January 31, 2009

Greatest. News Blooper. EVAR.


How in the world...?

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January 28, 2009

A Tourist From Japan...

...by way of Virginia:

Oh no, there goes Tokyo Pond Central / Go go Godzilla!
Yes, Gojira paid a visit to the Rubber Duck Factory this evening!  After the usual tour, he was presented with a special parting gift:

Everybody needs a rubber duckie... even nuclear-fire-breathing monsters!
Yes, another special day here at Pond Central.  You never know who (or what) will show up!

Thanks to Brickmuppet for the Gojira figure... purchased in Japan during one of his trips, no less!

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January 27, 2009

"Fire in the cockpit!"

During training for the first manned Apollo mission, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were strapped into their seats in capsule CM-012.  The air in the capsule had been replaced by a 100% oxygen atmosphere, as was the standard procedure.  Communications between the astronauts and the ground crew were interrupted briefly by the sound of a voltage transient.  Ten seconds later...

"We've got a fire in the cockpit!"
"Fire in the cockpit!"
"We've got a bad fire!  Let's get out!  We're burning up!  We're on fire!  Get us out of here!"

Seventeen seconds after the first indication of fire from the crew, a scream of pain was cut short as the capsule ruptured from a massive pressure spike caused by the fire.  After that, it took five minutes to open the capsule's hatch from the outside; nobody ever thought that the hatch would need to be opened in a hurry by the launch tower crew.  The hatch was designed to swing inwards, and because of the overpressure caused by the fire, the astronauts were unable to pull it open.

The inside of the capsule was a charred ruin.  The three astronauts had become the first Americans to die in a space vehicle on January 27, 1967. 

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January 25, 2009

The Sole Survivor.

On December 7th, 1941, the strongest navy in the world was undoubtably the Nihon Kaigun of Japan.  Foremost in this powerhouse were the fleet's 10 aircraft carriers.  Carrying the best, most experienced pilots, flying the best fighter and torpedo bomber and a dive bomber that was very nearly the equal of the best, this striking force ran roughshod over the Pacific Ocean.

By the end of the war, however, all of the carriers in the fleet at the beginning had been sent to the bottom of the ocean by the "Big Blue Blanket" of the US Navy.  All, that is, except for one... the Sole Survivor.  Ironically, it was the smallest, slowest, oldest, least capable of Japan's flattops, the Hosho.

The Hosho was also the first ship ever built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier, commissioned on December 27th, 1922, 13 months before the HMS Hermes, the first ship designed as a CV, took to the water.

As the first carrier in the Japanese navy, it was influential in many ways, serving as a testbed for experimental methods that later became standard operational procedures for the fleet.  Experience gained from the Hosho's construction and service influenced the conversion of the Kaga and Akagi, and led directly to the design of the Ryujo

By the time of Pearl Harbor, however, the Hosho was only just barely able to operate with the rest of the fleet.  She was too small and slow to be able to handle the modern Zero, Kate and Val planes, and was only just able to fly the A5M Claude off her deck in the best of situations (fresh headwinds with a relatively calm sea).  As this combination was rare at best, and the Claude was obsolete as a whole and rapidly retired, this quickly left the Hosho without a fighter it could carry.  During the Battle of Midway, where she gave the battleships of Yamamoto's Main Body a tiny organic air capability, the Hosho was carrying eight B4Y Jean torpedo bombers.

It was one of these planes that took the famous picture of the burning Hiryu after she had been pummeled by Dauntless bombers at Midway.

After Midway, the Japanese fleet was desperate for carrier decks.  Despite this, the Hosho was removed from active duty as a combatant on June 20th, 1942.  She was then used exclusively for landing exercises and carrier training in the Inland Sea of Japan.  She very nearly escaped the war unharmed.

On March 19th, 1945, while operating near the battleship Yamato in the Inland Sea, the Hosho was attacked by seven planes.  She suffered either a small bomb or a rocket hit that punched a few small holes in her flight deck, losing six crewmen in the process.  The war revisited the Hosho on July 24th, 1945, when she was attacked in harbor on July 24th, 1945, and she reportedly took one hit for scant damage.

After the war ended, she was used as a troop carrier to bring Japanese soldiers home from Wotje and Jaluit.  Struck from the list in 1946, she was finally broken up for scrap on May 1st, 1947.

Hosho, the Sole Survior, was no more.

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January 22, 2009


It's the new semester at Duck U., and that means one thing:



As a result, I'm somewhat worn down.  On Tuesday, the first day of rush, we had our second-busiest sales day ever... and it felt like it.  In one day, we did a sizable percentage of the Bookstore's annual sales.

A reasonable representation of how I felt after close of business on Tuesday.
Fortunately, the worst of rush is pretty much over.  One or two more days of being quite busy, and it'll slow down again. 

Shortly thereafter, however, the store manager will go on maternity leave, as she is due to expel her parasite (currently named "Squishy") February 8th.  So it may not really slow down at all for Wonderduck!  Oog.

A reasonable representation of how I'm going to feel in late March.
It's going to be a loooong couple of months.

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January 20, 2009

The Very Cool Thing I Found.

God Bless the Internet.

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January 19, 2009

Happy 10th Birthday!

...to the Powerpuff Girls!!!


From The Powerpuff Girls Rule, a new episode that debuted tonight!

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January 16, 2009


I've lived in Duckford since 1976, and they say that back in 1978, it got this cold.  Except the listed temp is at 8am... and it was -30 last night.

I've been colder; I did live in MN for two years whilst I attended grad school, and we had one night when it got down to -50 (and the police were on the radio stations saying "do not go outside, you will die.").  But that's just quibbling: once it gets this cold, a few fewer degrees just doesn't make a difference; oh, your frozen corpsesickle might take a little bit longer to thaw out at -50, but that's about it.

Duck U. is closed today, due to the cold.  I'd be happier if I didn't already have the day off (I'm working on Saturday), but jeez, it's chilly out there.  Later this afternoon when the temps are above zero, I'm going to have to see if the Duckmobile will start.  It did pretty well yesterday morning, and it was -15 then.

Did I mention?  Coldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcoldcold!

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January 14, 2009

Be Seeing You.

Patrick McGoohan, best known as Number 6 in the legendary TV program The Prisoner, passed away today at the age of 80.

It's a bloody shame that the show isn't better known.  It's very surreal, and would probably be quite popular these days.  You can see a lot of its influence in programs like Lost and 24.  There's a remake of The Prisoner coming from ITV, probably this year, but I can't imagine it'll be anywhere near as interesting... I'll be watching, though.

UPDATE: AMC has the entire series online for our watching enjoyment.  You're welcome!

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January 13, 2009

The Happiest Car Ever!

(Picture nicked from HERE)
The 1958 Austin-Healey Sprite "Bugeye".  I saw one on SPEED's live coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Automotive Auction - Scottsdale just an hour or so ago, and started giggling.  It's so cute it makes my teeth hurt!

Compare and contrast with the Angriest Car Ever.

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January 08, 2009

Amazing... and SNEAKY.

I just got back from dinner with The Librarian.  I also just got back from dinner with Momzerduck.  At the same place and the same time.  The two of them had never met before.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  It turns out that the two of them were being really really sneaky!  They teamed up on a Christmas gift for me... and had been planning it for nearly three months!

Sneaky, sneaky... and amazing, too.  I'm not going to say what the gift was yet, as it deserves a blogpost all its own and I don't have a camera at the moment, but it falls into that category of "Oh my."  There were almost tears.

Thank you, both of you.  You're both the greatest, y'know that?


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January 07, 2009

Another Day, Another Meme.

Via Don through Ubu, there's this:

The gist…Retrieve and share the first sentence [or two, or three] of the first blog post of each of the twelve months of (r.i.p.) 2008.

In that I can't work up the energy to actually blog about something worthwhile at the moment, I'll bite.  Here we go!

January: ...I'll always have the duck.

February: So the first race of the 2008 F1 season, the Australian Grand Prix, is 38 days away.  This seems like a good time to take a look at who's driving for which team this year.

March: I almost wish I hadn't checked this.

April: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the organizers of this week's race in Bahrain have... requested... that Max Mosley perhaps not appear at the track.  He's expected to do comply with that request.

May:  Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit his own bad self, had a F1-related post today:

DANICA PATRICK going Formula One?

Now, while I appreciate any attention paid to F1 by someone here in the US, the Good Perfesser is in my territory here, so lets look at what this really means.

June: In an analysis of this scene, there are 11 ducks visible (though not in this picture, since some are blocked by Wolfie).

July: Funny, Tsubaki sure doesn't look like she's a living weapon.

August: As is usual with practice, it was dull, boring, and really uninteresting.  In fact, it was so bad that I didn't watch all of it.

September: From the world's only sterile street circuit at Valencia, the F1 Circus warily heads into the Ardennes Forest to race on what is probably the world's finest modern track: Spa-Francorchamps.

October:  So now we come to the most important part of Ikkitousen Great Guardians: the obligatory OVAs.

November: What the hell was THAT?

December: There is cake.  You just can't have any.

Six F1-related posts, five anime, two duck-related, and one gaming.  Yes, I know that's 13... June is both anime and duck.  Interesting balance there.

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January 06, 2009

An Emotional Reaction

Feh.  Double-Feh.

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January 03, 2009

A Dawn Like Thunder

Readers of The Pond know that I have a thing for the Pacific War, and even moreso for the Battle of Midway.  The study of that period is one of my avid hobbies, and is what lead me to my fondness of Japan in general and eventually anime in particular (though in a fairly roundabout way).  I know quite a bit about the strategies used by both sides in the conflict, and could talk tactics with confidence as well.

With a few exceptions however, the one thing I don't have much knowlege about is the people involved.  Oh, I don't mean the Halseys and Nagumos, but the Chucks and Morts and Joes and Mitsuos and Hidekis... what about them? 

While I was doing my Christmas shopping at a local bookstore, I stumbled on a new release that seemed to have been aimed directly at my bump of curiosity.  A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron 8, by Robert J. Mrazek tells the stories of the men made famous by the Battle of Midway, the only squadron flying off the USS Hornet to make contact with the enemy on that day in June, 1942... and which was almost entirely wiped out as it made its run on the Japanese carriers.  All the squadron's Devastators torpedo bombers were shot down, and only one man, George Gay, survived. 

But that wasn't the whole squadron.  Historians of the battle will remember that the first six Avengers in US Navy service were flying from Midway's single runway after a hurried deployment from Pearl Harbor just before the battle.  They, too, were part of Torpedo 8, a detachment left behind when the Hornet sailed.  Further, another group of VT-8 pilots and crewmen, including the squadron XO, remained behind at Pearl waiting for the rest of the Avengers to arrive. 

Later, VT-8 wound up flying from the USS Saratoga until it was torpedoed.  Many of her squadrons wound up at Espiritu Santo, and some of them wound up going to Guadalcanal as part of the Cactus Air Force.  VT-8 was one of those.  The second half of the book covers that period of time, and the many, many trials the squadron suffered through.  Indeed, VT-8 suffered the highest casualties amongst naval squadrons at both Midway and Guadalcanal.  At Midway, 45 of 48 officers and men serving in Torpedo 8 were killed.  At Guadalcanal, seven of the remaining members were killed and another eight wounded.

It also wound up one of the most decorated squadrons in Navy history, if not the most decorated in US service, period.  It was the only squadron to receive two Presidental Unit Citations from FDR.  Its 35 pilots earned 39 Navy Crosses before it was decommissioned after Guadalcanal.

A Dawn Like Thunder is written almost entirely from interviews conducted with the few members of VT-8 still living, and from letters and memoirs by those who've passed away.  We meet men like Swede Larson, the squadron XO who took command of the squadron after Midway.  We learn that as a leader, he was a martinet who wasn't afraid to belittle his men, issued promotions not on how they performed but if he liked them or not.  Twice, men under his command were pushed so far that they pulled their sidearms on him.  He was also a courageous pilot (though one who refused to admit mistakes).  We meet Bert Earnest, the pilot of the single Avenger to make it back to Midway, though so shot full of holes that it never flew again.  He then went on to survive Guadalcanal, and WWII as a whole.  We meet Chief Petty Officer James Hammond, who won a Silver Star at Guadalcanal in large part because he built three 'Frankenstein Avengers', piecing scraps of many planes together to make one (barely flyable) bomber.  This at a time when the Cactus Air Force was down to a bare handful of planes.  The lineup of pilots and crew goes on, but you never feel like anybody is getting short shrift. The wives and girlfriends of some of the men even get their nods.

Robert Mrazek has done a fine job of tying all his research together and turning it into a coherent and readable story.  The small number of inaccuracies (Midway was described as having two airfields in 1942, when there was only one, for example) are easily overlooked, and don't detract from the superb job he's done telling the human story of Torpedo 8.  Highly recommended!

Mrazek and many of the men he wrote about are members of the Battle of Midway Roundtable, an organization that's been in existence since 1997.   I'm proud to be a member myself.  It's free to join, and if you're interested in the Battle of Midway or the Pacific War, you owe it to yourself to become a member.

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January 01, 2009

Winter Classic

I've never really been a hockey fan.  Oh, sure, I lived in Chicago growing up and was at least slightly aware of the Blackhawks, and the two years I spent attending grad school were up in Minnesota, but the sport didn't really interest me much.  So, while I'm not a hockey fan, I do know a little bit about the sport's history in Chicago... the 'Hawks are an Original Six team, for pete's sake!  I like the uniforms ("sweaters" in the sport's parlance), and the Blackhawks' in particular is a classic of sports merchandise.

Almost 10 years ago, I attended my first hockey game, as my girlfriend at the time was a fan of the Chicago Wolves.  It was a great time, and part of me wished I had been exposed to the sport more growing up.  These days Duckford has a professional team of its own, the IceHogs, which are a 'minor league' team of the Blackhawks.  But I can't get very into the sport.

In recent memory, the 'Hawks have been not only bad, but the team owner Bill Wirtz refused to put their games on television, short of the nationally televised games on ESPN they were scheduled for (or whatever... I'm really not a hockey fan).  As a result, the only way you could see them play was to actually attend a game.  Hardcore fans did that, of course, but people who might become fans couldn't just flip on the TV and catch a game... like you can do with just about every other sport in the history of the world.  However, last year Bill Wirtz died,  and his son, Rocky, went about changing the public's opinion of the Blackhawks.  The games are now on TV, and he brought in John McDonough, who once was the President of Chicago Cubs and a great marketing mind, to run the team.  As a result, the 'Hawks are the hottest ticket in Chicago... it doesn't hurt that they're a pretty good young team, too.

Today, the 'Hawks were on the national stage: the NHL's annual event called 'The Winter Classic.'  The game, against the Detroit Red Wings, was played outdoors... at Wrigley Field, no less!  While they lost, 6-4, the 'Hawks put on a helluva show.  Particularly the pregame stuff... and specifically the National Anthem.  Here, take a look:

The good part comes at the six-minute mark, when Jim Corneliusen sings The Star-Spangled Banner.  The crowd, as it always does at Blackhawks games, goes completely insane... which reminded me of back when the Blackhawks played at the old Chicago Stadium.  Cramped, smelly, but with a pipe-organ many churches would be envious of... and Chicago legend Wayne Messmer singing.  The following is from the 1991 playoffs, before Wayne was shot in the throat:

Now THAT is how you sing an Anthem, ladies and gentlemen.  His 1991 NHL all-star game performance is pretty darn good, too (but meh sound quality).  That one took place just a few days before the ground portion of Operation Desert Storm began, so you can imagine the fervor of the crowd... it sure put Whitney Houston's rendition at the SuperBowl to shame.

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