July 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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July 16, 2017

F1 Update!: Britain 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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July 15, 2017

F1 Quals: Britian 2017

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


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

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

17 K-Mag Haas Ferrari 1:42.577

18 Hereline Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:42.593

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:42.633

20 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:42.966


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

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

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

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July 12, 2017

F1 on CNBC: Great Britain 2017!

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


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

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

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

All times Pond Central.  Accept no substitutes!

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

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July 11, 2017

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

-Flying Witch, Ep09

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

Why haven't you watched it yet?

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July 10, 2017

F1 Update!: Austria 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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July 09, 2017

2017 Austria F1U! Delayed

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


The F1U! will be tomorrow night instead.

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July 08, 2017

F1 Quals: Austria 2017

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

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

16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:06.345

17 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:06.534

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:06.608

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:06.857

20 Thereline Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:07.011


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

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

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

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July 05, 2017

F1 on TV: Austria 2017

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


What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 04, 2017

07/04 Over BB-55


Happy Independence Day, everybody!

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July 02, 2017

Flying Witch: The Review

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


Oh, you want more detail?  Okay!  

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

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

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

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

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

more...

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June 30, 2017

Remember Last Week...

...when I said there was a review of a fantastic show coming?  Remember when I said it would drop last Saturday?  Remember when it didn't?  Yeah, me too.  Good times, good times...


This weekend for sure!  

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June 28, 2017

Stormageddon 2017: This Time, It's Personal

It's shortly after 11pm here at Pond Central, and I got home from work about 15 minutes ago.  Yeah, I did a 12 hour day, plus some, but not because I was feeling diligent or anything.  No, it's because leaving would have been stoopid.  But why, I hear you ask.  Well, let's take a look at the weather radar picture for 910pm Pond Central time:


Boy, that's a lot of red and dark red.  Do you see where it says "Cherry Valley"?  That's approximately where my job is located... have you ever seen purple on a weather map before?  I sure haven't, and to be blunt, I hope I never do again.  Because holy crepe on a popsicle stick, that was a completely horrible storm.  At one point, there were three angry red triangles on the radar, each one signifying "tornadic activity"... either an actual twister on the ground, visible strong rotation in the clouds, or spotted via doppler radar.  My guess is that they were all doppler'd, since one of them was heading right down the street my place of employ is situated upon, yet we're still there.

No, what my side of Duckford got was rain and lots of it in a short time, followed by even more immediately after, accompanied by a side of rain, with a rain apertif.  Torrential would be the word I'm looking for.  Low-lying areas were completely flooded... and please note, the main exit from the job's parking lot is "a low-lying area."  I know this because of the squad car parked blocking the way out.  Fortunately, there's a back exit, which isn't low-lying, but then came the drive home.  There are three major ways I can get to Pond Central:

1) secondary/tertiary road "A" to road "B", aka "Pond Central's road".  

2) Arterial road "C" to secondary/tertiary road "D" to road "B".

3) Road "C" to Arterial road "E" to road "B". 

...there is also 2a) "C" to "D" to side road "F" to "E" to "B".

1) is the way I usually take to get home, and I never even considered taking it tonight... no streetlights at all, and it's nothing but up hill/down hill the entire way.   I never take 3)... it's too far out of the way.  So 2) it was then!

Until I got to "B"... and saw the police had blocked it off due to flooding in both directions.  Right, time to double back and try 2a).  I take this way even less than I do 3), just because why bother?  Well, halfway up "F" there was a frickin' river flowing across it.  I saw a semi cross it okay, but it bloody well left a wake and mini-tsunami behind it.  Hell, there was a bow wave any naval vessel would have been proud of.  Did I mention that the Duckmobile is not a semi?

Turn around, double back again to take 3).  This worked, all the way until "E"  intersected "F"... where a river ran through it.  Not a deep one, fortunately, but it gave me pause... and it made me wish he Duckmobile was a DUKWmobile.  So thus ended my epic trek from work to home... a trip that usually takes eight minutes was a 40 minute adventure.

I just saw that we got three inches of rain between 7pm and 8pm.  Good weather for rubber ducks!

Okay, I'm going to bed... gotta go to work in the morning!

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June 25, 2017

F1 Update!: Azerbaijan 2017

A sunny, warm, slightly breezy day greeted the F1 circus as it sat on the starting grid in downtown Baku.  Last year's race was remarkable for its lack of anything remarkable... indeed, it was pretty much the worst race of the 2016 season... but that seemed to be because nobody had the slightest idea how to race Baku then.  Now that the teams had a year's worth of data, everybody expected something a little more exciting.  The best part was that the two title contenders, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Seb Vettel, were again up towards the front of the grid and looked set for a day-long fight.  So was 2017 better than 2016?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan!


*LIGHTS OUT... HOLD ON!:  Upon the extinguishment of the pentuple cardinal illuminations, thus signifying the commencement of proceedings, the assembled vehicles began their charge towards the first turn.  A very short charge, as the run to Turn 1 is very literally the shortest on the F1 calendar.  As they approached the corner, Hamilton led his teammate Valterri Bottas, who was followed closely by fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, and Vettel was behind him.  By the time Vettel completed the second turn, he was in second.  Bottas and Raikkonen had had a coming together, one that saw the Mercedes have to limp around the entire 3.7 mile long track with a ruined tire and the other Finn drop to fifth after surviving an almighty thumping, being bounced from Merc to wall.  By the time Bottas made it back to the pits, he was already a lap down and out of contention for the day.  Meanwhile, Toro Rosso's Kid Kvyat went off at the outside of Turn 1 and rejoined... right where his teammate Carlos Sainz was located.  Sainz chose the better part of valor and jerked his car hard to the left, putting it into a self-inflicted spin.  Meanwhile, somewhere along the way Embryo Verstappen had called the pit wall, saying that he had some damage.  And thus ended a rather frantic first lap.

*THAT DIDN'T TAKE LONG AT ALL:  On Lap 6, Smiley Ricciardo brought his Red Bull in for a tire change... and, as it turned out, a brake problem.  He had somehow managed to suck up some debris into a cooling duct, sending brake temps rocketing into the stratosphere.  He would rejoin the race in 17th position, out of contention for the day.  And then we saw the image of Kid Kvyat pulling to the side of the circuit, the electronics on his Toro Rosso having completely packed up and gone on holiday.  At Monaco, this wouldn't have been much of a much at all... just hook it up to a crane and lift it out of the way. The topography of the Baku circuit, however, doesn't allow for cranes to be presited around the circuit... or indeed, located anywhere near the track.  A Safety Car had to be called so the track workers could recover the broken vehicle.  And this is where the trouble began...

*BUCKLE UP, TROUBLE'S A-BREWIN'!:  This Safety Car period lasted for six laps, an eternity in F1 terms, particularly when you take into account the 3.7 mile length of the circuit.  After about one lap, leader Lewis Hamilton began to complain about the driver of the Safety Car going too slowly.  This was causing the tires and brakes to lose their heat and thus function poorly... and as we know from past races, the Pirelli tires are notoriously hard to bring up to race temperatures.  Meanwhile, the Mercedes pit wall reminded Hamilton that he had to stay a certain distance behind Berndt Maylander at all times, as he had been coming rather close to the rear of the car while trying to heat up the tires and get extra cooling air into his radiators.  And then it happened... the moment that defined the race, and perhaps the entire 2017 season.

*SAFETY CARS CAUSE SAFETY CARS: Eventually, the Safety Car returned to its nest on pit lane and the race restarted.  For aa single lap everything seemed okay... until one realized that there was still a crapload of debris located on the circuit from various incidents... and most of it located right where a car would collect it.  A second Safety Car was called for so the track workers could get debris off the circuit.  To be fair, there was a lot of junk out there... you probably could have glued it together and come up with a Sauber, which is, I think, how the team made their cars this year... and a SC was warranted.  And then it happened... the moment that defined the race, and perhaps the entire 2017 season.

*RUBBIN' AIN'T RACIN', NOT IN F1 IT AIN'T:  Seb Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton as they came out of a turn. While telemetry has shown that Hamilton had not slowed down any more than he had been, Vettel began screaming on the radio that the Mercedes driver had brake-checked him. The Ferrari suffered some damage to its front wing, the Merc some damage to its rear diffuser. Appropriately enough, the "red mist" came over Vettel and he surged alongside Hamilton to express his displeasure with some heated gesticulations involving both hands, perhaps an elbow, and some harsh words. He then banged wheels with the Merc before settling back into his following position, leading everybody watching to wonder if they really had just seen what had happened.  Shortly thereafter, the SC made its way back to the pit lane so Maylander could go back to sleep and the race resumed.

*RED FLAG: Then the two Force India drivers, never great pals to begin with, had a coming together in Turn 2. False Esteban! attempted a... let's call it "aggressive"... pass, which worked in that he moved ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez. In doing so, however, he suffered a cut rear tire and Perez lost a front wing and some other damage from being shoved into the wall. At the time this occurred, the two pink cars were in fourth and fifth and Perez in particular was making a great showing. He had been hanging with the two leaders and occasionally threatening Vettel's hold on second. Just keep that in mind as you read the rest of this F1U!.  Then Kimi Raikkonen ran over something that simply killed his right-rear tire.  As he made his way back to the pits, the carcass began flailing away at the rear of his car, eventually destroying the right endplate of his rear wing altogether.  At this point, race control threw up its hands, said "screw it", and threw the red flag, stopping the race entirely.

*GOINGS ON:  The red flag period lasted for some 25 minutes.  During this time, both Ferrari and Force India brought their damaged cars into the pit boxes to do repairs, while the rest of the cars formed up in the pit lane itself.  Hamilton got out of his car to examine the damage he had suffered when Vettel bonked him in the rear, Vettel got a new nose, everybody else got whatever minor damage they could get fixed fixed, and unsurprisingly it was announced that the Stewards were looking into the Hamilton/Vettel incident.  Once the red flag period was over, the cars took to the circuit once again.  Hamilton was in first, followed by Vettel, then the two Williams' of Felipe Not Retired Massa and Pleasant Stroll, then in something of a surprise, Smiley Ricciardo, apparently back from the dead.  The two safety car periods had been something of a blessing for him, as he just stayed out on track... he had already stopped for tires back on Lap 6 when he had his brake cooling problem.... and thus got free place after free place as other drivers pitted under the safety car.  Further down, Valterri Bottas was in 13th place and on the lead lap again, thanks to some arcane rules involving the Safety Car.

*RESTART, RELAX... REALLY?:  Once the race restarted, Ricciardo jumped both Williams drivers into Turn 1 in a truly impressive display of late braking and car control, taking third place.  A couple of laps later, Massa retired with a damper broken in an unrelated incident, promoting Pleasant Stroll to fourth.  Up in first place, though, things were not going well.  It became clear that Hamilton was having problems with the cockpit headrest.  As he raced along the long long straight that finishes a lap at Baku, the foam U-shaped headrest that lines the side and back of the cockpit began to lift up.  Hamilton could push it back down, sort of , but it would immediately begin to rise again as he accelerated.  The team was forced to call him into the pits to get that fixed before Race Director Charlie Whiting black-flagged him.  It appears that when Hamilton returned to his car after the red flag period, the team neglected to fasten the headrest.  In doing so, they probably cost themselves a win.  The stop took a little over 10 seconds, and he rejoined the race in ninth.

*OH, YOU KNOW:  A few laps later, the Stewards decision about the Vettel/Hamilton incident was announced: the Ferrari driver would be given a 10-second stop/go penalty for unsafe driving, to be served immediately.  On the radio, Vettel was incredulous: "when did I do dangerous driving???"  Around the world, millions upon millions of viewers scoffed and rolled their eyes as one.  Still, Vettel complied, giving up the lead.  He returned to the race in seventh, one position ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who immediately called race control to complain that "a 10-second penalty isn't enough for what (Vettel) did."

*TO THE END:  Thus on Lap 40 we had a top three of Smiley Ricciardo in the lead (having been in 17th place earlier in the race), followed five seconds later by Pleasant Stroll (who is 18 years, 8 months old... we here at F1U! have shoes and jackets older than Stroll), then came Bottas (who was at one time a lap down) 12 seconds behind Stroll for third.  This is the way the race went until the final lap, though Bottas was slowly reeling in the Williams.  It seemed unlikely, however, that the Finn could make the leap to second.

*LAST LAP:  For much of the final lap, that prediction was pretty clearly correct.  Bottas was still managing to make a little bit of headway here and there, but nowhere near enough.  Entering the final stretch, Bottas was about one second adrift of Stroll and his Mercedes-powered Williams... and this is when Bottas flipped a switch that engaged "qualifying mode" in his power unit.  You can't go a whole race in qualifying mode, the p.u. would die a horrible death within a dozen laps.  However, with a little over a mile to go?  No problem.  Bottas began to close the gap to Stroll, but he'd still have to pass the teenager... and then came the DRS detection zone.  Bottas was within one second of Stroll... who was eight seconds behind Ricciardo.  Oops.  A few hundred feet later, the DRS slot opened in Bottas' rear wing and the gap to the Williams dropped appallingly fast... and then the Mercedes was past, taking second place by about a car length.  And thus ended quite the remarkable race.

*OH, BTW...:  The Force Indias were faster than the Red Bull and the Williams today.  When Perez and False Esteban! had their coming together, both were ahead of Smiley Ricciardo.  We're not sayin', but we're just sayin'.

*APRES-RACE:  In post-race interviews, Hamilton refused to spare anybody's feelings, calling Vettel a "disgrace.  He also said that if the German had a problem with him, the two should "settle it like men, face-to-face."  For his part, Vettel refused to acknowledge that he did anything wrong, blaming the incident entirely on Hamilton's "brake-checking".  Mark our words: this is not the end of the situation, not by a long shot.

The next race is in two weeks, at the RedBull-Ring in Austria.  See ya there!!!

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Random Anime Pictures #129: While We're Waiting...

Over at Reddit today, I was involved in a little slice of funny.  The Original Poster (OP) put up a very cute picture of a sugar glider in a box of fruit snacks.  Of course, this being Reddit we're talking about here, someone berated OP for being "cruel to this rodent" for the sake of electronic approval points.  Which is where I came in:


OP: "This isn't a rodent it's a sugar glider which is a marsupial. Also it's a joke people!" 

ME:

-Rio Rainbow Gate, Ep07
Today... today was a good day.

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June 24, 2017

F1 Quals: Azerbaijan 2017

Just for the record?  "Azerbaijan" does not in fact flow smoothly from the fingertips when typing.  But you're not here to hear me whine about typing "Azerbaijan", you're here to find out who went the fastest around the track in preparation for the 2017 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan, and by how much Lewis Hamilton is on pole by.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:41.983 1:41.275 1:40.593
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:43.026 1:41.502 1:41.027
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:42.678 1:42.090 1:41.693
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:42.952 1:41.911 1:41.841
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:42.544 1:41.961 1:41.879
6 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:43.162 1:42.467 1:42.111
7 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:43.051 1:42.751 1:42.186
8 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:43.613 1:42.284 1:42.753
9 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:43.165 1:42.735 1:42.798
10 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:42.857 1:42.215 1:43.414
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:42.927 1:43.186
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:43.489 1:43.347
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:44.029 1:43.796
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:43.930 1:44.267
15 Pascal's Wager Sauber Ferrari 1:44.317 1:44.603
16 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:44.334

17 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:44.468

18 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:44.795

19 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:45.030


It was actually a little tense in Q3, at least for a little while.  It was looking like Bottas had managed the trick against his teammate, particularly when one considered that the session had been stopped for 10 minutes or so after Smiley Ricciardo stuffed his car into the walls at Turn 6.  The session was red flagged, which meant all the tire heat went away... and it's notoriously difficult for the Mercedes chassis to get them warm in the first place.  Didn't matter.  Hamilton pulled out a lap around Baku that will probably go down as one of the most impressive pole runs ever.  He ended up with nearly a half-second advantage to his teammate in second, and over a full second to Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari in third place.  Insane.  This pole also moves Hamilton to second place all-time in career poles with 66... one ahead of Ayrton Senna, and only two behind Slappy Schumacher.

In other exciting news, the two McLaren boys have engine and gearbox change penalties totaling 70 spots between them.  No, that's not a typo: seventy.  Seven-Zero.   Too many power units used, unscheduled engine change, yadda yadda.  In effect, this means nothing but it points out the current stupidity involved in the penalty system.

Also, you may have noticed there were only 19 cars listed.  Missing was Jolyon Palmer and his Renault, which suffered an engine fire (and subsequent marshal bukkaking the entire thing with extinguisher foam... seriously, it was just silly) in P3 and could not be repaired in time for Quals.  He races at the Stewards' whim tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, we'll see you after the race tomorrow!

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June 22, 2017

When 300 Isn't Enough...

...you do 301.  Simple, right?  Been a little busy at work the past couple of days, first time I've ever had 300-claim days back to back.  'Snice.  But oh my am I getting burned out.  Mandatory overtime is not pleasant except on the paycheck


Also, I've got a review of an utterly charming series that I completely missed when it first aired coming down the pike, hopefully Saturday it'll be up.  How much I liked it came as quite the surprise to me, to be honest.  It'll only take about an hour or two to finish up, but I'm going nuts as it is.  Two hours?  Right now better spent sleeping!  Of course, there'll be the usual F1 stuff this weekend too!  Look forward to it, won't you?

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June 20, 2017

F1 on TV: Azerbaijan 2017

BIG NEWS!!!  They changed the name of this race!  Last year, it was the European Grand Prix!  How exciting can you get?  (sigh)  It's kind of a fascinating track, this street circuit at Baku, a mix of Monaco and drag racing track.  Here's the map:


Sector two runs through Baku Oldtown, through ridiculously narrow streets and zipping past a friggin' castle (actually a curtain wall, but who's counting?).  But see, here's the thing... as interesting as that can be, the whole rest of the track is a whole lot of nothing.  The whole of Sector three, from Turn 16 to Turn 1, is essentially one long straight.  Oh, sure, there's a little whoopsie at Turn 18, but last year the cars weren't slowing down for it.  What do you think this year's chassis, with it's higher grip levels and wider tires, are going to do?  And then there's Sector one.  It's no breaking news that I'm not fond of 90° turns since they guarantee that any sort of flow that might arise is immediately mugged, stuffed in a canvas bag, and thrown into the ocean with weights attached.  Look at the old circuits like Spa or Monza or Suzuka or Silverstone... they look like they were designed freehand, no drafting triangles or protractors allowed.  In fact, the only right-angled turns on those circuits are new additions, generally a chicane to slow the cars down before a blast to the finish line (note: Monza is exactly the opposite, a chicane to slow the cars down after the front straight).  Those places have a rhythm to them, rhythms that a good driver can meld into.  Monaco is a special case, of course, as Monaco always has been.

So Baku has a terrible reputation, even after just one race.  Last year, the teams were cautious unto death, tiptoeing their way around the place like... um... I can't think of a good metaphor.  This year, as mentioned earlier, wider tires and a wider car altogether is going to make the Oldtown section even more terrifying, probably.  That's not a good thing.  I would be interested in seeing how the place races in the wet, but as Baku averages 8mm of rainfall in the month of June, I'm not holding my breath.

Neither are the Legendary Announce Team members, probably.  Here's the broadcast schedule for the weekend:
Friday 
Practice 2: 1p - 230p tape delay on NBCSN (they're showing the Royal Ascot instead)
Saturday
Quals: 8a - 930a live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan: 7a - 10a live on NBCSN

All times Pond Central, check your local listings if you don't trust me.

With any luck, there will be something interesting to write about afterwards... or maybe I'll get to rant again, who knows?  See ya then!

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June 18, 2017

Ducks In Anime: UberLyft

As I often do on Saturday nights, I was online chatting with Brickmuppet (which says a lot about my life, doesn't it?).  He was sending me various and sundry pictures of a somewhat questionable nature, as is the usual wont, but one of them was different.  It was a picture of a tiny fairy-like being riding a duck.  I recognized it immediately, because c'mon, it's an anime duck... and I realized that I had never actually used that particular show before!  The time has come to rectify that mistake.

-Binchou-Tan, Ep01
The entire series has been put on yootoob and I warn you, you will immediately develop both cavities and diabetes from watching it.  But it's really kinda worth it... it's just a lovely little piece of fluff where every character is the living embodiment of types of charcoal.

It isn't all sweetness and light of course.  Binchou-tan is a lonely orphan that lives in a small house deep in the woods and has to forage for food when she isn't working in the nearby town doing menial tasks.  One of her friends is a miko that communes with the afterworld.  Y'know, that sort of thing.  There's some meat in the froth, though.  Well worth the cost of time, dental work, and insulin.  I will warn you that, unless you are completely heartless, there is a very chance you will be tearing up or flat-out crying during the last few episodes.

And it's got the best looking realistic ducks I've ever seen in anime.  That counts for a lot too.

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