August 30, 2009

Muppetmail!

So Brickmuppet, a Member of the Order of the Honorary Duck, is playing tourist over in Japan and he just sent me some photos!  And what does he believe is an appropriate subject for his missive?  A beautiful shinto temple?  Cherry blossom trees in full bloom?  The crush of otaku in Akihabara?  Cosplayers at Comiket?  A study of Mount Fuji?

...or a duck in a sailor suit holding a plate of curry.  Boy has his head on straight, that 'Muppet.

We've seen this particular duckie twice before, actually.  It seems this sailor-suit-bedecked duck is the mascot of a curry joint in Yokosuka near the naval yard.  I first became aware of him in the anime Sky Girls, when two of the characters have a conversation near a statue of the mascot, outside a train station.  'Muppet then tracked down that very station, and took a pic of the statue.

The story of Japanese curry is an interesting one, actually.  You can read about it here (scroll down).

Thanks, Muppet!

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August 26, 2009

"The List" and LDLT

The human liver is a remarkable thing.  A human liver is huge, relatively speaking.  About the size of a football, it's the largest internal organ in the body.  It's almost too powerful for what it does, all things considered.  In fact, a person can lose 75% of their liver (from injury, for example) and still live perfectly well.

Not only that, but amongst the liver's amazing properties is the ability for it to regenerate.  That unfortunate person who was reduced to having only a quarter of a liver can expect it to grow back to full size in about eight years.  Truly amazing.

Which brings up LDLT.

Momzerduck is beginning the process of being put on "The List", you see.  "The List", in this case, is for a liver transplant.  The all-high muckity-muck God-Doctor-Specialists finally realized that her long-term  liver problems have damaged her quality of life, thereby making her a potential candidate for transplant.  There's a whole battery of pre-qualifying tests she has to undergo, of course, but those are being scheduled.

Then comes "The List."  For people who aren't Steve Jobs, "The List" can easily be two years long, or longer.  This can be a problem, considering that often the reason a person is on "The List" is that they could be expected to die within a year if they don't get a transplant.  Fortunately, Momzerduck isn't in that category... yet.  Hopefully, she'll never be in that category, but one can't hope for that sort of luck.  So onto "The List" she goes, hopefully.

Of course, sometimes a person's standing on "The List" doesn't matter, and they need a transplant right-the-hell-now! or they won't be on "The List" any more, if you get what I'm saying.  Sometimes they even get bumped up "The List" and get a full replacement liver from a non-living donor, which is medical-ese of saying "recent corpse" or "motorcyclist on a wet road".

But then there are the times where right-the-hell-now! doesn't happen, and the person needing a transplant doesn't get it.  It's only been recently that such things as liver dialysis and Bioartificial Liver devices have come into being, and that can help extend the time limit in some cases (one dialysis device, cleverly named "The Prometheus Device" is currently in trials and seems to have quite a bit of promise), but such things are not yet as common as kidney dialysis.

Which brings us back to LDLT, or Living Donor Liver Transplantation.  The first successful LDLT was performed in 1986, at the Universidade de Sao Paolo in Brazil.  It was originally a method by which a parent could have part of their liver removed and that piece transplanted into their child, replacing the kid's bad liver altogether.  Along the way, though, doctors realized that, because of both the uncanny efficiency and the regenerative properties of the liver, it could also be performed on adults for adults.

Basically, the donor has about half of their liver (the right lobe, to be specific) removed.  That substantial chunk replaces the entire bad liver in the recipient.  Recovery time is about 4-6 weeks for the donor, during which time the liver gets back to full functionality.  Shortly thereafter, it'll regain its full size.  Meanwhile, the newly-transplanted portion takes over for the diseased liver of the recipient, and it too grows back to full size, though it takes longer for them.

Though Momzerduck objects, I've declared my intention to be a living liver donor for her if it comes down to that.  Of course, that's if I'm found to be a viable donor... what with The Incident and all, I may not be found to be healthy enough for what is a pretty huge procedure.  I'm afraid I surprised Momzerduck with my research on the matter; she didn't think I had  quite accepted the situation.

Recently, I've been making a lot of jokes about melon ballers and ice-cream scoopers.  Whistling past the graveyard, I think.  Hell, I'm scared spitless about the whole thing, to be honest.  In the immortal words of the Pythons in The Meaning of Life, "...but I'm still using it!"

But then, the alternative is worse.  A lot worse.

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August 25, 2009

Cubs Sold

A few days ago, Steven asked "Hey, the Cubbies have got a new owner! Think it'll make any difference?"  As I sit here listening to the Cubs lose to the terrible Washington Nationals 12-4 in the 7th inning, my opinions on the matter are rather foul and vile.  In other words, a perfect mood to answer this question.

Short term, the sale of the Cubs to Tom Ricketts will make very little difference to the fortunes of the team as a whole.  They're saddled with two awful contracts, those of Milton Bradley (3 years/$30million) and Alfonso Soriano (8 years/$136million), which will make it difficult for the team to sign anybody of note in the offseason.  Both of these players are, to be frank, stinking up the joint.  Soriano was once a 40 homer/40 steal man, and while he's on pace to go 40-40 again, it's 40 walks/40 rbi (I exaggerate, but not by much).  They brought Bradley in to provide left-handed power and great on-base percentage... of course, he's promptly managed to hit 10 homers and hit .257 (as I write this, he just hit a home run, so make that 11 homers).  Both of them are, to be charitable, butchers in the outfield, and Bradley has an injury history longer than my wings.

The long-term signing of underachieving Carlos Zambrano, a starting pitcher with the famous "million dollar arm and a ten-cent brain", who is self-professed as "lazy", who recently went on the disabled list with a back injury suffered while he was taking batting practice (as he showed off his batting prowess, which is actually considerable), isn't going to help matters either. 

The one difference the new ownership will make is in management.  The team's general manager, Jim Hendry, and field manager, Lou Pinella, are probably walking to the hangman's noose after the season:  Hendry for signing those lousy contracts, and Pinella for his flat-out awful job this year.  The team has pretty much (Washington is up 15-5 now) underachieved all year, except when it's just been bad, and it probably shouldn't've been this way.

Long-term, however, there is some hope.  The 42-year old Ricketts is a long-time Cub fan.  He lived in the Wrigleyville area and met his wife in the Wrigley bleachers.  Unlike the Tribune Company, previous owners of the team, he has an emotional stake in the club.  Previously, TribCo made occasional noises about winning, but sure seemed more interested in just making money off the Cubs (and rightfully so.  That's what businesses do, after all).  I suspect that if Ricketts says he wants the Cubs to win the World Series, he'll actually mean it.  I have no idea how deep his pockets are after buying the team, but obviously he'll have SOME money left.

So, while I'm not getting my dreams get ahead of the ugly reality, there's at least a glimmer of possibility out there.  And what more can a real Cub fan hope for? 

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August 19, 2009

Duck U.'s Back In Session!

Today was the first day of the new Fall semester at Duck U! 

Which means that all the ducklings wanted to get their books... NOW!

I'm a little... well, here's a graphical representation of my current mental state:

Yep, that about covers it.  We've been going great guns for the past few days, yeah, but the first official day is always supernutty.

And now, so am I.

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August 16, 2009

Post Frustration

Over the course of this Sunday, I, Wonderduck, owner and sole proprietor of Wonderduck's Pond, the reading of which you are currently undertaking, had started four different posts prior to the one that is, at the moment, upon your monitor.

The first one, on a perhaps apocryphal technicality involving the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Crimean War, and Russia, failed because there's no way to confirm the incident.

The second one, an argument regarding the best fighter plane of the Second World War, may be revisited in the future.

The third, involving the Japanese Zero, may turn into a "What If...?" post down the line, if I can just get past the niggling little detail that I don't know enough about the battle it involves.  It could be quite provocative, however.  Or stupid.  That's the problem with "What If...?" posts.

The fourth never got past the opening words "I told you that people would complain and whine about the second Haruhi Suzumiya series."  Unfortunately, I can't find the post or comment that I actually said those words.

So, frustrated beyond all comprehension, I will instead stoop to the last resort of the lazy anime blogger: a picture of a cute girl.  Enjoy.

-Hatsukoi Limited, ep03

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August 13, 2009

RIP Les Paul


Les Paul, age 93.

If you've ever liked a rock song, or ever held a solid-body guitar, or ever listened to a multi-tracked recording, you owe a debt of gratitude to Les Paul.

He passed away Thursday at the age of 94, after an 80 year career in music.  The world is now a much poorer place.

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August 10, 2009

For The Record


And furthermore...

That is all.

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August 09, 2009

The Best Of The Jeeps

Escort, or 'Jeep', carriers, were wartime conversions of merchant hulls.  In 1942, as the US "auxiliary" carrier program spun up to full gear, every available C-3 hull, which was the preferred base design for conversion, had been earmarked for the Bogue-class escort carrier.

The Bogue-class was a relatively unsophisticated design, essentially slapping a flight deck on top of the hull, and changing the old main deck to a hangar.  While effective, more hulls were desperately needed to escort convoys in the Atlantic and support operations in the Pacific.  To overcome the shortfall, the powers-that-be tagged four T-3 tanker hulls for conversion.

T-3 Esso Trenton before conversion to USS Sangamon
The US Navy wasn't particularly fond of this idea.  The one type of ship in even shorter supply than carriers were fast fleet oilers, designed to accompany warships and provide fuel and other supplies to short-legged ships in the vast ranges of the Pacific ocean, and the T-3 filled that bill.  However, the Navy wasn't given a choice, and the four ships were taken into Norfolk Navy Yard, Newport News, Puget Sound Navy Yard and Bethlehem Steel.

The resulting Sangamon-class was considered the best of the converted Jeep carrier classes.

USS Santee, CVE-29
Longer, heavier and faster than the preceding Bogue-class, and the basis for the subsequent purpose-built Casablanca-class (which was smaller and lighter, and just 1kt faster), the Sangamons could (and often did) carry 36 planes.

Unlike every other escort carrier class, the four Sangamons were able to embark any carrier plane in the Navy arsenal, save for the Helldiver and the Corsair.  The usual air complement was between 12-18 Wildcats and around the same number of TBF Avengers, though the Sangamon and the Santee occasionally carried the Dauntless dive-bomber.  The Suwannee and the Chenango never did, for one reason or another.

They displaced 24100 tons (full load), as opposed to 16600 tons for the Bogues.  Unsurprisingly considering their tanker origins, they carried nearly three times as much fuel as well, giving them a range of 24000 nautical miles @ 15kts (the Bogues range was just over 10000nm).  They also had a huge bunkerage for airplane fuel.  As a matter of fact, they could carry more fuel than a Yorktown or Lexington-class fleet carrier, and only a bit less than the Essex-class, despite being about 350 feet shorter.  In effect, the Sangamon-class were self-escorting tankers.

All four began their service life in late 1942, covering the North Africa landings of Operation Torch.  Immediately following, they transferred to the Pacific.  Three of the four were hit by kamikaze (the Chenango avoided that fate, but suffered severe damage when a F6F crash-landed on her deck and smashed into planes parked forward).  The class as a whole suffered three kamikaze hits, four bomb strikes, and a submarine torpedo hit, yet all four survived... again, testament to the survivability of their larger-sized tanker origins.

Santee takes a kamikaze hit
As with all ships in WWII, their AA guns were substantially increased from their starting armament.  Unlike most others classes, however, the Sangamons handled the near-doubling of their guns without any topweight problems, owing to their tanker origins. 

The only thing that separated them from CVL status was their speed.  18kts maximum was pretty good for a transport, and excellent for an escort carrier, but much too slow to operate with the battle fleet, where 25-30kts was considered standard.  That's about the only statistic that the Sangamons were inferior to the Independence-class CVL.

All four ships of the class survived the war, earning 41 battle stars between them.  The Chenango and Santee continued in US Navy service as CVHEs (Carrier, Helicopter, Escort) until the late '50s.  The Suwannee was put into the mothball fleet.  The Sangamon, amusingly, was returned to commercial service in her original tanker configuration after the war, until she was scrapped in 1960.

The end of Sangamons.
For ships that were considered 'expendable', not a bad history.

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August 05, 2009

Momzerduck Update (and Some F1 News Too)

Momzerduck was discharged from the hospital this evening.  She's doing... okay, I guess would be the technical word for it.  Turns out when she fell, not only did she blonk her head quite forcefully, the docs also think she dinged her spleen, so she's in a fair amount of pain when she does things like laugh or transition from sitting to standing and so forth.  Thankfully, she was given a prescription for a nice painkiller.  So, she's home and resting comfortably with Hercule curled around her head like a pair of kitty earmuffs.

With that stress-inducer out of the way, lets get to the F1 News:

Felipe Massa has returned to Brazil to continue his recovery from the terrifying injury he suffered during quals for the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

"I know exactly what happened, that a spring came off Rubens' car and hit me on the helmet. I know that something happened to me, but I didn't feel anything when it happened.  They told me that I lost consciousness at the moment of the spring's impact on my helmet and I ran into the barriers, then I woke up in hospital two days later. I don't remember anything, and that's why what the doctors did had to be explained to me," said Massa in a Q&A session with Ferrari's media department.  "I also now have a fondness for celery, and I didn't before."

It seems incredible that he went home only nine days after the incident, and furthermore seems to be well on his way to making a full recovery.  While I hope for his sake that he won't race again this season, it appears likely that he will if all goes as smoothly as it has to date.

His replacement, Michael "Slappy" Schumacher, however, is in a world of hurt.  As expected, his neck is having some problems dealing with the stresses of driving a F1 car.  It doesn't help that he had injured his neck earlier in the year during a motorcycle crash.  Slappy's spokesperson said that "he's still not absolutely certain that his neck will hold up. His return depends on medical examinations which have yet to take place."  He's been running the Ferrari F2007 around the test track at Maranello, which does not violate the in-season test ban. 

Speaking of which, Ferrari is crying 'foul' at the recent decision to not allow Slappy a day's worth of running in the F60, their current chassis.  The teams needed to vote unanimously to allow such a special event, but Williams, Red Bull and Toro Rosso put the kibosh on it. 

Ever the sportsmen, Ferrari replied with "
Guess who opposed the test with the F60?  A team that hasn't won anything for years and yet didn't pass over the opportunity to demonstrate once more a lack of spirit of fair play."  Nice, very nice.  Never mind that Toro Rosso didn't get to run NKOTT before his debut, it's Slappy and Ferrari... of course they think they should be allowed to break the rules.

Finally, Nelson Piquet Jr was finally let go by Renault, surprising absolutely nobody.  What IS surprising is that his father, former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Sr, is being linked to negotiations to take over the BMW F1 team.  Obviously, his son would be given a seat then... which might be the ONLY way he's ever allowed back in a F1 car.

Junior fired back at Renault for axing him by releasing a vitriol-laced statement, which you can read in full here.  Short version: "Flavio Briatore is an assmunch."

Which we knew already.

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August 03, 2009

Momzerduck In Hospital

Very early this morning, Momzerduck got out of bed and fell over.  She banged her head on the floor, opening a rather sizable cut over her left eye, as well as one on her elbow.  Ph.Duck called the EMTs, who took her to a local hospital.  Turns out she was in the midst of an attack of hepatic encephalopathy, or as I've known it: "one of her spells." (I never knew the medical name)

She'll be at the hospital overnight at least.  I've just gotten home from there, and she looks better than she did when I got there this morning... though that's not saying a whole lot.  Hopefully, she'll be going home tomorrow, though we're still waiting on blood-test results (and a bunch of other tests, to boot) before that call is made.

*sigh*  Here's a picture that's completely unrelated:

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