December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve 2014

In the grand scheme of things, I believe it's safe to say that 2014 was very much a year to forget.

You folks made it easier to deal with.  For that, you have my thanks.  Thanks for reading, thanks for putting up with my vapors and complaints, thanks for sticking around and thanks for coming back. 

Let's hope for a 2015 where things get better.  I like that idea.  A lot.  I can do with a bit of better.

Anything you'd like to see from The Pond in the coming year?

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December 28, 2014

Operational Note (UPDATED)

The torpedo plane post is going to be delayed until Monday Tuesday.  Two reasons for this:

1) I'm researching.  Dragging out the reference books, combing them for details, trying to make this one a decent effort instead of half-arsing it like I could do.

Everything from Salamander's Fighting Aircraft of World War II to ER Johnson's American Attack Aircraft Since 1926 are piled next to my computer, allowing quick and easy access for nigh-on any question I may have.  Research is fun!

2) I am in a nasty, evil mood.  It's the sort of mood where I am aware that I am going to be rude and bitter towards things, and I don't care.  This is carrying over to my writing.

So in lieu of putting out crap, I'm postponing the Torpedo Plane post until Monday.  It's better for everybody that way.  Trust me on this.  Or don't.  You are your own person, you don't have to trust me on anything.  But you'd be better off if you did.

We all would.

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December 26, 2014

The Day After: Carriers

Here, have a Japanese carrier!

Pretty much based on the Shokaku-class, I think... but of course that means it could be based on the Soryu/Hiryu ships, too, since they were the basis for the design of the bigger ships.

Would you prefer an US carrier?

Easy enough: that's a Yorktown-class.  Even now after all these years I think the islands are on backwards.

Finally, the Brits!

Illustrious-class, seen here being torpedoes by one of her own Swordfish... I didn't mean to hit the [spacebar] on the run-in as I was maneuvering the camera around, but I did.  Well, that's one way to get around the armored flight-deck.

All pictures are from War Thunder, of course.  They certainly took their time modeling these things, even though at the moment we only see them briefly and in passing as targets or...

...when landing or taking off, a relatively rare occurrence.  Still, it gives you a new angle on the size of these things; to whit, not all that big.  Of course, the islands got larger as time went on, but in the late '30s?  Even the Americans had more-or-less small bridge areas.  Of course, the Japanese had teeny-tiny bridge structures, if they had any at all!  However, since I can't seem to actually LAND on a Japanese carrier right now, I don't have a close-up.  Oh well.

UPDATE:


For all it's problems, it is a pretty game.

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December 23, 2014

Sparking Sparkiness

So other than my various First Episode Writeups, I've not felt a whole lot of drive to write very much.  Sure, there's been a post here and there, but only the Wart Hunder post and the recent Cuban cigar story feel like there's any spark to them.  Any surprise that they're both based on personal experience?  Of course not, I love talking about myself.

At least in a more-or-less non-specific way, usually.  What I'm trying to say is that I'm blogging to blog, as opposed to blogging because I want to write something.  "Oh," I hear you saying and I wish you'd quit doing that, "Wonderduck's complaining again."  No, that's not true. 

Well, okay, yes it is.  I'm blogging about not blogging again.  I should do that: write an entire blog about how I'm not blogging.  Seriously though, there are times where I think the only reason I haven't shut down The Pond altogether is that I know I'd just reopen it a day or two later to write something else.  Besides, the 10th Anniversary of The Pond is coming in July... it'd be a shame to not make it when it's that close.  So I guess you'll have to put up with me for a while longer.

Sorry about that.  I'll try to not be awful.

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December 18, 2014

Night Of The Cuban

Over at friend Ed's place, a discussion of the potential lifting of the Cuban embargo ended up with me mentioning that I've had a Cuban cigar once, but that the explanation would be much longer than a simple comment could handle.  Settle in, my friends, for this is that explanation!

The time is around 1994 or so.  My failed attempt at Grad School has seen Our Hero return to Duckford in disgrace, the sort of disgrace that only the person who had always succeeded can experience.  Our Hero makes his way through life but reluctantly, a simmering anger behind his every word and deed.  After making connections with his old theatre teacher, Our Hero stops being quite as much of a jerk to everybody and sees him make his way to a cool local bar (now a true hangout for hipsters, alas) as a regular thing.  To the point where the bartenders start pulling his beer when he's walking in from the parking lot; that sort of regular.  It's the sort of bar that "intellectuals" would hang out in, all hardwood floors and tin ceilings and a truly startling selection of good beers (remember: 1994... beer snobs hadn't really been invented yet) and some wonderfully tasty not-quite-gourmet food.  The sort of place that bakes its own bread fresh all day in a wood-fired oven.  A great bar with non-bar food?  Sign me up.  Anyway, while sitting there one night sipping on his Kulmbacher (no, not the German one but an inexpensive dark beer on tap that shared the name.  I've never seen it anywhere before or since), in walks Rick (all names have been changed to protect something something something).  Our Hero and Rick have known each other since high school, decent enough friends via the shared experience of being really bad at football one summer back then.  After a couple of hours of catching up, Our Hero gets an invite to Rick's Place.  He and Bob, another mutual friend who's name is changed in this story, share an apartment down by the Candy Bridge, and they recently lost a player from their weekly penny-ante poker game.  Well, sure, why not?  Our Hero is instructed to bring only pennies and at least a dozen cheap beers, the traditional entry fee for the night.

Poker night rolls around and Our Hero, armed with two rolls of pennies and a pair of six-packs of Red White & Blue, he makes his way to Rick's place.  After stashing his beers in the fridge, he gets to see the battlefield for the night.

The arrow points out the apartment's open-air porch where we'd be comfortably ensconced for the night.  Not shown were the truly astounding number of party lights and xmas lights arranged around the porch, nor the ingenious curtain/tarp arrangement that kept it dry in all but the very worst pelting rainstorms.  It turned out that the expected fourth for the game never showed, and his absence was never noted again, nor a replacement found or needed.  As I learned that evening, there were a few set rules for Poker Night.

more...

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December 15, 2014

Waiting For Something

Dunno what, though.  Something.  In the meantime, though, I've finally decided what the next First Episode Writeup will be.  As it turns out, it was my first choice, I just couldn't find an acceptable video source!  Nori, my computer, is a brilliant package of electronic goodness but one thing she doesn't do well is DVD screenshots.

Which makes her exactly like all the other computers I've ever owned, truth be told.  Earlier today, though, I found a great BD rip of the series and quickly d/l'd the first episode.  So while I eagerly anticipate writing it, you can eagerly anticipate reading it!

Or, y'know, not.  Whatever.

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December 12, 2014

WT ACTUAL F?

My GOD, people are friggin' annoying.  All frickin' day I've been dealing with idiots, morons and nebbishes, and I've not left my apartment building.

Was it "National Piss Off Wonderduck" day or something?  Because if it was, PEOPLE SUCCEEDED!  From the guy who was trying to argue that Michael Jordan "really wasn't that good" to the whole raft of folks who decided that since I was a college bookstore manager, it was open season on me to the telemarketer who called me four times in 10 minutes to the jerk who felt it was okay to scream at me for using three washers when he needed two and there are only four, it's been one round of annoying annoyances after another.

YARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!

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December 05, 2014

Orion Up

NASA took the first step in getting back into the manned exploration of space business today with the first launch of the Orion spacecraft/Delta IV Heavy rocket system.

I admit to a small amount of disappointment.  When I first heard of the Orion project, this is what I thought of immediately, not the usual rocket/capsule arrangement.  Sure, there's that pesky "nuking your own planet" thing, but I'm sure they could figure something out.

Still, this new Orion is planned to be used to get us to Mars.  However, for this launch it was unmanned... which doesn't mean there wasn't anything on board.  The TV show Sesame Street donated mementos to the flight, including Cookie Monster's cookies, the Inchworm, Super Grover's cape... and Ernie's rubber duckie.

If that isn't the coolest darn thing ever, I don't know what is.

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Oh, This Is Gonna Be Good.

I've just gotten started on First Episode Writeup #2, and I've got that feeling I had during Rio Rainbow Gate!... nothing is being forced, it's all just coming out like it was meant to be, and even better, I'm enjoying it!  While you wait, however, here's pictures.

Quite a lovely photograph, no?  I have it as one of my rotating lock screens as an example of what people like to think of winter looking like.

As opposed to what it really looks like.  Closest thing to a good picture that I've taken with my cellphone.  It hasn't rained much this winter so far, nor has it really snowed.  We had one threat of up to five inches of the white stuff, but all we got was a dusting.

I'm pretty much okay with that, truth be told.

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December 02, 2014

Electrics

When one thinks of railroading in the US, you either cast your thoughts towards steam engines or diesel.  And rightfully so, those two styles cover probably 95% of the engine types in the country's history.  But there is one other major style, one that often gets overlooked.  That's Electric locomotives.  Now, I'm not talking about the interurbans like Chicago's 'L' trains or New York's subway, but big engines that can pull real trains.

Despite the advantages of the electric, like not having to pull its own fuel around, they never really caught on here in America the way they did overseas.  Probably that's because of the one huge disadvantage electrics bring to the field: infrastructure requirements.  Overhead wiring (or the less-used third rail method) to carry power to the trains had to be installed over the entire length of a run.  The cost of maintenance could be prohibitive, particularly in areas where heavy snow occurred.

That doesn't mean it wasn't used here, though.

Milwaukee Road "Little Joe".

A helluva story behind these.  General Electric originally built 20 of these beasts for an order from the Soviet Union... just as US/Soviet relationships went to hell and they were banned from exporting them.  Eventually 12 of the locos made their way to the Milwaukee Road, where they were known as "Little Joe (Stalin)'s locomotives", which eventually got shortened to "Little Joe."  With a 2-D + D-2 wheel arrangement (meaning two unpowered axles and four powered + four powered and two unpowered), the Little Joes weighed in at roughly half-a-million pounds and generated about 5100hp.  By comparison, the famous EMD F7 freight engine generated 1500hp.  The Little Joes ran out in Montana and Idaho on the Milwaukee Road's Rocky Mountain Division until electric service was retired in 1974.  One survives in running condition at the Illinois Railway Museum, and four others of the 20 survive in non-running shape.

Pennsylvania Railroad GG1

The GG1 entered service in 1935, and wasn't finally retired until 1983.  In between, they were certainly the most distinctive locomotive on America's rails.  Limited to use on the East Coast, they moved both passengers and freight exclusively for the Pennsy, though successor lines (Penn Central, Conrail and spinoffs, Amtrak) continued to use them as well.  They weighed 475000 pounds, generated a continuous 4600hp, though that could increase to 8000hp for short lengths of time.  Over 130 GG1s were built, 15 of which (and the original prototype known as "Rivets") still exist.  None of them are in running condition for many reasons, not least of which was the use of PCBs in their transformers.

So there ya go, a couple of electric locomotives for your perusal.

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