July 31, 2017

Not The Best Start To The Day...

So my morning began the way it usually does, with me desperately attempting to claw a few minutes of sleep more out of my alarm.  Failing that, I began the day properly, with the usual shower, shave, you know the drill.  I was dragging, however: Mondays, y'know?  Eventually I did leave for work, though I was running a little later than normal.


As I walked down the stairs to the parking lot, I noticed that a black SUV was parked perpendicular to the DuckMobile and directly behind it... nope, no driver visible.  Swell.  A few more steps down, and I realized there were two more parked in the lot... and all three were marked "County Sheriff".  There were also two sheriff cars, and a white van labeled, and I kid you not, Crime Scene Investigations.
I had to find an officer and ask politely to move their ominous black SUV so I could go to work.  He asked if I had heard anything strange last night, and I explained that I have five different fans running in Pond Central... I can barely hear myself think, let alone the outside world (...and that's how I like it!).

Off to work I went, walked in, sat down at my desk, started up all the various programs and pdfs and text files I use every day, opened my e-mail to see what the assignment was...

...nothing but the worst type of claim possible.  All day.  All stinkin' day.

I've had better mornings.

Edit: Before anybody asks, I didn't find out what was going on.  It wasn't in Pond Central's part of the building, so I wasn't overly concerned.  Also, once I returned home I didn't bump into any of my neighbors, one of whom I'm sure would have known.  It is a puzzlement.

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July 30, 2017

F1 Update!: Hungary 2017

A sunny summer day, blue skies dotted here and there with the occasional white cotton-ball cloud, greeted the F1 Circus as the performers rolled their cars onto the grid.  For the experienced F1 fan, this boded ill, for there has never been a good race at the Hungaroring without rain being intimately involved.  Would the augurs portend another processional, or would the new, more aerodynamic, cars make a difference this year?  Would we have a Ferrari runaway, seeing how they sat one-two on the grid?  Or would we see the Mercedes grunt their way up from the second row and muscle their way to the front?  Or maybe the Red Bulls would sneak up out of the shadows like quiet assassins and take primacy of position?  And who knows, maybe it could rain?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Hungary.


*LIGHTS OUT:  In something of a shocker, all six of the cars in the front three rows had fabulous starts.  Everybody got away smooth and quickly, giving us the sight of six cars dicing for the lead into Turn 1.  Seb Vettel made it through first, followed by his teammate Kimi Raikkonen.  The next four positions were muddled, but quickly sorted themselves out when Red Bull's Embryo Verstappen once again decided that he deserved whatever patch of track he wanted, whenever he wanted.  That the patch he most desired just happened to be where the radiator of teammate's Smiley Ricciardo car was located didn't much seem to concern him.  Smiley suffered a spraying leak which coated the left-rear tire with liquid, causing a spin.  Only something of a miracle kept other drivers from barreling into the stricken Red Bull, which came to rest in the center of the track, perpendicular to the direction of travel.  In his Safety Car, Berndt Maylander's dead eyes worked their way open with a peculiarly audible grinding sound.  His deathly visage thankfully obscured behind darkened helmet faceplate, Maylander brought his silver chariot out onto the circuit for five laps while the grim track workers cleaned up the mess left behind.

*RESTART AND ALL THE REST:  The restart went pretty much as all F1 restarts do: the leader gets the jump on the rest of the pack, then heads off and away.  Externally, all seemed poised for another Hungarian parade.  All was not right, though, in the lead Ferrari's cockpit.  Vettel had a steering issue that required him to have his steering wheel turned to the left to go straight... and as the race went on, it got worse.  This would be important later on.

*ONE STOPPER: For what seemed like the first time in forever, we had a race where the leader actually lost the lead during the pitstops.  When Vettel pitted on Lap 33, he ultimately wound up relinquishing the lead to... Embryo Verstappen.  This was a false lead, of course, for two reasons.  One, he still had to make his required stop, and two, he had been given a 10-second time penalty for his actions with Ricciardo's car.  On Lap 43, Verstappen pitted and rejoined in fifth place.  The lineup was Vettel, Raikkonen about 1.50 seconds behind, the Mercedes of Valterri Bottas in third about three seconds back from there, and Lewis Hamilton in fourth.  As the laps ticked down, it became clear that Bottas could not make up ground on the Ferraris, so on Lap 46 Mercedes told him to move aside and let Hamilton take a stab at it.  If he couldn't do anything, he'd relinquish the position back to Bottas.  Probably.

*PLOTS AND SCHEMES:  Up ahead of the Brit, Vettel's steering complaint was worsening by the lap.  In fact, things were so bad that the team told him to avoid touching the curbs... this on a track where it's routine to crash over the curbs at every turn.  He was clearly holding up his teammate, who was practically begging on the radio to be allowed to pass the German... who also led the championship race.  On another team, this may have been allowed to occur, but not Ferrari.  Instead, Raikkonen was left in second to act as blocker for Vettel.  Soon enough, Hamilton was under a second behind the Finn, who was about two seconds adrift of the leader.

*FIX THIS IMMEDIATELY:  Even as Hamilton eyed the back of Raikkonen's Ferrari, he was on the radio to his pit wall saying that it was difficult to get close to the red car due to the unsettled air coming off it.  This has long been a fault of F1 cars, and really should have been fixed by now.  Instead, we were left with perhaps the best driver in the world forced to sit back and hope for a mistake by the drivers ahead... all because of turbulence.

*THE END:  Ultimately Hamilton's charge failed.  His tires went off and he began dropping back, at which point Mercedes told him to relinquish the position back to Bottas.  The turmoil in his cockpit must have been immense... he'd be giving up three points to Vettel in the driver's championship, after all.  To further complicate matters, Verstappen had caught up to Bottas and was beginning to loom ominously in the silver car's mirrors.  On the final lap, Hamilton let his teammate past, intentionally going wide in a turn... and very nearly was caught by the Red Bull in the process.  Up ahead, Raikkonen's pleas to be allowed to get by his slower teammate fell on deaf ears, and he finished in second place.  Vettel thus won the race and reopened a lead in the world driver's championship.  Team orders are a legal thing in F1, but they can be hard to stomach at times.

*ONE LAST THING: The McLaren of Indy Alonso finished sixth on actual merit today, and he set fast lap in the process.  Once Singapore rolls around, I think we might have a shot at seeing a McLaren on the podium... probably not, but it's not as unimaginable as it was earlier in the year.

So there you have it.  Hungary done and dusted for another year.  The teams now go on mandatory holiday for two weeks; the factories are closed and team personnel are forbidden to do any work on the car of any sort.  Then there's another two weeks after that before we come to the next race.  So see you at the end of August for the race at Spa-Francopants!

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July 29, 2017

F1 Quals: Hungary 2017

A bright sunny day greeted the F1 Circus, the pleasant atmosphere belying the fact that they were in Hungary.  Still, while they were there, they may as well go racing, right?  And before you race, you have to qualify, and they did.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:17.244 1:16.802 1:16.276
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:17.364 1:17.207 1:16.444
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:18.058 1:17.362 1:16.530
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.492 1:16.693 1:16.707
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:17.266 1:17.028 1:16.797
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:17.702 1:17.698 1:16.818
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:18.137 1:17.655 1:17.468
8 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:18.395 1:17.919 1:17.549
9 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:18.479 1:18.000 1:17.894
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:18.948 1:18.311 1:18.912
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:18.699 1:18.415
12 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:18.843 1:18.495
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:18.702 1:18.538
14 Sergio Leone Force India Mercedes 1:19.095 1:18.639
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:19.085 1:18.771
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:19.095

17 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:19.102

18 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:19.839

19 Paul di Resta Williams Mercedes 1:19.868

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:19.972


Sharp-eyed readers may notice a name is missing.  Felipe Not Retired Massa felt light-headed and dizzy during P2 on Friday.  FIA medical personnel gave him a clean bill of health today before Practice 3, but during the session the dizziness returned and Massa removed himself from the car for the rest of the weekend.  Thus it fell to Williams reserve driver Paul di Resta, who hadn't actually run the FW40 at all, just sim work, to get in the cockpit for the first time since 2013 and not suck.  He wasn't last, so mission accomplished: he didn't suck.  

Oh, and Ferrari locked out the first row, with Seb Vettel setting the fastest lap ever around the Hungaroring in the process.  Probably no surprise, this is the sort of track that suits the Ferrari quite nicely... it needs more nimbleness than grunt, and it has both.  Meanwhile, the Mercs have a longer wheelbase and the best power ensemble.  This is great for fast tracks but it's not rewarded around here.  The Red Bulls have historically been great in the turns as well, and with them locking out the third row it's clear nothing has changed.  The best example, however, of how much Hungary rewards the ability to turn and weave has to be the McLarens, both of which made Q3.  We're talking about a car that has been as much as 15mph slower down a straightaway this year, remember.  

So if nothing else, Vettel has stolen a march on Hamilton and Bottas, capturing pole on a track where it's... difficult... to pass.  I'm thinking the Ferraris will have a win tomorrow, but it won't be overly easy, and Raikkonen will end up fourth or fifth along the way.

Not that I'm predicting or anything.  Race is Sunday morning, see ya then!

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July 26, 2017

F1 on NBCSN: Hungary 2017

Hungary.  I'm not even going to try to pretend to be enthused about this race.  For years, Formula 1's annual visit to the Hungaroring has been my least favorite stop on the calendar.  I've only missed two races in the past 12 years, and both of them were Hungarians Grand Prix (weather problems).  And y'know what?  I'm totally okay with that.  Here's the trackmap:


It's been called "Monaco without the buildings."  That gives it too much credit, I'm afraid.  I gather it's a wonderful place to actually watch a race, built as it is into a natural bowl.  However, that bowl also makes it ridiculously hot and humid: no breeze, don'tchaknow?  Actually, it's a lot like Duckford in that regard, at least today.  It was 83° when I left the job, and according to one weather website or another, 95% humidity.  But I digress.

It's bumpy, even with last year's resurfacing, it's abrasive, and it's nearly impossible to pass on.  Other than that, it's a fantastic track... grmblgrmblgrmbl.

The best thing that can be said about the Hungarian Grand Prix is that after it's over, F1 will be taking a four-week summer break.

Well, that and we get another race covered by the Legendary Announce Team!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Hungary: 630a - 9a live on NBCSN

All times Pond Central.  All opinions are those of The Pond, and should not be taken internally.  Check your local listings for whatever you feel like checking.

I'm going to bed now.

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July 24, 2017

Wonderduck - Similar To An Octopus

Remember back when I was employment-bereft (...and would you look at that?  It's been three years since I announced my status to The Pond!  Time flies...) I would sometimes spend entire weeks without leaving Pond Central?  Hermitdom suited me in many ways, mostly the "lazy bum" way.  Shortly before I was plucked from the ranks of the jobless, I found a cartoon that described my state of mind perfectly:


I mention this because some vestige of those days still remains within me.  That is, when I return to Pond Central after work on Fridays, it's quite common for me to not leave again until I have to go back to work on Monday.  Sometimes I don't even open the door to the outside world for the entire weekend.

As I briefly mentioned in my last so-called "post", I had myself a little three-day weekend, but something interesting occurred today.  I went out.  I went out!  In public and everything!  I went out to lunch with the folks, then came right back to Pond Central, elapsed time less than two hours, but I was outside.
Yes, very much like that, including all the controllers and the band... and I'd like to thank Pond Scum member Mauser for mentioning Public Service Broadcasting over at Brickmuppet's place.  Instant fan here.

When your life appears to not have much in the way of big triumphs, you take the little ones with enthusiasm, y'know?

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July 23, 2017

Long Weekend

I have Monday off, taking a PTO day.  I've gotta admit, this has been a lazy weekend, even for me.  I've done a little bit more than nothing, but not by much.  And y'know what?


I don't care.  I'll have to be back at work soon enough, but until then t'hell with it.  I deserve this extra day off.

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July 21, 2017

Impact Warning!

Wednesday morning, I make it into work at my usual time, do my usual things for the first hour, just settlin' in to the routine while easing my way into the day's claim rotation.  Nothing particularly special or remarkable.  A day like any other day, only moreso.  Ah, if only, if only.  Continuing with my regular routine, after about an hour I went off to the loo, then went to the break room to grab a bottle of iced tea out of the vending machine.  Heading back to the production floor, I noticed HR setting up the portable loudspeaker system the business has for the every-two-month all-staff meeting... there's so many of us that people at one end of the office can't hear the goings-on at the other end.  However, and this is what puzzled me, there was no such meeting scheduled for that day!  Upon returning to my desk and signing back into my computer, all became clear: Name That Tune.  I sighed.


See, here's the thing.  Name That Tune is a fun game, and under most circumstances I'm a natural at it... all those years working as a radio DJ, or being the go-to guy at BigBlueBox's music department, or hell, just being a teenager, that's all gotta pay off some way, right?  But the pity of it all is that the songs involved are selected by my boss.  My boss, who loves Barry Manilow and Modern Country music.  The last time we played, it... wasn't pretty.  One of the gamers and I wound up kvetching about the selection later and we came up with out own list, which would have at least separated the music snobs from the children if nothing else.  But I digress.  Not only am I not interested in the game as it stood, it also did a fine job of distracting me from my work.

But something had changed.  The first song was... good.  I mean, really good.  If you knew the tune, you had to get to the HR person and tell her title and artist before anybody else.  Then the song would be stopped, and the next one would come up.  Rinse, repeat.  It became obvious that they had gotten some help with the song list... to the point where I was actually paying attention.  And then it happened.  A song came on that I knew... and after about 30 seconds, I realized nobody else did!  
It's not my favorite Dire Straits song.  It wouldn't even be on the short list.  This was from when the band became a cartoon version of itself, all peppy and cheery and money for nuthin'.  On the other hand, I preferred the Dire Straits that made "Sultans of Swing", but hey, I wasn't going to turn a jumbo Reese's Peanut Butter bar down!  I got to my feet and, leaving my cane behind, I began to walk quickly to the HR person.

I made it four steps.

I actually don't know what happened exactly.  One moment I was upright, the next I had killed all forms of life within a few tens of miles I was getting a closeup look at the office carpeting (light gray, industrial, not at all soft).  I can only assume that one of my shoes, the right one like as not, had been grabbed by an invisible gopher.  I stayed down, taking inventory of my body, when I finally realized that I had just completely wiped out in front of the entire office... and just as the shame and embarrassment began to hit, the HR lady asked "do you know the song?"

I'm sure it's just cosmic coincidence that the song was "WALK of Life".  

Of course my knees hurt.  My right elbow throbbed, as did my left arm in the shoulder area.  By the time the workday ended, I wasn't concerned about my knees: they hurt, but it wasn't an internal pain.  They were just going to bruise (and now, two days on, they probably won't even do that).  My elbow still worked, so I wasn't much concerned about that either.  My left shoulder, though... the next morning, I woke up and it still hurt.  Heck, it still hurts now, though it's much better.  I still can't lift my arm over my head, and trying to push or pull something with it is a cold-rolled b*tch, but it's better than it was.  

But I got a Reese's Bar.  Totally worth it.

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July 18, 2017

Random Anime Pictures #130: From The Screen To The Page...

-Hibike! Euphonium the Movie
The good folks over at Yen Press recently released the original light novel for Hibike! Euphonium, translated of course.  Since that was probably my favorite anime series in years, of course I eagerly picked it up... I wanted to see how it differed and how it stayed the same from the material I knew.  And the result?

It's not as good as the anime.  And no, I'm sure there isn't any "first come first served" bias going on here... KyoAni just did a better job with the source material than the source material did.  For example, let's use what I think was the best sequence from the anime, the mountain scene with Kumiko and Reina.  Much of the dialogue is the same, and a lot of the details as well (Reina's white dress, or her ankles getting rubbed raw).  However, in the novel they don't take their instruments and thus the duet on the mountaintop doesn't occur.  That simply amazed me.  In another big difference, the "secondary leads," Hazuki and Sapphire, get almost no character development.  Also, and most painful to yours truly, Asuka's personality is more obviously a facade and her nasty side is more evident.  The wacky part of her that made her an instant fan favorite is almost totally missing. 

But the obvious difference is the music.  For a story about a concert band, there's a total lack of music involved with the book.  Which is natural of course... a book is words on paper, and the author isn't talented enough to overcome that handicap in comparison to the anime.  Please understand, the book is still quite entertaining and well worth the small amount of time it'll take you to read it. 

But you'll be hearing the music from the series in your head when you do.

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July 16, 2017

F1 Update!: Britain 2017

A low, ominous sky squatted just a few miles away from the Silverstone circuit, while directly above was a hardly better overcast, reminding us that rain was an everpresent possibility here in this chunk of Albion.  Would it grace the F1 Circus with its presence, or would the upcoming race be left to its own devices?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Britain!  


*JUST BEFORE:  We here at F1U! were left with a smile upon our collective faces when the legendary Zsolt Baumgartner was both mentioned by name and seen on our television screen during pre-race coverage.  He's part of "F1 Experience", an expensive way to enjoy a race weekend... but does include a few laps of the circuit in the old Minardi two-seater F1 car, and that has to be driven by someone!  Oh, and on the parade lap, Jolyon Palmer's Renault blew its hydraulics and died on track.  The start of the race was delayed for one lap as a result.

*LIGHTS OUT:  When the race finally began, polesitter Lewis Hamilton made a clean start and led the field into the first turn with no muss, no fuss.  Trailing behind was the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, followed by a dust-up between Seb Vettel's Ferrari and the Red Bull of Embryo Verstappen.  The two exchanged passes before settling down with Verstappen in third.  Vettel was clearly having none of it, and we may have been in line for something spectacular had the two Toro Rosso drivers not decided that their little internecine squabbles were more important than the actual race.  Carlos Sainz and Kid Kyvat did Very Bad Things to each other, with Sainz's car dead, Kvyat limping around to the pit lane, and Herelein Wehrlein, an innocent bystander, damaged as well.  The amount of carbon fiber scattered across the circuit made a Safety Car unavoidable, and Berndt Maylander was awoken from his dark slumber to guide the field for four laps.

*RESTART: ...and this is what's wrong with Formula 1 today.  Asking Lewis Hamilton to lead a flying restart is like giving a velociraptor open access to an old folks' home.  He took control and headed out over the horizon, a grimly determined Raikkonen trailing farther and farther behind.  When the Mercedes driver finally pitted on Lap 26, one lap after the Ferrari, it was no trouble at all for him to rejoin in the lead.

*ALMOST THERE:  As the laps ran down, Mercedes' Valterri Bottas managed to wrest third place from Vettel, and then turned his sights on Raikkonen some five seconds up the road.  Try as he might, however, he could not reel him in enough to legitimately attempt a pass.  And then it happened.  The front left tire on Raikkonen's Ferrari suddenly deflated sending him skittering around the circuit desperately trying to control his car.  It took no time at all for Bottas to move past him for second, followed eventually by Vettel.  Once the Prancing Horse of the Finn had been reshod, he returned to the track with two laps to go in fourth place.  And then Seb Vettel's Ferrari suffered a slightly more violent deflation of his front left tire in almost the same place on track as Raikkonen's.  The Finn was thus promoted back up to third place, while Vettel eventually ended up in seventh.

*OH, HIM?: It may seem like we here at F1U! haven't mentioned what was going on with Hamilton up in the lead of the race.  There's a very good reason for that: we never saw him.  Except during his single pitstop, it seemed like the cameras stayed very far away from the local hero.  To be fair, his was a non-exciting race, alone up front with nothing interesting going on.  In fact, he had himself another Grand Slam: pole, win, led every lap, fast lap of the race.  Not quite as dominant on the timesheet as some of his races the last few years when he'd win by two minutes, and that after stopping for a danish and a cup of coffee... but still and all, unstoppable today.  With the way things wrung out, he now trails Seb Vettel in the championship fight by only one point.

If this seems short to you, that's because it is.  Other than the two Ferrari tire failures, there wasn't much in the way of action after the few few laps... a singularly uninspiring race indeed.  Next time around though... we're in Hungary!  See ya in two weeks!

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If You're Happy And You Know It...


... for what it's worth, I'm sorry.

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July 15, 2017

F1 Quals: Britian 2017

Ah, to be in England in the summertime... to feel the warm sun shining down upon me, the gentle breezes, to enjoy England's mountains green.  To view the bluebirds over the cliffs of Dover, though it may be a long way to Tipperary. 


Or, more likely, to suffer the pissing rain and chill winds whipping in over the microclimate that made RAF Silverstone such a great location for a Wellington bomber training base.  It doesn't do much for a F1 car's traction, though, which is why it looked to be an entertaining qualifying session when the tv cameras came on.  It had begun raining about 15 minutes before the session, and had just continued on... not heavy enough to stop the proceedings, not light enough to use dry tires.  The sort of weather that could easily mix up a grid in other words!  So what was the result?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Britain:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.069 1:27.893 1:26.600
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:40.455 1:28.992 1:27.147
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:39.962 1:28.978 1:27.356
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:39.698 1:28.732 1:27.376
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:38.912 1:29.431 1:28.130
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:39.201 1:29.340 1:28.856
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:42.009 1:29.824 1:28.902
8 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:39.738 1:29.701 1:29.074
9 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:40.011 1:30.105 1:29.418
10 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:42.042 1:29.966 1:29.549
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:41.404 1:30.193
12 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:41.726 1:30.355
13 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:37.598 1:30.600
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:41.114 1:31.368
15 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:41.874 1:31.482
16 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:42.573

17 K-Mag Haas Ferrari 1:42.577

18 Hereline Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:42.593

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:42.633

20 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:42.966


The rain more or less stopped during Q1 and a dry-ish line formed around the track right at the end when Indy Alonso made one final desperate dash to get out of the dead zone... and ended up being fastest of the session.  Not to worry, he has a 30-grid spot penalty for an engine change so he'll be last anyways tomorrow.  Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo never made it out of Q1, his turbo making a sound like it had ingested a guineapig

The rest of Quals went like it usually does... the track dried out, Hamilton went full ham on the place and set the fastest ever lap around Silverstone in the process.  He's over a half-second ahead of the nearest Ferrari.

Barring weather, I'd say it's a fairly good guess that Ham'n'cheese will win tomorrow, but that's why they run the races.  Tune in to F1U! afterwards to find out what went down.

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July 12, 2017

F1 on CNBC: Great Britain 2017!

If Monaco is the heart of Formula 1, and Monza the throbbing adrenal glands, and Hungary whatever earwax is, this weekend's track is the very soul of the sport.  It was here that the F1 championship was born, most of the teams are located within a short drive from the circuit (and one literally across the street from the front gates), and it's been the home track for many of the greatest names in the sport's history.  Thus it should come as no surprise to veteran watchers of F1 or readers of The Pond that there's a very good chance indeed that next year will be the last British Grand Prix to be held at Silverstone for a while.  Here's the track map:


The British Racing Drivers' Club, the owning body of Silverstone, activated an escape clause in their current contract with Formula One Management... or Liberty Media, whatever the powers that be in F1 are now...citing ruinous fees to host the event.  They say they've lost £7million over the last two years, and expect to be another four million in the hole this year.  So suddenly we no longer have a track for the British Grand Prix.  The BRDC will, of course, immediately begin renegotiating with The Powers That Be, going for lower fees, and who can blame them?  By the end of the contract they just got out of, 2026, they would be paying £25million just to host a F1 race... never mind upkeep, improvements, so on and so forth.  

Which makes what happened today in London so interesting.  See, F1 put on a little show in the heart of the city, meaning we got the spectacle of modern and classic F1 cars prancing around Trafalgar Square.  It may not be coincidence that there's a serious push for a race in London. Gotta admit, that'd be really freakin' cool.
19 of the current drivers appeared at the event, the lone no-show being Brit Lewis Hamilton.  Gotta say, that's awfully stupid of him, but hell, it's not like I'm a fan anyway.

One thing we know for sure: the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual stalwart coverage... hopefully David Hobbs will have recovered from the bug that bit him.  Here's the times:
Friday
Practice 2: somewhere between hither and yon.
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a, live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Britain: 630a - 9a, live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  Accept no substitutes!

F1U! will be along sometime thereafter... see ya then!

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July 11, 2017

Ducks In Anime: Now That's What I Call Cute

-Flying Witch, Ep09

Not only did I love Flying Witch because of how good it made me feel ("Max Comfy!"), but it also had the cutest darn duckie ever to grace this category.  Remember, the mother is a children's book illustrator... this is a page from a piece she's working on.

Why haven't you watched it yet?

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July 10, 2017

F1 Update!: Austria 2017

There are F1 races that are tightly-fought, tense affairs.  They draw you in, focus your attention, rivet your gaze firmly upon the events transpiring before you.  Where random circumstance changes the entire complexion of the race.  Where an incredible performance makes you acknowledge, once again, that drivers in the Formula 1 world championship are the best in the world at what they do.  As the 20 cars made their way to the starting grid at Spielberg's Red Bull Ring, all and sundry were eagerly anticipating what was to come.  Would the feud brewing between Ferrari's Seb Vettel and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton come to a head?  How would the tires fare on the abrasive circuit?  Who would blink first?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Austria!


*LIGHTS OUT: This was not one of those races that draw you in, focus your attention, rivet your gaze firmly upon the events transpiring before you.  The majority of the action and drama was over by the first turn, beginning with the actions of polesitter Valterri Bottas.  As the race officially began, the Finn's Mercedes had a blinder of a start, looking as if it were shot from a gun.  It was so good in fact that both Seb Vettel and Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo immediately said to their respective pitwalls that he had jumped the start altogether.  Indeed, replays later showed that he had started moving before the red lights were extinguished.  This alone, however, does not constitute a jumped start!  A driver can begin to move like that legally (it's thought that the car moves because the clutch slipped... or whatever), as long as they're not accelerating within 200 milliseconds of the lights going out, that being the FIA-mandated limit of human reaction time.  Timing and scoring officially has telemetry showing that he had a reaction time of 201 milliseconds.  The race to the first turn was anticlimactic, Bottas getting there with time to spare.  

*THE RACE:  The predicted rain never came.  Indeed, the predicted tire wear never came either: Pirelli expected the ultra-softs to last about 18 laps.  Bottas stopped for new shoes on Lap 41.  Felipe Not Retired Massa made it to Lap 47 on his.  So much for tire degradation playing a vital role in the strategies for this race.  Even with Lewis Hamilton's incessant whining that his tires felt awful, his tires weren't gripping, his tires were actually onion bagels with cream cheese and lox, so on and so forth, couldn't disguise the fact that he had moved up to fourth place and (eventually) set fast lap of the race.  What was particularly odd was that everywhere we looked, we saw evidence of the tires suffering wear... more than once we here at F1U! were shocked, shocked we say, at the thick black wear lines appearing on the inside shoulders of whatever rubber a car was clad in.  Yet at no time did anybody suffer any particular indignities from excessive tire wear.  This pretty much guaranteed that we at home could walk down to the local parade and see more action (those shriners with their teeny cars, ha!).  Until something peculiar began to occur.

*"GET YOUR ELBOWS OUT, LAD.":  With four or so laps remaining, suddenly it seemed like everybody trailing someone caught up to them.  Hamilton had run down Ricciardo (which prompted this section's title when the Red Bull pitwall said that to him), Vettel had caught up Bottas, even a sad little struggle for 10th place between Pleasant Stroll, Jolyon Palmer, and Stoffelwaffle.  The last two laps were all frantic to-ing and fro-ing as Hamilton tried to use his superior straight-line speed to mug the Red Bull, and Vettel tried to take advantage of the one sign of tire wear on the day, as Bottas dealt with a blister that did Bad Things to his handling.  In the end, however, both Vettel and Ricciardo kept their respective challengers behind, but it was a near-run thing for both.  Bottas won by 6/10th of a second, and while Smiley was over a second ahead of Hamilton, it was only because Hamilton's final shot took him out of a closer position.  the final two laps gave the race the illusion of having been action-packed, when in fact it was nothing of the sort.

*HOW ABOUT A THREESOME?:  With Bottas winning his second race on the year, he moves into third place in the driver's championship, with 136 points.  Ahead of him is his teammate with 151 and Seb Vettel sits atop the leaderboard with 171 points.  We might seriously have three contenders for the championship... if Mercedes lets their men race.  We shall see in just a few days, as the next race is this Sunday at the so-called Home of F1: Silverstone!  We'll see ya there!

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July 09, 2017

2017 Austria F1U! Delayed

As I woke up from a nap a short while ago, I came to a remarkable conclusion: I don't wanna do this tonight.  So instead of doing a worse job than I usually do, I'm not going to do it at all tonight.  Instead, I'm just gonna play one of the half-dozen games I picked up in the Steam Summer Sale, then go back to bed.


The F1U! will be tomorrow night instead.

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July 08, 2017

F1 Quals: Austria 2017

Well folks, they can't all be gems... my Austria/Australia post proved that one definitively.  And so too went today's Qualifying session for the 2017 Grand Prix of Australia Austria.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:05.760 1:04.316 1:04.251
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:05.585 1:04.772 1:04.293
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:05.064 1:04.800 1:04.424
4 mrmbrmrlb Räikkönen Ferrari 1:05.148 1:05.004 1:04.779
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:05.854 1:05.161 1:04.896
6 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:05.779 1:04.948 1:04.983
7 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:05.902 1:05.319 1:05.480
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:05.975 1:05.435 1:05.605
9 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:06.033 1:05.550 1:05.674
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:05.675 1:05.544 1:05.726
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:06.174 1:05.597
12 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:06.158 1:05.602
13 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:06.316 1:05.741
14 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:05.990 1:05.884
15 K- Mag Haas Ferrari 1:06.143 No Time

16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:06.345

17 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:06.534

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:06.608

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:06.857

20 Thereline Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:07.011


So yeah, not much exciting today.  We didn't even get the usual shootout for pole, the drivers making one last desperate dash in an attempt to best the leader's time.  Lettuce Grosjean's Haas turned into an immobile piece of carbon fiber sculpture on the racing surface towards the end of the session.  That brought out the yellow flags, meaning that drivers couldn't improve their times (by rule).  And thus we did see Valterri Bottas take pole by a scant .042 seconds over Sebby Vettel.  Lewis Hamilton qualified third, but he's going to starting from the eighth spot after an unscheduled gearbox change.  Whoopsie!  However, he's taken advantage of that by doing his runs in Q2 on the harder "super-soft" tires while everyone else of consequence used the "ultra-softs".  In theory, this'll lead to him doing a long first stint and running the faster tires at the end... strategery!

Except all of that skullsweat might go right out the window.  There's a good chance of rain for tomorrow's race, and it's almost guaranteed to be raining before the race session.  Damp track?  Rain race?  I'm up for that!  Cross your wingtips, lads and lasses, and keep 'em crossed.

Race on Sunday morning, we'll be along with the F1U! sometime after that.  See ya then!

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July 05, 2017

F1 on TV: Austria 2017

Y'know, for the life of me I can't understand just why in the middle of the European leg of the F1 calendar we jump back overseas for a single race.  I mean, sure, it's a great track, the fans are wonderful, a local boy is driving for a contending team, all that's fantastic, but do we really need to race in Melbourne twice a year?  Do the teams like Fosters that much???


What?

Austria?  Not... oh.  Well then.  That would explain the track map.

Doesn't look a darn thing like Albert Park.  What it is, though, is the fastest lap on the F1 calendar, taking around 1:07 to complete.  It's not the shortest lap, that's Monaco, but as a 2.7mile long track that's awfully fast with essentially nothing in the way of turns, it's over awful quick.  And this year, the potential is there for an sub-one-minute lap.  Probably won't happen, but with the cars being ~5seconds/lap faster over last year, it's not out of the question.

One thing that should be a thing here in Australia AUSTRIA  is that everything is trying to kill you the track surface is abrasive as a peeved drop bear sheet of 2-grit sandpaper.  We should actually get tire wear this race as a result.  Tire strategery might be a thing!

Something I learned just this morning: would you believe this is a Hermann Tilke track?  If you squint, you can see the seeds of what would become the circuits in Malaysia and Bahrain, but much simpler.  And, to be fair, the circuit was whelped from the old Osterreichring, so he wasn't the only designer involved...

All this is interesting, of course, but the important stuff is when the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their gig!  Here's the schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: got me hoppin'.
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Australia Austria:  630a - 9a live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  The Tour de France is on NBCSN all weekend if it isn't on NBC itself, so that's why the race is on CNBC.  Yay.

See ya afterwards with the fromage and the shrimp from the barbie!

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July 04, 2017

07/04 Over BB-55


Happy Independence Day, everybody!

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July 02, 2017

Flying Witch: The Review

Simple, short review:  Do you want to be happy?  Then watch Flying Witch.  It'll do the trick in no time flat.


Oh, you want more detail?  Okay!  

In this world, magical beings are a little uncommon but known of by the general public.  They don't announce themselves as a rule, but it's not like they'd be persecuted if they did.  It's just... easier, I suppose.  Our main character Makoto is a trainee witch.  Well, that's not quite accurate: she's recently turned 15, and according to the traditional ways of witching world, she has come of age and is supposed to be out on her own.  Her parents, progressive in the magical community, instead send her off from their home in Yokohama to the city of Hirosaki near Aomori to live with family until she graduates high school, since being a witch "isn't exactly reliable these days."  While she's there, she'll get to learn magic better.  Hijinks ensue.

Except they don't, not really.  Oh yes, it's that kind of show.  If you think ARIA, but without all those pesky rowboats flitting about, you've got the idea of the sort of pace Flying Witch brings to the table.  People do things, stuff happens, the odd semi-deity shows up, lets go get a donut.  Makoto is just a little bit off from the "real world", not enough to be annoying,just... well, she's a witch and people are people and the two don't quite align perfectly.  Don't worry too much about it, have some tea and admire the scenery.

In many ways, the city of Hirosaki and the surrounding area is a quiet member of the show's cast.  It's the sort of place you can probably only find in certain locations in the world: it's an urban center of about 175,000 (which is roughly the same size as Duckford), but with a density of about 340 people per square km.  Duckford's population density, by comparison, is nearly 900/km2.  As such, Hirosaki is very much a city where if you go this way, you're heading into the city center and everything is compressed and... well, city-like.  If you go that way, though, things get more and more rural until you aren't really in a city at all anymore.  Go a little bit farther and you're in the woods. 

Image is from the OP, but it shows what I mean perfectly.  What all this means is that the series has the ability to position itself in any sort of scenery it needs at any time, and to look good doing it.  Believe me when I say that it takes advantage of this every single episode.

So.  We know Flying Witch looks nice, but a show like this doesn't work unless the characters and their interactions are outstanding.  Does it measure up?

more...

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