April 09, 2015

Stormageddon 2015

Around 545pm or so, I was jolted out of a nap by my cellphone's "screamer" alarm.  That particular alarm is set to go off when I get a text message from one of the local TV stations regarding weather Warnings... severe thunderstorm warnings, blizzard warnings, that sort of thing.  This one was for a Thunderstorm, which I was expecting.  The Weather Nabobs had been saying since Tuesday that there was a good chance of nasty storms today, after all.  Part of me wanted to just roll over and go back to sleep... I've been having work-related nightmares recently, so relaxing sleep has been at a premium of late... but then the piercing, warbling sound of the emergency siren located less than a mile away went off.

Oh hell.

The screamer went off a few moments later... tornado warning for the area.  A small storm cell to the southwest had rotation visible in it according to radar, the Nabobs said, and it was due over Pond Central in about 20 minutes.  Then a second tornado warning was issued for an area west-south-west of Pond Central, and that storm cell had visible and confirmed rotation, lowering clouds, and had been all-in-all ugly since Iowa. 

Look, I don't consider myself a particularly brave duck.  I'm not particularly afraid of anything, though I give routers (woodshop, not IT) a wide berth, and mushrooms and I have a bad relationship, but I'm not the sort who will go out looking for "EXTREEEEEEEME XXXXXXXCITEMENT!" or anything like that.  But I'm also not overly concerned about storms, either.  Oh, I'll avoid them when possible, and snowstorms I'll avoid driving in, but all in all, I'm good with weather.  So, I stepped out on the balcony to see what's going on, right?  Chatted with a couple of neighbors, we all jokingly agreed that we were about to die, haw haw haw... and then we all noticed that gosh, that front edge of the cloudline sure looks a little... um... cone-shaped?  Well, whatever, it's past us and heading to the northeast. 

And then, exactly the time the Weather Nabobs said the storm would pass over Pond Central, the rains came.  What started as merely heavy soon escalated to "Malaysian Grand Prix" levels.  The storm clouds disappeared in the combination of failing light and monsoon rain, but moments later the keening bandsaw sound of the emergency siren went off again.

The Weather Nabobs on the television were having problems keeping up with everything.  It suddenly sounded like the storm to the west-south-west had put a for-sure tornado on the ground, while they were also reporting a tornado in the vicinity of the local shopping mall.  The shopping mall that's about a mile or so northeast from Pond Central as the duck flies.  Oh.  Hm.  Guess we were right about that cone shape.  Quickly they turned their attention to the WSW storm, though, as it was headed right for a whole series of little towns, while the one near Pond Central was making its way through farmland and already showed signs of fading away.

The WSW tornado gathered strength and made its way through the vicinity of Rochelle, a town of around 10000 people that's long been a major railway hub and is home to one of Union Pacific's largest intermodal yards.  It then made its way through farmlands and small widespots in the road at about 50mph and leveled at least one restaurant that's known of so far.  The major problem, of course, is that nighttime was falling and power is out.  It may be some time until we know the true extent of this one.

Then, as if those weren't enough, the sirens wailed again.  Another storm cell had reportedly barfed up a third twister near Byron, IL, about ten miles southwest of Duckford, and it was headed right for Pond Central.  It was at this point that yours truly retreated to the hallway that leads to his bathroom, taking with him his cellphone, a portable radio, a battery-operated lamp, and a nice book.  And then I heard something I've never heard before in the 14+ years I've lived here: rapidfire "plonk" sounds coming from my heater.

It took me a second or two to realize that I was hearing hail hitting the exhaust outlets for the heater that are located on the roof.  Oy.  After about 20 minutes or so, and reports of two more tornadoes on radar east-north-east of Duckford, it seemed like things were calming down a bit.  Sure enough, all extant tornado warnings were being cancelled except for one waaaaaaaay to the east of us... technically that was part of the same storm line, but couldn't really be considered part of what hit us.

Remember what I said about not considering myself particularly brave?  I'm not ashamed to say that this might have been as nasty a storm system as I've ever encountered, and that includes this one that hit a TV station while they were broadcasting.  That one was on the far side of the city from me, after all.  At one point during this mess tonight, which only lasted about two hours all told, there were three different tornado warning tracks pointed directly towards Pond Central, and another one just a few miles east.  Now that things have settled down, they seem to be thinking that there were only two on the ground, not five.  Unfortunately, the one that touched down near Rochelle has definitely been confirmed.  There has been damage and injuries, and it may have had a run of close to fifty miles.

One place the beast touched was the tiny town of Fairdail, IL, which the mayor of nearby Kirkland said had been flattened.  ABC7 out of Chicago is reporting that there's been one death there, the first reported for-sure casualty.

The Rockford Fire Department has responded to Fairdale, and the news coming out via twitter isn't promising.  All structures in town are damaged, access is difficult to due to debris.  Just outside Pond Central, I can hear the sound of sirens on the highway that heads from here to Rochelle; with a small jog, it also goes to Fairdale.  It sounds like the sirens are headed back to Duckford... probably ambulances, and that's sobering.  I was really about to say that it seemed like the area dodged a bullet, and I suppose that's true.  After all, 15 miles north was Duckford, a city of close to 200000 people.  Rochelle has 10000.  Fairdale supposedly has 2000.  I say "supposedly" because... well, here's the googlemaps view of the town:

They must be counting nearby farms as well..  Rochelle is off to the left, Kirkland to the right, Duckford off top.  So, yes, we may have dodged a bullet, but Fairdale didn't.  Hopefully we'll have good news once the sun comes up.

Right now, it's rainy and the wind is howling outside as the cold front that caused all this hullabaloo flows through.  Behind it is supposedly clear skies and cool temperatures.  Midwest weather: if you don't like it, wait a few minutes, it'll change.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:30 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
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April 08, 2015

Random Anime Picture #95: The Third Best Sniper...

You know how I knew that the new series Triage X was from the same guy who did character designs for High School of the Dead?

-Triage X, Ep01
Well, that and the nigh-on fetishistic abuse of women that abounded in the episode.  We've seen that before from Shoji Sato, as well as his... um... particular attention to proportions.

Swear to god, this cast is more top-heavy than a US destroyer in 1945... again, not like we haven't seen that before from this guy.  There is plenty of action, which seems to be taking the place of a coherent plot or serious characterization. 

I'm not sure if this is an episode title or just confirmation of my feelings about the show.  I'll pass, thanks, and if you have the sense evolution provided to sloths, you will too.  Ye cats and little fishes, this was unfortunate.

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April 07, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: China

After a relatively surprising result in Malaysia, the Formula 1 Circus has bundled itself up and traipsed its way across the South China Sea to find itself in Shanghai, home of the 2015 Grand Prix of China.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?  Yes, let's!

Well, one thing's for sure: it hasn't changed.  It's still smoggy, it's still shaped like the Chinese symbol shang, meaning "arise", it's still a Tilkedrome.  It's more likely to cough up a good race than any other Tilkedrome, true, but that's nothing to hang on your wall proudly.  Throw in the perceived dominance of Mercedes and I find myself staring at the schedule and wondering just what I'm doing with my life.   I mean, besides "nothing".

Well, since I'm not doing anything, I may as well watch the race.  Here's NBCSN's planned coverage schedule:
Practice 2: 1am - 230a live
Quals: 2a - 330a live
Grand Prix of China: 1230a - 300a live

All times are Pond Central, of course, but please check your schedule, just to be sure we've got the times listed right.  Seriously, Zap2It is a clumsy, awkward, sloppy little piece of moldy cheese of a TV listing software, and I trust it about as far as I can spit an eatanter.  And for the record, I can't spit an eatanter at all... the tail keeps getting snagged.

In other F1 news, Red Bull has stopped whining about Mercedes' so-called engine domination.  Now team principal Christian Horner is calling for a wind tunnel ban.  Given his track record on this sort of stuff, I can only assume that Red Bull is having technical troubles with their wind tunnel.  Either that or they hate the thought of Haas F1 having the best automotive wind tunnel in the world at their beck and call.  Maybe both, who knows?   I'm not even sure Horner knows.  Red Bull is talking about getting out of the sport altogether, Toro Rosso is on the verge of becoming a Renault tean... maybe we can get a team that's concerned about racing on the track, instead of a team that's a marketing tool first, and then a racing team. 

Rant over.  Everybody back on your heads.

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April 06, 2015

It's An Amazing Day

Okay, first it's Opening Day with a full slate of baseball games on TV and radio.  That always makes it a good day.  But even better is the appearance of this:

This PV for the upcoming ARIA the Avvenire answers many questions about the upcoming series. Specifically it lists the cast members and the news on that front is good: the VAs that made their characters who they are will all be coming back.  The PV does list Tomoko Kawakami as Athena, which on the face of it seems impossible since she passed away in 2011 from cancer.  Maybe flashbacks, or dialogue snipped from past episodes?  They can do remarkable things with technology!  The presence of Ai and Akari's hair style suggests that Avvenire will be continuing on from Origination... which means Athena and Alicia would both be retired gondolieri, but they're shown in their respective company uniforms.  Which means who knows? 

Here's what I can tell you for sure: I desperately need this show in my life.  Like, right now.  Instead, we'll have to look forward to September. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at 02:29 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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April 05, 2015

Baseball Is Back

In the past, I've sneered at the concept of beginning the baseball season on a Sunday night with a single game.  Darn it, the baseball season is supposed to start on a Monday with a game in Cincinnati, followed closely by the rest of the teams.  That's the way it was for decades, and if it was good enough then, it's good enough now.  I believe in tradition, and Baseball is the perfect sport for such beliefs.  Of course, a few years ago, they started the "Opening Night" thing.  I've managed to successfully ignore the event... in my mind, baseball still begins on Monday. 

Not this year.   

That's because the new baseball season begins tonight at Wrigley Field, with a game between the St Louis Cardinals and my Chicago Cubs.  Back in 2009, SDB mentioned that the Cubs had been sold and asked if it would make a difference.  My answer was "in the short term, no."  Left unsaid was that in the long term, it would make a big difference.  My short-term prediction was borne out... the Cubs were a very bad team, and the management staff was turned over.

What nobody could have predicted is exactly what happened.  In 2010, the Cubs brought in Theo Epstein to be their President of Baseball Operations, and Epstein protege Jed Hoyer to be GM.  Owner Tom Ricketts said "I don't want this team to be the one-year wonders they've been in the past... I want a team that'll contend year after year.  Make it happen."  Epstein and Hoyer promptly poured gasoline over the entire organization from majors to the lowest of single-A teams and set it ablaze with a flamethrower.  They had found that during the long period of TribuneCo. ownership, the team had been run to make money, not necessarily win games.  Fixing it required a total revamp, a head-to-toe concentration on the farm system instead of free agency... and time.  Time to let bad free agency contracts expire, time for the farm system to start generating prospects, time for moneys to build up again... and time to bring Wrigley Field into the 21st Century.

Despite threats of lawsuits from the so-called "rooftop owners", businesses that put bleacher seating on the rooftops of apartment buildings across the street from Wrigley and made money by leeching off the Cubs, the team began major repairs and renovations to their park as last season came to a close.  The most visible and obvious of these is the huge Jumbotron screen just beyond the left field bleachers.  Those iconic bleachers, both in left and right fields, were razed and are in the process of being rebuilt with more seats and added concourse area behind them.  Indeed, the outside wall of the park will now come all the way to both Waveland Avenue in left and Sheffield Avenue in right, instead of leaving room for a triple-wide sidewalk.  The third-base side concourse is having structural work done, and new bathrooms installed.  If you've ever used the bathroom at Wrigley, you understand just how important this is.  Additional structural steel and concrete work is being performed all over the park as well, so as to keep this 100-year old park from collapsing in 20 years or so.  The bleacher work was supposed to have been completed by Opening Night, but the lousy winter kept that from happening.

As recently as five days ago, this was the way the field looked.  It goes without saying that the bleachers won't be finished in time.  Indeed, left field is now scheduled for completion sometime in May with right field following along in June.  The outside wall of the park is still totally unbuilt, simply blocked off by chain-link fencing and ivy-printed tarpaulins.  In just a few days, though, the crews have managed to pretty the place up quite nicely.

This picture was tweeted out by Cubs catcher David Ross on Saturday.  The right field construction is covered with screens celebrating Cubs legend Ernie Banks, who passed away this past January.  Left field will undoubtedly have something similar, though the Jumbotron is fully functional.  In a lovely touch, it's able to mimic the appearance of the center field scoreboard.  There are many who believe that Wrigley's charm stemmed from its lack of modernity, and they may have been right... but only to a point.  I'd rather actually have Wrigley Field still standing but modernized, than collapsed to rubble with an old-fashioned charm.  For make no mistake, that's where Wrigley was heading.  They had already been forced to install catch netting under the upper decks to prevent chunks of concrete from hitting the fans below, for example.  Amenities for the players were awful: the home team clubhouse was tiny, cramped and little changed from 50 years ago, for example.  This brought up the horrible situation where Sloan Park, the new spring training home for the Cubs in Mesa, actually had immensely bigger and better facilities for players than the major league stadium.  The remodel will change all that.  But what of the actual team?

Late last season, we began to see signs that the suffering of the last five years was beginning to end.  The Cubs began to give some of their prized minor leaguers a taste of the Big Show, all the while making it clear that they players they brought up weren't even the best they had.  Through crafty trades of legit big-league talent for other teams' prospects, and some good old-fashioned scouting of their own, the Cubs farm system went from nigh-on worst in baseball to the unquestioned best.  In Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, they have the #1 and #3 best prospects as selected by Baseball America, the bible of minor league baseball.  Jorge Soler is #12, Kyle Schwarber #19.  Having that many players in the top 20 is unprecedented.  Throw in other rookies like Arimendy Alcantera and you've got a deep, deep pool to pull from.  This goes along with a young roster of major leaguers headed by all-stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, Javier Baez of the massive power numbers (and massive strikeout numbers).  Throw in a solid pitching rotation headed by free-agent powerhouse Jon Lester, and you have a team that will certainly be better than 2014's 73-89.  Indeed, there are people picking them for playoff contention and even World Series predictions.  The biggest acquisition in the offseason wasn't a player, however, but a manager.  In December, two time manager of the year Joe Maddon exercised an opt-out clause he had in his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and joined the Cubs.  He has a track record of being an innovative coach who also knows how to get out of the way of his players when needed, perfect for this team.  If anybody can get the Cubs to a World Series, it would be Joe Maddon.  I don't think it's going to happen this season... I expect something around 82-85 wins; that's still an improvement of nine to 12 wins, a huge amount.  But in 2016?  Good times are ahead, and that's not just "wait 'til next year" thinking.

And it all starts tonight.

UPDATE @ 1025pm:  the St Louis Cardinals defeated the Chicago Cubs 3-0.

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April 02, 2015

Ducks In Anime: ....Aaaaaand We're Back.

-Yuri Kuma Arashi, Ep02

Awful, awful, so awful.  Visually great, a very unique art style, but the show itself can't decide if it wants to pander or be highbrow artsy-fartsy.  Or both.  I was actually shocked when I discovered that it wasn't a Noitamina show... it's got the same feel as a lot of those.

Please note that I do not consider this a good thing.  There have been 50 Noitamina series, and of those, I've only finished two: Library Wars and Ano Hana

So anyway, yeah, give Lesbian Bear Storm a miss.  Nice duck, though.

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April 01, 2015

Fish In Anime #3: Gold Fish

-Tokyo ESP Ep02

So this magic penguin burps up flying gold fish that activate mutant powers in people when they fly into them.  That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Tokyo ESP.  Of course, there are people who use their new-found powers for Bad Things... and a perishingly few that decide to become the X-Men.  Well, no, not really, but kinda.  Hijinks occur, but they're of the "only mildly interesting" type.  I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have watched the show if it wasn't for the appearance of the Monochrome Schoolgirls in Ep01... I kept hoping they'd come back.

Never did.

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Fish In Anime #2: I'm A Shark!

-GYO Tokyo Fish Attack

Here's the plot of GYO Tokyo Fish Attack, near as I can tell from the German language dub I watched on youtube (note: I do not speak German).  Something something something fish with metal legs something something kill and infect something something shark punches through door something something something circus something something human centipede.

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Fish In Anime #1: Lucky Trout

-G-On Riders Ep01

Remember when anime could be really stupid without being nitpicked to death?  I do.  I miss those days.  They brought us shows like G-On Riders.  How can that be bad?  Nowadays, there's no chance in hell that it could be made, let alone broadcast.  A pity, that.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:06 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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