May 29, 2016

F1 Update!: Monaco 2016

The beautiful blue skies of the Côte d'Azur stretched from horizon to horizon far above the Principality of Monaco, clear and serene.  Somewhat lower in altitude, however, was an unbroken swath of clouds, and they were in the process of dropping a measurable percentage of the Mediterranean Sea over the one-time quaint French fishing village.  Normally, this is hardly a concern: perhaps the ultra-wealthy residents of may be limited in their helicopter usage, but they could always use their megayachts instead, or just have another bottle of champagne in the Casino.  Today, though, the streets of the second-smallest sovereign nation in the world were in the hands of the Formula 1 circus, and the rain meant very very different things to them.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix!

*LIGHTS OUT... WELLLL...:  The rain, which had been torrential in the hours leading up to the start of the race, was merely steady and constant when Race Director Charlie Whiting extinguished the lights.  Instead of the usual mad scramble to get into Ste Devote before disaster occurs, this time the field set off behind the Safety Car, driven by birthday boy Bernd Maylander.  The problem wasn't the rain that was falling, but the rain that had already come down.  Monaco is, of course, a street circuit in the purest sense of the term, and drainage is not to the levels of purpose-built circuits.  Remember, last year's US Grand Prix weekend was run in biblical amounts of rain, to the point that the area around the circuit was under flood warnings.  Yet come race day the track was perfectly serviceable.  Not so Monaco: some portions of the city streets had puddles of standing water that would be perfectly manageable in an everyday car, yet would send a F1 machine hieing off into the barriers or beyond in a moment.  So as the rain tapered off, the increasingly disgruntled field trundled around town in the world's most expensive car parade.  Finally, on Lap 7, Maylander brought the Safety Car into the pits and the race began in earnest.

*AND THEY'RE OFF... WAIT, NOT SO FAST!
:  It took no time at all for the still-wet track to claim a victim.  Renault's Jolyon Palmer made it as far as the approach to Ste Devote before his car swerved left into the armco barriers in what was a surprisingly hard impact.  Not only was his nose assembly destroyed, there was some visible damage to the chassis behind the nose crash structure as well.  Immediately, a portion of the 280 marshals used for the race, all of whom are considered the best in the world, descended upon the accident site to begin cleanup, and a Virtual Safety Car was implemented.  This state of affairs lasted for two more laps, until Lap 9.

*AND THEY'RE OFF... WAIT FOR IT... YES, WE'RE GOOD:  Free of all constraints and on the full-wet tires, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo went galloping off over the horizon while the Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fought among themselves for second.  He had a three second lead over the two after one lap, and had opened a 13 second gap after five more.  It wasn't so much that the Red Bull was dominating, as it appeared that Rosberg was having difficulties.  Apparently suffering from brake overheating, he just couldn't keep up with the Red Bull driver... but he could keep everybody behind him easily enough: Monaco is famous for being nigh-on impossible to pass upon.  Until, finally, Mercedes told him to let Hamilton by.  Immediately the gap to the leader began to drop.

*ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, I DECLARE A TIRE WAR:  Tire choice in F1 is always a huge component of race strategy, but in wet but drying conditions they can make or break a race.  As early as Lap 7, some drivers thought that Intermediate tires were sufficient for the track.  As more and more cars pitted, more and more Inters became the norm... but the two leaders were still pelting around the circuit on the Full Wets.  On Lap 23, Ricciardo pitted for fresh Inters, giving Hamilton the race lead.  Within seven laps, the Australian was nipping at the Brit's heels, the Full Wets clearly not the right choice anymore... but more and more, it was becoming clear that neither were the Inters.  An obviously visible dry line had formed on the circuit and it was only a matter of time before someone made the move to dry weather Slick tires in one of the three available compounds.  Hamilton's strategy became clear: run on the Full Wets until he could make the jump right to the slicks.  If he could manage to keep his speeds up in the process, he'd make one less pit stop than his rivals, all of whom had gone to Inters, and thereby save about 20 seconds or so in the process.  On Lap 30, Sony Erickson made the move to the new Ultrasoft tires and appeared to have no difficulties with them.  On the next lap, Hamilton made the move to ultrasofts as well.

*DAGNABBIT!:  On Lap 32, Daniel Ricciardo brought his Red Bull into the pits to change onto slicks as well.  As he pulled to a stop, he was stunned to see his old tires come off... and nothing get put on in their place.  The team strategists, seeing Hamilton on the ultras, changed plans on the fly, wanting instead to put their man on the more durable Supersofts.  In theory, he could run the rest of the way on them, while Hamilton would probably have to stop one more time.  Great idea, one that would nullify the Mercedes driver's advantage gained by going from Full Wets to Slicks... except that it occurred at the last moment, and the supersofts were at the back of the garage.  As Ricciardo pulled into his pit stall, the tires were only just being pulled off the rack by the mechanics.  Instead of just being slapped on as the old ones came off, they had to be brought out to the car. The pitstop dragged on and on, every second ticking by bringing Hamilton closer and closer to the front straight.  When Ricciardo finally pulled off pit lane and back on track, what had been a sure 10 second lead had turned into an one second deficit.

*FRUSTRATION:  Which didn't mean that the Aussie had given up... far from it.  He was all over the back of the Silver Arrow for lap after lap, aided in part by three Virtual Safety Car sessions.  The first came out when Red Bull teammate Embryo Verstappen  plonked the wall for the third time during race weekend.  From race winner to race failure in one race... still, not so bad for an 18 year old.  The second was for debris on the track, the third for, unbelievably, a tarp on the circuit.  Each time the VSC was called, Ricciardo was able to pull back the gap to Hamilton (never very large in any case), and the race would be back on.

*FINALLY:  The tires on both Hamilton and Ricciardo's cars were looking ragged indeed as the final laps ticked down.  Neither driver, of course, ever thought of stopping again, as that would not only throw away the race win, but probably drop them down to fourth.  Behind the two leaders, the surprising Force India of Sergio Perez and the Ferrari of Seb Vettel were locked in a similar duel, and only 10 seconds back.  Eventually, and not a little surprisingly, it was the supposedly more durable supersofts on the Red Bull that gave up the ghost first, dropping Ricciardo farther and farther behind Hamilton.  The reigning World Champion took the checkered flag some seven seconds ahead of the crushed polesitter.  Behind those two, Force India racked up their fourth ever podium, with Sergio Perez finishing only a couple of seconds ahead of Vettel.  McLaren's Fernando Alonso finished fifth, and the other Force India, this of Nico Hulkenberg, passed a struggling Nico Rosberg at the last possible instant for sixth.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"It didn't feel lucky to me.  Hang on, I gotta say hi to Justin Bieber over there." - Lewis Hamilton

"I just want to get the hell out of here, to be honest." - Daniel Ricciardo (note: real quote)

"Holy crap, I don't even care that there isn't an actual podium here in Monaco, I'm on the podium at Monaco!" - Sergio Perez

"Not only didn't I get a podium, but a friggin' Force India beat me to it?  Sunuva..." - Seb Vettel

"Monaco: it's a magical place." - Fernando Alonso

"Never give up, never surrender!" - Nico Hulkenberg

"Oh bite me, fanboy." - Nico Rosberg

In two weeks, we'll be on the third stop of the European calendar: Montreal?  Wha?  See ya then!

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I'm Back Up

315pm on Sunday, and I'm back online for the first time since Thursday morning.  The apartment complex's tame internet technician actually had to venture out into sunlight and pay a visit to Pond Central, where he was quite impressed by a recent KanColle figurine acquisition.  Once here, he took one look at my computer corner, realized I knew what the hell I was talking about, and went into the mechanical room to examine how the wiring is connected to my place.  At which point, he discovered that it was screwed up, and quite possibly had been since the day broadband internet was introduced to the apartment complex.

At which point, he did something relatively unheard of... he fixed the problem.  And, if he described what he did correctly, he fixed it in a way that would require actual manual effort to have it go bad again.  So yeah, there's that wrapped.

I'm not going to bother with a Monaco Quals recap... what's the point, since the race is already over?  I should still get the F1Update! up tonight, though.  Fun race, that.  So yeah, I'm thinkin' I'm back!

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May 24, 2016

F1 on TV: Monaco 2016

I've been in a horrible mood all day.  My apartment's been really hot recently (because it's been hot outside, duh), and doesn't cool off much at night, so sleep was both hard to come by and brief when experienced.  Then I kept trying to doze off at work, which is never a fun experience.  So I'm a grumpy ball of grump right now.

However, this weekend is the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, and rain is predicted for the race, so that puts a different spin on things!  Here's the map for this legendary track:

Looks a little twisty, but nothing too bad, right?  Well, um... this is MONACO.  We're not talking about Barcalounger with its roomy runoff space, or Singapore with its wide, modern, streets.  No, we're talking about running high-tech racing machines at 180mph through what is, at its heart, a small French fishing village... to the point where the harbor is a major feature of the circuit.

In terms of actual racing, Monaco is usually pretty poor.  The narrow, twisty, decidedly unstraight lap doesn't much lend itself to such things as passing.  Further, the knowledge that a single tiny mistake of any sort will tend to send a car rapidly ping-ponging from barrier to barrier tends to make even the stoutest of drivers break into fits of eye twitching and nervous laughter. 

So the presence of a good chance of rain on raceday makes Wonderduck a giddy, giddy, waterfowl.  The fine folks of the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual level best for us, maybe even FROM Monaco itself (they've done that the past couple of years).  Here's the coverage:
Thursday
Practice 2: 7a - 9a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 9a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Monaco: 6a - 9a live on NBC

Nope, no typo there: Practice is on Thursday, not Friday, and the race itself is on NBC-the-mother-network, not any of the junior channels.  This way any of my readers with a TV can watch it!  Then you can make fun of the F1Update! later when it comes out.  As is usual, all times are approximately Pond Central time... check your local listings.  Post no bills.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.   Do not taunt happyfunball. 

And see ya there!

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May 22, 2016

Random Anime Picture #118: Quick, Henry, the Flit!


-Strike Witches: Victory Arrow, OVA#03
I don't know when or where I first heard of Flit.  I assume it was in The Calculus Affair, one of the best Tintin stories around.  I wouldn't have known what it was, y'know, but I would have instinctively accepted it and moved on.  "Spray Flit, bugs die."  The perfect example of this unswerving acceptance of anything Tintin said as true was in... um... The Red Sea Sharks, I think.  At one point, Tintin describes a fighter plane as a "Mosquito."  I just assumed that was a nickname for all fighter planes (I was very young when I learned to read using Tintin...).

As it turned out, Tintin was referring to a very particular aircraft, the DeHavilland Mosquito, but I didn't know that.  To this day, I still think of fighter planes as "mosquitoes", though only to myself. 

FLIT!  Right, right.  Back to that.  I didn't really know what Flit was, just that it killed bugs.  That sprayer ("a flit gun") though... that's iconic.  I wonder what Tintin would think of Strike Witches?   And suddenly I feel this desperate need for a crossover...

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May 19, 2016

When Anime Was Magical

No, this isn't going to be a "back in my day" post.  Instead, it's a lamentation.  Just over a year ago, I fell in love with Hibike! Euphonium, a little show about a girl and her band... brass, not rock.

Not just because the girls were cute and the art was pretty, but because the series was just that damn good.  Full package, from animation to story to characters to sound, it just amazed me and made me wonder why it wasn't next week already.  Before that, what show did I fall in love with last?

2011's Rio Rainbow Gate! fits that bill.  The polar opposite of HibEuph, I wound up loving it while doing my series writeups.  The animation isn't good, the characters are paper-thin, the story is dreadfully bad, but I'll be darned if it isn't going to be The Pond's "high water mark" down the line.  After this, though?  Sure there's 2006's Kanon, and 2007's Hidamari Sketch, and 2005's  Aria and on and on... but there's just been nothing else recently.

I miss that.  I miss falling head over heels with a series like Noir, which just completely blindsided me with its quality.  Once every five years just isn't often enough.  Oh, don't get me wrong, there's plenty of shows I've liked... one look at the "anime writeups" category will tell you that... but that's not the same thing.  I need that magic again... and I don't see any chance that it's going to happen anytime soon.  I know it's stupid to hope for a classic series to come down the pike, but there it is.

Otherwise, why are we watching?

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May 17, 2016

One Shining Star In A Vast Dark Painful Universe

That rather... florid... headline actually describes the past few days around Pond Central.  Monday morning, I woke up with a notamigraine.  That is, a headache that isn't a migraine but will do until the real thing rolls around.  You know the type: bad enough to make you pluck out one eyeball, but not bad enough to get 'em both.

Despite this, in a shining example of work ethic, ignoring of pain, and stupidity, I dragged myself into work.  As soon as I walked into the office, however, I told my boss what was going on in my skull, sat down at my desk, and got to work.  A note: staring at small text on a bright computer monitor is NOT something you want to do when you have a notamigraine.  Despite this, I was able to get some claims done.  Slowly, yes, but they were getting done.  Then came the bi-weekly payroll form distribution.  See, with this we find out just exactly how much our next check will be, and how it breaks down per claim type.  This particular distribution was important because it had the updated "Quality Numbers" on it.

Basically these show just how accurate you've been in the past few months... the better your accuracy, the higher you get paid per claim.  They're based on a rolling three-month average... and I had a fairly damaging error on Month One.  However, with the new Numbers, Month One fell off and the new month's numbers took its place.  Normally, I could figure out what that was going to do to my Accuracy average, but for two things.  One, I had an error in the new month, and Two, my brain hurt.  However, the error wasn't a financial mistake, but a procedural... I did the right thing, but did it in a way that wasn't Correct.  Tshc, whatever.  So my sheet was handed to me and...

...I'm now making as much per claim as it's possible to make.  To say I was excited would be an overstatement.  Yes, overstatement: I was in too much discomfort to be happy.  In fact, I only lasted another hour or so after that before I gave up and went home.  At which point I napped, woke up for a short time, napped again, woke up again (and still had the notamigraine), then went to bed for the night.

This morning, I woke up with a headache.  Not THE headache, just A headache.  Thus relieved of my burden from the previous day, I went into work with a lilt in my voice and a kick in my step.  This lasted all the way up until the instant I clocked in, at which point the "message" light popped on my computer screen: one of the claims I had one a week or two back had been audited and found to have an error.  A financial error.  A not insignificant financial error.  Which I'll see in a couple of months.

Dammit.  Then the rest of the day was filled with frustrating claim after frustrating claim, and when I got home?  The internet was down.  YAY!  Oh, and that headache is still persistent.  Gah.

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May 15, 2016

F1 Update: Spain 2016

Another perfect day greeted the Thundering Herd as they approached the grid at Barcalounger.  Reigning Champion Lewis Hamilton, desperate for a win, led the field, but his Mercedes teammate and current points leader Nico Rosberg was right next to him on the grid.  It looked like another Merc one-two was in the offing, particularly since Ferrari had managed to relinquish the second row to Red Bull somehow.  So what happened?  Who's speed reigned supreme?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Spain!

*LIGHTS OUT:  Hamilton had a flawless start and led his hard-charging teammate into Turn 1, a lead that lasted no longer than that.  Rosberg, on the grippy side of the track, managed to keep his speed higher through the turn and passed the Brit.  And then it happened.  Rosberg, his engine apparently in the wrong power setting, dumped power as it began to harvest power for the batteries.  Hamilton suddenly had a 10mph advantage over the leader and dove to the right.  Rosberg moved that way as well in a legal block, but Hamilton, committed continued onwards... and onto the grass.

Traction totally lost, Hamilton went sideways in an uncontrolled slide.  More importantly, he lost almost no speed in this skid, while Rosberg slowed to make the upcoming turn.

Hamilton's car, completely nonresponsive to anything the driver did, collected Rosberg.  Now both Mercedes were sideways, damaged, and headed for the kittylitter.

The two dominant cars of the 2016 season were out of the race.

*TRYING AGAIN:  After the safety car returned to the pit lane, Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo led his new teammate, former Toro Rosso driver Embryo Verstappen, a hot-starting Carlos Sainz, Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen back to racing.  Within a few laps, Sainz would be passed by both Vettel and Raikkonen, leaving the race to boil down to Ferrari vs Red Bull.

*STRATEGERY:  Soon enough it became apparent that the two teams were evenly matched.  The Red Bulls led, the Ferraris followed, but neither could really gain an advantage on the other.  With the cars and drivers equal, it was going to be a true Team vs Team race: the guys in the pit lanes were going to make a difference, maybe a race-winning one.  The first round of stops went smoothly, but something small occurred on Lap 24 that changed everything.

*TO THE MANOR BORN:  Rio Rainbow Gate! was Manoring his way around the circuit some handful of seconds slower than the leaders, believing himself to be a true F1 driver instead of one that has a seat by dint of Indonesian national funding.  As he pedaled his way through the lap, Smiley Ricciardo had caught up to him.  The problem was, he couldn't get past.  Turbulence from the Manor kept washing out the Red Bull's grip in the turns, and down the long straights, the Mercedes engine gave the backmarker a 7mph speed advantage.  By the time Rio Rainbow Gate! let Ricciardo past, Embryo Verstappen and Seb Vettel had both taken a second off of the leader.  Now all three were covered by less than two seconds, with Raikkonen a bit further back.

*C-C-C-CHANGES
:  At this point, Red Bull made a pit-wall decision, one that had long-reaching consequences for the race: they split the pit stop strategies on the fly.  They moved the leader to a three-stop strategy, counting on fresher tires to allow their man to make up the time lost in the extra stop.  Meanwhile, they kept Embryo Verstappen, in second place, on a two-stop strategy.  The tires needed to pull this off would be slower, but with one fewer stop to make... well.  Ferrari, reacting to Red Bull's move, pitted third-place Seb Vettel early to cover.  The question now became: which strategy would be faster at the finish line?  Two stops or three?

*FOOLED YA:  Vettel only stayed out for eight laps on the soft tires he had put on to mirror Ricciardo.  By pitting early, he managed to undercut the Red Bull driver; by the time Smiley would pit, Vettel had managed to use the pit lane to get past for third.  Ricciardo had gone from the lead to fourth, thanks to a strategy he had no call on.

*ON THE OTHER HAND: Verstappen and Raikkonen, on the two-stop strategies, were now out in front of their teammates... and it quickly became clear that the Ferraris were just a bit quicker than the Red Bulls.  The problem was, as it often is, turbulence.  The Finn couldn't quite get close enough to make a move on the leader, and Vettel was able to keep his Australian rival behind him, though doing so required quite a bit of effort.  And so the four sat, Verstappen - Raikkonen - 10 second gap - Vettel - Ricciardo, for lap after lap.  One error by anybody would allow the others to capitalize instantly... and as the fifth place driver was nearly 40 seconds adrift of Smiley, they were the only ones who would benefit from a mistake.

*IN THE END
:  The error ended up being nobody's fault... and made the least amount of difference possible.  Ricciardo picked up some debris and his left-rear tire let go.  He was able to nurse his car around the last third of the track, make the pits, and return to the race still in fourth, but Vettel was no longer in danger.  Ahead of them, Raikkonen had hovered less than a second behind Embryo Verstappen for lap after lap, trying to pressure the youngest driver in F1 history into a mistake or an opening... and being unable to do so.  Verstappen was flawless, never locking a tire, never missing a line through the turns, never giving the Finn the opening he so desperately needed.  When he took the checkered flag, some .600 seconds ahead of the Ferrari driver, he became the first Dutchman to win a F1 race and the youngest driver ever to win (taking that title from Seb Vettel).  Not bad for someone who had never even driven his F1 car before Friday's practice due to being promoted from Toro Rosso a week earlier.

*OH, THAT:  So what of the man Verstappen had traded teams with, Kid Kvyat?  He finished in 10th, but he did something no Toro Rosso driver had ever done: he turned fast lap of the race.  In other bits and pieces of interest, Haas F1's Esteban! finished his first race of the season, ending up in 11th.  Lettuce Grosjean, the other Haas driver, had to retire with brake failure.

*AFTER-ACTION:  The FIA stewards judged the Mercedes accident to be a racing incident, no penalties to be handed out.  And Embryo Verstappen... well:


We'll leave the writeup with that.

Next race is in two weeks, at the spiritual home of Formula 1: MONACO.  See ya then!

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May 14, 2016

F1 Quals: Spain 2016

A beeee-yootiful day greeted the Circus in Barcalounger, perfect weather to go fast in: sunny and warm.  Throw in the anticipated upgrades to the cars, and excitement was in the air... or are those the smells coming from the Stop 'n' Chicken booth?  Either way, we need to look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Spain:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.214 1:22.159 1:22.000
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.002 1:22.759 1:22.280
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:23.749 1:23.585 1:22.680
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:23.578 1:23.178 1:23.087
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.796 1:23.504 1:23.113
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.124 1:23.688 1:23.334
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.251 1:24.023 1:23.522
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:24.496 1:24.077 1:23.643
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.698 1:24.003 1:23.782
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:24.578 1:24.192 1:23.981
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.463 1:24.203
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.583 1:24.348
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:24.696 1:24.445
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:24.716 1:24.480
15 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:24.669 1:24.625
16 Esteban! Haas 1:24.406 1:24.778
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:24.903

18 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:24.941

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:25.202

20 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:25.579

21 Pascal's Wager Manor 1:25.745

22 Rio Rainbow Gate Manor 1:25.939


If Lewis Hamilton is going to make a run at points leader Nico Rosberg, this is where he needs to start, and Barcalounger's propensity of giving the win to the polesitter seems to bode well for the Brit.  The surprise isn't that he's on pole, though... it's that Ferrari isn't on the second row.  Instead, it's the new Red Bull combination of Smiley Ricciardo and Embryo Verstappen that poses the nearest "threat" to the Silver Arrows.

And yes, I said Verstappen is driving for Red Bull.  Earlier this week it was announced that Kid Kvyat was being moved to Toro Rosso, with The Embryo moving to the Grownup's Team.  Allegedly this was going to happen in 2017 anyway, but it seems much more likely to be due to Kvyat's ham-fisted mauling of Seb Vettel last race. 

In any case, I have my doubts as to whether Red Bull can mount a legit challenge to the Mercs, but I guess we'll see.  I suspect a Mercedes 1-2 is in the offing... oh wait.  That's almost every race, isn't it?

Haas seems poised for points again, with Lettuce is 14th.  Maybe the biggest shocker is Fernando Alonso dragging his McLaren kicking and screaming into Q3 for the first time since the team took on Honda engines.

Race is in the morning... see ya then!

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May 13, 2016

Random Anime Picture #117: Skydiving


-ARIA the Avvenire OVA 2
Man, reentry when you're wearing a full-length dress has got to be an iron-clad beeyotch, that's all I've gotta say.

Akari's unfortunate experience with lithobraking had some serious consequences for Aqua.  Nuclear winter just can't compare to the horror that is Undine Winter.  Mars will never be the same... again.

Okay, yes, I'm joking.  It's ARIA, you think something bad happened?  There were three series, an OVA, multiple picture dramas, the manga, and of course the Avvenire, and I can't think of a single negative thing that occurred in any of them.  When the closest I can come is the retirement of Aria Company's original Black Gondola, you know it's a cheerful series.  Unless you count my picture of Grandma as a retired Kancolle shipgirl, that is.

Just go watch.  If you're a fan of ARIA, you've already seen it, of course, but watch it again.  It's worth it, if only for the effort the animators put into Akari's long plummet.

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May 11, 2016

F1 ON NBCSN: Spain 2016

After four flyaway races that ranged from Melbourne to Sochi (a distance of some 8700 miles as the Speedbird flies, which it doesn't, at least not that route), the happy clowns of the F1 Circus find themselves home.  Well, "home" in that they're now in the European leg of the season and can now drive to the races.  Instead of packing everything tightly into the maw of a DHL 747 (well, multiple 747s if you're talking all the teams), the teams now pack everything tightly into their transporters, hospitality semis, personal cars, and luggage and drive to the track.  The ease of access to their home bases also means that this is where we start to see the upgrades appear... a new wing here, a replacement nose there, a new spec power unit someplace else, it's almost like a new season is beginning.  And where better to begin this new season at the track that everybody knows like the backs of their hands, the Circuit de Barcalounger-Catalunya?  Here's the map for the 2016 Grand Prix of Spain:

It used to be that the teams did so much testing here that they knew where every paint chip was missing on the curbs, where to find every hairline crack in the pavement, where every rise, ease, bump and dip was located.  Since they no longer run tens of thousands of kilometers here every offseason, that's only partially true now, but there's still very few tracks the teams know as well as Barcalounger.  It's as if it's part of the F1 DNA... unravel the double-helix, and you'll find one strand lays itself out as Silverstone, the other strand like Barca.

Because of that, it's rare that a race in Spain is any good: 13 of the past 15 have been won from pole, for instance.  There's just no surprises waiting to catch out an unsuspecting driver, because there's no such thing as an unsuspecting driver at Barca.  It's not even a bad layout, all things being equal, it's just hard to pass here.  Of course, DRS has made that less true than it has been, but 2015's race was notable for being remarkably dull, even by the standards of dull F1 races.  The only real excitement was the running over of two different front jackmen during pit stops (to be fair, brake failure caused one of the incidents... the other was caused by driver failure... to stop!  Ha!  I slay me!).

So why should we watch this race?  Well, reason one is that we're F1 fans and that's what we do.  Reason two is that Nico Rosberg is gunning for his eighth consecutive win and fifth in a row in-season... which, ohbytheway would move him equal to names like Brabham, Clark, Mansell and... oh, will you look at that, Hamilton!  A third reason would be to see how Haas adapts to the equipment upgrades. 

Of course the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual excellent work this weekend; here's the broadcast schedule for your edification:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Spain: 6a - 9a live on NBCSN

As always, all times Central Pond Time.  Doublecheck your schedules, just to be sure.  Subtract two hours for west coast, add one hour for east coast, and if you're onboard the ISS,well, you're on your own.  As is usual, the F1 Update! gang will be along sometime afterwards with their writeup of questionable quality.   See ya then.

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May 09, 2016

KonoSuba: The Review

After reading Ubu's review of the first few episodes of KonoSuba, I decided "Heck, let's give it a shot... it's not like there's anything else going on this season."  I mean, a tongue-in-cheek look at the old "main character stuck in a RPG game" genre sounds like a load of fun: light-hearted, funny, all that sort of thing.  I came to it after the show's run had ended, and people were generally enthusiastic about it, so it seemed perfect for me.

So now that I've watched the series, what do I think of it?

more...

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It's Monday.  Again.

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May 08, 2016

Mother's Day 2016


It has seemed like, for whatever reason, the past few weeks have seen my usual entertainment sources swamped by Mother's Day reminders.  To a greater extent than normal, that is... just incessant.  Every break in a Cubs game on the radio?  There's a commercial for flowers, or chocolate, or chocolate flowers.  TV?  "Mother's day is coming up, and what better to get her than...".  Even the interwebz.

All of which has gone a long way to defeating my annual attempt at forgetting the day exists.  Not that I don't remember Momzerduck, I do!  It's just that this holiday makes me sad...

Just... call your mother.  Hug her if it's convenient.  She misses you, y'know.

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May 05, 2016

"What's On Your MP3 Player, Wonderduck?"... Asked Nobody Ever

While I work on the KonoSuba review, I'm going to entertain you somewhat by showing you the "Top Five", such as it is, on my MP3 player.  Mind you, these are the songs that get me through the day at work... the hours upon hours of claims... when the Cubs aren't playing.  Enjoy, won't you?  Or at least pretend that you're interested.  Humor me.

I dare you.

more...

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May 03, 2016

It's Up To You!

Hello Disco Citizens!  I'm David Yarritu Wonderduck, the host and proprietor of this here blog thing.  In the past, I have occasionally asked you, the assembled masses I lovingly refer to as "The Pond Scum," for input into what you would like to see me write about.  This time, however, the question is slightly different.  I have two posts in mind right now, and I'd like you to tell me which you'd like to see first!  Take a look at these:

1) A review of Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Syukufuku Wo!, aka KonoSuba.

After reading a "first impressions" post by The Crimson Splat, I thought KonoSuba would be just what I needed: funny, a little stupid, lighthearted.  Something I could enjoy without having to think too hard about it.  Well, I was wrong.  I've thought a lot about KonoSuba, and it's time to hold my review up to the light and let y'all see it.

2) Fanservice, cheesecake and how one man's trash is another man's person.

A couple of days ago, a brief conversation over at SDB's place about the content of his prolific cheesecake posts got me to thinking about my lack of interest in doing similar here at The Pond.  It has nothing to do with some "high-minded" attitude / prudery, but about how most cheesecake is either boring or outright tasteless to me.  And what's the difference, anyway?     

So there's your choices, dear readers.  Your opinion will make the difference... let me know in the comments!  It's up to you!

UPDATE: Welp, sounds like the masses have spoken!  KonoSuba it is...

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May 01, 2016

F1 Update: Russia 2016

A partly sunny and cool day greeted the F1 Circus as they made their way around the Bolshoi Ice Dome, heading towards the start/finish line of the Sochi Autodrom.  The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg led the field, riding high on a six-race win streak while his teammate and erstwhile main rival for the championship, Lewis Hamilton, was far back in the field.  Would a German finally win in Russia?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Russia!

*LIGHTS OUT:  We're not going to lie, the race was interesting for a grand total of two turns.  It was in that second turn that the expected demolition derby occurred, sending multiple cars into the pits for replacement parts.  It also ended the race of Rio Rainbow Gate, Nico Hulkenberg, and Ferrari's Seb Vettel.  The German was taken out of the race by counteroffensives from Kid Kyvat, defending his home circuit.  The Red Bull driver hit Vettel once in Turn 2, tipping him into a half-spin, then nailed him a second time a very short time later, knocking the red car into the wall and ending his day.  Vettel then voiced his opinion of the incident on team radio... fortunately, the profanities were bleeped out, protecting ears across the world.  In the melee, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton advanced from 10th on the grid at the start to fifth.  The safety car that was called out lasted for three laps.

*RESTART:  The safety car left the track, and the restart went the way it always does: the leader manages to dash away, leaving the car in second to desperately try to claw back any ground lost to third place.  Meanwhile, Hamilton quickly took fourth, then third place three laps later.  The fight for second place, with the Williams of Valterri Bottas would take much longer.

*FOREGONE CONCLUSION: In fact, it took until Lap 19, at which point Hamilton dropped a nice move on the Finn for second.  However, their squabbling over the position meant that they had no way of challenging the leader... an opening that Nico Rosberg took full advantage of.  After he had stopped for new tires and returned to the race, he had a 12 second lead over his teammate.  While it would drop as low as seven seconds on Lap 35, one never got the sense that Hamilton had the ability to get past Rosberg, let alone catch him... his long-term fight over second place with the similarly-engined Williams made that clear.  Indeed, Hamilton was a distant 25 seconds behind when the race finished, only six seconds clear of a resurgent Kimi Raikkonen in third.  Bottas was fourth, followed by Felipe Not Nasr Massa, his Williams teammate.  A pleasant sight in sixth place was the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, followed by the Renault of Kevin Magnussen... the first points for that team this season.  Haas continued their amazing debut with Lettuce Grosjean finishing in eighth, ahead of the Force India of Sergio Perez, and Jenson Button put the second McLaren in the points as well with its 10th place finish.

*FINAL THOUGHTS
:  This race was a dog from beginning to end.  When Vaucaunson's Duck is sending us pictures of his cat ignoring the race, you know it's bad, and it really was.  It's an awful track, filled with boring turns, and we couldn't even count on tire wear to liven it up... a set of super-soft tires could last 25 laps here, out of 52.  Russia is in the rear-view mirror, thankfully, and we'll next be in Spain.  Catalunya isn't much better, but we'll be beginning the European leg of the calendar, which means upgrades.  It'll be a whole new game then.  See you there.

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April 30, 2016

F1 Quals: Russia 2016

Choo-choo!  All aboard the Nico Rosberg hype traaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain!  Here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Mother Russia:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.119 1:35.337 1:35.417
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.555 1:36.623 1:36.123
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.746 1:37.140 1:36.536
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.976 1:36.741 1:36.663
5 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:37.753 1:37.230 1:37.016
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:38.091 1:37.569 1:37.125
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.006 1:37.282 1:37.212
8 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:38.265 1:37.606 1:37.459
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.123 1:37.510 1:37.583
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.006 1:35.820 No Time
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:37.784 1:37.652
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.332 1:37.701
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.562 1:37.771
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:37.971 1:37.807
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:38.383 1:38.055
16 Esteban!  Haas 1:38.678 1:38.115
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:38.914

18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:39.009

19 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:39.018

20 Pascal's Wager Manor 1:39.399

21 Rio Rainbow Gate Manor 1:39.463

22 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:39.519


It's not enough that Rosberg is leading the Driver's Championship by a serious amount, no no... now his two most obvious challengers are suffering from technical failures, too!  Seb Vettel, who is nominally second on the grid, will be starting seventh after a gearbox change.  And Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg's teammate, set a comfortable time in Q2, then suffered a drastic loss of power from his engine.  At last report, the team was elbow deep in the back of the car despite it being in parc ferme.  This means that there's a good chance Hamilton will be starting from the back of the grid or the pit lane for the second race in a row... and we know how well that turned out last time.  Oh, as if that wasn't enough he might also get a penalty for not rejoining the track in the correct manner after running wide at one point.

It's difficult to see a scenario where Hamilton can recover from this awful start to the season to come back and win the driver's championship, but stranger things have happened.  However, Rosberg's lead is not a fluke; he's driving very well, and very very fast.  For example, look at the two Merc speeds in Q2: Rosberg 1:35.337, Hamilton 1:35.820.  A half-second faster?  That's no accident.

The rest of the grid is pretty standard.  It's possible that Haas has now found their true pace after the ridiculously wonderful first two races.  It's been expected that as the season rolled on, Haas would be unable to keep up with the march of upgrades, but boy, that happened fast!  Assuming, of course, that's what's going on here.

The McLarens, so miserable last year, are now looking like they've officially taken the next step to getting back to the top.  It can't happen soon enough if you ask me.  Force India is still twitching, which is something of a surprise considering the huge financial and legal problems Vijay Mallya has... he's $1.4billion in debt, a court in Mumbai issued a warrant for his arrest, the Indian government revoked his passport and has asked Britain to deport him.

The race is Sunday morning, F1U! will be along afterwards, and we'll see you then or thereabouts!

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April 28, 2016

The Peaceful Visage Of Head Trauma





Lux et Veritas, Scott Sterling.  Lux et Veritas.

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April 26, 2016

F1 on TV: Russia 2016

This time around the F1 Circus finds itself in Sochi, Russia, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics... and of course the Sochi Autodrom.  It's among, around and through the leftover buildings and so-called glory of those Olympics that Our Favorite Form of Motorsports will be racing.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

Nope, no change from 2014 or 2015.  That's unfortunate, because this race has not given us great events in the past.  The first race was run under the shadow of Jules Bianchi's accident, when nobody in particular really wanted to be there.  2015 saw wrecks a-plenty, a dull race, and a track worker nearly run over by Seb Vettel.  Now, one could say that the circuit has yet to get "a fair shake," as it were.  It's still awfully new, the events of the past two years have overshadowed the track, so on and so forth.  One less charitable could say that, because the circuit sucks Siberian Snow Cones, the events of the past occurred.  Go ahead, guess which view I tend towards, I dare you.

Look... it's really quite simple: there are 10 90-degree turns.  If you add in Turns 7 and 8, it becomes an even dozen.  Think those do anything to the flow of the track?  Or do you believe that stopping and starting and stopping and starting make for exciting racing?  Of course it's a Hermann Tilke layout.  I mean, sure, I suppose he did the best he could given the limitations of having to race through the Olympic Park, but... well.  They don't listen to my advice over at the FIA... they don't even reply, except for that one time with the restraining order... so no use in complaining.

The good kulaks of the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual coverage at the usual times... but let's check 'em out to make sure we're all on the same page, shall we?
Friday
Practice 2: 6a - 730a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Russia: 6a - 930a live on CNBC

Note the long running time for the race on Sunday... I'm assuming that includes both pre-race buildup and "F1 Extra", the post-race coverage.  All times Pond Central, add an hour for those of you in Virginia, take two hours away for y'all in San Francisco, and but one if you're a relative of mine in Albuquerque, NM. 

Actually, anybody in Albuquerque should take one hour off Pond Central time.  Just... y'know what?  Never mind.  Whatever.  Do what you wanna do.  It's yer thang.

We'll be along sometime after the race with the usual F1Update!, except maybe this time with energy and passion.  Or not.  We'll see.

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April 25, 2016

Random Anime Picture #116: The End Of Cinderella Girls

I did not expect them to be eaten by mini-Godzilla.

-iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, Ep04

I am of the opinion that I'm missing something with this show, perhaps even more than with the original Idolmaster series.  Kinda like how Kantai Collection is filled with references that only make sense if you've played the game, I'm guessing that I'm only getting half the story here.  Maybe someone who's actually played it can pipe up... I think I remember seeing that The Man Called Author played it... and tell me if that's really the case. 

Maybe he can also explain why Anastasia isn't the main character in the show.

Because, ye gods and little fishies, she's certainly my most popular.  She's no Chihaya, of whom I even have a figma, but she ain't far behind.

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