April 25, 2018

F1 on The ESPNs: Azerbaijan 2018

My apologies for not getting this posted in any sort of timely fashion.  Between becoming old and the continuing problems with my hip, I'm limited to half-hour long stints at the computer more or less.  So no time to waste talking about myself, let's talk about Baku!  Here's the track map:


This is, of course, the circuit famous for its climb past a castle... really, as mentioned before, it's only a curtain wall... in a section of uphill track that's more narrow than anything you'll find at Monaco.  Then it's topped off by a stupidly long straight that, despite having a bend in the middle at Turn 20, is still totally flat out.  This is also the circuit where Seb Vettel and Lewis Hamilton had their little nose-and-tail show last year.  I'm sure we won't see anything quite as interesting this race, but one never knows, does one?

Here's ESPN's coverage schedule:
Saturday
Practice 3: 500a - 630a  live on ESPNews
Quals: 800a - 930a  live on ESPNews
Sunday
2018 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan: 700a - 1000a  live on ESPN2

With any luck, an F1Update! will come along after.  See you then!

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April 23, 2018

50

Today is April 23rd, the 113th day of the year.  According to some numerologist, the world will be coming to an end today.  Between that endpoint and the very first April 23rd, though it probably wasn't called that back then, a measurable percentage of all the human beings that ever existed were born on 4/23.


These people were athletes and admirals, poets and politicians, musicians and murderers, teachers and terrorists, rapscallions and royalty (though I may repeat myself), and any other pairings of first letters that you care to put together.  Though all different, all are bound by the dint of being born on the 23rd day of April.

And half a century ago, in a hospital located on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, on a day the Chicago Cubs defeated the Atlanta Braves 10 - 4 in front of 4399 people, I was foisted upon an unsuspecting world.  Light the birthday candle!

Though I've said it before, it bears repeating: nobody is more surprised than I.

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April 21, 2018

Catching Up With Wonderduck

It's been an awful week.


Out of the past seven days, Friday was probably the best.  I slept up to my alarm clock going off, at which point I quickly reset it to give me an additional 45 minutes.  I showered, got dressed, then sat at my computer until I was late for work, unwilling to go.  Still, it was only going to be a half-day and then it'd be the weekend after I accomplished a couple of things.  Buoyed by this optimistic thought, I headed to the Duckmobile.

It took me much too long to get into my car, involving a lot of pain and agonized epithets.  The good news is that most of the leg pain has faded... the bad news is that only most of it has.  My hip does not appear to be as swell as it used to be, meaning (among other things) that I can't swivel my leg all that well.  Also, the act of "lifting" my leg is painful... the muscles in the upper leg contract, and it hurts.  A lot.  I've figured out that I can hook the handle of my cane under my shoe and lift it like a crane... that doesn't cause the muscles to hurt.  Then it's just the "getting the leg into the car" part... and that, my friends, is where the agonized epithets came from.  Still, I managed, drove to work, put in four hours there, and then began my errands.

First: a quart of oil into the car's engine.  Easily done.  Then gas up the car, then pick up my prescriptions.  And then... renew my driver's license.  Oh, and they had to give me a vision test, which means actually going to the DMV.  So I cheated.  Instead of going to the main office, which is always busy, I went to an outlying office which is mainly for CDL renewals.  Was in and out in under a half-hour.  Drove home, had some lunch, took a nap, woke up, did two hours of nothing, went back to bed.

I've come to one realization: I'm not a success.  I'm unlikely to ever be what anybody would term a success.  And that sucks.  I let a single failure, though a big one, guide the rest of my life.  What did my story about Friday have to do with this realization?  Nothing, it was just a way to pad this post out to something more than 20 words.  Gotta entertain the two or three readers I have left after all.

My birthday is Monday.  I'll put up my usual birthday post, including the usual rocket test, make the usual jokes, then go to work, come home, stick a candle in some pudding, then call it a day.  What would that day be like if I had succeeded that first time I majorly failed?  

I don't know.  I can't possibly know.  It may not have been any different.  It may have been totally different, with a wife, kids, maybe grandkids, all gathered to celebrate one of those big milestones in life.  Or maybe the cast of some broadway play telling the audience that their lighting designer turned 50 that night, and 500 strangers would sing 'happy birthday' to me.  Or maybe it wouldn't be at all... maybe I was accidentally trampled by a circus elephant at the age of 34 in that other existence.  I don't know.  I can't possibly know.  What I do know is what it's going to be now.

Vanilla pudding, in case you're curious.

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April 18, 2018

We All Need This


While I haven't given up on the F1U! for China, I'm having difficulties actually doing it.  I know it's late already, but... 

...dammit.

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April 16, 2018

Something's Bitten Me

Sometime during the day at work, I started to feel... not all that well.  It happens, Mondays are like that in the office.  But this was something different.  I really felt crappy, like I'd been run over by a small truck or something.  Maybe it was Fettuccine in white sauce with chicken and broccoli, where all three ingredients tasted the same, that I had from Saturday catching up with me.  Or Sunday's meatloaf.  Or the (fresh) vending machine ham samitch I had for lunch today.  Or maybe it was none of those things.


Whatever.  I felt poorly.  I still feel poorly.  I am going to bed.  When I wake up, I will either start the F1U! for China, or I won't.  We'll see how it goes.  Sorry everybody.

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April 14, 2018

F1 Quals: China 2018

A gray, unpleasant-looking day greeted the teams and drivers as they worked on their vehicles with differing degrees of urgency.  Some, like Ferrari, were desultorily polishing the carbon-fiber bodywork to a mirror finish, knowing in their heart of hearts that a shiny car goes through the air better.  Some, like Williams, just stared at their cars with ill-disguised hatred.  And then you had the left side of the Red Bull garage, filled with a frantic but well controlled amount of energy bordering on panic.  


This because Smiley Ricciardo had a pretty comprehensive-looking engine kablammo with a half-hour remaining in P3, requiring an engine change.  On the positive side, they had a new Renault engine in their traveling kit.  On the negative, however, Renault never did finish putting it together before delivering it to the team... at least according to Christian Horner, Red Bull team boss.  So instead of just bolting it in place and away they go (ahem), they had to build the engine (including scavenging parts from the recently-deceased power unit) then attach the rest of the car to it.  There was no real chance they'd get it done in time for Ricciardo to qualify, but they tried anyway.  And got him out with two minutes left in Q1.  Where did he qualify?  How about the rest of the field?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2018 Grand Prix of China:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:32.171 1:32.385 1:31.095
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:32.474 1:32.286 1:31.182
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:32.921 1:32.063 1:31.625
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.283 1:31.914 1:31.675
5 DH Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:32.932 1:32.809 1:31.796
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:33.877 1:32.688 1:31.948
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:33.545 1:32.494 1:32.532
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:33.464 1:32.931 1:32.758
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:33.315 1:32.970 1:32.819
10 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:33.238 1:32.524 1:32.855
11 DP Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:33.359 1:32.986
12 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:33.585 1:33.057
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:33.428 1:33.232
14 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Renault 1:33.824 1:33.505
15 Death To Flying Things Scuderia Toro Rosso
1:34.013 1:33.795
16 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:34.062

17 Pierre Ghastly Scuderia Toro Rosso
1:34.101

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:34.285

19 AMX-30 Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:34.454

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:34.914


Smiley made it to Q3, ending up in sixth.  Pretty sure those mechanics earned their pay this week.  The rest of qualifying, however, wasn't all that much of a much.  The Ferraris simply slapped down the Mercs, and even when Bottas topped Q2, you just knew the red team had it under control. And so it was.

There is talk that the Mercs are set up for warmer weather, expected at race-time.  It was 53 degrees and windy during quals, and the track wasn't much warmer... hard to bring tires up to temps like that!  If Ferrari set their cars up to heat the tires quickly, they'd get the advantage during quals, but would possibly overheat their tires if the track gets warmer.

We shall see... race is late tonight/early tomorrow!

PS - so much for Toro Rosso, huh?

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April 13, 2018

Yuri's Night After

It's a sign of my impending dotage that, despite having reminded myself about it for months, I completely whiffed on this year's celebration of Yuri's Night, which was of course on April 12th.  Celebrating specifically the first man in space and also space-based milestones in general, it's one of those neat ideas that space nerds like me are pleased to have exist.


Which brings me to the real reason I've been reminding myself about Yuri's Night...
...because any excuse for PSB is a good excuse.

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April 11, 2018

F1 on The ESPNs: China 2018

Back to back overseas races are hard for everybody involved with F1.  Do a whole race weekend in East Corner-Of-Nowhere, pack up, fly a couple thousand miles, unpack in West Where-The-Hell-Are-We, then go racing again.  This time around, you're looking at about a 12 hour flight from Bahrain to Shanghai on Etihad Air, which includes a 2 hour layover in Abu Dhabi.  It looks like it's on a Boeing Dreamliner, so at least you've got that going for you.  Here's the track map for the 2018 Grand Prix of China:


As I mentioned last year, exactly the same as it's been since 2004.  Though there's been a resurgence in noting that the circuit is shaped like the Chinese character "shang", meaning "high" or "above" or "ascend"... or "up", maybe?  I dunno.  It's the first part of Shanghai... wait... does that mean it's "High hai"?

China has coughed up some good races in the past, often because of rain, so we can cross our fingers that we'll get another Bahrain-level event this weekend.  That'd be fun.  Here's the broadcast schedule for ESPN's coverage:

Friday
Practice 3: 10p-1130p  live on ESPNews
Saturday
Quals: 1a - 3a  live on ESPN2
Sunday
2018 Grand Prix of China: 1a - 330a  live on ESPN2

For a wonder, ESPN came out and said that Quals and Races will be commercial-free for the rest of the season.  I'm okay with that.

See ya!

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F1 Update!: Bahrain 2018, The Thoughts And Statements Version

Hello everybody!  As we here at F1U! are clearly not able to work on deadlines, we decided to actually talk about the race instead of do a formal writeup..  Cool?  Cool.  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2018 Grand Prix of Bahrain!


*QUICK OVERVIEW: If you were raised on oval racing like you see in NASCAR or at the Indianapolis 500, you'd've watched this race and gone "what the hell was that?"  There wasn't all that much passing and a lot of "gap racing", where drivers were just sort of out in the woods alone.  It may have even happened that you'd've turned the race off after one of the teams so badly screwed up a pit stop that they only changed three wheels.  Not to mention another team having both of their cars die in the space of a couple of laps.  You would have been very, very wrong to do so... this was one of the most exciting races we've seen in a long time if you knew what you were watching.

*1-2-3-4, I DECLARE A TIRE WAR: This race was all about tires.  Ferrari's Seb Vettel, the polesitter, began the race on the super-soft compound, as did Mercedes' Valterri Bottas, starting from third.  Qualifying in fourth but dropped to ninth due to a penalty, the Merc of Lewis Hamilton was clearly going for the obvious one-stopper as he had on the soft tires.  Pirelli had said that the expected life of the super-softs was 25 laps, the softs could go 30, and the medium tires 40 of the 57 lap race.  We here at F1U! expected both Vettel and Bottas to go supersoft-soft-supersoft, or maybe flip the last two.  Meanwhile, Hamilton would probably go soft-medium, as there was evidence that the hardest compound available for the race was fairly good around the track.

Vettel made his first stop on Lap 18, going to the soft tire as predicted.  Mercedes, however, had watched the McLaren of LeMans Alonso very closely when he put on the mediums during his Lap 14 stop.  When that worthy had managed to make good time, and having failed to bring Bottas in before Vettel for the undercut and attempt to pass him in the pits, the team changed plans on the fly and put the Finn on medium tires during his Lap 20 stop.  Hamilton put on the mediums on Lap 27.  This left Vettel and Ferrari in an unenviable position.  While he held the lead, he wasn't able to open up a big enough gap to Bottas to be able to make a second stop and not lose the place... and probably drop to third behind Hamilton as well.  While he'd be on the softest tire, and thus faster, he'd still have to fight for the win from behind.  Getting past Hamilton would be doable, though with effort... but could Vettel then chase down Bottas and get past him to take the lead?  Dubious.  So Ferrari did the only thing they really could do:

They left their man out there, hoping that the soft tires would last nine laps longer than Pirelli said they would.

*EPIC RUN: Vettel had the grip advantage, but couldn't use it without killing his tires.  Mercedes could use their tires to the fullest, but would the slower rubber be fast enough?  For Hamilton, who earlier had passed three cars at one time, the answer was no.  He wound up in third, about seven seconds back.  For Bottas though, the question was still in doubt.  With seven laps to go the Finn was five seconds back. Then it was four.  Three.  Two. As Vettel and Bottas began the final lap, they were within one second of each other, and Bottas could use DRS... and still couldn't get past.  The Merc driver had one last chance going into the final turn.  A daring driver like Smiley Ricciardo, who has made a living out of being the last of the great late brakers, would have had a go.  Bottas made a token effort and backed off, ceding the win to Ferrari.  Vettel later said that the last 10 laps had seen his tires turn into bagels, barely able to grip the tarmac, but he'd made them work for a nicely won race.

*FERRARI FAILURE FRACTURES FRANCESCO'S FIBULA:  The keen-eyed reader might have noticed a disturbing lack of Kimi Raikkonen, who started the race in second for Ferrari, during the above race report.  That's because Ferrari had an awful pitstop for the ages on Lap 35.  Raikkonen did his job, stopping the car in exactly the right spot, the mechanics fell to work, getting three tires changed... but the left-rear tire never came off the car.  Despite this minor detail, the car was released to return to the race... despite mechanics still working on the left-rear tire.  Francesco Cigarini, who is the mechanic that fits the new tire to the car, was in his position waiting for the old tire to come off when the Ferrari pulled away.  The tire snapped his lower left leg in what can only be described as "an ugly way."  Raikkonen made it a few car lengths away before the team told him to stop... nobody knew what sort of state the left-rear tire was in, was it locked down or loose, that sort of thing.  Cigarini underwent emergency surgery shortly after the incident, and his instagram account showed him up and walking with crutches and a medical person for support within 24 hours of the incident.  

While nobody is entirely sure what happened, the prevailing theory is that Ferrari's automated pit release system is based on two factors: is the car off the jacks, and are the four tire nuts on the tire.  Usually this means "have all four tires been removed, new ones put in place and secured?"  This time, though, the conditions were met without the left-rear tire being removed... hey, the nut was on after all!  The FIA fined Ferrari €50000 and an investigation is ongoing.

*RED BULL... REALLY, WHAT THE HELL?:  The team sponsored by the Austrian drink maker went into the race on Sunday feeling pretty good about their chances. Smiley Ricciardo was to begin in fifth, while it was assumed that Embryo Verstappen, starting in 15th due to an accident in quals, would be able to get up among the leaders quickly enough.  Instead, Ricciardo's car just... turned itself off after one lap, forcing him to pull over and retire the car.  At very nearly the same time, Verstappen bumped into Lewis Hamilton, resulting in a puncture.  As he limped his way through almost a full lap, the vibrations from the imbalanced tire assembly were transmitted into the gearbox, which soon went all wonky-doodle.  Both Red Bulls were out within three laps of the race start.  Team boss Christian Horner later described this as "extremely disappointing."

*GHASTLY NEWS:  Toro Rosso was over the moon by the end of the race, as their man Pierre Ghastly brought the Honda-powered car home in fourth place.  The surprising thing is that nobody on the team knew where the speed came from.  We here at F1U! know that we've never heard a team say "we'll have to examine the data to see why we were so fast" before.

Next race is in China this coming Sunday!  See you then.

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April 08, 2018

An Explanation For... Something (UPDATED)

F1 Update! is coming Monday.  I've spent most of the day asleep, and if I wasn't asleep, I wanted to be sleeping.  I've been sitting here in front of the computer for the past couple hours slowly typing away on the F1U!, and at the rate I'm going it won't be done until Thursday or Friday.


So I'm packing it in and will pick it up again tomorrow after work.  I just don't feel an urgency here tonight.  I do want to say one thing though. 

ESPN stepped up big-time for this race.  ZERO commercial breaks, only an unobtrusive corner bug for Mothers Car Products every now and again.  While I'm no fan of the SkyTV broadcast, not liking the announcers anywhere near as much as the Legendary Announce Team, this has to be called the best US broadcast of a F1 race of all time, just because we actually saw the entire race.  That's amazing.  Last race I gave ESPN a huge load of crepe for an awful, awful broadcast, so fair is fair.  Great job, ESPN!  Keep it up!

F1U! tomorrow.  Thank you for putting up with me, if you do.  If you don't, well, I don't think I blame you much.

UPDATE: the F1U! is in progress, but it'll have to be finished on Tuesday night.  It's 310am Tuesday morning as I write this, and I've gotta go back to sleep.

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April 07, 2018

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2018

Gotta admit, the circuit in Bahrain looks awful purty at night.  But for whom did the stars shine, and for whom did they fall?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2018 Grand Prix of Bahrain:


Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.060 1:28.341 1:27.958
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:28.951 1:28.515 1:28.101
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:29.275 1:28.794 1:28.124
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.396 1:28.458 1:28.220
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:29.552 1:28.962 1:28.398
6 Pierre Ghastly Toro Rosso Honda 1:30.121 1:29.836 1:29.329
7 "DP" Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:29.594 1:29.623 1:29.358
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:30.260 1:29.187 1:29.570
9 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:30.338 1:30.009 1:29.874
10 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:29.893 1:29.802 1:29.986
11 Death To Flying Things Toro Rosso Honda 1:30.412 1:30.105
12 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:30.218 1:30.156
13 LeMans Alonso McLaren Renault 1:30.530 1:30.212
14 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Renault 1:30.479 1:30.525
15 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:29.374 No Time

16 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:30.530

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:31.063

18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:31.414

19 AMX_56 Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:31.420

20 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:31.503


While Vettel's on pole, it wasn't until the final run in Q2 that he started to show more speed than his teammate Raikkonen.  In fact, it took a truly outstanding lap from the German to beat Raikkonen in Q2, and in Q3 it was Vettel's last run that wound up being just a bit too good for anybody to catch.  The other flying Finn, Valterri Bottas and his Mercedes, put up good times but nothing to rival the Ferraris, and Lewis Hamilton left himself with a massive problem on Sunday.  Not only did he not get on the front row, but he had to change a gearbox between Australia and here. Apparently he very nearly was unable to finish the first race of the year... I had read somewhere that he had an oil leak that got into the gearbox and played all sorts of merry hell with the finely machined chunks of space-age technology in there.  In any case, that means a five-spot grid penalty, and that means he's actually starting in 9th, right where the midfield can bounce him around in Turn 1.

Speaking of the midfield, it's somewhat disheartening to see McLaren getting so stiffly roflstomped by Toro Rosso; not only did the former Minardi team beat both McLarens, but it wasn't even close... and the Ghastly one even made it into Q3, where he ends up in fifth after Hamilton's penalty.  AND I even got a nickname for Brendon Hartley, who ran into a bird during today's sessions.  Neither Force India impressed today... I didn't realize one was in Q3, they were so not-fast.

But the biggest pain has to be felt by Haas.  From looking like serious contenders for "best of the midfield" rights to having Lettuce miss out on Q2 by literally the slimmest of margins (he and Alonso set exactly the same time, 1:30.530, in Q1, but since the McLaren driver did it first, he ended up in 15th and moved on).  There must be much confusion and consternation in the American team's pits right about now. Why is K-Mag now being called "DP" Magnussen?  Heh... you asked for it.

On international television, too.

The less said about Williams, the better.  That was ugly, and Pleasant Stroll looked seriously pissed in an interview afterwards.

So the race is late tomorrow morning.  I hope to be along sometime that evening with the F1Update!, but my computer woes are beginning to become terminal.  My hard drive coughed up a "terminal failure" report to the various startup menu tests this morning, but eventually it booted.  I've spent the best part of the afternoon copying important things to flash drives and external hard drives and writing down passwords for places I don't often access.  I do have my laptop, of course, but that's a whole different set of problems to deal with.  In any case, sooner or later it'll be up.

See ya then!

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April 05, 2018

Jenny's Not There

For a good time, call 202-762-1401.


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April 03, 2018

F1 on The ESPNs: Bahrain 2018

The plane from Spain lands mainly in Bahrain.


No, I don't know what that means either, but it made me giggle.  The Great F1 Thingy is in the teeny island nation with the big oil money-filled bank accounts, Bahrain... as opposed to the teeny island nation with the big oil money-filled bank accounts, Abu Dhabi.  Basically the same place, except for the revolts and the shootings and... yes, well.  Ahem.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

Ah, nothing like reusing an old classic.  I'm less than thrilled that there's still a race here, but what's a little bit of ethics when there's money to be made?  In the past, I'd say that this was a dead-solid Mercedes victory... it's the sort of circuit that their car loves... but who knows yet?  They looked good in Australia, but they couldn't get past the Ferrari for the lead with more than 25 laps to work with.  So I officially declare this race to be wide open.

Which means that Mercedes will make everybody look silly.

ESPN has the coverage again, and they're confusing the hell outta me with their programming choices.  Let's take a look: 

Friday
Nothing!  It's all streaming.
Saturday
Practice 3: 700a - 800a  live on ESPNews
Quals: 1000a - 1130a live on ESPN2
Sunday
2018 Grand Prix of Bahrain: 1000a - 1230p live on ESPN2

If we're lucky, they listened to all the screaming of US F1 fans and will improve their coverage, maybe by having a real person watching for when to run commercials.  If we're not lucky... there will be a very pissed off duck.

F1Update! afterwards.  Eventually.  See ya then!

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April 02, 2018

Name That Mystery Ship XXXIV Revealed!

There's no ship!  It's just a picture of the open ocean.

Ha ha april fools day.

Look, it was the best I could come up with, I'm sorry.

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April 01, 2018

Name That Mystery Ship XXXIV

Got a toughie for y'all today!


As usual, no image searching.  I can't stop you from doing it, but you'll have to live with it on your conscience forever.  You get one guess, and one guess only, so make it count.  Winners are determined by me, my decision is final, so don't push it, 'k?  The winner gets his or her very own blog post on a topic of their choosing (exceptions: pr0n, politics, and religion).  CTX, FDM, if either of you are still around, you're clear to guess!

Let's see how good you guys really are!

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March 29, 2018

Up To Here, I Tell Ya... Up To Freakin' HERE

This isn't banality such as what friend Brickmuppet talks about... that, at least, has a basis in reality.  No, this is just flat out frustration, anger, and all-round poor temper, tempered by what appeared to be a moment of emotional insanity.  For all of you that are interested, just click more for the scoop.  For all of you that aren't interested, here's the bestest character introduction scene in anime ever:


Thanks for reading, enjoy the rest of your day.
more...

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March 26, 2018

F1 Update!: Australia 2018

The weather was sunny and comfy down in Melbourne as the F1 horde made its way to the starting grid for the first race of the year.  Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes sat on the pole, but the two Ferraris hovered ominously over his shoulders, looming menacingly behind him.  A little farther back, the ever-present Red Bulls stalked the leaders looking for the opportunity to charge.  The American team, Haas, was a pleasant surprise right behind them and gunning for their first podium.  So what happened during the race?  Who did what?  It's a new season, full of hope and wonderment... it's the 2018 Grand Prix of Australia, and THIS is your F1 Update! for it!


*EARLY DAYS:  Once the lights went out, the start went much as you would expect... at least for the first three grid spots.  Hamilton held the lead, just ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel, but Embryo Verstappen did... something... at the start and was quickly gobbled up by the Haas of K-Mag for fourth.  Only an impending turn kept Lettuce Grosjean's Haas from relegating Dutchboy to fifth... but only for a few laps, as Verstappen pushed a bit too hard going into Turn 1 and went into a lovely pirouette.  And away went Grosjean, promoted to fifth.

*STRATEGERY:  And none of it mattered.  Hamilton was pretty much untouchable out in front, despite the noticeably quick Ferraris behind it.  That's no real surprise... the surprise was that it was Kimi Raikkonen and not Seb Vettel that was clearly the faster of the two Red Cars.  That was quite uncommon in 2017, and there was nothing to indicate going into the new season that anything was going to change.  Instead, the Finn had nearly a five second lead on his teammate when Ferrari did the sensible thing, strategy-wise.  They tried to undercut Hamilton by bringing Raikkonen into the pits first, and hope that he could put in a hot lap or two to jump Hamilton when Mercedes brought him in.  It didn't work; Hamilton pitted one lap later, and returned to the track in second place, ahead of Raikkonen.  Both were now some 13 seconds behind Vettel, but as the pit delta was somewhere around 22 seconds or so, unless the German did some real fancy driving, he was going to end up back in third when he pitted.  Ferrari left him out in the lead, doing the other half of the high-low strategy... in theory, they had Mercedes cornered.  Problem is, they had Lewis Hamilton cornered, and he was not one to sit idly by as the walls close in around him.  Sometimes you can have the best strategy ever, and your opponent still trounces you.

*AND A ONE AND A TWO: On Lap 23, K-Mag brought his Haas into the pits; he was still in 4th place, his teammate just a couple of seconds behind.  Things were looking quite rosy for the American team... even if they didn't finish 4-5 because the Red Bulls got by them, 6-7 is nothing to sneeze at either.  In came K-Mag, out went K-Mag... and shortly thereafter came a radio call: "The suspension is broken!"  He brought his car to a stop on the side of the track with what turned out to be a cross-threaded and unengaged wheel nut.  Though everything looked and more importantly felt fine to the man on the tire gun, the Haas essentially went back on track with one of its wheels totally loose.  The quick camera shot of the Haas pit crew was more than a little sad.  But at least they still had Lettuce Grosjean looking equally racy!  A lap after K-Mag's day came to an end, the Frenchman was summoned into the pits for fresh rubber... and shortly thereafter pulled his car over to the side of the road with a loose wheel.  Again with the cross-threaded wheel nut.  If the first look at the Haas pit crew was sad, the next one was heartbreaking... stunned looks, and one mechanic clearly going "backstage", as it were, helmet still on so nobody could see his face, clearly distraught.  Though not confirmed, it's easy to assume that that was the wheelgunner.  However the nightmare occurred, it left us with two cars stranded just off the track on a circuit with very little space to spare.  A Virtual Safety Car was announced.

*VIRTUAL LESSON TIME:  To understand what happened next, one must understand exactly what occurs in Virtual Safety Car conditions.  First, since there is no physical safety car, drivers stay separated out on track.  If Car 1 is 100 yards ahead of Car 2, that gap will stay roughly the same throughout the VSC period.  With a real safety car, the entire field gathers behind Berndt Maylander.  Second, cars are required to drive to a certain time in each of the three sectors of a lap on track.  We'll be making numbers up for this next bit, but while the numbers may be wrong, the idea is correct.  Okay, the VSC is called, and Vettel immediately dives into the pits.  Remember, the pit delta time was 22 seconds... that's 22 seconds to drive to your pit box, change tires, leave the pit box, drive to the end of the pit lane, and regain the track.  At the time of the VSC, Vettel's lead was 13 seconds, more or less... substantially less than the pit delta.  But under the VSC, everybody slows to the same speed, thus keeping the gaps on track the same.  But!  That 13 second lead that Vettel had was at full race pace, not the substantially slower VSC pace.  If the VSC pace slows the cars down to half the speed they'd normally go, that means that it takes double the amount of time to go any distance.  Now normally under the VSC, nobody cares about that since everybody is going the same speed.  Here though, it made all the difference in the world.  The 13 second gap between Vettel and Hamilton suddenly became a 26 second gap as it would take the trailing car twice as much time at half-speed to cover the distance between the cars.  

*BETTER LUCKY THAN FASTER: When the Virtual Safety Car was announced, Vettel was 13 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and Ferrari immediately called him into the pits for his tire change.  As he entered and exited the pit lane, he actually sped up as "pit in" and "pit out" are NOT considered to be "on track."  He just had to get himself slowed down to pit lane limiter speed (on the way in) and VSC speed (on the way out) before he crossed the timing lines used to delineate the limits.  That gave him an extra little bit of time to work with... not much, but some.  Ferrari changed his tires quickly and with no trouble, and the time he spent in the pits was essentially that of the delta: 22 seconds.  He returned to the track with a four-second lead over Hamilton, who had taken 26 seconds to cover what under normal racing conditions would have taken 13 seconds.  Hamilton was soon heard on the radio asking what went wrong, did he make a mistake or what?  Post-race, Mercedes seemed to be leaning towards a flaw in their strategy software... while details are sketchy, it seems that it wasn't calculating gap times correctly.  The team had Hamilton driving a bit slower than he was capable of, to preserve his tires, save fuel, and to be easier on the engine, because their software was telling them that they had a big enough gap to be safe if a VSC occurred.  And thus did Mercedes relinquish the lead to Ferrari.

*TO THE BITTER END: The race wasn't over, not by a long shot.  There were nearly 30 laps left to go at this point, and Hamilton spent most of the remaining laps within DRS range of Vettel.  There were two problems to be dealt with by the Merc driver.  First, Albert Park Circuit is considered by some to be the most difficult track on the calendar to pass on, save for Monaco.  It's relatively narrow, and there's no one turn that says "aha, here's a good place to pass."  And second, his engine (well, his "power unit") was overheating, and the team was telling him to lift-and-coast into turns to keep things cooler.  Since each car only gets three full power units this season, it's imperative to keep them going for as long as possible.  It wasn't until just a handful of laps remained that the team let him off the leash... and by then, his tires were shot, and Vettel's were some seven laps fresher.  The Ferrari would finish the race some five seconds ahead of Hamilton, who was a second ahead of a hard-pushing Raikkonen.  Another second behind the Finn came the Red Bull of Smiley Ricciardo.  Back in fifth, some 20 second behind the Aussie, came a sight unseen in quite a while: the McLaren of LeMans Alonso.  Fifth was a better finishing position for the new McLaren/Renault pairing than the team had in three years with Honda.

*FINAL THOUGHTS: It's hard to judge just exactly what the relative pace is between Ferrari and Mercedes right now.  The Merc was faster up front in clean air, but when it was in second it was a whole different story, very twitchy indeed.  The Ferrari is clearly slower than the Merc, but just how much slower is still a mystery.  Yet they still won the race.  We here at F1U! are loathe to make predictions, particularly after just one race, but... we're leaning towards a relatively easy Mercedes championship.  The lucky VSC isn't going to happen again, and neither Raikkonen nor Vettel was going to catch Hamilton on-track.  We do reserve the right to change our minds.

Next race is in two weeks at Bahrain!  See ya then!

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March 25, 2018

F1 Update!: Australia 2018, the ESPN edition

The weather was sunny and comfy down in Melbourne as the F1 horde made its way to the starting grid for the first race of the year.  Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes sat on the pole, but the two Ferraris hovered ominously over his shoulders, looming menacingly behind him.  A little farther back, the ever-present Red Bulls stalked the leaders looking for the opportunity to charge.  The American team, Haas, was a pleasant surprise right behind them and gunning for their first podium.  So what happened during the race?  Who did what?  


We here at F1U! don't have the slightest damn idea.  We watched the ESPN broadcast, and it was the worst steaming pile we've ever experienced for an F1 race.  Even worse than the disastrous CBS broadcast of the 2006 San Marino Grand Prix, and that was so bad I still use "crashing over the curbs" as a catch phrase for something particularly awful in the real world.

Commercial breaks came in the middle of sentences.  They occurred during the restart after the Virtual Safety Car period.  If we went by the ESPN coverage of the race only, we'd still have no idea why Lettuce Grosjean's car came to a stop.  Important moments during the race took place during commercial breaks, and since they were only using the International Feed, we got no replays other than what was broadcast... NBCSN could generate their own, and often did.  Not ESPN, oh no.  My guess is that they had no producer on the show, and thus the breaks were all pre-programmed and would occur no matter what.  I know Formula 1 is a nothing for ESPN; that's why the race was on ESPN2, the secondary channel, on a night when there was nothing else going on at the time and would have fit nicely on the main channel.  I get that.  But F1 fans here in the US are... um... vocal, and they're yelling to high heaven.  ESPN has apologized, but who knows what that means.  For now, it means that the first race of the year was butchered.

We here at F1U! are going to have to watch a yarrrrrr'd version of the race to intelligently (shaddap!) talk about it.  Sorry folks.

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March 24, 2018

F1 Quals: Australia 2018

It feels like just last month we were in Abu Dhabi.  Nope!  It was only three months and change ago... and everything is different now.  Except where it isn't.  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2018 Grand Prix of Australia:
...

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.824 1:22.051 1:21.164
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.096 1:22.507 1:21.828
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:23.348 1:21.944 1:21.838
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:23.483 1:22.416 1:21.879
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:23.494 1:22.897 1:22.152
6 K-Mag Haas Ferrari 1:23.909 1:23.300 1:23.187
7 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:23.671 1:23.468 1:23.339
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:23.782 1:23.544 1:23.532
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:23.529 1:23.061 1:23.577
10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:23.686 1:22.089 DNF
11 LeMans Alonso McLaren Renault 1:23.597 1:23.692
12 Stoffelwaffel McLaren Renault 1:24.073 1:23.853
13 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:24.344 1:24.005
14 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:24.464 1:24.230
15 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:24.503 1:24.786
16 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso
1:24.532

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:24.556

18 AMX-56 Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:24.636

19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:24.922

20 Pierre Ghastly Scuderia Toro Rosso
1:25.295

...
Oh, well, only 6/10ths of a second faster for Hamilton, that's nothing... eep.  Mercedes has long had a special engine setting for use in quals, they're currently calling it "party mode", where they get maximum power from the lump in the back.  It appears to be extra wacky this season, or at least this race, as things were a LOT closer at the end of Q2.  Having said all that, Ferrari proved to be quicker during the race than they were in quals... they do long distances better due to being gentle on the tires... so we've still got hope for an actual race on Sunday.  Maybe.  If things go well.  I hope.

In other fun news, Haas put in their best qualifying effort since... um... ever?  And it'll get better, as Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo is getting a three-spot grid penalty for some infraction or other in practice.  Of course, they've always done well in Melbourne... but have we just seen the birth of the new "best of the rest" team?  Mercedes' Valterri Bottas pranged his car right at the start of Q3, and he's going to need a new gearbox... that's a five-spot grid penalty... so welcome to the Top 10, LeMans Alonso and McLaren!  It's early days, but so far it looks like they made the right choice by moving to Renault engines... neither Toro Rosso/Honda made it out of Q1 or really even looked like they ever would again.  But they didn't explode.  That's a good start.

So.  Race is in a few hours. Whatever will pass for a F1U! this year will follow along tomorrow... see ya then!

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March 22, 2018

ReLife ReTurns

Almost two years ago I said "I did not expect this to be that good," when referring to ReLife, a little show that just sort of... snuck up on everybody.  Short version of the plot: a 27-year old NEET is given the chance to have his problems (not all of them of his making) dealt with.  He'd be given a good job with a good company, with interesting work to be done... in short, he could honestly feel like he could go out in public again.  The only catch?  He has to spend a year back in high school.  Nope, not as a 27-year old, but as a 17-year old!  There's been a... pill... created that will knock ten years off your appearance until you take the antidote.  Sounds great, huh?  Well, not so much... you're still 27, after all... no longer a teenager, no longer fit, you've been out of high school for TEN YEARS, if you're a smoker you've still got the addiction, and... well, your female classmates are kinda hot.


Yes, now you see the potential difficulties an adult could face in a situation like this.  And it's amazing just how intelligently and realistically ReLife handles such matters.  I mean, "realistically" if you accept the possibility of a magic pill and going back to high school, that is.  There's also an interesting layer of wish fulfillment running underneath the surface: if you could go back knowing what you know now, would you?  I hated high school, and even with 30 years of bonus experience under my belt, I'd rather faceplant onto a claymore mine than go back.  But that's not really why I'm writing here.

No, the reason I'm writing today is to let you know that, sometime yesterday, the long-awaited ReLife OVA was released... the FOUR EPISODE LONG OVA.  For a series that was 13 episodes in length.  There is now good solid evidence that somewhere in Japan, there is a Production Staff that loves us and wants us to be happy.  As opposed to all those Production Staffs that hate us, laugh at us, and makes us watch Rio Rainbow Gate

I will not give spoilers, for no other reason than I haven't watched any of it yet.  One bit of information that I have gleaned, however, is no spoiler: it picks up right where Ep13 leaves off.  That's right kids, no "episode 8.5" here, it's a full continuation of the story!  So if you've seen the series, why in the world are you still reading this?  Go watch it!  And if you haven't seen ReLife, why are you still reading this?  Go watch it from the beginning!

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