July 30, 2015

Best Thing I've Seen All Week

So a few folks in the city of Cesena, Italy, decided they really, really wanted the Foo Fighters to come play there.  They called some friends.  They practiced a bit.  This is what they ended up with:

1000 musicians, 350 of them playing guitars.  The drummers looked like they'd drilled together for a decade, not a few hours.  I'm not ashamed to say that there were some tears in this duck's eyes while watching the vid.

No way the Foo's say no to this... not after featuring it on their Facebook page.

EDIT: Dave Grohl said yes!  In Italian, no less.

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July 28, 2015

Random Anime Picture #99: Carnivale?

-Mnemosyne, Ep04
The day started out well enough.  Got to the office, had a nice pull on the whiskey bottle, patted the dog, molested the co-workers, y'know, the usual.  Then the mysterious armed men swung in through the window via helicopter zip-line, giving us just enough time to escape.  They shot the dog, though.  Then while we were making our escape in some french-looking peoplecarrier, a bunch of armored cars blocked our way.  They took one of my co-workers hostage, flew him away in a chopper.  Then they herded me and the other co-worker into the backseat of our car, shot us a dozen times each, chucked in a grenade for good measure, and drove away.

We got better. 

These were the only clothes we could find... why are you laughing?  Then I got sucked into a jet engine and turned into a fine red spray.

I got better.

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July 26, 2015

F1 Update: Hungary 2015

A beautiful summer day greeted the assembled masses at the circuit located just outside of Budapest.  A breeze was blowing, the sun was shining, the sky a brilliant blue.  Yet down on the starting grid, a completely different feel was being experienced by the men and women that make up the F1 Circus.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Hungary!

*JULES:  In the 11 seasons we've been covering Formula 1 for The Pond, the F1U! crew has seen members of the F1 Community participate in two moments of silence.  The first was in 2005, a tribute to the recently-passed Prince Rainier III, the long-time benefactor of the Monaco Grand Prix.  The second was a few months later at Silverstone, just three days after the 7/7 bombings in London.  In the first, the drivers were respectful and well-behaved.  In the second, the drivers were... to be charitable, boorish.  Jenson Button was smiling and laughing, and most of the rest of the F1 bunch were clearly not feelin' it.

But this time was different.  This time it was for one of their own.  Jules Bianchi passed away last weekend, nine months after his terrible crash in Japan last year.  Today, the drivers and teams said goodbye.  The drivers placed their helmets on the ground and formed an incomplete circle... a gap which was filled by Bianchi's parents and family, who placed their son's helmet in the center of the amassed helmets.  The team principles stood just outside the circle, while the rest of the team members stopped their labors on the grid as well.  Understated, yet very very effective.  And then it was past, the drivers decamped for their cars, and we'd like to think that Bianchi's helmet was the last one left.

*START:  Right from the beginning we had signs that this was not going to be the usual race at Hungary.  We don't often have blown starts, for example, but when Williams' Felipe Not Nasr Massa was unable to place his car in his starting box, the amber and green lights started flashing and the field perambulated around the circuit once again.  Massa was given a penalty, the Blundering Herd took its places on the grid once more, and when the red lights finally went out, chaos reigned.  Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo had a miserable start from fourth on the grid, then made contact with the Williams of Valterri Bottas and wound up somewhere near the Carpathians.  His self-removal from the front pack allowed the Ferraris of Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to just swarm over and around the front-row Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.  By the end of Turn 2, both Ferraris were ahead of both Mercs, with polesitter Hamilton shockingly in fourth.  It would get worse for the reigning World Champion when he dropped a wheel on to the grass outside the Turn 6/7 chicane and went off into the kittylitter.  Though he was able to extract himself, by the time he returned to the racing surface he was in 10th place.  At the end of the first lap, Vettel led his teammate by over a second, and was nearly four seconds up on third-place Nico Rosberg.

*AND THEN:  Things settled down a bit after that.  By Lap 25, Vettel had six seconds in hand over Raikkonen, who was 10 seconds ahead of Rosberg.  Ricciardo and Hamilton were both 30-odd seconds behind the leader, both driving well and quickly.  The fact of the matter was, though, that the Ferraris were looking crazy fast today and seemed unlikely to be caught without external forces coming to play.

*EXTERNAL FORCES: Force India had been having a not-so-great weekend.  They had brought their B-spec car to the Hungaroring, and were expecting big things.  They certainly got them.  On Friday, the rear suspension on Sergio Perez's chassis failed, sending him into a bouncing, tumbling wreck that came to a halt upside down.  During Quals, neither car could make it into Q3.  Earlier in the race Perez was mugged by Pastor Maldonado's Lotus, punting him off-track, airborne, and into a spin.  While he could continue, one could not be faulted for thinking "what else could go wrong?"  And then on Lap 42, Nico Hulkenberg's front wing fell off as he headed down the straight into the braking zone for Turn 1.  While it went right under the front tires, it did not tarry long, emerging from behind the Force India in a shower of carbon fiber shreds.  Hulkenberg speared directly into the tire barrier outside the run-off zone for the first turn, though with much speed scrubbed off... thankfully, the front wing did not keep the brakes from working for long.  Hulkenberg emerged unscathed, though shaken somewhat.  First a virtual safety car was called out while recovery efforts began, then the slumbering Berndt Maylander was awoken and sent out in the real safety car as cleanup of the huge amount of carbon fiber took place.  Indeed, the field was led through the pit lane as the front straight may as well have been covered in razor blades and caltrops.  But the arrival of the safety car meant that Vettel's lead, now up to 25 seconds over third-place Rosberg, was now gone.  However, with Raikkonen between Vettel and Rosberg, it didn't seem like there'd be much chance for a threat, even with a reborn Lewis Hamilton in fourth.

*MORE EXTERNAL FORCES:  Then the radio call came in from the Finnish Ferrari driver... there was a weird sound in the cockpit and he was down on power.  All too soon the reply came back: his MGU-K unit, previously known as KERS, had packed up and gone home.  This would leave the second-place Ferrari down about 150hp.  The stage was now set for an interesting run to the finish.

*NO MORE SAFETY CAR:  Raikkonen's job was now to hold up the silver cars as long as he could.  This wound up being about five seconds in the case of Rosberg, who blew the metaphorical doors off the Ferrari nearly as soon as the race restarted.  Behind them, however, chaos reigned again.  Ricciardo forced his way past Hamilton with the two making contact.  The Red Bull lost some bodywork, the Merc had a front wing so badly damaged that it needed to be replaced, and quickly.  Hamilton would also be given a penalty for sloppy driving for this.  In the meantime, the other Red Bull, driven by Kid Kvyat, also got past Hamilton, while Valterri Bottas took a Toro Rosso wing to the rear tire, leaving him with a slow puncture that got worse just as he tried passing the stricken Hamilton.  While there was no harm done as a result, it got dicey for a moment or two.

*TO THE END:  On Lap 51, both Ricciardo and Kvyat passed Raikkonen, who would retire his car shortly thereafter.  The two Red Bulls then set off after Rosberg, who had a windscreen full of Ferrari ahead of him.  Ricciardo's attempt to pass the Merc cleanly almost worked.  In what the stewards termed a "racing incident", the Red Bull gave Rosberg a flat tire at the cost of a nose.  In one of the stupider things we've ever heard, Rosberg after the race said that he had expected Ricciardo to give him space, despite the two of them fighting for position.  It doesn't work like that, Nico.  Both drivers had to pit for replacements of their damaged parts, and Kvyat moved into second place with five laps to go.  After his nose change, Ricciardo managed to haul himself up to third, while Rosberg had somehow contrived to fall back behind his teammate and rival.

*THE END:  When Seb Vettel finally made it across the finish line, he led Kvyat by five seconds (increased to 15 with the addition of a 10sec penalty), and Ricciardo by 25.  Fourth place was taken by the 17-year-old Toro Rosso driver, Embryo Verstappen.  And in a miracle comparable only to those of Saint Alexander Hergensheimer the Dishwasher, the newly renamed Fernando Alonso brought his McLaren home in fifth place.  Hamilton, Lettuce Grosjean, Rosberg, Jenson Button, and Sony Ericsson rounded out the top 10.


"This hasn't been an easy weekend for anybody in Formula 1... the minute's silence for Jules was very emotional, and it was very tough to get in the cockpit straight afterwards.  But, today, we respected Jules and we respected the sport." - Fernando Alonso (note: real quote)

And now the F1 Horde goes on its mandatory Summer Break.  The next race will be August 23rd, in a little town in the Ardennes Forest.  We'll see you in one month at Spa-Francopants!

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July 25, 2015

F1 Quals: Hungary 2015

Hungary.  Joy.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Magyar Nagydíj:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.890 1:22.285 1:22.020
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.979 1:22.775 1:22.595
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:23.312 1:23.168 1:22.739
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:24.408 1:23.230 1:22.774
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.596 1:23.460 1:23.020
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:23.649 1:23.555 1:23.222
7 Kid Kvyat Red Bull 1:23.587 1:23.597 1:23.332
8 Felipe Not NasrMassa Williams 1:23.895 1:23.598 1:23.537
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:24.032 1:23.781 1:23.679
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:24.242 1:23.805 1:24.181
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.115 1:23.826
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:24.623 1:23.869
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.444 1:24.461
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:23.895 1:24.609
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:24.563 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.739

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:24.843

18 Felipe Not Massa  Nasr Sauber 1:24.997

19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:27.416

20 Will Stevens Manor 1:27.949

For what seemed the first time all season, the Mercedes were actually forced to use their soft tires in Q1, lest they be bumped from quals altogether.  There's a huge performance gap between the soft and hards this time, two seconds or so... it's usually half that.  Other than that, though, nothing particularly exciting went on.  Oh sure, Red Bull seems to have made good use of the past three weeks, looking awfully racy as a result, but with Merc domination it all seems somewhat futile.

Probably the highlight of the session was Fernando Alonso's car failing towards the start of Q2.  Feeling like he had a chance to make it to Q3, it took his lame car as far as it could go... just short of the pit-in.  When it stopped?  He hopped out and pushed.  Soon, he had an entourage.

Yes, that's Alonso waving to the fans while steering his car with one hand while at a fast jog in a firesuit on a 95 degree day with high humidity.  Yes, that's also a cheeky trackworker waving to the crowd, too.  It almost pains me to point out that the second his car came to a halt on-track it was ineligible to continue the session, but that's just me.

So.  Race tomorrow morning.  F1U! sometime after.  Then the summer break, one month until the next race.  See ya then!

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July 24, 2015

Random Anime Picture #98: Big Guns

I forgot how much I enjoyed Mutsu's smile.

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July 21, 2015

Apologies And Admissions

So.  Last week, I announced that Gakkou Gurashi was to be the subject of my next foray into Episodic Writeup territory.  Further, I declared that "I should have the writeup done on Saturday."  The sharper-eyed of you may have noticed that, in fact, no such thing has occurred.  There is, of course, an obvious and understandable reason for that bit of fail, but it doesn't explain the ever-increasing amount of time that a writeup hasn't been posted.

Part of it is the incredible mental exhaustion I feel when I come home from work.  Claims processing is hard... a lot harder than I expected.  I'm catching on, but it still requires a lot of concentration.  I've learned that a couple hours worth of naptime when I come home is nearly a must for me to have any sort of functionality in the evening.  There's also a general malaise that's come over me the past... oh, lets call it just under a week.  And by "malaise", I mean "screw everything." 

Does it sound like I'm making excuses?  I suppose it should, since I guess I am.  Sorry about all of it.  "Don't be sorry, just do the writeup."  Yeah, it works exactly like that all the time.

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July 20, 2015

F1 on TV: Hungary 2015

So.  Not only do we next travel to Hungary, my least favorite track on the Formula 1 calendar, it's going to be the site various Bianchi tributes.  It's going to be a long, sad race weekend.  Here's the track map:

"Monaco without the glamor", they call it.  Originally designed to be a street circuit running through Budapest, when that fell through the promoters reportedly just took planned circuit's layout and moved it to a natural bowl nearby.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, a street circuit without any streets doesn't, in fact, work all that well.  It's usually hot, often dusty, the track is boring, and it only coughs up a good race when it rains.  It's even better when it rains heavily here at Pond Central, because then there's a chance my satellite feed will go out.

Here's the alleged TV schedule for the coverage of the race.  I say "alleged" because I'm having problems figuring out just what's going on with it...
Practice 2: 6pm - 730pm on NBCSN.  No, that's not a typo, I really do mean "PM".
Quals: 7am - 830am live on CNBC
2015 Grand Prix of Hungary: 630am - 9am live on CNBC

Check your local listings; all times Pond Central.

The FIA has announced that they'll be retiring car number 17 from consideration of future use, in honor of Jules Bianchi.  As you may or not be aware, as I've tended not to mention it much, F1 drivers now get to choose their car number when they join the sport; it then sticks with them until they retire.  So if you choose, say "23" when you're a Sauber driver, you're still 23 when you move to Ferrari.  The only variant to this is the reigning World Driver's Champion... he has the option of using number "1", and while traditional, it isn't mandatory; Lewis Hamilton, for example, is NOT using it this year.  Instead, he's using his #44.

There's a rumor that the paddock will do a minute's silence on race day in honor of their fallen comrade.  I'm sure that will happen; I'm wondering what else will be done.  The race after that Awful Weekend in 1994, the first two spots on the grid were painted in the national flags of Senna and Ratzenberger, and pole position was really #3 on the grid.  I like that idea, to be honest. 

Speculation is flying around what Ferrari will do.  In times of mourning, such as the death of Pope John Paul II, the team has raced a red car with no logos of any sort and a black nose.  As a member of their Young Driver's program and tapped to drive for the team a lot sooner, rather than later, I wonder if they'll do that again.  The black stripe on the nose is quite understated and classy, I think.  I'm sure the rest of the field will have the #17 on their cars, or some other similar tribute to Bianchi.  Manor, on the other hand, has been tight-lipped.  The team that owes its very existence to his driving, what will they do?  Guess we'll find out on Sunday.  See yo then.

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July 18, 2015

Jules Bianchi 1989 - 2015

Somewhat inevitable news from the Formula 1 community as Jules Bianchi, driver for Marussia last year, passed away at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Nice, France, today.  He was 25. 

As we all remember, he suffered massive head trauma in his terrible accident at Suzuka this past October.  He never regained consciousness after the crash.  In the months that followed, there had been some positive signs: taken off the respirator, breathing on his own, squeezing of hands, that sort of thing, but even the most optimistic thoughts on his recovery made for grim reading.

He was a better driver than the car he was given.  After being a karting champion, he won the French Formula Renault series in 2007, finished third in Formula 3 Euroseries in 2008, and in 2009 won nine out of 20 races to take the F3 championship.  When Felipe Massa had his accident, Ferrari considered having him fill the seat; instead, he wound up signing with their Young Drivers program and became a test driver.  In 2010 and 2011, Bianchi would finish third in GP2, while in 2012 he got his break in F1 as a Friday driver for Force India.  In 2013, Marussia picked him up and gave him a drive, for which act he repaid them with a 13th place finish that secured the team a 10th place finish in the Constructor's Championship and the prize money that came with it.
It was in 2014, however, that Bianchi showed his talent level.  Taking a lackluster car from 19th on the grid at Monaco, he wound up surviving the twisty, narrow streets and despite a penalty, finshed eighth.  Alas, another penalty wound up dropping him to ninth.  Either way, he still managed to do something nobody else had managed or has yet to duplicate: score points for Marussia.  These points would ultimately provide the team with enough prize money to continue into 2015.  Drivers that score points for backmarkers usually turn out to be something special, and there's no question that Jules Bianchi was destined to drive for Ferrari, possibly as soon as 2016.  Instead, he becomes the first Formula 1 driver to die from race-related injuries since Ayrton Senna in 1994.

We here at Wonderduck's Pond send our condolences to the Bianchi family, his friends, and the F1 paddock as a whole.  Next week's race in Hungary should be a somber one, to say the least.

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July 16, 2015

Announcing The Next Writeup Subject!

I've thought about it long and hard, and I'm pleased to say that I've chosen Gakkou Gurashi to be the subject of the next Episodic Writeup series!

The second episode aired earlier today, and I should have the writeup done on Saturday!  Sure, it may look fluffy, but there's more here than meets the eye.  A LOT more, and it's prime fodder for my writeup mill.  Look forward to it, won't you?

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July 14, 2015

Content Free Posting!

Let me tell you a little something about not a whole lot.  Once upon a time, I was born a poor black child I was very very young indeed when my parents decided to get a pet.  Momzerduck, my father and I lived in an small-ish apartment, converted from the second floor of a house if I remember correctly, and I may not for I was very very young indeed.  Anyway, back then it was still safe to let kids play outside, and we did just that... I clearly remember Big Wheels races down the sidewalk, turn around in a neighbor's driveway, back down the sidewalk, then turn back using the inclined banking of a decorative hill leading into a garage... a dumbbell shape.  I have no idea how I used to do... I was very very young and was not into racing just yet, though one of my clearest memories of childhood was Evel Knievel's attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon in his SkyCycle X-2.  He didn't make it.  I remember watching it on a black-and-white tv... it was 1974.  Kids, ask your parents what a black-and-white tv is.  Parents, laugh at your kids.  Anyway, I would have been six at the time, which gibes with my memory.  But none of this has anything to do with the story of the pet.  Or the Big Wheels races.  Those were fun, until one day a kid showed up with a brand spankin' new Green Machine.  Once he figured out how to steer without flipping over like NASCAR having a bad day at Daytona, nobody could beat him... the built-in "spin-out feature" made the turns a piece of cake, and the straightaways?  Man he was fast.

Yeah, like that.  For all I know the Big Wheels races are still going on back there, though I doubt it.  We moved to Evanston, then Des Plaines, then Duckford, all within the space of a couple of years after that.  But the pet!  Yes, yes, the pet.  We went to the Humane Society, or to the pound, or something like that, and we got a kitten.  Oh, yeah, I would have been even younger when this happened... four years old or thereabouts.  Yes, this is important.  Take notes.  I don't remember the criteria used to select said kitten, but very quickly it became clear that I was smitten with the kitten, and the reverse was more-or-less the case.  It was a kitten, they're really "too much fluff, not enough brain" at that age to be obviously smitten with anything other than food and sleep.  Come to think of it, that really kinda describes me right now.  Hm.  Anyway, it was on the way home that I got to name the kitten.  After looking at it for a little bit, my four-year-old brain sludged up "Marbles."  Because his eyes from the side looked exactly like... marbles.  Cat's-eye marbles, to be exact.  Kids, ask your parents.  Parents, sigh sadly and wonder where you went wrong.  Now, I'm never one to tootle my own horn vigorously, but looking back at my four-year-old self, I have to be impressed by the way I made that connection, even if it wasn't entirely intentional... y'know, four-year-olds are much like kittens: "fluff, brain".   But yet, there I was.  And there we were.

Very few, if any, photographs of Marbles exist, because he was just too awesome for film.  Or we didn't have a camera, one of the two.  Anyway, very quickly he and I became completely inseparable, a friendship that lasted until I was 21 and he was 17.  Marbles was not a "center of attention" cat.  Oh, don't get me wrong, he was more than happy to be skritched for extended periods of time, but he was perfectly content to just hang out with me while I did whatever it was I was doing.  Homework?  He'd be lazing on the table near the books.  Reading on the couch?  He'd be stretched along the top of the couch... or he'd force himself between my leg and the back of the couch, whichever.  Out in the backyard?  He'd be there, keeping an eye on the birds... just in case.  Of course when I went to sleep, he'd curl up against the small of my back.  And when I went to catch the school bus, he'd walk with me to the stop, wait with me until the bus showed up, and then watch the bus pull away.  He did this for years, to the point that I wondered what he did after the bus left.  So one day in my senior year of high school, I found out.  I made arrangements with the bus driver to leave the emergency exit at the back of the bus open.  Yes, it was a different time back then.  Anyway, he'd seen Marbles waiting with me for a few years himself, so he understood what I was talking about... so that day, I got on the bus as normal, walked the length of it, then got out the back door and hid behind a nearby car.  As the bus pulled away, Marbles looked totally normal, but when it turned the corner, he changed.  He got up, tail drooping and looking tired in general, and he walked... trudged... the two blocks back to the Old Home Pond, while I followed a discreet distance behind.  Eventually, he made it to our back yard where he made his way to the vicinity of the back porch and just laid down in a black and grey puddle.  He would have been 14, remember... pretty not young for a cat.  At that point, I stepped into the back yard and said "Hi, Marbles!"  Oh, what a transformation!  He snapped to his feet, his tail went straight up, and he jogged right to me and immediately headbumped my shin.  We spent the entire day in the sun, just doing Calvin-and-Hobbes-style things, with a couple of cans of tuna for him to boot.  It was great.  I was at work today, during a cigarette break (for everybody else... I just sat in the blissfully quiet training room with my eyes closed), when I realized that I missed him.  26 years, and I still remember the way he'd freak out over french fries, or the Great Thanksgiving Turkey Debacle... good times all. 

That's all.  No reason for it, just writing about Marbles.  Here's a cute girl for reading this far.

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July 12, 2015

Maintenance Weekend

After the past week, I kinda needed a break.  Here's a little how it went.  First was studying for the  big certification test to become a claims examiner.  Next was actually taking the test, which took me seven hours and I was far from the slowest in the class.  Not only did I pass the darn thing, but I might have discovered an error in how a particular claims situation is handled in the process.  If so, it would save the client company about 1/3rd of the normal payout for this type of claim.  Which is nice, and might very well earn me a pat on the head, but I was more concerned about getting the question right.  So after we all passed the test, we were let loose on actual claims processing.

This is almost exactly how claims processing is handled.
Four hours later, I had completed eight claims.  The target on the processing floor is about 30 per hour.  Looks like I've got a long way to go.  The second day was actually a little worse, doing 14 claims in eight hours.  The difference was that I was working through my problems on my own, trying to figure out answers to difficulties without asking the trainer... and largely succeeding.  All around me, my classmates were constantly barraging her with questions, and here I was, a pocket of quiet.  While it might have earned me brownie points with the trainer, it was hard.  The system is neither user-friendly or intuitive... for example, to most people "log off" means you're leaving the program altogether, but to this system, it essentially means "go back one page."  Not cool.  So after wrestling with that, the weekend was a welcome arrival.  And I slept.

I actually had stuff I needed to do... I have towels to wash, for example... but I could not bring myself to do them.  There was a four-hour long nap on Saturday evening, and an oh-my-heavens six-hour nap on Sunday.  If I didn't need 'em, they wouldn't have occurred.  Monday morning is coming quickly, with newly added pressure: we're supposed to be released to the production floor this week, and to do that you have to complete two groups of 10 claims perfectly.  And then we're on our own.

It could be worse.  I could be working retail.

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July 10, 2015

Gakkou Gurashi!

One of the few shows I was honestly looking forward to this season was a little something called Gakkou Gurashi!, which more or less translates out to "Living at School!".  It follows the hijinks of four students as they make their way through their highschool years in a slice-of-life manner.  It had cute artwork, reportedly an outstanding story, and... well, heck, you know me: slice-of-life is right up my street.  And so are spoilers, but you probably realized that already.

This is Yuki, our main character, and yes, she's supposed to look like that.  She's specifically designed to take most of the best (worst?) characteristics of the super-cute uber-moe school girl and package them all in one person.  Throw in "genki" and "bonkuras" and you've got Yuki.  You expect her to bonk herself upside the head while winking at any moment, and god help you, you'll enjoy it... you might hate yourself every second, but you'll enjoy it anyway.  Yep, she's like that.

These are her friends at school.  Yuri is the one in the sweater, Kurumi is the twin-tailed girl, and Miki is the blonde, who is Yuki's "protege".  The puppy up there is Taroumaru, and he's basically Yuki's.  Yes, that is spaghetti they're eating, and yes, it is the morning. 

And before you ask, yes, yes they are at school.  They're members of the "School Living Club," a bunch of kids who love school so much they never leave.  Uhhhhh... okay.  Though to be fair, I've seen stranger things in anime before.  Still, the handwritten sign is a little... odd?


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July 08, 2015

The Pond Turns Ten!

Today, July 8th, 2015, is the 10th birthday of Wonderduck's Pond!

This was actually the second iteration of The Pond, historically enough.  I originally began posting over on Blogger due to the prodding of the Official First Reader of The Pond, Mallory.  At the time, it was almost entirely Formula 1 stuff, with a little "life of a Duck" thrown in as well.  However, soon enough I wrote a little something about Azumanga Daioh, that apparently caught the eye of our Australian magical girl, Pixy Misa.  Pixy took pity on this poor duck and offered him space on the MuNuVia servers and a way out of the Blogger slums.  Of course I jumped at it, and the rest is a decade of history.

Ten years.  A lot has happened since 2005... good and bad... but through it all, the people I joshingly call the "Pond Scum" have been there.  Well, no, that's not entirely true... the Pond didn't take off until I annoyed SDB enough for him to start linking to me.  THEN the Pond Scum arrived.

And I couldn't be happier.  I've had a lot of fun writing the Pond, I've "met" a lot of great people, learned a lot of stuff, and managed to do something that only an infinitesimal percentage of bloggers have done: kept going for 10 years.  The Department of Pulling Statistics Out Of Our Arse tells us that only one out of every thousand blogs make it to their second month, one out of every 100,000 makes it a year... and one out of every gazillion lasts a decade. 

Even better, you guys don't seem to have gotten tired of it yet!   I may not be writing as often or as long as I used to, but the Pond Scum keeps coming back.  I couldn't be luckier.  Thank you, each and every one of you.  Yes, even you.  And you, there in the back holding the grapefruit and chicken.

I hope to have a retrospective post up tonight eventually (I had a seven-hour long certification test at work today.  As a result, I feel slightly less than chipper).  For now, though, let's put on our party hats, have some cake, listen to '80s music, and generally do silly things.  Thanks, guys.    

Posted by: Wonderduck at 01:26 AM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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July 06, 2015

F1 Update: Great Britain 2015

The sky above Silverstone was a clear, clean blue, playfully dotted with little tiny white clouds.  A beautiful summer English day had greeted the Thundering Herd as they pulled onto the grid.  140000 fans roared their approval as Lewis Hamilton took his pole slot, his teammate Nico Rosberg beside him.  Behind them were the two Williams of Felipe Not Nasr Massa and Valterri Bottas, a marvelous performance for the legendary British team.  Arrayed behind them were 15 other cars; Felipe Not Massa Nasr's Sauber was wheeled off, dead before the recon lap began.  It looked to be perfect conditions for a Formula 1 race.  Would the reigning World Champion run off with it, the way he has so many times before?  Or would it be his surging teammate, winner of three of the last four races, that would take the win?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Great Britain!

*LIGHTS OUT... THE HELL?:  As is usual, once the race began both Mercedes jumped off the line, Hamilton leading Rosberg.  We've seen this picture a hundred times: they'll get themselves sorted by the end of the first turn, then it'll be a case of the Silver Arrows rocketing away while everybody else fights for third.  And indeed, that's exactly what occurred... for two car lengths or so.  Felipe Not Nasr Massa got a blinding jump off the line, zipped right between the two Mercs and had a clear lead going into the first turn.  At the same time, Bottas decided he wanted him some of that too and followed the diminutive Brazilian through the same gap.  He wound up only getting past Rosberg, though he did put a scare or two into Hamilton for a few turns.  Behind them, the two Lotuses of Pastor Maldonado and Lettuce Grosjean had a coming together in Turn 1, with Lettuce ending up beached in the kittylitter.  In a desperate attempt to avoid the Lotii, McLaren's HWMNBN dodged to his right, lost the rear of his car, and speared directly into the side of HIS teammate, Jenson Button.  The Brit, who has never had a podium in his home race in 16 tries (not even in his world championship season!), was out on the spot.  HWMNBN had to pit for a broken nose, a change that took nigh on a minute to effect.  Maldonado lasted a few more turns before his damaged Lotus gave up the ghost, and a Berndt Maylander was awoken from his slumber to bring the Safety Car out on track.  Thus, the first lap ended with Massa leading Hamilton, Bottas, and Rosberg.  Incidentally, this was the first time this season that anybody other than a Merc or Ferrari had led a lap.

*LET US RESUME:  When Berndt Maylander returned to his place of eternal slumber, Hamilton was the very picture of "aggressive" behind Massa, who hadn't led the field into a restart since... well, before he took a spring to the helmet in 2009.  As a result, the Merc driver did everything he could to get past the Williams... and more besides.  He locked up a tire, slid off-track, and Valterri Bottas took his Williams into second.  Instead of mounting a furious counterattack, the British driver was forced to defend against HIS teammate, which allowed the two White cars a modicum of breathing space.  So from Lap 3 to Lap 19, we were treated to the mind-boggling sight of the two Williams leading the two ridiculously dominant Mercedes.  Together, these four cars pulled away from the rest of the field, but couldn't get away from each other, less than two seconds covering them.

*TEAM ORDERS:  At one point during this bit of racing, Bottas was clearly the faster of the two Williams.  The team called to both their drivers that there was to be "no racing", and they should work together to get away from the silver cars.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bottas made his case over the radio quite clear: "I have more pace, I have more pace."  Still, he was told to stay back.  A lap or two later, the team reversed course, telling the Finn that if he does pass, it had to be clean.  Pointedly, they didn't tell Massa to let him go.  While Bottas tried to get past Massa, the time had passed: his tires had gone from golden to iron pyrite, or Massa's had come back to life, or something... the Finn could get close, but couldn't quite get past.  Some are saying that Williams, in their attempt to "play fair", actually threw away the race win at this point... if Bottas had been let past, he stood a great chance of being able to gallop away, so the argument goes.  We here at F1U! are less than convinced of this, but it's not impossible.

*THE PITS:  The leader's pitstops began on Lap 19.  Hamilton dove in first, followed by Massa and Rosberg the next lap (resulting in a little duel down the pitlane as the two exited side-by-side) and Bottas on Lap 21.  The fastest stop of the four gave Hamilton the advantage, and once the stops were complete, he had the lead over Massa, who was ahead of his teammate, who in turn was ahead of Rosberg.

*DOLDRUMS:  After this, the race became something a little more familiar.  Hamilton began to open up a lead on the two Williams, peaking around six seconds ahead on Lap 32.  The other three had a couple of seconds between them, though, and it looked like Rosberg was unlikely to be on the podium this race.

*AND THEN IT ALL WENT INTO A COCKED HAT:  Almost from the beginning of the race, a wall of black clouds in the distance had been a reminder that Silverstone was one of the best examples of the concept of "microclimate" anywhere in the world.  Built on top of the highest point in the area, what is happening below it weather-wise often has nothing in common with what's going on on top.  On Lap 32, the rain that had been skulking in the distance decided to come a-callin'.  The back half of the circuit was getting dampened and slippery, while the other end was bone dry... and it was in the slippery parts where Rosberg got past Bottas for third.  A couple of laps later, he pulled the same trick on Massa, just as the rain died out.  However, an ominous call from the Merc pit wall made the F1U! crew giddy with anticipation: "expect more rain in five minutes."

*MEANWHILE:  Behind the action up front, we had an attrition fest.  Cars were dying like flies, with a full seven pushing up the daisies by the end of the race.  With the Manors holding up the final two slots, that left only 11 cars racing for 10 points-paying positions... and HWMNBN'd McLaren was one of them, dueling the Sauber of Sony Ericsson for 10th.

*SPLOOSH:  On Lap 43, Lewis Hamilton came into the pits for a new set of tires.  As he came to a stop in his pit box and the team began to bolt Intermediate tires onto his chassis, the black skies above decided to dump much of the Atlantic Ocean upon Silverstone.  As he regained the circuit, it became obvious just how prescient (or lucky) the choice had been.  Behind him, Seb Vettel's Ferrari came into the pits for Inters as well.  Rosberg pitted a lap later, as did the two Williams, but by then the damage had been done.  Hamilton strengthened his lead, of course, but Vettel leapfrogged both fading Williams for third, a position he'd never had even the remotest chance of gaining before this.

*ANTICLIMAX: And that's how it ended, with Hamilton leading Rosberg leading Vettel, Massa and Bottas.  A bog-standard finish, but an extraordinary race to get to that point, and probably the best of the season to date.

*THE REDEMPTION OF THE SPANIARD:  Somewhere during the rainy part of the race, HWMNBN got his McLaren past Sony Ericsson and into 10th place, the position he held when the race came to an end.  In doing so, he earned his first point for his "new" team, and the team's first point of the season.  Because of this, the F1U! team has decided that He Who Must Not Be Named has been cleansed of his sins and will henceforth be known once again as Fernando Alonso.  In some ways this is a sad moment, as he's held the HWMNBN'd moniker for nigh on eight years; it'll be hard to retrain our fingers to type "Alonso" again.


"That was about the best tire call I've ever seen." - Lewis Hamilton

"Only one of the two Mercedes drivers passed anybody on track today." - Nico Rosberg

"I don't know what I'm doing up here, or how it happened.  I'm just glad it did." - Seb Vettel

"It's a damn good thing the pit wall didn't say 'Felipe, Valterri is faster than you, do you understand?'  There would have been blood.  BLOOD, I tell ya." - Felipe Massa

"Oh, there will be harsh words in the race debrief, that's for sure." - Valterri Bottas

"I'm going to have to get my superlicense reprinted!" - Fernando Alonso.

So that's really it from Silverstone.  The next race is in a couple of weeks, at Hungary.  I can barely withhold my joy.  See you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:39 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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July 05, 2015

F1 Update: The Updatening!

It's 9pm on this Sunday evening of the 2015 Grand Prix of Great Britain.  By this point of the day, either the F1U! is up and posted, or the busy F1U! team is scrivenering away, desperate to get said the update complete and ready for the world to see.  As it is, however, the crew hasn't even finished watching the race.  A combination of factors, including a fever-inducing ick that pretty much turned the entire weekend into an uncomfortable, painful little mess, just ruined every plan there was.  With any luck, we'll finish up the race tonight and we'll have a writeup on Monday.

We apologize for the delay... it's been a while since we missed a Sunday deadline, and, well, crepe.  Particularly this week, of all weeks... the reason for THAT comment will be coming on Wednesday.

Thank you for your patience.

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July 04, 2015

F1 Quals: Great Britain 2015

About as perfect of a summer's day as you could ever hope for in England welcomed the Blundering Herd to Silverstone today.  Low 70s and brilliant sunshine made for perfect track conditions.  The only fly in the ointment was a rather stiff and gusting breeze that made for interesting handling problems for these cars, delicately balanced between grip and control... or kittylitter and tears.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Great Britain:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.796 1:33.068 1:32.248
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.475 1:32.737 1:32.361
3 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:34.542 1:33.707 1:33.085
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.171 1:33.020 1:33.149
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:33.426 1:33.911 1:33.379
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.562 1:33.641 1:33.547
7 Kid Kvyat Red Bull 1:34.422 1:33.520 1:33.636
8 Edward James Olmos Toro Rosso 1:34.641 1:34.071 1:33.649
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:34.594 1:33.693 1:33.673
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:34.272 1:33.749 1:33.943
11 Sergio Aragones Force India 1:34.250 1:34.268
12 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:34.646 1:34.430
13 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:34.819 1:34.502
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:34.877 1:34.511
15 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:34.643 1:34.868
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:34.888

17 OFTDHWRHN McLaren 1:34.959

18 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.207

19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:37.364

20 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:39.377

We had a rash of qualifying laps thrown out all day, thanks to the Stewards cracking down on exceeding the track limits.  Turns 9 and 18 were the main sources of offense, and it came close to costing Seb Vettel progression to Q2.  Something like 11 drivers had lap times disallowed, some multiple times (Pastor Maldonado, we're looking at you...).

Other than that, however, it was very close to being a bog-standard Quals session.  Only the mild surprise of having Williams lock out Row Two is somewhat different.  This really is the sort of track that fits the Williams chassis to a T: medium downforce with fast, fast sweeping corners.  As the FW37 appears to have a problem with downforce acquisition, not being limited in comparison to the other teams at this track plays right into their hands.  Throw in the Mercedes power unit, and you've got the recipe for a nice finish tomorrow.

Not "race winning", but nice.  Ain't nobody beating the Mercs tomorrow, and my guess is that only a RPG is going to stop Lewis Hamilton from winning his home race again.

Race on Sunday morning... we'll see you sometime thereafter with the F1U!

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July 02, 2015

Holy Crap, This Job...

I'm not going to complain about having a full-time job.  That would be ungrateful and inconsiderate of me, particularly after the past 11 month span where I couldn't find employment of any kind.  So please do understand me when I say I'm incredibly grateful to be employed.  But holy crap, this job.  I haven't even started doing the job I've been hired for yet.  Instead, the past two weeks have been learning the very raw basics on how to do it before they let us start doing it.  "But Wonderduck," I hear you say, because I have microphones scattered around your domicile and oh my god you really shouldn't sing like that in the shower or anywhere else for that matter, "isn't that good?  You'll know what you're doing!"  Sure, you'd think that, but here's what I've been learning:

The office looks something like this.  Except entirely different.
Medical terminology.  Billing codes.  Billing modifiers.  The medical insurance rules for an entire friggin' state.  What gets billed, how to do it, and how to turn them down.  How to approve, why to approve, and how the hell does ICD-9 427.0 have anything to do with a broken ankle anyway, and how did they manage to bill it like that?  Seriously, I'm asking 'cause that just ain't possible unless you're doing a HicPic D9220.  If you are, I have a request.  And every single day, something changes.  You think I'm kidding.  Believe me, I am being deathly serious.  I want to make something perfectly clear right now: I am a supporter of the Office of the President.  While I may (or may not) be a fan of who is the elected representative of that Office (as this is an American politics-free blog, I refuse to get into it), I respect the position he holds.  However, as a potential Medical Claims Examiner, I find myself in the position of being about to say something I've given others grief for saying: "Thanks, Obama!"  I can only imagine what it was like for those who had this job when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act first took effect.  It couldn't have been fun at all, because it sure as heck ain't fun now.

This is a friendly blog, so I won't show what I'm really wanting to do with a finger... if you're curious, google "flipping the bird"  That'll give you a start on it...
Some sharper-eyed readers amongst the assembled Pond Scum may have noted the word "potential" up there.  That's because I'm not one yet, and won't be until I pass my certification test.  Which involves either knowing everything in that library shown above, or knowing how to find the needed information quickly.  Very quickly.  Because when I'm actually on the floor I'll be paid by the claim, and spending ten minutes trying to figure out the difference between 996.81 and 969.71 would be very bad for my bank account.  And, it must also be said, the patient's bank account if I got them wrong.  Probably.  So everybody in my training class is furiously studying our notes, going through the Binders of Doom, and hoping our cheat sheets are right.  Because you don't want to know what happens to your employment status if you don't pass the test.

Studying furiously.  Really.  Furious.  Grr.  Let me see your war face!
As a result of all this, I leave the office feeling like I've been mentally hit by a truck, catapulted into the path of an oncoming train (express, not local), then deposited by the side of the track, there to be munched on by a passing fluffle of bunnies.  Then deposited by the side of the track again a few hours later, because that's how bunnies do.  As an example, I got home Wednesday around 5pm.  By seven, I was in bed, taking a short nap.  I blew through two alarms and woke up around midnight.  Then went back to bed an hour later, and slept until it was time to go back to work.  And then I came home tonight, had something to eat, and started to write this post.  Which, in a strange twist of fate, brings us to this very moment as I type this word.  And this one.  And these over here.  And this bit.  Ooh!  And the whole bunch at the end of this section of words between pictures.

"Is that all we are, pictures between sections of words?  Can we never be more than that?"
What I'm saying is, holy crap, this job.  I'm sure it was no different when I was starting out at the D**k U B**ks***e, but I'm not used to feeling this stupid.  Stupid, yes, that comes with the territory of being me, totally used to feeling stupid.  But not so stupid that I wonder if I can even tie my own shoes (Wonderduck's note: that may not be the best example, as I actually wasn't able to tie my own shoes in a butterfly knot until I was ten years old.  I possessed perhaps the worst fine motor skills in the world, and to be honest, I never got very good at the trick.  Today, I use shoes with velcro fasteners... these, to be exact, though in black.  Maybe the most comfy shoes I've ever owned, and durable?  I've got one pair that I wore to Orlando two years ago that still feel like new.), let alone be a claims processor.  Dumb as a box of hair, that's me!  Oh, and I'm also godawfully tired, and glad beyond words that this is a three-day weekend.  Speaking of tired, if you don't mind I do believe I'm going to go lie down for a few hours. 

"We mind.  We'd like to talk to you about this whole just pictures between sections of words thing..."
Yup, a nap is just what this lil' ol' Wonderduck is a-needin' 'round 'bout now...

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:31 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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