November 19, 2017

Random Anime Pictures #140: I Did NOT Expect That

As I've gotten more interested in the past months about anime-based figures, I've seen a bunch based on characters from something called "To Love-Ru."  They've mostly been very good-looking, and there's a series of figures that are probably the best-looking I've ever seen... ridiculously expensive, waaaaaay out of my price range, but the best-looking.  But I knew nothing about the series except that one pink-haired character wears a weird hat.  So with so little to look at this season, I decided to give it a shot.


-To Love-Ru Darkness, Ep01
Never mind the zombies being attacked by giant plants.  A careful eye will notice that the pink-haired schoolgirl is... um... crouched in an interesting location.  This is not by accident.  TLRD is perhaps the single-most ecchi anime I've ever seen that isn't flat-out hentai.  And it was broadcast!  "But Wonderduck," I hear you say and really, are you using whitening strips, your teeth look great, "if that picture is representative, it isn't that over-the-top, right?"

No.  It's even more than that.  Remember the High School of the Dead OVA?  That was nothing in comparison to this show.  Now, nothing I've shown you here is out-of-the-ordinary... or even particularly worth commenting on.  That's because I don't dare put the NSFW stuff on the front page.  I warn you again: if you click "more", you're going into NSFW-land.

Last warning: beyond here is NSFW.

more...

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November 17, 2017

Random Anime Pictures #139: Ohfertheluvva...

-Aquarion Logos, Ep05
See, now they're just pandering.  A beach episode.  The fifth episode of twenty-six, and already it's a beach episode.  Then the best shot of the whole thing is also the one where the Tagonist is most fully dressed.  I don't understand how this show thinks at all.

Well, okay, maybe I do a bit.  

This was the episode where everybody that wasn't a die-hard Aquarion fan jumped ship... and apparently, some of the die-hards did, too.  I know I'm not going to go any farther with it. What's the point?  I don't like giant robot/mecha as a rule, I don't like shouted special attack names, and I really don't like shows throwing in beach episodes less than a fifth of the way through the run.  I mean sure, the fanservice is nice, but if the series is this desperate this early, the trainwreck that's coming is going to be immense.  No thanks.

Nope.  Ain't gonna work.

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November 15, 2017

Ducks In Anime: Out Of The Darkness, A Light


-Aquarion Logos, Ep02
Despite my advancing years, my eye can still be distracted by cute representatives of the opposite sex, even to the point of watching an anime series solely because of a character design.  Oh, it doesn't happen often... I usually require something more than that, like a storyline or grand concept that is appealing... but upon occasion everything will line up just right.  As I wasn't really paying attention to anything this season... I still intend to finish up Girls Last Tour... I said "what the hell," and began watching Aquarion Logos.

This was not the best idea I ever had.  I acknowledge that giant robot shows can in theory be interesting and enjoyable.  Having acknowledged that, I need to state that Aquarion Logos does nothing to prove that theory correct.  Lots of combining small ships to make a big one, lots of yelled attack moves, flat-out awful animation levels, a stupid stupid plot... really, the only worthwhile thing in it is the Tagonist, Maia (above).  Yes, tagonist.  She's not on the side of Right And Good, so she can't be the protagonist, but she's not on the side of Darkness and Evil anymore either, so she's no antagonist.  So she's a Tagonist. Oh, and the cafe that's a front for the Good Guys' Giant Robot Hangar has a row of rubber duckies, as seen up top there.  Sadly, even the combination of cut-off jeans shorts and rubber duckies cannot save this series.


* Yes, I know I'm not using protagonist and antagonist correctly.  Just roll with it.

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November 13, 2017

F1 Update!: Brazil 2017

A brilliantly sunny day greeted the F1 Circus as they made their way to the grid, led by the Mercedes of Valterri Bottas.  The Finn was going to have to carry the banner for the Silver Arrows on this day as his world champion teammate, Lewis Hamilton, was starting from the pit lane after binning his car in Quals.  He had his work cut out for him as the two Ferraris were right behind him in second and third, led by Seb Vettel, and the Italian team was desperate for a win.  Every team wants to end a season on a high note, true, but Ferrari actually led both championships for a substantial portion of the season before watching Merc run away from them.  Face needs must be saved.  So what occurred?  What transpired?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Brazil!


*SOMEONE SET US UP THE BOMB:  After his visit to the barriers during Qualifying, Lewis Hamilton was going to be starting from somewhere around last place on the grid, so the team made the strategic decision to actually start him from the pit lane.  Why is this important?  Because it allowed changes to be made to the car's setup.  The Mercedes has proven to be rather persnickity regarding the weather this season.  It isn't fond of cool track temperatures, being unable to get its tires up to operating levels, so the team has to do everything it can to get heat into them.  This slows the car down.  The weather for Quals was cool and not sunny, so both Mercs were set up for that... and it got Bottas the pole.  However, race day came and it was both warm AND sunny; the track temperature was right in the Merc's sweet spot.  After the end of Qualifying, however, the cars go into parc ferme and cannot be worked on or adjusted in any way unless there's a safety issue, and even then it's a case of "like for like."  The race Powers That Be have to approve the switching of parts, and will watch the change like a hawk.  THEN the car goes back into parc ferme.  That was Bottas' position.  But Hamilton?  Since he was already going to be starting from the back, starting from the pit lane would be no great hardship, and it meant that the parc ferme rules did not apply; they could make any changes they desired.  And they desired to change the setup for hot weather.  Oh, and to replace almost everything on the car, from floor to engine.  It would make a substantial difference.

*LIGHTS OUT:  Once the five red lights went out, we had the usual drag race to the first turn between Bottas on the outside and Vettel on the inside.  Neither driver had great starts, wheelspin being the thing to begin with.  It was Vettel who managed to get the power down to the asphalt first and he passed Bottas as they reached the braking zone for Turn 1.  One turn later, all became chaos.  Smiley Ricciardo spun his Red Bull, and behind him Kevin Magnussen and Stoffelwaffle did Very Bad Things to each other.  This would call out the Safety Car, and only instants after the notification came out we had another wreck, this time when Lettuce Grosjean lost his Haas and broke False Esteban! into the kittylitter.  This would prove terminal for False Esteban!'s race, bringing to an end a remarkable string: ever since he began racing single-seaters in the 2014 Formula 3 season, he had never retired from a race.  Alas, no more.

*SAFETY CAR:  As Berndt Maylander was woken from his dark slumber, Lewis Hamilton had to be chortling with glee.  Starting from the pit lane had allowed him to totally avoid all the crashing and the wrecking and the glavin! and find himself in 13th.  Seven positions in just a couple of laps?  Not bad.  Many changed tires during the Safety Car, but not the leaders, and not Hamilton, who began the race on the Soft tires (the hardest compound on offer) and looked to be going long in the first stint, and finish up with a sprint on the ultramegawowthesearesoft tires.  The Safety Car also had the effect of gathering the field back together.  Hamilton may have been in 13th place, but he was only seven seconds behind Vettel.

*READY SET GO:  After the restart, Vettel managed to open a two second gap to Bottas, but no farther.  However, they began pulling away from the rest of the field; they both wanted the win so badly there was never any thought to playing it safe or protecting the tires.  As they ran away and hid, the cameras slid back to where the action was... with another silver-colored car.

*CHAAAARGE!:  On Lap 5, when the Safety Car went away, Hamilton was 13th.  On Lap 6, he was 12th, having passed Pleasant Stroll.  On Lap 7, he was 11th, getting by Sony Ericcson.  Lap 8 saw our champion leave Pierre Ghastly behind for 10th.  You can be forgiven for thinking that Lap 9 would see him in 9th place.  In reality, he was 8th, having passed both Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.  He then began to slack off, taking five laps to pass Sergio Perez for 7th.  Now yes, Hamilton was in a much better car than everybody he passed, but that was still some mighty fine driving.  And it wasn't over yet... at this point, Hamilton asked his crew a stunning question: "Is Vettel getting away?"  In fact, he was only 16 seconds behind the leader at this point.

*PITS: By Lap 29, all the leaders had pitted for fresh tires... and Lewis Hamilton was leading the Brazilian Grand Prix (that's a lot of Grand Prix!).  And he would hold that lead for 14 laps until he had to make his one stop for tires.  He'd rejoin in 5th place, nine seconds behind Embryo Verstappen's Red Bull.

*NO... HE CAN'T, CAN HE?:  On fresh tires, Hamilton immediately began reeling in the youthful Dutchman.  On Lap 59, he took 4th place and immediately set off for the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen only two seconds ahead.  He would begin hounding the veteran, narrowing the lead to as little as 0.9 seconds.  Once Hamilton locked up going into a turn, however, it was clear that his remarkable day had come to an end, his tires cooked and the Merc wobbling.

*THE END:  When the race finally ended, the top four finishers, Vettel-Bottas-Raikkonen-Hamilton, were covered by less than 5.50 seconds.  There was then a 27 second gap back to Verstappen.  In many ways, this 1 - 3 result was exactly what Ferrari needed.  But there had to be a dark cloud hanging around, caused by Hamilton's storming drive.  It wouldn't have been hard to imagine the champion on the podium... or if he had began the race near his normal grid position, running away and hiding from the rest of the field.

Next race is the last race, Abu Dhabi in two weeks.  We'll see ya then for the finish!

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November 12, 2017

Delay Delay Delay

So last night I went to sleep early, intending to wake up in time to watch the F1 race live form Brazil.  Instead, I had a nightmare of a night.  From around midnight to maybe 6am-ish, I was basically up every hour dealing with... um... a warp core breach.  


I've had more fun.  Anyway, the amount of sleep I had last night was insufficient to my needs which also led to massive headache that made me... um... cranky.  I had to cancel brunch with the folks, sort of moved around in a daze until I sat down to watch the race around noon, then promptly dozed off with a sandwich in my hand.  Once I woke up, I rewound the race, started it again, then dozed off at about the halfway point.  Didn't miss much, though.  Now that I've watched the thing, I'm going to go back to bed.  When I awake, I suspect I'm going to feel like a overcooked strand of mafaldine.

You can probably see where I'm going with all this.  It's not like the race was all that exciting anyway.  Bear with me, I am old and tired.

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November 11, 2017

F1 Quals: Brazil 2017

Well, quals hasn't aired yet here, but I've seen the important bits!  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Brazil:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:09.452 1:08.638 1:08.322
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:09.643 1:08.494 1:08.360
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:09.405 1:09.116 1:08.538
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:09.820 1:09.050 1:08.925
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:09.828 1:09.533 1:09.330
6 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:10.145 1:09.760 1:09.598
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:10.172 1:09.593 1:09.617
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:10.078 1:09.726 1:09.703
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:10.227 1:09.768 1:09.805
10 Felipe Retire Already Williams Mercedes 1:09.789 1:09.612 1:09.841
11 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:10.168 1:09.830
12 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:10.148 1:09.879
13 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:10.286 1:10.116
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:10.521 1:10.154
15 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:10.625 DNS
16 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:10.678

17 Pierre Ghastly Toro Rosso 1:10.686

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:10.776

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:10.875

NC Lewis Hamilton Who? Mercedes DNF


Hamilton threw his car into the barriers after just a few minutes of Q1 had elapsed, ending his day early.  He later said that the crash "was very unusual" for him.  Well, yeah.  Kinda.  I'll say this for the newly-minted four-time WC, his wreck had style.  He went into Turn 7, the rear of the car broke free, and it looked for all the world that he was drifting the Merc through the turn intentionally.  That is, right up until the moment it went rocketing off through the kittylitter and buried itself in the tire barrier.  There were some anxious moments as Hamilton didn't reply right away to his pitwall asking if he was okay but eventually he confirmed no injury.  He did look at the back of the car for a while before walking off... clearly he thought something broke back there.

Other than that, though?  It appears the session wasn't all that exciting.  Sure, Bottas took pole at the very last moment from Vettel, but... well.  There are a LOT of penalties to be applied before the start tomorrow... Smiley Ricciardo gets a 10-spot, for example... so that'll jumble things up a little more for tomorrow's race.  Weather is supposed to be warm and dry... darn it.

So!  Race in the morning then!  Enjoy enjoy enjoy!

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November 08, 2017

F1 on Somewhere or Other: Brazil 2017

Brazil.  Not my favorite race.  Oh, I don't hate it the way I hate Hungary... it's much deeper, this distaste I have for Grand Prix of Brazil.  The Hungarian Grand Prix, I just dislike the track.  Brazil?  I hate the entire weekend.  But first, here's the track map:


Okay, cool.  From all reports, most of the F1 community loves the circuit, loves driving there, finds the place to be a great challenge.  So why my bitter antipathy for Interlagos?  Back in the old days, when my F1 fandom was shiny and new, Brazil was the last race of the season.  That meant that my favorite brand of motorsport was going to be going away for four months, give or take, and it was all Brazil's fault.

I didn't say it was logical.

But because of all that, the weekend always felt gray and overcast, even if it wasn't.  Maybe particularly if it wasn't.  That we occasionally got reports of drivers or team members being threatened at gunpoint didn't help matters either.  But rain is, if not common, then at least not very rare at all, which literally made it gray... and slippery, too!  Bonus!

But now Interlagos isn't even the last race on the calendar so my distaste for the circuit doesn't even make sense anymore.  Doesn't matter.  Don't like it.

I do like the Legendary Announce Team however, and we've only got two more races with them until they are scattered to the winds.  Let's enjoy them while we can, right?  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 10a - 1130a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 830p - 10p  decidedly not live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Brazil: 930a - 12n  live on NBCSN

All times Pond Central Time.  I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the decision to show NASCAR practice instead of F1 Quals live.  After all, NBCSN will not have Formula 1 much longer... no reason to hype it up just to have it move to ESPN next season.  And thus we get Quals 12 hours late.  However, if you're in the mood, Practice and Quals will be shown right before the race back-to-back-to-back.  I'll still have the normal Quals report up Saturday morning/afternoon, whichever.  I'm not even going to promise the F1U! for Sunday... best laid plans and all that, and my track record hasn't been great recently.

But it'll be here!  I promise.  See you eventually then!

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November 05, 2017

I Blame Pixy. And J Greely. And Maybe Greyduck Too. (UPDATED)

Based on reviews, blurbs, comments, and otherwise out-and-out love given out over the years by the people in the title, I just bought the audiobook version of Storm Front, the first of The Dresden Files series, by Jim Butcher.


There are 15 books in the series.

I'm a inveterate completionist.

What have you done to me?  I thought we were friends, man.


UPDATE: J says below that the first books would probably be improved if they got someone good to read them, audiobook-wise.  They got someone good: James Marsters.  Who?

Oh.  Spike!  From the Buffyverse.  Guess what?  He's really damn good.  Stage trained, studied at Juilliard, that sorta thing.  His take on Harry Dresden as a worn-down, kinda tired private eye-kinda figure is... well, I can't really say.  I mean, I think it's perfect, but not having read the books, I can't compare it to my "mental reading", y'know?  To me, it works perfectly.

 
The first chapter is actually on yootoob, y'all that know the books give it a listen, tell me what you think.

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November 03, 2017

Doki Doki Literature Club

Yeah, I know.  "Wonderduck, another dating sim?"  Yep!  And not only that, it's about as formulaic as they come!  I mean take a look:


Left to right, you've got the tsundere, the shy bookworm, the genki childhood friend, and the school princess who's also the president of this little club.  Of course, you're the only guy in sight.  We've seen this anime, this manga, this visual novel, before, dozens of times really.  These same characters too... oh, the character designs might be different, but really they're the same.

So why did this free game that's available on Steam hook me so darn hard that it got into my dreams?  I want to make this clear: there are spoilers ahead.  Not massive ones, but spoilers nevertheless.  If you're curious about this, but you don't want spoilers, allow me to direct you to friend Ben's post over on the mysteriously named Midnite Tease.  He's got the stuff.

And, if you want to go into it with as little information as possible, I salute you and don't even mind if you're not going to read the rest of this post.  Here's some music for you.
Quite possibly the happiest, most bubbly tune ever... perfect for DDLC!


more...

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November 02, 2017

Still Around, Still Alive

Just... really busy, really really tired, and for a couple of nights this week I had Very Bad Dreams.  Things should loosen up a bit soon, however, and I'll write over the weekend.  Hold on until then, okay?  Thanks!


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October 31, 2017

F1 Update!: Mexico 2017

A perfect day for racing greeted the F1 Fiesta as they sat on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez's grid.  A tense atmosphere still hung over the crowd though, as everybody knew they were about to see a showdown that would probably decide the World Driver's Championship.  On pole was Ferrari's Seb Vettel, who needed to finish at least 2nd to have any chance of extending the fight to Brazil.  Next to him on the front row was the latest wunderkind to take the Formula 1 world by storm, Red Bull's Embryo Verstappen.  He had no dog in the hunt for the Championship, but very much wanted a win.  And behind them was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, points leader who only needed to finish fifth or above to clinch his fourth driver's championship... or have Vettel finish below 2nd.  These three could honestly be expected to not hold back in the nearly kilometer long run to the first turn... the first car there would have an advantage for the rest of the race on the narrow Mexico City circuit.  So what happened?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Mexico!


*LIGHTS OUT:  The drag race was exactly as exciting as predicted.  The big names were three wide as they piled into the braking zone for the first turn, but as Vettel had the inside line, he held primacy of place... for about twenty feet or so.  Coming out of Turn 1, Verstappen pulled alongside the Ferrari, and to the left which put him on the inside for the approaching Turn 2.  Vettel was slightly balked by the Red Bull, made very light contact with it, and had to back off the accelerator a touch to avoid anything worse.  This loss of momentum opened the door for Hamilton to come charging through, taking second away from the German as they barreled into Turn 3.  Then there was carbon fiber flying everywhere and Hamilton's Mercedes was limping.  The Ferrari had lost half its front wing, the silver car had a flat right rear tire, and Verstappen could be heard going "ha ha" as he galloped away. 

*QUESTIONS QUESTIONS: The aerodynamically impaired Ferrari made it back to the pits well before Hamilton... it could still go fast after all, it just didn't have much in the way of downforce for the turns.  A new nose was slapped on, as was the hardest compound of tire on offer for the weekend... clearly Vettel was looking at going the rest of the race on one set of rubber.  Mercedes decided to do the same for their car.  Both drivers were at the back of the field, with Hamilton in dead last.  The question now became very simple: could Vettel fight his way up to second place from the rear of the field?  The corollary to that was "could Hamilton do the same thing"?  Neither man had a chance to win, of course... or did they?  Embryo wasn't known for his... um... stability behind the wheel, after all.  

*WHOLE AND BROKEN: Soon enough, the early answers to the questions posed came in... "maybe" and "nope."  The driver of the Prancing Horse began to pull himself up the field, slowly but surely, and seeming to have to fight tooth and hoof for every position.  His encounter with Massa for 15th place nearly saw them come together in what must have been a terrifying moment for Vettel... to lose a shot at the championship because frickin' MASSA wouldn't get out of his way?  Ridiculous!  On the other end of the spectrum was Hamilton's Mercedes... stuck in 19th place for so long that Verstappen lapped him on Lap 20.  As it turned out, the collision with Vettel caused more damage than was immediately apparent.  The Merc's diffuser had been broken, either by the impact or by the flailing tire, in such a way that much of its effectiveness was gone.

*HOW DO YOU SAY 'KABLAMMO' IN FRENCH?:  First came Smiley Ricciardo's Red Bull, which ate another turbocharger.  Then Brendan Hair-tly's Toro Rosso came to a stop on the side of the track, flames issuing from the exhaust pipe.  Nico Hulkenberg's Renault died via KERS failure, the team instructing him to exit via the nose of the car and to jump off so as to not ground himself.  Carlos Sainz's French car retired from self-inflicted handling issues.  This left only Pierre Ghastly's Toro Rosso and Verstappen's Red Bull as cars with Renault power still running... and both pit walls were terrified by what they could see was coming.  Hair-tly's failure brought out a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 31.  This allowed both Vettel and Hamilton to throw out their one-stopper plans and put on fast tires.  Verstappen's lead over second-place Valterri Bottas was some 11 seconds at this point.

*AH THE CONFIDENCE OF YOUTH:  Around Lap 40 or so, Red Bull's pit wall instructed Young Master Verstappen to perhaps slow down just a touch so as not to risk angering the engine gods.  A lap later came the radio call "Okay Embryo, so that (lap time) was the same as the previous lap."  A moment or two of silence, then the Dutch driver responded with "I'm really sorry."  For some reason, the obvious laughter in his voice suggested he wasn't very sorry at all.

*BETTING ON RED:  With Verstappen dominating the race, all eyes turned to the Ferrari of Seb Vettel.  By Lap 35, the halfway point, he was in 8th place.  In most circumstances, this would have been a fantastic finishing position considering the problems at the start... but he may as well have been on the Moon for all it was worth to him.  He continued to pull his way up the field, the new fast tires making all the difference in the world.  On Lap 57 of 71, he managed to make his way past the Force India of False Esteban! to take fourth position.  Far behind him, both in track position and in time, Hamilton had dragged his broken Merc up to 10th.

*OH.  OH DEAR.:  Vettel was in fourth, but needed desperately to reach second.  It was a subdued pit wall that radioed him, letting him know that his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, was in third.  Normally, this would be a GOOD thing for the German, because team orders would force the Finn to give the position up.  But the pit wall continued, this time with the bad news: he was 24 seconds behind Raikkonen.  Left unsaid was the gap from Raikkonen to Bottas: another 27 seconds.  Vettel's reply really left nothing more to be said: "Oh mamma mia."  Stereotypical Italian comment aside, the German could not relax.  He needed to be closer to his teammate so he could realistically be allowed past if Bottas had problems, and of course four Renault-powered cars were already out of the race, three of the retirements power-unit related.  For all his dominance on the day, Verstappen could be out in the blink of an eye, and Vettel would have his second place finish.

*WITHER HAMILTON:  You know it's a bad day for Mercedes when their lead driver and three-time world champion is fighting Fernando Alonso's McLaren for 9th place, but there they were, throwing haymakers and uppercuts at each other.  Alonso later said that he thought the McLaren was "the best chassis on the grid", and he may be right... certainly he was able to hold off a damaged Mercedes for some good clean racing.  Probably the best of the day, truth be told.  Alonso did eventually come out behind in their little tete a tete, but that meant that he had only managed to climb some nine positions on the day instead of 10.  Not too bad for a car with a wind-up engine in it.

*THE END:  Vettel managed to get within 15 seconds of his podium-bound teammate, but no closer.  Raikkonen was a whopping 33 seconds behind Bottas' second-place Mercedes.  But 20 seconds ahead of them all was Embryo Verstappen's Red Bull, taking his second race victory of the season.  But nobody really noticed that, because all eyes were on Hamilton who was celebrating his fourth world driver's championship.

The next race is in two weeks in Brazil... see you then!

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October 29, 2017

Mexico Delay

My mood has gotten blacker and blacker as the day has gone on, to the point where I feel like I'm spitting nails at the moment.


I'm not going to do the Mexico GP writeup tonight.  That'd just be a bad idea.

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October 28, 2017

F1 Quals: Mexico 2017

Ah, Mexico City.  Where the Government is confused, the food spicy, the music raucous, the alcohol dangerous, the air gray, and the oxygen sparse.  And the racing fast and furious... and the home of the 2017 Grand Prix of Mexico.  Here's the provisional grid: 

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:17.665 1:16.870 1:16.488
2 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:17.630 1:16.524 1:16.574
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.518 1:17.035 1:16.934
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:17.578 1:17.161 1:16.958
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:18.148 1:17.534 1:17.238
6 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:18.336 1:17.827 1:17.437
7 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:18.208 1:17.631 1:17.447
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:18.322 1:17.792 1:17.466
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:18.405 1:17.753 1:17.794
10 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:18.020 1:17.868 1:17.807
11 FelipeNot Nasr Williams Mercedes 1:18.570 1:18.099
12 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:18.902 1:19.159
13 Brendon Hairtley Toro Rosso 1:18.683 DNF
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:17.710 No Time
15 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:18.578 No Time
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:19.176

17 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:19.333

18 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:19.443

19 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:19.473


Before we go any farther, Pierre Ghastly had engine problems in Practice 3 and could not make the quals session.  The two McLarens didn't turn laps in Q2 as a strategic move to save tires... and because they're going to be getting penalties for engine component changes.  And Brendon Hairtley's engine released the magic smoke before he could set a time in Q2.  If you get to see the in-car video, there's this really fast "zzzzip!" sound just as the engine stops being an engine.  My first thought was the turbo let go, but who knows?

Now then... Embryo Verstappen set his fast time in Q3 about five minutes too early.  It didn't look like it'd matter much... it was a helluva lap, only bettered once this weekend... and that was in Q2, and set by him anyway.  Hell, he also had the "ultimate sector time" for all three sectors, too.  Then Lewis Hamilton took a shot at it... and couldn't come close.  And looked like it, too... the Mercedes was not performing well today.

But Seb Vettel was the last man on track, the Ferrari was performing well, looking firmly planted to the asphalt, just in need of a brave driver to take advantage.  And he did, in an astonishing pole lap that almost wasn't.  According to Vettel afterwards, the car nearly got away from him in Turn 6, forcing him to drop down a gear.  Somehow, it didn't cost him enough time to knock him off pole.

I didn't think he could do it, honestly.  Verstappen's lap was so good, I thought only the Mercedes on a GOOD day would be able to beat it... and the Mercs were NOT having a good day, as mentioned earlier.  They say a good driver can outdrive his car... and that may be so, but I've really only seen one driver do that consistently: Fernando Alonso.  Vettel did that today, I think... and it's not like the Ferrari is a Minardi or something.  Kids, ask your parents about Minardi.

So the race is in the afternoon, Lewis Hamilton only needs to finish 5th to clinch the Driver's Championship, so he's gotta be relatively happy right now.  Vettel needs to win out to have any chance at all, over and above Hamilton having mechanical problems, so he's gotta be relatively happy right now... except the last time Vettel was on pole and Verstappen was second, they were in Singapore.  We all remember how that turned out.

Right, race in the afternoon!  See ya after!

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October 27, 2017

Random Anime Pictures #138: Took Me Long Enough...


Seriously, what took me so long?  I'm not even gonna talk about the show.  If you've ever watched a superhero movie, cartoon, or read a comic book, you've gotta watch this.

"It's Plus Ultra!"
-All Might.

Yes, yes it is.

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October 25, 2017

F1 on TV: Mexico 2017

The races haven't been great since Formula 1 returned to Mexico in 2015, but the spectacle has been real!  Let's take a look at the track map for this new old track.



The teams tend to load up on downforce here despite the two ridiculously long straights... there's a lot of turns to be contended with... and yet, that downforce still doesn't slow the cars down a whit.  Part of the reason for that is Mexico City itself: it's 2200m above sea level, more than 700m higher than the next circuit (Brazil), and some 2197m above Abu Dhabi.  Because the circuit is so high, there's a corresponding thinning of the air.  That means less aerodynamic drag, and while that also means less downforce, it's not like a F1 car doesn't have oodles to spare.  The engines have to work harder here, too, because of the lack of air... the turbochargers spin up to 10% faster to make up for it... so don't be surprised if we see some grenading going on.  There will also be a serious amount of fan insanity in the greatest stadium section in Formula 1.

It is literally a stadium!  Baseball, to be specific... home plate would be just offscreen right of this picture.  It seats 40,000 fans, and the podium ceremony is held here.  Dear god, if Sergio Perez makes the podium the crowd will be able to be heard here in Duckford.

The Legendary Announce Team will be at it again... here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 1: 10a - 1130a live on NBCSN
Practice 2: 2p - 330p live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 1p - 3p live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Mexico: 2p - 4p live on NBC proper.

All times Pond Central, of course.  Seeing Practice 1 up there came as a pleasant surprise... NBCSN is going all-out for their last network weekend, I suppose.  See ya after!

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October 24, 2017

This Time, A Year Ago...

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October 22, 2017

F1 Update!: United States 2017

A perfect day in Austin greeted the crowd as they filed into the Circuit of the Americas.  There was a feeling of anticipation in the air, as it was possible we'd be seeing not one but two championships ended today.  Polesitter Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes would be trying to make that happen, Seb Vettel and Ferrari would be trying to prevent it.  It was, pretty much, just that simple.  So, did it happen?  Would the winner wear a stetson again?  Would they do the toast with Lone Star beer, or would it be Shiner Bock?  And was that Bill Clinton?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2017 United States Grand Prix!


*LETS GET READY...:  The new owners of Formula 1, Liberty Media, is an American company, and this was the first time since the acquisition that the race weekend was in-country.  They made sure to not let the chance to let loose get past them.  First the drivers' parade, which usually sees the individual drivers in convertibles, instead had the drivers in the back of a Peterbilt.  But that wasn't all, oh no, not at all.  No less an announcer than Michael Buffer was brought in to do driver introductions, and what introductions they were!  Driver nicknames abounded: K-Mag, The Torpedo, The Hulk, El Matador, The Canadian Heartbreaker, The Dutch Lion, "Always Smiling, The Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen", Ricky Rocket... The Honeybadger!... really, you have to watch them to appreciate the effort.  Particularly the intro for Ricciardo.  Buffer would come back to give the command to start engines in his usual inimitable style.  Of course, reactions to the whole spectacle have been... mixed.  It generally works out to: Americans don't see a problem, Europeans are disgusted.  We here at F1U! see the attempt to relate to American race fans (NASCAR does this every major race, and the Indy 500 too) as fantastic and exactly what Liberty needs to do.  Plus it's hilarious that they called Kid Kvyat "The Torpedo".  

*LIGHTS OUT:  Once the wackiness was over, it was time to settle in for the main attraction... the actual race.  The highly anticipated start did not disappoint.  Seb Vettel did what he had to do, which was get in front of Lewis Hamilton as soon as possible.  He had a better break off the lights than the Mercedes driver, gave a little twitch to his right to push Hamilton a little farther out, and jumped into the lead before they got through Turn 1.  More importantly, he held it.  By the end of the first lap, Vettel had already gotten far enough ahead to prevent the use of DRS by Hamilton.  Behind them, Max "The Dutch Lion" Verstappen began to hack his way up the field after being forced to start 16th due to engine penalties. By the end of Lap 2, he had already made it up to 11th and we suddenly realized that he might actually be racing for a podium spot.  Sure, he'd have to pass his teammate and probably a Ferrari and a Mercedes to get there, but we've gotten to the point where we're no longer surprised by the result when one of the top cars starts at the back.  Anything was possible.

*STILL HE RISES:  Vettel's lead held firm for five laps, but Hamilton knew he had nothing to worry about.  The Ferrari was pushing its tires hard, but couldn't leave the Merc behind.  On Lap 6, with the advantage of DRS helping down the straight, the championship leader became the race leader with only the slightest of defense attempts from Vettel.  Behind them, the expiration of The Honey Badger's power unit made The Dutch Lion's job easier down the road, removing one of the podium contenders from the field.  Indeed, Ricciardo would probably have been the toughest car to pass, just because of team orders.  No need to worry about that anymore.

*OH SO CLOSE:  Unable to run down the polesitter and his tires beginning to blister, Vettel made his pitstop on Lap 17.  Once he returned to the race, he began ripping off hot lap after hot lap while Mercedes kept Hamilton on for as long as they could.  When Vettel had headed for the pits, Hamilton was 4.4 seconds ahead of the Ferrari.  Hamilton stopped on Lap 21, and returned to the race only just barely ahead of the Red Car.  The radio calls from the two drivers told the story: Vettel was apologetic, saying that he had blown it, while Hamilton chided his team, asking why it had been so nearly a disaster?  While a fair question, that may not have been the best time to pose it.  Just sayin'.  Oh, and just a note: when the field began to make their stops, Verstappen suddenly found himself leading the race.  It wouldn't last of course... he still needed to stop after all... but that still had to bode well for his podium hopes.

*PLAN B:  Having held the lead through the pit rotation, Hamilton once again began to pull away from the Ferrari.  By Lap 35 his lead was approaching seven seconds, and Vettel was asking his pit wall to consider Plan B.  "Plan B" consisted of a second pit stop, with the Ferrari being put onto a gently used set of Super-Soft tires.  This seemed a curious move, as he now not only had to pass Hamilton, but rejoining the race in fourth he also had to pass the other Mercedes of Valterri Bottas.  If he managed that trick, he'd then need to pass the Always Smiling Finn.  This wouldn't be a problem... Ferrari would just tell Raikkonen to let him past.  A complicating factor appeared on the scene fairly quickly, in the form of Red Bull's Verstappen, now up to fifth and closing fast.

*TO THE BITTER END:  On Lap 40, Vettel was approximately 15 seconds adrift of 3rd place, which was actually his teammate at that moment.  Raikkonen would pass Bottas a couple of laps later.  Ten laps cut the gap to under a second, but Bottas made it difficult for Vettel.  The Ferrari could get close using DRS, but couldn't quite overcome the power advantage the Merc engine provided.  So Vettel went for guts and driving skill instead.  Running down the front straight behind Bottas, the Ferrari driver went around the outside of Turn 1.  At this point, all Bottas would have needed to do is drift wide on the exit of the turn which would either push Vettel off-track or force him to back off.  Except the lapped McLaren of Stoffelwaffle was there already, and Bottas stayed inside.  This left a gap just a bit wider than a F1 car for Vettel to slip through, which he did.  With the momentum advantage, he easily passed the Mercedes and began running away.  The next lap saw Vettel go by his teammate, to nobody's surprise.  What was surprising was that Verstappen got by Bottas with only a small amount of trouble for fourth.

*THE AFOREMENTIONED BITTER END:  Vettel had no chance of catching Hamilton, being some 10 seconds back, but finishing in second minimized the damage to his championship chances.  Still, it wasn't the end he was looking for.  Behind him, drama was occurring.  On the last lap, Verstappen had closed in on Raikkonen.  Into the Turn 16-17-18 complex the Red Bull driver made his move to the inside.  The Ferrari driver, who later said he had no idea the Dutchman was there, strayed a little off the racing line which forced Verstappen to take to the curbs to avoid an accident.  He didn't lift though, and managed to power past the Red Car to take third, a podium finish, after starting 16th.  A marvelous performance from the young phenom.  

*OH DEAR: It was during the cooldown lap that the notification came down from on high... the race stewards were investigating Verstappen's pass on Raikkonen.  The Dutch Lion had parked his car and made his way into the podium green room, where he was relaxing before the ceremony, when the stewards decision came down.  They judged him to have left the track limits with all four tires and gained a competitive advantage from doing so.  During the race, they'd require him to relinquish the position.  With the race over, all they could do is give Verstappen a five second time penalty.  This had the effect of dropping him from third to fourth, and giving third back to Raikkonen.  In something of a bad deal, Ferrari was informed before anybody could let Verstappen know.  Indeed, the first that the youngster knew of the stewards even looking at the pass was when Raikkonen walked into the green room.  He was told a few moments later, and left with an... odd look on his face.  Sort of a cross between "what's going on" and "I'm going to kill someone soon".  On the podium, Hamilton was presented with the winner's trophy by Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States.  One wonders why either of the Bush Presidents, Texas natives, weren't there instead, but that matters not.  An impressive race all around, and one that clinched the Manufacturer's Championship for Mercedes for the 4th season in a row.

*WHAT THE...?:  Late in the race, during a shot of Turn 1, we saw this:

Now THAT'S a damn big bird!  Or a CG overlay, one of the two.  It seems likely it was CG... it seems too unlikely that an eagle would fly across the race track just as a Haas car, the American team, approached the turn... particularly one THAT size.  A very weird moment from FOM, that.

So there ya go, the US Grand Prix!  Next race is the Grand Prix of Mexico next weekend!  See ya then!

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October 21, 2017

F1 Quals: United States 2017

Instead of the lousy conditions they had in Austin on Friday, Saturday saw blue and sunny skies, warm temps, and dry pavement.  That pretty much made it a given that the grid was going to be fairly conventional, but is that really what happened?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 United States Grand Prix:


Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.822 1:33.437 1:33.108
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:35.420 1:34.103 1:33.347
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:35.309 1:33.769 1:33.568
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:35.991 1:34.495 1:33.577
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:35.649 1:33.840 1:33.577
6 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:34.899 1:34.716 1:33.658
7 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:35.849 1:35.113 1:34.647
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:35.517 1:34.899 1:34.852
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:35.712 1:35.046 1:35.007
10 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:36.358 1:34.789 1:35.148
11 FelipeNot Nasr Williams Mercedes 1:35.603 1:35.155
12 Zombie Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.073 1:35.529
13 Stoffewaffle McLaren Honda 1:36.286 1:35.641
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:36.835 1:35.870
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:35.740 No Time

16 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:36.842

17 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:36.868

18 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:36.889

19 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:37.179

20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:37.394


Yep, pretty conventional.  Polesitter Lewis Hamilton has dominated the weekend so far, being fastest in all three practice sessions and now setting a new course record to boot.  Oh, and he averaged 132mph around the circuit, three mph faster than the previous record.  Hamilton's only real competition, both for pole and for the championship, Seb Vettel, absolutely needed this result to have much of a chance in the race tomorrow and to keep his faint championship hopes alive.

Dear heavens, the Mercedes looked absolutely glued to the track today.  During his pole lap, as seen from the above-head camera position, it felt like Hamilton barely needed to turn the steering wheel let alone make sudden course corrections like from a slide or something.  A superb driver and a superb car, on a track the driver loves and the car may as well have been made for?  Fwoar.

Embryo Verstappen has a 15-spot grid penalty for various parts changes.  Pleasant Stroll, who attempted to murder Lettuce Grosjean in Q1 today, got a three-spot penalty.  So did Kevin Magnussen, who will now be starting from Pilot Knob.

Race is at 2pm Central Pond Time, with a pre-race on NBC at 1pm.  I'm having brunch with the folks beforehand, but I expect I'll be back in time to catch the start.  I don't intend to liveblog, but if anything important happens, I'll post something ASAP.  See ya then!

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October 19, 2017

"Wait 'til Last Year"


The Cubs have gone to the NL Championship Series three years in a row, and won the World Series once in that time.  There is no way anybody can convince me this season, which came to an end at the hands of the LA Dodgers a few minutes ago, was anything other than a success.

And in a few months... spring training!

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October 18, 2017

F1 on TV: United States 2017

Running a little behind this week, thanks to a combination of Cubs playing in the NLCS, stupid overtime, and a desperate need for extra sleep, but never fear, your guide to the television coverage of the United States Grand Prix is here!  Let's look at that there track map, y'all!


They say everything is bigger in Texas, but in this case it just isn't true.  The Circuit of the Americas down yonder in Austin is on the small side of larger tracks at just a skosh over 3.41miles... that's 5.5km in them there "keeelo-meeter" things.  I mean, Suzuka is a longer track than COTA, but nobody really thinks of that wonderful place as "long".

The one exception to the "everything isn't bigger at COTA" is the already legendary Turn 1, the apex of which is also the apex of Phil Hill.  This bit of elevation change is the biggest single climb in F1, 133' of pure drag racing named for legendary American racer Cody Phil.  Probably my favorite part of the track, just for the sheer ridiculousness of it.  It's wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful, the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual great coverage of the race!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 1: 10a - 12n  live on NBCSN
Practice 2: 10p - 1130p  not live on NBCSN... also may not be Practice 2.  I dunno
Saturday
Quals: 3p - 6p live on NBCSN (may also have P3 coverage on tape delay)
Sunday
2017 United States Grand Prix: 2p - 4p live on NBC... yes, NBC!

Make sure you watch, it'll be a blast... particularly since Hamilton can win the championship here.  All he needs to do is win, and have Vettel finish 6th or lower.  I'll be along afterwards with the F1U!, of course.  I'm even taking Monday off to allow me to pay closer attention to the race!

See ya then!

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