February 29, 2016

F1 Pr0n: 2016 miniMegaPr0n Part II: Renault, Red Bull, Force India, Manor

The first round of pre-season testing is now complete, and 10 of the 11 new chassis have hit the track.  We've already looked at Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Williams in the first miniMegaPr0n, and Haas got its own entry because they're just that darn cool.  This installment will look at four of the remaining teams.  "But Wonderduck," I hear you wail, and I think you need a little tuning, you seem a tad flat, "why not all six?"  Well, that's simple.  Toro Rosso is running an all-black testing livery that is totally impossible to pick any details out of from the pictures available, and Sauber hasn't debuted their 2016 car at all.  So four it is!

So enjoy these on-track snaps and amateur analysis from the duck with the best grasp of F1 in the world, yours truly.  And I can make that claim because what other duck is going to disagree with me in a way anybody could understand?

more...

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February 26, 2016

The Agony Of The Train



Who knew?

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February 23, 2016

Overtime

Remember back towards the end of December / beginning of January, when I kept coming home early because of a lack of work?  Well, we're feeling the wrath of that now... see, the medical insurance company we process claims for... let's call them "Smith Medical" because that's not their name, or Smith for short... Smith kinda accidentally-on-purpose caused that shortfall of claims.  I think I've mentioned that there's three types of claims we deal with: Professional (basically doctors, clinics, x-ray techs, and so forth);  Claims that have another insurance company involved other than Smith; and my favorite, Long-Term Care... nursing homes, Adult day-care, that sort of thing.  LTC claims are easy... I'll do 30-40 of them an hour, where 20-25 is about what I'll do in an hour for professional.  Smith knows that LTC is easy... in fact, they thought it was so easy that they could have their computers do most of them, and they'd send the really hard ones out for human help.  So they stopped sending LTC claims out to us so they could have some on hand when it came time to test their programs.

Needless to say, the programs failed miserably.  From what I've heard, they were getting about 50% of them correct.  They eventually admitted defeat and released the claims out to us, about three weeks late and on the verge of "timing out", or overrunning the state-mandated turn-around time.  There were some 24000 claims of this one type; we then got another 8000 or so.  Mind you, we normally get about 6000 or so claims of all sorts in an entire day.  So of course we were aimed at this mass of stuff exclusively, since it was about to time out, delaying the normal claims.  Then, at the beginning of February, we started to get hit with more claims than normal every day, we lost some processors to attrition, and the claims kept piling up.  Finally my boss made the call: mandatory 10 hours of overtime this week.

I did four hours this past Saturday, and an hour yesterday and today.  When I took the job, I knew that OT was a normal thing, and I was fine with that.  I mean, I don't like it (and I did enough of it at the bookstore thankyouverymuch), but when it's gotta be done, it's gotta be done.  But that was before I knew how hard this job could be.  Even doing nine hours of claimrunning is exhausting... I'm getting home, eating, then collapsing.  All of which is a long-winded way of explaining why I haven't done part two of the F1 miniMegaPr0n yet, despite the first test session being under way.  Hopefully Wednesday night.  Your patience is, as always, appreciated.

UPDATE: Wednesday I did a 10-hour day.  After picking up my prescription Keep Wonderduck Alive pills, I didn't get home until 8pm.  When I finally sat down at home, the only thought in my head was EAT ALL THE THINGS.  So I did, and now I need a new couch, and another jar of lingonberry.  I cannot begin to tell you how incoherent my artichoke rubella pneumatic leather bucket fluffernutter is right now.  Holy crap there's a pack of coyote howling their damfool heads off out in the fields behind Pond Central right now.  I wonder what they were hunting?  Considering where they were, they had probably managed to stalk and trap a broken-down 18-wheeler.

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February 22, 2016

F1 Pr0n: Haas VF-16

If you're a fan of Formula 1 coverage here at The Pond, you have this car to thank for 2016.  To be blunt, I was leaning towards giving up on writing about F1 unless something important occurred... but then Haas F1 Team joined the grid.  Why does that matter?  Because they're an American team, based in Kannapolis, NC, with a "forward base" in Banbury, England for the European leg of the season.  Yes, I'm rooting for the team on strictly nationalistic grounds, and that's what is keeping me interested in F1 this year.

The livery is based on that used by "parent company" (i.e., both are owned by Gene Haas) Haas Automation's machine tools.  Indeed, the car's "VF" designation comes from them, too.  The first machine design they sold was called the VF-1, short for "Very First".  As an aside, the Navy fighter squadron VF-16 flew off the second USS Lexington (CV-16) and were known as "The Fighting Airedales."

The overall design is reminiscent of both the 2015 Ferrari SF-15T and the SF-16H.  This should come as no surprise to anybody, since the two teams have a very close technical partnership.  Not only is Haas using the 2016 Ferrari powerplant, they also purchased as much as the tech regs allowed from the Italian team.  Thus the suspension and gearbox, as well as incidental parts (like brake ducts) are also Ferrari-made.  The rest of the design is all Haas, however, and was produced by Dallara for the team.

There's an interesting wrinkle on the nose just behind the suspension mounts.  The general school of thought at the moment is that its for some aspect of the suspension, but nobody knows for sure.  The tip of the nose is more Mercedes than Ferrari, as it has no proboscis.  Obviously there's no way to compare the design with prior Haas cars, but it can be said that it's not quite as refined as, say, the Ferrari bodywork.  The sidepods are a little larger, the rear of the car is not as tightly packaged, that sort of thing, but you'd expect that from a first-year design.  You don't take as many risks on your initial go-round.

Haas F1 wants points in its initial season.  Normally I'd think that was impossible, but for Haas, maybe not.  Unlimited windtunnel testing for the past year, plus the partnership with Ferrari, has presented the team with unprecedented advantages over prior new teams like HRT or Virgin.  Let's see if they have taken full advantage... testing starts on Monday! 

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February 21, 2016

F1 Pr0n: 2016 miniMegaPr0n Part I: Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Mercedes

With preseason testing starting up at Barcalounger on Monday, many of the teams finally got around to officially showing us what their cars were going to look like this weekend!  With this post, I'll touch on the Big Four of Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Mercedes.  The fifth team that debuted on Sunday will get their own post.

Once testing begins, we should see almost all the rest of the cars, and we'll deal with them in Part II.  So what will the high-powered steeds of Formula 1 look like this season?  Let's get to lookin'!

more...

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February 20, 2016

Wanna Play World of WarShips?

Hey Binkie!  Have you been browsin' this here blog and seen them purty pictures of naval vessels... y'know, like this one:

...or this one:

...or even this one:

...and thought to yerself, "Gee, that looks like a whole heapa good ol' fun.  How do I get started?"  You have???  Wow, now how's that for a good guess, huh?  Yep, that's me, Wonderduck, aka Carnac the Magnificent.  Sis boom bah.

Today's your lucky day Binkie!  I have in my possession a hermetically sealed envelope.  Kept in a #2 mayonnaise jar on the back porch of Funk and Wagnall's since noon today, nobody knows the content of this envelope... except for me.

And soon, you too will know, because I'm about to tell you.  IN THIS VERY ENVELOPE is a gift code for a new player of World of Warships.  It ONLY works for a new account, not an existing one.  With it, you get a free ship, a passel of credits, and a bunch of doubloons, the special currency of the game that you can normally get only via cash.  So if you're wanting to play, and you're NOT currently playing the game, let me know in comments so I can get the code to you! 

Hopefully you won't end up like this too often.

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February 18, 2016

That's The Long And Short Of It


Yup.

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February 16, 2016

The Chesapeake Raider

By 1912, the US Navy had gotten pretty good at the whole dreadnought thing, more or less.  They'd commissioned six battleships in three classes, carrying either eight or ten 12" guns in four or five twin turrets.  Unlike the Royal Navy or the German Navy which tended to employ "wing" turrets, the US Navy had firmly stuck to putting their turrets on the centerline.  In the case of the South Carolina class of ships, this meant while they only had eight guns, they could all fire to one side or the other.  The original HMS Dreadnought, on the other hand, carried 10 guns: six on the centerline in three turrets, then a wing turret on either side of the superstructure.  Thus both ships could fire eight guns to a broadside, but the SoCar didn't have to carry the extra weight of an extra turret around (note: while it's true that the wing turrets could fire straight ahead or behind, thus giving the Dreadnought an advantage on paper, in practice this was never really done: the gun blasts would damage the ship!).  For the fourth class of US battleship, it was decided that 10 main guns just wasn't enough: twelve were needed.  And thus was the Wyoming-class born.

The name ship of the class, BB-32, was commissioned in September of 1912 and weighed in at just over 27000 tons at full load.  While small for what we now consider a battleship, at the time she was the heaviest ship in the fleet and amongst the heaviest anywhere.  She was the first US ship to incorporate an anti-torpedo bulkhead, and her main armor belt was 11" thick.  Her machinery could scoot her along at a touch over 20kts at 26000hp.  What was uncommon about her was the way her guns were arranged.

Three superfiring turret pairs, all on the centerline: one pair forward of the bridge structure, two pairs aft.  One pair was roughly amidships, the other aft.  In theory, the four rear turrets could all fire directly astern.  In practice?  Well... not so much.  The superfiring midships turret might be able to, the decklevel one would have serious difficulties. 

While I hate to use a videogame representation for this article, good pictures of the ship from the side are hard to come by.  At least this way you can clearly see the positioning of the turrets.  The rear four were all quite capable of firing "over the shoulder", with clear arcs of fire forward.  On the whole, however, the six centerline turret concept can't be considered a success; the extra weight of the turrets, and extra holes pierced through the main deck, put unneeded stress on the body of the ship (the Japanese had similar problems with their Tone-class cruisers, which had five turrets all forward of the bridge).

Once the United States entered World War I, the Wyoming was part of Battleship Division 9.  In late 1917, BatDiv9 reinforced the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, becoming 6th Battle Squadron.  The wartime service proved to be relatively unexciting, and Wyoming returned to home waters in April 1919.  She bounced back and forth between Atlantic and Pacific Fleets until the early '30s, when she was named flagship of the Training fleet and began her life as a "demilitarized" gunnery training vessel: half her main guns were removed, her anti-torpedo bulges and side armor went away as well.  It was at this point she was renumbered as AG-17.

In place of the three removed main turrets, a startling proliferation of smaller guns appeared.  From .50cal machinegun mounts to 5" turrets, the Wyoming trained tens of thousands of sailors in the art of naval gunnery of all sorts as World War II got started.  Homeported in the Chesapeake Bay area (ergo her nickname of "Chesapeake Raider"), she served in this manner until early 1944.  At that time, the last of her 12" guns were removed, replaced instead by more 5" turrets.

With the arrival of the kamikaze threat in the Pacific, the Wyoming became more important than ever, becoming a testbed for anti-kamikaze tactics.  It was in this role that she was employed when the war ended.  She lasted for a couple more years after that, being decommissioned in 1947 and scrapped at the end of that year.  Not so bad for a dreadnought-era vessel, that.

UPDATE: A closeup shows that they're clearly not lights.

Having said that, I'm not entirely sure what's going on here.  To me, they look like baskets with... floats?... in them?  Like what you'd see on fishing nets.  Emergency-use nets, like if they were rescuing survivors they'd throw them over the side to give the survivors something to climb up?  I have no idea...

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Name This Mystery Ship XXXI: Don't Call It A Comeback

It's been over a year since the last time I did one of these, but what the hell, here we go again!

As always, CTX and FDM can't play until I take them off the leash.  Everybody else, remember the rules: no image searching, no google, nuthin' like that.  Just good ol' detective work.  You get one guess, so make it count.  The winner (as declared by me, and my decision is final) will get a post of their very own about anything they want (no pr0n, politics or religion, however) within reason. 

So what are you waitin' for?  Get t' guessin'!

UPDATE: Brickmuppet wins with his text message to the Duckphone late this afternoon.  A post on this ship (at which point, the name will be revealed!) will be up later tonight.  If anybody names the ship before then, I'll be royally peeved, so please don't.

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February 13, 2016

Random Anime Picture #111: Perspective


-Shokugeki no Soma, Ep18
Attack of the giant booties!

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February 12, 2016

Pitchers & Catchers Report Next Week

For all of you that find that headline exciting and fascinating, here's something else for you:

For the rest, enjoy where your life may take you, rejoice in what you've accomplished, but do not miss what you could have had.  Mr Graham would tell you the same.

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February 08, 2016

Random Anime Picture #110: Reluctance


-ARIA the Avvenire, Ep01
I'm finding myself reluctant to write the review of the first of three new ARIA episodes.  Not because I don't want to, but because of how much I love the series.  Watching this special episode, particularly after years of thinking I'd never get to spend more time with these characters, was an intensely personal experience.  Don't worry, I will do it, I'm just trying to figure out how to make it feel right without gushing.

If you're a fan of ARIA, you should have watched it by now.  If you've never seen the franchise, this is a good time to start watching.  If you're NOT a fan of ARIA... well... um...

I welcome all sorts of people to The Pond.  Some of my best friends don't like Azumanga Daioh, for example.  I'd like to think I'm open-minded enough that I could get along with someone who doesn't like calm, peaceful stories about female gondolieri on Mars. 

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February 06, 2016

Random Anime Picture #109: Yup, That's Awesome

What's more dangerous than a bunch of dark elves armed with longbows?

-GATE, Ep 17
Dark elves armed with IHI Aerospace Panzerfaust 3-IT anti-tank rockets!!! 

And what's more dangerous than dark elves armed wiht IHI Aerospace Panzerfaust 3-IT anti-tank rockets?

Humans flying the F-4EJ-Kai using AIM-9M or -9P Sidewinder heatseeking missiles against dragons, that's what! 

And what's more dangerous than humans flying the F-4EJ-Kai using AIM-9M or -9P Sidewinder heatseeking missiles against dragons?

Humans using a battery of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Type 75 155mm self-propelled howitzers against grounded dragons, that's what!

I'll tell you, I was just giggling with amusement during the final battle in this episode of Gate.  It was great!

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February 04, 2016

F1 Pr0n 2016: (Not The) Renault RS16

Would you believe that it's nearly that time again?  Off in the distance, one can hear the engines grumble and the turbos beginning to whine... or is that just people who want the V10s back, it's hard to tell.  Formula 1 is just around the corner, and the first of the rollouts didn't occur today.  Now, I know you're assuming that I just typo'd up there, but nope, I meant it: the first of the rollouts didn't occur today.  What did happen, though, is that Renault debuted... something.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to not introduce you to something that isn't the RS16!

As you may or may not remember, the team known as Lotus was about to go legality-plank-up last year, but longtime F1 waffler Renault eventually rescued them from the abyss.  Renault is one of the truly important names in the sport, either as an engine manufacturer, a team sponsor, a factory works team, or all of the above at once.  They've raced as Equipe Renault Elf, Renault F1 Team, Lotus Renault GP, and won two constructor's championships on their own.  They've also supplied engines to championship teams from Williams, Red Bull and Benneton along the way, making them one of the most decorated marques around.  Now they're back, officially known as Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, with their car for 2016, the RS16.

Which, in fact, you are not seeing here.  Oh, to be sure, the team debuted the car you're seeing here today in a grand presentation, but this isn't the RS16.  See, Renault got into Lotus quite late last season and it's known that the dying team had no design on the table for this year... why spend the money when you're not even sure you'll be able to finish 2015?  So Renault had to come up with a design on its own, something that can't be done in just a couple of months.  What we're undoubtedly looking at here is the chassis of last season's E23 with the new front wing the team ran in the post-season test at Abu Dhabi back in November.  Though you can't see it in these pictures, people who know these things have said that the exhaust on this car looks exactly like 2015, which would be against the tech regs for this year.

Hell, Jerome Stoll, president of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, even said that the livery you see here will change by the first race weekend in Australia.  So if the car isn't going to be what you see here, and the paintjob is going to be different, why in the world did Renault even have this event today?

To unveil the team.  Let's face it, a lot of people were pretty sure that Renault dragged its feet on the Lotus deal because they were lukewarm on the sport.  And, considering the grief they took from Red Bull concerning their engine, who can blame them?  This event was clearly a "we're back now" thing, and all things considered, a welcome one.  F1 is better off with Renault as a manufacturer than without it.

As near as I can tell, this is the first, and last, scheduled rollout of a car until pre-season testing begins in a couple of weeks.  We'll keep an eye out, though, just in case.

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February 01, 2016

Showboaters

It was late, I was getting tired, and I decided that before I made my way into the embrace of Hypnos, I'd go take a few ships out for a sink in World of Warships (I'd had a run of bad luck recently).  Once I had signed on, I discovered that Avatar was online as well... and shortly thereafter, we had been joined by David.  After a few successful battles, I finally realized that I was on the verge of falling asleep in my chair.  I called for one last fight, but we needed to get some glamour shots of the squadron before we packed it in.  Av and David both agreed.  David brought out his brand-spankin'-new Wyoming-class dreadnought, while Av and I decided to play escort in our St Louises.

click for bigger if you'd like
Since David was both larger and less able to maneuver than our more nimble cruisers (and this is probably the only time you'll hear a St Louis described as "nimble"), the task of getting close fell to us.  Av's declaration that we'd "get close enough to jackstaff cargo" notwithstanding, it proved to be slightly more difficult than I expected.  On the other hand, Avatar's crew was playing frisbee with David's, so what do I know?  For the record, that's Avatar at the top, David in the middle, and yours truly at the bottom.

Closest approach.  Throughout the night, the three of us seemed like we'd been maneuvering together for years.  Indeed, at one point I was in my South Carolina and the other two in St Loo's, and the way the game started put them in front of me.  The game began, Avatar moved a kilometer ahead of David, and I was a klick behind, bringing up the rear.  The appearance of a bad guy off to port made Avatar call for our merry band to head that way... and from my vantage point, all three of us began the 90-degree turn at the same time, and finished the turn at the same time.  Like we had planned it that way, and had drilled in the battle turn together for weeks.  It was really quite cool.

Alas, my position at the left of the formation meant that I was on the "shadow side", and thus all side shots were silhouetted against the setting sun.  I could not pivot my camera around far enough to get a shot from the right side of our band and still get all three of us in the shot.  Fortunately, David took advantage of not having to do anything but motor straight ahead and got some decent shots himself; by all means, click on it for a larger version.  Look at that battleship, all dolled up in a purty camouflage and stuff.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, mostly because the bad guys finally showed up and it was time for us to go to work.  It was a good match, but really, the most fun was our attempt at imitating the Blue Angels in ship form.  We honestly cleaned up, our little band doing a good job while being slightly outnumbered.  Towards the end of the match, however, my discipline broke down as I laid eyes on the one sight every surface skipper wants to see in battle.

"CARRIER!" followed by sadistic chuckling.  Now, this particular carrier had been a pain in the butt all game, so it was with pleasure that I gave it broadside after broadside, setting it ablaze a few times... until I racked up three citadel hits in one volley.  Understand: in WoWS, citadel hits are like hitting a grand slam home run.  A single citadel hit can take half a battleship's HP away.  Three of them at once on a carrier?  Surprisingly, it didn't sink from that, but if I had sneezed on it, it probably would have capsized.  It only took one more hit for it to get all splodey.  Good times, good times.

So why aren't you playing?

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