November 30, 2014

Remembering A Time

I remember a time when the world was endlessly fascinating, from the moment I woke up to the time I went to sleep.  It wasn't without its problems, but on the whole it was "an endless summer."

I don't often feel that way anymore.  Now I can't wait to go back to sleep, because my dreams are endlessly fascinating, and everyday life isn't.  It's all about what I'm NOT doing and what I CAN'T do.  I don't like it, but until the job situation changes, there's not much I can do about it.

Remember when the world was endlessly fascinating?  I haven't wanted to be a kid again in a long time and I don't want to be now, but there are times when I envy that Wonderduck of 40 years ago.

He still had his dreams. 

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November 29, 2014

A Curiously Interesting Form of Frustration

Of late, I've found myself spending time playing a MMO game called War Thunder.  For those who aren't aware of the game, War Thunder is primarily a WWII-era air combat (mostly)sim.  I say "(mostly)sim", because there are three different difficulty levels you can play.  The first is Arcade, where it's nearly impossible to make your plane do Bad Things, like spin or rip your wings off.  Flight models are roughly correct, but relaxed, and there's aiming assistance as well.  The second level is Realistic.  It's difficult to get into a spin, but possible.  You can dismember your airplane, and G-forces can knock your pilot out, though I've never managed that feat.  Damage is modeled in more detail as well... you can ruin a rudder, instead of just doing "tail damage", for example.  Finally, there's Simulator, the highest level possible.  I've never dared climb that mountain, mostly because I don't want to pull my flight stick out of storage.

Fear the Peashooter!
Everybody starts off with the very wimpiest airplanes, Spanish Civil War-era biplanes or early monoplanes like the P-26 above.  Then, as you fly more, you earn research points to unlock more advanced aircraft.  At the same time, you also research improvements to your current aircraft, like better engine tuning or replacement of worn equipment... that way, your old plane gets better as you get ready for the next generation.

For example, the direct replacement of the Peashooter is the P-36 Hawk, which is replaced in turn by the P-40.  Which is not to say that Americans are the only planes available!  Five nations are currently available: USA, Japan, Germany (with Italy, which are about to be spun off), England and the Soviet Union.  All the legendary planes are able to be earned, from Gladiators to Me262s to some of the "paper airplanes" Japan had on the designer's table when the war ended.

Combat balancing is done on a tier system, roughly based on generational levels.  The P-36, for example, is a Tier I plane, where the P-40 is a Tier II.  The A6M2 Zero is also a Tier II aircraft, as is the Hellcat.  Of course, the Spitfire is anything from a Tier II to a Tier IV, depending on the version you're looking at.  Tier V is where you find the jets... we won't be talking about those!  In any battle, you can see planes within one tier of you... so if you've got a Hellcat, you could be up against A5M4 Claudes or later versions of the Me109s

Speak of the devil...
Fighters are not the only planes in the game, either!  Bombers and seaplanes are also available to fly, and there's nothing sadder than seeing a Zero do unspeakable things to a Swordfish.  So I won't show you that!  Here's a Dauntless instead:

You'll have 20 players or more in an Arcade battle, evenly divided with little regard to nationalities.  It's not uncommon to see Buffaloes being menaced by Wildcats, or Me110s under attack from 109s, for example.  In Realistic, though, it's nationality-based.  If you're in a P-38 Lightning, you won't be dogfighting a Corsair... not that you'd want to in any case.  The flight models would make that a fool's game, and one that'd be short and unhappy for the P-38. 

War Thunder is free-to-play, and the cynic in me wants to add "pay-to-win".  That's not strictly true, however.  Everything a pay player can get is available to the free player as well, it'll just take a lot more time spent grinding away at the tech tree.  One thing that amazes me is just how stunning the game looks. 

While all the pictures in this post are from the in-game replay system, quality doesn't drop when you look at gameplay screenshots.  It really does look this good all the time.  So why don't I just freakin' love War Thunder?


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November 26, 2014

Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving...

...and The Librarian and I had Italian food and two hours of enjoyably pointless conversation.

For someone like me who professes to hate human beings, I sure miss having the opportunity to talk to them.

Enjoy the mass consumption of turkey and potatoes and stuffing and cranberries and corn souffle and gravy and broccoli and pumpkin pie and other foods.  Or, if you're in a location that doesn't  celebrate America's Thanksgiving Day holiday, have a swell Thursday. 

But consider moving.  Because lots of turkey and potatoes and stuffing and cranberries and corn souffle and gravy and broccoli and pumpkin pie and other foods is a good thing.

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November 24, 2014

Music! Nonstop!

A week or so ago, I get this e-mail from by brother in feathers GreyDuck talking about having "introduced someone to the Yoshida Brothers the other day."  I had never heard of these people, but I trust GD's taste in music to approximate my own pretty well, so I looked 'em up.

Yoshida Brothers - Rising

Who knew you could shred on shamisen?

Yoshida Brothers - Storm

I'm thinking this was from the soundtrack to the Spy Hunter video game.  If it wasn't, it should have been.
Yoshida Brothers - The National Anthem

I've never been a fan of Radiohead, but covers like this could convince me.

There was once a time in my life where the very concept of listening to "world music," no matter how funkified or Americanized it was, would have appalled me.  I guess that's fallen by the wayside, huh?

Thanks, GD!  Good stuff here.

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November 23, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Abu Dhabi 2014

The evening was clear and warm as the F1 Carnival took to the grid for its final performance of the season.  The final showdown between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the Driver's Championship was at hand with the young German needing a victory and help to score enough points to take it from the Brit.  Would he get it?  THIS is your mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi!

*LIGHTS OUT:  Rosberg's hopes for the Driver's Championship essentially lasted just long enough for the cars to roll 100meters or so.  By that point, Hamilton had perhaps the greatest start of all time, already passed Rosberg, and was working on opening a lead as they ran into Turn 1.  Indeed, Williams' Felipe Massa was hard on the German's wing in third, an ominous sign.  While Massa slipped away soon enough, Rosberg had no real answer for Hamilton.  Even through the first round of pit stops, the lead was around three seconds, but you never got the feeling that Rosberg could really cut into it.

*WORST FEAR: On Lap 23, Rosberg had a fairly substantial tire lock-up, but it seemed very much like any other such event.  Until you realized that suddenly the gap from Hamilton was over seven seconds, not the three it'd been all race.  Then came the call to the pit lane: "I'm losing engine power."  A whole lap passed before we heard the response from the Mercedes mechanics... Rosberg's KERS unit had packed up and gone home for the night.  As a result, Rosberg was going to be down some 200hp on power for the rest of the race, and his braking was going to suffer as well.  By Lap 27, Massa had caught and passed Rosberg for second place.

*AND THEN:  Rosberg's pleas for something to do... anything... to keep him in the top five went unanswered.  He fell to seventh after his next pit stop, something of an adventure with his electronics beginning to get wonky.  Meanwhile, the Mercedes pit wall was telling Hamilton that his teammate "was no longer a threat."  In response, he dialed back his engine just a bit... choosing reliability over speed, in the hope that his power unit wouldn't cough up a lung as well.  This allowed Felipe Massa an opportunity to close the gap as he headed into his last stop.

*FINALLY:  On Lap 43, Massa pitted for the last time, putting on the super-soft tires and returning some 10 seconds behind Hamilton with 10 laps to go.  The Williams driver immediately began taking a second or two off the lead every lap.  Eventually, Hamilton's racing instinct got the better of him and he turned his engine back up to full power, putting paid to Massa's charge.  Even with that, he only led the Brazilian by 2.5 seconds when he crossed the finish line to win both the 2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi and the 2014 World Driver's Championship.  Valterri Bottas, Massa's teammate at Williams, came along in third, giving Williams their first double podium since Monaco in 2005.  Nico Rosberg finished in 14th, after refusing a request from the pit lane to retire the car. 

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Daniel Ricciardo was forced to start the race from the pit lane, thanks to Red Bull's front-wing chicanery.  He finished the race in fourth place, a full forty seconds ahead of his Ferrari-bound teammate 4Time Vettel in eighth.  Not too shabby.

:  Last year, Williams scored five points and finished 9th in the Constructor's Championship.  This season, they finished with 320 points, third in the Constructor's Championship, and a double podium to put a gold star on the whole proceedings.  Not too bad.



"It's the greatest day of my life." - Lewis Hamilton

"It was close at the end, who would have thought?" - Felipe Massa

"Speak for yourself." - Valterri Bottas

"Vettel who?" - Daniel Riccardio

"If I'm now done with Formula 1, this is as good a way as any to go out, I suppose." - Jenson Button

"Don't mind me, just passing through." - Nico Hulkenberg

"I swear to you, I really was in the race today." - Sergio Perez

"Maranello, here I come!  My favorite color is now red." - 4Time Vettel

"What the king says I cannot go against. The king is the king. He is always right." - HWMNBN (note: King Juan Carlos of Spain said that he'd been told that HWMNBN would be driving for McLaren in 2015.  Actually, he abdicated in favor of his son earlier this year, so once he was the King of Spain.)

"mrmmrmrmbl mrlmlbbl mrmbblllmlbr mrmrmrrmrmlbl mmmmblbph." - Kimi Raikkonen

"He’s done an amazing year, an amazing job and he was the best driver on the grid this year, for sure." - Nico Rosberg (speaking of Hamilton).

So.  That's it for the 2014 season.  Congratulations to Mercedes for just completely dominating the entire year.  The next race will be in Australia, March 15th, 2015.  Thanks to all the F1U! readers for following along for another year, and we'll see you soon.

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November 22, 2014

F1 Quals: Abu Dhabi 2014

Pretty much perfect weather for today's Quals at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.  Tomorrow's race will decide which of the Merc pilots will win the driver's championship!  Who are you backing?  Is it Lewis Hamilton, 2008 driver champion, and leading this one?  Or is it Nico Rosberg and his consistently good finishes and ten poles?  Who gets the advantage for tomorrow?  Let's look at the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:41.308 1:41.459 1:40.480
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:41.207 1:40.920 1:40.866
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:42.346 1:41.376 1:41.025
4 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:41.475 1:41.144 1:41.119
DSQ Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:42.204 1:41.692 1:41.267
DSQ 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:42.495 1:42.147 1:41.893
7 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:42.302 1:42.082 1:41.908
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:42.137 1:41.875 1:41.964
9 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:42.439 1:42.168 1:42.236
10 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:42.467 1:41.940 1:42.866
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:42.104 1:42.198
12 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:42.413 1:42.207
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:42.654 1:42.239
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:42.444 1:42.384
15 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:42.746 1:43.074
16 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:42.768

17 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:42.819

18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:42.860

19 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:44.540

20 Will Stevens Caterham-Renault 1:45.095

Rosberg scores his 11th pole of the season, and at least has a small advantage going into tomorrow race.  Now all he has to do is win and hope Hamilton finishes third or worse... he needs help, in other words.  Still, advantage Rosberg.

The huge elephant in the room, obviously, is the two Red Bulls being disqualified from Quals.  They were reported to the stewards for having a front wing that had been designed to flex under loading, which means it's a movable aerodynamic device.  Tricky, but against the rules.  They've accepted the penalty, while saying "we're disappointed that we're getting penalized while other teams are doing the same thing."  Of course, all front wings move a bit as downforce comes on, but Red Bull's were really pushing it.  I'm not impressed by their reaction; essentially it boils down to "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, you're picking on us!"  Which, to be fair, has been their reaction to such things in the past as well.  The two Red Bull drivers will start from the back of the grid.

In other news, hey look!  It's Caterham!  They managed to sucker enough F1 fans into their crowdsourced funding project to get to the grid, and thereby earn 10th place and a cut of the prize money despite not actually having earned it!  Even better, all that prize money will likely go right to creditors when the team folds after the race.  There are Caterham staff who reportedly haven't received back pay from two months ago, and over 200 employees were let go a while ago.  I do hope the mechanics at Abu Dhabi were paid in advance.  I also hope the cars are safe... at Russia, Gandalf Kobayashi tweeted that the team had repaired a broken carbon fiber suspension piece by wrapping it up with a carbon fiber sheet.

Finally, in the world of ridiculous penalties, Lettuce Grosjean has received a twenty grid-place penalty.  He's using his sixth engine, turbocharger and MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit - Heat, which converts exhaust heat to electrical power as part of the KERS unit) at Abu Dhabi, meaning he gets a 10-spot for the engine, and 5-spots for the other two.  Since he can't actually start from 36th on the grid (that would put him roughly halfway across the Al-Mafraq bridge), he's going to have to serve a ten second stop-go penalty during the race while starting... um... well, I'm not sure where he'll be starting.  He'll either be 18th, just before the two Red Bulls, or 20th, behind them.

Race is in the morning, F1U! thereafter.  See ya then!

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November 20, 2014

The Evangelion Movies: 2.22 You Can (not) Advance, pt 2

What the hell, why not?  Back in January when my life was ridiculously busy, I decided that I was going to deep-six the writeups I was working on for the new Evangelion movies.  I wasn't really having much fun with them, and dear god its not like I had any spare time, y'know?  Now though?  Nothing but time, and while we wait for the Kantai Collection anime to debut, I need to do something anime-related, right?  Right!  Sure!  Let's go with that!  And since I left this sitting on the table, why NOT pick it back up.  I mean, besides the fact that it's been sitting out since January, kinda turned green around the edges and may have been trying to acquire sentience in an attempt to escape, that is.  It does look like it grew a flipper.  Well, let's poke it and see what squirts out, shall we?  C'mon, it'll be fun!

See?  Fun!  Who wouldn't want to go to a... whatever this sign is talking about here!  I'm sure it'll be great!  It'll be... um... like a waterpark!  That's what "marine" means, right?  Either that or there'll be an amphibious invasion, one of the two.  That'd be even better, because here's the defenders:

So, we've got Teh Rei, Pen2, Shinji's friends Evageek and Facepuncher, and of course Asuka.  Everybody seems to be all excited about the trip to Funderwater World and all, except for Asuka.  And Teh Rei, who doesn't do "excited."  Or any other emotion usually.  It's her schtick, she'll grow out of it.  She's at that age, y'know?  At least, she thinks she is.  Nobody's quite sure.  We'll get to that, I think.  Eventually.  There's so many versions of Evangelion floating around out there, it's hard to remember what's going on.

Greatest waterpark ever!  Yeah, it looks like a repurposed sewage treatment plant, but that's because... um... it is?  See, where you're looking at is an attempt to reclaim the red-stained oceans, caused by the Second Impact, and also act like an aquatic ark if you will.  Because we need to keep tuna alive.  By running them through a sewage treatment plant.  Speaking of which, it's not like the outside world is allowed in willy-nilly.  Oh no.


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November 18, 2014

A Nice Slice Of Cheesecake

-Amagi Brilliant Park, ep07

Just a little sumtin-sumtin to tide you over while I work on a surprise.  You like surprises.  Surprises are good.

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November 17, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Abu Dhabi 2014

So it comes down to this.  The season which first saw the lights go out in Melbourne will see the checkered flag flown in Abu Dhabi.  From the land where everything is trying to kill you, to a small island that holds nearly 10% of the world's oil reserves, and thus has a ridiculous amount of money lying around... a perfect atmosphere for Formula 1.  Let's take a look at the track map for the 2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, shall we?

The Yas Marina circuit is probably the richest, most expensive purpose-built racing circuit, not just in F1 but perhaps in the world.  At least as far as a "how to" guide to build an entire racing area, Abu Dhabi is probably THE place to go.  The circuit itself, eh, not so good thanks to the influence of Hermann Tilke.  Remember, this is the place that has the pit exit that runs underground and crosses under the circuit.  It also has what is probably the single most ridiculous hotel you could ever hope to stay at, the Yas Viceroy... that's the dark gray handheld razor-shaped thing between Turns 18 and 19.  499 rooms, and while it's currently sold out for the race weekend, you can get a Marina Deluxe King room for about $230/night normally.  If you want to be a plebe about it, that is.  For something higher end, there's the Presidential Suite... 400m2, two floors, private lap pool, terrace overlooking the track, touch panels for the whole-suite ambient lighting, the works... all this can be yours for a mere $5200/night normally.  I'd be fascinated to see what it'd cost during race weekend.

Dear god.

Unfortunately, the track itself isn't nearly as spectacular an experience.  Like every other Tilke track, it's a weird conglomerate of long straights connected by right-angle turns that ruin any flow the place has for racing.  It does have perhaps the best asphalt in F1, however, grippy without being particularly abrasive, a neat trick if you can pull it off.  Probably has something to do with the ambient air temperatures; the average high in November is around 86°F, with 65% humidity.  Of course, you'd expect that for a tiny island nation in the Persian Gulf, wouldn't you?  I'll be honest, I'd take that right now: as I write this, it's snowing with a windchill of -4°F.  November in Northern Illinois, yay!

Because it's so hot in Abu Dhabi, the race begins late in the day and goes into the night, a rather spectacular visual spectacle.  The race itself?  Not so spectacular, and arguably can be blamed for the acceptance of DRS (see 2010, HWMNBN, losing Driver's Championship) in F1.  In fact, I'll go so far as to say that F1 cars shouldn't be racing here, as the Australian V8Supercar series has had some fantastic races at Abu Dhabi.  That's just me, though (note: no, it's not).

Well, our friends at NBCSN will be doing their usual knockout job with coverage, following the following schedule:
Practice 2: 7a - 830a
Quals: 7a - 830a
2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi: 630a - 9a

Of course, it's a race to crown a new driver's champion as well.  If Lewis Hamilton finishes ahead of Nico Rosberg, he wins.  If Rosberg finishes ahead of Hamilton, Hamilton needs to finish second to win the championship.  Here's a chart breaking down finish positions and what needs to happen for either to win.  Even if Hamilton fails to finish, Rosberg must end up in 5th to win.

So here we go.  We here at F1U! will see ya this weekend!

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November 16, 2014

Ben-To! Ep12

And so we have come, not to the end of the beginning as Winston Churchill might say, but just simply to the end.  This final episode of Ben-To! in and of itself is nothing important, just another final episode in a long line of final episodes for a long line of series.  But just as no two snowflakes are alike, so to are no two final episodes the same.  Each has its charms and failings, characters you'll be sorry to see go and ones you wish had disappeared half a series earlier, and the same holds true for our feisty discount meal punch-em-up.  For example, I could have done without Desaturation Lass and her taste for slashfic hardcore yaoi starring Our Hero, even if she does come part and parcel with Shiraume Ume, the obsessive Western Student Council Prez with the zettai ryouiki and the slap that can shatter a planet.  On the other hand, if they felt like spinning off a show starring Shaga, aka "Beauty of the Lake", I'd be perfectly okay with that.  Alas, it is not to be, at least anytime soon. Ben-To! did not sell well in Japan, and with Funimation coughing up a hairball on their release of the show domestically, it seems unlikely that we'll ever see a Season 2.  So gather around, my friends!  Let us remember not the bad times of Ben-To!, but the good.  Let us go forward into Ep12 together in comradely comradeship.  Let us show the production company that we are unbowed, that we are still strong, and that tonight, we are all one united.  I see an entire army of my readers, here in ridicule of bad production staffs, here for the one chance to... y'know what?  Instead of getting all dramatic and stuff, let's just finish this show up, shall we?

"THEY MAY TAKE OUR LIVES, BUT THEY WILL NEVER TAKE... OUR POCARI SWEAT!!!"  It is 6pm the evening of the Summer Solstice, when Supermarket Audrey has their famed eel bento.  It goes on sale at 10pm, and the Ice Witch is trying everything she can to be ready.  Bananas, nyquil and gatorade... sounds like an interesting Saturday night.  As she drifts off to sleep, Our Hero turns off the alarm and leaves a note saying that he'll bring her back eel.  How romantic can you get, huh?  In another part of the city...

...Left is on the verge of a monumental breakdown, just because maybe the Club of Hercules might show up since it's been three years to the day.  Kyou, the closest thing we have to a sane person in this show, does everything she can to calm her down, short of a cattleprod.  I don't know just how much that'd calm her sister down, but it'd be worth watching.  Is there any way we can make that happen?  Somewhere else in town...

...PCB explains what he learned about Orthrus and Club of Hercules last episode.  Needless to say, it's not something the show cares to share with us because why would it do something like that, but Shaga seems somewhat disturbed by it.  Finally, in yet another part of this village...

...Club of Hercules makes contact with Our Hero in a way that Desaturation Lass would find as inspiring, throwing him up against a train trestle support and whispering in is ear what the plan is, and how it guarantees the Ice Witch some eel.  Needless to say, it's not something the show cares to share with us because why would it do something like that, but Our Hero seems somewhat disturbed by it.  There are moments where I want to commit unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty upon this series, and right here is one of those moments


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November 13, 2014

Random Anime Picture #88: Do I Need A Reason?

-Fate Stay/Night Unlimited Blade Works, Ep05
I don't even really need to say anything here, do I?  Nah, didn't think so.

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November 11, 2014

Ben-To! Ep11

Here we are again!  Much to everybody's surprise, we find ourselves approaching the end of the greatest anime series based on punching people for half-priced pre-packaged meals.  Last episode saw the arrival of Orthrus, aka Kyou and Left, and the associated beating of the Ice Witch via shopping basket.  I'm sorry, but that's not the way I expected the premiere Wolf of the West to go: beaten by shopping basket.  Next up, Our Hero is flagellated by plastic shopping bag tie-shuts.  Actually, that sounds like something Desaturation Lass would enjoy... well, let's see what the Production Staff thinks, shall we?

We pick up directly from where Ep10 ends, with Orthrus standing over the broken and bleeding bodies of all that stood in their way for half-priced boxed dinners.  As the Ice Witch hemorrhages and suffers brain swelling, they taunt the Wolves that are still on their feet, practically begging them to attack.  Nobody does.  Not even Our Hero.

The only Wolf with any energy left is PCB, who follows them outside into the rain, asking who they are and where they came from... and, more importantly, why they're doing this!

Left, in her adorably stupid way, chooses to misunderstand and instead gives PCB their contact information and their itinerary of grocery stores for the next while.  I don't know what to say about that... do you plan in advance where you're going shopping?  Even if it's for food every day?  "Hm, tonight I'll go to the Eagle on North Main... and tomorrow, the Brown Store I think.  After that, let's say the Hilander on Rural, their produce section is decent."  But then, we're not bento battlers, are we?  No, we're much more sane than that.  Though half-priced food sounds useful...


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November 09, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Brazil 2014

Blue skies were above Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace as the Thundering Herd made its way to the grid in São Paulo.  Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, #2 in the Driver's Championship, led the way, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton, leader in the Championship, right next to him and local boy Felipe Massa, driving for Williams, in third.  What would this volatile combination do when the lights went out?  THIS is your mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil!

*LIGHTS OUT:  A mostly clean start saw Lewis Hamilton make a blinder of a start from second... and his teammate Nico Rosberg make an even better one.  As a result, the two led the field into the first turn and immediately begin to pull away.  However, Rosberg couldn't open much of a lead on his Silver Arrows compatriot, and with the slippery tarmac and hot track temperatures butchering the Soft tires, this was clearly going to be a sprint to the first pit stop.  We didn't have long to wait; the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado stopped on Lap 4, and most of the rest of the field followed along the next few laps.  When leader Rosberg came in on Lap 8, Hamilton had his first chance to jump into the lead via the pits.

*DID IT WORK?:  The pit crew did its best for Hamilton when he stopped on the next lap, but to no avail; he had closed the gap somewhat, but was still behind his championship rival.  Both were on the Medium tires now, however, and Hamilton had plenty of time.  Protecting the rubber, Hamilton lagged back, the gap to the leader opening to as much as two seconds.  As the second round of stops approached, Hamilton put the hammer down and the gap began to fall.  The lead was down to under one second when Rosberg hit the pit lane..

*DID IT WORK THIS TIME?:  On Lap 27, Rosberg pitted.  Hamilton immediately set the fast lap of the race... and stayed out for another lap.  After the race, he said that he had been expecting to be called in on Lap 28, so he burned his tires to the ground.  Being told to stay out took him by surprise, and his tortured tires protested.  Going into Turn 4 on Lap 28, Hamilton wound up leaving the track in a lurid slide that sent him off towards the barriers.  While no physical damage was done, save to tires that were already begging for mercy, Hamilton lost over seven seconds to his rival. 

*REALLY?:  After making his stop, Hamilton drove away apologizing to the pit wall for his screwup.  He was immediately told that the race wasn't over and he could catch Rosberg.  With that encouragement ringing in his ears, the leader in the Driver's Championship metaphorically cocked his cap, rolled up his sleeves and went back to work.  By Lap 40, the lead had been halved to 3.5 seconds.  Nine laps later, the lead was under two seconds.

*DASH TO THE END:  Rosberg came in for his final set of tires on Lap 50, and Hamilton again burned his tires off in preparation for his final stop.  This time, however, he came in as expected... and his pit crew provided him with new rubber in under 2.5 seconds.  As he made his way back onto the track, he had to be mentally willing his teammate to make some sort of bobble.  That didn't occur, and he was forced to slot in less than a second behind Rosberg.  For the next twenty laps, the lead was less than a second, Hamilton looking for some way past his teammate.  There's no doubt, however, that the pit wall was reminding him that he didn't have to win this race and turning both cars into fragments of carbon fiber would be A Bad Thing... or worse, breaking HIS car and leaving Rosberg unscathed.  Hamilton, wisely, didn't push the issue.  Make no mistake, he was still looking for an opportunity to pass, he just didn't do anything rash.  Rosberg never gave him the opening, and led his teammate across the finish line, setting us up for the Double-Points Showdown in Abu Dhabi in two weeks.

*ALSO:  São Paulo's own Felipe Massa had quite the adventuresome day.  He started in third, got a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, dropped to 13th after serving it on his second stop, worked his way back up the field, tried to get McLaren to change his tires during his third stop, and held off a game Jenson Button for the final podium position to the jubilant reactions of his fellow Brazilians.  Busy day, that.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg.  He didn't have to win today to still have a chance at the Driver's Championship, but cutting the lead to 17 points gives him a better shot at it.  For example, if he wins at Abu Dhabi, Hamilton must finish second to win the Championship.  He could have broken today, made a mistake that let Hamilton by... and didn't.  Stout drive.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Williams.  While Valterri Bottas had his race ruined by seat belts working their way loose, Massa had a solid podium, setting up a tense struggle with Ferrari next race for third in the Constructor's Championship.  Williams leads 254 - 210 with 86 points in play.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  When Hamilton went for his ride on Lap 28, the race was basically over right there.  Hamilton says it wasn't, and he should have passed his teammate anyway.  Rosberg says that even if Hamilton hadn't gone afield, he would have kept him behind.  Don't believe it.  Both drivers know that the race was decided on Hamilton's goof... and that Rosberg had no answer when he came back.


"Fastest in Practice 1, 2, and 3.  Fastest in all three Quals sessions.  Won the race.  My weekend." - Nico Rosberg

"I let you win.  You know it.  I know it.  THEY know it." - Lewis Hamilton

"Ha ha I nearly stopped in McLaren's pits.  Oh, Felipe, I'm such a joker." - Felipe Massa

"Can I please have a drive next year?  I'm clearly not washed up." - Jenson Button

"One more race, then Ferrari." - 4Time Button

"One more race, then... that's a secret.  Even to me." - HWMNBN

"mrmrmmrbrlrm mrmrlrlrbrlrmrmr mrmrlrbrlrnlrmrlmr rrrrr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Did I get any TV time?" - Nico Hulkenberg

"Fourth is really impressive for such an old guy, I'm happy for him." - Kevin Magnussen

"If you told me I'd have a problem with my engine, I'd believe you.  Tire failure?  Sure, makes sense.  Gimpy brakes?  You bet.  Hydraulics, oil, batteries, KERS, even electronics, fine.  But seat belt problems???  REALLY?" - Valterri Bottas.

So that's that.  The last race of the year is two weeks from now in Abu Dhabi.  We'll get our first champion not named Sebastian Vettel in five years there, too!  See ya then.

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November 08, 2014

F1 Quals: Brazil 2014

Lowering skies and sub-optimal temperatures greeted the Blundering Herd as they got ready to qualify for tomorrow's 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil.  Would it affect anybody?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:10.347 1:10.303 1:10.023
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.457 1:10.712 1:10.056
3 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:10.602 1:10.343 1:10.247
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:10.832 1:10.421 1:10.305
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:11.097 1:11.127 1:10.930
6 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:11.880 1:11.129 1:10.938
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:11.134 1:11.211 1:10.969
8 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:11.558 1:11.215 1:10.977
9 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:11.593 1:11.208 1:11.075
10 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:11.193 1:11.188 1:11.099
11 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.520 1:11.591
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:11.848 1:11.976
13 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.943 1:12.099
14 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:11.423 No Time

15 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:12.037

16 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:12.040

17 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:12.076

18 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault 1:12.233

The end of Q3 definitely fell into the "exciting" category.  Rosberg had pole when Hamilton turned his final lap.  That lap was not only good enough to wrest pole from his teammate, but was fast enough to set a qualifying record for Interlagos.  It took the title from Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari F2004, probably the pinnacle of the modern F1 car.  The F2004 holds almost all of the qualifying and single-lap records for circuits still in use today... indeed, the fastest lap ever at Interlagos is a 1:09.something, set by the F2004 in practice that year.

However, Hamilton's record stood for something like ten seconds, for Rosberg came along and grabbed his 10th pole of the year with his final lap.  The whole time, though, he was looking over his shoulder at the man behind him, one Felipe Massa.  The Brazilian, racing at his home track (almost literally; he grew up in Saõ Paulo, within sight of the circuit), had been making things difficult for the Mercedes boys by being consistently faster than them down the straights, and with the vocal support of the Brazilian fans (that's a lot of fans!), had a legit chance at taking pole.  Alas, he was unable to do so, for a reason that we saw all too much of today.

If I had to describe today's Quals session with one word, it'd have to be "sloppy."  The track surface temps were some fifty degrees cooler today from Practice, and it seems like many of the teams were set up for rain.  As a result, we saw a LOT of smoking tires, blown turns, flatspots and four-wheel drifting.  It got so bad that I was joking to myself at one point: "first man to turn a clean lap wins pole and we can all go home."  I'm still not sure anybody did do so.

So tomorrow actually has the possibility of being interesting, particularly if the expected rains come.  Programming note: the race is actually being shown live on CNBC at 930am, then on tape delay on NBC as mentioned in the "F1 on TV" report.  That's new, I only just found that out last night.

See ya there, y'all.

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November 07, 2014

F1 Practice: Brazil 2014

Not a whole bunch of excitement during Practice 2 today, unless you count three red flags as "excitement."  Formula 1's stewards are being very cautious when it comes to car cleanup these days, perhaps overly so... and that's a good thing.  A repeat of Jules Bianchi's accident, as unlikely as that may be, would be A Bad Thing, so I'd rather the cars sit quiet for a little while during cleanup activities.

Jules Vergne's Toro Rosso packed up after about 10 minutes of running in the session, then a half hour later, HWMNBN's caught fire shortly before Esteban!'s Sauber decided it didn't want to run anymore.  It's suspected that all three fell afoul of the weather in Saõ Paulo, best described as "holy crap that's hot and there's no air."  Air temps at the start of the session were near 90, with rain in the immediate future.  Combine that with the elevation the track is at, 2500 feet, and life is proving to be very hard for the turbochargers.  It may prove to be nothing at all; HWMNBN was running an old power unit, and it's fair to bet that Sauber and Toro Rosso were doing the same, but it's still something we need to keep an eye out for.

Another thing to watch is the new pit entry.  For years I've complained about the pit lane entry at Brazil and how the racing line for the final turn ran right through it.  Well, the folks in charge of Interlagos finally did something about it, probably after some prodding from the FIA.  The results are as seen above, and it's a helluva lot better than before.  No longer will it look like someone is entering the pits at 160mph.  I still don't like the circuit, but this is a step in the right direction.  They also resurfaced the track, I gather, and the new asphalt is stupid slippery in the heat.  Track surface temps were near 130 degrees, much hotter than anybody expected.  As a result, we saw a lot of tire wear, which may come into play down the road.  But probably not, as we're expecting rain both during Quals and the race itself.  Won't that be fun?

In other news, Marussia has officially given up and is no longer a race team.  This removes them from the prize moneys they earned for their points at Monaco, promotes Sauber to 9th place in the standings, and Caterham to 10th if they can make it to Abu Dhabi.  The end of Marussia closes the book on a rather troubled lineage.  Starting out as Virgin Racing in 2010, that car was the first entirely designed and tested using Computational Fluid Dynamics technology... no wind tunnel for these guys!  Unfortunately, no success for them, either, as they often appeared to have the worst car on the grid in both 2010 and 2011, something of a feat considering the presence of HRT.  A surprise 9th at Monaco this year by Jules Bianchi earned them their first ever points, a high ruined by Bianchi's terrible accident at Japan, one with some similarities to test driver Maria de Villota's crash in 2012.  The team ran one car at Sochi, and that will prove to be the last time Marussia made it to the grid.  A pity.

Quals in the morning!

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November 06, 2014

Au Contraire!

"That blonde sure is nicely built. Is she a candidate for my top rotation?"

"Is there a reasonable supply of cheesecake mixed in with all the lunches?"

"It looks like most of the pictures of her also include at least one guy."

"Oh, well; too bad."

I think Shaga has made a case for top rotation, Steven!

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November 05, 2014

Farewell, TVJAPN, I Hardly Knew Ye

A few weeks back I was scrolling through the multitude of music channels I have on my satellite dish package.  Mostly from Sirius/XM, with some "CD Channels" that I assume come from DISH itself, they're often a good way to freshen up my music listening experience... even if I have worn out the transponders on 1st Wave (holy crap, there's a Spandau Ballet documentary?  Yes please!) and Watercolors.  Somewhere up there in the sky, there's a satellite with two grooves worn in it... anyway.  I was scrolling through the stations and I went a little too far, into the distant 9000-level channels where One Does Not Go.  I'm not sure why One Does Not Go there, as it's almost all repeats of other channels for backup purposes, things like the Department of Defense channel (not as awesome as you might think), and BYU's in-house station.

And one surprising thing, something listed as TVJAPN.  It was literally the last channel listed, something like #9899 on my grid, and it's exactly what you think it is: a TV channel in Japanese.  It's apparently run through NHK, and is aimed at Japanese nationals living in North America for work or because of globalization or whatever.  News in Japanese, dramas, music/variety shows, all in Japanese.  Oh, and lots and lots of Domu-kun.

For something like three weeks, I had access to it; I assume it was some free preview.

Now, I'm not ashamed to admit that I don't understand Japanese at all.  Some words and phrases I've heard via anime, sure, but not in any coherent way.  That didn't stop me, not one bit!  At least the show listings were in English, which made it easy for me to record them.  Since this is a channel for Japanese expats, there was a lot of travelogue shows to remind them of home.  When an hour-long program is called "A Leisurely Railway Journey Across Japan," you just know it's pretty much made for Wonderduck.

So I've got something like twelve hours of travelogues across the Japanese countryside, and another dozen hours of other stuff, cluttering up my DVR, waiting for the day I feel a need to travel Japan from my comfy chair.

TVJAPN is gone now, replaced by TV Russia, it looks like... but it's listed in cyrillic, so no travelogues for me.  But for a few weeks, it was a fun, unexpected bonus.  No anime, though.

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November 04, 2014

Ben-To! Ep10

So we have come at last to the dreaded Ep10 of Ben-To!.  "Dreaded" because it reintroduces the show to the concept of "plot", and as we've learned in the past, Ben-To! is at its worst when it tries to be even vaguely serious.  Ep09, for all of its squicky moments, is an excellent example of what the series does right... namely, fanservice and goofy.  But I'm getting ahead of myself, I think.  No, I should let you experience the sad flailing attempts at legitimate scripting as it comes.  So let us do just that!  I welcome you to the episodic writeup for Ben-To! Ep10! 

It's a beautiful day in East Bento City: blue skies, school-sponsored video games, and a cheese-and-watercress sandwich.  Really, what more could one ask for in life?  Don't ask Shaga, she's too busy reading a manga as a East High club-approved activity.  Really.  When I was in high school, I was in radio club.  I mean, that was cool, don't get me wrong, but as cool as the gig Shaga's got running?  Not even in the same area code.  But this being Ben-To!, it's not like we're going to get an idyllic episode watching Shaga eat a samitch and Ms Fortune wearing a silly animal hat.  No, the production staff is too cruel for that.  What they give us instead is...

...the East student council President and Veep.  They've come to the NES Club to point out that a) they haven't submitted their monthly activity report, and 2) to ask Shaga just what the hell she thought she was doing visiting West High and wearing its uniform to boot.  Ooooh, continuity from Ep09, who would have thought?  Shaga waves it off, saying that she was meeting her cousin "...and the Witch."

Left (on the right) gets all excited about this, fangirling all over the possibility of tracking down the elusive Ice Witch but Kyou, the more logicial of the two, runs roughshod over her sister, in effect telling her to shut her yap.  Wouldn't want to give the Beauty of the Lake a reason to be suspicious or nothin'.  Finally, after chastising her one last time, Left and Kyou take their leave.  Shaga quickly fills out the activity sheet, Ms Fortune falls out the window and causes a major traffic accident, and then...

...Pointy Chinned Bishy makes a reappearance.  This can't be good.


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November 03, 2014

A Thin Ray Of Sunshine

As the assembled readers of my blog, fondly known as "The Pond Scum", know, it's been a less-than-stellar past three months around these parts.  Two weeks ago, things potentially took a turn for the horrible.  In Illinois, those of us who have been separated from our jobs in a manner that was less than mutually friendly are not, in fact, automatically eligible for Unemployment benefits.  I had to appeal for those benefits, go through a telephone hearing with the State, who approved them... y'see, the rules say that those who were let go had to be let go for "malicious intent" to not get benefits.

Which makes sense.  I mean, if someone is fired because they spent a few hours systematically mutilating mannequins with machetes, they deserve to be let go, right?  Right.  In any case, that's not why I was let go... I'm not going to get into those details here.  Anyway, the State adjudicator ruled in my favor and everything was fine, right?  Nope!  The Company also has the right to appeal, and they did... information of which made it to me two weeks ago.  I made arrangements to speak with a State-appointed attorney on Wednesday.  However, my cellphone was acting up, so I ran to The Old Home Pond to use their phone, make sure I could speak to them.

They agreed to take my case, and all was well, right?  Sure.  As I was leaving The Old Home Pond, I forgot that there was a broken step on the front porch.  They're wide concrete steps, and for whatever reason, I descended the stairs on the opposite side than I normally do... and hit the broken spot.  The result of this saw me face down in the shrubbery on the far side of the porch, scratched and nicked here and there... and my right leg in rather a lot of agony. 

See, the shrubbery is bordered by bricks inset into the ground about halfway... kinda like this... and my shin landed dead center on the end of one of them.  After extricating myself from the predicament, I rolled up my pants leg and saw that the wound was the shape and size of the end of a brick.  Nice.  It was bleeding, and swelling and discoloration occurred almost instantly.

Last week was the hearing for the company's Appeal, with Legal Judge and everything.  Also last week was a lot of discomfort as my leg healed and hurt and wow that's the strangest color ever.  I was told that we'd hear the results of the Appeal "next week," aka this week.  By the end of last week, however, I noticed that my entire lower leg, from the knees to the toes, was still swollen and a darkish red.  After Ph.Duck's wife, Chris (a nurse!) took a look at it, she thought it showed all the symptoms of something called cellulitis... indeed, the picture of the guy's leg on the page looks very similar to mine.  Not exactly though, as mine has lots of bruising involved still.  Anyway, Chris recommended I go see a doctor to get something more official regarding the leg.

So today I went to an emergency care place, and the doctor was pretty sure everything is fine, it's probably inflammation and swelling from the impact... indeed, the impact spot still has a big  knot on it, like there's half a tennis ball under the skin.  If it doesn't show signs of improvement over the coming days, I have a prescription for an antibiotic, but he doesn't think I'll need it.  With a less-dark feeling in my head, I made my way back to Pond Central, just in time for the mail to be delivered... and in there was a letter from the Unemployment folks.  I get to keep my benefits.   Go me.

Still, any sunshine right now is welcome.

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F1 on TV: Brazil 2014

No time to rest for the wicked!  The F1 Circus is heading south to São Paulo, Brazil, home of Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, the location of the 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil!  Let's take a look at the track map:

This is the time where I point out that I have a terrible hate for this circuit.  It's an irrational hate, one that makes no sense no matter how I look at it.  It's just one of those things, like if you get 50 people in a room, no matter how friendly they all are, it's likely two of them will be at each other's throats.  That's me and this track, which is better known as Interlagos.  Interlagos means "between the lakes", and my long-time joke is that it'd be better if it was known as "in the lake."  I really don't like this place.

And yet, they don't listen to me and the continue to schedule races there.  How rude is that?  I mean, sure, Brazilian fans (that's a lot of fans!) are possibly more rabid than the Italian tifosi... they just root for Ferrari, where Brazil loves the sport and all thing Ayrton Senna... but is that enough reason to keep coming back?  It is?  Oh.

Well, the Legendary Announce Team will be doing the whole coverage thing again, so that's good.  Here's the broadcast schedule...
Practice 2: 10a - 12n live on NBCSN
Quals: 10a - 1130a live on NBCSN
2014 Grand Prix of Brazil: 12n - 230p live on NBC

The penultimate race of the season... I should be excited.

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