October 30, 2016

F1 Update!: Mexico 2016

The weather at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was basically perfect for a F1 race.  Mix in the drama of a last-gasp championship fight between teammates, and you should have a recipe for a tense, dramatic race.   What we got was an example of everything wrong with Formula 1.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Mexico!

*CAVALCADE OF ERRORS:  The confusion began right at the beginning of the race.  Polesitter Lewis Hamilton won the drag race to the first turn, mostly because his teammate Nico Rosberg was having to defend against the Red Bull of Embryo Verstappen.  To do so, he wound up bumping wheels with the Dutchman and having to take evasive action.  But that little action was overshadowed by the more obvious faux pas made by Hamilton.  He locked up a tire trying to make the first turn... and failed.  Instead of attempting to regain the track, he went ahead and kept right on going.

This is known in most circles as "blowing the turn."  In some others, it's called "agricultural racing."  In a tiny amount, it's known as "Susan", for reasons we do not wish to contemplate.  In any case, when one blows a turn that dramatically, a driver is usually instructed to give up any advantage gained.  For example, if by Susaning you actually pass an opponent, you have to give up the position.  In this case, Hamilton was told no such thing.  While he was in the lead approaching Turn 1, and thus gained no positions by his offroading, he did open quite the gap to second.  Indeed, he didn't slow down until a Virtual Safety Car was called out for an unrelated incident.  No penalty given, nor even considered.

*ERRORS (CONTINUED):  The race settled down to the usual Mercedes - Mercedes - Red Bull format, in this case Hamilton, Rosberg, Verstappen, with Seb Vettel in fourth.  Indeed, Hamilton was never in danger of being caught at any time and would go on to win the race with nary a worry.  However, Rosberg, Verstappen, Vettel, and Smiley Ricciardo would not be quite so fortunate.  At one point, Verstappen took advantage of traffic up ahead to make a move for second on Rosberg, but blew the turn and Rosberg took the position back.  In effect, this allowed the Ferrari of Vettel to close the gap so he could attack Verstappen.  Behind them, Ricciardo was in position to take advantage of any mistake, but not quite close enough to force a move.  After the Ferrari driver had lined up Verstappen, he made a strong effort to take third as they raced down to Turn 1 with only a couple of laps to go.  It looked like he had pulled it off when the Red Bull locked up and carried straight on. 

Verstappen just kept on going, rejoining the track ahead of Vettel and keeping third place.  Remember what we said about "relinquishing the position"?  This was a textbook case of that principle, about as clear-cut as it could possibly be.  A furious Vettel would take to the radio waves, screaming that he had to give up the spot.  In fact, it went so far that the German took to swearing at Race Director Charlie Whiting via radio after the race was over.  But that was still a couple of laps in the future. 

*ERRORS (YUP ONE MORE):  Only a few moments later Smiley Ricciardo tried his luck at passing Vettel.  On one hand, both stayed on track.  On the other hand, Vettel did some rather dodgy moving around in the braking zone, eventually interweaving tires with the Red Bull.

Mind you, this was after the two bumped wheel hubs.  How one or the other didn't wind up launching into low-earth orbit through this sequence was beyond us.  In the end, Vettel held the spot, Smiley backed off, probably in fear of his life, and the race ended Hamilton, Rosberg, Verstappen, Vettel, Ricciardo.

*HOLD IT RIGHT THERE:  But we're not finished yet!  As the three podium drivers gathered in the green room before the ceremonies, a camera caught sight of Seb Vettel jogging from the garages to the podium area.  Meanwhile, a FIA official said something in Verstappen's ear and led him from the room as the two McLaren drivers watched.  Sure enough, Vettel ended up taking the third step on the podium.  It turned out that Verstappen was given a five-second time penalty for not relinquishing the position after cutting Turn 1.  This dropped him from third to fifth, behind Ricciardo.  But wait, we're not done!  Immediately after, both Vettel and Ricciardo were summoned to the steward's office to discuss their incident.  Shortly thereafter, the FIA released a statement giving Vettel a 10-second time penalty for his less-than-kosher activities defending against the Red Bull driver.  After the penalty was applied, RICCIARDO moved into third place, Verstappen to fourth, and Vettel ended up in fifth.

*AWFUL:  So why was Verstappen penalized for doing the same thing Hamilton did?  The general response has been "because Hamilton did it on the first lap."  To be sure, first laps are hectic... back when F1U! did "Move of the Race", anything done on the first lap was not considered... but rules should be applied evenly.  But there is one quick and easy solution to this sort of problem.  Bring back gravel traps.  Make going off-track actually cost something for the drivers.  It won't happen, particularly after Alonso's wild ride back in Australia, but it'd solve everything.

Next race is Brazil, where a victory means that Rosberg clinches the championship.  That'll be in two weeks!  See ya then.

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October 29, 2016

F1 Quals: Mexico 2016

Beautiful day at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez today.  The sun was shining, bringing a lovely glow to the world's largest megaslum Neza-Chalco-Izta, located just a few miles away from the pretty park where the track is located.  The track was very hot, however, making the Super-soft tires start degrading even before they were mounted on the cars.  Nico Rosberg can actually clinch the World Championship this weekend, with a win and Lewis Hamilton finishing 10th or below.  To stand a chance to win, first you must qualify!  Here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Mexico:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.447 1:19.137 1:18.704
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:19.996 1:19.761 1:18.958
3 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:19.874 1:18.972 1:19.054
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:19.713 1:19.553 1:19.133
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:20.599 1:19.769 1:19.330
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:19.554 1:19.936 1:19.376
7 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:19.865 1:19.385 1:19.381
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:20.338 1:19.958 1:19.551
9 FelipeRetired  Massa Williams Mercedes 1:20.423 1:20.151 1:20.032
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:20.457 1:20.169 1:20.378
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:20.552 1:20.282
12 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:20.308 1:20.287
13 JensonRetired Button McLaren Honda 1:21.333 1:20.673
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:21.254 1:21.131
15 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:21.062 1:21.536
16 Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:21.363 1:21.785
17 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:21.401

18 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:21.454

19 FelipeNot Retired Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:21.692

20 False Esteban MRT Mercedes 1:21.881

21 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:21.916


The sharper-eyed (or the overly-detail-oriented) of you may have noticed that there are only 21, not 22, cars listed.  That's because in P3 Renault's Jolyon Palmer took his car for a looooong run over some curbing... that fit perfectly between the wheels.  He wound up with a crack in the driver's tub, forcing the team to build him a new car from the ground up.  He races at the stewards' whims.

Other than that, however?  Rosberg pulled second place out of his exhaust pipe, jumping up from fourth at the last moment.  I'm sure his teammate is happy for him.  The Ferraris only noise came from a radio call with Seb Vettel in Q2: "Are we safe (in our position)?"  "We are safe."  "Can I go for a wee?"  Just in case you wondered what F1 drivers do when... well... y'know.

Finally, Lettuce Grosjean looked to be ready to shank a b*tch after his car had another series of cascading failures in Q1.  He's never been thrilled with his brakes, and they've gotten even worse over the last few races... and today, his hybrid battery went south on him, too.  You know, the battery that's charged mostly by the brakes?

Race is in the afternoon.  See you sometime thereafter...

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October 28, 2016

Long Draining Week

This week probably could have been worse, and I'm extremely relieved that it wasn't.  Steven's death has hit me harder than I expected, even though as last week's research went on it became obvious that bad things were likely.  Still, its weighed heavily upon my furrowed brow.

Tuesday, I had jury duty.  I was originally called back in April, but I postponed it twice "because of my job".  It wasn't untrue, I just would have rather pushed claims than go do jury stuff.  Not that I'm opposed to doing my civic duty... I've been called four, now five, times after all.  Except I know plenty of people who haven't ever been summoned, why not give them a chance?  Ah well.  So Tuesday morning found me in downtown Duckford, trudging my way to the County Courthouse, barely noticing how gray the environment looked.  Anywhodles, I made it to the holding pen for us fortunate folk, and was exposed to an hour of HGTV banality.  And here I was, thinking I was doing something good for the community.  Instead, I was clearly being punished.  Eventually we had to sit through a video on how wonderful jury duty is, which was a mixed blessing.  On one hand, HGTV was turned off.  On the other, a video made by people who had never even heard of the concept of "acting", let alone doing it professionally.  After another hour, during which time I started Max Hasting's Battle for the Falklands, then promptly dozed off.  Then a judge appeared in our midst!  Turns out the threat of a jury trial caused the defendant to strike a deal... turns out it was a felony case we had been summoned for, one that the judge had expected to take all week.  Oy.  So as it turned out, my jury duty lasted just under three hours.  I promptly came back to Pond Central and went back to sleep.  And then the Cubs lost the first game of the World Series.  They did come back to take the second, which is exactly what you'd want when you start on the road.

Wednesday and Thursday were terrible at work.  A mixture of garbage claims and worsening problems on the client's end made processing any claim a (pardon the pun) trial.  Until, inevitably, the client's server farm caught fire just before it fell over into the swamp.  Wednesday, after an hour of literally sitting around doing nothing, we were sent home in late afternoon. Thursday was more of the same, without sitting around for an hour.  Now it was only 15 - 20 minutes at a time.  But today!  Today, the server farm, stacked on top of the other farms in the swamp, didn't fall over!  Too bad all it was serving up was reversal after corrected claim after "screw you, here's a thirty line, $25000 total corrected claim... in Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic!"

And now the Cubs have lost Game Three of the World Series, and I have 10 hours of overtime to do next week.  The two are not related, but I just had to say something.  The week could have been worse.

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October 26, 2016

F1 on TV: Mexico 2016

Last year's GP of Mexico was the surprise hit of the season, with the fantastically renovated circuit combining with a gazillion insane fans.  And now we're back!  Here's the track map for the 2016 Grand Prix of Mexico:

I'm really not in the mood for writing tonight, so I'll simply say the tire choices are Medium, Soft and Supersofts. 

The Legendary Announce Team's broadcast schedule is as follows:
Friday
Practice 2:  2p - 330p  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  1p - 230p  live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Mexico:  130p - 4p  live on NBC

All times Pond Central, as per usual.  Please note the actual race is on NBC, the mother network.

Chin up, fellow fans.  F1U! will be along as usual.

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October 24, 2016

The Crying Of The Catgirls: SDB

Steven Den Beste was not the reason I became a blogger.

But if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been a blogger for long.  I began Wonderduck's Pond back in July of 2005, primarily as a way to entertain the Official First Reader of The Pond, Mallory, with expanded versions of the Formula 1 emails I sent her.  Along the way, I began to work some anime into the mix.  The Pond muddled along, read by practically nobody, for a couple of years.

And then something odd happened.  Steven linked to one of my posts and people came from Chizumatic to read it.  Then he did it again.  And again.  Every time he did, people came to read what he linked, some stayed around, and by The Pond's glory years of 2010/11, I was getting perhaps 5000 real hits/day.

I doubt that he ran an intentional campaign to send readers here, but that was the effect.  Because HE had a loyal fanbase that made almost all other animeblogs look small.  A link from him would be a boon for a small blog.  A permanent place on his small blogroll made you.  I was tremendously flattered when he put The Pond there ten years ago.

Which is not to say that all was sweetness and light.  He and I had a few arguments, some blog-based, some e-mail.  He could be an irascible old coot, entirely unwilling to change his opinion on something once he got it in his head.  He refused to say much about his health... when I e-mailed him once to see how he was doing, he wrote back saying that people who asked that weren't really interested so he wouldn't say.  I suspect a lot of his "cootness" stemmed from his old USS Clueless days, when he was hated by roughly half the blogosphere.  Death threats weren't unheard of.  And if you knew what's best for you, you never ever made suggestions.

All of this was part of a brilliant thinker that also had the ability to take those thoughts and write them legibly.  He didn't do straight humor very much, perhaps his only weakness and perhaps the only category I would say I was at least his equal in.  Everything else, however?  There's a reason he was one of the first bloggers to wind up published semi-occasionally in the mainstream media.  When I started The Pond, one of my conscious decisions was to never write about politics.  There were plenty of people writing about politics out there, and they were infinitely better at it than myself.  When I thought that, I was thinking about Steven in particular.

Over the years, I know he and I became friends despite never having met.  He became a Formula 1 fan due to my writings, almost against his will.  When I first thought about closing this place down, he was the first to say that he'd miss reading what I wrote.  Imagine that: a legend of the medium saying he'd miss my writing.  He was a willing participant in the continuing story of the Anatidae Liberation Front, a bit of whimsy that never failed to amuse the hell out of me.  His last comment here at The Pond was about the history of failure that surrounds the Cubs, a common theme from him. 

This afternoon brought the news that the man I was pleased to call my friend, Steven Den Beste, had passed away. 

I'm going to miss reading what he wrote.

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October 23, 2016

F1 Update!: United States 2016

The clear blue sky was a far sight from what greeted the F1 Circus last year as they pulled onto the grid of Circuit of the Americas.  As usual, Lewis Hamilton led the field, with his teammate Nico Rosberg right beside him.  Behind them, the surging Red Bulls lurked.  Could they derail the championship fight going on between the two Mercedes drivers?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 United States Grand Prix!

*LIGHTS OUT:  To be honest, the race was decided at the very beginning.  Once the race started, Hamilton galloped away, but Rosberg got swamped by the Red Bull of Smiley Ricciardo.  He fell to third, and nearly fourth as Embryo Verstappen threatened his position as well.  And that's the way it stayed for nearly half the race.

*SCREWUP:  On Lap 25, Ricciardo pitted from second for a new set of tires.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.  On the next lap, though, Verstappen drove into the pit lane... and there was nobody there for him.  The team recovered quickly, swarming into the Red Bull pit box just as he approached the spot, but they were essentially unprepared for the young driver.  The stop took nearly 10 seconds to complete, which sounds fast, but when 2.50 seconds is the norm... well.  As he pulled back onto the track he was on the radio: "I'm sorry, I thought you told me to box (pit)."  Simple driver error deep-sixed his race.  A few laps later, he unintentionally deep-sixed his teammate's race as well.

*BLOWUP:  On Lap 30, Verstappen's Red Bull was spotted going very slowly down the long back straight.  A cut to the onboard camera made the problem quite clear: a loud thumping sound was coming from the engine.  "I have an engine problem or something" was the radio call.  In fact, it was his gearbox turning itself into a bunch of neutrals.  In fact, first gear was the only one remaining, and he could not get into the actual neutral.  As this is required for trackworkers to get the car behind the walls, even though Verstappen had stopped just in front of an access point Race Control had to issue a Virtual Safety Car so marshals could deal with the recalcitrant vehicle.  Not a big deal normally... but neither Mercedes had stopped for tires yet.  In effect, they got a free stop, allowing Rosberg to easily jump Ricciardo on the rotation.  After that, it was all over but the shouting.

*THE SHOUTING
:  While there was still half the race distance to complete, nothing of any importance happened up front.  Lewis Hamilton won his 50th Grand Prix, his seventh victory of the year, and his fourth out of five races at COTA.  However, Nico Rosberg finished second, five seconds behind, limiting his teammate's point gain in the Championship.  He still has a 26-point lead with three races to go... and you get 25 points for first, 18 for second.  Essentially, Hamilton needs Rosberg to have a breakdown to have a chance of repeating as Driver's Champion.  Smiley Ricciardo finished a distant third, Ferrari's Seb Vettel was fourth over a half-lap back of the leader, and Fernando Alonso's McLaren was fifth even though he could probably see Hamilton's Merc in his side mirrors when the race ended.  And in the feelgood story of the race, American team HaasF1 scored a point at their home race when Lettuce Grosjean came home in 10th.

So that's it from a lackluster USGP.  Next weekend is the second running of the reborn Grand Prix of Mexico.  We'll see you then.

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October 22, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: Seven!

The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.

Holy crepe, I don't believe I finally got to type those words.

Kyle Hendricks threw a gem against the Dodgers tonight, pitching 7.1 innings of shutout baseball.  He was relieved by Aroldis Chapman, who got a sweet double play to end the game.  On offense, they beat the crepe out of the best pitcher in baseball, hitting two homers and scoring five runs off Clayton Kershaw.  It was never close.

Next up, the Cubs will be facing the Cleveland Indians.  First game of the World Series will be Tuesday.  Seven down, four to go!

#FlyTheW

UPDATE:

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F1 Quals: United States 2016

Time is running low on the 2016 season, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, reigning driver's champion, is in serious trouble.  His teammate has a 30+ point lead and holds all the cards.  Hamilton needs to win out and hope something goes wrong with his teammate, but to win out, you've basically got to be on pole when the light go out.  So how'd Quals for the 2016 United States Grand Prix work out?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.296 1:36.450 1:34.999
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.397 1:36.351 1:35.215
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:36.759 1:36.255 1:35.509
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:36.613 1:36.857 1:35.747
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.985 1:36.584 1:36.131
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.151 1:36.462 1:36.358
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:36.950 1:36.626 1:36.628
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:37.456 1:37.202 1:37.116
9 FelipeRetired  Massa Williams Mercedes 1:37.402 1:37.214 1:37.269
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:37.744 1:37.175 1:37.326
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:37.345 1:37.353
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:37.913 1:37.417
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:37.844 1:37.480
14 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:38.053 1:37.773
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:38.084 1:37.935
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:38.040 1:39.356
17 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:38.308

18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:38.317

19 Jenson Retired Button McLaren Honda 1:38.327

20 Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:38.548

21 FelipeNot Retired Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:38.583

22 False Esteban MRT Mercedes 1:38.806


The two Merc drivers split the first two Qual sessions.  Perhaps importantly, Rosberg was fastest in the second session.  This is important because the top 10 have to start on the tires they used for their fastest lap in Q2... and unlike everybody else, the Mercs used the Soft tires while everybody else used the Supersofts.  So in theory, Rosberg will have the advantage in at least the first stint.

Beyond them, Two-by-Two is was the rule of the day with only a wayward Force India to break up the first eight slots symmetry.  Major disappointment for American team HaasF1, who were chasing gremlins all practice.  Maybe things will go better for the race tomorrow afternoon!  Look for it on NBC-the-mother-network, and sometime thereafter, F1U!

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October 20, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: Six!

21 innings without scoring a run has been forgotten, that's for sure!

Addison Russell hit his second homer in two nights to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. Two innings later, they broke it open with five runs, and ultimately cruised to a 8-4 victory over the Dodgers.  They now have a three-games to two lead in this best of seven series as the NLCS moves back to Wrigley for a possible clinching game on Saturday.  Six down, five to go!

#FlyTheW

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Cubswatch 2016: Finally Five!

The last two games in this here NLCS were kinda grim.  The first time the Cubs had ever been shut out two games running in the playoffs.  Including the first few innings of this game, they reached 21 straight innings without scoring a run.  And then this happened:

Now that's the curbstompin' Cubs we've come to know and love during the regular season!  More importantly, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, both mired in post-season long slumps, broke out tonight.  Both went deep to lead the team to victory and tied the series 2 - 2.  Seeing Rizzo start to hit is good news for the Cubbies indeed, for while Kris Bryant is probably going to be the MVP of the league, Rizzo is the guy that leads the team.  With him hitting, this team just doesn't lose very often.  Five down, six to go!

#FlyTheW
Get it?

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October 19, 2016

F1 on TV: United States 2016

Y'all put your Stetsons and cowboy boots on, grab a handful of shootin' iron, jump in your pickup truck (RED TRUCK!) and drive your herd just southeast of central Texas to that lil' ol' town called Austin.  But be careful, there's gonna be a buncha furriners there, because the circus is in town... the Formula 1 Circus, that is!  C'mon down to the Circuit of the Americas, home of the United States Grand Prix!  Take a gander at the track map:

Today, tomorrow and forever, the best of the new circuits.  Blatantly stealing Borrowing the best concepts from other tracks around the world, COTA is just about everything you'd want from a FIA Class 1 circuit.  Plenty of run-off area surrounds the track itself while the facility has the world's only Emergency Room located at a race track to go along with the 5500 sq ft medical center (which is fully prepared to deal with exotic diseases like malaria and ebola.  Yes, really).  But best of all is what isn't going to be coming to Austin this year.

Yep, it was just last year that Hurricane Patricia hit the western coast of Mexico, then tracked up north.  That meant rain and lots of it: nearly a foot of rain in a couple of days, to the point the 2015 USGP nearly got rained out.  As it was, the whole weekend was borked up... just take a look at the goings-on on Saturday for a reminder of what it was like.

As is usual for a home race, the Legendary Announce Team will be on-site and bringing us coverage of every session during the weekend!  Here's a look at the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 1: 10a - 1130a  live on NBCSN
Practice 2: 2p - 330p  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Practice 3-Intermission-Quals: 1130a - 3p  live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 United States Grand Prix:  130p - 4p  live on NBC

All times are Pond Central, of course.  On a personal note, I tried to get Friday off from work, but because of a mandatory event I couldn't manage it.  I did manage to get the afternoon off though, so I'll be parked in the Official Comfy Chair of The Pond for P2!  Saturday and Sunday, of course, are givens.

So there we have it: the USGP!  I'm looking forward to this one, if for no other reason that it'll be the first time HaasF1 has been home.  Points would be nice, guys!

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October 18, 2016

Your Weekly Asuka, S2E02


This week, the second season of Hibike! Euphonium presents us with a staple of "group" shows: a training camp!  The entire band will secrete themselves away for multiple days and do nothing but practice, practice, practice!  Of course, it never works out that way: there's always downtime for hijinks to occur.  But before that, there's a mandatory three-day break enforced by the school.  Whatever will our main characters do during a short summer vacation?  Why, go to the pool, of course!  I have to admit, I didn't expect a swimsuit episode in this series, but hey, I'm not complaining.

No, not complaining in the least.  Kumiko is, though... she has no idea who this strange girl that's molesting her is! 

Oh.  Now she knows.  It's the Goofy Cute, in full effect!  A nice lighthearted moment in an otherwise pretty serious episode.  It's also practically the last time we see Asuka until very late in the episode.  Which is amazing, because the episode from this point on spends its time describing the events of last year that saw most of the second-year club members quit, and Asuka's role therein.

In other words, it's yet another episode where she's the main character mostly without showing up.  Yet, despite all of this, we still don't really know why she's so opposed to letting that one second-now-third-year student rejoin the club.  The good news is that it seems we'll be getting that info in the next episode.

While this is all well and good, I'm still looking forward to THE Asuka Episode.  It's gotta be coming.  KyoAni can't be setting all this up just to ignore the payoff, right?

Ridiculously pretty shot of the episode:

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October 15, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: Four!

When everybody is looking up and out...

...say it with me: you know it's gone.  The Dodgers intentionally loaded the bases with two outs to bring up the pitcher's spot in the order.  Which, at the moment, was occupied by the Cubs ace closer Aroldis Chapman.  Manager Joe Maddon brought in pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.  There was some question as to whether Montero would make the roster for the NLCS, for he was suffering from a sore back, but he talked his way on.  And then he hit a pinch-hit grand slam on a 0-2 count, putting the Cubs ahead 7-3. 

If you've followed the Cubs this season, you knew what was coming.  They've already hit a granny, why not add on?  Center fielder Dexter Fowler, who had already had a spectacular catch under his belt, went back-to-back to make make it 8-3.  That the Dodgers scored a run in the top of the ninth meant nothing in the end.  The Cubs won it 8-4, in a game that also had a Javy Baez steal of home.  Four down, seven to go!

#FlyTheW

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October 14, 2016

Forces

I bumped into this picture the other day, thought it quite amazing how it shows forces at work on a F1 car.

Let's be perfectly clear about this: there is nothing wrong with this Mercedes.  Aerodynamics and G-forces alone have hucked the car over to the left.  The tires are doing their job of pretending to be shock absorbers.  The roll to the left is being mirrored on the right, picking the front right off the ground as the rear left compresses.  And underneath, the titanium skid plate is performing its secondary duty of a sparkler.

All and all, a truly remarkable shot.

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October 11, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: And THAT Makes Three!

Last night, the Giants beat the Cubs in 13 innings to stay alive in the NLDS.  Tonight, they were ahead 5-2 in the 9th inning, at home, with their closer coming in.

And then magic occurred.

The Cubs scored four runs in the top of the 9th, their closer, Aroldis Chapman, came in and struck out the side, and not one pitch was below 100mph.  Next up is the winner of the Dodgers / Nationals series.  The NLCS starts Saturday.  Three down, eight to go.

#FlyTheW... in McCovey Cove

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Your Weekly Asuka, S2E01

Wonder of wonders, Hibike! Euphonium is back for a very welcome second season.  Not only is it back, but Kyoto Animation has blessed us with an hour-long first episode to boot.  Pleasantly, the raison d'être of this feature, Asuka Tanaka, aka The Goofy Cute, is... well, not featured exactly, but she's quite involved with the first half of the episode.

What we get from her is like "Asuka's Greatest Hits", ranging from the Goofy to the master deflector, able to pass the buck on anything she doesn't want to deal with, to something of a new aspect: the cold-blooded assassin.

She actually does the cat-smile thing at one point, which was a little freaky I gotta admit.  She's also not above some cheek-pulling.  I don't remember either occurring during the first season, so there's that going on.

But its when one of the 2nd year students that quit the club last year asks for her blessing to rejoin that Dark Asuka pops up.  Not without a fight, however: she does everything she can to avoid the issue.  It's only the persistence of the other student that brings out Dark Asuka.  Her blessing?  Nope.  "I don't approve.  You wouldn't benefit the club."  All the while with a dead, dead look on her face.

It is telling, I believe, that the 2nd year student came right to Asuka first, rather than the club president.  I mean, we already know she's the power behind the throne and all, but still.  It's clear this is going to be the the season's first arc, which means plenty of Asuka.  This is nothing but a good thing in my mind, because we need to know more about her.

"We"... "I"... whichever. 

A word about this episode in general.  KyoAni pulled out all the stops with this one, particularly during the festival scene.  Holy crepe, did they go all out.

The festival is a riot of colors and hundreds of people, most of them animated, and all of it lighted by lanterns and fireworks.  It's very nearly movie quality at times.

We even get an Asuka sighting.  Alone and away from the festival. 

If you were wondering if Season 2 was going to measure up to Season 1, wonder no longer.  If it's anything like this episode, or even in the same area code, it's gonna be a fantastic three months.

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October 09, 2016

F1 Update!: Japan 2016

A gray, overcast day greeted the F1 Circus as they pulled up to the starting grid on Suzuka's front straight.  It had rained earlier in the day, and while most of the track was dry, there were still patches here and there that were discolored and slightly damp.  Most of these were on the inside of the front straight, the side that Lewis Hamilton would be starting the race from.  That's because his teammate Nico Rosberg was on pole.  Would that make a difference to Hamilton's start in this, a nearly must-win situation if he wanted to challenge for the Driver's Championship?  Or would he jump to the early lead?  Or would one of the resurgent Red Bulls, poised and ready on the second row, have something to say about the matter?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Japan!

*LIGHTS OUT
: After the race, Lewis Hamilton said that the slightly damp track made no difference to his start.  That's unfortunate, for it means that he completely peed it down the leg of his firesuit on his own.  As Rosberg made a perfectly nice getaway, his teammate bogged down so hard it was like he was starting from the Goshikinuma Swamps.  Speaking of swamp, that's exactly what the field did to Hamilton, sending him plummeting to eighth place before Turn 1.  While he would soon begin the long process of digging himself out of the hole he had buried himself in, it looked like he would be lucky to be on the podium, let alone win.  Meanwhile, Rosberg took off into the distance ahead of Embryo Verstappen.  By Lap 4, he had a three second lead.

*THE MIDDLE:  And then the race settled down.  Most passing up at the front took place when people made their pit stops.  Indeed, most of the front runners had the lead at one time or another as their opponents stopped before them.  Even Hamilton had the lead for a lap at one point.  It was the final round of stops that proved to be the most important.

*TO THE END:  Thanks to a fast in-lap and a quick pit stop, Mercedes managed to get Hamilton back out onto track in fourth, just ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.  A couple of laps later, Seb Vettel pitted from the lead and rejoined the race... in fourth, just behind Hamilton.  Suddenly the situation looked promising for the reigning Driver's Champion.  With 13 laps to go, he was on a fresh set of Hard tires, in third, and three seconds ahead was the second-place Red Bull of Embryo Verstappen.  He too was on Hard tires, but importantly they were some five laps older than Hamilton's.  The Mercedes driver was pushing like every lap was a qualifying lap, burning through his tires at a furious rate, all the while knowing that his target had to do the same thing to defend... and his tires were going to last longer.  With four laps to go, the strategy had paid off: he was a half-second behind the young Dutchman.

*THE END:  Hamilton needed to be glued to the gearbox of the Red Bull to have a shot at passing him down the front straight.  For a handful of laps, he would be in position at the start of the Casio Triangle chicane, but by the end he had lost enough ground that he couldn't quite make the move.  On the penultimate lap, he decided to force the matter.  Coming to the chicane, he feinted to the inside.  Verstappen duly placed himself so as to cover the move, and Hamilton made his real pass attempt to the outside... at which point, he went straight on, taking the run-off road through the chicane, rejoining quite a distance behind the youngster.  "He moved under braking" was the radio call from Hamilton immediately after.  After watching the replays more than a few times, it's pretty clear that the Red Bull driver did nothing of the sort.  Mercedes filed a protest with the Stewards, but later pulled it after Hamilton disagreed with it.  Apparently he watched the replays as well.

*THE VERY END:  Six seconds up the road from Verstappen cruised Nico Rosberg.  He had, essentially, led the race from beginning to end (pesky pit stop rotation excluded) with no threats past the first hundred meters of the race.  The win, combined with his teammate's third place finish, puts him 33 points up in the Driver's Championship with four races to go.  Even if Hamilton sweeps the rest of the season, if Rosberg finishes second he'll still win.  Meanwhile, their team, Mercedes, clinched their third Constructor's Championship on the trot.  True dominance.

When we next meet, we'll need our Stetsons and spurs, 'cause we'll be in Austin Texas for a Taylor Swift concert!  Oh, and the US Grand Prix, too... see ya then!

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October 08, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: That's Two.

When everybody is looking up and out...

...you know it's gone.  Kinda like a repeat of Game 1, except this home run was hit by relief pitcher Travis Wood to make score 5-2.  In doing so, he became the first reliever since 1924 to hit a playoff home run.  In fact, Cubs pitchers drove in three runs by themselves.  Unlike last night, this game never felt like it was ever in danger of getting away from them.  That's more like it!  Two down, nine to go.

#FlyTheW

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F1 Quals: Japan 2016

Well, that was fun!  Here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Japan:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.858 1:30.714 1:30.647
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.218 1:31.129 1:30.660
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:31.674 1:31.406 1:30.949
4 Sebby Vettel Ferrari 1:31.659 1:31.227 1:31.028
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:32.487 1:31.489 1:31.178
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:32.538 1:31.719 1:31.240
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.682 1:32.237 1:31.961
8 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:32.458 1:32.176 1:31.961
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:32.448 1:32.200 1:32.142
10 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:32.620 1:32.155 1:32.547
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:32.383 1:32.315
12 Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:32.562 1:32.380
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.645 1:32.623
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.789 1:32.685
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:32.819 1:32.689
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:32.796 1:32.807
17 Retired Button McLaren Honda 1:32.851

18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:33.023

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:33.222

20 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:33.332

21 False Esteban MRT Mercedes 1:33.353

22 Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:33.561


Nico Rosberg beat his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the line by .013 seconds.  On track, that works out to about 82 centimeters, or just a touch over 32 inches.  The Mercedes W07 Hybrid chassis is 197 inches long, as a reference... yeah, that's pretty close.  The video of the two lapping side-by-side is quite impressive.

Once again, we get two-by-two at the top of the grid: Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull.  Vettel has a three grid-spot penalty coming for his banzai charge at the start of the Malaysian GP, though.  It's amazing how the teams often break down that way.

The big news out of qualifying is the performance of Team Haas.  This is the first time they've gotten both cars into Q3 at once.  Sure, they didn't exactly cover themselves in glory in the session, but they were there.  You want evidence that the team is advancing as a race team?  There ya go.  The points at the start of the season were nice, but they were outclassed by the more experienced organizations fairly quickly.  Now they're starting to make gains on that front as well.  Nice to see.

The biggest disappointment had to be felt by McLaren-Honda.  After all, they're in Honda's home country, on the circuit owned and designed by Honda, and they've been coming to grips with their new engine all season.  And then they leave a mess on the carpet that even an Aismo wouldn't clean up.  That can't have gone over well at all.

So Rosberg gets the early advantage over Hamilton, on a track where such things are fairly important.  With the gap he has in points over his teammate, he's not going to be reluctant to muscle him around, either... if they both get knocked out by damage, well, that's just going to make the lead that much harder to cut down.  Not that Rosberg is going to do a Senna/Prost or anything, mind.

Race is late tonight/early tomorrow... I'll probably watch at least part of it live.  If anything important happens, I'll mention it here before the F1U!.  See ya later!

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October 07, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: That's One.

When everybody is looking up and out...

...you know it's gone.  Javy Baez took Johnny Cueto to the basket in left to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the eighth.  That's the way the game ended, Cubs 1, Giants 0.  One down, ten to go.


#FlyTheW

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