.

That's right, we get Practice 1 on television now!  P3 is probably streaming, but I can't confirm that. 

Before we go, I think it'll behoove us to take a look at the driver lineup for 2013... the last time we talked about it, not every seat had been filled, after all.  Here we go:

Red Bull: Seb Vettel, Mark Webber.  Really, why mess with a good thing?
Ferrari: HWMNBN, Felipe Massa.  If he beats Vettel for the championship, even I'll put in a good word for The Evil One.  If Massa beats Vettel for the championship, I can only assume the world is about to come to an end.
McLaren: Jenson Button, Sergio Perez.  So weird to see this team without Shiv Hamilton.
Lotus: Kimi Raikkonen, Lettuce Grosjean.  Kimi knows what he's doing.  The same may not be able to be claimed for Lettuce.
Mercedes: Nico Rosberg, Shiv Hamilton.  We've seen the last of Hamilton on the top step for a while.
Sauber: Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez.  With Gutierrez and Perez, we have two Mexican drivers in F1.  No Americans, though.
Force India: Paul di Resta, Adrian F'n Sutil.  Sutil's back!
Williams: Papabile Maldonado, Vallteri Bottas.  Bottas has no lips.
Toro Rosso: Jules Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo.  One is French, the other bland. 
Caterham:  Charles ToothPic, Geido van der Garde.  I'm gonna have to come up with a nickname for Geido in a hurry.
Marussia: Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton.  Sponsorship!

Here we go, folks. We're just a few days away now...

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March 11, 2013

Getting Better, Not Gotten Better.

Hey everybody, I've got great news!

The Dacia Sandero will not be appearing in this post!  Oh, and I'm feeling better already!  As you may remember from that long ago post from... yesterday, I think it was, I had been diagnosed with bronchitis, suffered a damaged muscle in my side, and was generally feeling just rather medically unhappy.  To solve the bronchitis, the doctor gave me azithromycin, an antibiotic that costs $15.52 per pill, which fact blew my tiny little mind and made me so very glad I have a full-time job with pretty decent health-care benefits.  To take care of the muscle-thingy, he... well, he didn't really do anything.  Not much he could do, to be honest, except say "find a position that makes it hurt less when you cough."  I've done so, and I'm awfully glad my job tends to keep me in the back room.  Makes it ever so much easier to and then .  That's just embarrassing to do every time I cough.

But to deal with the unhappiness, he gave me Cheratussin AC.  This is a foul tasting syrup that supports a dose of an effective expectorant... and codeine.  Truthfully, it's not doing all that much other than making me cough, which hurts, but the codeine is making it not hurt so much.  It balances out.  The bad part of all of these wonderdrugs is that, well, I came home from work, had something to eat, then immediately crawled into bed and stayed there until just now... meaning I didn't do the first official post of the new F1 season tonight.  I'll do it tomorrow, I promise.

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