July 22, 2019
Christopher C Kraft, the man who "invented" both the concept of Mission Control and the position of Flight Director as NASA began their missions into space, passed away today at the age of 95.
Kraft served as the first (and only) Flight Director for all but the final Mercury mission, thus defining the job as the head of the engineers on the ground. After "executive meddling" during John Glenn's orbital flight, he demanded and got the autonomy the role required. From then on, the Flight Director's word became law during a mission, unable to be overruled by those outside of Mission Control.
He then became The Boss, selecting the men who would share the role with him into Gemini and beyond. He invariably was in the command seat when the very difficult or never-before-performed things happened, such as the first US space walk. Prior to Gemini 8, he pulled himself off the rotation to prepare for the Apollo missions.
He was in mission control when the Apollo 1 fire during testing occurred... which also turned out to be the last time he was to be a Flight Director for NASA. Instead, he became management as the Director of Flight Control and would have an integral role in the planning of Apollo missions. He was called in by Flight Director Gene Kranz during the Apollo 13 incident, and headed the group that decided how to bring the crippled spacecraft and crew back to Earth.
Kraft became director of NASA's Manned Space Center in 1972, a role he held until he retired in 1982, shortly after the second flight of the Space Shuttle (STS-2). In 2011, NASA named the Mission Control Center in his honor, and in 2016 he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
"He installed a sense of what was right, what was wrong, what you had to do, how good you had to be, and those standards that he kind of inbred into everybody, by his own example, and by what he did with us, continue today. The Control Center today is a reflection of Chris Kraft."
-Glynn Lunney, one of the original Flight Directors selected by Kraft, 1998.
July 20, 2019
50 Years Since The Moon Landing In 1964 Alvin Dark, the manager of the San Francisco Giants, and Harry Jupiter, sportswriter for the San Francisco Examiner, were watching batting practice as ace pitcher Gaylord Perry smacked home run after home run. Jupiter casually mentioned that Perry looked pretty good at the plate, like he had some decent power.
Dark knew better: Perry was an awful hitter, and this was back in the day before the DH was instituted. In a 22 year Hall of Fame career that saw him win over 300 games, his batting average was .131 in 1220 at-bats. Dark turned to Jupiter and proclaimed "A man will walk on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run."
Five years later, Apollo 11 touched down on the Lunar surface, the first time mankind had journeyed to another body in the solar system. Neil and Buzz left their lunar lander and went for a walk on the Moon. About a half hour after this, Gaylord Perry came to bat in the third inning of the Giants game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when Claude Osteen grooved a fast ball dead over the center of the plate.
Alvin Dark was right... barely.
Would that we still could...
July 18, 2019
Kyoto Animation Arson (updates at bottom) Around about 10pm Wednesday, Pond Central Time, some maniac walked into Kyoto Animation's Studio 1 building, poured gasoline around, and set it on fire.
As I type this at about 1am Thursday morning, some solid information has come in. First, the arsonist is a 41 year old male, and is in custody. Second, there has been one confirmed death (edit: police are now saying ten dead), and many injuries... the most common number seems to be right around 30. There are also 20 "missing". NHK is reporting that at least ten of those were found lying on the floor of the second level... and left there are the search for survivors went on.
There are reports that the arsonist said "Let's see if this burns" as he poured the gasoline.
KyoAni has a number of different office locations around Kyoto. Studio 2 is where their offices and their retail store is located, for example. None of those other locations have been targeted. Some 70 animators reportedly worked at Studio 1.
I'm hoping this wasn't some crazed otaku's way of "getting back" at KyoAni... "I hated Endless 8, blah blah blah..." Reportedly, they're one of the best studios in Japan to work for, so maybe a fired employee? We'll find out soon enough, I expect, but no matter the reason, this is horrible.
Update: 241am - According to one report, among the missing are Tatsuya Ishihara who directed AIR, the Haruhi Suzumiya series, Kanon 2006, Clannad, and Hibiki Euphonium. Or, in other words, all of my favorite KyoAni shows (and Air, which I'm not fond of). Other directors missing are Ishidate Taichi (Violet Evergarden), and Takemoto Yasuhiro (The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie), and others.
Update: 855am - The death toll is now up to 33. I've seen unconfirmed reports that Takemoto is among the dead. Of the 70 people known to have been working in Studio 1 at the time of the arson, 69 of them are dead or in hospital for injuries of various severity. Many of the dead were reportedly found in a stairwell leading up to the roof, felled by smoke. It's important to note that this building was in a residential neighborhood; there were no fire escapes, only one stairwell, and only one way in, the main entrance. Oof.
Reportedly, the arsonist was yelling something that might translate out to "you plagiarized me." As KyoAni has only done two original works, Munto and Tamako Market, this seems unlikely. He had purchased 40 liters of gasoline in two containers just a half-hour before, and apparently brought them on a cart to the building. He reportedly told the people at the gas station that the fuel was for his generator. The president of Kyoto Animation has said that they've been receiving threatening e-mails for a few years... no idea if they're connected to this case.
This is now the largest mass murder in post-WWII Japanese history, displacing the Sagamihara massacre.
Update: 1009am - Sentai Filmworks, the American distributor that has done much work with KyoAni (either currently or in the ADV era), has begun a GoFundMe campaign to help those affected.
July 15, 2019
Grr Argh Pfft (updated) I had a job interview today. It was for a job very similar to the one I had before, claims processing. Not exactly the same, but close enough that I feel I'd be good at it, quickly. Despite it being 90 degrees out in the world, I wore a nice shirt and tie... really dressed to the fours (note: it's impossible for me to dress to the nines. There's not a tailor in the world that could make clothes that look that good on me), y'know?
Went in feeling confident, knowing that I had this one. I was perfect for the job.
45 minutes later, I went back out to the Duckmobile, wondering just exactly how I had managed to completely pee that one down the leg of my proverbial firesuit so badly. It's not even like I had a bad interview. I answered all questions well, was engaging, asked a couple of intelligent questions of my own... and left feeling like I had been slapped in the face with a long-dead mackerel.
I am no stranger to failure, as anybody who has read The Pond for more than a few days will be aware. But this feeling... this is new and exciting, in a completely terrifying sort of way. I'm already sure that I'm not getting this job. Either I was getting some vibe from the interviewers or I'm just down on myself, I dunno. Hope I'm wrong.
I'm going to drink some ice cold gatorade, chug a tylenol or two, and go lie down for a couple of decades. Maybe when I wake up, I'll feel better about the situation.
Update: It's now the next day, and I received an e-mail from the company saying in effect "Nope, it wasn't just you... we really didn't like you. Get lost." Less than 24 hours from the interview to rejection... that's the fastest turnaround I've ever had at least.
July 12, 2019
Still With You
So I got an e-mail from The Librarian this morning, pointing out that I haven't posted anything here at The Pond in a while. This is true. Fact of the matter is, I'm having motivational issues. Not just with blogging, but with just about everything. For example, I have a new computer chair. "Yes, finally!" I can hear y'all cheer. Yep, new chair... it's over there, in the dining room, in a box, waiting for me to put it together. It's been like that for about three weeks.
See what I mean? Working on it just seems so... well.
This past Monday? I had lunch with the folks. Literally the first time in 16 days I had left my apartment for any reason. The one good thing is that... look, remember back at the beginning of the year when I had to get a hotel room for four days on no notice? Well, that issue was finally resolved on the 5th. Maybe if you e-mail me, I'll tell you what it was about.
Instead of turning this into a whiny LJ post, here's some music:
Yes, really. It's catchy as hell, and for a while there Toby Keith had a great run of tuneage. Don't judge me.
July 03, 2019
That Pitcher Is Getting Shelled! The Google Doodle for today is a rather fun little baseball game!
Your job is to hit the ball. The only way to make a strike is to swing and miss, three strikes and the game is over. To make it easier the pitcher, who I'll name "Yu Darvish", tips his pitches... watch the color of his cap, and woe betide you when it turns red. I've scored 57 runs and hit a homer over 1700 feet. (edit: 2002 feet off a redcap. I'm so proud.)
Lemonade is a great left-handed power source, btw.
edit: this seems appropriate, considering the holiday tomorrow.
No, I won't condemn anyone for putting ketchup on a hot dog. This is the land of the free. And if someone wants to put ketchup on a hot dog and actually eat the awful thing, that is their right. It is also their right to put mayo or chocolate syrup or toenail clippings or cat hair on a hot dog. Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians.
-Mike Royko, Chicago legend.
June 27, 2019
AMVs To Make You Have Some Reaction. So today is the first time I've honestly had to shut Pond Central up and turn on the air conditioner. As I type this, it has just reached 86° F, but it's not very humid. Really, just sitting in front of a fan has been comfy all day, but a look at the forecast for the next week convinced me. Nighttime lows in the low 70s, daytime highs right around 90, and I'd really like to have the place temperature controlled before that sets up shop. "But Wonderduck," I hear you say, and you really should get that lump looked at, "what does any of this have to do with AMVs?"
To which I answer, "Have you ever read The Pond before?"
Over the past few days, in between frantic bouts of cleaning at 4am, I've managed to trip over a bunch of pleasing AMVs... some funny, some exciting, one or two just clever as hell. To you, I bring them now.
Enjoy, will you not?
June 20, 2019
You're Gonna Smile
If you're anything like me, and I apologize if you are, you just broke into a huge grin and memories came flooding back. I know the "good old days" weren't, not in comparison to what computers can do now, but damn...
Still really funny.
June 14, 2019
Le Mans 2019 It's that time again! It's the middle of June, and that means that a middlin' city a smidge smaller in population than Duckford to the south of Le Havre, France becomes the center of the motorsports world as the 87th 24 Hours of Le Mans gears up. And due to a miracle pulled off by the apartment complex management, I'll be able to watch it from Pond Central's comfy chair! For whatever reason, Dish Network dropped MotorTrend TV (Dish 246) from our channels list earlier this week. It was there Monday, it wasn't there Wednesday. I called the office, explained the situation, and they called Dish this morning. And lo, upon Pond Central the satellites did smile, for there in its normal location were the initials "MT". I've already set the DVR for all 24 hours.
While Toyota is the favorite to get the overall win with their LMP1-H hybrid powered cars, I'm throwing my support this year behind Rebellion Racing and their LMP1-L non-hybrid cars. The Swiss team is an honest-and-true privateer team, with no support from any manufacturer. Despite this, they were third and fourth in last year's 24H, the best of the non-hybrid cars. They were 12 laps down to the Toyotas. Now that Toyota has finally won Le Mans after years of heartbreak and suffering, and Fernando Alonso has a Le Mans victory under his belt in his chase for the "Triple Crown" of wins at Monaco, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500, I have no hesitation to root against them. It would be a wonderful thing to see a privateer team beat the factory cars... I don't honestly expect it, unless there's some reliability issues (with a Toyota at Le Mans? Never!), but it would be so cool.
Having said that, I'm cheering for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in the GTE Pro division. Yes, from privateer to factory based, all in the space of a paragraph. The thing is, Ford is getting out of endurance racing at the factory team level after this race, so seeing them take a class victory would be a great way to go. Sorry, Corvette, I know you're usually my team, thanks to my awesome garage being a Vette specialty shop... I'm a fickle duck, I guess. Next year, I promise!
For those of you who want to watch along, but don't have MotorTrend TV, they have a free 14-day trial you can sign up for on their website and watch the race streaming that way. Or there's Radio Le Mans and their brilliant (audio only) coverage as well. There's nothing better than seeing cars going 210mph down the Mulsanne straight in the middle of the night. C'mon, join in with me!
June 11, 2019
For The First Time In My Life, I Have Monitor Envy
It looks so good in 1080p, but I can't imagine how much better it'd look in 8K. They've got more over at their yootoob channel... the fireworks one is particularly cool... but none are better than this.
June 06, 2019
D-Day + 75 Years
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.
From this day to the ending of the world,
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; And gentlemen in England now a-bed ahall think themselves accurs'd they were not here and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
June 04, 2019
Midway 2019 I'm going to go a little far afield from my usual Midway day posts, because I have some news to report. You may or may not be aware of the upcoming Hollywood movie on the Battle of Midway, due to be released in November.
I've known about this for well over a year, thanks to my membership in the Battle of Midway Round Table. The production company involved has been asking the BOMRT historical accuracy questions... "where was the radio set located in a Dauntless, and what color would it be," that sort of thing (note: I made that up). Sadly, there's a NDA on the man running the Round Table, so he can't tell us much about the film. He's assured us that they're pushing to make it look as realistic as possible.
Which is, of course, great! If there's one Pacific War naval battle that deserves a good movie, it's Midway... and no, I don't count that '70s extrusion as "good". But this movie isn't my news... no, my news is something a little more personal.
I've been hired as a historical consultant on the Battle of Midway! A youtube history channel is going to be doing a series of videos on Midway, and I've been tabbed to do the historical legwork. I can't reveal the channel name yet, mostly because I forgot to ask the Power That Be for permission and he's on a business trip, but its been around for a couple-three years, and has well over 500k subscribers.
The plan is that we'll be releasing these videos as we get closer to movie release date, and there's hope for an actual tie-in with the film... y'know, concentrate on the characters the movie is featuring, sponsorship, that sort of thing. None of that is guaranteed... indeed, I gather only the first contacts have been made... but there is optimism.
All of which is to say, I'm really really excited about this. It'll be a fun way to spend time, I'm getting paid for it, and anything that educates about the Battle of Midway is okay in my book! More details will be made available as I get permission, so look forward to that... and lets hope that Midway gets the movie treatment it deserves!
May 28, 2019
Train. Drone. Camera. There are times when I find "drones", or what used to be called "R/C aircraft", to be incredibly tiresome.
This is not one of those times.
Neither is this.
I find it interesting that at no time does the drone fly directly over the train... maybe some sort of rule against it? Is the pilot afraid they'll shoot it down or something?
Now instead of a camera looking at a train, how about a camera looking FROM a train?
That's the Shonan Monorail, by the way. I have this feeling I've seen it in an anime somewhere... Railgun, maybe?
May 23, 2019
Motorsport Holiday! That's right, it's Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and that means it's time for all auto racing fans to plop themselves down on the couch with the remote, a bag of chips, and just spend the entirety of your Sunday watching car races!
First off is Monaco, and we probably won't be seeing this view all that much. Monaco is dredging out tons of silt from near the Tunnel exit, so as to create a firm base for some land reclamation. It's supposed to be finished by 2022, at which point the run from the Tunnel will be much more dramatic, going between highrises and the like.
There will be a sense of sadness around Monaco this year though. Just this past Monday two-time Monaco winner and three-time World Driver's Championship winner Niki Lauda passed away at the age of 70. By now you know the story of his terrible fiery accident at the Nurburgring, how it severely burned his head and neck, and worst of all inhaling hot gases scorched his lungs. At one point comatose, he was given Last Rites. And then, because he was a bad-ass, Lauda came back six weeks later to race at Monza, because there was a championship to be won. He finished fourth. A reporter says that after the race, Lauda had to peel bloodsoaked bandages off his head. He went into the final race at Mt Fuji Circuit in Japan three points up on rival James Hunt. Due to terrible rains, he withdrew, stating it was too dangerous. He wound up losing the championship by one point. The courage it took to get back into the car only 40 days after nearly dying was immense... he has since said that he was absolutely terrified. In recent times, he'd been an adviser to Mercedes. He had a lung transplant last year, and was undergoing dialysis treatments of late when he died. I don't use the term "hero" very often, but we are not likely to see the level of heroic bravery it took for him to drive again. Fortunately, we are in a time where we most likely won't see similar circumstances arise.
Speaking of not seeing things, we won't be seeing Fernando Alonso in this year's Indy 500. The McLaren effort failed to give him a car able to qualify in the top 33, being bumped at the very last moment possible. I suppose if another team withdraws, he'd be allowed in, but... not likely to happen. I'll admit, that removes a lot of interest in the 500 for me, but what the hell, it's only once a year and it's THE biggest race in America. Right?
Then in the late afternoon/early evening, NASCAR brings us the Coca-Cola 600 from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. I have very little to say about this race; I haven't paid any attention to stock car racing this year at all. But it makes the three-race extravaganza complete, so it is not to be scoffed at.
Monaco is at 8am Pond Central, Indy around 11am, and the 600 is at 5pm. That makes it look like there's a few hours between the end of the 500 and the beginning of the NASCAR race, but wait! Some bright spark at ABC noticed that gap, and decided that we'll be seeing the Monaco GP on tape-delay on the network beginning right about 2pm. One could literally go from 11am to roughly 9pm watching autoracing. For those of us who prefer NOT to wait, ESPN2 will have Monaco at the correct time.
So... I've got chips. I've got gatorade. There will probably be pizza. Lets race!
May 17, 2019
I Had No Idea... Y'all remember The Art Of Noise, right? New Wave band, did that thing with Max Headroom, and that other thing with Tom Jones, and that other other thing with Duane Eddy, and the video with the kinda creepy little girl directing people to destroy various musical instruments in various entertaining ways? Right, that song was titled "Close (To The Edit)", and like a lot of Noise's stuff, it still holds up really well today.
But here's the thing: I always assumed that it was all electronic stuff and samples and drum machines. And maybe it was, but I only just learned that Trevor Horn produced the band... indeed, he was actually part of the band. And between him, Anne Dudley, and a Fairlight, there was actual, y'know, music. That could be played live. A stunning concept for what I thought was nothing but a studio band.
How did I discover this? Like most revelations, I discovered it accidentally, by stumbling over a 2004 Prince's Trust concert celebrating the career of Trevor Horn. His work with The Buggles, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Yes, Seal, ABC, and others all performed live... and then this:
Completely gobsmacked. I knew Horn played bass, but holy crepe on a stick, he does seem to be pretty damn good at it. Oh, and those drummers are doing some serious work.
And it was live. Who knew the Art of Noise was a real live boy?
Note: If the video isn't working, click here!
May 14, 2019
Tim Conway 1933 - 2019
Still the funniest thing I've ever seen.
Random Anime Picture #147: Starry Night With Beach
-Manaria Friends, Ep06
Every so often, a series will come down the pike that takes you by surprise, hits you on the back of the head with a sock filled with rocks, rifles through your pocket for spare change, then leaves you for dead on the sidewalk.
Manaria Friends is not that show.
Instead, what MF is is a gently believable series about two girls that have a thing for each other. As they go through their days at Wizarding U., we learn about them, the world they're in, the growth cycle of dragons, and how a piano stays in tune outdoors in the snow.
not appearing in this picture: snow
While there is magic thrown about in the show, which makes sense since it's set in a college for magic users, it's far from being the centerpoint. Upon reflection, there's only two or three episodes of this 10-episode series that require magic to continue the story... and one Lighting Designer that just pissed me right the hell off by using magic to provide the stage lighting, but that's neither here nor there.
Instead, our show is about Anne (right) and Grea (the other one). Anne is a princess of the kingdom of Manaria, where the show is set. She is a prodigy in the use of magic, seemingly more powerful than many (all?) of the teachers. The problem is, of course, that she's not overly trained in the use of that ability, meaning there tends to be a lot of overkill in her spellcasting. Grea, on the other hand, is a princess of the Dragonborn... okay, let's get this out of the way now:
...is a princess of the Dragonborn, which is what the kingdom of the dragons call themselves. She's actually half-dragon, half-human, a magic user of some skill, immense physical strength, and a cute tail, which is not something I ever expected to type.
Together they go through a semester? year? becoming more and more the focus of each other's life. While it's not all sweetness and light, it mostly is. Manaria Friends is the sort of show that puts a smile on your face while you enjoy two people that enjoy each other's company enjoying themselves. I'd put it in the same category as Flying Witch or Yuru Camp... it's just nice. And for what it is, it's remarkably well done.
Give it a shot. You'll thank me for it later.
May 08, 2019
Oh Look... Spa! In the past, during the various F1U!s for the Grand Prix of Belgium at Spa-Francopants, I've said that rain is always a possibility. That's just the way Spa do. This past weekend, the World Endurance Championship held the Six Hours of Spa, and the skies were quite nice to begin... but rain is always a possibility, right?
...I'm fairly sure I've never said SNOW was a possibility. Ye cats and little fishes.
Hey... LeMans is coming up, isn't it? Mid-June... hope it's gonna be on TV here, I can't find anything about who's broadcasting in the US.
May 02, 2019
When Cover Songs Try Too Hard Last night I found myself following a pointer gleaned from over at J's place into the darker recesses of Yootoob. I came hunting for the promise of a good cover song, made likely by the musician being Jonathan Coulton... y'know, the guy who wrote Portal's theme song? So into this den of iniquity I went, and I found an entire album, entitled Some Guys, of cover songs of '70s hits and ballads. I began listening... and I found myself confused.
That's not a cover song! Oh, it is of course... that's Coulton singing instead of Gerry Rafferty... but there's practically no difference between the two. Is that a cover, or is it a tribute, or just a knockoff? The entire album is like this, nigh-on note perfect copies of 40-year-old songs. And I have to ask: why bother? Don't get me wrong, it's a tour-de-force by Coulton. The performances are excellent, and if you didn't know better you'd swear you were listening to the originals.
And that's the problem, isn't it? If I wanted to listen to the original song, I'd just listen to the original, not Jonathan Coulton pretending to be Gerry Rafferty, no matter how good at it he is.
I'm long of the belief that a good cover song must have a healthy dollop of the covering band's flavor on top of the original. The best example of this that I can come up with off the top of my head is the song "Got The Time".
Classic song by Joe Jackson in his "angry young man" phase, somewhere after punk but before new wave kicked in. He's long been my favorite musician, and this is easily one of my favorite of his tracks. Until I heard a cover of it.
By heavy metal band Anthrax.
Now it's still one of my favorite Joe Jackson songs, I just prefer this version. It's still the same song, just performed in Anthrax's inimitable style. It's no slavish copy, it's just a brilliant repurposing.
THAT's what I think a cover song should be like. Don't copy: adapt.
April 24, 2019
Everybody Sayin' "What About Us?" Sometimes being half-asleep when browsing can turn up some gems. Like this:
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