May 23, 2020

Well, I Dunno

So I've been sitting here trying to figure out what to write and honestly can't come up with anything worth reading.


This is the point where I say "There's some question as to whether or not I ever did," of course, because that's one of The Pond's normal jokes.  Really, The Pond could write itself... probably do a better job than I could anyway.

The Pond's been such a part of me for so long that I can't imagine letting it go but it's not like I'm doing anything here either.  Any requests for topics?

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May 15, 2020

The Loss Of A (Little) Giant

No, not that one...  Little Charlie Baty.  Come with me on a voyage back in time...


The year was 1987.  Duckford was in the midst of its annual end-of-summer music festival, On The Waterfront.  Yours truly, having wandered away from Vaucaunson's Duck and some others, had stumbled upon a smaller stage... one of seven that year... as the sun had begun to set.  While most of the people attending gathered for that year's headliner... Duckford's own Cheap Trick... to take the main stage, tucked away back here a young Duck was about to be truly exposed to a form of music he'd never heard before: The Blues.  

While Rick Estrin was the frontman for the band, it was guitarist Little Charlie Baty that led The Nightcats.  He "retired" from the band in 2008, still playing with them at certain festivals and shows in Europe, but he certainly didn't stop playing live.
I thought you had to be down on fingers to play Django Reinhardt correctly. His studio stuff didn't stop either.
The album "Skronky Tonk" was on got a four-star review from Downbeat, long the bible of blues and jazz music, and a notoriously stern grader when it comes to music.
While I only found out a couple of days ago, it turns out that Little Charlie passed away in March from a heart attack.  He was 66.  While I probably would have been a fan of the blues even if I didn't stumble into that small outdoor concert tucked into a back corner of a large festival, I think it certainly helped that the Nightcats were my first exposure to them... they were both talented and funny at the same time.  I even bought their album that night... yes, on vinyl.
Thanks, Little Charlie... you were a huge influence on my music tastes, and I may not have realized it until just now.

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May 08, 2020

VE 75

Soviet troops capture the Reichstag

Parisians celebrate 

A reminder in New York that the war still went on.

Lancaster crew and spotlights

75 years on, I'm beginning to believe that we've forgotten what a real threat looks like.  Disappointing.

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April 28, 2020

Iceland!

Land of amazing vistas!


Land of continent-closing volcanoes with names that are impossible to pronounce (or spell)!

It's Eyjafjallajokull, by the way.
Land of broiled puffin!

Yes, really.
What Iceland generally is NOT known for is its popular music.  Oh sure, there was Bjork (and the Sugarcubes) and Sigur Ros, you have to be particularly keyed in to know any others.

Until now.
Dadi Freyr is a DJ/EDM/whatever guy, I can only assume that Gagnamagnio is the band, and that considering this is Iceland, they're almost all certainly related.  I went through much of what he/they have on yootoob looking for another gem like Think About Things, and came up mostly empty.

Fans of Hibike! Euphonium, however, will recognize one tune... for better or worse.
I'll let you decide which it is.

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April 23, 2020

52

It's that time again.  Once again, I commemorate surviving another year by posting energetic birthday candles.  And lo, here it is:

According to the yootoob comments, the fire is actually adhesive burning off the ablative coating of the engine.  Whatever it is, it's certainly spectacular.

Like 52 candles on a birthday cake for one would look like, come to think of it... just without the smoke alarm going off.  I'm not even sure that many candles is legal in a multi-unit dwelling here in Illinois.

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April 16, 2020

Now THIS Is The Sort Of News We All Need

There is an ARIA movie in the works.


It's coming sometime late this year.  If there was ever a year that we need new ARIA content, my god it's this one.

This is a 15th anniversary project for the series.  Information is sparse at the moment, but it's officially sparse, as the announcement is up on the publisher of the ARIA manga's website.  I think we all assumed that after Avvenire, our trips to Neo-Venezia had come to an end.

I've never been so glad to be wrong about something in my entire life.

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April 15, 2020

Happy Not Tax Day!

Last night I fired up the H&R Blockhead website in preparation to have teeth pulled... i.e., do my taxes.  I went through all the usual rigamarole... do you need to update your address, phone number, marital status, shoe size, all that sort of thing... but then, what to my wondering eyes did appear?


A message saying that the deadline for filing your taxes has been moved to July 15th.

At first, I didn't believe it.  I would have heard something somewhere, right?  That's not one of those things you just miss, right?

Right?

Anybody?

So it was just me?  For some reason, I find that I'm not at all surprised.

But woo-hoo!!!  Happy time for a little while longer!

So... how are you?  Holding up okay?  Yeah?  Anything I can do to help you through?

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April 08, 2020

Yep, I'm Still Alive

I've had more phone calls in the past two days from actual human beings than I've had in the past six months, and all because I haven't posted anything to The Pond in the past week.  It's like... people actually care about me or something.


While this whole social distancing/don't go out thing is second nature to me... it's all I've been doing for months anyway... I've begun to see signs that even I need SOME human contact once in a while.  I'm not sure which is more disturbing, that I legitimately thought I didn't, or that it took this long to prove otherwise.  I'm watching a lot of Twitch streams... there are even human faces in a couple of them!

Hope you folks are doing better than me in your isolation!

I'm still playing Fate Grand Order quite a lot, and quite happily. Remember back in 2018, there was a show called Today's Menu for the Emiya Family?  It was essentially a slice-of-life version of Fate/Stay Night where everybody is alive, healthy, and happy.  Yeah, in other words exactly the opposite of the rest of the franchise.  Here's what the ED looked like:
Light and fluffy, yeah?  Well, someone sat down and decided to redo it for FGO.  Here are the results:
Yeah, I'd play THAT game.

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March 29, 2020

Saturday Fright

A short while after I wrote the prior post, I'm watching a twitch stream when the streamer disses Chicago-style pizza with the usual "casserole" comment... which always makes me wonder how they grew up when this...


...looks like a casserole to them.  Must have been a strange childhood, but I digress.  I immediately stood up and told him to "bite my shiny Chicago butt" at about the same time someone else ripped into him as well.  As it turns out, the two of us live relatively near each other, with him being about 25 miles away.  A pleasant coincidence indeed, but nothing more than that really.

And then a while later, he announced in chat that the sirens had just gone off, that there was a tornado warning, and he was heading for the basement.  Now, the weather had been bad all day, but not BAD bad.  After wishing him luck, I hopped onto a local tv station's weather facebook page to see what was what... and they were streaming live which is never a good sign.  They were talking in serious tones and looking at live doppler radar image closeups and sure enough, there was a pretty obvious spot of bother... 

I mean, obvious enough that someone who had never seen a weather radar could have spotted it as meaning something.  A few minutes watching, and bam... they declare it's probably a tornado, no way of knowing if it's on the ground however... and it's right over the town my new chat friend lives in.  A few tense minutes passed until he popped back up in chat... they had just been given the all-clear.  Phew, good news!  Until the weather nabobs said that Duckford was now under a tornado warning... from the same storm!  It was a fast mover, too... 60 or 65 mph.  They spent the next half-hour following the storm as near to live as possible, and the more time passed, the worse things got.

At this point, we were about 10 minutes away from having a tornado hit Duckford, and if the predicted path held firm, it'd be passing about a half-mile or so to the west of Pond Central.  It was at this point that I shut down my computer, grabbed a couple of battery-operated lamps, pulled a heavy comforter off my bed, and took up position in the hallway outside the loo, where I also called up the facebook stream on my phone.  Blanket fort for the win, I guess.

Pond Central has had bad weather moments before.  A few of them had driven me to the hallway just in case.  But never before had I really wished I lived in a first-floor apartment, which are mostly below ground level in my building (built into a hillside).  Instead, all I could do if it looked like the tornado was going to hit was get in bathtub, pull the heavy vinyl curtain closed, thrown the comforter over my body, and hope it all worked out.  The live stream kept coverage on it going, imploring everybody to get to cover immediately.  And then... the rotation weakened as it approached the vicinity of the Duckford Airport, then basically broke up altogether as it entered the city limits.  We don't know if the tornado had been on the ground all the way from Oregon, or if it had touched down for a bit then lifted back up while still being a threat, or what.  What Duckford got was torrential rain... the Airport reported a rate equal to five inches/hour... but that was it.

Back where the tornado had definitely touched down, there were many power poles down, a farm had its dairy barn, outbuildings, and home destroyed (nobody was there at the time), and for a few moments there was a distinct possibility we'd find out what would happen if a nuclear plant was hit by a tornado.  Fortunately there were no injuries reported.  The National Weather Service was on site today trying to figure out details of the tornado... strength, how long it was on the ground, that sort of thing... hopefully we'll know more on Monday.  Impressively, the weather nabobs had predicted where it would have hit Duckford almost exactly.  It would have missed Pond Central, but by less than a half-mile or so.

I'm still a little freaked out.

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March 28, 2020

Well That Was A Thing That Happened

Illinois is under a "shelter-in-place" order, and has been for a week now.  Which, of course, means that this week was the PERFECT time for me to have to go get my monthly meds.  Of course, Illinois' shelter-in-place is my "Tuesday", so I'm probably not infected by the evildeathbatvirus... or I wasn't before the trip out.  As it turns out, my doctor's office didn't give me a full refill of the Keep Wonderduck Alive pills because they need to see me.


In the middle of a huge pandemic.

Yeah.

I grabbed a taxi... don't ask why... and had a gosh-darned-lovely time getting into and out of it.  THANKS, crappy knees!  Also it was pushing 60 degrees and I was wearing a scarf over my mouth and nose.  

You know what?  I'm just complaining.  Human contact appears to be a thing I'm running low on?  Scary that it's taken this long, actually.  Here, have some music.
Anybody out there got anything on their mind they'd like THE Wonderduck's opinion on?

Oh!  Almost forgot! Redditor 3ikal on the Fate Grand Order subreddit took pity on this poor little duck, and made for me a most awesome thing.  Click *more* to see it!

more...

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March 22, 2020

#NotTheBahGP

A more-or-less not-quite official race this weekend is located at the Veloce Esports twitch channel.  As I write this at 125pm on Sunday, Quals are about to wrap up.  Here's the level of competition: F1 driver Lando Norris?  He's sixth on the grid.


And yes, there's announcers and standard-style coverage.  I don't believe I'm going to say this but cheer on the Ferraris... those are driven by yootoobers SuperGT and Jimmy Broadbent, who I've mentioned in here once or twice before.

If you need a racing fix, here's your chance.

EDIT: Okay, I take it back.  Yeesh, that was ugly.  Friggin' bumpercars.  The worst offenders were the actual racers!  I'd rather watch a Wreckfest race.

ANOTHER EDIT: So I watched the official F1 e-race.  At least the#NotTheBahGP had a full grid of real drivers and experienced simracers...the OFFICIAL F1 race had people who had never raced before in ANY manner in it.  A musician?  An Olympic cyclist (who did at least race at Le Mans in 2016)?  I don't like to swear, but it was a total sh*tshow from the moment Quals began.  Disappointing.

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March 20, 2020

F1Update!: Virus 7, F1 0

The Evil Death Bat Soup Virus has destroyed motorsports in general these days, but Formula 1 has been particularly well massacred.  Yesterday F1 CEO Chase Carey came out and announced that the season has been either postponed or flat-out cancelled up to and including Monaco.


This is going to be the first time since 1955 that there hasn't been a grand prix at Monaco.  It makes sense that they'd cancel instead of postpone; it takes SO much time to set up the circuit around the Principality.  They had already started, in fact; the ancillary buildings were being activated a week ago. 

Now, only two races have been confirmed to be outright cancelled: Monaco and Australia.  The rest have merely been "postponed", but lets face it... it's not like the teams are going to be hankerin' to go to China anytime soon because of all this.  In an attempt to save SOME of the season, the mandatory "Summer Break" has been moved to... well, NOW... and once things start again they'll just race straight through.

Which sort of defeats the original purpose of the summer break, but special times require special measures I guess.  Assuming, of course, that there's a season at all... and wouldn't that be a fine kettle of fish?  I wonder how many teams would fold if that occurred?  No racing, no sponsor money, no sponsor money... 

There's always sim racing, however.  And lots of it, in fact.  At one point this past weekend, Lando Norris had the most watched Twitch stream as he participated in a star-studded sim race on the Daytona 24 Hour Circuit, and the Not Bahrain Grand Prix is this weekend.  So that's an option, I suppose.

I guess we'll get through this.  Duckford, and all of Illinois, has finally gone on lockdown effective 5pm Saturday.  The usual places are still allowed to be open, but we're all supposed to "shelter in place."  Which I've been doing all year thus far.  Sadly, the Pond Central complex office broke my not-quarantine-just-antisocial yesterday when they came in and installed a new furnace.  No, the old one was working, they just felt this was the best time to do it.  Or something.  Oh, and I had a grocery delivery on Wednesday.  Usually it's a two-hour wait, sometimes as long as five.  This time?  I placed the order on SUNDAY, but Wednesday was the earliest they could get to me.  No bread, no regular Ritz crackers.

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March 12, 2020

F1Update!: Australia 2020 vs Virus

"I'm due a good Australian Grand Prix." - Daniel Ricciardo, 9am Pond Central time

This has been a wild freakin' day in Melbourne.  It began with five Haas F1 race staffers being tested for COVID-19 and being quarantined in place.  A credentialed photographer was showing symptoms of the disease.  Then a McLaren mechanic was confirmed to have the virus, leading the team to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix.

And then everything went straight to hell.  

Team principals had a meeting over what the teams wanted to do, took a vote... and they split 5-5 between racing and leaving.  12 more McLaren staffers were quarantined.  Reports came out that the race would continue with nine teams only.  Then news came out that the FOM, the media wing of Formula 1, had told all their staffers... camera operators, producers, sound ops, coffee makers... to stay away from the track.  

Saturday's 12 Hours of Sebring was postponed until November by IMSA; NASCAR decided to run their next two races in closed stadiums.  Baseball postponed the first two weeks of their season, the NHL put their season on hold, as has the NBA.  

Around about 4pm Pond Central time, some of the teams showed up at the track and began to pack up the paddock... except the support races were using the pitlane so they couldn't roll the shipping containers into place to really do anything.  Then both Ferrari's Seb Vettel and Alfa Romeo's Mumbles Raikkonen got on a plane headed for Dubai.  Meanwhile, the organizers, FIA and Formula 1 were all saying that they couldn't make the call to cancel the race, the other two orgs were in charge of that.  

Shortly after that, a FIA spokesman said "For us to cancel on our own would require less than 12 cars to be available.  But other than that or from the local authorities the FIA cannot cancel because there are too many commercial agreements that in cancelling the liability would come back to us."

Note: this is hands-down the worst answer anybody could have come up with.

The Sky Sports broadcast crew... the english-speaking world's broadcaster... packed up and flew home.  Mercedes announced that they had sent a letter to the FIA calling for the race to be cancelled. "We no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event."

Then, finally, about an hour ago as I type this, the news finally came out... the FIA in association with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation had made the decision to cancel the race.

Arguments will be ongoing as to whether this happened in a timely manner (no) or if there were any plans in place for this seemingly obvious eventuality (sure doesn't look like it), but at least the correct decision was made.  Eventually.

Reportedly the season will now be starting in Baku and there will be no summer break.  We'll see.  

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March 08, 2020

Not Entirely Dead Yet

I wouldn't entirely blame you for not believing me considering the amount of time between posts these days.  Honestly, nothing to write about has leaped at me.  I haven't seen the Midway movie yet, I'm afraid to watch considering reviews.  Which, considering I'm really only interested in the history of the thing, is a stupid reason to be afraid to watch.


Actually, being afraid to watch is stupid, period.  To which I say to you, have you ever read The Pond before?  Which is a long-time joke here, but these days?  I dunno what to expect from that question.  

Y'know what?  I got nothing.  I got less than nothing!  I've wasted your time on nothing, which makes this post a net negative!  I have some things I want to say, but can't because it wouldn't be fair for someone else, so instead you get this.  Aren't you lucky?  Here, have an AMV.
I've never actually seen a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song used for an AMV before.  Despite being a Christmas tune, it works well enough here.  And that should make this post a net-zero.  Great, I don't feel as guilty now.

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February 26, 2020

F1 Season Coming Around Again.

I know, right?  You think I'm not still watching Formula 1, but I am!  Mostly.  Kinda.  I mean, I know it's there.  There's been two thingies to come out of the pre-season testing that are vaguely important... one rules-related, one not so much.  Let's start with that last one, shall we?


Toro Rosso is no more.  In it's place we find...

ALPHATAURI!

...

Okay, yeah, it's the same Red Bull B-team, just with a spiffy new livery which is, honestly, awfully eye-catching.  Damn well should be, AlphaTauri is Red Bull's bespoke fashion line... which to be honest I think looks either goofy over overpriced.  Or both.  Really, they look like Carhartt went glam.  Wouldn't cost $500 for a jacket then, lemme tell ya.

Gotta make money for the spiffy new livery somehow amirite?

Now for the more serious bit:  Mercedes has been clever again.  A week ago, they introduced a new steering gimmick.  If the driver pulls the steering wheel towards him or pushes it away, it adjusts the "toe" on the front tires... the angle the tires are in relation to the track. 

Among other things, the amount of toe-in or -out affects tire heating (and what part of the tire gets heated) and on straight-line top speed... the less the tires scrub against the track, the less drag is generated and the faster you go.  It's not a huge amount, but it is a real thing.

Amazingly, this trick is NOT illegal... yet.  The FIA has gone on record as saying that it doesn't contravene safety rules and in that way is okay to be used in 2020.  However, it's already been, if not outright banned in 2021 and the new tech regs, financially banned for that season.  It's a neat idea though, and while I wish it had been any other team that came up with it, Mercedes deserve praise for being clever.

First race is Australia in mid-March.  I'll be watching, though who knows if I'll be writing?  Or if I did, if anybody would be reading it!  It's not like I've been churning out the quality free ice cream of late.

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February 14, 2020

Valentines Day 2020

I've been playing a lot of Fate Grand Order of late.

Because of that, I've also gone back and done a general Fate franchise anime rewatch... Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero, Unlimited Blade Works, Fate Apocrypha, El-Melloi II Case Files, as much of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya as I could stand without feeling like a pervert (not much), Fate/Extra Last Encore, Today's Menu for the Emiya Family, of course the ongoing Fate/Grand Order - Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia, and hopefully culminating in an all-up viewing of the three  Fate/Stay Night Heaven's Feel movies.

I must admit though... Fate/Make Dinner really is my favorite of the bunch. 

One thing that's impressed me during this whole rewatch project is just how consistently good it's all been.  Even the allegedly lackluster Apocrypha is only so because it gets compared to the best of the other series in the franchise... in comparison to most non-Fate series it's pretty good.  

So yeah, Fate Grand Order is fun.  If you play already, I'm 264.380.184... add me to get access to a bunch of lvl 40-60 servants!  You'll regret it in time, but you'll feel good when you're rollin' in all the friend points I give ya.

I'm just in it for the headpats.

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February 01, 2020

Music... From Foreign Lands!

Over the past few months I've been spending time listening to a lot of music I've never experienced before.  When you do this, you get a lot of stuff that's... not worth listening to again.  Sometimes you get stuff that's... nice, but not anything you're going to go out of your way to hear again.  Then there's the small percentage of tunes that make you sit up and pay attention (or even better, make you lean back, close your eyes, and pay attention).  That's the category that I'll be inflicting upon you here now.  We've got music from such far-flung places as Scandahoovia, India, California, Japan, Sweden, and an odd Irish/Italian thing.


Let's have a listen, won't you?

more...

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January 22, 2020

Terry Jones, Screeching Harridan, Passes Away

Terry Jones, one of the members of Monty Python, became the nude organist for the choir invisible today.  He was 77.


Sadly, he'd been suffering from a rare form of dementia since 2016 and had lost the ability to speak over a year ago.  Best known for his work with the legendary comedy troupe, Jones was also an accomplished director, historian and children's book author.

A few months ago, I wrote about the effect Monty Python's Flying Circus had on my sense of humor, but it was only today I discovered that Jones was the "inventor" of the show's non-ending ending... a sketch has gotten lost along the way to the punch line?  Have a knight in full armor walk in and hit somebody over the head with a rubber chicken. Have someone in uniform declare everything to be too silly and cut to another sketch.  Simple and stupid, sure, but funny as hell and I've used the same technique in my writing here at The Pond over the years.

I had just glanced at my phone after briefly waking up this morning and saw the news that he had died, and I can't explain just how strongly it affected me.  I mean, beyond rolling over and going back to sleep.  I've long outgrown the concept of personal heroes, but the Pythons are the closest I might possibly have anymore.  They've been one of the few things that I can say have always been a part of my life... at least, as long as I've been aware of such things.  And now I've gotten old enough to see them begin to go away.  Hard to come to grips with such thoughts at nine in the morning..

And now I'm going to go watch the Spam sketch.

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January 13, 2020

When Two Hobbies Collide

Today is National Rubber Ducky Day.


Even Jeanne Alter from Fate Grand Order is excited!  And really, who could blame her?

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January 10, 2020

Neal Peart

If you are approximately my age, you or someone you knew was a fan of Rush when you were in high school.  Me, I liked a number of their songs but I couldn't call myself a real fan... mainly because of the rabidness of the REAL fans who insisted they were the greatest band ever.  Kinda off-putting, y'know?  Particularly when you were like me and you preferred more synths and new wave.


As time went on, nothing ever really changed my opinions towards the band... a few great songs, a lot of usually pretentious prog-rock-y stuff, and an overzealous fan base.  I did acknowledge, however, the unquestioned skill of Geddy Lee on bass, Alex Lifeson on guitar, and Neal Peart who is pretty much on the very very very short list of "best rock drummers of all time."  You might be able to convince me there's someone better. Modern Drummer has him as the #2 rock drummer, #3 overall, behind Buddy Rich and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham.  Well, maybe so.
Neal Peart died today at the age of 67.  He apparently had been battling brain cancer for the past few years, but keeping it quiet from the public at large.  Despite not being the megafan who will be deeply wounded by his passing, I wanted to acknowledge him... if for no other reason than he was the subject of one of the first bits of fan-made CGI I had ever seen.
2004.  Remember 2004?  I have a hard time remembering that far back anymore... I had just started working at the Duck U Bookstore after CowPuters went under, that's how far back we're talking.  I'm sure many of the Pond Scum remember the video fondly, or at least remember it.  

The Pond's condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

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