June 30, 2016

For The Record


That about covers it, yep.

I have a complete and total lack of interest in doing much of anything right now.  So instead, I'm going to take a nap.

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June 28, 2016

F1 on TV: Austria 2016

Ah, Austria.  Home of Mozart, Gustav Klimt, Fritz Lang, World War I, the Venus of Willendorf, Peter Lorre, and Siggy Freud.  Erwin Schrodinger may or may not have lived in Austria.  Wiener schnitzel is eaten in Austria, and Red Bull is an Austrian drink.  Which is appropriate, I suppose, as Austria is also home of the Red Bull Ring, home of the Grand Prix of Austria.  Here's the track map for your enjoyment:

The past two races at this little circuit in the Austrian hills have proven to be... um... less than awe-inspiring.  Or much of anything, really.  The circuit has proven to be that rare creature: a fast circuit that ends up boring.  Still, it's what the F1 circus has to work with this week, and race they shall do.  Allegedly.

Well, the good burghers of the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their level best to keep me from falling asleep during their broadcasts, the times for which are below!
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  7a - 830a  live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Austria:  630a - 930a  live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  Your mileage may vary.  Smoke 'em if you got 'em.  N-e-s-t-l-e-s makes the very best... chaaaaawklate (clack!).   And then there will be a F1Update!, and all will be right with the world.  Because I'm an optimist.

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June 25, 2016

Teknikle Hep Kneeded

Hello, my valued readers.  I have a... not a problem, exactly, but a curiosity certainly.  Y'see, as you may have noticed at the end of my last post, I have taken advantage of this summer's Steam Sale to obtain a couple of new games.  Emphasis on "new"... Fallout 4 and WWE2K16 being the first modern and relatively current AAA games I've installed in my sweetheart of a computer named Nori.

As it turns out, however, these are also the first games that are too much for the onboard Intel graphics system to handle.  The wrasslin' game gets about 13 fps during the benchmark, then dies before completing it.  F4 lets me click "play" on the launch menu, then the screen goes black for a few seconds before returning to the desktop.  Yep, that's right... all those WarThunder and World of Warships screenies were taken using motherboard graphics.  And it's been perfectly playable, too!  Mid-30s fps at all times is a-okay, after all.  But now it is time to install the graphics card I've owned for two years... and I'm terrified.

See, I've realized that I can't remember the last time I installed a graphics card that wasn't replacing a card by the same manufacturer... Nvidia, in my case... and I have no idea just exactly what I need to do!  I'm not that worried about actually putting the card into the case... that's just thumb-and-clip-and-maybe-a-screwdriver work. Do I uninstall the onboard Intel drivers?  Or put in the card, boot the system, then put the Nvidia drivers over them?  If I remove the Intel drivers, will I have any graphics at all when I reboot?  VGA?  What?  And why the hell has it taken me two years to finally get around to doing this?

All advice is welcome, desperately!

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June 23, 2016

Day Three Hundred Sixty-Six

Last night, as I cowered in terror from the latest round of tornado warnings, it struck me... I've been employed for a year.  In what I can only assume is coincidence, there were tornadoes in the area on Day One, too.

I'd love to say that there were celebrations and noisemakers and huge margaritas for the three of us still left from our hiring group, but there weren't.  In fact, we ran out of claims to process after about five hours.  So, after a quick run to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription of "Keep Wonderduck Alive" pills, and a stop at a local gas station to take advantage of their cheap prices on 2L bottles of soda, I came home to Pond Central.

And nearly died carrying 16 liters of soda up a flight of stairs.  See, what I neglected to mention is that the weather is conspiring against all living creatures here in Duckford at the moment.  It is 1) very warm; 2) stupidly humid; and 3) deathly still, with not a hint of breeze in the air.  Halfway up the stairs, 32 pounds of liquid weighing me down, I was sounding like an old steam loco in serious need of a long stay in the shops.  Still, I managed to drag myself into Pond Central's nuclear powered air-conditioning, and that combined with putting down the soda freshened me right up.

But I seem to wandered astray of my point, as I am oft wont to do.  OW sunuvabeetchmartinhowthehell...?

Sorry, had to take a short break to slap a bandaid on the top of my pinkie, where I somehow managed to demeat myself a small amount.  And dump a hipflask worth of Bactine into the hole while I was at it, just to be sure.

Anyway, like I was trying to say before I somehow managed to take a divot out of a digit, I've now been reemployed for a year.  Who knew that'd happen, huh?  Or that I'd be one of the three left out of thirteen?  Plenty of times, I sure wasn't sure, that's for sure.  But I did.  Happytimes.

Point?  No, no point here, you kidding?  What are you talking about, a point?

Update: shortly after I posted this, I discovered that the Steam Summer Sale began today.  Fallout 4 at 50% off?  WWE 2K16 at 75% off?  Yes please and thank you very much!

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June 21, 2016

Ducks In Anime: The Lyrical Version


-Servant x Service ED

Some people out there might call this cheating.  Since I run this darn blog and I get to set the rules however I see fit, to those people I say "Pbpbppbpbbbbbbbbthhhtttthhhhhh."

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June 19, 2016

F1 Update!: Europe 2016

It was sunny and warm in Baku, Azerbaijan as the F1 Circus lined up on the grid for the inaugural race in that old, old city.  Nico Rosberg was on pole with his teammate Lewis Hamilton back in tenth... in between were all the realistic challengers both for the win and for the driver's championship.  So what happened?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe!

*LIGHTS OUT: ...we can't do this.  Not this way.  Not after this.

In a way, it's our fault.  We here at F1U! were excited for this race.  The track was terrifying and fascinating in equal measure, the result of Quals made for a slightly jumbled Top 10, and since it was the first time F1 had raced at Baku, nobody was sure how the track would really race.

We should have known better.  Formula 1 is good for many, many things, but the one thing that F1 does not handle well is doubt.  The teams handle the unknown very poorly... potentially exciting unknowns cause F1 teams to drool on themselves in the night, gibbering madly in the darkness of their motorhomes.

And so it came to pass that today's race at Baku was easily the most boring race this season.  There were no risks taken, nothing that could have been considered bold (moves, strategies, tire choices), even the first turn didn't cause much in the way of bumps and bruises.  By the end of the first lap, Nico Rosberg was already out of DRS Zone range, and by the time DRS was enabled on Lap 3, he was two seconds clear of the field.  Next time over the start/finish line, the lead was four seconds because the tires on Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull had given up the ghost.  Ferrari's Seb Vettel got past him by the next lap, but the damage was already done.  The Merc driver had an incredible 14 second lead by the end of Lap 10.

It was pretty clear that the only people with a chance to catch up to Rosberg were his teammate Lewis Hamilton, and maybe Valterri Bottas, the Williams driver that managed to hit 235 mph down the long, long straight in Quals.  As it turned out, Bottas wound up holding Hamilton back during a critical point in the race.  His immense speed made a DRS pass practically impossible, so that when it did finally occur, he was a half-minute behind his teammate and in fifth place.

Hamilton then spent 15 laps trying to figure out a problem caused by the engine settings on his steering wheel.  Please note that the exact same problem arose on Rosberg's car, and he figured out how to fix it in less than one lap.  So that put paid to any chance he might have had to catch the leader, slim as it would have been.

Nobody else had anything to show the leader, and nobody pushed the limits of the circuit.  The four DNFs were for mechanical problems, not accidents.  Nobody even came close to the walls, and almost all the passes today involved the DRS.  Rosberg led from flag-to-flag, ended up winning over Seb Vettel's Ferrari by 16 seconds.

Vettel was 10 seconds ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez in third, who in turn was eight seconds up on Kimi Raikkonen.  Hamilton finished 23 seconds behind the Ferrari Finn, nearly one full minute behind Rosberg.

This race, simply put, was a massive disappointment.  We're glad everybody came out safely, but that was the only high point of the day.

Next race is two weeks from now in Austria. 

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June 18, 2016

F1 Quals: Europe 2016

An intense interest in the new circuit at Baku gave today's Quals event a beautiful edge.  Good weather and much running over the past few days meant that the track surface was the best it had been.  The problem discovered with curbs cutting the left-rear tires seemed to have been fixed, and there was eagerness from the drivers to get on circuit.  No surprise that Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes had been the fastest all weekend, but would he gather the first pole ever on the new track?  Well, here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe @ Baku:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:43.685 1:42.520 1:42.758
2 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:44.462 1:43.939 1:43.515
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:44.570 1:44.141 1:43.966
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:45.062 1:44.461 1:43.966
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:44.936 1:44.533 1:44.269
6 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:45.494 1:44.696 1:44.483
7 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:44.694 1:44.687 1:44.717
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:44.706 1:44.477 1:45.246
9 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:44.939 1:44.387 1:45.570
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.259 1:43.526 2:01.954
11 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:45.507 1:44.755
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:44.860 1:44.824
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:44.827 1:45.000
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:45.525 1:45.270
15 Esteban!  Haas Ferrari 1:45.300 1:45.349
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:45.549 1:46.048
17 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:45.665

18 Pascal Wagers MRT Mercedes 1:45.750

19 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:45.804

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:46.231

21 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:46.348

22 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:46.394


Hamilton didn't seem 100% contented with his Merc in Q1 or Q2... he was still quick, but not his usual "run away and hide" fast.  But then he just doinked the wall in Turn 10 just past the Castle, and his suspension was broken.  He never had a chance to set his flying lap so he'll be starting 10th tomorrow.

Something of a surprise came in the form of Sergio Perez's Force India.  His 2nd place is 100% valid, no fluke involved anywhere.  Unfortunately, he won't actually be starting next to Nico Rosberg on Sunday... he had a crash in Q3 that required, among other things, a new gearbox, which ccomes with a five-grid-spot penalty. 

Beyond those, however, the grid is pretty standard.  Oh sure, Rio Rainbow Gate barely missed Q2, that's weird, but... well.

Now, let's get to what we all want to know: what does Wonderduck think of the Baku Circut?  To be blunt, this track terrifies me and here's why: it's an unholy union of the tracks at Monaco and Indianapolis.  What little run-off area exists is tiny and the speeds ridiculously high.  Until you get to the "Old Baku" part of the track, at which point it's slower, but also narrow as hell.  Except when it isn't slow, but still narrow, downhill and off-camber.  Valtteri Bottas hit 227mph down the long, long straight this morning, and my heart was in my mouth every time someone came piling down towards the first turn.  What pictures fail to convey is just how bumpy this place is.  Remember, they're just city streets, and while they may have gotten a lick of fresh asphalt for the race, they ain't smooth.  The suspensions are working like I've never seen them before, constantly moving up and down with a range of movement measured in inches instead of millimeters.  Jenson Button says that the track is unnecessarily dangerous, and I have a hard time disagreeing with him.  In some ways, the FIA should be commended for creating such a dramatic, exciting layout... but they seem to have done so by skimping on safety.  Look, there's only been one race on Baku: the GP2 feature race was run before Quals today.  They had four safety cars in fewer than 26 laps.  To be fair, the GP2 gang tends to be more... exuberant... than F1 drivers, but that's excessive even for them.

Whatever happens, it'll be exactly what F1 should be: a spectacle unmatched by any in motorsports.  See you afterwards!

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June 17, 2016

Servant x Service

It's a plot done to death, not only in anime but in just about every media type known to mankind: a young woman wronged seeks revenge, and will stop at nothing to get it.  She lives her life only for that final goal.  We've heard it all before, and we'll undoubtedly hear it all again.

When you get right down to it, that's what *Servant x Service* is about.  What's different this time is that the character seeking revenge has chosen to become, not a ninja or assassin or police officer or soldier or spy, but... um... a civil servant.  Yup.  "James Bond, DMV worker."  It's her first day of work in an unnamed town in Hokkaido as one of the newest members of the Welfare Office.  Go ahead, I dare you to tell me you expected that.

Our main characters.  Hasebe (L) is one of those jerks that's good at everything naturally, so puts no effort into anything... except, perhaps, goofing off and trying to get girls' phone numbers.  He decided to become a civil servant because it's a secure, easy way to get through life.  Miyoshi (C) is a recent college graduate and shy, almost timid.  She's a good listener, though.  And finally, Lucy (R) is the driving force for the show.  She's the one burning for revenge.  But why be a civil servant then?  Because she's trying to find the man who approved the name on her birth certificate... see, her parents were kinda ditzes, they asked for potential names from friends, and liked them all so much that they named her ALL of them.  Thus, Lucy's full name is "Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Chihoko Ayano Fumika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika... (continuing) Yamagami."   For the record, "(continuing)" simply means that's there's quite a bit more to her name, but we never find out what it is.  So Lucy figures the best way to find this man is to become a civil servant like him.  When she finds him, she intends to give him a very stern talking to.

Yes, really.

more...

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June 14, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: Europe 2016

A week after Canada, the F1 Circus packs up and takes the 16 hour trip to that great hotbed of racing lore and history, Azerbaijan, for the return of the Grand Prix of Europe.  Let's take a look at the new Baku City Circuit track map, shall we?

The first reaction I had when I saw this layout was wow, that's a long front straight,  using "straight" the same way I would at Monaco.  As it turns out, it's even longer than I thought: somewhere around 2.2km.  The whole thing will be just over 6km in length.  "Yeah, but it's still a modern street circuit," you say, "it's going to be miserable."  To be sure, Valencia blew chunks; it was a street circuit in that it ran on city streets, sure, but other than that it was exactly like running on a purpose-built layout.  Singapore is much the same way.  Rest assured, this one isn't going to be like that.  Hermann Tilke, designer, actually paid attention to the architecture of Baku and worked it into the track layout.  Here, here's the first video of a cautious run on the track:

Prepare yourself for the ridiculousness of F1 cars racing at high speed uphill through Turns 8-12 next to a freakin' castle.

Oh, and you know that narrow portion of the circuit, the straight between Turns 6-7 and Turns 19-20?  Yep, you guessed it: it's the same street, just with a honkin' great divider between the sides.  The sheer spectacle of this circuit will almost be enough to make up for any deficiencies in racing.  Almost.

And that's the problem with new circuits. We just don't know what's going to work or not work, and neither do the teams, nor the tire manufacturer.  Pirelli is bringing the Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds to the race, but we may find that the Medium is overkill... or that the Supersoft won't last a lap.  Or that it's so fast that fuel might be a problem, or brakes will explode or... we just don't know.  Which means we might have a great race... or a disastrous one.  Time will tell.

Well, time and the Legendary Announce Team!   They'll do their usual level best to bring us all the action, news, and weirdness we've become used to.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 8a - 930a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 8a - 930a  live on NBCSN
Sunday
Grand Prix of Europe:  7a - 10a live on NBCSN

All times are Pond Central; your mileage may vary.  Of course, F1Update! will cast a gimlet eye upon all proceedings, with a writeup after the race!  See ya then!

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June 12, 2016

F1 Update!: Canada 2016

Above the beautiful man-made island in the St Lawrence River called Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal, the skies were gray and random, spitting rain here, there, nowhere, then everywhere.  Even as the F1 Circus performers lined up on the grid, nobody was quite sure how long slick tires would be on the cars.  Make no mistake, the track was dry... now, at least... but a glance at the radar screen made it clear that rain sometime during the race was a 50/50 and pick 'em bet.  Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes sat on pole, but his teammate and current championship points leader Nico Rosberg was right next to him... and the revived Ferrari of Seb Vettel was directly behind.  Would the rains be the deciding factor?  Or would speed and control carry the day?  And if so, from whom?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Canada!

*LIGHTS OUT
:  It is not uncommon for cars of great overall ability to have a small weakness here or there.  Like a slightly misshapen nose on a supermodel, that flaw tends to emphasize, rather than detract from, the beauty.  So it is with the Mercedes F1 W07, the 2016 entry for that team.  It has the unerring ability to screw up any start, under any conditions, from any position on the grid, at any time.  And so it was that when the five red illuminated beacons were extinguished from the starters tower, both Hamilton and Rosberg seemed to have been sitting in wet concrete.  As Vettel roared past Hamilton's left to take a multiple car-length lead before the first turn, both Mercs staggered drunkenly off the line.  When the two of them bumped wheel rims in Turn 1, Rosberg had to leave the track; upon his return, he was quickly swallowed by the field and deposited in 10th place.  Hamilton was in slightly better shape, staying in second, but Vettel was proving to be in no mood to be trifled with.  Only a blown chicane kept him from opening a three or four second lead in just a couple of laps.  It was obvious that Ferrari wanted this win, and badly.

*STRATEGERY:  When Jenson Button's McLaren blew its Honda engine on Lap 10, bringing out a Virtual Safety Car, Vettel stopped to get off the ultrasoft tires and onto the supersofts.  This immediately made clear Ferrari's plan for a two-stop strategy for the race, as tire manufacturer Pirelli had gone on record that they expected one-stop strategies galore today... start on the ultra or supersofts, then switch to the hardest compound (ironically, the Softs) and go the rest of the way on those.  A two-stop strategy was aggressive to say the least, leaning hard on the ability of the driver to make up the lost time while having new rubber.  The question became, what would Mercedes do?

*ANSWER:  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  While Vettel quickly climbed back up to second from the fourth place he dropped to during his pitstop, it still meant that he had relinquished the lead to Hamilton.  On Lap 24, Vettel turned in what was then the fast lap of the race, cutting the gap to the Merc driver to five seconds.  It was clear that the leader would have to pit, and soon... but what would he come out on?  Would the German team go with the Soft tires and try to go the rest of the way?  Or would they mirror Ferrari and come out on one of the softer compounds?

*SURPRISE:  Pitting on Lap 25, Hamilton rejoined the race wearing soft tires... meaning he would have to go 45 laps on them to make the strategy work.  While Vettel had a 13 second lead, that wouldn't be enough to stay in front when he made his second stop.  Either he'd have to open that gap dramatically, or he'd have to make up the time during his final stint.

*PUSH, SON, PUSH:  Vettel pitted on Lap 37 for soft tires, rejoining in second place some eight seconds behind Hamilton.  However, the Merc was on tires 12 laps older.  Could Vettel make up the time with that advantage in pocket?  He began to whittle away at the lead, getting it down to under four seconds on Lap 50.  An interesting finish looked to be in store.

*THE END:  There's always one drawback to a strategy like the one Ferrari tried, and that's tire wear.  When you're pushing hard to go fast, you use up your tires more quickly.  It's just a fact of life in motorsports: the faster you go, the faster your tires go.  And today, in Montreal, was no exception.  Vettel began to make little mistakes... a small lockup here, a slightly blown turn there, and the gap to Hamilton began to open again.  Meanwhile, the leader marched around the circuit as if on rails, never putting a tire wrong, even turning in some fast laps on what had to have been well-worn rubber.  He would finish the race some five seconds ahead of Vettel, the two of them some forty seconds clear of the third place Williams of Valterri Bottas.

*SELECTED DRIVERS QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"God, I love Canada." - Lewis Hamilton

"Welp, that didn't work.  Oh well, maybe next time." - Seb Vettel

"Our first podium of the year.  Oh, and by the way?  Lewis and I were the only drivers in the Top 10 to use a one-stop strategy.  Take that for what it's worth." - Valterri Bottas

"That was mostly fun!" - Embryo Verstappen

"Yeah, I'm kinda pissed at my teammate... again." - Nico Rosberg

"mrmrmbl mrmrmrbrrb mrmrbrrlrm mmrmrbrrbrrlrrl." - Kimi Raikkonen

Next race is next week!  We'll be in Baku, Azerbaijan for the return of the Grand Prix of Europe and the debut of what looks to be a very promising street circuit.  We'll see you then!


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F1 MOVED TO NBCSN

Late schedule change, folks.  Due to the awful shootings in Orlando last night, NBC has moved coverage of the race back to NBCSN.  Hope you caught this before the race starts!

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June 11, 2016

F1 Quals: Canada 2016

Icky gray skies hung low over the city of Montreal, and rain seemed to hang just over the racing surface.  But would it ever reach the ground, and what havoc would it cause on Qualifying for the 2016 Grand Prix of Canada?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.121 1:13.076 1:12.812
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:13.714 1:13.094 1:12.874
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.925 1:13.857 1:12.990
4 Frowny Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:14.030 1:13.540 1:13.166
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:14.601 1:13.793 1:13.414
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:14.477 1:13.849 1:13.579
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:14.389 1:13.791 1:13.670
8 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:14.815 1:13.864 1:13.769
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:14.663 1:14.166 1:13.952
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:15.026 1:14.260 1:14.338
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:14.814 1:14.317
12 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:14.755 1:14.437
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:14.829 1:14.457
14 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:15.148 1:14.571
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:15.444 1:14.803
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:14.714 1:21.956
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:15.459

18 Pascal Wager MRT Mercedes 1:15.599

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:15.635

20 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:16.663

21 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:17.052


It never did rain... at least, not in any way that bothered the cars at all.

Sharp-eyed readers will have noted that there are only 21 cars listed.  That's because Kevin Magnussen had a wreck during P3 that actually damaged his Renault's survival cell.  While he was fine, that damage means building up a new car, and while F1 mechanics can do amazing things in a short amount of time, they can't do a whole car from scratch in a couple of hours.  Thus, he sat out Quals and races at the whims of the stewards.

In slightly more important information, while this was the closest Quals result so far this season, it still ended up the way it usually does: Mercedes 1-2, Hamilton over Rosberg.  There was never any doubt in my mind that's how it was going to turn out, and lo it did come to pass.  Not, I admit, that this required any great prognosticational skills on my part.

Possibly the best part of Quals was seeing McLaren get into Q3 via Alonso's efforts... his  "woohoo" on the radio when he was told just made me laugh and laugh.  It's the little things, y'know?

Race is Sunday afternoon on NBC... fire up the Philco, sit down with a can of Schlitz, and watch yourself some o' that European-style racing!

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June 09, 2016

Unexpectedly Damp

I'm working on a review for the show Servant x Service, and I honestly thought I'd be done with it by now.  However, I'm going to stop writing for the night because the weather nabobs have just started screaming about "thunderstorm" and "large hail" and "flash flood" and "apocalypse".  So, I'm just gonna go huddle in the corner and keen quietly to myself in terror.  Sound good?


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June 07, 2016

F1 on TV: Canada 2016

Montreal, as I've been told by people who would know these things, is an amazing city.  Of this, I have no doubt.  Along with being the home to the world's largest Jazz festival, numerous escape games, Cirque de Soleil, this is also the place that brought us Youppi!

For that, Montreal will always have a place in my heart.  But Montreal is also considered the most European city in North America, which explains perfectly why Formula 1 drops in this weekend, during the first half of the European leg of the schedule!  Really, it doesn't, but let's just go with it, shall we?  It made more sense when they'd race in Canada, then the next weekend hit Indy for the USGP, but the schedule is what they make of it.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

No changes, really.  Still the same old "go really really fast-stop-go really really fast-stop-go really really fast" layout that's forced by the terrain... remember, the track is on a man-made island in the middle of the St Lawrence River, and it pretty much runs along the edge of the island.  It should still be a brakes killer, too... this is still the only circuit I've ever seen a car's brake discs explode during a race... so that's something to look out for.  In a lot of ways, this is about as "Formula 1y" a track as you'll find.  It's just a grand layout without being too overwrought.  Throw in the lack of run-off area except at certain points (the Horseshoe, mostly), and if you screw up, it's game over, and it becomes a real test of ability.  There's almost always at least one safety car here as a result, sometimes more.

The Legendary Announce Team will be doing it's usual yeoman work this weekend... here's the schedule:
Friday
Practice 2:  1p -230p live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  12n - 130p live on NBCSN
Sunday
Grand Prix of Canada:  12n - 330pm  live on NBC

Yep, that's right, once again on NBC... and it's at a decent time, too!  Please note that the race begins at 1pm Pond Central time, but the pre-race coverage is at noon... I just threw it in there for completist's sake.

As is usual, F1Update! will be doing their leaden best to get the writeup done before the day ends.  Stick around, won't you?   See ya then!

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June 06, 2016

Ow. Owie. Owtch. OwwwwwWWWWWwwwwww.

Thanks to the Girls und Panzer movie, your charming and delightful host of The Pond, myownbadself, kinda sorta stayed up waaaaaaaaaay too late last night.  Once I did finally go to bed at Ohcrepe o'clock in the morning, I could not, in fact, sleep well because it was quite warm in Pond Central.  This despite the quite pleasant temperatures outside and the straining of many fans to bring said pleasantness inside from out.  I've never been good at sleeping in such situations.  When the alarm feature on my cellphone triggered, it welcomed to a new day a sluggish Wonderduck indeed.  So sluggish, in fact, that it took a few moments to realize I had a loud, screaming...

...HADDOCK!  Oh god, why me?  It wasn't one of my notamigraines, it was clearly just a case of not enough sleep and too much Monday.  Like a whiny wuss, I immediately considered calling in sick, but realized that was dumb: save it for when I was actually sick... or just sick of work.  So I went in, got everything fired up, checked e-mail for the claims rotation for the day... and realized I should have called in.  We were going to spend the entire day working on the worst, most finicky, stupidest claims possible.

Despite my best attempts and those of the late Mr Robert McNeil's greatest creation, the headache never did go away.  Indeed, as I sit here typing this, it's sitting at the base of my skull, making it clear that I need to crawl into bed and pray for the oblivion of sleep. 

So what am I waiting for?  Well hell, I dunno.

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June 04, 2016

The Last Divebomber

It had been a very long day already for Norman.  He'd been flying for three hours in search of his target.  If he was very lucky, he'd get to suffer through the full two hour flight back.  The fuel gauge of his plane was telling him that he might get to take a swim instead.  Between then and now, though, he had to do his job while a bunch of other men doing their jobs tried to kill him.  Because the date was June 4th, 1942, Norman was flying a SBD Dauntless dive bomber, he was part of Scouting Six (VS-6), flying from USS Enterprise, and he was about to become a very important part of the Battle of Midway.

His boss, Commander Wade McClusky, led his two squadrons of SBDs down on the Japanese carrier Kaga.  Five of the first six bombs missed, and then it was Norman's turn.  He popped the Dauntless' dive brakes, throttled back the 1000hp Wright Cyclone engine, then went into his dive.  Hanging against his straps, he thought back to his days in training: dive as low as you can before you drop, and aim ahead of your moving target.  He also thought to himself, that big red circle makes a great aiming point...

He didn't release his 500lb bomb until he reached 1000' of altitude... for a dive bomber, point-blank range... and hit 9g's on the pullout, trusting the SBD's sturdy construction wouldn't fall apart under the stress.  It didn't, and he made his escape from the Japanese fleet very low on the deck indeed.  His bomb hit the Kaga's centerline just short of his target point and probably exploded in one of her hangars.  The ship sank later that day.

Norman managed to nurse his Dauntless back to the Enterprise, landing aboard with a mere three gallons of gas left.  Of the 33 SBDs to take off from the carrier that day, only 15 made it back, only 11 of them usable.  Once back aboard, he ate a sandwich and took a nap.  A few hours later came the call for another strike, this time against the sole remaining Japanese carrier, the Hiryu.  Between the Enterprise's surviving SBDs and the Dauntlesses that had landed aboard from the badly damaged Yorktown, 25 planes lifted off, carrying a random assortment of 500lb and 1000lb bombs.

After another long flight, the mixed force of Dauntlesses found their target.  This time, Norman's 1000lb bomb was the fourth and last to hit the Hiryu,  all of them in her bows.  Indeed, he was one of the last to attack, if not the last.  The Hiryu would burn for hours, then sink on her own later.

On June 6th, Norman again found himself diving on a Japanese ship, this time the cruiser Mikuma.

And again, he put his 1000lb bomb on target, becoming the only pilot at the Battle of Midway to score hits on three ships.  For his overall performance at this greatest victory, he would be awarded the Navy Cross.

As it turns out, Midway was Norman's last combat action.  He was transferred stateside where he trained the next generation of dive bomber pilots for the rest of the war.  He served in the Navy for 20 years, retiring with the rank of Captain.  He'd then go on to live a full and rewarding life.

Captain Norman Kleiss, once better known as "Dusty" Kleiss, died this past April 23rd at the age of 100.  He was the last dive bomber pilot to have served at the Battle of Midway to pass away.

Today is the 74th anniversary of Midway. 

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June 01, 2016

Writing Furiously, Accomplishing Nothing


Bear with me, 'k?  It's important.   Right?  Aces.

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May 29, 2016

F1 Update!: Monaco 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh bite me, fanboy." - Nico Rosberg

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

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I'm Back Up

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

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

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

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May 24, 2016

F1 on TV: Monaco 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

And see ya there!

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