November 24, 2015

Visual Novel Review: Go! Go! Nippon!

I'm not what I'd call a "gamer" by any stretch of the imagination.  Make no mistake, I do play computer games, sure, but I'm not one of those hardcore creatures who eat and sleep videogames all the time.  We have a few of those at work actually, and they're great fun to talk to.  They accept me as one of their own, ever since I recognized Vault-Boy on one of their cellphone's lock screen.  I haven't been able to talk to them recently though, as the three of them are playing Fallout 4 like they'll die if they don't... and talking about spoilers.  As I've managed to avoid all details of the game except those given in the first Official Trailer, their conversations tend to send me screaming from the break room.  I have a feeling that I'll get into the game the same way I did Skyrim or Fallout 3 once I obtain a copy, though.  But I'm not a heavy-duty gamer.  One particular type of game that I've never really gotten into is the Visual Novel, though I've played a few.  If you've never played a Visual Novel, understand that it's not a "game" the way, say, Mass Effect or Portal or Pong are games. Most of the time, you're just reading words on the screen much the way you read a book. Upon occasion, you have the ability to influence the course of the story by making a decision ("Go to sleep" or "Go out and party"; "Invade Russia" or "Invade Britain"... that sort of thing).  For the most part, VNs are distinctly Japanese, and some very good anime series have been made from them.  Kanon, for example, was first a VN... I tried to play it, but I got a nasty virus from the copy I obtained.  I did manage to play some of Clannad, but never came close to finishing.  On the whole, in fact, the few VNs I've played, I've given up on long before I completed the storyline/s.  Ironically, the two that I have finished weren't actually Japanese!  Katawa Shoujo was made by a volunteer group from all over, and Sakura Spirit by an American company; both were written in English.  Which brings us to the subject of this review.

Go! Go! Nippon! (GGN) was released in 2011 by Overdrive, a Japanese company.  Unlike pretty much every VN ever, it was developed exclusively for the overseas audience... English speakers, primarily.  Shortly after I was disassociated with my position at the Duck U Bookstore, I stumbled across a promo video for GGN on Steam.  Amused, I put it in my Steam Wish List for later perusal... and then it went on sale last Thanksgiving.  Five dollars later, it was in my library.  I enjoyed it, but it was short... five hours got me through the entire thing.  Eh, fair enough.  I then put it aside and never touched it again.  Until recently, that is.  Y'see, about a month ago Overdrive released what they called DLC for the game.  In reality, it was an almost complete rework of GGN.  As it, too, was only a few bucks, I bought it.  So what's it all about?


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November 23, 2015

F1 on TV: Abu Dhabi 2015

And so we come, not to the end of the beginning, nor the beginning of the end, but just, simply, the end.  The final race of the 2015 Formula 1 season.  A season which started eight months ago in Melbourne.  Along the way, we've seen one of the less-interesting seasons of racing in recent history.  So what does this finishing contest promise?  Let's take a look at the track map for the 2015 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.

We've been here plenty of times before, and pretty much what we've learned is that this is a awful track to race on.  Fun to drive, yes, but to contest position?  There's one good place to pass, Turn 8/9, with Turns 5-7 being somewhat less swell.  Remember, this is the circuit where they thought it would be a good idea to have the pit exit run underneath the track.  I suspect it's merely luck that we haven't seen that idea backfire horribly.

So what's the point of this race?  Well, Valterri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen in a fight for fourth place in the driver's championship, one point separating them.  Lotus leads Toro Rosso by nine points for sixth in the constructor's championship.  And... um... that's about it, really.  Most teams will probably be using Abu Dhabi as an extended test session... remember, the 2016 season is only four months away!


The Legendary Announce Team has the coverage, as usual.  Here's the schedule:
Practice 2:  7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Quals:  7a - 830a live on CNBC
2015 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi:  6a - 9a live on NBCSN

We'll be along afterwards, of course, with the usual F1Update!.  Join us, won't you?

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November 21, 2015

Moses Supposes?

Erroneously?  Magnificently!

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November 19, 2015

Stagnant? Moi?

Not intentionally... at least, not since that last post.  My internet connection has been completely down since very early Wednesday morning.

This is very very annoying.  It's not like I need help in not blogging, after all.  The connection has been up for only a short time... my modem fired up as I was looking at it, in fact... but I have no confidence in it staying up, so I thought I'd better get a notification posted.  And when I clicked to finalize this post? The internet had gone down again.  Guess I was right.  Wow, five minutes of internet in over a day.  Considering this provider's track record at times, I guess I should count myself lucky.

On the other hand, I managed to watch a few episodes of Sakura Trick, which I was told was really really good.  I will never take this person's word for something ever again.  However!  Attention Steven!  The character in the picture above normally wears red quarter-rimmed glasses!  Even BETTER than half-rimmed!  If you wanna see, check out Ep03 and beyond.

Just... don't pay attention to the show.  Or be at risk of diabetes, and by "at risk" I mean "you once ate or drank something that had some sort of sweetener in it."  And if you actually have diabetes, avoid Sakura Trick like the plague.  Dear god, this series will kill you dead.

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November 17, 2015

Random Anime Picture #105: Such A Day

-Hibike! Euphonium Special, Ep05

Frustration abounds.  I can't get a grip on blogging for length right now for whatever reason, despite having two projects I want... need... to finish.  Meanwhile, it feels like The Pond is stagnant, like a tiny Minnesota lake filled with muddy water and ice fishing equipment. 

I hate this.

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November 15, 2015

F1 Update: Brazil 2015

Here's what sort of race we had today from São Paulo: we spent the entirety looking at the sky, praying the distant clouds would make their way over the circuit and drop just a little bit of rain.  Anything.  Please.  We beg you.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Brazil!

We watched the race live.  We've read a bunch of post-race reaction.  We even went back and watched the 15 or so laps we missed when we dozed off (the F1U! team slept neither long nor well last night; by the time the 10am start came around, we'd already been up for four hours and were running on a similar amount of sleep).  We cannot come to any other conclusion but this: the 2015 Grand Prix of Brazil was a dud.  The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg led wire to wire except during the pit rotation, and even then he was out of the lead for a total of two laps.  Teammate Lewis Hamilton had nothing for the polesitter, unable to mount a substantial challenge at any time.  This includes the start, where Rosberg simply got off the line better and faster and held a gap into the first turn... no pushing and shoving beween teammates this time around!  The closest we came to a Hamilton challenge to Rosberg's dominance was late in the race.  The reigning Champion cut the lead down as close as 1.3 seconds with something like 10 laps to go.  It was a false image however, as Hamilton had to light his rear tires on fire to accomplish it.  He wound up nearly eight seconds back when the race finished.

Which put paid to the so-called storyline of the race.  In the runup to Brazil, the F1 press was full of Hamilton's desire to win at Interlagos, home of his hero Ayrton Senna.  He's never won in Brazil, though it's the home of arguably his greatest moment, his first world championship.  On and on they went about Hamilton wanting THIS victory.  And he didn't get it.  And nobody really is surprised by this.  Hamilton is a great driver, maybe the best on the grid right now, but he's not so much better that he can will himself to win.  When Hamilton is behind Rosberg, he needs his German teammate to make a mistake.  Sometimes Lewis can force that mistake, often he can't.  This isn't a knock on Hamilton, nor praise for Rosberg.  It's just an observation.  Today, Rosberg didn't make a mistake that Hamilton could exploit.

Rosberg's victory also locked up second place in the driver's championship for him.  Seb Vettel, who finished third in the race, had very little room for error today.  He was 21 points behind his countryman, but with only 50 points left available he had to make sure he kept that gap from growing.  The Mercs were too good today, however, and he should be commended for only being 14 seconds behind Rosberg at the end.  His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen finished in fourth, and how dominant the Mercedes were should be evident by the information that he was the last driver on the lead lap.  That's right, the silver cars lapped the field up to Valterri Bottas's Williams in 5th today.

We also saw the Constructor's Championship pretty much finished up to 5th place today as well.  Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull and Force India are locked in, and how amazing is it that Williams is in third?  Two years ago, they had a grand total of five points, good for 9th place in the constructor's championship.  It's great that the second most successful team in F1 history is back... now if only they could challenge for wins.

If it sounds like we're struggling to find things to talk about regarding the 2015 Grand Prix of Brazil, it's because we are.  This wasn't just a bad race, it was a boring race.  Particularly when compared to the two that came before it, Mexico and the US.  Hopefully the finale in Abu Dhabi will be better, but we have our doubts.  And then the season will, mercifully, be over.

We'll see you in two weeks!

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November 14, 2015

F1 Quals: Brazil 2015

Decent weather at Interlagos today, more's the pity, but the track is still naturally slippery.  So what's the grid like for Sunday's race?  Take a look:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:11.746 1:12.213 1:11.282
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:11.682 1:11.665 1:11.360
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:12.240 1:11.928 1:11.804
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:12.934 1:12.374 1:12.085
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:12.185 1:12.243 1:12.144
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:12.595 1:12.485 1:12.265
7 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:12.730 1:12.527 1:12.322
8 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:12.980 1:12.858 1:12.415
9 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:12.639 1:12.825 1:12.417
10 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:12.824 1:12.712 1:12.739
11 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:13.111 1:12.989
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:13.267 1:13.045
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:13.140 1:13.147
14 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:13.346 1:13.233
15 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:13.056 1:13.913
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:13.385

17 Jenson Button McLaren 1:13.425

18 American Rossi Marussia 1:16.151

19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:16.283

NC Fernando Alonso McLaren No Time

Not much to say about this, really.  Rosberg has taken his fifth consecutive pole, Alonso's McLaren died on track with yet another bum engine.

And the president of the FIA, Jean Todt, didn't so much step on a landmine as jump up and down on a landmine when he said to French TV station Canal+ "do you realise that the number of people killed in road accidents is by far bigger than the number of people who died in Paris yesterday?"  I understand he took the opportunity to promote the FIA's road safety program, but that was not the time.

Jean Todt is French, by the way, and the FIA's headquarters are in Paris.  Just saying.

Race in the morning. 

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November 12, 2015

Please Consider This A Teaser

Uh... huh

Just a little something I picked up via Steam a few weeks ago... well, actually, it's the new extended version of something I picked up on Steam back when I booted from the bookstore.  Since it was selling for less than the cost of a couple of Chicago Style hot dogs (hold the peppers and cucumber slices, please!) and fries, I figured what the hell. 

In a lot of ways, that's still my reaction, though it's more like "what the hell?!?" now.  We'll see when I'm done and get it written up. 

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November 10, 2015

F1 on TV: Brazil 2015

The fact of the matter is that I hate Interlagos, the site of the 2015 Grand Prix of Brazil.  I always have, and though I know it's an irrational hate, I probably always will.  Even though the circuit has been upgraded to fix the ridiculous pit-in that nobody paid attention to and therefore it always looked like they were going to pile into the wall of the pit lane at 200mph, the memories remain.  Here's the track map for the place:

Really, I'm just about the only F1 fan out there who doesn't like Interlagos.  The drivers adore the place (except for the occasional attempt at armed robbery), the Brazilian fans (that's a lot of fans!) are both well-versed in the sport and insane, and it's uncommon to have a poor race.  Even the part that I used to hate the very most, that it was the last race of the season, has changed, with that title now in the oil-stained hands of Abu Dhabi.  So why, exactly, do I still hate Interlagos?

Because I'm a stubborn mule of a lifeform that refuses to allow such things as logic to get in the way of my peccadilloes when it comes to F1.  Enough of this place, I hope the two manmade lakes that give the place its name overflow their banks and flood the whole kit 'n' kaboodle.  Safely, of course.

Despite my loathing of the place, the Legendary Announce Team (which does not, in fact, respond to my every whim, unlikely as that seems) will be doing their usual outstanding job at coverage.  Here's the schedule for the broadcast weekend:
Practice 2: 10a - 1130a live on NBCSN
Quals: 10a - 1130a live on CNBC
2015 Grand Prix of Brazil: 930a - 12n on NBCSN

This actually surprises me somewhat; even though they've done four races on NBC already, for whatever reason I thought Brazil would be on the Mother Network.  Wow, look at me, I'm wrong, perhaps for the first time this post.  Anyway, that's it.  I've given enough of my attention to this... place... for one day.  Of course, I'll force myself to cover Quals and the race this weekend, so I don't get to escape completely!  See ya then!!!

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November 08, 2015

The Four Faces Of Kei 'n' Yuri

In the comments of the last post, friend Ben asks what anime series I'd like to see get remade due to age or quality.  While I didn't type my answer immediately, the second I saw the question I knew how I'd be replying: The Dirty Pair.  If not the actual first "girls with guns" series, Dirty Pair was certainly the first to be hugely popular.  The adventures of Kei and Yuri have been around for nearly 40 years, and I've been a fan since sometime in the '90s.  Light novels, one 26 episode TV series, three movies, two completely different OVA series, and even US comic books cover most of the source material of these great characters.  Along the way, only two things have stayed more or less constant with the visual designs: Kei has red hair and Yuri dark hair, and the two are female.  Obviously one of the most important aspects of a remake of such a legendary franchise would be the updated character design.  With any luck, the production company involved would pay attention to what had come before.  With that in mind, let's take a look at the evolution of the best known 3WA Trouble Consultants, shall we?

Mughi changed, too!


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November 06, 2015

I... Uh... Hm. Well.

Frighteningly accurate representation of Wonderduck blogging these days
Blogging is not happening.  I'm trying, but nothing's happening.  Sure, I've got things to write about, Gakkou Gurashi Ep06 first and foremost, but everytime I sit and begin to type, it all comes out... boring.  Dull.  Insipid.  Uninteresting.  How in the world do you make the zombie apocalypse boring?  I dunno, but I'm managing to pull it off!  So I'm not going to blog tonight.  Do you have anything you'd like to hear me pontificate upon?  Or, conversely, not talk about because you don't want it ruined by a boring blogger?  Let me know in the comments... or don't, if you think that's a safer option.

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November 04, 2015

Random Anime Picture #104: A Different Gate

-GATE, Ep03
There's an awful lot to like about last season's GATE... I mean, who doesn't like the idea of fighting dragons with attack helicopters, or taking on an army of orcs with a swath of .50cal machineguns?... but to my mind Rory Mercury, demigod and Oracle of Death, heads the list.

Just don't get on her bad side.  Or be nearby when she gets hungry.

I want a crossover with Rio: Rainbow Gate! now... call it Rio: Rainbow GATE.  Oh, the joy I would feel seeing Rory Mercury let loose on Casino Island, or the JSDF shooting down Sky Resort with a few F-4 Phantoms.  This needs to happen.

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November 02, 2015

F1 Update: Mexico 2015

Here's the thing: we here at F1U! don't particularly want to do our usual update.  Instead, what we're going to do is something a little more free-form, step aside from our usual bullet point format with generalized info about the race as a whole.  We've realized that unless we're going to write 2500 words, there are plenty of better places to get lap-by-lap coverage.  We digress, however... THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Mexico!

We had another Mercedes 1-2, with Nico Rosberg beating his teammate Lewis Hamilton (who did, of course, win the Driver's Championship at the US Grand Prix) rather handily.  Williams' Valterri Bottas took the third step on the podium, followed by the Red Bulls of Kid Kyvat and Daniel Ricciardo.  For the first time since 2006 neither Ferrari finished the race, and more about Seb Vettel's day later.  However, on the whole the race was something of a disappointment.  After Friday and Saturday's sessions, we were expecting to see cars slithering around like "grip" was a four-letter word.  Which it is, but not that sort of four-letter word.  Tails stepping out, slow speed spins, that sort of thing.  Instead, we got very little of that.  The reason for that is fairly obvious: the sun was out and the track surface was some 30°F warmer than it had been on Friday and Saturday.  Warm pavement equals warm tires which means more grip... apparently just enough to keep cars glued to the surface.  As a result, the race ended up much like any other, though the high altitude did limit the usefulness of the DRS.  We saw very few DRS-related passes down the 1.2km long front straight... when you're already down 20% on drag due to a lack of air in the air, losing a bit more doesn't make that much of a difference.

One thing that didn't disappoint were the 115000 Mexican fans that showed up.  From cheering insanely whenever Sergio Perez did anything (and practically having orgasms when he executed a pass at the above turn!) to chanting "Nico Nico Nico Ole Ole Ole!" just before the podium ceremony, they put on a show that was at least as entertaining as the race itself.  It's no stretch to say that, at least for one race, the lunatic fans at Monza were given a run for their money.  If they're always going to act this way, we here at F1U! don't care if the race is humdrum... the fans were incredible.

"Incredible" would be a good way to describe Seb Vettel's day.  Filled with confidence that his Ferrari would be able to hang with the Mercedes, he had a less-than-stellar getaway from the start, was passed by Kid Kvyat almost instantly, then had a run-in with the other Red Bull that resulted in a punctured rear tire.  It took only a short distance for the tire to fail completely, forcing him to finish the rest of the lap at a walking pace.  Once the tire was replaced, he set his cap to make up for the delay.  For a while, all looked fine.  Soon enough it became obvious that the three-time Driver's Champion wasn't so much driving his car as he was over-driving it.  An unforced spin that luckily ended without hitting anything brought frustrated radio calls.  A pitstop that saw the Ferrari put onto the medium tires instead of soft brought another hail of radioed complaints.  Things got so bad that he was lapped by Rosberg and he impeded Hamilton enough for blue flags to be thrown in his direction.  The pit wall had to get involved, telling him to let the Mercedes by... to which he replied "I'm faster than him!"  While perhaps true, he was still a lap down.  His miserable race came to an end some 20 laps early, embedded in the wall on the outside of Turn 7.  He escaped injury, but the Ferrari was toast.  So, too, are his hopes for second in the driver's championship as it was his chief rival who won the race.

Finally, Lewis Hamilton seemed to be in something of a complaining mood during the race.  From disobeying an order to come into the pits for new tires to disagreeing with tire choice, he certainly seemed to be feeling his oats as a new repeat champion.  Or perhaps he realized that he wouldn't be able to pass his teammate on track so trying a very long one-stop strategy was his best shot.  As it was, the team thought his his tires were being worn to the fabric backing, but that wasn't good enough for Hamilton.  "I still think this was the wrong choice," was the call to the pit wall after the tire change in question.  Understandably, the pit wall's response was brusque: "We can discuss it later."  It's almost like he doesn't trust his team...?

The penultimate race of the season is in two weeks at Brazil.  We'll see you then!

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November 01, 2015

F1U! Mexico Delayed Because Of Idiot

After the race, I took a nap.  The race ended around 3pm, and I went to sleep around 6pm-ish.

It's almost midnight.  I only just now woke up.  I'm an idiot.

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October 31, 2015

F1 Quals: Mexico 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, we have one helluva circuit here in Mexico City.  This is a beast, and a lot of that is due to altitude.  Mexico City is over 7300 feet above sea level, meaning there's about 20% less air up there.  Less air means less drag on a F1 car, as seen by the Williams of Felipe Massa tripping the speed trap's sensors at 226.2mph during Q1 today.  Please note that the fastest a F1 car has gone during a race was 233mph at Monza, and that during the V10 era when engines were routinely putting out 1000hp.  However, there is a drawback as well.  20% less air also means less downforce, meaning less grip.  As a result, combined with a track that only completed having its asphalt laid a few weeks ago, cars are driving like they're on ice.  F1ast and F1urious: Mexico Drift!  We're seeing low-speed spins like the drivers have never touched a car before, high-speed spins that look like the cars have become frisbees, just less aerodynamic.  Paradoxically, the teams are all running Monaco-style front and rear wings, gigantic barn door-sized things in an attempt to claw back some of the missing downforce.  All this slipping and sliding is playing hob with the tires.  We've seen some gigantic lockups and the resulting epic flatspots over the past few days.  Oh, by the way, less air also means less cooling.  Nico Rosberg had a brake fire in Practice on Friday because there wasn't enough air getting into the brake ducts.  Kimi Raikkonen had what looked to be an engine fire during Practice 3 today, probably from overheating.  Some of this will be mitigated by all the rubber being laid down over the weekend (F1 tires love nothing more than to grip onto F1 tire rubber... if they made a track surface out of F1 tire rubber, we'd see driver's heads being torn off by the G forces), but did I mention that it's supposed to rain Sunday afternoon? 

With that daunting prospect in mind, let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Mexico:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:20.436 1:20.053 1:19.480
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.808 1:19.829 1:19.668
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:20.503 1:20.045 1:19.850
4 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:20.826 1:20.490 1:20.398
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:21.166 1:20.783 1:20.399
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:20.817 1:20.458 1:20.448
7 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:21.379 1:20.642 1:20.567
8 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:20.995 1:20.894 1:20.710
9 Casachico Perez Force India 1:20.966 1:20.669 1:20.716
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:21.315 1:20.935 1:20.788
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:20.960 1:20.942
12 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:21.577 1:21.038
13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:21.520 1:21.261
14 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:21.299 1:21.544
15 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:21.422 1:22.494
16 HWIOAKAFernando Alonso McLaren 1:21.779

17 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:21.788

18 American Rossi Marussia 1:24.136

19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:24.386

Note: Jenson Button suffered a technical fault before Quals and did not appear in qualifying.  He therefore races at the whims of the stewards. 

Nothing too out of the ordinary, save for Raikkonen being 15th; on top of his engine fire earlier, in Q2 he had brake problems.  This is the fourth pole in a row for Rosberg, fat lot of good it's done him.  It was quite the fight between the two Merc drivers... Hamilton would throw down a time, Rosberg would better it, Hamilton would improve it, then Rosberg would go even faster.  Pretty fun stuff.  Throw in the upcoming rain, and Sunday's race is looking pretty darn great.

In other news from the weekend, American team HaasF1 named their second driver on Friday.  Partnering Lettuce Grosjean will be current Ferrari test driver (and former Sauber race driver racer) Esteban!  Not a bad choice, though hardly an inspired one, and probably "forced" upon them as part of the team's engine/technical deal with the team from Maranello.  Fair trade, I think.

Also, if you're a fan of Force India, enjoy these last three races as much as you can because in 2016 they're going to have a different name.  Vijay Mallya has reached a partnership that will see the team rebranded as Aston Martin, the legendary British car maker.  It's a pity... while I haven't rooted for a team since Minardi and SuperAguri left the grid, Force India came the closest.  And while I'd kill to see a F1 car in this livery:'s not going to happen.  A pity, as the Gulf Orange and Powder Blue scheme is, to me at least, the "Warbonnet" of auto racing.  On the other hand, having a title sponsor like Aston Martin might provide them the funding to take that step from midpack to racewinner.  Only time will tell, but it won't happen as Force India, mores the pity.

Remember, the race is on NBC at a decent time for the US... here's your chance to see a "debut" track in front of a flat-out ridiculously enthusiastic Mexican crowd.  The noise when they see Mexico City's very own Sergio Perez needs to be heard to be believed.  F1U! will be along sometime afterwards... see ya then!

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October 29, 2015

You Know What I Miss?

Feeling like I'm part of a team, of something larger than just myself.  That's what I miss.  Sure, we have our little soirees at work, the bi-monthly awards thingies or the lunches or whatever, and those are nice.  They can't change the fact that each of us claims processors are not only working alone, but we're really working against the others.  Every claim that Abbie, Bob or Chris does is one that Dave, Ernie, Frank or Wonderduck can't do... and there's only a finite numbers of claims out there.  It's not adversarial, it's just the way things are.

And it's a far sight from what it was like at the Bookstore, that's for sure.  If I had a problem, I could call on any of the other 20-odd managers in the region, plus another dozen or so that I knew from training classes or national meetings, based anywhere from San Francisco to Roanoke, Houston to Fredericton (that's Canada, y'all!), and I knew they'd help to the best of their ability.  I don't really miss the job, but I do miss that camaraderie. 

I also miss feeling like I was accomplishing something here at The Pond.  I'm not, and I don't think I have for a while.  I'm sorry about that.

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October 28, 2015

Well, THAT Was Unexpected... In A GOOD Way.

I've had my current cellphone for about four years, and it does everything I need it for.  It makes calls (I assume it receives as well, but it's been a while since anybody has actually called me), it both sends AND receives texts, it's my primary alarm clock, so on and so forth.  It's never more than six feet from me, and usually a lot closer... both because it's my ONLY phone (haven't had a land-line in a looooooong time) and because if something happens with my ticker (and, by the way, I had the 10 year anniversary of my Cardiac Event this past Sunday), having it close at hand might save my life.

So you can imagine how I felt when I left work on Tuesday and... the touchscreen didn't work.  It worked perfectly fine when I turned it off going IN to the office, but... well.  Not having a working touchscreen is something of a drawback on a touchscreen-based phone.  Oh, I eventually figured out a way to make a phonecall, involving the physical keyboard, the "phone" button on the frontplate, and a weird combination of opening and closing the slideybit, but I couldn't hang up when the call was over.  I also couldn't answer the phone ha-ha-ha, nor could I send texts.  Indeed, anything that needed the screen was no longer functional.  This was bad, as I had reset my alarm for a one-time only thing and couldn't reset it for the right time to wake me up for work.  Fortunately, my actual alarm clock, now closing in on 30 years old, still works... barely.

After work let out today, I set sail for my carrier's standalone store.  I had gotten the replacement insurance on the thing, so I assumed I'd be forced to upgrade to a so-called smartphone... there's no way they'd still have a four or five year old phone in stock.  As it turned out, I was right: they didn't have the phone anymore.  What they did have, though, was a brand new touchscreen!  After about a half-hour of techguy maneuvering little bits and pieces of the phone hither and yon, he called me over and said "it works great!"  Sure enough, it works like a charm.  Yes, the new frontpiece is purple, not blue, but I'll cope... when I first got the phone, I wanted purple anyway; they were out of stock. 

The best part however was that techguy laughed at my wallpaper (seen here to the left) when he turned the phone on.  And not a "that's stupid, ha-ha-ha loser" laugh, but an actual "I'm amused" laugh.  Which was nice.

Kids these days must have common experience with anime.  Either that or he's seen so many stupid/shocking/horrifying wallpapers over the years that he's stopped caring.  One of the two.

I'm not prepared to say which one.

But it doesn't matter, because my phone works again, at least for a while longer.  I'll take it for as long as it lasts.  It's a GOOD phone.  I'm used to it, and it at least tolerates me.  What more could you ask for?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 04:05 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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October 27, 2015

F1 on TV: Mexico 2015

Señors y señoras, hola!  Bienvenido a El Estanque!  That's pretty much used up my supply of Spanish, but it hopefully got you in the mood for this week's race, the "debut" of the Grand Prix of Mexico at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.  I put debut in quotes since there's been plenty of GPs of Mexico in the past, but it's been a while and never on this version of the track.  Let's take a look at the map, shall we?

A laps of the 2.76 mile-long circuit is expected to take around 75 seconds.  Alas, said lap won't be ending in the classic Peraltada corner, a massively fast 180° arc that used to run from Turn 12 to what is now Turn 16... Turn 17 is roughly half of it, though the banking is gone.  Instead, the layout now runs through a baseball stadium... on the aerial maps I've seen, it looks like Turn 12 enters the stadium somewhere near the right-field corner, and Turn 16 exits it somewhere up the third base line, but short of third base itself, through a gap in the stands.  It's hard to tell, as there is no outfield wall, and clearly the infield can be picked up.

That front straight is no slouch, by the way... indeed, at 1.2km, it becomes one of the longest on the F1 calendar.  That should make for some interesting pileups on the first lap.  We don't really know anything about how it'll race, per se, since F1 hasn't been there in 20 years or so.  Should be fast though, and my guess is about USGP level of tire wear.  That could be really wrong, however, so don't hold it against me if it turns out differently.  Definitely give me credit if I'm right, because I'm just that sort of duck.

The Tres Amigos plus Will Buxton will be providing their usual commentary, but NOT at the usual time and days.  Let's take a look:
Quals:  1p - 230p  live on CNBC
Grand Prix of Mexico:  1230p - 330p live on NBC

Yup, there's no mistype there: we're not getting coverage of Friday Practice except online.  For that matter, the coverage won't be on NBCSN, either!  How passing strange is this?

Well, we'll watch what's being shown... and we'll see you afterwards, yes?  Yes?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 06:19 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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October 25, 2015

F1 Update: United States 2015

The sky was grey and heavy as the Thundering Herd was led to the Circuit of the Americas' grid by polesitter Nico Rosberg.  If you tilted your head and squinted, you could almost believe it wasn't raining, the first time that had happened this race weekend since early in Friday Practice 1.  The track was still wet however, and the field was on Inters and glad for it.  Would it rain some more?  Would it ever dry out?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 United States Grand Prix!

*TURN 1:  The first turn of any F1 race is usually exciting as 20 cars try to file through a space made for two or three.  When something goes pear-shaped in the midpack, it accordions back through the field like a train derailing.  The one track where this should never occur is the Circuit of the Americas, where Turn 1 looks wide enough to fit the entire field through wheel to wheel.  Except when something intentional occurs.  At the start, polesitter Nico Rosberg was on the outside, nominally the racing line, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton right alongside, and it stayed that way as they ran up to the first turn.  Except Hamilton closed up next to Rosberg and kinda didn't bother to turn all that much, pushing his German teammate to the limits of the track.  At this point, Rosberg had a choice: fight back, possibly damaging both cars but more likely making Hamilton back down, or give up and surrender first place to Hamilton.  He gave up, allowing himself to be shoved into the runoff area and dropping down to fifth place.  At this point, the Legendary Announce Team had something of a disappointing moment, as they made it sound like they believed that Hamilton had lost control, when anybody with a set of eyes could see it was totally intentional.  We here at F1U! rolled our collective eyes and expected to see Hamilton gallop off into the distance, never to be seen again.  Behind the frontrunners, five cars were involved in incidents resulting in debris scattered around the outside of the first turn

*ABOUT THAT GALLOPING:  Did you know this was the first wet race we've had this season?  It was.  Which means this was the first time these cars had any real race time on the Intermediate tires, and we discovered something very interesting.  The Red Bull chassis is very good indeed on Intermediate tires, and the Mercedes... isn't.  Instead of running away and hiding, Hamilton instead found himself in an actual race, with Kid Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo right behind him, and Rosberg not far in arrears in fourth.  A Virtual Safety Car for the Turn 1 debris locked the field for a couple of laps, but the ending of the period saw Rosberg either be incredibly opportunistic (if you're a charitable sort) or a filthy cheater (if you have eyes), jumping past both Red Bulls at the restart.  He was actually alongside Ricciardo when it ended, and he made short work of Kvyat using the momentum from that move.

*CHARGING RED BULL:  On Lap 12, Ricciardo tried twice to get past Rosberg for second.  The first attempt saw him go too deep into Turn 1.  At Turn 2, though, he caught the Merc and set his sights on the lead.  Suddenly, the F1U! crowd actually started to be interested.  A few laps later, for what we believe was the first time this season, someone made an actual and real pass for the lead in a Formula 1 race when Ricciardo got past Hamilton.  It took only a few more laps for Rosberg to dispatch his teammate, who was complaining about his "worn inters."  Then, crucially, Hamilton pitted... for slick tires.

*THAT'S A FIRST: Valterri Bottas and Lettuce Grosjean had shifted to the soft slicks back around Lap 5, and they didn't work... it was still way too wet.  But when Hamilton stopped on Lap 18, the time had come and the other teams knew it. By Lap 20, the entire top 10 had stopped and put on the running shoes, and for the first time this race weekend, we saw F1 cars that were able to stretch their legs.  And by Lap 26, it was Rosberg leading Hamilton... Mercs in front, as usual.  It stayed that way until Lap 36.

*ENDGAME:  On Lap 36, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg got a little over-excited at being in passing position on Ricciardo and stuck his nose where it didn't belong.  One broken suspension later, and we had another Virtual Safety Car period while the recovery vehicles dragged the stricken Force India away.  Rosberg, Kvyat and Ricciardo stopped for new tires, promoting Hamilton into the lead and Ferrari's Seb Vettel to second.

*INTERLUDE: If Hamilton won, Vettel had to finish in second place to keep the driver's championship contest open until Mexico.  Rosberg's only chance was to win.  After the pitting, Hamilton led Vettel, Embryo Verstappen, Rosberg.

*RESTART / RESTOP:  On Lap 40, the racing re-began... and again Rosberg quickly dispatched the driver in front of him, blowing past Verstappen and setting his sights on Vettel.  A couple of laps later, the deed was done and Vettel was in third.  And then the critical moment of the race occurred, when Kvyat lost his car and smacked hard into the steel barriers.  As the incident happened in an awkward location, Berndt Maylander was summoned and a real Safety Car period began.  Now instead of pitting under green, Hamilton and Vettel got to pit under yellow flags.  Returning to the track after their stop, Rosberg led Hamilton and Vettel.  The restart occurred on Lap 46.

*END:  We looked to have a fantastic 10 lap sprint to the finish.  Instead, Rosberg blew a turn just enough to let Hamilton by for the lead... and on his fresh tires, there was no way anyody was going to haul him back in.  Rosberg barely managed to keep Vettel behind him to keep third place... and hand Lewis Hamilton his second consecutive World Driver's Championship, and his third overall.  It was still the best race of the 2015 season by a very long shot.  A wet track makes everything better.

*HAT DRAMA:  Afterwards, Rosberg sat dejectedly in the "podium room," where the top three finishers get to relax for a few minutes before heading out for the podium ceremonies.  Hamilton was there as well, of course, still pumped up on victory emotion.  After getting a hug from Paddy Lowe, the Merc tech director, Lewis grabbed his 1st place ballcap, lobbed the 2nd place cap to Rosberg, and handed the 3rd place cap to Vettel.  However, Rosberg wasn't paying attention, being (understandably) too wrapped up in his own emotions... and this happened.  When they moved out to the podium, Rosberg was booed by the crowd.  We here at F1U! think that Rosberg should have clocked Hamilton upside the head with the cap... we understand Hamilton was high on his victory, but we also think that Lewis was an insensitive berk, too.  Still, congratulations must be given to Hamilton on his third World Driver's Championship... he's moved into very rare company by doing that.

Next week we see the debut of the new circuit in Mexico City!  See you then!!!

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F1 Quals: United States 2015 Liveblog

Welcome to Sunday morning!  We don't do this very often, but the crappy weather the past coupel of days has moved Quals to this weird time and day... and it hasn't gotten much better, to be honest.  Let's start live-ish coverage!

Q1: Teams are under orders to use Full Wet tires and nothing else.  Which is good, because it's crap out there.  It's still raining, it's dark, it's wet, the spray is awful, and traction is less than optimal.  And oh boy! The folks on the pit wall are saying the first half of the session will be the GOOD weather.  It'll start getting worse after that... and we've got a Red Flag.

Carlos Sainz Jr lost it on the curbs at the start of the Esses (back where that other car is) and slid all the way into the TecPro barriers at the next turn... and it looked like he never slowed down in the process.  The session has restarted, but it's probably not going to matter... the rain is coming.

Okay, Q1 is over, and the rain never got worse.  Times actually improved, but that's all relative; it's hard to improve from 2:20.500, y'know?  That being said, wow, that was fun to watch.  The drivers had to have their hearts in their mouths, and the cars were slipping and sliding all over the place, but they were pushing hard because nobody knows if there'll be a Q2.    If there isn't, Daniel Ricciardo will be on pole, ahead of Hamilton, Rosberg and Kvyat: Red Bull Merc Merc Red Bull.

Q2:  Nope, we've got a Q2!  It's just started, it's still not looking great out there, and we're waiting for the next disaster.  Vettel kissed the wall late in Q1, but didn't appear to damage anything as he's on track right now.

Turn 10 is going to kill someone.  It's off-camber downhill, and everybody is winding up sideways...  yeesh.  American Alexander Rossi just came up with the understatement of the weekend: "It was a little sketchy out there."

Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton have both fallen victim to Turn 10 as well.  Raikkonen just called back to the pit wall "mrmrmmrmrr rm rmrmrmr rmrmrbrrlrl."  He didn't sound happy.

Kvyat just called in: "It's really dangerous out here."  I'm starting to think this is a bad idea.  So does Seb Vettel: "These are Red Flag conditions."

Q2 just ended... let's see if there's a Q3.  If not, Rosberg, Hamilton, Riccardio and Kvyat are your first four.

Heh from the Williams Twitter account: "By a show of hands, who hasn't had a moment at T10?"

Between sessions, Berndt Maylander is out on track in the Safety Car, checking conditions.

Q3: Q3 is being postponed for 10 minutes.  Here's the current standings:

There was just a broadcast from Jenson Button earlier, saying in effect that it's dangerous and bad out there.

Q3 has been called.  There will be NO Q3.  Rosberg takes pole.  Vettel and Raikkonen are dropped 10 places due to engine changes, so the first six are Rosberg, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Perez and Hulkenberg!  Two FIs on the third row, hooray!

The race is this afternoon, see ya then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:19 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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