November 20, 2014

The Evangelion Movies: 2.22 You Can (not) Advance, pt 2

What the hell, why not?  Back in January when my life was ridiculously busy, I decided that I was going to deep-six the writeups I was working on for the new Evangelion movies.  I wasn't really having much fun with them, and dear god its not like I had any spare time, y'know?  Now though?  Nothing but time, and while we wait for the Kantai Collection anime to debut, I need to do something anime-related, right?  Right!  Sure!  Let's go with that!  And since I left this sitting on the table, why NOT pick it back up.  I mean, besides the fact that it's been sitting out since January, kinda turned green around the edges and may have been trying to acquire sentience in an attempt to escape, that is.  It does look like it grew a flipper.  Well, let's poke it and see what squirts out, shall we?  C'mon, it'll be fun!

See?  Fun!  Who wouldn't want to go to a... whatever this sign is talking about here!  I'm sure it'll be great!  It'll be... um... like a waterpark!  That's what "marine" means, right?  Either that or there'll be an amphibious invasion, one of the two.  That'd be even better, because here's the defenders:

So, we've got Teh Rei, Pen2, Shinji's friends Evageek and Facepuncher, and of course Asuka.  Everybody seems to be all excited about the trip to Funderwater World and all, except for Asuka.  And Teh Rei, who doesn't do "excited."  Or any other emotion usually.  It's her schtick, she'll grow out of it.  She's at that age, y'know?  At least, she thinks she is.  Nobody's quite sure.  We'll get to that, I think.  Eventually.  There's so many versions of Evangelion floating around out there, it's hard to remember what's going on.

Greatest waterpark ever!  Yeah, it looks like a repurposed sewage treatment plant, but that's because... um... it is?  See, where you're looking at is an attempt to reclaim the red-stained oceans, caused by the Second Impact, and also act like an aquatic ark if you will.  Because we need to keep tuna alive.  By running them through a sewage treatment plant.  Speaking of which, it's not like the outside world is allowed in willy-nilly.  Oh no.


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November 18, 2014

A Nice Slice Of Cheesecake

-Amagi Brilliant Park, ep07

Just a little sumtin-sumtin to tide you over while I work on a surprise.  You like surprises.  Surprises are good.

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November 17, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Abu Dhabi 2014

So it comes down to this.  The season which first saw the lights go out in Melbourne will see the checkered flag flown in Abu Dhabi.  From the land where everything is trying to kill you, to a small island that holds nearly 10% of the world's oil reserves, and thus has a ridiculous amount of money lying around... a perfect atmosphere for Formula 1.  Let's take a look at the track map for the 2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, shall we?

The Yas Marina circuit is probably the richest, most expensive purpose-built racing circuit, not just in F1 but perhaps in the world.  At least as far as a "how to" guide to build an entire racing area, Abu Dhabi is probably THE place to go.  The circuit itself, eh, not so good thanks to the influence of Hermann Tilke.  Remember, this is the place that has the pit exit that runs underground and crosses under the circuit.  It also has what is probably the single most ridiculous hotel you could ever hope to stay at, the Yas Viceroy... that's the dark gray handheld razor-shaped thing between Turns 18 and 19.  499 rooms, and while it's currently sold out for the race weekend, you can get a Marina Deluxe King room for about $230/night normally.  If you want to be a plebe about it, that is.  For something higher end, there's the Presidential Suite... 400m2, two floors, private lap pool, terrace overlooking the track, touch panels for the whole-suite ambient lighting, the works... all this can be yours for a mere $5200/night normally.  I'd be fascinated to see what it'd cost during race weekend.

Dear god.

Unfortunately, the track itself isn't nearly as spectacular an experience.  Like every other Tilke track, it's a weird conglomerate of long straights connected by right-angle turns that ruin any flow the place has for racing.  It does have perhaps the best asphalt in F1, however, grippy without being particularly abrasive, a neat trick if you can pull it off.  Probably has something to do with the ambient air temperatures; the average high in November is around 86°F, with 65% humidity.  Of course, you'd expect that for a tiny island nation in the Persian Gulf, wouldn't you?  I'll be honest, I'd take that right now: as I write this, it's snowing with a windchill of -4°F.  November in Northern Illinois, yay!

Because it's so hot in Abu Dhabi, the race begins late in the day and goes into the night, a rather spectacular visual spectacle.  The race itself?  Not so spectacular, and arguably can be blamed for the acceptance of DRS (see 2010, HWMNBN, losing Driver's Championship) in F1.  In fact, I'll go so far as to say that F1 cars shouldn't be racing here, as the Australian V8Supercar series has had some fantastic races at Abu Dhabi.  That's just me, though (note: no, it's not).

Well, our friends at NBCSN will be doing their usual knockout job with coverage, following the following schedule:
Practice 2: 7a - 830a
Quals: 7a - 830a
2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi: 630a - 9a

Of course, it's a race to crown a new driver's champion as well.  If Lewis Hamilton finishes ahead of Nico Rosberg, he wins.  If Rosberg finishes ahead of Hamilton, Hamilton needs to finish second to win the championship.  Here's a chart breaking down finish positions and what needs to happen for either to win.  Even if Hamilton fails to finish, Rosberg must end up in 5th to win.

So here we go.  We here at F1U! will see ya this weekend!

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November 16, 2014

Ben-To! Ep12

And so we have come, not to the end of the beginning as Winston Churchill might say, but just simply to the end.  This final episode of Ben-To! in and of itself is nothing important, just another final episode in a long line of final episodes for a long line of series.  But just as no two snowflakes are alike, so to are no two final episodes the same.  Each has its charms and failings, characters you'll be sorry to see go and ones you wish had disappeared half a series earlier, and the same holds true for our feisty discount meal punch-em-up.  For example, I could have done without Desaturation Lass and her taste for slashfic hardcore yaoi starring Our Hero, even if she does come part and parcel with Shiraume Ume, the obsessive Western Student Council Prez with the zettai ryouiki and the slap that can shatter a planet.  On the other hand, if they felt like spinning off a show starring Shaga, aka "Beauty of the Lake", I'd be perfectly okay with that.  Alas, it is not to be, at least anytime soon. Ben-To! did not sell well in Japan, and with Funimation coughing up a hairball on their release of the show domestically, it seems unlikely that we'll ever see a Season 2.  So gather around, my friends!  Let us remember not the bad times of Ben-To!, but the good.  Let us go forward into Ep12 together in comradely comradeship.  Let us show the production company that we are unbowed, that we are still strong, and that tonight, we are all one united.  I see an entire army of my readers, here in ridicule of bad production staffs, here for the one chance to... y'know what?  Instead of getting all dramatic and stuff, let's just finish this show up, shall we?

"THEY MAY TAKE OUR LIVES, BUT THEY WILL NEVER TAKE... OUR POCARI SWEAT!!!"  It is 6pm the evening of the Summer Solstice, when Supermarket Audrey has their famed eel bento.  It goes on sale at 10pm, and the Ice Witch is trying everything she can to be ready.  Bananas, nyquil and gatorade... sounds like an interesting Saturday night.  As she drifts off to sleep, Our Hero turns off the alarm and leaves a note saying that he'll bring her back eel.  How romantic can you get, huh?  In another part of the city...

...Left is on the verge of a monumental breakdown, just because maybe the Club of Hercules might show up since it's been three years to the day.  Kyou, the closest thing we have to a sane person in this show, does everything she can to calm her down, short of a cattleprod.  I don't know just how much that'd calm her sister down, but it'd be worth watching.  Is there any way we can make that happen?  Somewhere else in town...

...PCB explains what he learned about Orthrus and Club of Hercules last episode.  Needless to say, it's not something the show cares to share with us because why would it do something like that, but Shaga seems somewhat disturbed by it.  Finally, in yet another part of this village...

...Club of Hercules makes contact with Our Hero in a way that Desaturation Lass would find as inspiring, throwing him up against a train trestle support and whispering in is ear what the plan is, and how it guarantees the Ice Witch some eel.  Needless to say, it's not something the show cares to share with us because why would it do something like that, but Our Hero seems somewhat disturbed by it.  There are moments where I want to commit unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty upon this series, and right here is one of those moments


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November 13, 2014

Random Anime Picture #88: Do I Need A Reason?

-Fate Stay/Night Unlimited Blade Works, Ep05
I don't even really need to say anything here, do I?  Nah, didn't think so.

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November 11, 2014

Ben-To! Ep11

Here we are again!  Much to everybody's surprise, we find ourselves approaching the end of the greatest anime series based on punching people for half-priced pre-packaged meals.  Last episode saw the arrival of Orthrus, aka Kyou and Left, and the associated beating of the Ice Witch via shopping basket.  I'm sorry, but that's not the way I expected the premiere Wolf of the West to go: beaten by shopping basket.  Next up, Our Hero is flagellated by plastic shopping bag tie-shuts.  Actually, that sounds like something Desaturation Lass would enjoy... well, let's see what the Production Staff thinks, shall we?

We pick up directly from where Ep10 ends, with Orthrus standing over the broken and bleeding bodies of all that stood in their way for half-priced boxed dinners.  As the Ice Witch hemorrhages and suffers brain swelling, they taunt the Wolves that are still on their feet, practically begging them to attack.  Nobody does.  Not even Our Hero.

The only Wolf with any energy left is PCB, who follows them outside into the rain, asking who they are and where they came from... and, more importantly, why they're doing this!

Left, in her adorably stupid way, chooses to misunderstand and instead gives PCB their contact information and their itinerary of grocery stores for the next while.  I don't know what to say about that... do you plan in advance where you're going shopping?  Even if it's for food every day?  "Hm, tonight I'll go to the Eagle on North Main... and tomorrow, the Brown Store I think.  After that, let's say the Hilander on Rural, their produce section is decent."  But then, we're not bento battlers, are we?  No, we're much more sane than that.  Though half-priced food sounds useful...


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November 09, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Brazil 2014

Blue skies were above Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace as the Thundering Herd made its way to the grid in São Paulo.  Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, #2 in the Driver's Championship, led the way, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton, leader in the Championship, right next to him and local boy Felipe Massa, driving for Williams, in third.  What would this volatile combination do when the lights went out?  THIS is your mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil!

*LIGHTS OUT:  A mostly clean start saw Lewis Hamilton make a blinder of a start from second... and his teammate Nico Rosberg make an even better one.  As a result, the two led the field into the first turn and immediately begin to pull away.  However, Rosberg couldn't open much of a lead on his Silver Arrows compatriot, and with the slippery tarmac and hot track temperatures butchering the Soft tires, this was clearly going to be a sprint to the first pit stop.  We didn't have long to wait; the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado stopped on Lap 4, and most of the rest of the field followed along the next few laps.  When leader Rosberg came in on Lap 8, Hamilton had his first chance to jump into the lead via the pits.

*DID IT WORK?:  The pit crew did its best for Hamilton when he stopped on the next lap, but to no avail; he had closed the gap somewhat, but was still behind his championship rival.  Both were on the Medium tires now, however, and Hamilton had plenty of time.  Protecting the rubber, Hamilton lagged back, the gap to the leader opening to as much as two seconds.  As the second round of stops approached, Hamilton put the hammer down and the gap began to fall.  The lead was down to under one second when Rosberg hit the pit lane..

*DID IT WORK THIS TIME?:  On Lap 27, Rosberg pitted.  Hamilton immediately set the fast lap of the race... and stayed out for another lap.  After the race, he said that he had been expecting to be called in on Lap 28, so he burned his tires to the ground.  Being told to stay out took him by surprise, and his tortured tires protested.  Going into Turn 4 on Lap 28, Hamilton wound up leaving the track in a lurid slide that sent him off towards the barriers.  While no physical damage was done, save to tires that were already begging for mercy, Hamilton lost over seven seconds to his rival. 

*REALLY?:  After making his stop, Hamilton drove away apologizing to the pit wall for his screwup.  He was immediately told that the race wasn't over and he could catch Rosberg.  With that encouragement ringing in his ears, the leader in the Driver's Championship metaphorically cocked his cap, rolled up his sleeves and went back to work.  By Lap 40, the lead had been halved to 3.5 seconds.  Nine laps later, the lead was under two seconds.

*DASH TO THE END:  Rosberg came in for his final set of tires on Lap 50, and Hamilton again burned his tires off in preparation for his final stop.  This time, however, he came in as expected... and his pit crew provided him with new rubber in under 2.5 seconds.  As he made his way back onto the track, he had to be mentally willing his teammate to make some sort of bobble.  That didn't occur, and he was forced to slot in less than a second behind Rosberg.  For the next twenty laps, the lead was less than a second, Hamilton looking for some way past his teammate.  There's no doubt, however, that the pit wall was reminding him that he didn't have to win this race and turning both cars into fragments of carbon fiber would be A Bad Thing... or worse, breaking HIS car and leaving Rosberg unscathed.  Hamilton, wisely, didn't push the issue.  Make no mistake, he was still looking for an opportunity to pass, he just didn't do anything rash.  Rosberg never gave him the opening, and led his teammate across the finish line, setting us up for the Double-Points Showdown in Abu Dhabi in two weeks.

*ALSO:  São Paulo's own Felipe Massa had quite the adventuresome day.  He started in third, got a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, dropped to 13th after serving it on his second stop, worked his way back up the field, tried to get McLaren to change his tires during his third stop, and held off a game Jenson Button for the final podium position to the jubilant reactions of his fellow Brazilians.  Busy day, that.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg.  He didn't have to win today to still have a chance at the Driver's Championship, but cutting the lead to 17 points gives him a better shot at it.  For example, if he wins at Abu Dhabi, Hamilton must finish second to win the Championship.  He could have broken today, made a mistake that let Hamilton by... and didn't.  Stout drive.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Williams.  While Valterri Bottas had his race ruined by seat belts working their way loose, Massa had a solid podium, setting up a tense struggle with Ferrari next race for third in the Constructor's Championship.  Williams leads 254 - 210 with 86 points in play.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  When Hamilton went for his ride on Lap 28, the race was basically over right there.  Hamilton says it wasn't, and he should have passed his teammate anyway.  Rosberg says that even if Hamilton hadn't gone afield, he would have kept him behind.  Don't believe it.  Both drivers know that the race was decided on Hamilton's goof... and that Rosberg had no answer when he came back.


"Fastest in Practice 1, 2, and 3.  Fastest in all three Quals sessions.  Won the race.  My weekend." - Nico Rosberg

"I let you win.  You know it.  I know it.  THEY know it." - Lewis Hamilton

"Ha ha I nearly stopped in McLaren's pits.  Oh, Felipe, I'm such a joker." - Felipe Massa

"Can I please have a drive next year?  I'm clearly not washed up." - Jenson Button

"One more race, then Ferrari." - 4Time Button

"One more race, then... that's a secret.  Even to me." - HWMNBN

"mrmrmmrbrlrm mrmrlrlrbrlrmrmr mrmrlrbrlrnlrmrlmr rrrrr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Did I get any TV time?" - Nico Hulkenberg

"Fourth is really impressive for such an old guy, I'm happy for him." - Kevin Magnussen

"If you told me I'd have a problem with my engine, I'd believe you.  Tire failure?  Sure, makes sense.  Gimpy brakes?  You bet.  Hydraulics, oil, batteries, KERS, even electronics, fine.  But seat belt problems???  REALLY?" - Valterri Bottas.

So that's that.  The last race of the year is two weeks from now in Abu Dhabi.  We'll get our first champion not named Sebastian Vettel in five years there, too!  See ya then.

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November 08, 2014

F1 Quals: Brazil 2014

Lowering skies and sub-optimal temperatures greeted the Blundering Herd as they got ready to qualify for tomorrow's 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil.  Would it affect anybody?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:10.347 1:10.303 1:10.023
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.457 1:10.712 1:10.056
3 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:10.602 1:10.343 1:10.247
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:10.832 1:10.421 1:10.305
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:11.097 1:11.127 1:10.930
6 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:11.880 1:11.129 1:10.938
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:11.134 1:11.211 1:10.969
8 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:11.558 1:11.215 1:10.977
9 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:11.593 1:11.208 1:11.075
10 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:11.193 1:11.188 1:11.099
11 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.520 1:11.591
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:11.848 1:11.976
13 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.943 1:12.099
14 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:11.423 No Time

15 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:12.037

16 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:12.040

17 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:12.076

18 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault 1:12.233

The end of Q3 definitely fell into the "exciting" category.  Rosberg had pole when Hamilton turned his final lap.  That lap was not only good enough to wrest pole from his teammate, but was fast enough to set a qualifying record for Interlagos.  It took the title from Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari F2004, probably the pinnacle of the modern F1 car.  The F2004 holds almost all of the qualifying and single-lap records for circuits still in use today... indeed, the fastest lap ever at Interlagos is a 1:09.something, set by the F2004 in practice that year.

However, Hamilton's record stood for something like ten seconds, for Rosberg came along and grabbed his 10th pole of the year with his final lap.  The whole time, though, he was looking over his shoulder at the man behind him, one Felipe Massa.  The Brazilian, racing at his home track (almost literally; he grew up in Saõ Paulo, within sight of the circuit), had been making things difficult for the Mercedes boys by being consistently faster than them down the straights, and with the vocal support of the Brazilian fans (that's a lot of fans!), had a legit chance at taking pole.  Alas, he was unable to do so, for a reason that we saw all too much of today.

If I had to describe today's Quals session with one word, it'd have to be "sloppy."  The track surface temps were some fifty degrees cooler today from Practice, and it seems like many of the teams were set up for rain.  As a result, we saw a LOT of smoking tires, blown turns, flatspots and four-wheel drifting.  It got so bad that I was joking to myself at one point: "first man to turn a clean lap wins pole and we can all go home."  I'm still not sure anybody did do so.

So tomorrow actually has the possibility of being interesting, particularly if the expected rains come.  Programming note: the race is actually being shown live on CNBC at 930am, then on tape delay on NBC as mentioned in the "F1 on TV" report.  That's new, I only just found that out last night.

See ya there, y'all.

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November 07, 2014

F1 Practice: Brazil 2014

Not a whole bunch of excitement during Practice 2 today, unless you count three red flags as "excitement."  Formula 1's stewards are being very cautious when it comes to car cleanup these days, perhaps overly so... and that's a good thing.  A repeat of Jules Bianchi's accident, as unlikely as that may be, would be A Bad Thing, so I'd rather the cars sit quiet for a little while during cleanup activities.

Jules Vergne's Toro Rosso packed up after about 10 minutes of running in the session, then a half hour later, HWMNBN's caught fire shortly before Esteban!'s Sauber decided it didn't want to run anymore.  It's suspected that all three fell afoul of the weather in Saõ Paulo, best described as "holy crap that's hot and there's no air."  Air temps at the start of the session were near 90, with rain in the immediate future.  Combine that with the elevation the track is at, 2500 feet, and life is proving to be very hard for the turbochargers.  It may prove to be nothing at all; HWMNBN was running an old power unit, and it's fair to bet that Sauber and Toro Rosso were doing the same, but it's still something we need to keep an eye out for.

Another thing to watch is the new pit entry.  For years I've complained about the pit lane entry at Brazil and how the racing line for the final turn ran right through it.  Well, the folks in charge of Interlagos finally did something about it, probably after some prodding from the FIA.  The results are as seen above, and it's a helluva lot better than before.  No longer will it look like someone is entering the pits at 160mph.  I still don't like the circuit, but this is a step in the right direction.  They also resurfaced the track, I gather, and the new asphalt is stupid slippery in the heat.  Track surface temps were near 130 degrees, much hotter than anybody expected.  As a result, we saw a lot of tire wear, which may come into play down the road.  But probably not, as we're expecting rain both during Quals and the race itself.  Won't that be fun?

In other news, Marussia has officially given up and is no longer a race team.  This removes them from the prize moneys they earned for their points at Monaco, promotes Sauber to 9th place in the standings, and Caterham to 10th if they can make it to Abu Dhabi.  The end of Marussia closes the book on a rather troubled lineage.  Starting out as Virgin Racing in 2010, that car was the first entirely designed and tested using Computational Fluid Dynamics technology... no wind tunnel for these guys!  Unfortunately, no success for them, either, as they often appeared to have the worst car on the grid in both 2010 and 2011, something of a feat considering the presence of HRT.  A surprise 9th at Monaco this year by Jules Bianchi earned them their first ever points, a high ruined by Bianchi's terrible accident at Japan, one with some similarities to test driver Maria de Villota's crash in 2012.  The team ran one car at Sochi, and that will prove to be the last time Marussia made it to the grid.  A pity.

Quals in the morning!

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November 06, 2014

Au Contraire!

"That blonde sure is nicely built. Is she a candidate for my top rotation?"

"Is there a reasonable supply of cheesecake mixed in with all the lunches?"

"It looks like most of the pictures of her also include at least one guy."

"Oh, well; too bad."

I think Shaga has made a case for top rotation, Steven!

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November 05, 2014

Farewell, TVJAPN, I Hardly Knew Ye

A few weeks back I was scrolling through the multitude of music channels I have on my satellite dish package.  Mostly from Sirius/XM, with some "CD Channels" that I assume come from DISH itself, they're often a good way to freshen up my music listening experience... even if I have worn out the transponders on 1st Wave (holy crap, there's a Spandau Ballet documentary?  Yes please!) and Watercolors.  Somewhere up there in the sky, there's a satellite with two grooves worn in it... anyway.  I was scrolling through the stations and I went a little too far, into the distant 9000-level channels where One Does Not Go.  I'm not sure why One Does Not Go there, as it's almost all repeats of other channels for backup purposes, things like the Department of Defense channel (not as awesome as you might think), and BYU's in-house station.

And one surprising thing, something listed as TVJAPN.  It was literally the last channel listed, something like #9899 on my grid, and it's exactly what you think it is: a TV channel in Japanese.  It's apparently run through NHK, and is aimed at Japanese nationals living in North America for work or because of globalization or whatever.  News in Japanese, dramas, music/variety shows, all in Japanese.  Oh, and lots and lots of Domu-kun.

For something like three weeks, I had access to it; I assume it was some free preview.

Now, I'm not ashamed to admit that I don't understand Japanese at all.  Some words and phrases I've heard via anime, sure, but not in any coherent way.  That didn't stop me, not one bit!  At least the show listings were in English, which made it easy for me to record them.  Since this is a channel for Japanese expats, there was a lot of travelogue shows to remind them of home.  When an hour-long program is called "A Leisurely Railway Journey Across Japan," you just know it's pretty much made for Wonderduck.

So I've got something like twelve hours of travelogues across the Japanese countryside, and another dozen hours of other stuff, cluttering up my DVR, waiting for the day I feel a need to travel Japan from my comfy chair.

TVJAPN is gone now, replaced by TV Russia, it looks like... but it's listed in cyrillic, so no travelogues for me.  But for a few weeks, it was a fun, unexpected bonus.  No anime, though.

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November 04, 2014

Ben-To! Ep10

So we have come at last to the dreaded Ep10 of Ben-To!.  "Dreaded" because it reintroduces the show to the concept of "plot", and as we've learned in the past, Ben-To! is at its worst when it tries to be even vaguely serious.  Ep09, for all of its squicky moments, is an excellent example of what the series does right... namely, fanservice and goofy.  But I'm getting ahead of myself, I think.  No, I should let you experience the sad flailing attempts at legitimate scripting as it comes.  So let us do just that!  I welcome you to the episodic writeup for Ben-To! Ep10! 

It's a beautiful day in East Bento City: blue skies, school-sponsored video games, and a cheese-and-watercress sandwich.  Really, what more could one ask for in life?  Don't ask Shaga, she's too busy reading a manga as a East High club-approved activity.  Really.  When I was in high school, I was in radio club.  I mean, that was cool, don't get me wrong, but as cool as the gig Shaga's got running?  Not even in the same area code.  But this being Ben-To!, it's not like we're going to get an idyllic episode watching Shaga eat a samitch and Ms Fortune wearing a silly animal hat.  No, the production staff is too cruel for that.  What they give us instead is...

...the East student council President and Veep.  They've come to the NES Club to point out that a) they haven't submitted their monthly activity report, and 2) to ask Shaga just what the hell she thought she was doing visiting West High and wearing its uniform to boot.  Ooooh, continuity from Ep09, who would have thought?  Shaga waves it off, saying that she was meeting her cousin "...and the Witch."

Left (on the right) gets all excited about this, fangirling all over the possibility of tracking down the elusive Ice Witch but Kyou, the more logicial of the two, runs roughshod over her sister, in effect telling her to shut her yap.  Wouldn't want to give the Beauty of the Lake a reason to be suspicious or nothin'.  Finally, after chastising her one last time, Left and Kyou take their leave.  Shaga quickly fills out the activity sheet, Ms Fortune falls out the window and causes a major traffic accident, and then...

...Pointy Chinned Bishy makes a reappearance.  This can't be good.


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November 03, 2014

A Thin Ray Of Sunshine

As the assembled readers of my blog, fondly known as "The Pond Scum", know, it's been a less-than-stellar past three months around these parts.  Two weeks ago, things potentially took a turn for the horrible.  In Illinois, those of us who have been separated from our jobs in a manner that was less than mutually friendly are not, in fact, automatically eligible for Unemployment benefits.  I had to appeal for those benefits, go through a telephone hearing with the State, who approved them... y'see, the rules say that those who were let go had to be let go for "malicious intent" to not get benefits.

Which makes sense.  I mean, if someone is fired because they spent a few hours systematically mutilating mannequins with machetes, they deserve to be let go, right?  Right.  In any case, that's not why I was let go... I'm not going to get into those details here.  Anyway, the State adjudicator ruled in my favor and everything was fine, right?  Nope!  The Company also has the right to appeal, and they did... information of which made it to me two weeks ago.  I made arrangements to speak with a State-appointed attorney on Wednesday.  However, my cellphone was acting up, so I ran to The Old Home Pond to use their phone, make sure I could speak to them.

They agreed to take my case, and all was well, right?  Sure.  As I was leaving The Old Home Pond, I forgot that there was a broken step on the front porch.  They're wide concrete steps, and for whatever reason, I descended the stairs on the opposite side than I normally do... and hit the broken spot.  The result of this saw me face down in the shrubbery on the far side of the porch, scratched and nicked here and there... and my right leg in rather a lot of agony. 

See, the shrubbery is bordered by bricks inset into the ground about halfway... kinda like this... and my shin landed dead center on the end of one of them.  After extricating myself from the predicament, I rolled up my pants leg and saw that the wound was the shape and size of the end of a brick.  Nice.  It was bleeding, and swelling and discoloration occurred almost instantly.

Last week was the hearing for the company's Appeal, with Legal Judge and everything.  Also last week was a lot of discomfort as my leg healed and hurt and wow that's the strangest color ever.  I was told that we'd hear the results of the Appeal "next week," aka this week.  By the end of last week, however, I noticed that my entire lower leg, from the knees to the toes, was still swollen and a darkish red.  After Ph.Duck's wife, Chris (a nurse!) took a look at it, she thought it showed all the symptoms of something called cellulitis... indeed, the picture of the guy's leg on the page looks very similar to mine.  Not exactly though, as mine has lots of bruising involved still.  Anyway, Chris recommended I go see a doctor to get something more official regarding the leg.

So today I went to an emergency care place, and the doctor was pretty sure everything is fine, it's probably inflammation and swelling from the impact... indeed, the impact spot still has a big  knot on it, like there's half a tennis ball under the skin.  If it doesn't show signs of improvement over the coming days, I have a prescription for an antibiotic, but he doesn't think I'll need it.  With a less-dark feeling in my head, I made my way back to Pond Central, just in time for the mail to be delivered... and in there was a letter from the Unemployment folks.  I get to keep my benefits.   Go me.

Still, any sunshine right now is welcome.

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F1 on TV: Brazil 2014

No time to rest for the wicked!  The F1 Circus is heading south to São Paulo, Brazil, home of Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, the location of the 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil!  Let's take a look at the track map:

This is the time where I point out that I have a terrible hate for this circuit.  It's an irrational hate, one that makes no sense no matter how I look at it.  It's just one of those things, like if you get 50 people in a room, no matter how friendly they all are, it's likely two of them will be at each other's throats.  That's me and this track, which is better known as Interlagos.  Interlagos means "between the lakes", and my long-time joke is that it'd be better if it was known as "in the lake."  I really don't like this place.

And yet, they don't listen to me and the continue to schedule races there.  How rude is that?  I mean, sure, Brazilian fans (that's a lot of fans!) are possibly more rabid than the Italian tifosi... they just root for Ferrari, where Brazil loves the sport and all thing Ayrton Senna... but is that enough reason to keep coming back?  It is?  Oh.

Well, the Legendary Announce Team will be doing the whole coverage thing again, so that's good.  Here's the broadcast schedule...
Practice 2: 10a - 12n live on NBCSN
Quals: 10a - 1130a live on NBCSN
2014 Grand Prix of Brazil: 12n - 230p live on NBC

The penultimate race of the season... I should be excited.

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November 02, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: United States 2014

A beautiful day, the type you only get in the American West, greeted the F1 Rancheros as they brought their steers to market steeds to the lights.  As has become the norm, the two Mercedes drivers led the rest of the pack to the grid... which would get home first?  THIS is your Mini-F1Update! for the 2014 United States Grand Prix!

*LIGHTS OUT SAFETY CAR:  It wasn't really that fast, but close.  Roughly half-way around the first lap, the Force India of Sergio Perez bonked the rear of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, then did unspeakable things to the Sauber of Adrian Sutil.  While the Red Car was undamaged, Perez suffered a nose removal and suspension damage, and Sutil came to a halt sideways on the racing line.  Immediately a Safety Car was called out, one that lasted four laps as sweepers manned their brooms to clean up the immense amount of carbon fiber shards.

*BACK WE GO:  Once the safety car went away, Rosberg held the lead easily through the first round of pitstops.  Once the two Mercs were on fresh rubber, however, things changed.  For whatever reason, the new tires sat better on Hamilton's car.  He immediately began to whittle away at Rosberg's lead, passing him on Lap 24.  While his lead would never get much higher than three seconds, it also was never under any sort of threat, either  Hamilton would win the race by a couple of seconds over his teammate, opening his driver's championship lead to 24 points with 75 points available.

*IN OTHER NEWS:  Lotus' Pastor Maldonado earned his first point of the year today, bringing the team's total to nine.  Last year, they scored 315.  It's impossible to imagine any team having a more desperate season than that.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  4Time Vettel.  Starting from the pit lane due to an engine change, he wound up enduring four pit stops.  The last came with eight laps to go, and dropped him to 13th.  By the end of the race, the fresh rubber had allowed him to go insane, jumping up to 7th... and with one more lap, he may have caught HWMNBN for 6th.  Not too shabby, that.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  If I could find any other team to give it to, I would... but there isn't one, so Mercedes, here ya go.  Another 1-2 lockout, ho-hum.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE: Hamilton's pass of Rosberg on Lap 24.  Under normal rules, it would have almost guaranteed him his second world championship.  As it is, he's still in good shape, but one mechanical glitch could cost him everything... despite having won 10 races to Rosberg's four.


"Yeeeeeeee-hawwwww!  Get along, lil' dogies!" - Lewis Hamilton

"I don't know him." - Nico Rosberg

"Did you know that the Australian version of the 'cowboy' is a stockman?" - Daniel Ricciardo

"In Brazil, they're called 'gauchos'." - Felipe Massa

"Which is also the name of an album by Steely Dan.  Finland doesn't have cowboys, unless you count the ones that watch the reindeer herds." - Valterri Bottas

"The cowboy tradition originated in Spain, leading to the vaquero of Mexico." - HWMNBN

"There's a certain subset of Germany that's obsessed with the American Old West.  An author named Karl May who wrote dozens of German Westerns, despite never having visited America, is to blame." - 4Time Vettel

"The Jutland region of Denmark has a very 'Old West' feel to it, even today." - Kevin Magnussen

"Venezuela is nigh-on the birthplace of cowboys, except we call them llaneros." - Pastor Maldonado

"In France, we have gardians, who herd cattle in Provence." - Jules Vergne

Next weekend, we're in Brazil!  See ya then.

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November 01, 2014

F1 Quals: United States 2014

A surprisingly chilly day greeted the F1 cowpokes as they guided their steeds onto Austin, Texas' Circuit of the Americas in preparation for Sunday's US Grand Prix.  Which of 'em would be named sheriff, and which would be dangling from the end of a rope?  Let's take ourselves a look at the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.303 1:36.290 1:36.067
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.196 1:37.287 1:36.443
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:38.249 1:37.499 1:36.906
4 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:37.877 1:37.347 1:37.205
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:38.814 1:37.873 1:37.244
6 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:38.349 1:38.010 1:37.610
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.574 1:38.024 1:37.655
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.557 1:38.047 1:37.706
9 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:38.669 1:38.263 1:37.804
10 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.855 1:38.378 1:38.810
11 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault 1:38.608 1:38.467
12 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:39.200 1:38.554
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:38.931 1:38.598
14 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:38.936 1:38.699
15 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:39.250

16 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.555

17 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:39.621

18 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:39.679

If you ask the Legendary Announce Team, it's something of a miracle that Rosberg and Hamilton made it to Q3, let alone lock out the first row.  Both Merc drivers have been dealing with technical difficulties all weekend, the type that make engineers pull out their hair, mechanics lose sleep rebuilding entire cars to find a single mistinned lead, and drivers throw hissyfits while spilling their energy drinks.  Rosberg seemed to have a side-to-side brake balance problem, something that you almost never hear of in F1, while Hamilton was having shifter difficulties.  Both of these "miraculously" cleared up before Quals, which saw Hamilton make a teeny bobble in Q3 to give his teammate pole for Sunday's race.

Last year, 4Time Vettel won this race, with Lettuce Grosjean standing next to him on the podium.  Quite the difference a year can make.  Grosjean just has a miserable pile of scrap for a car, and Vettel, knowing that he has to start from the pitlane for using a completely new powerplant (his seventh, one beyond the limit), barely even tried.  The talk was, in fact, that he wouldn't even appear in Quals, until someone pointed out that put his ability to race in the hands of the Stewards (for not setting a time within 107% of the fastest time in Q1), officials who were already in a foul mood because of the loss of two teams.

Hail Adrian F'n Sutil for finally giving Sauber their first appearance in Q3 this season... and if that isn't a terrible proclamation, I don't know what is.   

Actually, I do know what is.  There's at least a chance that there will only be 12 cars taking the lights tomorrow.  To protest the incredible imbalance between the financial situations of the big teams and the smaller ones, Lotus, Sauber and Force India have been linked to a boycott of the race.  All three teams have been reported to be suffering financial difficulties, and to be fair, F1 is completely cocked up when it comes to the money situation.  For example, the 2013 payout was something like $900 million... and Ferrari got $100 million right off the top simply because they're Ferrari, over and above their prize winnings.  That right there is more than the annual budgets of either of the two teams missing this week, Marussia and Caterham.  Something does have to be done about this imbalance, and this threat is a good way to draw attention to the problem.  The three teams can absolutely kill any chance F1 has to get back into the US long-term (remember the 2005 debacle?), and what do they care?  As is, none of them will be around in two years, driven out by the manufacturers.

Someone from Lotus tweeted that they'll be racing, but team boss Gerard Lopez was quite angry at yesterday's team principal press conference, which makes for quite eye-opening reading.  Will they go through with the boycott?  Probably not, but we won't really know until the teams form up on the grid for the lights.

Tomorrow could prove to be quite interesting!  See ya then.

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October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

I live with ducks and lizards and other things that go bump in the night...

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October 29, 2014


For the love of god, could I please catch a break, just once?

This ends my frustrated complaining for the day.  Thank you for your attention, and we now return you to your regular blog.

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October 27, 2014

F1 on TV: United States 2014

After a couple of weeks, the F1 Circus has made its way from Sochi on the Black Sea to Austin deep in the heart of Texas.  Along the way, however, two of the teams have gotten lost... more on that later... but for now, we've got the United States Grand Prix!  Let's take a look at the track map.

The Circuit of the Americas has proven to be something of a mixed bag in the two previous races.  The drivers universally love the track, but the races themselves have been a bit less than special.  The circuit itself, much like the English language, has merrily stalked other tracks down back alleys and mugged them for the best bits.  The Turn 03 thru 06 Complex is highly similar to the "Esses" at Japan, for example.  The big arching turn of 16-18, unfortunately known as "Diabolica", is reminiscent of Turkey's Quad-8.  Turn 11 is almost-not-quite similar to Montreal's hairpin.  But then you get the parts that are All-American!  The uphill Turn 01, amusingly known as "Phil Hill", with its steep climb to a blind apex leading to a dropaway to the quick Turn 02, is like nothing else on the calendar.  The long back straight actually has a blind crest roughly where the DRS zone begins, and of course it isn't entirely straight.  The most difficult turn on the track is 19, a slippery, tight right-angled bend after the high speed Diabolica.  It's not easy to get whoa'd up to make the turn without killing a tire or going for a gallop out on the Pecos.  It's a enjoyable circuit, no doubt!  We've just not had good racing on it yet, but I know that's not universal.  A few weeks ago, the FIA World Endurance Championship held a race at CotA, a six hour affair marred by heavy rains, but it was still great.  There can be good racing here.  We just haven't seen it yet in F1.

The Legendary Announce Team is geared up and ready to go for their home race, with a special bonus for us to boot!  Here's the schedule:
1130a - 1p: Practice 1 live on NBCSN
2p - 4p: Practice 2 live on NBCSN
12n - 230p: Practice 3 and Quals live on NBC
130p - 4p: 2014 United States Grand Prix live on NBC

That's right, not only do we get all three practices, but P3 and Quals are going to be shown on the Mother Network itself, NBC!  This is undoubtedly because of the huge upswing in viewers/ratings, up 93% from last year, up 39% from Speed's final year in 2012, and the best ratings for F1 in the US since 2002.  Viewership is averaging over 375000 people per race, outstanding numbers considering F1's status in the US.

And in an interesting note, the Missing Man from the Legendary Announce Team, Bob Varsha, will be taking to the airwaves of Austin's "Fringe 105.3 FM" on Saturday and Sunday to provide live commentary during P3, Quals and the race itself.  Even better, it'll be streaming on Fringe FM Austin.  I may just check it out during P3.

And yet, while the sport is celebrating unprecedented success in this country, two teams have gone under in the past two weeks.  It's no surprise that Caterham went down... I predicted that Japan would be their last race... but they've officially gone into Administration.  Essentially the last step before bankruptcy, the court Administrators have taken the team assets and are trying to sell it off piecemeal to pay back creditors.  If that fails, then bankruptcy happens.  What did come as a surprise is that Marussia has joined them in Administration.  Neither team will appear at the USGP, though it's not impossible that they might make it to Abu Dhabi.  Marussia in particular has reason to make that final race, as they are currently 9th in the Constructor's Championship, and only six points behind Lotus for 8th.  With double points on the table for that last tilt, there's a substantial amount of prize money available... rumored at thirty million dollars or more.  Except nobody knows if they're eligible for it anymore now that they've gone into receivership.  Oh, I'm sure the FIA does, and the team itself, but the rules are so opaque that they could be taken any way you want to take them.

So there'll be 18 cars on the grid, the smallest number since... um... the 2005 USGP, when six cars took the lights.  Quals should be pretty interesting is all I've gotta say!

It should go without saying that the F1Update! team will be all over this weekend... see ya then!

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October 25, 2014

Gripes and Grumps: Arpeggio of Blue Steel

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova is a series that ran at the end of 2013.  Produced by Studio Sanzigen, it was that company's first full series after having done 3-D work on a couple of others previously.  I watched the first couple of episodes when it was airing, but let it go at the time as it never grabbed me.  On the surface, this is ridiculous... the show may as well have been designed for me.  I mean, here's the plot:

In the near future, fleets of sentient warships that model themselves after WWII-era ships appear out of nowhere.  Armed with technologically advanced weaponry and defenses, they sweep the seas of terrestrial vessels.  The Fleet of Fog (FoF), as it's known, goes on and blockades all nations and shuts down communications between them.  Humanity has one trump card: the I-401, a FoF submarine that is commanded by Chihaya Gunzo, a JMSDF student who wants to change the world.


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