October 03, 2015

Random Anime Picture #102: Gurk!

-Gakkou Gurashi, Ep03

I hope to have the two-episode writeup completed tonight, probably late enough to be considered "tomorrow".  The Ep04 portion has been done for a few days, and I've been making my way through Ep05 in my copious free time.  But for sure tonight!  I hope.

UPDATE 1240a, 10/4/2015:  Those of you with "ha ha ha never gonna happen" in the betting pool, make sure to pick up your winnings.  The siren's call of sleepytime was too strong and a "short nap" became a "long nap", then an even longer one.  The upshot is that the writeup will be up Sunday sometime as opposed to, oh, right about now.  Sorry 'bout that.

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October 01, 2015

Ladies And Gentlemen, May I Present To You...

...the 2015 Chicago Cubs rookies!

Handsome young men, all.

Oh, by the way, the Cubs are in the playoffs and have the third-best record in Baseball, in large part because of these well-dressed rookies.  Unfortunately, the Pirates have the second-best record, and the [Censored] have the best.  That's right, the three best records in baseball are all in the NL Central. 

Here's how the playoffs are going to work.  First off you get the one-game-winner-takes-all Wild Card game.  That's likely to be the Cubs at Pittsburgh.  The winner of that game gets to play the team with the best record:  the [Censored].  Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Mets play each other.  The winner of that gets to play the NL Central winner.

The Cubs have a remarkably good shot at this, actually.  I'm not going to be sad if they don't win... they weren't supposed to be this good this fast, next year was always the target... but I sure won't be unhappy if they trash the Pirates and go up against the wounded, limping, vulnerable [Censored]! 

First time in the playoffs since 2008.  Wow.

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September 29, 2015

Now THAT'S How You Do A Duck Race!

At night.  With light-up duckies.

Very much yes, yes indeed.  Rockwall, Texas, we here at The Pond salute you!

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September 28, 2015

NASA's Announcement

Earlier today, NASA made the stunning announcement that they had found evidence of flowing water on Mars.  While tremendously exciting, I'm less than convinced by the imagery they're using as proof:

Something just doesn't add up...

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September 27, 2015

F1 Update: Japan 2015

A blue sky welcomed the F1 Circus as polesitter Nico Rosberg led the field to the grid, but ominous looking clouds in the horizon echoed the memories of the accident a year ago that eventually took the life of Jules Bianchi.  Rosberg's teammate and Championship rival Lewis Hamilton was next to him in 2nd, with a Williams and a Ferrari on each of the next two rows.  Would Rosberg be able to capitalize on his good fortune and take the championship fight to Hamilton?  Or would Hamilton curbstomp the field?  Or would Seb Vettel take his second win in a row?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Japan.

*START:  The start fell into a category best called "sloppy".  At the front, the two Mercedes drivers got away well enough and went into Turn 1 side-by-side... at which point Hamilton decided to muscle up and start shoving his teammate the the outside of the turn.  At this point, Rosberg had two choices: 1) hold his ground and make his teammate decide whether or not to run into him; or 2) run offtrack, potentially compromising his race, but keeping the car in one piece.  He made his choice, getting pushed into the runoff area and losing a couple of positions in the process.  Further back, Daniel Ricciardo got a marginally better start than Felipe Not Nasr Massa and slid to the center of the front straight to get past him... into an opening that he thought would open up but didn't.  Both drivers suffered punctured tires just past the start/finish line.  It would be very long laps for the pair, and neither would ever factor into the race again.  Sergio Perez, attempting to avoid the kerfluffle, bounced off Carlos Sainz and spun out in Turn 1.  While mostly unscathed, he lost all the time in the world and would actively lobby for a safety car the rest of the race.  By the end of the first lap, Hamilton had a 1.7 second lead on Seb Vettel's Ferrari, and that was the last we'd see of the Silver Arrows.

*NO, REALLY:  According to MercedesF1, their cars were on screen for a total of six minutes during the race.  That total includes the cool-down lap and the start.  At one point the only time we saw Hamilton was during a pit stop, and only after it was over and he pulled out on track.  For one of the front runners, we'll normally get the entire stop, from the final bit of roll into the pitbox to the exit of the box.  There is a theory out there that this is Bernie Ecclestone turning up the pressure on Mercedes in an attempt to force them to provide engines to Red Bull next season.  We here at F1U! believe that there wasn't much reason to actually show the Mercedes this race, since for most of it they were alone and unmolested.

*MCLAREN FRUSTRATION:  Let's face it, thus far this season the McLaren/Honda combination has been a dog and nothing but.  Today, the frustration of the drivers boiled over.  Jenson Button seems more and more likely to retire rather than finish his contract with the team, and Fernando Alonso... well.  After being totally embarrassed by Sony Ericcson, who had screwed up the final corner yet was still able to blow past the Spaniard with contemptuous ease down the front straight, he got on the radio to his pit wall.  "GP2 Engine.  GP2.  ARRGH!"  Though to be fair, we here at F1U! thought Alonso had sneezed, not angrily grunted.  Coming as it did at the circuit Honda owns, with Honda's president in attendance, this was not an off-the-cuff comment by an annoyed driver. 

*WHAT ELSE?:  Honestly?  It'd be difficult to make the rest of this race feel exciting.  Up at the front it shook out rather quickly, farther back it was a case of the lower-midfield squabbling over a point here or there.  If Friend of The Pond Vaucaunson's Duck hadn't been texting us as he watched the race from San Francisco, we may have called it an early night.  Hamilton won by 19 seconds over his teammate, who was three seconds ahead of Ferrari's Seb Vettel.  Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas were some 15 seconds behind, and then there was almost a half-minute to the next car.  The two Lotuses were over 73 seconds behind the leader in 7th and 8th, and the two Toro Rossos were 95 seconds and over a full lap behind to round out the top 10. 


"...and that (snaps fingers) for Singapore!" - Lewis Hamilton

"Next time, we wreck or he backs off.  Oh, who am I kidding, I'll back off again." - Nico Rosberg

"'Two seconds to Nico is plenty, Seb' my butt." - Seb Vettel, after losing second place to a stupid pit call.

"mrmrmrmmmbrlbr mmrmrlrrbrllrlrlr mmmmmmrbrbrbrlr" - Kimi Raikkonen

"What he said." - Valtteri Bottas

"I was a lonely traveler today.  Was there a race going on?" - Nico Hulkenberg, who was alone on track most of the day.

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - American Alexander Rossi after barely missing teammate Will Stevens car, hidden in a cloud of tire smoke after spinning in 130R.

Sochi Russia in two weeks time.  An announcement may be coming before then, stay tuned!

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September 26, 2015

F1 Quals: Japan 2015

Well, if you're going to end a session, that's certainly an interesting way to do it!  Here's a look at the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Japan:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.015 1:32.632 1:32.584
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.844 1:32.789 1:32.660
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.326 1:33.416 1:33.024
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.431 1:33.844 1:33.245
5 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:34.744 1:33.377 1:33.337
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.171 1:33.361 1:33.347
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:34.399 1:34.153 1:33.497
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:34.398 1:34.278 1:33.967
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:35.001 1:34.174 No Time
10 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:34.646 1:34.201 Whee!!!
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.328 1:34.390
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:34.873 1:34.453
13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:34.796 1:34.497
14 HWIOANFernando Alonso McLaren 1:35.467 1:34.785
15 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:34.522 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.664

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:35.673

18 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:35.760

19 Will Stevens Manor 1:38.783

NC American Alexander Rossi Manor 1:47.114

No huge shock that Mercedes is back on top of the charts.  Only a very, very minor shock that it's Rosberg, not Hamilton that's on pole.  The two of them had a fantastic battle shaping up, trading fast sectors back and forth.  On their penultimate flying laps, Hamilton was slightly scruffy, making it clear that if he could clean up his lap just a little, he'd have pole.  Then, with one minute left in Q3, this happened:

Just short of Turn 10 Kid Kyval dropped a tire onto the grass, hit the wall, and then his Red Bull dug into the kittylitter.  He actually performed a full roll while airborne, then came to rest right-side up.  The driver was totally unhurt.  However, his attempt at a barrel roll (really, closer to an aileron roll) brought out the red flags with about 40 seconds left in the session.  Since that meant that there was no way for someone to exit the pits and cross the starting line in the time remaining once the session restarted, Q3 was deemed complete and Rosberg the polesitter.

Similarly, Embryo Verstappen suffered electrical failure towards the end of Q1.  While that only brought out yellow flags, that still put paid to many attempts to improve lap times, including Manor's American Rossi.  Indeed, his extant time is so slow (some 14 seconds off the pace) that he will race at the discretion of the stewards.  Normally that's a mere formality, but since Rossi is a new driver, it may not be as cut and dried as normal.  We'll find out eventually.

You may have noticed those two McLaren fans in the earlier post.  It naturally almost goes without saying that the DRS feature of those rear wings DOES function, the top wing flap opening and closing.  Oh, those wacky, F1-crazy Japanese fans...

Race coming in about 20 hours.  F1U! sometime thereafter.  See ya then!

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September 25, 2015

If I Had Other Options...

My internet connection died around 6pm on Thursday.  It didn't come back until sometime Friday afternoon.

If I had any other options, I'd leave this provider in a heartbeat.  I'll go a month or six weeks with zero problems, but then *bam*, their feed to Pond Central will go to hell.  During one ten minute call to tech support, my connection died and reconnected seven times.  And mind you, this is a hard-wired cable modem we're talking about, not wireless.  The tech guy I was working with that time set up a... let's call it a "recording program" on my connection, just to see how often that up-down-up cycle occurred in 24 hours.  When I called back the next night, he said he couldn't tell me how often it had occurred, because the program was only able to count to 200 and it had reached that point in six hours.
However, the service is provided through the Pond Central's apartment complex, and they won't let any other providers in.  So the storage company across the street from the complex has their choice of AT&T and Comcast, but us?  Pfft.  So my only other option is to go with satellite internet, which has the advantages of being both slower AND more expensive.  So I'm stuck.  I hope to be able to bring coverage of Japan's Grand Prix this weekend, but who knows what'll happen to my connection?

While I'm up and running though, I'll mention a couple of bits of information that have come down the pike recently.  First, Haas F1, the American team taking the grid in 2016, will be announcing their driver lineup on Tuesday.  It's already being reported that Lettuce Grosjean will be one of the drivers, a fantastic pickup if true.  This seems likely, particularly in light of the second bit of information: Lotus is in serious financial trouble.  I mean, this isn't exactly news, but it's gotten worse of late.  How bad?  The promoters at Suzuka never set up the team's hospitality center, which among other things is where the mechanics eat when they're at the circuit... and they're usually at the circuit during race weekend.  Seems Lotus couldn't pay that part of their fees.  Bernie Ecclestone is apparently footing their food bill to some extent.  The purchase of the team by Renault is still supposed to happen, but it's taking a lot longer than most expected. 

Right.  Quals are in a few hours, I dunno if I'll have a report up immediately afterwards, or if it'll happen in the morning.  Until then, everybody back on your heads.

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September 22, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: Japan 2015

Right!  From Singapore, it's a mere trifle to get to Japan... just take the daily non-stop to Nagoya, and about seven hours later, voila!  Sushi and... um... stuff... await you!  Oh, and merely my favorite F1 circuit, Suzuka, too.  Let's take a look at the track map:

Nope, no messing around here.  What on some circuits might ruin the flow, instead causes it at Suzuka.  The "S-Curves" are maybe the greatest rhythm section since Neil Peart and Geddy Lee.  You've got Spoon Curve, which has an amazing habit of eating cars and not spitting them back out.  130R is... well, it's fast is what it is, and all of that leads into the Casio Triangle (where old calculators go to die).  It's a lovely mix of fast and slow that rewards both might and nimbleness in nearly equal amounts.  And, hey, it's a Figure-Eight, too! 

Weather at the moment looks rainy for Friday's Practice sessions, but dry the rest of the way.  However, there is a typhoon in the area, so who really knows?  Hopefully it won't be too wet... we don't need that after last year.  What we DO need is the Legendary Announce Team, and they'll be bringin' us the goods followin' the followin' schedule:
Practice 2: 1159pm - 130am live
Quals: 1am - 230am live
2015 Grand Prix of Japan: 1130pm - 2am live

As is usually the case, I'll be along eventually with a F1U! for you... assuming my interwebz allow me to do so.  See ya then, then!

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September 21, 2015

F1 Update: Singapore 2015

A clear night, with no hint of the expected smoke from burning Jakarta forests greeted the F1 Circus as they lined up on the grid... and a scrambled grid it was, with the dominant Mercedes cars on the third row, Ferrari and Red Bull splitting the first two rows between them, and an American in a F1 race for the first time in far too long.  So what happened when the lights went out?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Singapore!

*THE RACE:  The car was red instead of silver, but otherwise the opening stages of the race looked exactly like most of the rest of the season: the polesitter running away and hiding from the very beginning.  Indeed, Ferrari polesitter Seb Vettel opened up a full three seconds' lead over Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in the very first lap.  While he never opened up the scary huge gap that the Silver Arrows are known for, it was very clear indeed that it was going to take a mistake from Vettel to give anybody else a chance.  And Seb Vettel didn't become a four-time World Driver Champion by making casual mistakes from the lead.

*AT THE BACK:  American Alexander Rossi sat in the 20th slot on the grid, his Manor purring in the way that only a F1 car can.  The culmination of his life's work was about to occur: he was about to participate in a Formula 1 race and become part of a club more exclusive than the number of people ever to go to space.  That he had practically zero chance of winning didn't matter in the least... at the age of 24, he had reached his dream.  When the race began, his teammate Will Stevens, alongside in 19th, had a less-than-stellar start and Rossi immediately passed him and began hunting 18th.

*CONTINUING:  Vettel had opened up a nearly seven second lead when Felipe Massa exited the pits after a disastrous stop.  A problem getting a tire on had taken too many seconds to fix, and the little Brazilian was undoubtedly annoyed.  He would get even moreso in a moment, for as he pulled out onto the circuit Nico Hulkenberg came steaming into view, determined to take the racing line through Turn 3.  Unfortunately, that's exactly where the white Williams was located, and it wasn't like Massa could teleport somewhere else. 

Hulkenberg meshed tires with Massa, launching himself into a short, eventful flight ending in a broken suspension and much shattered carbon fiber as Massa gestured angrily.  A Virtual Safety Car quickly gave way to the appearance of Berndt Maylander in the real Safety Car, wiping away Seb Vettel's lead.

*AND THEN...:  Daniel Ricciardo knew he had been handed a chance he couldn't throw away.  If he wanted to win this race, he would have to glue himself to Vettel's rear wing on the restart and refuse to let him get away.  Then, and only then, could he make a move to take the lead at Turn 1.  While it seemed the Red Bull was still quicker in the turns than the Ferrari, it wasn't enough to overcome the straight-line speed advantage the red cars had over the purple, but Riccardo knew that if he was ahead, he could pretty much prevent Vettel from getting by.  It was only when the Safety Car pulled off and the Ferrari driver somehow faked the Australian out of his firesuit that Ricciardo realized that he needed to pay more attention to the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in third place than the Ferrari in front of him.  However, he would soon be handed another chance.

*WHAT THE HELL?:  On Lap 37, frantically waving double-yellow flags told the story: be careful, slow way down and be prepared to stop if necessary.  Almost instantly thereafter, the Safety Car came out again.  And what catastrophe had occurred to cause this flurry of safety activity?

A young man had exited an open marshal's gate, jogged across the circuit, and then took to strolling down the track against the flow of traffic.  Fortunately he did not come close to any car, nor did he hurt himself or others.  Last reports were that he was taken into custody and jailed... in Singapore, a place not well-known for its legal leniency.  For some reason, I can't find it in myself to feel sorry for him.

*OH, HIM?  I SUPPOSE...:  Everybody and their mothers were expecting Lewis Hamilton to bring his Mercedes off the mat and make some sort of try for a podium finish.  After all, that's the way its worked of late.  It never happened.  Oh, he showed good pace, equaling or even bettering Vettel at times, but something wasn't clicking.  Or maybe there was a lot of clicking, as Hamilton retired his car early with a throttle problem.

*ENDINGS:  The second restart went no better for Daniel Ricciardo than the first, and was forced to watch from behind as the Ferrari of Seb Vettel swept across the finish line.  Kimi Raikkonen finished third, putting both Ferrari drivers on a podium for the first time in a very long time indeed.  Nico Rosberg, teammate of Lewis Hamilton and championship rival, finished in fourth, a result that caused little harm to Hamilton's chances of a repeat.

*OH, AND...:  American Alexander Rossi finished in 14th position and ahead of his Manor teammate.  Surviving the Singapore Grand Prix, undoubtedly the toughest on the calendar, and beating your teammate in your first ever F1 race?  It's not exactly the top step of the podium, but it's pretty darn good otherwise.


"Damn, but I'm good.  How ya like me now, Italy?" - Seb Vettel

"If I had an engine, instead of this stupid Renault thing behind me, I coulda taken him." - Daniel Riccardio

"Mrmrmbemememlbl mrmrlrrbrkrlllmlr brmrlrlrrbrbrbrlrmrr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Well, the tires sucked, the track sucks, the weather sucks, the lights suck, and Singapore sucks.  But Hamilton didn't finish.  It's been a good weekend." - Nico Rosberg

"wellitwasreallyexcitingandivebeenlookingforwardtothisallmylifeanditwaseverythingicouldhave hopedforreallyandidliketothanktheteamforputtingtogethersuchagreatwelcomeandforfixingmycar
talkingpleasedeargodmakeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstopicantbreathe" - American Alexander Rossi

Next up, we head to the Land of the Rising Sun and Suzuka International Circuit!  Should we mention that there's a typhoon coming, just like last year?  Maybe we'll get the Great Suzuka Boat Races again!  See you next week.

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September 19, 2015

F1 Quals: Singapore 2015

Well, this is new.  Here's the grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Singapore:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:46.017 1:44.743 1:43.885
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:46.166 1:45.291 1:44.428
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:46.467 1:45.140 1:44.667
4 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:45.340 1:44.979 1:44.745
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.765 1:45.650 1:45.300
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:46.201 1:45.653 1:45.415
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:46.231 1:45.887 1:45.676
8 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:46.483 1:45.635 1:45.798
9 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:46.879 1:45.701 1:46.077
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:46.860 1:45.805 1:46.413
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:46.669 1:46.305
12 HWIOAKAFernando Alonso McLaren 1:46.600 1:46.328
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:46.576 1:46.385
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:46.465 1:46.894
15 Jenson Button McLaren 1:46.891 1:47.019
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:46.965

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:47.088

18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:47.323

19 Will Stevens Manor 1:51.021

20 American Rossi Manor 1:51.523

It isn't that this is the first time eight races that Lewis Hamilton isn't on pole.  It isn't that this is the first time in over a year that a Mercedes isn't on pole.  It's not even that this is the first Ferrari pole in three years, and their first pole in dry conditions in five.  It is about just how soundly the Silver Arrows were trounced.  It's not like "aw shucks, they just nipped us."  This is serious "we kicked your arse" stuff. 

Why did it happen?  Reports are that it's all down to tires.  Mercedes, for whatever reason, cannot get their rear tires to work around the Marina Bay circuit.  They get too hot too quickly, then cool down too far too fast.  They're never in the right temperature zone to provide any grip and as a result, they're "slow" around this turn-happy circuit.  Understand, the Mercs are still the fastest through the speed trap... it's not like their new engines are letting them down.  They had problems in Singapore last year, too, but still ran away with the race because their opponents were weaker.  With Ferrari's improvements, there probably would have been a fight for pole regardless, but nothing like this.

In other news of note, both McLarens made it to Q2, and HWIOAKAFernando Alonso probably was ticketed for a legitimate Q3 appearance when Carlos Sainz did Bad Things to his Toro Rosso, which brought out the yellow flags, which put paid to the Spaniard's hot lap.

And finally, American Alexander Rossi was a half-second behind teammate Will Stevens in matching Manors.  This doesn't sound good, until you realize that Stevens has been driving the car all season and this is really Rossi's first chance to put some serious laps in with it.  The cockpit is also something of a tight fit for the American... as in, "we need lard and shoehorns, stat!"  Hopefully they'll have that part fixed in time for Japan.  Oh, and Rossi desperately needs to work on his speaking skills.  In an interview with the Legendary Announce Team's Will Buxton right after Q1, the American Driver was less intelligible than Kimi "Mumbles" Raikkonen.  He was talking waaaay too fast.  Maybe adrenaline was to blame.

Race tomorrow.

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September 18, 2015

F1U! Has A Favorite Driver Again!

This past Thursday, it was announced that Manor F1 has signed a new driver for five of the last seven races this season.  His name is Alexander Rossi, and he becomes the first American driver in Formula 1 since Scott Speed got in a fight with Franz Tost in 2007.

We immediately rename him to American Alexander Rossi.  He's about to turn 24 (next Friday, as a matter of fact), and has been competing in open-wheel formulae for about five years.  He's currently second in GP2, with a shot at winning it outright.

He's not totally new to F1, however.  He's been the test driver for either Caterham or Marussa since 2012, and was tabbed to take Jules Bianchi's seat after his devastating injury in Japan last year.  Of course, that fell through when Marussia only ran one car in Russia, then not again for the rest of the season.

He's actually the only American to hold a FIA Superlicense right now, too.  We'll follow his progress closely during the rest of the season, though since he's driving for Manor, we're not expecting a whole heckuvalot.   He's decided that 53 will be his official driver number in F1... why that number?

Herbie rides again!

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September 16, 2015

Random Anime Picture #101: Surprise!

-Inu X Boku SS, Ep02

Well, yeah, duh, of course.  Why not?

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September 15, 2015

F1 on TV: Singapore 2015

Once upon a time, there was only one night race in F1.  It was an event, a race to look forward to, because the cars looked amazing under the lights.  Since then, two other spots on the calendar have gone to night (Bahrain and Abu Dhabi), and two have considered going to racing after the sun has set (Russia and Australia) but have been shot down.  Racing at night is no longer such an event as it used to be.  Cars still look great at Singapore, though, much better than at the other two circuits, mostly because the lighting is high-intensity and low-altitude.  Let's take a look at the track map:
Singapore is a street circuit, running through the Marina Bay district of the city/nation.  Unlike Monaco, the streets are wide; it barely feels like a street layout.  Because of the lighting, the cameras don't really see what's off-track.  I mean, we all know what the Casino at Monte Carlo looks like, or the run up the hill from Sainte Devote to Massanet, but there are few city landmarks to be seen around the Singapore circuit.  We do see the legendary Raffles Hotel, yes, but only in "B-Roll" footage, not during the race itself, or at least not usually.  When the most memorable landmark of your street circuit is where the track goes under the seating (the stretch between Turns 18 and 19), you may have an image problem.  Still, could be worse... at least we get photographs like this out of the deal:

It's always very hot and humid at Singapore, even during the night race, and the chance of rain is everpresent.  From all reports, the organizers perform cloud seeding before the race to prevent it from raining while the cars are on track.  So far, either because it's actually accomplished their goal or they've gotten lucky, we've yet to have a wet race.  What we will have is a dense haze.  Apparently farmers in Sumatra are burning the forests to clear land for crops, and the smoke has settled over Singapore like a stereotypical London fog.  Singaporian officials have declared that outdoor strenuous activities should be done as little as possible, the air quality is so poor.  I can't imagine it'll be great for the drivers or the engines.

Well, the legendary announce team will be telling us about it in their usual manner.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Practice 2: 830a - 1000a live on NBCSN
Quals:  700a - 830a live on CNBC
2015 Grand Prix of Singapore:  630a - 900a live on NBCSN

We will, of course, see you then and after.  With luck.

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September 13, 2015

Wasted Weekend

So my plan for the weekend was simple.  Break down the pile of empty amazon boxes I have in my dining room.  Clean up the kitchen somewhat.  And do the writeup for Gakkou Gurashi Ep04 and 05, which are really just one long episode broken into two.

Instead, I did none of those.  On Saturday, I kinda did nothing for a handful of hours then said decided to take a nap.  When I got up, I'd start on the writing!  Except here's the thing: I laid down at just short of 6pm, and really didn't wake up again until 10am Sunday morning.  Oh,  I was up for like five minutes around midnight, just long enough to take my Keep Wonderduck Alive pill, and again around 5am to drain my hydraulic system if you know what I mean, but really, I was out cold for nearly 16 hours.

Well, it's not like there's not been any stress in my life of late or anything.  I'd throw up my hands in disgust if I had any hands.

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September 10, 2015

Gakkou Gurashi Ep03

Well, if nothing else, I'm persistent.  Slow, but persistent.  Like kudzu, or the plague.  I'm not giving up on this project, even if it runs me into the ground, thereafter becoming a member of the waddling dead and make a cameo appearance in this show.  Ladies and Gentlemen and other readers of The Pond, the world's first zombie duck.  Except, of course, that wouldn't be true, not by a long shot.  I was about to say the world's first zombie blogger, but... well... I mean... y'know.  Kinda hard to tell the difference, really.  So.  Gakkou Gurashi.  Let's review, shall we?  In Ep01, we met the more-or-less lead character and discover that she's more than a little bit tetched in da haid.  To be fair, she's got good reason: zombie apocalypse!  In Ep02, we're introduced to the rest of the School Living club, featuring Shovel Girl.  Oh, and the impossible school store.  So what wonders will Ep03 bring us?  Well, chances are you already know, since I'm writing this over a month since the episode first aired, but let's pretend, shall we?  Actually, to be fair, I've kinda forgotten the details already, and I haven't watched the show since then.  Remember the rules, everybody: I'm not interested in hearing how the manga does it, and I really don't want to know spoilers and details I haven't experienced yet.  Or I'll become very angry and you won't like what happens then.  So let's get on with Ep03!

The teacher, Megu-nee, is sitting in the teacher's office and writing in a journal, and cheerful, lighthearted writings they are, too!  "This may end up being my will."  Whee, so happy!  The members of the School Living Club are off doing something or other and she has some free time, so it looks like her writing means flashbacks for us!

If nothing else, though, this does seem to answer the burning question as to whether or not she's actually real or a figment of Yuki's imagination.  One gets the impression that Yuki can't spell "journal", let alone dream up someone writing in one.  So what really happened when the zombies came?


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September 09, 2015

I Could Have Just ASKED For A Day Off...

...but no, I had to do it the hard way.

From the moment I woke up this morning, I didn't feel all that swell.  There was something going on in my chest area.  Not painful, not really much of anything... except every now and again it felt like there was a pressure forming from inside my sternum.  Never in the same spot, either.  Sometimes at the top of the collarbone, sometimes down towards the bottom of my ribcage, just... yeah, y'know, kinda strange.  I delayed going into work for an hour, hoping whatever it was would resolve itself so I could get on with my life.  No such luck, and since I generally have to make up any time I miss by the end of the week, I sucked it up and went in.  Over the course of two hours I completed eight or nine claims, which is about what I'll do in a half-hour or so nowadays.  No idea if I got any of 'em right, either... I was just a little distracted by what was going on in my torso.  Eventually I decided to see what my pulse-rate was and suddenly all became clear.  There was some definite syncopation in my heart rhythm!

Okay, more to the point, my heart was skipping beats.  Last time, it was quite dramatic and lasted 10 minutes or so and then just stopped altogether.  This time, not quite as dramatic... hell, it took me a good three-plus hours just to figure it out.  When I finally did, I knocked on the door to the office of my boss and said "I think I need to leave, I'm going to the ER."  When she finally got out of me what was going on, she (and her boss, who had happened by) said "no, we'll call the ambulance for you."

In an amusing moment, some members of the local fire department had been at the mall right across the street from the office, and so were there not just before the ambulance, but before my boss had completed giving the 911 operator my information.  SERVICE!  We moved out of the production area, where the presence of four firemen taking my blood pressure and trying to figure out how they had beaten the end of the 911 call was serving as something of a distraction to work.  As I sat in the office's spacious waiting room, portable EKG leads being applied to random parts of my body, the head of HR asked if I needed anything from my desk?  "My rubber duck."  I explained as casually as I could that I collect ducks and I find them to be good luck... but the way my voice was breaking and my eyes kept getting in the way of passing rainstorms probably suggested something a little deeper to them.  Or they didn't care, one of the two.  (Spirit-grade stealth edit: Even I was a little surprised at how emotional I was when the duck was handed to me.  It was like my brain had officially decided that since a duck was present, everything would Be All Right.  Duck-based medical care, ask for it by name!)  Eventually they got me loaded into the back of the ambulance and I discovered that the driver had aspirations to NASCAR.  At one point, I assume as we climbed the high banking of Turn 1 at Daytona, I was very nearly pitched off the gurney.  Only the restraints (aka seatbelts) kept me from that ignominious fate.  It was also at that point that I noticed that the guy in back with me had taken care to belt in my rubber duck. 

Safely delivered to the ER, I was taken into custody by a nurse who professionally and expertly did nursey things to me, mostly involving needles and not a terrible amount of pain.  Only once did I express discomfort, and that mostly silently.  I think that was a fairly sedate reaction, considering she had to use a vein on the back of my left hand, and replaced the needle with a harpoon.

Once that was finished and they took a modicum of blood from me, they started a jug of IV fluids going and we then waited for the doc to come in.  Not long, as it turned out... other than a single Code Blue call that was quickly (and ominously) cancelled, the ER was rather empty.  Anyway, the doc was excellent.  He explained what he was seeing on my EKG in... well, multi-syllabic words that were mostly lost on this guy desperately clutching a rubber duck to his chest, but basically came down to "eh, it happens."  Blood tests all came back the way they should, nothing even the least bit out of range.  In effect, I was perfectly fine.  It goes without saying that the moment the guys from the fire department showed up the heart-skipping-beats thing stopped dead.  Only once from then until they disconnected the heart monitor leads in the hospital prior to my being discharged was there even a bobble, and I couldn't figure out what it was on the EKG.  So wah-ha, huh?  Fortunately the folks joined me in the ER and gave me a lift back to work.

Well, what do you expect?  That's where my car was... and I needed to let them know that I wasn't dead.  And there was a chance I was going to have to make up those four hours I'd missed while in the hospital.  I fully expected to, as a matter of fact... which meant I'd also have to finish today up.  And 10 or 11 hours tomorrow and Friday.  I spoke to the HR lady, confirmed that I was more or less okay, then went to talk to my boss.  As it turned out, I needn't have worried.  First, she was shocked to see me again that day.  Then she said "you're planning on taking the rest of today off, right?"  Um... yes?  If I have any time off, that is.  She then said something I never expected to hear: "Do you want to take tomorrow off, too?" 

So that's how Wonderduck is going to take Thursday off.  I don't recommend the method.

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September 06, 2015

F1 Update: Italy 2015

A bright sunny day greeted the F1 Circus as they made their way to the grid, accompanied by the fevered howls of thousands of tifosi.  Would either of the Ferraris be able to deny polesitter Lewis Hamilton's this win?  Would his new engine handle the stress of the fastest circuit on the calendar?  Will there be any pasta jokes in this writeup?  THIS is your F1 Update for the 2015 Grand Prix of Italy!

*THE START... CRINGE!:  The worst thing you can possibly see during a Formula 1 broadcast is a trackworker making the "X" symbol with his arms, indicating that there's been an injury after an accident.  The second worst thing you can possibly see is a car stalled on the grid when the lights go out.  That occurred today, as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, starting second, apparently forgot how to engage a clutch.  His car sat there like a red chicane as he frantically played with the flappypaddles trying to engage a gear... any gear.  Behind him, Nico Rosberg, starting from fourth, missed him cleanly, but it took a bit of quick dodging on the part of Valtteri Bottas' Williams to not plow at full acceleration into the Finn's backside.  With some wicked shuffling, the entire field got past, but Raikkonen was 20th and last before he started moving.  He hadn't stalled, the revs never dropped... he was like he was a 15 year old being taught how to use a manual gearbox for the first time in the parking lot of a K-Mart (for our British readers, substitute "Tesco's" for K-Mart.  For our other overseas readers, we're afraid you're on your own for this one).

*THE RACE... CRINGE!:  The new spec engine that Mercedes fitted into their cars for this race weekend performed as well as could be expected for Lewis Hamilton.  Teammate Nico Rosberg, if you remember from Quals, was running an old engine because of what turned out to be a coolant leak.  A "legacy part" from the 2015 spec layout failed in the 2016 engine, allowing coolant to get into parts of the power unit you don't want coolant to get into, rendering it useless until it gets thoroughly cleaned.  In any case, that the engine works well is bad news... for everybody that isn't Mercedes.  Hamilton galloped over the horizon and never looked back, turning this from "race" to "farce" very quickly.  By the time the first (and only) round of pitstops concluded, he had a 20 second lead over Seb Vettel, and it would only continue to grow.  See, Mercedes actually told Hamilton before the race not to take it easy on the new power unit... they need data on how it'll run in race conditions, after all.  Where in the closing stages he might dial the power down a touch and coast home, here at Monza that never happened.

*BUT... WHY?:  With some three or four laps remaining and with a 23 second lead, a most curious radio call was heard from the Merc pit wall to Lewis Hamilton: "we need to (increase the) gap, don't ask questions, just execute."  For a wonder, a Formula 1 driver didn't ask questions, at least over the radio: he just drove.  By the time he finished the race, he had over 25 seconds in hand on Vettel's Ferrari, and almost 48 seconds on the Williams pair, Felipe Not Nasr Massa and Valtteri Bottas.  Nobody else was within a minute of the leader when the race finished.

*LUMP GO BOOM:  We used to use this "bullet point" all the time when F1U! was just starting out.  Those first five, maybe six years would see a massive engine failure nearly every race it seemed.  These days though?  Reliable, nearly bulletproof power units mean that "Lump Go Boom" is mainly relegated to the filing cabinet of headlines, rarely seen and practically never used.  That we can dust it off and shine the light of day upon our old friend in a way that makes sense is a lovely moment for us.  And it is exactly what we said when Nico Rosberg's Mercedes belched smoke and rolled to a stop, a desultory fire licking from the exhaust, with two laps left.  That he lost a third-place finish was forgotten when one thought that maybe it had something to do with the imperative Hamilton had been given.  Maybe the team was thinking that something similar could happen to him and it was a race between engine failure and victory.  Either way, the booming of Rosberg's lump was the first mechanical failure of a Mercedes car this season.

*OH.  YEAH?  HEH. :  After the race we found out just what was going on.  Due to the tire failures at Spa-Francopants, the FIA came right out and said that tire manufacturer Pirelli would issue minimum required tire pressures for each race.  Any car found with tires below these levels could be penalized, up to and including exclusion from the event.  Four cars were tested mere minutes before the final recon lap: the Mercs and the Ferraris.  The red cars passed easily.  The two Mercs, however, did not.  While Rosberg's penalty became moot when he killed off all the mosquitoes at Monza, Hamilton's victory was suddenly in serious doubt.  Lower pressure means a softer tire, meaning more grip at the price of more wear.  That only one rear tire was found to be .3psi too low didn't matter: an exclusion was a real possibility.  As it turns out, the Stewards decided that the loss of pressure was caused by the cooling of tire after the heating blankets were removed, and Hamilton was allowed to keep his victory.

*DOMINATING: In the world of F1, a "grand chelem" is the unofficial award for a driver winning the race, leading every lap, and setting fastest lap of the race.  So what is it when a driver is fastest in every session of Practice, every session of Quals, has the fastest lap in the race, wins from pole, and leads every lap to boot?  Whatever it's called, Lewis Hamilton had it. 

Next up, we find ourselves in Singapore in two weeks!  See you then, allegedly!

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September 05, 2015

F1 Quals: Italy 2015

Rain in the morning gave hope for a wet Quals to liven things up at the fastest track on the calendar, but no such luck.   So what happened at Monza?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Italy:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.251 1:23.383 1:23.397
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:24.662 1:23.757 1:23.631
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.989 1:23.577 1:23.685
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.609 1:23.864 1:23.703
5 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:25.184 1:23.983 1:23.940
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.979 1:24.313 1:24.127
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.801 1:24.379 1:24.626
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:25.144 1:24.448 1:25.054
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.937 1:24.510 1:25.317
10 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:25.122 1:24.457 1:26.214
11 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:25.429 1:24.525
12 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:25.121 1:24.898
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:25.410 1:25.618
14 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:25.742 1:25.796
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:25.633 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:26.058

17 HWIB2BFernando Alonso McLaren 1:26.154

18 Will Stevens Marussia 1:27.731

19 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:27.912

NC Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso Whoopsie!

At first glance you'd say "well, nothing out of the ordinary", and you'd kind of be right.  Or you'd be very very wrong.  This is going to take a bit to explain, so get something to drink and find a comfy place in your chair...  y'all set? 

Even though the Power Unit rules are locked in stone, every team has a limited ability to change various pieces of it via a "token" system.  See, when the F1 Tech Regs were written, they stated that the power units had to be finalized, or "homologated" for the 2015 season.  After that date, they could no longer be fiddled with, no improvements or new ideas allowed.  There was one teeny tiny little problem.

The FIA never actually wrote a date in the Tech Regs.

It was assumed that the start of the season was the homologation date, but multiple bright sparks pointed out that no, no, as the rules were written, the engines had to be frozen in 2015.  Period.  So much for the alleged cost-saving measures of the new P.U., unlimited development (and unlimited cash spending!) was about to be the rule of the day.  Before chaos could break out, an agreement was reached allowing changes to be made on a 'token' system.  An entire P.U. is broken down into 66 tokens, all with varying "weights" between 1 and 3, depending on the importance of the piece.  Each engine manufacturer was given 32 tokens to play with during the 2015 season, except for Honda.  As a new engine based off of the past few years of experience, they were given nine tokens.  As planned, the three other engine makers used most of their tokens in the pre-season; Mercedes ended up with seven tokens.

While everybody else used theirs here and there, Mercedes didn't touch theirs at all... until the end of Spa.  In the past two weeks, they used all seven of their tokens to upgrade this piece or that chunk.  Their engine is now set, and they say that it is, essentially, the same as their 2016 P.U..  That's ominous, as they now get (in effect) the rest of this season to use as test sessions for next year.  Obviously, they are quite confident in how 2015 will go on track, eh? 

After Practice 1 was over, they had reason to be confident... Lewis Hamilton was 1.4 seconds faster than anybody not in a Silver Arrows.  The domination continued until P3, when Nico Rosberg had some sort of problem and the team reverted him to the Spa-spec engine.

Ferrari was not sitting around after Spa, either: they used either three or four tokens to upgrade their power plant.  So what did all this mean?

It meant that while Hamilton is on pole with is new-spec engine, the Ferrari powerplant now appears to be more powerful than the old-spec Merc engine.  Rosberg never came close to his teammate's pace, even moreso that usual.  This suggests that if it wasn't for the upgrades, Ferrari would be on pole at their home grand prix, and there would be happy rioting going on all over Italy.

Which may still happen.  What happened to Rosberg's P.U. could happen to Hamilton's, whatever it was.  In which case, there may be churchbells ringing all over Maranello tomorrow.

We'll find out then, won't we?  See ya sometime thereafter!

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September 03, 2015

A Long Week

When the highlight of your week was posting photographs of action figures you took back in March, and you did that back on Sunday, your week probably hasn't been the bestest possible.  I'd say that's a fair assessment.

(whining deleted)
Stuff coming this weekend.

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September 01, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: Italy 2015

Every racing organization has their signature race/track.  In NASCAR, it's the Daytona 500.  In IndyCar, the Indianapolis 500.  Endurance racing has the 24 Hours of LeMans.  Australia's wonderful V8Supercar series has the Bathurst 1000 at the Mt Panorama circuit.  And F1 has... um... Monaco, which isn't this week's race.

It also has its spiritual home, Silverstone... which isn't this week's race either.

No, this week's race is at F1's fastest circuit, the legendary Monza.  Here's the map:

A full 230% of a lap at Monza is spent at full throttle.  Brakes are things put on other teams' cars, not your own.  Downforce is strictly optional, and you'll never see the cars look be polished so hard anywhere else... just in case that last little swipe of a rag is enough to rearrange the surface molecules of carbon fiber into something just .0001sec faster.  Drivers spend the two weeks between Spa and Monza with their head in a giant slow metal press, trying to make their skulls that much more narrow and thus more aerodynamic.  Various pieces of their bodies are surgically removed to save weight, then put back in afterwards.  Jenson Button is well-known for having his left kidney removed.  Former McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya routinely had liposuction before Monza.  Current Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado has his entire brain taken out before each race, not just the Grand Prix of Italy. 

As does the entire horde of Ferrari fans that attend.  From all reports, it's a 24/7 party atmosphere at the circuit, and on those occasions that a Ferrari driver stands on the top step?  Bedlam.  In other circumstances, they'd call out the riot squad of the Caribinieri, except here they'd probably be joining in the festivities.  That is to say, Ferrari is most definitely Italy's national team.  Indeed, no other team really is: nobody thinks of Mercedes as "Germany's team," or McLaren as "Team England."

All of the above pretty much means that after 10 years of writing about Monza, I'm out of ideas.  Hopefully the Legendary Announce Team still has flashes of inspiration, for they'll be bringing us their usual coverage!  Here's the broadcast times, all on NBCSN:
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live
Quals: 7a - 830a live
2015 Grand Prix of Italy: 630a - 9a live

As is always the case, I'll have a report up sometime after the race.  Thankfully it's Labor Day weekend, so... yeah.  See ya then.

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