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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in austin_dern's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, January 22nd, 2017
12:10 am
I just sit there and stare as you hop from shrub to shrub

So how was our first week with the new rabbit?

Fair enough, I think. We knew, intellectually, that the new rabbit wouldn't be like our lost one. We didn't realize that catching him in the corner of our eyes would be so much like seeing a ghost. Our new rabbit is a little larger than the lost one. A solid grey rather than brown. He hasn't got a dewlap. His tail is surprisingly thin, considering, if long. But at a quick glance it's still spooky.

Our new rabbit spent the first couple days reserved, if not ... boring. He sat still a lot, and didn't do more than chew indifferently at his toys, most of which were ones brought from his shelter. I think that was sadness. Being adopted as an animal has to be everything that's traumatic about moving without the ability to understand anyone's promise that it'll all be okay. After a couple days he started to get more active, and he's done a couple bits of running around and even one bink. He's active, on his schedule.

He's quite well-behaved. Almost unnervingly so. It's great to have a rabbit that doesn't show any interest in chewing on cords. Our lost rabbit was a great cord-chewer up to the last year of his life. And that's fine. But he also doesn't seem interested in chewing cardboard, which he's welcome to do. What kind of rabbit doesn't chew cardboard?

He's wary of taking anything from the hand. But after a couple days he started to accept papaya tablets, one of our lost rabbit's favorite things in the world. He's a prowler; let out of his pen, and there's little reason not to let him out of his pen, he pokes around the whole lower floor. He doesn't seem interested in hopping up the steps. But he has leapt onto the sofa a couple times, and tried but failed to twice.

They promised us he was litter-trained. We did try to find where he preferred to pee and set a litter box there. But he did pee in several other spots, too, on a fleece rug backed by puppy training pads that we left for this sort of contingency. Also once when on the sofa he was coaxed into lying across bunny_hugger's lap, only to pee on her Stitch kigurumi. But that also seems to have come to a stop; at least, we haven't spotted any new pee spots. (The fleece makes it easy to see, while wicking away and drying urine rapidly.) One hypothesis is that he felt the need to make the place smell more like him, to feel more comfortably home. We'll see what happens as we changed the litter and replaced the fleece and, presumably, messed up his scent-map of the place.

He's warming up to us, I think. He's a great one for sneaking up and turning out to be at your feet. And Thursday night he both hopped onto the couch and flopped over bunny_hugger's lap, which for a rabbit is abnormally sociable. Nothing untoward happened there. He also tried a gummi coke-bottle and didn't seem to hate it, which is a bit of a freakish thing to do. He follows people. More closely, if he thinks you've got food, but he seems to like being near where we are or where the action is. That he has a knack for just happening to be underfoot makes him seem all the more relentless an investigator.

It's a lot of little adjustments, such as just the wonder of having an ambulatory, able-bodied rabbit again, and having one that's not rambunctious for all that. He's quieter than our lost rabbit, but our lost rabbit was extremely loud. He was often sneezing. He snored. He woke himself up screaming from dreams several times. Our new rabbit is just quietly present. We haven't heard a thing, yet. It's an adjustment.

Trivia: The first English poetry composed in the New World appears to have been a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses composed by George Sandys, treasurer of Jamestown, before 1631. Source: An Empire Of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: Barnaby, Volume 1, Crockett Johnson.

Saturday, January 21st, 2017
12:10 am
Waiting in a pumpkin wonderland

Back to Cedar Point. We were in the Frontier Town area, with many of the shops that offer handmade attractions, some of them in shows. So we poked around the glass gallery and its terrifyingly expensive beautiful glass. And the wax candle shop with less-terrifyingly-expensive candles that are at least as amazing when you look at how many colors get packed into things. And we stopped in at the wood-carving shop to see what's changed. Some things were still there, gryphon and dragon heads, half-scale models of the Schwabinchen lady that was the decorative fixture in the middle of the ride, that sort of thing. I believe the carver who's the son of the guy that carves at the Merry-Go-Round museum was there. We would miss the carver at the Merry-Go-Round museum, though, since we went there Sunday instead of Saturday.

Walking back towards the Corkscrew roller coaster we discovered something wonderful. Near the ride is a Rock-and-Roll Graveyard, with gravestones for a great many music legends. And there was a statue there which we hadn't noticed before. It had an electric guitar strapped to it, but it looked to be one of the vintage, circa-1900 statues that the park used to have around. Cedar Point's been losing those parks gradually over the years; the last one we'd known of, Mercury besides a fountain, had been at the Marina Entrance until it was renovated for the Valravn ride. The vanishing of the old statues has been the one major thing unsatisfying thing about current Cedar Point management, which I suppose shows how well bunny_hugger and I think they're doing about making a well-balanced park. That there's --- we think --- one of these statues come out of hiding, even if just for Halloweekends, is a great sign. The park has too little of its 147-year history on display and every little bit more helps.

We got to Corkscrew because we figured that was the best vantage point to see the Halloweekends parade. And we believed this to be our only chance to se the Halloweekends parade, since the park signs seemed (to me, anyway) ambiguous about whether Halloweekends stuff would go on the Sunday. Sundays at the end of the season in previous years were a loose, unattached day, with workers taking down props while they were on staff. It happened they also ran the show on Sunday, but there wasn't any telling that ahead of time.

This was the 20th Halloweekends for Cedar Point and they promised a whole-new parade experience. They seemed ready to make good on that promise too, since the parade route was back to its full course running the length of the park; the previous few years it had been just a short loop around the front of Cedar Point. We were sad to think that the old Halloweekends song might be replaced, but that would mean there was some new and potentially exciting song coming. After waiting long enough that we tarted worrying we'd got the wrong place somehow we finally saw the parade coming and we listened to hear the new parade music and heard: nothing.

We tried, mind you. We could hear some faint, unidentifiable music from the park's speakers, but nothing from the parade itself. What seems to have happened is they had the parade music play by the park speakers, rather than by any of the parade floats, and we happened to be in a spot just far enough from any speakers that we couldn't hear it.

The parade wasn't entirely new; it was a mix of the floats and marching bands and dancers and all that just like you would expect. Some of the floats we recognized from previous years. A good number were new. Some floats had been retired and their animatronics shifted over to standing park attractions, part of the scenery enhancements we like. It's changed but not unrecognizably so.

We took a break, back in the hotel room. And after resting and warming up we went back in, where we found just how long the line to be searched by Tenable Security could be. Also how arbitrary their rules about what were bags subject to search were. The evening would be some rides and some regrets. We'd missed the last performance of the magic-and-dance show, most importantly, a show we just never miss (and the one I got called up on stage for one year). Would they have a Sunday show? We had no idea, but hoped.

We did get a night ride on Rougarou, the converted Mantis. It's still a ride that's got a pretty good layout and needlessly head-bangy restraints. We got some other rides in too. Calypso, now moved and renamed the Tiki Twirl. Blue Streak, the classic-styled wooden roller coaster. The bumper cars. I forget if we rode Wicked Twister, but I think we did, for the sake of making sure we didn't go the season without a ride on it. The carousels, including Cedar Downs. The good, fun stuff.

And noticed Mean Streak's grave marker, and ride sign, at that graveyard. It had one of the trains posed at the open grave, as though poping out, with light and smoke generators underneath. You know, in case we didn't realize the ride was going to get re-made as something. They haven't announced what, just yet.

Our last ride for the night was Corkscrew, one of our old friends for the close of nights by now. As midnight passed the park was settling in to a misty fog, which the park lights made all the more rich and more wonderful to walk around, and eventually to sleep in.

Trivia: In portions of British-controlled India in 1823 the price of a half a maund of salt (about 41 pounds, roughly what a family of two adults and three children would need for a year) rose to six rupees, about half a year's wages. Source: The Great Hedge of India: The Search for the Living Barrier That Divided A People, Roy Moxham.

Currently Reading: Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos.

Friday, January 20th, 2017
12:10 am
We would be warm beneath the storm

Back to the summer and a day spent in Suttons Bay. There were two really big photographic targets there. One was the garden shop. So here's some of that. After my update on what happened in my humor blog this past week. Remember that RSS is still a thing so far as I've ever heard.


One of the dragons in front of that Bayside Gallery garden shop in Suttons Bay. It and another dragon sit in front of the entrance when the place is open; when it's closed, they're out of sight.


Bayside Gallery outside attractions because how can you not be captivated by a bundle of light and texture and shape like that?


Goldfish in the pond outside the Bayside Gallery. There's a healthy number of them there in a lake with a good bit of space and a little waterfall and everything.


Dragon and hatchling statue from the garden shop that's just so adorable you'd hug them if they weren't solid concrete.


Translucent fairy with all those wonderful colors in the background: sundials and yard decorations and all the sorts of complicated things we might find at the gallery.

Trivia: William Henry Harrison was, at inauguration, older than seven of his eight predecessors were on leaving office. Source: From Failing Hands: The Story of Presidential Succession, John D Feerick.

Currently Reading: Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos. It's been a while.

PS: Reading the Comics, January 14, 2017: Maybe The Last Jumble? Edition covering more of last week's comics and admitting my fear that I won't have many more Jumble comics to mention. Warning: rambling memories of the 1990s Internet included!

Thursday, January 19th, 2017
12:10 am
A real scary sight, we're happy tonight

We have some traditions for Halloweekends weekends. An important one of them is that on Saturdays we don't go to the park right away, but instead visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum in downtown Sandusky. We didn't do that this time. We were looking at the ambiguous, confused signals of the weather forecast. The trouble was Saturday was forecast to be warm and sunny, which for a Halloweekends Saturday is also an invitation for the park to be impossibly crowded. Sunday was forecast to be cool and rainy through mid-afternoon, which is an invitation for the park to be a walk-on for everything. But it's also less pleasant for the people there. We chose to take a full day in the park for Saturday, and to use the shelter of the Merry-Go-Round Museum for early Sunday afternoon.

Probably we made the right pick anyway. While it would be a busy Saturday compared to closing weekend of 2015, closing weekend 2015 was bitterly cold and overcast and we got stuck on some rides because they didn't have enough riders to send a train out. No such luck this time around. We had a bit of a wait for Gemini, which was running two trains on a single track instead of one train each on the two tracks such as makes sense for their racing coaster. Goodness knows why they do that. In the queue we saw some kids playing some app-based party game. It was something like Password. The person held her phone to her forehead, where she couldn't see. Others called out things to help her guess what the word was. Looked pretty fun, really, and a non-obnoxious use of cell phones for waiting in ride queues. Some of the clues seemed dubious or flat-out wrong, even if they got the guesser to the right answer. But what are you going to do, report them to the Commissioner of In-Ride-Queue Party-Game Apps? We filed our protest when we got back to the hotel room.

We did venture in to one of the (several) kids sections of the park, some of that to see the evening walkthrough haunted area in full daylight. Some of that to ride the kiddie Wilderness Run roller coaster. That was more for completeness sake than anything else. As with a lot of kiddie coasters, it's a knee-banger. But, you know, there were kids on it having their first thrill ride, or the thrill ride they could take, and that's a good environment. Also, it's in a really nice setting, on the shore of the interior lagoon and surrounded by trees that were at a height of autumn settling.

The Mine Ride we realized had got some renovation done on its queue. It had, as a Western-themed area might, wooden slat fencing for the queue. It still has, but now the fencing goes up much higher, to maybe eight feet off the ground. Why did they figure the approach to the ride had to be through a valley of wood? No idea. I can understand Cedar Point being wary about any fences that people could hop over, in the wake of that person who got killed when he jumped the Raptor fence, but this one seemed weird. I don't believe the Mine Ride even gets near enough the ground to be hazardous if someone does get on the grounds.

We went back to the Frontier Trail and the petting zoo. The informational panels explained how the place showed off the kinds of animals you'd see on a real 19th-century historic Ohio area farm. You know, animals like turkeys, one of whom was completely uninterested in bunny_hugger's attempts to pet him. Or bunnies, most of whom were in a cage off to the side, and which included one extremely chill Flemish Giant that put us in mind of our lost rabbit's better days. There was also, it turned out, one small black rabbit who'd got herself over in a chicken enclosure and wasn't interested in coming out or dealing with anybody. We don't know her story. And there were more traditional farm animals like goats and ducks and ... turtles ... and ... Patagonian cavies and at some point you wonder if the ``historic educational'' side of the program has just got completely lost. No, not perfectly. Patagonian cavies are really cute when they stand up, which they do, for food.

Trivia: Oral-B's late-90s ``Squish Grip'' line of children's toothbrushes were designed by IDEO, the firm which also designed the first Apple Mouse. Source: Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: American Slavery, 1619 - 1877, Peter Kolchin.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
12:10 am
Beneath the moon all is glistening

Halloweekends Friday Evenings see only select rides open at Cedar Point. One of the important ones for us was Top Thrill Dragster. We hadn't got onto it this season, since it's normally too busy. And we had missed it the year before, since every time we had tried to ride it then the ride was down, mostly for weather. It's not like Cedar Point is likely to want to get rid of the coaster --- it's their tallest and fastest ride, and still draws huge crowds --- but you never know when chance or mishap will take something away. And there was a comfortably short queue during the early admission hour, so we got our season's ride in. No rollback, so MWS doesn't have to envy us for that.

We also used the extra hour to get to Valravn. Once again somehow we couldn't figure out how to get a front-seat ride. Not that middle or back seats are bad, mind you. It's just it really seems like we're missing something being held at the top of a vertical drop if here's someone in our way.

What we didn't expect would be open, or so compelling to us, was the petting zoo. Cedar Point has a little farm as part of the Frontier Town trail. It's part of the educational block of buildings and shows they put in back in the 70s, when that sort of thing was important to amusement parks. Given it was the last weekend of October I'd assumed they would have brought the animals somewhere warm for the winter. They hadn't yet. We paused a moment to admire a turkey, who was quite happy to be admired, and we figured we might stop by later.

We also made visits, before the crowd got in, to Maverick and to Iron Dragon. Maverick is always hugely popular, moreso since the new restraint system doesn't go banging people's heads in. Iron Dragon is less popular and we've started to worry about its fate. The park experimented for a couple weeks with an ``augmented reality'' headset, making the ride into one about a dragon carrying the train out of some kind of danger. We missed that experiment and I don't know if the park is going to bring it back next year. But it does suggest they'd rather do some mild tinkering with the ride to make it more exciting rather than tear it down. Of course, what park doesn't figure that?

We happened to be near the Luminosity stage, where a great gymnastics-and-dance show takes place nightly, at a quarter to eight. This was when the performers for the various haunted house shows move from staging areas to the performance venues. What we didn't know they did was they moved in a parade, groups of performers each holding (flameless?) candles, moving underneath banners for the relevant sections. Moving in a great, quiet mass to the Luminosity stage, there for some opening words about the haunts and thrills they would give, and then moving onward. I think this is a new affair for the 2016 season, part of Cedar Point's program of making each day more of a spectacle. It's a good spectacle. More credit to them for it.

With Top Thrill Dragster and Iron Dragon we'd gotten in the last of the must-visit-each-year attractions and we could poke around the right of the night just, you know, having fun. Doing stuff like seeing what pinball machines in the arcade were still working. Most of them were, although not Travel Time. That's a game with a limit based on ball time rather than ball count. That's always unusual, and add to it a Christian Marche backglass, and you can see why it's a favorite and a shame that, I believe, we didn't get any chances to play it in 2016.

We'd close the night out on the Kiddieland Carousel, which I think we had to ourselves. I think we startled the ride operator by coming up to ride it, which will happen in the late hours on the last Friday of the season. You know how it is. And then we went to Millennium Force for an after-dark ride on this extremel popular, extremely smooth roller coaster.

That all didn't actually take us to midnight and the park's close. We told ourselves that there was no need for us to squeeze in every possible moment at the park, and that we could go to our room even before the park closed if it meant we had a bit more rest and a better day tomorrow. And so we did, according to my camera. I have clear pictures of the Resort Entrance, as we exited, at 11:56 pm.

I did notice there that the park had relocated Mean Streak's performance ribbons and the sign for Mean Streak Henry to that entrance's office. It noted that as of the end of Mean Streak, Henry had ridden 16,174 times. That's a good, arbitrary number of no clear importance.

Trivia: From May 1932 through October 1933 Walt Spose drew The Wonderland Of Oz, a comic strip based on five of the L Frank Baum novels: The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and Tik-Tok of Oz. (It had no Alice in Wonderland connection.) Source: A Brief Guide To Oz, Paul Simpson.

Currently Reading: American Slavery, 1619 - 1877, Peter Kolchin.

PS: 48 Altered States, featuring a neat alternate map of the United States and about which I kind of mention something mathematical in passing sort of.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
12:10 am
Screen owls hoot, are you listening?

Our lost pet rabbit's next and, it transpired, last weekend with bunny_hugger's parents would be two weeks after that, the last weekend of October. This was so we could go to Cedar Point and its Halloweekends. bunny_hugger hasn't missed Halloweekends since possibly the autumn her starter marriage collapsed; I haven't missed it since I don't know. Possibly 2010, when I first started going to the park and visiting bunny_hugger in October regularly. We didn't feel right counting our visit Halloweekends' opening day, the closing of Mean Streak, as that was too anomalous to feel right. We were ready, if need presented, to bail out of Cedar Point and rush home if our pet rabbit crashed. It wasn't necessary, though. In October and November he was doing very well, apparently recuperating in strength and energy and interest. We had forebodings at the time this might be the renowned ``final rally'' that people identify after the fact but, if it was, what could we do about that?

We thought we'd gotten a room in a part of the Hotel Breakers that we'd never been in before, and that until renovations a few years ago was impossible to get rooms in: the central octagonal tower. Not so. We were in a wing we rarely even think of, but its only interesting feature was that it was like four zillion steps away from the ladder or elevator or anything. Maybe we'll get the tower next year.

A couple years ago Cedar Point renovated the Hotel Breakers, demolishing an old wing that had itself been renovated just a couple years earlier. We'd wondered what they were going to replace the capacity with and it turned to be ``higher rates on the remaining rooms''. But apparently the cycle has turned again, and they're rebuilding a new wing, along with a lot of other renovations. Besides whatever unannounced thing is happening to the former Mean Streak roller coaster they're doing a massive renovation and renaming of the water park, and I think they're even getting rid of the upcharge-attraction Challenge Park. So that whole section of the Point was a lot of construction zones.

This scrambled my guesses about What Won't Be There Next Season. I'd imagined that the Oceana Entrance, the entrance so little-thought-of that bunny_hugger can't specifically remember having ever used it even for the fun of doing something different, would be the next to get renovated. With the whole Resort Entrance surrounded by construction fences, though, it's hard not to suppose that's going to be completely different next time we see it.

We had time to take last photographs. As at the retirement for Mean Streak, and at last year's Halloweekends, they had security screening at the entrances. X-rays and people poking into your bags, a concept they didn't seem to have any clear definition about. Sometimes my camera bag counted, sometimes it didn't. And, we'd find, the screening isn't done early enough in the day. It's almost a system designed to needlessly slow down everything and to offend bunny_hugger's sense of procedural integrity. And the company is even named Tenable Security, as if we needed to doubt it that little extra bit more.

Trivia: Gene Cernan's initial assignment as Gemini astronaut was to spacecraft propulsion and the Agena docking target. Source: Gemini: Steps To The Moon, David J Shayler.

Currently Reading: American Slavery, 1619 - 1877, Peter Kolchin.

Monday, January 16th, 2017
12:10 am
My partner flew down on a non-scheduled airline

My mathematics blog took as near as it ever does to a full week off last week. I feel better for doing that. But here's what did run:

More of hanging out in Traverse City:


Reasons to love Traverse City: they have shops that look like this, even still. Who wouldn't want to go someplace it can be 1979 and you're seven again and everything is happy and there isn't anything to worry about except if the next Peanuts special isn't going to be as perfect as What A Nightmare, Charlie Brown was? I'm not alone in this, am I?


Photo inside the pharmacists/convenience store. Traverse City doesn't allow chain stores on the main street which is why the place doesn't look like every CVS ever or, possibly, ever since 1978. There's a lot of nick-nacks and apparently you can get Folkmanis puppets in small convenience stores these ays and oh boy look at that paneling and look at those department signs.


Seagull getting ready to address the audience from atop a Traverse City traffic camera. While we sat here drinking soda some fairly hipster-y fellow admired my camera, which has some classic old-fashioned styling to it but isn't all that anything.


The pinball machines in the hipster bar where we had been promised FunHouse. They had the world's slowest Tales From The Crypt instead. Very floaty ball, slow enough it was a bit tricky to play because our reflexes were faster than the ball allowed. I got my name on the Jurassic Park high score table, but it was the #6 position (most games only record the top four after the Grand Champion) and the high score table had been reset recently.


The Coin Slot arcade, which we didn't know was there, and is just across the street from that hipster bar. It had the 1991 Data East Simpsons and an Earthshaker as well as a bunch of video games. If we could have bought an hour pass, instead of an all-day pass, we'd have probably played even though in the heat of summer it was like a hundred and two million degrees inside.


Just a quick view of Traverse City's main downtown drag, State Theatre in the center.

Trivia: Larry Gelbart's first Broadway musical was The Conquering Hero, an adaptation of Preston Sturges's Hail the Conquering Hero. It opened at the ANTA theater on the 16th January 1961, and closed after eight performances. Source: Not Since Carrie: 40 Years Of Broadway Musical Flops, Ken Mandelbaum.

Currently Reading: The Values Of Precision, Editor M Norton Wise.

Sunday, January 15th, 2017
12:10 am
The rabbit-shelter people brought some rabbits over to us today

OK, so, news.

After our pet rabbit died we knew that someday we'd get another. When we were done grieving, when we were feeling up to it. When we saw the right one.

Just in case bunny_hugger started looking at local rabbit shelters. They might have a nice large rabbit, maybe another Flemish Giant. Maybe something similarly large. She found one. A little larger than our lost pet. More metallic. Older than our pet was when bunny_hugger first got him. The shelter wasn't sure, but, somewhere between four and six years old. Four was still a bit young. Six was as old as our pet was when I moved in. Large breeds, legendarily, don't live as long; could we get a rabbit that was already maybe in the latter half of his life? But then who else would adopt a rabbit in the maybe latter half of his life, one who'd already been in a shelter for a year-plus?

Without needing to ask me bunny_hugger filled out the application and we set up a get-to-know-you date. The shelter would bring that rabbit and some others --- in case another would be a better fit for us --- to our house. They would save us the rather long drive out to Detroit and incidentally scope us out to see if we could be trusted to care for a rabbit. They e-mailed bunny_hugger the delightful message that ``we shall come bearing bunnies''.

We spent the days ahead of Saturday cleaning the house. Getting in order our pet rabbit's hutch, getting that cleaned. Bringing back out of the basement the things we had put down there because we had no rabbit that could need them.

Too soon to look at another rabbit? A good question. It's been barely more than three weeks. But then sometimes ... you never know, about grief. bunny_hugger and I became serious when she was still in the fresh shock of her divorce, and I was only a few months farther along my own grief. But that was an unquestionably right choice.

They brought a quartet of rabbits, the greatest number of rabbits ever assembled in our house so far as we know. One, Louise I believe, was an English checkered with they suspected a bit of something else. Very lively, after a few minutes looking suspiciously out of the opened carrier. Hopped out, found something, hopped back to the carrier, back out again, and so on. Her ``sister'' --- rescued about the same time from the same spot but probably not literally a sister --- Thelma was a big white rabbit with pink eyes. Quiet, very still, but comfortable nestling up to bunny_hugger and to a lesser extent me.

Then there was Moxie, surely a good-omened name. An agouti New Zealand, large. A large one, looking enough like our dead rabbit as to be unnerving. The moreso when he overcame his uncertainty about the area and started thundering his way around the living room. We suspect he's got some Flemish. And then the last, the one which had caught bunny_hugger's eye to start.


They didn't take him home.

They've checked with the original surrenderer and are more sure now that he's four. He's a little heavier than our lost rabbit, but the resemblance is less unsettling than Moxie's was. We did ask if he got along with the other rabbits, as we might adopt a partner. They said he got along with others, but weren't bonded. He poked his head into Thelma's carrier, a tactical mistake; she, probably feeling threatened, smacked him and he hopped out of range. She probably felt menaced and unable to retreat.

He did pee on the floor, just as the rabbit rescuers were done telling us about his good litter habits. He'd been in the carrier a long while and maybe didn't know where to find the bin. We aren't worried about this yet.

They set us up with litter and the food he's been used to --- it's not a good idea to switch rabbit foods too suddenly --- and warned us he was picky about hay, as he chomped down the hay we had. Maybe he was nervous. They also showed us a trick we hadn't thought of, that of putting some of the rectangular-grid plastic light diffusers that you put under fluorescent bulbs. It lets them use the litter without sitting in it. Thus do we learn pro tips.

So far he's been a relaxed rabbit, not racing around, not chewing, not leaping onto things. Maybe he's trying to get his bearings. Maybe he's just more mellow than our old was at that age. And maybe he's trying to process that he's not with the people who've been caring for him a year now. I would be too.

Trivia: Advisors to (Avignon) Pope Clement VI in 1345 advised the lunar calendar used for Easter calculations could be rectified by dropping four days from 1349, which would conveniently be the next year after a leap yar and the start of a new 19-year Metonic cycle. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle To Align The Clock And The Heavens - And What Happened To The Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: The Values Of Precision, Editor M Norton Wise.

Saturday, January 14th, 2017
12:10 am
So make life worthwhile, come on and smile, darn ya smile

Quick digression now to the contemporary world which, as ever, is dismal. Then I'll get back to October and Halloweekends. After maybe something else tomorrow. We'll see.

Marvin Yagoda has died. He was the proprietor and mad genius behind Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum, an impossibly packed collection of video and pinball and redemption arcade games and amusement-pier gimmicks and model airplanes and circus posters and a carousel horse(?) and a tic-tac-toe chicken and a mechanical striking cobra whose status I kept chefmongoose ever-updated on.

He opened the place a quarter-century ago because, he said, he ran out of room at home for his vintage-stuff collection and his wife insisted he do something with it. As a place it's spectacular, an overwhelming spectacle that seems infinite. Every time you figure you've seen it all you notice another something in your line of sight. It might have an obvious purpose, like, a stereoscopic viewer for the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It might be obscure, like a mechanical reproduction of the Egyptian afterlife in which your heart is weighed against a feather. It might be weird considering this is in the Detroit suburbs, like the English monkey-in-a-sailor-suit puppet that wants to tell you a joke. It might be bizarre, like old airplane nose art left over from World War II. And then they have P T Barnum's Fake Cardiff Giant. They say. They insist it's Barnum's Fake Cardiff Giant to the best of their knowledge. Could that be just ballyhoo?

I only saw Yagoda a couple of times, at the Marvin's Pinball League; his office was just off the too-tight corridor next to The Addams Family and the joke-telling monkey puppet. And he was working then, so looked distracted and vaguely worried, the way I probably do when I'm working. I remember smiling to him and saying his place was wonderful; smiling is what all evidence suggests he wanted out of life, and it's easy to tell someone whose place is wonderful that it is.

What I don't know, and am not connected enough to the gossip networks to say, is how this will affect practical matters. Like, will the museum stay open? Vague, never-sourced rumors said the place was of marginal business sense and propped up by Yagoda's wealth from his pharmacist career, and nobody was sure who would take it over. Other unsourceable rumors say the place had a rough patch there but was looking pretty good now. I imagine it should stay reliable if nobody moves a Dave and Busters into the area; what child wouldn't want to have a birthday party in a place packed with so many coin-operated attractions in such a labyrinth that up to two-thirds of your party could go missing before any adults could even tell?

And similarly there's no telling what'll happen to the pinball league there. bunny_hugger and I missed the league meeting last week, the last one held while he was alive (though he wasn't always present for them). We were visiting my parents, story to come someday. At the start of next month should be league finals. Conceivably people who'd drifted out of the league might show up to pay a kind of respects. I don't know.

But everybody certainly loved his work, and seems to have loved him as a person, where they knew him. That's a good way to live.

Trivia: One of P T Barnum's earliest ``humbugs'' was the 1835 exhibition of Joice Heth, allegedly 161-year-old nurse to George Washington. Among his last was the 1889 presentation (in England) of ``supernatural illusions'' including a creature with a woman's head and a peacock's body. Source: No Applause - Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, Trav S D (D Travis Stewart)

Currently Reading: The Values Of Precision, Editor M Norton Wise.

Friday, January 13th, 2017
12:10 am
I said to meinself this is some fancy town

Normal: do you remember it? Yeah, me neither, really.But my humor blog's carried on almost as if normal, as you can put on your Friends page or your RSS reader. And run there since last week at this time were:

So here's some of what we got up to in Traverse City that Tuesday we were in and hoped to find FunHouse and other pinball.


Little Free Library in Traverse City, just outside the State Theater. It imitates the theater, as the picture suggests.


Catching my eye in Toy Haven: your child's own play parking garage! You can almost feel the child discover the world of magnetic-stripe tickets. The part with the elevator I really like. But I'm that sort of nerd and always was.


Among the Toy Haven toys were these pretty cool translucent dragons. Because kids don't have enough cool stuff, they get translucent dragon toys too. You know? It's not fair.


Bijou By The Bay: another little theater, in a park on the water line. The building only looks like a WPA power substation. It was for many years a museum set up by/in honor of one of the first people to run a movie theater in Traverse City. And it runs a mix of art-house stuff and popular movies plus whatever you want to say The Secret Life Of Pets was. It just looked too dire to actually watch.


Stuff we missed at the State Theatre or the Bijou By The Bay: some interesting movies for the Cherrry Fest. They might have got carried away or hoped they'd have more pirate movies.

Trivia: After months in 1924 spent trying to convince the owners of the New York Tribune to sell to them, as the only way the two (Republican broadsheet) newspapers could survive in the crowded market, Frank Munsey admitted defeat and sold his Herald to the Tribune. He got five million dollars, a tenth of that for the Herald's Paris edition. Source: The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune, Richard Kluger.

Currently Reading: The Wandering Variables, Lois Trimble. And if I thought Chad Oliver had set a new word record for violently inhumane social experimentation along comes Trimble with multiple societies set up to prove out grad student theses. It's fun enough and keeps brushing up against being funny but still, wow, I've got a new entry for the next time someone wants to know what books top Pohl's Starburst for this sort of thing.

PS: How December 2016 Treated My Mathematics Blog, just going over exactly what the title says it is.

Thursday, January 12th, 2017
12:10 am
Some friends will go and some will stay

Sunday started out, really, with regrets. We realized we didn't have anything else on the reunion schedule to go to, and that the best thing to have done, visiting the museum, we'd already done. Didn't know anyone else in town, didn't see anyone that would be. And town would be closed for the Sunday; we missed our chance to wander around shops and see what they were like since they ripped the pedestrian mall out and allowed cars back on the main street. (They had converted the downtown to a pedestrian area after a major gas explosion in 1968. It was still a pedestrian area until a couple years after bunny_hugger graduated.)

And we'd given up something to be there. Conneaut Lake Park's Pumpkinfest was the same weekend, and that would be our last chance to visit the park this year. We hadn't missed a whole reason there since we discovered the strange exotic park. But with our pet rabbit's needs we didn't make more summer trips, and here the last chance was gone. The news from Conneaut Lake Park has been surprisingly good --- they even got their water park open --- but nothing's ever really sure. What if we'd missed our last visit there?

We haven't got any reason as of now to think we have. We'll see come summer.

Since campus didn't seem to have much to do we looked for alternatives. One was the US Route 40 museum barely across the street from the hotel. US 40 is, in that area, the former National Road, the sort of obscurely important thing just right for me. It turned out to be less a museum --- although it had some informational displays --- and more a collection of every pamphlet covering every event in Indiana ever. Which also has its appeals. At our hotel I picked up a flyer for Kings Island amusement park; bunny_hugger noticed later on that it was their flyer for 2009 (or something similarly absurdly old), boasting of a new ride that's already long since lost the attention of the crowd.

There was a letterbox in the vicinity, near an historic home and rose garden and on the edge of a golf course. It'd also had, as I remember, a recent history of people not being able to find the box. Often a warning sign that the box has gotten lost or destroyed. We had no trouble finding it. Maybe we were there when the ground cover was just right.

Also in Richmond and open when everything is closed is the Madonna of the Trail. This is a statue, one of a dozen along the US 40/US 66 routes. They were erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1920s, and are meant to celebrate the pioneer women of the (white) westward movement. Richmond's statue was dedicated in October 1928, and according to the plaques, has been renovated and rededicated at least twice this century. I'm sure they'll get it to stick soon. It's a good-looking statue and the historic connection makes it a natural for a letterbox. There's just not a good spot near it to stash one, not that we noticed.

Also a good potential letterbox site, not one we could visit that day: the offices of Gennett Records, a pioneer in recorded jazz. I tried to buy a CD of their recordings at the US 40 museum/travel center thingy. But their credit card reader was down and I don't think I had the cash in hand to buy something.

We wanted to eat. The diner where everybody used to go when it was late was gone, or so we thought. It turned out to be west of campus, not east. There was a restaurant bunny_hugger's gang used to go to all the time, but it had also closed, though not before setting up a second branch in the next town west. In the spot that had been a restaurant bunny_hugger got taken to once or twice because they needed some restaurant that wasn't in town.

Getting there took us past an incredible-looking, vast candle shop we wouldn't have time to visit. It took us through the Centerville antiques district (it's all antiques district), to Little Sheba's. The location dates back to the 1800s and it looks like your classic ancient-style bar, with stained-glass windows and a barfront that they claim originated with the 1893 World's Fair. We huddled up in a little alcove and bunny_hugger marvelled at how much she remembered from the place's former incarnation. The sandwich she used to always get they still had, and it tasted familiar enough. I found some other, similar vegetarian sandwich and felt satisfied.

We felt like we didn't have anything else to do we'd have time for, except maybe the candle shop, which seemed too far out of the way. So we drove back to Michigan. We stopped at bunny_hugger's parents' house to pick up our pet rabbit. It was somewhat on the way, and it would let us spare him spending another night away from home, and us, that we could help.

Trivia: The word ``magazine'' comes from the Middle French ``magasin'', itself a borrowing from the Arabic ``makhzan'', meaning storehouse. Source: Webster's Dictionary of Word Origins, Editor Frederick C Mish.

Currently Reading: Pohlstars, Frederik Pohl. Reading Pohl you'd think the point of capitalism was petty, sad acts of aimless cruelty directed at an ever-increasing body of poor people. Fortunately we know what the point really is.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
12:10 am
Start your revolution and I'll see you at the reunion

After the retirement celebration broke up we went back to the campus museum. This was in retrospect a mistake: it turned out there wasn't much scheduled for Sunday besides the museum being open, so we were cheating ourselves of the chance to do more stuff on campus. No guessing that at the time, though.

Earlham's Joseph Moore Museum isn't a large one. Much of its collection was inherited from Moore, one of the school's first teachers. He had your classic Victorian curios collection and left it to the school and the school has never been perfectly sure what to do with it past lose as little of it in a disastrous fire back in the 20s. Its most iconic piece is a giant beaver's skeleton, recovered from the time when giant beavers roamed what became Indiana. (The news report about the fire put the saving of the giant beaver in the subhead.) The museum's got other impressive fossils, but that's the one that captures people's imaginations.

In the museum I looked up, and up, and up further at a giant creature standing even taller than the mammoth skeleton and thinking of how ``giant'' seems like an understatement for this giant beaver. And then realized that I was looking at the wrong thing. This was the giant sloth. The giant beaver was gigantic, mind you, probably around the size of an ocelot. I just spoiled myself by looking at the wrong thing first. Also, good grief but giant sloths! You know?

Also an eccentric piece of the museum's collection is the Egyptian Mummy. It was purchased by the college's then-president in 1889. He believed it to be the mummy of an ancient Egyptian king, found in a tomb in ``the Fayum'' about 75 miles south of Cairo. Studies using X-ray technologies in 1979 revealed that the mummy was actually that of a 20-to-22-year-old woman. Also the hieroglyphs on her coffin said her name was Ta'an, meaning ``beautiful one'', and that she was the daughter of a priest. Possibly nobody thought to check the label before 1979.

Small place. Quirky place. Place with inexplicable bits. It feels like the school, so far as I understood it.

The museum closed and we wandered around campus a while, taking in the late afternoon. And then went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. That would be in a restaurant somewhere downtown and it took some luck for us to find it.

Finding the lot was easy enough. The restaurant was in the warehouse district, which is going through that transition from ``warehouse district'' to ``trendy restaurants in warehouse spaces district''. In particular the classes having their 10-year and 20-year reunions were having their event in a bar/restaurant housed in the fourth floor of a really huge warehouse. one that you could get, from the parking lot, by walking up the fire escape. It feels terribly precarious walking up, even when you're not particularly afraid of heights. Also the restaurant occupied a tiny part of the floor, and we were on the far side from that, so we had a long walk through the slender marked space and past abandoned or under-renovation floor space.

We settled at a table with people we didn't know, but who thought they kind of recognized bunny_hugger's name, possibly from the newspaper. Some of them seemed vaguely familiar, possibly from the student radio. One person at our table, a charming fellow, turned out to be an actor whom we'd learn later had a pretty solid reputation and a string of respectable performances and high expectations for his career. He died about two weeks after. I think it was a heart attack.

That wasn't anything we could have suspected then. We had plenty of time to talk, and eat (though the organizers forgot that it's possible to have non-boring vegetarian options). The actual alumni gathered for a group photograph, my chance to stand up and tug the tablecloth a foot to the side and send half-empty glasses of water to the floor. It wasn't my smoothest moment.

At the night's end we decided not to take the fire escape back down. That was just too crazy. We would take the elevator instead. That was crazy. It was a warehouse, industrial elevator. The kind without doors. The shaft had collapsible gates but you could just peer over the end and signal for the operator to bring the cab to your level. Just like you'd see in, like, a silent movie where the likeable star ends up dangling six storeys above traffic. Wild.

We did get to peer into the windows of other trendy-warehouse-district-restaurants and what we supposed were other classes yet getting their dinners. They seemed busier and more crowded, but they might have started later, and even if they hadn't, isn't that how other group's parties always seem?

Trivia: The Massachusetts towns of West Boylston and Clinton were sunk under the Wachusett Reservoir to provide water for Boston in the early 20th century. Source: Down To Earth: Nature's Role In American History, Ted Steinberg.

Currently Reading: Giants In The Mist, Chad Oliver. Set a bunch of conditioned amnesiacs on an alien but colonizable world in the hope of growing a new society free of the mistakes of the old? There's no way that plan can go atrociously wrong! (Well, the experimenters were looking for novelty and accepted their new society would be screwed up, they just hoped in different ways. Still.)

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
12:10 am
Make this the best of the rest of your days

One disappointment of the reunion is that bunny_hugger didn't know many people there. Her class seemed to be lightly represented to start. Nobody was at her class's table in the dining hall when we had dinner, admittedly late. (We left as they were closing for the night). But when she did find someone from her class there was usually some discussion of how they're not sure but kind of remember your name, did we have this class, often gym, together? No? Well maybe from somewhere. bunny_hugger wrote some for the student newspaper, which might make her name last longer in people's minds and might have been throwing off false memories. Her friends just didn't come to this reunion.

There was an exception, though. One of her friends came in on Saturday. Not someone attending the reunion properly. He'd just noticed on Facebook that the reunion was this weekend and bunny_hugger would be there and he was only an hour or so off so why not try and meet up? I may have the details off a bit, but it was that sort of casual thing. He wasn't attending any events because somehow he didn't think they'd register him. This seems to go against how registration works to me, but perhaps somebody misunderstood something at some point.

He came with his wife, someone who's got a DeviantArt account under a name I was sure I couldn't possibly forget, so that's gone wrong already. We met up by the college's museum; they went through it before we got to it. I think she might have been the one suggesting they take the trip over to see the reunion.

So we spent time catching up. Or bunny_hugger and he spent time catching up and recounting stories, while his wife and I nodded and remembered how we'd been told some of these anecdotes about what their college day were like. Pranks he and his friend had played, for example. There was one good one --- going into a bathroom on one floor and popping back out on the next --- that misfired only because bunny_hugger didn't happen to notice the teleportation there. As she's described the circumstances I probably wouldn't have noticed myself. He mentioned that he actually still occasionally draws the comic he had begun back in college, and made a sporadic go of as a web comic back in the 90s. Evil Paul, about an evil Paul McCartney who goes about oooohing at stuff. That would probably still work.

It all felt good meeting this old college friend, and his wife, although the bizarre thing is that we did leave to get back to regular old reunion stuff. I think we had a loose plan to maybe meet up again, but we wouldn't, and we didn't run into anyone else bunny_hugger knew as a friend from the days either.

What we were going to was a retirement celebration. Not for one of bunny_hugger's professors. They've all retired or gone to other posts or didn't happen to be in for the weekend. It was for someone in the English department. She had been assigned as bunny_hugger's first advisor, when she arrived at school with plans to be an English major and before she found the Philosophy courses so much more everything. bunny_hugger had only a few meetings with her since there wasn't much to do, but this would be one of the few organized events for which bunny_hugger had a personal link.

It was at the English department, the other end of the hall from the Philosophy department (which was all but empty that day). Lots of people crowded into the department's common area, with food all the way at the other end of the crowd. Lots of people telling anecdotes about their time knowing her or how she'd influenced them. A startling story about how she and her partner worried about how being open might threaten her tenure chances. In the English department. Of a Quaker school so left wing that, while bunny_hugger was there, a long-running campus May Day tradition ended in a fit of earnest are-we-being-good-enough fighting. It serves as a reminder that while the 80s were only thirty years ago, they were also like a hundred and fifty years ago.

(It also puts in context the gossip, current to bunny_hugger's undergraduate life, that her eventual mentor in Philosophy had been pressured by the school to marry his longtime girlfriend because who could deal with two professors living In Sin in the 80s? No idea if the gossip had any base in fact but it's hard to remember that Lasnerian 1982 was that very long ago.)

She remembered bunny_hugger, bizarre as that seems. I know there are people who do well remembering names and faces. I'm not among them. I have a hard time believing when anyone who deals with a lot of people and has casual interactions with me --- fast-food cashiers, library clerks, that sort of person --- remembers me. How could a professor who has hundreds of students and likely a dozen or so advisors each semester remember someone twenty years after the last of their maybe four interactions? Well, she explained, there weren't many students switching from English to Philosophy to start with. And almost never did a female student switch into Philosophy. (Philosophy has sex imbalance and gender issues severe enough that those alone should group it with the STEM fields.) She remembered a person that exceptional.

Well, we all knew bunny_hugger was exceptional.

Trivia: In 1945 the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration provided Yugoslavia with ten thousand trucks, fourteen thousand pack horses, ten thousand mules, 237 locomotives, 8,555 railway cars, over four thousand tractors, four thousand tons of caustic soda (for the glass industry), $7 million worth of mining equipment, 44 sawmills, and 433 woodworking machines. Source: The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War, Ben Shephard.

Currently Reading: All The Traps Of Earth And Other Stories, Clifford Simak. Who don't like psionic robots? (Honestly surprised it wasn't a John W Campbell story.)

Monday, January 9th, 2017
12:10 am
One thing's for sure, he isn't starring in the movies

Last week's mathematics blog was all about building stuff up out of what I already wrote. I was on vacation. (Could you tell?) Here's what went up:

So in Omena on Tuesday the first thing we did was go to Leelanau Township to find a letterbox.


Peterson Park, location of the letterbox and, we'd find, a hitchhiker, a portable letterbox hidden inside the letterbox. It turns out to be a park with two major accessible locations and we of course started from the wrong one as we always do that. Or we never find out about the second location of the bifurated parks where we start from the correct part.


A fallen tree. My joke is that every letterbox involves finding the fallen tree, one of many fallen trees in the area. I'm exaggerating. But fallen trees are good location markers for letterboxes, since mostly people don't go relocating them. And they often will provide spots good for concealing a box. If you see something that looks like this in a park near some feature of local interest there might just be a closed Tupperware box waiting to be discovered.


Peterson Park looks out over Lake Michigan, although it's something like a hundred-plus feet above sea level. So you can take a stairway down, and note the pronoun in that. Well, we might have gone down to shore level except it was fairly hot and we wouldn't have time to go home and shower before we'd need to get going again as we hoped to make it to Traverse City in the afternoon.


Another bit of the park, and the trees, and way off in the distance our car. It was a nice enough day but we didn't see anyone except, of course, for the car that drove into and back out of the lot just as we were doing the most suspicious part of letterboxing. That would be our going slightly off the normal paths and rooting around looking for a tiny, concealed package. Somehow somebody always comes along when you're at the moment of finding the confidential part of the hobby. They're never along when you're having an argument about whether the ``old water pump'' landmark the clues mention might mean the water fountain that doesn't work.

Trivia: The Lux Radio Theater, near the end of its twenty-season run, was estimated to have gone through 52,000 pages of script, 496 stars, 1,467 supporting players, 18,667 music cues, and 22,667 sound effects. Source: On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, John Dunning. I would have been satisfied had they estimated the sound effects to the nearest ten.

Currently Reading: 1919: The Year Our World Began, William K Klingaman.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017
12:10 am
Take pictures each step of the way

Saturday we had to get up early because that's when they were doing campus tours. We could suffer for our nostalgia. I had never been to the school before, yes, but bunny_hugger's spoken much about Earlham College and how it affected her life and I knew the names and some of the relations of places at least. We joined into a small pack of people going through, first, the dorm rooms.

Most of the dorms have been renovated into unrecognizability the past two decades. One of them was even closed a year for renovations when bunny_hugger was there. But bunny_hugger's dorm, at least the one she lived in for several years and that she'd sat up at the desk for as a work-study student, hadn't been. There were some changes, yes. The desk she'd sat at for vague security purposes was no longer there, although the phone jack for the telephone was present yet. There were posters warning about the signs and hazards of binge drinking, a major change; back in the day it was a dry campus and drinking was done in private or way out back in the distant fields. But the portrait of the guy the hall was named for was still there, and many of the little things like carpet and partition walls and stuff looked right. We found bunny_hugger's dorm room, at least one of them, or at least what we believe one of them to have been, although the door was closed and if the current occupant was there we didn't bother the person.

We'd have similar visits to other dorms, some of which bunny_hugger had connections to, some of which were just important to the other people in our party. I had that curious feeling of soaking in the familiar atmosphere of college undergraduate life even though the dorms were not, in detail, anything like the places I'd been. I'd had three different dorms from different eras myself (renovated barracks left over from World War II, mid-60s, and late-80s halls) before going to grad school. I understood the architectural language at least.

The tour guide took us to the new science building, the one I'd thought was a 60s construction. It's quite new, with shiny white tables and whiteboard surfaces over everything. Walls, doors, desks, everything. It's apparently part of the study-group culture they're trying to breed, where everybody's writing what comes to their minds and sharing ideas and all. A bunch of kids brought there by parents were delighted by this, as what kid worthy of the name wouldn't like a place where you're given markers and allowed to write over everything?

The science building apparently blends all the science and mathematics departments together. It's a little unsettling to me not to see, like, separate halls for the mathematics and the physics professors, but considering it's a small school trying to press its STEM program maybe that's survivable. I noticed many of the mathematics jokes written on the boards and waited, to this day, for anyone to ask me to explain them. Also I noticed an electrical dry riser was labelled as N Bourbaki's office, so, yeah, they asked the science and mathematics folks for input into the new construction.

Also among the new buildings we toured: the new arts center. It's got wings for all the major branches of performing and craft arts. Also it's got little stencilled rats-or-mice among the baseboards and hanging out by the electrical fixtures. I'm not sure if that's a current students' art project or if it's just a bit of the whimsy they hope to bring to their work. The mouse rats are labelled ``Eleven In The Wall'', but that doesn't pin down what the origin is. We also noticed pins for the college's Theatre Arts program, which features a silhouetted squirrel with a long cape and one of those muse-of-comedy masks in its hand. Among the changes at Earlham in two decades have been squirrels transitioning from object of student fascination to might-as-well-be-official icons of the school. bunny_hugger would buy an Earlham College squirrel plush from the bookstore, a souvenir that fits her more cautious rules about what plush will be brought to the home.

That was as far, I think, as the organized tour went. We'd go out on our own for some of the other public spaces.

Trivia: The best November 1977 estimates for shuttle completion projected that the orbiter Enterprise would go into service at 160,000 pounds. Columbia would weight 158,000 pounds. The vehicle that would be Challenger would come in at 155,000 pounds; Discovery and Atlantis, 151,000 pounds. Source: Development of the Space Shuttle 1972 - 1981, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: 1919: The Year Our World Began, William K Klingaman.

Saturday, January 7th, 2017
12:10 am
Learn to laugh, dare to dance, touch the sky

We went to dinner. They held one in the student union's dining hall. I wouldn't want to miss that. I ate dining hall meals like seventeen times a week through college; if the food were even slightly the same the time-travel power of taste would be irresistible. The place looked nearly the same, and bunny_hugger wondered if the dining hall was still informally called Sodexho, based on the catering company that had been long-ago replaced even before she was a student there. It was still a current nickname for the place, according to the student newspaper.

There was a major difference. In the day the balcony over the dining hall would be festooned with signs for student groups and events and whatever political point some mass of students wanted to make. There was nothing of that here. bunny_hugger wondered when this heritage faded. It transpired this was a new change, and was a side effect of the renovations due to start the next month according to a modest sign on the door. When the dining hall reopens it won't have a balcony. Students wanting to send a message can have them put on the computer monitors in the corners of the dining hall, and that will be there when the rebuilding is done. There's no way that can compare.

Dinner was good, though. They've expanded the vegetarian options since bunny_hugger was a student there, even if you don't cheat and have breakfast cereal for dinner the way you do when you're an undergraduate and don't see why you shouldn't have dusty store-brand Froot Loops for dinner. What was missing was other students from the class of 1996. We were the only people sitting at the table for that, apart from someone who was from another class with even fewer people who huddled up to us for psychic warmth before going off to her class's mixer. 1996's class mixer was in a barbecue restaurant, which may have had people bunny_hugger recognized but would have been dire for a basically vegetarian pair.

We started to explore the student union after dinner, like this odd little upstairs nook with a TV in it. And the lounge, with a piano and a couple of groups of gamers. One of them was playing what looked to me like Apples To Apples with a computer doing the judging. They were running tours of the area from that lounge and we joined in that, which let us into some of the areas that are also student dorms and locked off by keycard access. They weren't into keycard access for everything back in the day; in the mid-90s you just had to go through regular old doors propped open. Unfortunately the modern college dorm doesn't offer so much for casual visiting; I think all the actual student rooms had automatically closed doors, so it was just hallways.

After that bunny_hugger took me on a tour of campus, to the buildings that had been cornerstones of her experience. The outsides anyway; most of them weren't open. Even the library was closed by that late in the evening. But we could check the side door where, back in the day, 24-hour computer-lab access was allowed. The door was still there, though not the numeric keypad to get into the room. We also investigated the long corridor that's part of the science building complex, and the stairs leading precariously down underneath to the other 24-hour computer-lab that was available when the library's was closed. This one still had the numeric keypad, surely long-since disabled as there was a keycard-access reader also attached to the door. There was also some mysterious stenciled graffiti in the stairwell. It's good to see mysterious symbols still spreading on campus.

We tromped around the campus some, with bunny_hugger pointing out to me the buildings that were old when she was there, and what ones were freshly-renovated when she was there, and what ones were new. I quipped about the science building and its severely 60s Modernist styling; she was unsure about it. The joke was on me; the building was extremely new. But it had been built in a retro style, so that it fit with the 60s Modernist styling of the older parts of the science building and its related buildings. It's not an ugly building, you understand. It's just got personality, and that makes it easy to comment about.

But there is only so long we can spend tromping around the mostly-shuttered or locked up campus at night. We made our way back to the car and got back to the hotel where, we'd learn overnight, a bunch of kids were having run-down-the-hall contests. It'd be one of our bad-luck experiences with hotel rooms the past couple months.

Trivia: The alliance between Prussia and Austria-Hungary which Bismack negotiated in 1879 was to last theoretically for five years, but to be renewed automatically unless denounced. Source: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848 - 1918, A J P Taylor.

Currently Reading: 1919: The Year Our World Began, William K Klingaman.

Friday, January 6th, 2017
12:10 am
Shopping cart pusher or maybe someone groovy

This week my humor blog featured the start of a fresh Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. Hope you like. Also run there:

Now for some strolling along the beach at Omena.


Entry to the Omena Beach. The set of rules for the beach were so worded that I argued it was against the rules to take your trash home for disposal, and you instead had to toss it out in the bins there. Can't imagine they prosecute many of those cases though.


Stuff to do at the Omena Beach if you don't want to swim or toss pebbles or fossil-hunt. Also we would learn those rubber-strap seats hurt when you're a grownup and have hips wide enough that the hooks holding the strap on will dig into your hips and will never, ever stop digging.


The former Harbor Bar as viewed from kind of a little way along the beach. Now it's Knot Just A Bar and a winery and feels like the natural habitat for my mother's college friends.


Setting sun at the Omena beach. Half-moon and a bird in view there.


Water rushing in to the Omena beach. I couldn't line up a picture that perfectly if I tried.

Trivia: There are at least 2,500 species of mosquito. Source: The Path Between The Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870 - 1914, David McCullough.

Currently Reading: 1919: The Year Our World Began, William K Klingaman.

<> PS: What I Learned Doing The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z, furthering my little recaps. </p>
Thursday, January 5th, 2017
12:10 am
Oh, write your song, sing along, love your life

Whatever else 2016 was, it was bunny_hugger's 20th anniversary. For her undergraduate college. She'd been to the 10th and missed the 15th. She'd looked to the 20th with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. But she wanted to go. I would go along, naturally, although what does it say about me I've never been to a high school or college reunion?

We did leave our pet rabbit with bunny_hugger's parents, the first time we'd had any reason to since Pinburgh, and a chance to reassure her parents that I had complete confidence in their ability to take care of him. That's nothing I had to fake either; I know how well they cared for our pet, and especially how her mother doted on him. He'd come through that visit in fine shape, of course. Possibly better than he went to them in.

bunny_hugger drove the long way down all the way to Earlham College, in Richmond, Indiana. It's a place she talks about often, one that set her on the course to being a philosopher. She hadn't thought of it before falling under the spell of a professor who's since left the school. Few of the people she knew would be there, or planned to be there. One person with some connection would be there for likely the last time: her very first advisor, whom she had long enough to determine she wanted to be a Philosophy rather than an English major, was retiring and would have a farewell party during the weekend.

So we drove down, marking an all-time high for us of three drives through Indiana this year. That was all fairly boring and unexceptional save for the last mile, where highway construction at the end of the off-ramp we needed meant we spent more time trying to go from the highway to the road leading to our hotel than we spent getting from Lansing to the off-ramp for our hotel. I exaggerate, but only by about twelve minutes. It added just that dash of stress and frustration ahead of the emotionally complicated event that it really most needed.

Later than we had originally hoped, then, we drove to campus where bunny_hugger realized she didn't know the way around campus in a car. Who needs a car as an undergraduate? Especially a compact campus like this. We found what seemed like a legitimate enough parking lot, which is the most you can hope for when parking at a college. And found the student union, renovated and being renovated but still with recognizable bits from when she had lived on campus.

Mostly recognizable anyway. Some of the landmarks were recognizable, like the nook that used to be the TV room where bunny_hugger remembered seeing Bill Clinton's inauguration and episodes of ER and other mid 90s landmarks. There was an art display gallery that was different at least, and a whole coffee area that was new. There had been somewhere in the union that, back in the day, hosted some unimpressive pinball machine and no trace of them or the exact spot where they'd been. I may be remembering this detail wrong and am open to correction on it.

In to the meeting area, and to registration. bunny_hugger had signed up for several events over the Friday and Saturday, with me along as a guest. We got our name badges and schedule and I think I noted how they needed convention-style pocket schedules. We were set for wherever this would lead.

Trivia: Finnish liquorice is regarded as the saltiest of all kinds. Source: Sweets: A History of Temptation, Tim Richardson.

Currently Reading: 1919: The Year Our World Began, William K Klingaman. Klingaman gives a ``maybe you had to be there'' defense of recounting how at Vanity Fair, where the addressing of people by their first names was not allowed, Dorothy Parker addressed Robert Benchley as ``Fred''. I dunno, I get it.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017
12:10 am
I want to see the sun blotted out from the sky

So remember when we got the house painted and then, the next year, the roof redone? In hindsight we ought to have done the roof first, as the work damaged some of the shakes and trim and other parts of the house's finish. And we had trouble finding any living soul willing to finish up the painting because you know how it is: have a simple, modest house task you're willing to pay for and nobody wants to do it.

We eventually got a guy who'd done some painting and home-repair stuff for bunny_hugger years in the past to agree to do it. He's a chipper, genial person, overflowing with cheer and pride in Dutch-quality work. He agreed to it in the fall of 2015, promising that in spring of 2016 he'd be in touch when he had a day or two to do the work. Also to finish off the spots of painting where, he pointed out, our original housepainters had skimped on the job.

Spring came and he begged off, saying he didn't have the schedule space. July while we were at Pinburgh he phoned to say he had a couple days free, but by the time we were home the window was gone. By early autumn we were resigned to his joining the legion of contractors that just don't actually contract. And just as we were ready to give up for the year he called to say he would like to leap into it.

Well, leap with some reservations. We had to get new paint, unfortunately. The leftover paint from the main housepainting we had left in the garage one winter, not knowing what it was (it was in five-gallon buckets and merged invisibly into the other piles of five-gallon buckets of stuff in the garage) or what that would do to the paint (transform it to Rookwood putty). But he and his wife were able to come in and work as a pair. He'd touch up the spots outside that were damaged or never finished. She painted the storm windows that had got overlooked in the house painting two summers ago.

And so finally, finally, we have the house painting and the roof repairing done. No loose ends or not-quite-finished tasks built on this yet.

One last jab of memory. When he and his wife came in to work out the proper bid and all of course the saw our pet rabbit, who watched them with the curiosity he normally brought to this sort of thing. They spoke of how amazing he was, and how large. I think they might be the last contractors brought into the house who'd remark on his size.

Trivia: The last episode of George of the Jungle had its dailies finished three days before airing; it still needed to be cut, dubbed, and printed. Source: The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel, and a Talking Moose, Keith Scott. (This was in part deliberate; Ward had learned that by working very close to airing time he could avoid most network interference.)

Currently Reading: 1919: The Year Our World Began, William K Klingaman.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z Roundup, in case you missed any of my writing the last two months.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017
12:10 am
We're born again, there's new grass on the field

And after the stadium minigolf it was my birthday, so you can gauge how far behind things I'm running again. We observed it in one of our traditional ways. We went to Saginaw.

Not for Saginaw alone, although we should get back to the zoo. We were visiting Kokomo's Family Fun Center, which has the nearest roller coaster to us. It's the Serpent, a modest steel roller coaster of the kind that could work the fairgrounds circuit. It's been in Kokomo's for several years, the remnant of what looks like an expansion plan cut short by all that fiscal unpleasantness of the most recent Republican administration. It's a fair walk away from the rest of the attractions, as though they hoped to fill things in and haven't had the chance yet.

Kokomo's had changed some since we last visited. The big thing is they'd taken down this inflatable dome shelter that covered something we had never seen before because it was covered by an inflatable dome shelter. Now it looked like a football or soccer field. This threw off our whole sense of where things were outside, at least when we were in view of what should have been a dome like that. They also took down an outdoor dry-erase announcement sign on which you could still make out the non-dry-erase-markered welcome to the American Coaster Enthusiasts, from the party inaugurating the Serpent roller coaster.

Kokomo's miniature golf course was challenging and weird as ever. Dryer, though. They had nearly all the water elements turned off, distracting us at places where we expected waterfalls or little rivers or such. The only water turned on was one that provides the current for one of their many weird holes. For that one, though, you have to shoot your ball into the water and let the current carry it to the green. The ever-impossible 13th hole, the one with three separate levels of green and that's a par four, was difficult for us again. I got an honest six on it, which is doing pretty well. Not like the time I somehow managed to do it in the theoretical-minimum two strokes but, still.

We had dinner at the sushi place we usually visit. And thought as we were going in that it was a Monday, what if they're closed? They were just as good and speedy as we had expected, though. I think we learned they were closed Sundays, which is an odd choice but I suppose every restaurant needs some time off. Won't hit us for a my-birthday visit for a few years anyway.

The most distracting thing at Kokomo's this visit was how lonely it was. Late September is usually a slow time but this was almost dead. I think we only ever saw one other party out on the golf course, and they joined when we were nearly done. There was one group on the go-karts, that got started just as we got up to that ride, and so we made a separate pack of two racing about.

Next most distracting is the changes in their arcade. Still no pinball, alas. They replaced some of the Skee-Ball and other games with newer redemption-type games. One was a Plinko-style game dropping chips into virtual goldfish bowls. While that's an improvement on the old-fashioned kind of harassing actual goldfish, it was also one (1) drop per dollar. Also they switched from tokens and redemption tickets over to a card system. This might be more convenient and save everyone from heartbreaking mechanical failures. But isn't the point of a redemption game getting an avalanche of tickets from something that you turn into a great heaping pile at your feet, rather than getting your charge card re-charged?

We'll be back, of course. It was such a warm late September day we wondered idly if they'd be open and running the roller coaster for bunny_hugger's birthday, in early November. When the tiem caem we didn't think of it then, though.

Trivia: A 1970s window display at Halston's department store in Manhattan included a seven-day soap-opera style development, with a pregnant mannequin in a hospital bed growing larger daily, with a baby born on the last day. Source: The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History of Americas Great Department Stores, Robert Hendrickson.

Currently Reading: 1919: The Year Our World Began, William K Klingaman.

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