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I’d love to be able to unravel my subconscious mind and decipher what it’s trying to tell me. Whenever I dream, it’s usually quite unusual.

Case in point, a few nights ago I dreamed I was back at school. This in itself is not unusual (not for me at least). However, my school was never near a beach! Not only was this reimagining of my school now on the seafront, but at lunchtime we went for a swim, which is where the troubles began. When it was time to leave, a friend and I discovered a wall of wet sand was blocking our way. I was able (after a couple of tries) to get up this wall, but my friend couldn’t, and the tide was coming in. I went off to find help, and ended up in a room filled with spiders and their webs. I went through a door to another room and found a crying boy; I tried to keep the spiders away from the pair of us, was failing somewhat… Then woke up.

Last night I dreamed I lived and worked in London, and I don’t think I was me (if that makes sense). Over the course of the dream (which couldn’t decide between modern and medieval London), I met a girl, we fell in love – and then I had to go abroad for work. At that point, I woke up.

Another recent dream involved being stuck on a desert planet, fending off huge worm-like creatures with huge gaping mouths and rows of razor-sharp teeth (no, I hadn’t watched Tremors recently, in fact I’ve never seen it). Eventually these things turned out to be taking over humans, and in the dream, a gun to the head was preferable to being caught by one of these things.

I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

So, if anyone can tell me what my brain is telling me, I would be very grateful!

With the Belgian GP at the famous Spa circuit done and dusted, it would be fair to describe the race as a rather uneventful affair, with a few little moments here and there to add excitement.

Lewis Hamilton had qualified on pole by nearly half a second from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, and it was Hamilton who made the most of the start (after the first start had to be aborted following trouble for Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India), getting away reasonably well and getting around the first corner in the lead. Rosberg had a poor getaway, getting squeezed for space and slipping down to fifth – Sergio Perez (in the other Force India) shot to second from fourth, and actually had a cheeky look at Hamilton down the Kemmel straight – but lacked the absolute pace to get by. Bottas and Ricciardo would only temporarily hold up Rosberg – the latter would chase Perez but the Renault power of the Red Bull couldn’t match the Mercedes engine in the Force India, whilst Rosberg would eventually get by all the cars in front of him via the first pit stops.

From that point, the race became a Mercedes procession. Hamilton and Rosberg were a class of their own, with Hamilton easing to a comfortable victory (his sixth of the season and 39th of his career). Behind them, a few events and duels did offer up a little spice, but the ease of overtaking here (especially on the Kemmel straight with DRS) robbed us of any especially prolonged battles. Lotus’ Romain Grosjean pushed hard, making a number of overtakes on his way to third place (his and Lotus’ first podium since the US GP in 2013), whilst Williams messed up Bottas’ race by fitting a medium compound tyre to his car when they meant to fit soft tyres.

The most dramatic moment came thanks to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. He had suffered a poor qualifying session, ending up in ninth (which became eighth following grid penalties), but during the race he was able to climb up to third. He and the team made the tactical decision to chance a one-stop strategy, on a circuit where everyone else was making two or even three stops. As the race started its final lap Vettel (who had won so brilliantly last time out in Hungary) was still third, albeit had Grosjean pressing him – when his rear-right tyre disintegrated as he started the Kemmel straight. In the space of the final lap he would end up going from 15 points to no points, and afterward he gave an understandably angry interview, where he criticised tyre manufacturer Pirelli for the dangerous failure.

Still, questions have to be raised as to why he and Ferrari would chance a one-stop strategy on a race that normally requires at least two stops. Vettel could also face action over missing the post-race weigh in.

McLaren’s misery continued – for only the third time this year both cars finished the race, but neither car was remotely close to the points, with upgrades failing to have any impact on their poor form. Kvyat took a decent fourth for Red Bull, and after an indifferent Hungary, Massa was sixth. Perez took a very credible fifth for Force India, and Kimi Raikkonen was seventh (having suffered mechanical trouble in qualifying that dropped him near the back of the field). Max Verstappen nearly took seventh from the Finn, but braked too late at the end of the Kemmel straight and went wide, and thus had to settle for eighth. Bottas ended up ninth and Ericsson took a point for Sauber.

The end result of the race is that Hamilton is now 28 points clear of Rosberg – he can afford to finish second to Rosberg in the next four races and this will only serve to tie them in the standings. His advantage is such that he will still lead the championship even if he fails to finish the next race and Rosberg wins. Next stop, Monza!

Back to F1 2015

wpid-1280px-catalunya.svg_.pngHot on the heels of Bahrain came Spain, with another routine race (ultimately a comfortable win), albeit I risked everything by not paying attention and setting a potentially disastrous pit stop strategy!

Having qualified on pole, I misread the number of laps as 55, and set myself up for a two-stop strategy (two long stints on hard tyres with one final stint on soft tyres). Unfortunately for me, the race was in fact 66 laps!

I did eventually realise this – looking at the screen, as I reached 33 laps, I was suddenly in trouble! My ‘short’ stint on the soft tyres was in fact going to be my longest stint of the race. The hard tyres could just about do 20 laps – there was no way the softs would last 26!

I had little choice but to soldier on. As the laps ticked by, the front tyres in particular began to degrade at an alarming rate, and I found myself around five seconds a lap slower than I’d been. With around four laps to go I made the risky decision to pit – hardly ideal, but luckily I had a big enough lead to my rivals to emerge in the lead and take a win that was vital to my title chances – the gap to me and Button now reduced to nine points.

wpid-wp-1417816615105.pngAfter a Chinese GP that was frankly, an exercise in damage control, Bahrain was up next and I needed it to be a better all-round race. Practice and qualifying were uneventful – I took pole, and would lead the race from the start, through to the first round of stops. Upon my first stop, I would slip down the order, but would pull off some pretty bold moves under late braking at turns 8 and 10 to move back up the pecking order.

The race was rather routine, until around lap 38, when I suddenly developed a rear puncture (my right tyre I think). I had a pretty hearty gap over the rest of the pack, and was due to pit on lap 42 – did I chance a few laps with a puncture or pit early?

I ended up staying out, losing time lap after lap but not faring too badly, and was able to pit and resume without my race being hindered. An important win saw me reduce the gap to championship leader Button to 11 points.

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It feels like it’s been ages since the drama and emotion of a truly amazing Hungarian Grand Prix, but at last F1 is back, and it returns to one of its most iconic and historical tracks – Spa. In some respects this preview feels like a milestone for me – it was with Belgium that I started my F1 race reviews last season.

With a long history of hosting motorsport, Spa as a circuit has undergone significant changes down the years. At one stage a single lap around this quick track was over 8.7 miles long (almost double that of today). The current incarnation of Spa has existed in some form or another since 1981.

The 4.3 mile lap is one of F1’s most challenging for drivers and teams. With a combination of long, fast straights and winding sequences, nailing the car setup here can be a serious challenge – sector 2 in particular demands good downforce, but you don’t want to carry that in sectors 1 and 3!

Another unique variable with Spa is the weather. It’s been known for parts of the track to be bone dry whilst other sections are sopping wet – another potential challenge for everyone to contend with! All in all, it adds up to a good race.

Start procedures are being revised here. After some poor starts for the Mercedes boys, it will be interesting to see if these new procedures help or hinder them – it will be fascinating to see what impact they might have on the title race. Vettel may yet be thinking that he has an opportunity to close the gap, especially given his performance last time out, whilst Honda are aiming to bring much-improved power units to Belgium – time will judge what (if any) significance this has.

Back to F1 2015

Recently I stumbled upon a blog that had received an interesting question regarding blame and responsibility (in this instance, the subject was rape). The original post can be found here, along with a lot of comments (500+, you’ve been warned!).

It got me thinking – at what point do the lines between responsibility for something and the blame for something become blurred? Do they in fact, become blurred?

I had this to say on the blog comments:

If we look at look at the blame vs responsibility thing, let’s examine that under a microscope.

If I step outside my front door, am I immediately to accept responsibility for anything and everything that might happen to me? It would hardly be my fault if I looked both ways before crossing the road, did everything right, and yet still ended up being hit by a car, clearly the blame belongs with the driver – but do I deserve any of the responsibility for taking that risk in crossing the road anyway?

No, I don’t. I haven’t done anything wrong, and the responsibility rests with the driver.

If we open up the idea that victims are responsible for the crimes against them then all of a sudden a lot of people can use that argument to squirm out of a lot of situations. I put my money in a bank – a rogue banker could say, as they steal my money ‘well, it’s your responsibility as you put the money there’. We really don’t want to go down that slippery slope, and we certainly don’t want to hand that sort of power to monsters who commit far more serious crimes like rape and murder.

To me, it’s a no-brainer. Saying someone is responsible for themselves getting raped is like saying a murder victim is responsible for getting killed – and the word ‘responsible’ in this context is deliberately blurred with ‘blame’ by those who would use this argument.

It would seem the only way to avoid any sort of responsibility in cases such as these would be to avoid any contact with other human beings. ‘You can’t be held responsible for actions someone else takes against you if there are no someones around!

If we get technical, then as I mentioned in my comment above, we could all be held responsible, in some way shape or form, for everything that ever happens to us. If we flick on a light switch and get shocked because an electrician did shoddy work five years ago that only now has manifested itself as a serious fault, are we responsible because we used that light switch? I’m pretty sure that argument wouldn’t hold water, so why should a rape victim (or victim of any other violent crime) be held responsible for the conscious choice someone else made to commit that act?

Back to What I Think

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So, having had something of a hiatus away from my F1 career, I thought I would finally revisit it, as the exhilarating Hungarian Grand Prix the other week reignited my desire to play the game.

The story of the season so far is – no points from Australia (engine failure ruined an almost certain victory), ten points from Malaysia (a crushing win for me, and my first for Ferrari), and an eight-point gap between me and the championship-leading Brawn of Jenson Button. What would China hold?

In practice I struggled to find a decent setup that gave me the right balance of speed and control. I never truly felt comfortable with the way the car handled, despite tinkering with the downforce quite a bit. I was typically around fifth fastest, and this was a theme that continued in Q1 and Q2.

In Q3, with the cars setup for race-trim, I found the much heavier car easier to drive, and actually managed to sneak – just barely – pole from Barrichello. I didn’t really feel that I deserved pole – but I wasn’t going to complain!

The beginning of the race saw me cut right across Barrichello (I wanted, for once, to try and retain track position!), and I fended him off, only for Mark Webber’s Red Bull to come surging by me on my left. I would be on his tail throughout the first lap, and slip by him as we began lap two, easing past him into the fast right-hander that is turn 1.

Webber would subsequently retire shortly afterward, promoting (quite surprisingly, given their cars’ performances of the time) Hamilton and Massa to second and third.

I would start to ease away, not been especially troubled, taking my first pit stop on lap 13 and sliding down to 8th (I had once more opted for a three-stop strategy, whereas most AI cars were going for a two-stop), but some reasonably straight-forward overtaking moves (and one quite satisfying move around the outside of Button at turn 11) and AI stops saw me regain the lead without too much trouble, and I would push on.

By the time of my second stop (lap 26) I was in a position to stop, and reemerge in the lead, albeit by a slender margin. I expected to have a straightforward run to my third and final stop, and expected to win quite easily from there.

Boy was I wrong!

On lap 27, at turn 12, the batteries in my controller died. I careened off the track and lost my front wing in the process, before the game paused itself automatically and prompted me to replace the batteries. I gave thought to restarting the race (my first instinct was that it wasn’t my fault), but two factors dissuaded me from doing this.

Firstly, I was 27 laps into a 56 lap race and didn’t want to have to rerun all those laps. Secondly, I thought to myself – it was my error. I knew the batteries were low when I started the race, and I took a chance anyway. I only had myself to blame, so I accepted my circumstances, limped back to the pits, and fell down to 15th.

It was time to charge back through the field. A significantly faster car than those around me meant I was able to carve my way through the pack (taking advantage of AI pit stops too), and eventually I wormed my way up to points-scoring places again. When I made my final stop on lap 39 for hard tyres (which I had yet to run), I was in fifth, enough for four points – not great, but better than none!

I would however move up to fourth, slipping ahead of the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel when he pitted – and then I would face pretty much non-stop pressure until the end of the race, with Vettel particularly seeking to pass me at turn 14 (the monstrous right-hander at the end of the long straight). I was fortunate that he was not able to close up too much elsewhere – I’m not sure I’d have been able to fend him off! As it was, I had to be careful not to make any glaring errors – otherwise he would have been through.

It would be fair to say I am not used to waging a defensive race, but Vettel was quicker, and on fresher tyres, and all I could do was hold on. Thankfully the last few laps saw the pressure ease, as backmarkers came into play, and I was able to sweep by them a little easier than Vettel, which saw me open up a small gap. I crossed the finish line fourth – five invaluable points, though arguably five points down on what I should have earned.

After three races, I have 15 points, which is half of what I should have. Australia saw me lose out on any points thanks to engine failure, whilst here in China I only took half of what I probably would have taken, and can only blame myself. Button is on 28 points, so I am 13 points down on him already – given the nature of the scoring system on the game, I am more than a race win behind Button already, and I could win the next six races and still not lead the championship if Button finished second in all of them. This is going to be a challenging season.

Today marks an important Meerkat Musings milestone – today, this site turns one!

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I’ve enjoyed writings pages and posts for this site so far, and it’s expanded quite rapidly – the site has also undergone a few structural changes, and I learn a little more about site management with every passing week.

As we’ve now reached this milestone, shall we take a look at something we’ve not looked at for a while – site stats?

The site has seen 6,215 views, from 2,343 unique visitors, with the UK contributing 2,084 clicks to my site, the USA bringing 1,702 clicks and Australia offering 644 clicks. Stardestroyer.net has referred 465 views, BigFooty 307 views, and Facebook 288. I’ve had visitors to my site from as far afield as Malaysia and India. I seem to be quite popular with Scandinavian countries too.

What do I have planned for the coming year? Well, a lot of my posts are off-the-cuff, and this will remain the case, whilst I will continue to add pages on Formula 1 races and news. I will eventually expand my Stargate pages and I will aim to finish my pages on trains too. I hope to add more reviews as well (be they products, events, services or films/TV shows).

I also aim to complete my F1 2009 career – yes, I know, it’s a bit weird to be going through a career mode with a six year-old game, but it’s the only F1 game I have, I’ve completed two full seasons out of the three the game gives you, and I want to finish the third season! We shall see how that plays out.

So there you have it. Meerkat Musings is one!

Disney have produced many great and glorious films over the years. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard of Toy Story, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and of course the classics like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Robin Hood and Peter Pan. With a young daughter, you become very familiar with these films!

As a kid my earliest Disney memories are of Dumbo (a wonderfully sweet film) and Peter Pan (one of my dad’s favourites). I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed nearly every Disney film I’ve watched – not all of them, but a sizable majority.

One film in particular stands out for me. The Lion King (first released in 1994) is the third-highest grossing animated film of all time, and the highest grossing traditionally animated film. More than that, it is, in this meerkat’s humble opinion, a masterpiece of animation and a deeply emotional journey.

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The core of this film is about finding one’s self, and entwined with this is the bond between a father and son. It’s no surprise that The Lion King has drawn comparisons to Hamlet – there are certainly parallels!

What a lot of people don’t realise is that The Lion King underwent a somewhat difficult genesis and was not regarded by Disney as a surefire hit – in fact, most animators at the time wanted to work on Pocahontas (which was seen as a more likely success story). Not only would The Lion King prove to be a hit, as mentioned, it would become one of the all-time success stories of animation, and has slotted in nicely to what has come to be known as the ‘Disney Renaissance’ period.

My own personal thoughts regarding The Lion King are that nothing beats it. Nothing. I recall seeing the original trailer (can’t remember what we were seeing at the cinema, but the trailer still stands out), which was nothing more than the opening Circle of Life song – and that was enough to convince me it was going to be an epic film.

I actually didn’t get to see the film at the cinema. My first experience of it was via a dodgy VHS copy – but I loved it. I loved the sweeping soundtrack, with it’s fusion of western and African sounds – I loved the songs (especially ‘I just can’t wait to be King’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’), but most of all, I loved the story. Simba’s journey from innocent cub, to guilt-leaden young lion, to redemption, is a lovely story, accompanied by some unique characters (such as Timon the meerkat, it will come as no surprise to learn he’s a favourite of mine!) and a martial arts-trained baboon.

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It’s hard for me to put into word precisely what The Lion King means to me. To say it makes my heart swell with emotion every time I watch it would be an understatement. It hits all the right notes and it is my all-time favourite film. Such is the success of the film that it has spawned two sequels (both direct-to-video, but both made with care and far from the usual poor sequel fare) and a long-running musical, which I have had the pleasure of seeing (it’s as good as the film).

10/10

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