April 28, 2016

The Peaceful Visage Of Head Trauma





Lux et Veritas, Scott Sterling.  Lux et Veritas.

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April 26, 2016

F1 on TV: Russia 2016

This time around the F1 Circus finds itself in Sochi, Russia, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics... and of course the Sochi Autodrom.  It's among, around and through the leftover buildings and so-called glory of those Olympics that Our Favorite Form of Motorsports will be racing.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

Nope, no change from 2014 or 2015.  That's unfortunate, because this race has not given us great events in the past.  The first race was run under the shadow of Jules Bianchi's accident, when nobody in particular really wanted to be there.  2015 saw wrecks a-plenty, a dull race, and a track worker nearly run over by Seb Vettel.  Now, one could say that the circuit has yet to get "a fair shake," as it were.  It's still awfully new, the events of the past two years have overshadowed the track, so on and so forth.  One less charitable could say that, because the circuit sucks Siberian Snow Cones, the events of the past occurred.  Go ahead, guess which view I tend towards, I dare you.

Look... it's really quite simple: there are 10 90-degree turns.  If you add in Turns 7 and 8, it becomes an even dozen.  Think those do anything to the flow of the track?  Or do you believe that stopping and starting and stopping and starting make for exciting racing?  Of course it's a Hermann Tilke layout.  I mean, sure, I suppose he did the best he could given the limitations of having to race through the Olympic Park, but... well.  They don't listen to my advice over at the FIA... they don't even reply, except for that one time with the restraining order... so no use in complaining.

The good kulaks of the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual coverage at the usual times... but let's check 'em out to make sure we're all on the same page, shall we?
Friday
Practice 2: 6a - 730a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Russia: 6a - 930a live on CNBC

Note the long running time for the race on Sunday... I'm assuming that includes both pre-race buildup and "F1 Extra", the post-race coverage.  All times Pond Central, add an hour for those of you in Virginia, take two hours away for y'all in San Francisco, and but one if you're a relative of mine in Albuquerque, NM. 

Actually, anybody in Albuquerque should take one hour off Pond Central time.  Just... y'know what?  Never mind.  Whatever.  Do what you wanna do.  It's yer thang.

We'll be along sometime after the race with the usual F1Update!, except maybe this time with energy and passion.  Or not.  We'll see.

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April 25, 2016

Random Anime Picture #116: The End Of Cinderella Girls

I did not expect them to be eaten by mini-Godzilla.

-iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, Ep04

I am of the opinion that I'm missing something with this show, perhaps even more than with the original Idolmaster series.  Kinda like how Kantai Collection is filled with references that only make sense if you've played the game, I'm guessing that I'm only getting half the story here.  Maybe someone who's actually played it can pipe up... I think I remember seeing that The Man Called Author played it... and tell me if that's really the case. 

Maybe he can also explain why Anastasia isn't the main character in the show.

Because, ye gods and little fishies, she's certainly my most popular.  She's no Chihaya, of whom I even have a figma, but she ain't far behind.

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April 23, 2016

48

On this day in 1348, the Order of the Garter, the first English order of knighthood, was created.  The word hillbilly was used in print for the first time today in 1900.  On this day in 1945, the Soviet Army entered the outskirts of Berlin proper.  Ken Johnson of the Houston Astros threw a no-hitter against the Reds on this day in 1964... and lost 1-0, becoming the first pitcher ever to lose a no-hitter.  Sergei Prokofiev was born this day in 1891.  Today in 1899 saw Minoru Shirota, the creator of Yakult, probiotic drink company and owner of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows baseball team.  The debut album by The Ramones was released today in 1976.  Timothy McVeigh was born in 1968 on this day.

And on the North Side of Chicago in 1968, in a hospital somewhere in the vicinity of Wrigley Field (which hosted its first baseball game on April 23, 1914, under the name Weeghman Park), unto this unsuspecting world was inflicted a Wonderduck.


birthday candle

As always, nobody is more surprised than myself.

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April 22, 2016

Prince

I was a fan of Prince's music.  Not the biggest fan, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I think most people my age at last respect the man for his ridiculous string of hits.

But for me, it wasn't the hits that made him the legend he was.  Instead, it was the sheer amount of musical talent he possessed.  He played all the instruments on his first five albums, only creating a band for touring purposes.  Liner notes to his albums show around 40 different instruments, including vocals.  Of course, his vocal range went from ridiculously high falsetto to a baritone that began to impinge on bass.  But his guitar was his true standout skill.

There's a story making the rounds that Eric Clapton was once asked what it was like being the best guitarist in the world, and he replied "I don't know, but you can ask him, he's right over there" while pointing at Prince.

There's no evidence Clapton actually said that, but there's no denying his talent.  But it was sometimes hard to notice the ability behind the flamboyance and self-indulgent behavior that was endemic to his persona.  If there's one thing Prince was, however, it was performer.

Superbowl XLI was a painful one for me, as the Bears lost to the Colts that year, but the halftime show by Prince was jaw-dropping.  According to an NFL Films documentary about the entire game-event-thing, the producer of the halftime show came to Prince and said "I'm sorry, but it's raining."  Prince replied with a casual "Yes, it's raining."  Mind you, the set was made out of a type of tile that was slippery to begin with, and now you've got rain on it as well.  The producer, worried, asked if there was "anything we can do for you?"  Prince's response was "Can you make it rain harder?"  I haven't seen the whole performance since that game, as Prince was virulently anti-digital; he did everything he could to keep his stuff off of youtube, for example.

Having lived in Minnesota, having been to 1st Avenue, the club/concert hall seen in the movie Purple Rain, and other places in and around Minneapolis, one knew that it was always possible that one night he would show up unannounced, play a small intimate concert, then leave, just because he wanted to.  This was just something he did.  Never any rhyme or reason as to where, either... he could show up in Duluth just as easily as St Paul.  I'm not ashamed to say that I took advantage of that one Halloween.

I dressed in a pair of black jeans, black turtleneck, black combat boots, a black duster, black shades, I even dyed my hair, eyebrows and mustache black (somewhere in San Francisco, Vaucaunson's Duck has just died laughing).  I borrowed a fake cellphone and an earpiece from the theatre props shop, and told my friends that I'd catch up with them.  About an hour later, I climbed the stairs leading to a local bar with a stage at the end of it; an acoustic guitarist was playing not overly well.  I walked in, ignored my friends, and stood at the end of the bar as far away from the stage as I could.  Anybody who approached me got the cold shoulder, or a deadpan look from behind the sunglasses.  After a couple of beers, the bartender finally made his way over to me to ask what my deal was.  I quietly said that I was one of Prince's bodyguards... hinting without outright saying it that he was in the area looking for a place to play, and I was scouting this place.

For the next 90 minutes or so, I didn't have to pay for anything... and the beer had stopped, the bartender providing me mixed drinks instead.  At one point, I could see the bartender leaning over and talking to a couple of people at the other side of the bar.  I couldn't hear what he said, but suddenly the were staring at me intently... then they practically ran back to their table, and then everybody there was staring at me.  It took almost no time at all for the message to make it to my friend's table... and they were staring at me, not with eager and hopeful anticipation like the others, but in frank admiration.  To their credit, they did not blow my cover.

All good things come to an end, however, and I eventually made the fake phone ring, "answered" it, said a few words into it, then briskly walked towards the exit.  The bartender looked a question at me, I shook my head, and left quickly.  About a half-hour later, when the rest of the gang showed up for the apres-party, the amount of grief I took was awesome.

Two weeks later, I went back to the place, except I was dressed normally, my hair back to its regular red... but I had the sunglasses with me, in a pocket.  I chatted with the bartender, and it looked like he wasn't sure if he had seen me before, until he asked me flat out.  At which point, I pushed my hair back, put on the sunglasses, and muttered something about Prince.  The bartender stared at me, said "you sunuvabitch!", shook my hand, handed me a beer, and said "when you're done with that, I don't want to see you here ever again."  That was fair... but I left a $40 tip anyway, which was the whole point of going back in the first place.

Prince Rogers Nelson passed away yesterday in his studio in Chanhassen, MN.  He was 57.  His music will live on.

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April 21, 2016

These Cubs... They're Pretty Good.

So the Chicago Cubs played the Cincinnati Reds tonight.  They won 16 - 0.  Their young third baseman, Kris Bryant, had four hits, two home runs (one of which was a grand slam), and six RBIs.  That's pretty good, but not quite good enough for tonight's headline.

Yup, Jake Arrieta threw his second no-hitter.  Which sounds impressive, but it gets better when you realize it was his second no-hitter in his past 11 regular season starts.  He's lost once in his past 23 regular season starts... and in that one loss, the other starting pitcher, Cole Hamels, threw a no-hitter.  The Cubs are now 12-4 on the season, which is the best record in baseball. 

I'll give the Reds credit... you gotta admire their sense of humor:

I'm actually really scared of this Cubs team... there's a lot of season left to go, but they're clearly good enough to get into the World Series.  After a lifetime of watching them fail, that's terrifying!

Please, Cubs players: scare me some more.

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April 20, 2016

Random Anime Picture #115: Oh Dear


-Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls, Ep02

I've always had a weird thing with the iDOLM@STER franchise.  I don't dislike it, but I've never been particularly impressed by any of the shows I've seen... or any of the "idol builder"-based shows, really.  Then again I've also never played the games, but from what I've seen/read about them, I could see myself getting caught up in the whole rigamarole.

One thing I appreciate about the shows are the way they get the "backstage" parts right.  Performers, particularly first-timers, get the jitters while the tech crew goes about their jobs with a staid professionalism, unnoticed and only rarely appreciated.  Not that I'm bitter or anything about that detail.

Maybe it'll keep my interest.  Maybe not.  We'll see.

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April 17, 2016

miniF1Update!: China 2016

The sun shone beautifully in the sky as points leader Nico Rosberg brought the Thundering Herd around to the grid at Shanghai International, easily the nicest weather the teams had seen all weekend.  Which is not the unadulterated blessing you may think it is; after all, the cars never ran in sunny conditions in practice, who knows if the teams got their setups right?  Rosberg's main rival, Lewis Hamilton, was starting from last on the grid, deciding not to start from the pit lane.  How would this play out?  And would Ferrari finally make their challenge to the Mercedes domination stick?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of China!

*LIGHTS OUT:  In Formula 1, you can't always count on a good race, but you can always count on a wild and wooly first lap, and China coughed up a good one today.  Our polesitter had the latest in what's becoming a trend of Mercedes crappy starts, allowing the Red Bull of Smiley Ricciardo to take the lead into Turn 1.  Behind them, all was chaos.  The two Ferraris bounced off each other, aided by the Kid Kvyat's Red Bull making a mad dash up the inside of them.  Kimi Raikkonen went sailing off into the hinterlands as a result, his front wing gone away.  Vettel, on the other hand, continued, but with a damaged front wing that would be replaced at the first pit stop.  Farther back, the Haas of Lettuce Grosjean wound up with nose damage as well.  Even further back... okay, look: we here at F1U! have a belief that if a car that is normally up at the front of the grid is starting from the back for whatever reason, it's better and safer to start them from the pit lane.  That way, they avoid the first corner demolition derby and won't lose too much time in the process.  Lewis Hamilton, however, elected to start from 22nd on the grid, stating that he was going to start passing people at the earliest opportunity and go all-out to catch his teammate.  Instead, he was collected by the Sauber of Felipe Not Massa Nasr, his front wing wound up stuck underneath his Mercedes, and he had to limp around to the pits, the first of an incredible five pitstops on the day for the reigning World Champion.

*AND THEN...: On Lap 3, with DRS enabled, Rosberg swung wide to pass the leader Ricciardo.  As he pulled alongside, the left-rear tire of the Red Bull shredded itself on some carbon fiber debris left behind by one car or another.  He limped back to the pits, but any thoughts of a podium for him were left behind with the tire carcass.  A safety car came out a lap or two later, ostensibly for the clearing of debris (and there was a lot of it around the circuit), but as the Legendary Announce Team put it, it would give the drivers a chance to cool off... we here at F1U! had images of someone pulling out a firehose... and get back to calm and collected racing.  Not that it did much for Seb Vettel's mood: as he dove for the pit lane, he discovered two cars ahead of him, with Nico Hulkenberg's Force India moving slowly in front... certainly to open a gap to his teammate, as the team had decided to "double-stack" them, bringing both cars in at once.  So Vettel, in no mood for such things, passed them in the pit-in.  Not only was it perfectly legal, but Hulkenberg got a five-second time penalty for driving slower than warranted and causing a hazard.  This race had everything!

*WOO.  YAY.  WHEE.:  Until it didn't.  After the restart, which Rosberg handled with aplomb, the race wasn't all that much of a much.  The Mercedes went galloping out over the horizon, barely to be seen again.  At one point in the race, he pitted from the lead... the entire pitstop took just over 24 seconds, including the roll in and the roll out... and still had a 12 second lead when he returned to the track.

*SAILING HOME:  Rosberg made it three-for-three for the season, and six out of the last six, winning by nearly 40 seconds over the second-place Ferrari of Seb Vettel.  Some say that Rosberg is still out on track somewhere, gliding around out of sight of the FOM cameras....  Third and fourth places went to the Red Bulls of Kid Kvyat and Smiley Ricciardo,  45 and 52 seconds behind.  The other Ferrari, that of Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, 65 seconds in arrears.  Lewis Hamilton, who before the race said that he was "perfectly situated" in the championship, finished seventh.  And for the first time, both Haas cars finished the race with Esteban! finishing 14th, Lettuce Grosjean 19th.  No points, but just as important in a way.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"So, how's that championship working out for you, Lewis?  Lewis?  Where are ya, buddy?" - Nico Rosberg

"Um.  Whoops." - Seb Vettel

"Yeah, take that Sebby!  That'll teach you to mess with a Russian!" - Kid Kvyat

"*grin*" - Smiley Ricciardo

"mrmrmdbsldlsm mmrmrrbrmmlm mrmrlrbrrbbbblrlrbm mrmrmrl." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Damn, I'm good... starting from last place, making five pit stops, and still getting in the points?  I'm mega!  Buy my rap album!" - Lewis Hamilton

"It was fun out there today!" - Esteban!  (note: real quote)

"It was a horrific race." - Lettuce Grosjean (note: real quote)

In two weeks, we find ourselves in Russia.  Dosvydanya and see ya then!

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April 16, 2016

F1 Quals: China 2016

Practice 3 in China was stupidly wet, with heavy rain lasting through the first 15 minutes.  By the time Quals rolled around, the track was... mostly dry.  There were still some damp spots, though.  Would they have any role to play?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of China:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.669 1:36.240 1:35.402
2 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:37.672 1:36.815 1:35.917
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:37.347 1:36.118 1:35.972
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.001 1:36.183 1:36.246
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.537 1:36.831 1:36.296
6 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:37.719 1:36.948 1:36.399
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.096 1:37.149 1:36.865
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:37.656 1:37.204 1:36.881
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.181 1:37.265 1:37.194
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.165 1:37.333 No Time
11 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:38.016 1:37.347
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:38.451 1:38.826
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.593 1:39.093
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:38.425 1:39.830
15 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:38.321 1:40.742
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:38.654 1:42.430
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:38.673

18 Esteban! Haas 1:38.770

19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:39.528

20 Rio Rainbow Gate Manor 1:40.264

NC Turbo Pascal Wehrlein Manor DNF

NC Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF


On first glance, you might think that Lewis Hamilton was affected by the rain, but you'd be wrong.  He went out for a trial lap on Intermediates, but came right back in complaining of his engine being down on power.  I mean, every driver complains that their engine isn't powerful enough, but this time it was real: a second attempt at a lap later in the session was also a failure as his energy recovery system wasn't working right.  Since he didn't set a time, he technically races at the whims of the stewards.  No worries there, I'd say.

Manor's Turbo Pascal Wehrlein also races at the allowance of the stewards as he wrecked his car just a couple of minutes into Q1... and this is the only time that the wetness of the circuit may have had an effect. 

As you can see, there's two damp strips across the asphalt, separated (and caused) by a bump in the front straight that runs the width of the track.  Wehrlein splashed through the first damp patch, hit the bump, then nailed the second damp patch... and ended up having a tankslapper that dumped him into the outside wall.  You'll note his DRS is open, as well... the combination of water, bump, and reduced downforce ended his day.  A 20 minute red flag while the track workers recovered his car was the result.

Q2 ended early when Force India sent Nico Hulkenberg out for his final hot lap with a tire poorly attached.  He gave it the old college try, but making it all the way around the track without losing the thing proved to be too much.

Oh dear.
This, too, brought out a red flag.  The clock was stopped with about 90 seconds left in the session... nowhere near enough time to get out from the pits, get around the track, and start a flying lap.  Thus were Felipe Not Nasr Massa, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, all of whom were on or were about to start a flying lap when the flag came out, relegated to not making it to Q3.  Alonso was particularly annoyed by this, making sounds on the radio that were... um... interesting

The final session saw a surprise finish when Smiley Ricciardo cranked out a lap from out of nowhere.  Both Ferraris had a great shot at beating him, but both Vettel and Raikkonen screwed up the final hairpin, meaning they could not better the Aussie.  Which left Nico Rosberg up on top of the grid, and his biggest rival at the very far end. 

That promises fireworks.  See ya Sunday!

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April 14, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: China 2016

My internet connection appears to be mildly stable today (edit: not so much), so let's not tempt fate any more than necessary and get to crackin'!  Here's the track map for the Shanghai International Circuit, home for the 2016 Grand Prix of China:

There's nothing new under the smog in Shanghai... it's the same as it's been forever.  Oh, Turn 13, the so-called "Indianapolis", has been reprofiled... again... which is important, I guess, since it's the only banked corner in F1.  Never mind that tracks here in the US with real banked turns laugh at it, you grasp at what you can.

Wow.  A banked turn and smog... what more could you ask for?  How about rain?  They say we're going to be having rain during Quals, which could be fun.  Particularly because Quals is going back to the old "knockout" qualifying method!  No more of that "90second elimination" format, that's gone... officially, this time.  Elimination qualifying was a failure, but looking at it coldly and dispassionately, it really didn't cough up any results that were out of the ordinary: it was just a stupid stupid way to do it.

But that's all water under a duck's butt now.  Now we're concerned with the broadcast schedule, as brought to us by the Legendary Announce Team...
Friday
Practice 2:  1a - 230a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  2a - 330a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of China:  1230a - 3a  live on NBCSN

All times are Pond Central.  Check your local listings for times in your area.  Post no bills.  Past performance is not an indication of future results.  A bird in the hand is likely to crap on you... and you'd deserve it, you beast.  2X2L calling CQ, is anybody there?

As always, F1Update! will be along after the race, so join us, won't you?  Or won't you?

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April 13, 2016

Internet Fail

My internet connection has been seriously flaky for most of the past 24 hours.  This is the first time it's been up since I got home from work, so I wanted to warn you that there may not be a "F1 on TV" this week, and if there is, it'll be Thursday (hopefully).

The race is in China, with Practice 2 being broadcast at like 1am Friday morning, so set your DVRs now!  See you when I've got something more stable than a pile of pick-up-stix stacked endwise!

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April 12, 2016

The Cubs Know What We Want






I always thought Kaga would be a good pitcher... she's always throwin' zeroes!

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April 08, 2016

The Forever Incomplete Post: ARIA the Avvenire Ep01

Back in January, I finally got to watch the new episode from the ARIA franchise, the first of three being co-released with the new BD sets.  Being the sort of person I am, after watching I immediately headed to The Pond and started writing.

Then deleted the post.  It sucked, full of massive fanboying to degrees not seen since Naruto/Dragonball Z slashfic.  So I waited another day or so and started again... and that post ended up in the bitbucket almost as quickly, and for much the same reason.  A third post died a-bornin', because I tried to do it in a less passionate manner and it turned out to be dull and boring. 

Then there was the fourth attempt.  It caught fire, then fell into the swamp It began to turn into an episodic recap, which was not at all what I wanted to do, because really: I love the franchise too much to abuse it like that.  Still, I didn't delete it, but let it simmer... some would say "fester"... all the while looking for some way to make it click.

Until just this evening, when Steven Den Beste asked if I had seen ARIA the Avvenire Ep01 yet, I had not, in fact, managed to come up with anything of note.  Until now... now, I'm just going to post what I have with this preamble that you're currently reading, and a followup postscript.  So without further ado, here's what I managed to scrape out of the catbox.

------------------------

The ARIA franchise is very close to being my favorite anime of all time, coming in just behind Kanon '06 and Azumanga DaiohARIA ran for three seasons, however, and could have easily continued for longer... but didn't.  It ended appropriately, with multiple "passing of the torch" moments, but it was bittersweet.  The world of Neo-Venezia was so attractive, so comfortable, so... nice, that it was hard to admit that it was over and that we'd never get to visit it again.  I mean, of all the myriad stories we've been given via anime over the decades, the only one I'd ever want to live in was the one involving female gondolieri on Mars.  Hell, I've even created my own backstory, running a a small shop somewhere off the Piazaa San Marco filled with attractive trinkets and gewgaws and books and coffee for the tourists and residents alike.  Occasionally an undine might bring her charges by, spend some time there, then head out to other sights.  Less commonly, one might stop by on her own for tea and conversation.  The shop might even end up in an episode when one of the main characters passes by.  And that'd be all I could ever want, a comfortable living in a wonderful place.  But it was over, and that was that.

Except it wasn't.  "That" changed in February of 2015 when it was reported that as part of a 10-year anniversary of the first season's broadcast we'd be getting new episodes!  Nobody knew exactly what the format was... OVAs?  A movie?  A whole new series?... but that almost didn't matter: we were going back to Neo-Venezia!  As it turned out, there would be three OVAs, first shown theatrically in September, then one would be included in the forthcoming BD releases of the original three series.  The first OVA was released right around Christmas, and after a few weeks for the holidays, a fansub finally made its way to the usual places.  I downloaded it late on a Monday night and spent the whole next day at work in anticipation of the joy that was about to come.

But at the back of my mind, there was... not fear, exactly, but trepidation... that the production staff would screw it up.  It wouldn't be difficult to do; a tiny change in tone and ARIA would be ruined.  The franchise has always had an air of wistful nostalgia to it.  The slightest drift to maudlinity or mawkishness could push the cheese factor to 10... and with the death of both of Athena's voices the trigger was there.  Then there was the obvious fact that this wasn't the same production staff: Hal Filmmaker went away in 2009.  Its successor, TYO Animations, is handling the OVAs, but... well.  Only one way to find out how it was.


more...

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April 05, 2016

Words Of Wisdom

Once upon a time, a very wise person indeed told me "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

While this has stopped me in the past but rarely, I'm too damn tired right now.

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April 03, 2016

F1 Update: Bahrain 2016

The desert sun had mostly set on the Sakhir International Circuit as the polesitter Lewis Hamilton led his teammate Nico Rosberg and the rest of the Thundering Herd on the recon lap just before the race start, but all was clearly not right with one of the drivers.  What happened?  Would it affect the second race of the season?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Bahrain!

*KABLAMMO:  As the field made its way to the grid, it became clear that the Ferrari of Seb Vettel was in some distress, judging from the line of sparks it was emitting.  Soon enough, however, those sparks became a mosquito-killing cloud as the engine completely let go.  He pulled off-circuit, day done before he could even turn a lap.

Last week, it was a fiery turbo failure that ended Kimi Raikkonen's race.  Was this a similar failure, or something more?

*LIGHTS OUT:  Like in Australia, Lewis Hamilton had a terrible start, immediately losing the lead to Nico Rosberg ,then getting run over by the Williams of Valterri Bottas in Turn 1.  He'd end up in sixth place by the end of the first lap, and Bottas would be given a drive-through penalty.  As the lap continued, we saw bodywork and pieces of front wing flying off of a plethora of cars as a half-dozen drivers forgot they weren't driving in NASCAR and "rubbin' is racin'" doesn't work in open-wheel.  Within a few more laps, Jenson Button's McLaren had come to a stop on-track and the Haas of Esteban! was retired in the pits with a brake problem.  To say the least, one of the more frantic starts to a race we've seen in a while.

*LONG DAYS AHEAD:  Up at the front, Nico Rosberg's Mercedes was hitting on all cylinders.  By the time all the front runners had made their first stops, he had an 11 second lead over Kimi Raikkonen and 20 seconds on Hamilton, and looked very much like he'd not be headed... either today or for the rest of the season, if things continued on like this.

*AGGRESSIVE:  Meanwhile, Lettuce Grosjean and Haas had decided to throw the normal operating manual in the trash and gamble on tires.  Able to choose what sort of rubber they would start the race on, everybody expected them to go with the long-running medium compound, outlast the other cars, and advance via making few pitstops than everybody else.  Instead, when the lights went out Lettuce was clad in the same super-soft tires as Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, and the others up front.  More surprising was that Haas kept him on the super-softs after the first stop.  While this did allow him to pass Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo for fourth place on Lap 25, it didn't seem like the best strategy ever.  Heads must've been shaking up and down the pit lane when Haas pitted a couple of laps later, emerging once again on super-soft rubber.

*MEANWHILE:  Up front, Rosberg had opened his lead to 16 seconds over the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, and nearly 50 seconds over Lewis Hamilton on Lap 30.  While the lead would shrink as the end approached, that was less because Rosberg was being threatened and more because Mercedes told him to reduce stress on his power unit. 

*IN THE END:  The last 20-odd laps were actually fairly dull, a startling contrast to the first 30 or so interesting ones.  Rosberg won the race by nearly 11 seconds, with Raikkonen finishing second.  Third went to Hamilton, a half-minute behind his teammate.  That was still a half-minute ahead of the fourth place finisher, Red Bull's Ricciardo.

*IRON HAAS: After three sets of super-softs, Grosjean finished the race on a set of soft tires.  While the fresh rubber let him begin to close in on Ricciardo for fourth, the faster super-softs allowed Embryo Verstappen's Toro Rosso to make a furious charge at the American car.  If the race went 60 laps, he probably would have caught and passed Lettuce... but the race ended after 57.  Once again, the new team on the grid finished way up in the standings, even improving on their debut race... amazing results.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Five in a row, Lewis, five in a row... ties you in 2014, doesn't it?  Why yes, yes it does.  Fancy that!" - Nico Rosberg

"mrmrrblmrrr  mrrlrrlrlrbrl  mrmrmrmrmrblblbl mrmrbrbl." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Sorry, busy snapchatting, what?" - Lewis Hamilton

"*grin*" - Daniel Ricciardo 

"This is the American Dream." - Lettuce Grosjean (note: real quote)

Two weeks from now, China beckons.  We'll see you then!

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April 02, 2016

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2016

The circuit changes, the names change, the positions change, but one thing stays inviolate: the new qualifying format still stinks on ice.  Here's a look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Bahrain:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.391 1:30.039 1:29.493
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.325 1:30.535 1:29.570
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.636 1:30.409 1:30.012
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:31.685 1:30.559 1:30.244
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:31.403 1:31.122 1:30.854
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:31.672 1:30.931 1:31.153
7 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:32.045 1:31.374 1:31.155
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:31.987 1:31.604 1:31.620
9 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:32.005 1:31.756
10 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:31.888 1:31.772
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:31.716 1:31.816
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:32.472 1:31.934
13 Esteban! Haas 1:32.118 1:31.945
14 Jenson Button McLaren 1:31.976 1:31.998
15 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:32.559 1:32.241
16 Blaise Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:32.806

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:32.840

18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:32.911

19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:33.181

20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:33.438

21 Rio Rollins Tachibana Manor 1:34.190

22 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:34.388


Once again we saw huge swaths of time with no or few cars on track.  The last five minutes of Q2, for example, saw one car run one lap... and the preceding four minutes was essentially a car on a FIA scale for a mandatory weigh-in.  That was all that was going on.  The last few minutes of Q3 was totally dead.  Any excitement was moved back, when Hamilton jumped himself from fourth to pole... but that happened in the middle of the session, instead of right at the end of a drama-filled Q3.  It's ridiculous.

Lewis Hamilton is on pole, and his lap is nearly a half-second faster than the race lap record set in 2004... and that was set in the V10 era, with practically unlimited aero downforce gizmos and stickier tires.

Haas continues their amazing start to the season, with Lettuce Grosjean ending up in ninth... widely considered the best spot to be if you can't be in the first couple of rows.  In ninth, you get tire choice for the race; eighth and above, you have to use the same tire compound as you had in Q2. 

The rest of Quals went more or less to script.  Renault is having difficulties figuring out the correct way to "stage" their cars for the 90second elimination thing, but otherwise?  Perez got hit by that, too.. .

The Toro Rosso twins are going to pissed at each other all season, aren't they?  That'll be fun!

Race in the mid-morning... see ya then!

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March 31, 2016

Bathtub Battles

A few weeks ago, the players of World of Warships were asked to fill out a survey about how they felt about the game.  For the most part, it was all the usual stuff: "would you recommend the game to your friends?", "what do you like about the game?", you know the drill.  One of the final questions was "what don't you like?"  I'm sure most of my response was echoed by others: destroyers (and torpedoes in general) are waaaaaay too overpowered, too many "paper warships", why Soviet ships and no Royal Navy... and at the end, I tacked on "Oh, and not enough rubber ducks.  You really should do something about that."

It appears that the producers listened.  It's still a combat game, it's just that now you've got toy ships floating in a bathtub firing... things... at each other.  With rubber ducks as terrain.  There are other things in the tub, too, but who cares about them?

First I'm partially to blame for Rio: Rainbow Gate! getting a US release, now there are rubber duckies in WoWS?  I need to use this power only for good...

I still sink just as readily in this version of the game as I do in the regular game, that's for sure.  But hey!  Rubber ducks!  Thanks, Wargaming!!!

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March 30, 2016

F1 on TV: Bahrain 2016 (UPDATED)

From Australia's circuit within a public park, the F1 Circus now finds itself in the middle of a desert. The Sakhir circuit is much the same as it's been in past years... the artillery emplacements are gone, the machinegun nests have been filled in, the tanks no longer use the end of the pit lane to repair their treads... so we should probably just look quickly at the map:

No change, as I said.  Even politically there's been no change, as Bahrain is one of the places where the 'Arab Spring' movement was crushed, with military help from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  Nowadays, the Bahrani government is still in ham-fisted mode, apparently arresting four US journalists for trying to cover the fifth anniversary marches last month.  And so it goes. 

Other than that, the circuit itself is grippy (thanks to asphalt imported from Wales), fast, and pretty much flat.  Wind can be an issue, as can sand since its in the middle of a desert.  Rain is not something you'd expect, though it did rain on Monday; one of the teams' twitter feeds had pictures of their equipment sitting in a soaked pit lane. 

Before I get into the "this is why I didn't say anything about it" bit, here's the broadcast times for the race weekend, featuring the Legendary Announce Team!  All times Pond Central, of course.
Friday
10am - 1130am: Practice 2 live on NBCSN
Saturday
10am - 1130am: Quals live on CNBC
Sunday
930am - 1230pm: 2016 Grand Prix of Bahrain live on NBCSN

As always, check your local guides for times... I have conflicting information on when the actual race is on-air.

Now then... remember that debacle of a qualifying format from Australia?  And people were saying that F1 would be reverting back to the "old" way of quals?  Yeah, about that... it was wrong.  We've got the same elimination format again for Bahrain and (possibly) beyond... and since the alternative was a "reverse grid" lineup, where the top eight qualifying cars would be moved deep into the grid, we should probably be happy about it.

One thing I've learned over the years of covering F1 in whatever way you call this thing is that if it isn't being said by the FIA, it isn't real yet.  And while the best thing to do with this qualifying format is to take it back behind the barn and shoot it, we're stuck with it for at least one race more.  At least it'll be at a decent time.  See ya soon!


UPDATE: Fernando Alonso is not being allowed to drive in this race.  He failed medical tests today, stemming from a fractured rib suffered in his accident at Australia.  He'll be retested before the next Grand Prix, in China.  Until he passes, McLaren has tabbed Stoffel Vandoorne, the team's reserve driver (and reigning GP2 champion), to take his seat.

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March 29, 2016

Flirtin' With Disaster

It's been five years, three months and nine days since I last had a cigarette... not that I'm counting or anything, because I'm not.  I only figured out exactly how long its been for the sake of this post.  Knowing that bit of information, combined with the post's title, should give you an idea of what's coming.

Fortunately, it's not as bad as you think... I didn't have a smoke.  Let me repeat myself: I did NOT smoke a cigarette or any other device intended for the partaking of tobacco.

I only want one about as badly as I've ever wanted anything in my life.  Its a damn good thing I'm taking a personal day from work tomorrow, otherwise I'd never be able to resist bumming one from a coworker.

It's not like I want to go back to the bad breath, the smelly clothes, the lack of taste and smell, the stained teeth, the ever-empty wallet, and the lack of wind.  But dear heavens above, none of that matters right now.

I'm NOT happy about this.  Hopefully the craving will dissipate overnight.  Wingtips crossed.

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March 27, 2016

Memories Of A Time Long Ago

Did anybody here read OMNI magazine?  I did, quite a bit.  I remember it mostly for the science-fiction stories, some of which were quite good, but the occasional article stuck in my mind as well.  For example, I'm sure the first time I heard about the Hubble Space Telescope was in the pages of OMNI, years before it ever made it to space.  This morning, after being awakened from a deep sleep by a text that was sent much too early, I remembered something I read 30 or more years ago...

It was an article about the coming environmental disaster, or the hole in the ozone layer, or how we were causing the next ice age, or something along those lines.  Contained in the article was a chart showing what sort of prices we'd be looking at for common items... milk, bread, construction materials, gasoline (note: environmental disaster makes gas prices go down from current rates), metal plates, cars, that sort of thing... wait, what?

That seemed like an odd item to compare prices with, at least for the type of article we're talking about here.  Everything else were common household goods, and then along comes "metal plates" and everything gets thrown into a cocked hat.

Then came this morning's text-message wakeup call, ruining a somewhat humorous dream about a world-wide raccoon shortage, but also for whatever reason reminding me of the OMNI article.  And then it hit me: metal plates, not metal plates!

I was a very intelligent youngster, but I wasn't a smart kid... or adult apparently, since it's taken me 30-plus years to figure out "metal plates."  Unfortunately, I've never been able to find that article again... maybe it wasn't in OMNI.  National Geographic?  Mad?  It is a puzzlement.

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