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

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Saturday, March 23rd, 2019
12:10 am
I'm gonna climb Nob Hill, just to watch it get dark

Oh, so, something from that book The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction I was reading earlier this week. Early on it acknowledges how it's not like New York City is the only city that gets destroyed in disaster movies/books/magazine articles/illustrations/etc. For example:

Chicago's identity --- reinforced with countless novels and films --- is bound up with its great fire of 1871.

I can't think of a single movie I've ever seen, or heard about, that's about the Great Fire of 1871. I don't remember any novels about it either, but I'm ignorant enough of historical fiction that this doesn't stand out. Which seems weird, but I think disaster movies don't tend to also be historical movies. I can only think of one (sound) movie based on the San Francisco Earthquake, for example. There's earthquake-disaster movies, including ones that destroy San Francisco, but they're set whenever the movie is supposed to come out. I don't know of any Great Fire of London movies, but I'm ignorant enough of British cinema that this is sufficiently explained. Nor the 1835 Great Fire of New York. Any of the yellow fever or cholera epidemics to have hit a country could make a good thriller, but I've never seen one. I imagine it's easier to make a present-day thriller about a fictional disease. I assume there's a Canadian movie about the Halifax Explosion of 1917, but again, I plead ignorance.

And while I'm at it, isn't it a bit weird there hasn't been a historical-romance based on Woodrow Wilson courting Edith Bolling? Widower President of the United States meeting a widow at a tea, he proposes months later, she refuses, all the while World War I's settling in to a long terrible stalemate and Wilson is trying to keep the United States from war with either a European power or Mexico? It's almost the movie you would design to be Oscar Bait, and I don't think it's ever been done. Aaron Sorkin tromped around loosely similar territory, in The American President, but not as an historical and without the global-crisis setting that would give the film a flavor.

Anyway, I don't get why that book suggested there were Great Fire of Chicago movies.

Trivia: After signing a codicil to his will on the 23rd of March, 1827, Ludwig van Beethoven dropped his pen and proclaimed, ``There! Now I'll write no more.'' (He fell into a coma later in the day and never recovered.) Source: Beethoven: The Universal Composer, Edmund Morris.

Currently Reading: Before The World Series: Pride, Profits, and Baseball's First Championships, Larry G Bowman.

PS: Who doesn't love a parade?


Costume contest winner of the day at the Halloweekends parade, which, come to think of it, would justify there being other people in costume walking around the park, wouldn't it? Anyway the big Snoopy Boutique in back is one of the shops that'll sell you, like, pictures of Charlie Brown riding Rougarou and stuff.


The dragons! I only ever see them at Halloweekends parades, but we don't spend much time in the kiddie areas so maybe they do meet-and-greets around them during the normal parts of the year?


A bunch of cheerleader poodles doing hula-hoop tricks, there to herald Snoopy's arrival.

Friday, March 22nd, 2019
12:10 am
Happy haunts materialize

Here's the humor blog stuff from the last seven days:

And we're getting nearer the end of our 2017 Halloweekends visit; enjoy the photography of it all!


A surprising amount of debris on the ground near the Gemini return leg.


Operator examining something between two of the cars on Gemini; he pulled out some kind of long thin wire but what it represented is a mystery to me.


Our old friend Corkscrew. The white train was the only one in operation. The red one here is on the transfer track which would let it drop down into the station for maintenance or off to the side to join the white train in operation. There also was, at one point, a blue train (the ride opened in 1976) but nobody's seen it running except in legend in years.


View of the Matterhorn ride from the back side, the Corkscrew platform. It looks old-styled, but I do like that look in it.


Oh hey, I guess the Grand Prix pinball game was working and I had a pretty good game. I'm guessing I was figuring to write the score down on my iPod's scorekeeping app later on. Or maybe it was bunny_hugger's score and she didn't have her iPod on her either? Well, it was one of ours.


Gathering in wait for the parade to start. I think the clowns were just people attending the park in costume.


Also we were coming to learn that you could just go to Cedar Point in costume, at least at Halloweekends. I don't think these were performers for the parade.


The lead float of the parade: Linus and Sally sitting on a float. Yes, that's Woodstock as a vampire behind them. Also, yes, they were hiring a group named ``Tenable Security'' because they wanted a name that sounded like the company name from some Jonathan Lethem knock-off novelist's piece about a guy who spends his life disapproving of the New Brunswick, New Jersey, punk scene for the alt-weekly.


See, the reason it makes sense Woodstock would dress as a vampire is that there was this sequence where Snoopy and Woodstock became pathologically afraid of vampires, the result of Peppermint Patty telling them too many scary stories.

Trivia: After the 16-month, 4,000-mile journey of exploration of the Indoensian archipelago and New Guinea coastline from 1774-75, Captain Thomas Forrest's tiny ship --- it held three sailors --- the Tartar sold for £9 7s 6d. Source: The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company, John Keay.

Currently Reading: Before The World Series: Pride, Profits, and Baseball's First Championships, Larry G Bowman.

PS: Reading the Comics, March 13, 2019: Ziggy Rerun Scandal Edition, which shows you the level of what can count as scandalous in mathematics-themed comic strips.

Thursday, March 21st, 2019
12:10 am
On a warm summer's even on a train bound for nowhere

So here's a bit of news that made me say, ``But we just got pinball legalized in Oakland!''

Online gamblers have started taking bets on the outcome of pinball events. Here's the list of odds given for some set of events at MyBookie.ag, a sports betting site hosted in either Antigua or Barbuda. I have no idea what any of this means, but the point is clear enough.

I feel like it's almost a sure thing there'll be pinball the 1st of August but ... maybe they know something I don't?

On the one hand it's flattering that pinball is now big enough that it's worth having professional gamblers on. One of the things any competitive event has needed, historically, to get big has been gamblers getting in on the results. Gamblers insist on professionalized refereeing, accurate scorekeeping, and reliable record-keeping.

But then there's the other hand. First is that this comes as the last municipalities in North America repeal laws that reflect the early days of pinball when the machines really were slot machines with a tilt bob. Second is that this means it's much more plausible to make money gambling on pinball than playing it. This is how you get points-shaving scandals and thrown World Series games. And pinball is really easy to points-shave on; every single player has occasionally let the flipper drop when they shouldn't and watched the ball roll out of play and feel stupid. A (say) $250 payout would take the bite off that.

And then another thing. Having money on pinball means people with money are going to watch pinball games. Right now tournaments, even pretty major ones, are filled with conflicts of interest. There are people hosting tournaments who are also refereeing them, bringing their own games, and playing in the games. Last week at Lansing pinball league I had to make a ruling about a game issue involving bunny_hugger. I could find chapter and verse in the official published rules to support my ruling, and I got a second person's judgement, which agreed with mine. That second person was MWS. He didn't know he was ruling on bunny_hugger's game, but he has to have suspected since why else would I be asking his judgement? This is all fine for our league, when there's not much more at stake than seeding for our season-ending tournaments. But when there's a real lump of money on the line? And it gets worse than this. When the players work for the company that made the pinball table? When the players designed the table layout and wrote the scoring rules? And are refereed by their friends who also work for the pinball manufacturer?

These are things actual sports went through, of course. Successful ones professionalized in their ways, particularly with clear divisions between equipment-makers, and referees, and players, and management. Competitive pinball hasn't been big enough to support those divisions. This, though, is one of those signs that pinball will have to sort it out, and get less casual, and sooner, if it's to avoid serious fiascos.

Trivia: The 1921 census of the United Kingdom found about 5,200 chauffeurs in private service. Source: Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times, Lucy Lethbridge.

Currently Reading: Before The World Series: Pride, Profits, and Baseball's First Championships, Larry G Bowman.

PS: Let Me Tell You How Interesting March Madness Could Possibly Be, which is not just recycling some information-theory posts from past years, but you're going to have to look and see what's new. All right, it's a comic strip.

PPS: And some more of the Halloweekends.


Good energetic moment of singing during the show. Also a decent look at some of the monster makeup.


And oh yeah, it wouldn't be an 80s High School Movie ... but Monsters if we didn't get an appearance by Waldo, would it?


The return leg of the Gemini racing roller coaster. Only the red train was running, a common state of affairs on a low-volume day like late-October Halloweekends usually are.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019
12:10 am
Though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke

Speaking more of how nothing is ever perfectly solved all at once: a couple years ago bunny_hugger's parents put a fireplace in their living room. It's a nice wood-fired place, a stove that isn't actually a Franklin stove but has that chic to it, and it makes a great addition to their living room, even if it forced them to relocate the Christmas tree. (Although that went to the sun room, where it's visible from outside, and easier to decorate all around.)

They haven't used it the last few months. The problem came one day when a bird flew in through the chimney top and got stuck in ... I'm not sure whether it was the pipes or into the fireplace proper. Either way, though, you see why they'd be reluctant to use it again. Even if we suppose a bird would avoid the flames, would they know what way to go to get out? For that matter, mightn't a bird nestle down in warm ashes and not realize it was cooking itself?

This seemed easy to write off as a fluke event, until it happened again, and that put a real scare into bunny_hugger's parents. At this bunny_hugger urged them to get some cover for the top of the fireplace, something that the fireplace-installers said was impossible. It would make the chimney unsafe, they said, too prone to collecting creosote. bunny_hugger's parents resolved to never use the fireplace again. And then another bird flew in and got trapped within the fireplace.

bunny_hugger found proof the chimney people were wrong to call covering the top impossible. In particular she found how spark-arresting screens over the tops of chimneys were mandatory in California and Colorado. Those states have particular interest in preventing wildfires, of course, but the same mechanism would keep birds out. But it was the threat of fire that stirred bunny_hugger's father. Once he was aware he could get something installed to prevent his house causing a fire in the nearby park he would not let the chimney people talk him out of it. (The park near them isn't likely to burn; it's right on the river. But, mm, a really dry summer, and dead grass or leaves? Imaginable.)

So now they have a screened chimney top, and, here's hoping, can use the fireplace in confidence that they aren't doing birds any mischief.

Trivia: After a Washington, D.C. court in 1936 found A&P guilty of selling short weights of meat, company co-owner John A Hartford signed letters, personally, to all 45,000 store employees warning that anyone accused of cheating customers would be fired. Source: The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, Marc Levinson.

Currently Reading: Before The World Series: Pride, Profits, and Baseball's First Championships, Larry G Bowman. Oh, gosh, that's unfortunate ... the author's acknowledgements mentions his regret that his wife died shortly before the manuscript was finished, and then there's another page of acknowledgements from Bowman's son mentioning his regret that his father died before the book could go to press.

PS: Reading the Comics, March 12, 2019: Back To Sequential Time Edition, a comics post I surprised myself by getting finished in the morning today. I thought I was going to have to postpone it to Wednesday.

PPS: some wildlife from Halloweekends.


Squirrel thinking how mmmmmm, that's the good stuff. This is near the station for the Village Auto Livery, one of the old-time car ride attractions that we never saw running at the park in 2017. This got us worried that this attraction, too, was doomed, but we saw it in operation last year. We must have just gone during the wrong days or something.


Show at ... I'm going to say Lusty Lil's. The theme was 80s High School Movie ... but Monsters. So, a lot of nice old familiar songs and, like, blackboards.


Singers and the high school class setting, with the Detention Roster letting you know the Breakfast Club But Monsters vibe that they were going for just as long as they needed to set up the show.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
12:10 am
I used to know this old scarecrow

It would be a fib to say we've been talking about getting curtains for the dining room since I moved in. It's only been since the house facing that side started getting lousy tenants. Ones who'd throw slop out the window, or leave garbage on the lawn in back. This has bothered me only slightly, since I mostly look away from that window. It bothers bunny_hugger, as she faces that window and has to see, or be reminded of them, a lot. But the intensity of this has varied. When the previous tenants got less bad, like when the landlord put a storm window over the kitchen so it was physically impossible for them to toss out scraps, the urgency for it lessened. When the house got sold, and sat vacant for six months, the need all but evaporated.

It returned with the new tenants, who've left a heap of garbage from the house cleanout or moving-in in the backyard and don't show signs of throwing out enough of it to make a difference. So after years of dithering, this weekend, we committed to buying and installing curtains. The first attempt at this was a frustrating, indeed infuriating, series of discoveries at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, followed by Meijer's. We tried to find curtains short enough to match our 36-inch-tall dining room windows, and couldn't. And as the dining room windows that side are three windows, the outer two 20 inches wide and the inner 30 inches, we couldn't find screens narrow enough for the 20-inch windows. Also the shortest ones we could find were 60 inches tall, but that's something else to deal with.

So Sunday, after another round of pointing out measurements, and trying another Meijer's we found some 'short' curtains that are 36 inches tall. They're meant to be paired with valences, making us wonder how big windows are supposed to be in modern houses anyway. But we found some that were nice and lacey and matched the valences we already had, so bought three pairs and curtainrod and got them home. These proved to be too transparent for bunny_hugger, as we could still see the heaps of trash in their backyard. So I went back to Meijer's and exchanged them for less matching, but more opaque, curtains.

Next challenge: hanging the curtain rod. We've got some very solid window frames. The first screw, done without a pilot hole, was probably not wisely done. I tried drilling pilot holes after that and only once got the drill bit caught in the wood. But, finally, we got the curtains hung. They're about three-quarters the way up the windows, so there's still light peeking through the top. It keeps catching me --- I notice the weird change out of the corner of my eye, as I sit at the dining room table --- but that's all right. We haven't worked out what we're going to do with the plants that no longer get the direct light from that corner, but we will. Nothing's ever a complete perfect solution without some other adjustments being needed.

Trivia: The 1924 election for judge of the eastern district of Jackson County, Missouri, was the only general election defeat of Harry S Truman. (The post was called ``judge'' but was an executive, not judicial, post; the eastern district was the part of the county not including Kansas City and its immediate environs.) Source: Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World, William Lee Miller.

Currently Reading: The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction, Max Page.

PS: Now to a mere normal-size number of pictures of Halloweekends at Cedar Point from ... a year and a half ago. Mm. I maybe need a second account just to post these things.


The County Fear's pie-judging contest which is either spoiled by the condensate that obscures what the pies were or is made by that because then you work harder to realize it's some ghostly haunted pies. Not sure what they were going for, or why it is so ... moist.


Gargoyle set up by the large building that's now, mostly, the bathrooms but at one time was also the receiving station for a skychair ride to the old-time-village area of the park.


The advertising slogan for Kings Island's new-for-2017 Mystic Timbers roller coaster was ``What's in The Shed?''. The Shed, there, is a braking area where the roller coaster waits while the one in the finishes loading and dispatching passengers, but they've put some attractions in to give people something to watch while they're just sitting around. Cedar Point, sister park, dubbed the Mine Ride (adjacent to the County Fear area) as the ``Mystic Mine Ride'' and put up their own ``What's In The Shed'' logo to be a joke on this other amusement park that's on the opposite end of the state. The joke was surely well-appreciated by the people who knew what the heck it was and why it was even a joke.

Monday, March 18th, 2019
12:10 am
Spooks come out for a swinging wake

The week on my mathematics blog was dominated by Pi Day and not really having the time to think deeply about things. So here's what you can enjoy over there:

Happily, the comic strip whose plot I was to summarize this week? That was an easy one. You can watch me answer the question of What's Going On In Prince Valiant? Who's put Queen Makeda under a spell? December 2018 - March 2019 in 500 words.

Now more Halloweekends 2017, including a handful more photos of the renovations of Mean Streak and then on to the area around the Town Hall Museum, near that roller coaster and at the end of the Frontier Trail. It's the area that has the most old-time small-town theme, which explains the themed open-area walk-around attraction there.


Better view of the Mean Streak loading station being renovated into Steel Vengeance's. You can see a lot of fences and ladders and stuff to the right of the dumpster.


View of one of the second round of loops on Mean Streak/Steel Vengeance, where the train goes above the path of the original lift hill. In person we strained to work out whether the track did spiral around itself in this section; the photograph shows clearly that yeah, it does.


Not far off Mean Streak is the old-time town area, which was set up for the County Fear show. Here one of the stands where you could get caricatures done is decorated with some 1940s Halloween cutouts just like bunny_hugger's parents have.


One of the County Fear booths; they're all jokes along these lines.


Dead goldfish 'game' at the County Fear setup. None of these booths have actual attendants or games, but they do evoke the 'hanky-panks' if you want to call them that.


The Wheel of Misfortune game, with all sorts of wacky funny terrible things like in-laws! Hah! Also 'Snake Bight', which I assume is an approach to the Sandusky harbor that's extremely difficult even for experienced pilot boats to navigate?


bunny_hugger taking some snaps of the Peep Show, which is an always-popular sideshow attraction at the County Fear. Notice the kid holding up an even smaller kid to see it.


So I'm sure everyone saw this punch line coming, but you know what? That's all right.


Kissing Booth for the County Fear. I don't see what's so horrifying about it.


bunny_hugger making friends with the flock of large rubber rats.


The Singing Beaver which does, in fact, sing (although we never heard it doing so this visit). We assume this to be an animatronic left over from the days of the Jungle Cruise ride around the lagoon, so it's got a long history of cornball jokery.


Hey look, an extension cord for the Singing Beaver, which served as proof for us that it must do something, even if we weren't seeing it.

Trivia: The French astronomer Phillipe Le Douclet comte de Pontécoulant, by including perturbation effects for Jupiter, Saturn, the newly-discovered Uranus, and of the Earth from the 1759 passage, forecast the perihelion of Halley's Comet's 1835 appearance correctly to within three days. (The 1759 perihelion was predicted to within 33 days only.) Source: In Search of Planet Vulcan: The Ghost in Newton's Clockwork Universe, Richard Baum, William Sheehan.

Currently Reading: The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction, Max Page.

Sunday, March 17th, 2019
12:10 am
And the tombstones quake

And now I've advanced to talking about Sunday in our Halloweekends 2017 trip. You'll see how different everything looks for being a different day and all. Anyway, happy Shiny Day to everyone!


So here's some little sad thing you realize about the Hotel Breakers front desk people. They have It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, running on a TV on continuous loop ALL THE TIME through September and October. A single autumn on desk duty and you must lose forever the ability to appreciate the special.


One of the skeletal/zombie carousel figures decorating the Hotel Breakers lobby. Since we never stay at the Breakers during the summer season we don't know whether these spots normally have 'real' carousel horses on display. Sometimes the figures shake around some, but what triggers it is either not obvious or not reliable. You can make out how the horse's neck has some give to it, though.


From the lobby looking to what is now the front entrance of the Hotel Breakers, facing the park rather than the shore (its original, historic, entrance). You can see the carousel horses and the carousel-leftover carved heads decorating the place. On the upper level are some pictures of abandoned amusement parks; we assume without knowing for sure that those are pictures of thriving parks during the summer.


The new wing of the Hotel Breakers being built, and replacing the miniature golf course we never got the chance to play, and also replacing the decades-old wing of the Hotel Breakers that got torn down a couple years ago, like two years after it was renovated. Remember kids, capitalism makes sensible decisions about the utility of buildings or anything else anywhere ever.


Cedar Shores, as they now call the water park, with the Magnum XL 200 roller coaster rising above the place. The big enclosed tube is part of the roller coaster's return leg.


Top Thrill Dragster's tower on the left there, and a glimpse at the Witches Wheel in what turned out to be its final Halloweekends run.


Gigantic fake newspaper promising the construction of Steel Vengeance, placed at a gift shop near the Mean Streak/Steel Vengeance entrance. Note the names of, like, Professor Delbert and of 'Maverick' Chamberlain and Mayor E Dangler, names who are being turned into full-fledged characters for their Frontier Town Expanded Universe. The Steel Vengeance queue has signs all about the history of these people and their interactions and history. Some of that got explained in the video playing in the center but I couldn't tell it to you.


The (full-size) locomotive chugging its way past Mean Streak/Steel Vengeance; one of its two stops is pretty near the roller coaster's entrance.


The former entrance to Mean Streak (the cement path on the left side) and the new one (the cement path that zigzags off to the right), along with some of the rebuilt track.


Construction debris around the loading station for Mean Streak/Steel Vengeance.


American flag rather in need of renovation too, on top of the lift hill. Not explicitly a metaphor but, you know?


Though the roller coaster was under heavy reconstruction there was still this walk-through haunted house attraction, Deprivation, which we've not been to.

Trivia: Netscape's initial public offering of stock, in August 1995, was at $28 a share; by the end of the first day of trading it was at $58 a share. Source: A History of Modern Computing, Paul E Ceruzzi.

Currently Reading: The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction, Max Page. It's got me interested in this 1930s movie, Deluge, featuring the tidal flooding of Manhattan, stock footage of which got used for years in other New York Destroyed By Water movies.

Saturday, March 16th, 2019
12:10 am
The crypt goes creak

There's some stuff going on, although some of it is not quite resolved, so I'll hold off reporting until it's developed a little. Yes, it involves the neighbors. So here, let me close out the Saturday of Halloweekends 2017 as we saw it.


Corkscrew and ValRavn, as well as part of what's left of the lagoon that used to carry the Paddleboat Excursion ride (and which was cut down by many things, including the Iron Dragon roller coaster).


bunny_hugger having another try at the tiny bowling, and me getting a much less blurry snap of it.


Balcony view from inside the ... Red Garter Saloon? The performing hall and, yeah, bar, at the front end of the Frontier Trail. They always have rock-and-roll shows, and in the Halloween season make it, well, rock-and-roll with costumes.


Cedar Point's Himalaya ride, one of those attractions that draws so little notice we figure every year they're going to take it out or at least move it. But it stays on, where it is, possibly because Cedar Point doesn't remember it's there.


Iron Dragon train just leaving the station and rolling off into the night.


The first lift hill of Iron Dragon (it's got several), in the evening illumination. This is the roller coaster that goes most into what darkness Cedar Point has to offer.


Just about to get onto the platform for Top Thrill Dragster. The fog was rolling in, which makes for such great night pictures.


Primordial forest just outside the Top Thrill Dragster loading station. In the background is where you get off the ride, rather than making quite the complete circuit.


What it looks like when you're about to get a front-seat ride on the last GateKeeper train of the evening.

Trivia: In 1935 about 22% of all American automobile exports were to Latin America. Source: A Low Dishonest Decade: The Great Powers, Eastern Europe, and the Economic Origins of World War II, 1930 - 1941, Paul N Hehn.

Currently Reading: The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction, Max Page. Which includes a great story I don't remember encountering, and which Page flags as probably just a legend: that in 1824 butcher ``Uncle John'' De Voe and a colleague named Lozier talked about the impending crisis where Manhattan Island was getting far too built, and that it was going to fall into the sea. Their solution: to saw the island in half at Kingsbridge, and spin that segment 180 degrees, so that the overbuilt Battery could be anchored to more secure ground. The project would require a great deal of labor, and thus money, and so --- says the legend --- fleeced many people who figured once the project was done and the island saved they'd be handsomely repaid. It's apparently not clear whether this was an actual hoax of 1824, or if the story of the hoax was itself a hoax. But this did get written up in 2001 in another book, Joel Rose's New York Sawed In Half: An Urban Historical which now I've just got to find.

Friday, March 15th, 2019
12:10 am
Great green ghosts come out to socialize

And on my humor blog? I had a week with a weird, pretty big spike in readership numbers and I don't know why. I can't figure out what source drove people there, or what they were searching for that they found. But here's the things they did find while there:

Back to Halloweekends! Saturday 2017. I'm almost out of pictures of just this.


bunny_hugger looks over some of the buildings of Frontier Town. These were relocated to Cedar Point in the 1960s as the park tried to set itself up as having historical and educational value. The buildings are actual 19th century constructs although they probably weren't always costume-jewelry shops.


Maverick, and the sunset clouds, converging well enough you'd think I set up the picture.


Nighttime at Cedar Point. The Halloweekends sign here looks uncannily like the ride sign for the former Mantis roller coaster --- but that ride sign is still there. So, what, they had a duplicate ride sign ready to be transmogrified like this? There's just no way to know.


The fun part of Top Thrill Dragster in the twilight.


Among the many Halloween decorations are these plastic-pumpkin-based snake sculptures that never photograph as well as I want them to.


And here's the sunset sky looking out over Top Thrill Dragster's non-fun parts, in the foreground, and Millennium Force, which is all fun parts, in the background. Well, Top Thrill Dragster is going like a hundred miles per hour at these flat horizontal stretches, so there's still fun in that.


Headless Horseman updated for the 20th century here. I think that the figure occasionally rises up so as to pop an animatronic wheelie.


bunny_hugger tried taking some pictures of the main corkscrew on the ... Corkscrew ... roller coaster while twisting the camera, to produce a neat blurry spiral effect. That seemed like a great idea so I tried it. It turns out my hands are not nearly as steady as I always imagined they were.


I gave it a fair number of tries. This one, where I didn't try to center it on the center of the spirals, came out fairly good actually, and if you look hard you can even see the roller coaster spiralling around.

Trivia: The Hale-Bopp comet's last pass through the inner solar system, before 1997, was around 2214 BCE; the uncertainty in the date is about a decade. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York, Ted Steinberg.

PS: Six Or Arguably Four Things For Pi Day, mathematics content, where the best is a trio of videos that I did not make.

Thursday, March 14th, 2019
12:10 am
Rising spooks of every size

So we're falling back into days I don't have enough to talk about. Please enjoy some more pictures from Halloweekends.


Late-evening light photograph of the maXair giant-frisbee ride.


The trouble with having the Peanuts license at an amusement park if you try to think of things that tie any attraction to any character's personality you have ... uh ... Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace for some kind of flying ride and that's about it. Pigpen's Corn Box --- a sandbox except it's ... corn kernels --- is probably as good as you can do.


Any questions? ... Yeah, there's the obvious. I think that there was some scheduled event where things would race, and this was the start line, but we never saw it. I suspect we just weren't there the right time to see it.


So it turns out it was a beautiful day, and the trees were still rather lush for autumn.


Decorations set up outside the wood-carving shop, which we love checking in on as the carver also works at the Merry-Go-Round Museum and absolutely loves talking to people who have interest in and knowledge of carousels. Note there's another Schwabinchen figure in the back.


Figures for sale in the glass-blowing shop, including a bunch of sea serpents that are gorgeous and impossibly expensive.


Seriously, look at that blue sea serpent. Who wouldn't love that, if it didn't cost as much as a small-to-medium car repair?


Glass-blowers hard at work making a goldfish.


I hope you get an impression of the heat here. It was this wonderful jet of warmth in the late October day.


Glass-blowers adjusting some detail on the goldfish.


Glass-blowers infusing the goldfish sculpture with enough magic to take down the boss of this level.


The goldfish, ready to be cut off the glass-blowing rod. I have trouble imagining being brave enough to attempt that.

Trivia: The first steamboat service between Philadelphia and Cape May, New Jersey, began in 1819. Source: This Is New Jersey, John T Cunningham.

Currently Reading: Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York, Ted Steinberg. Steinberg's finally getting to some of the ecological catastrophes I remember from childhood. Wow, remember Westway? It was this 1970s plan to expand the west side of Manhattan by dumping heaps of thousand-dollar bills to create landfill. All right, not really, but that would have been cheaper than the Westway they actually tried to build, and it took like two decades for this gold-plated turkey to finally die.

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
12:10 am
Now I need to find my way

And another thing from Spring Break was we got to the movies. Particularly, the movie theater in Williamston, the next town east. The Sun Theatre there is a 1940s-era sidewalk cinema, one projection room and a lobby that opens right onto the street. It had closed sometime in the 70s, reopened 1980, and it had a successful kickstarter a few years ago to get the digital projection technology that studios use these days to lock up and limit access to films. The theater has two tiny bathrooms, doors opening onto the screening room, so if you do go you don't have any chance of missing the sound of the film. It's also got a Cry Room upstairs, a small room meant for parents to take crying kids where they won't disturb the general audience. We've never been up there, but we should sometime, just to see the relative novelty.

Sad part is the theater was looking bad. There were a lot of ceiling tiles gone, or water-damaged, and a matching set of seats roped off. Apparently the roof's not had a good winter. Which is understandable. It wasn't a brutal winter, but it was one with a lot of heavy snow followed by warm enough temperatures to melt (our goldfish pond was open water several times) followed by freezing, and that's rough on a place. Also the theater was nearly empty, which might just be that it was Monday the second week of the show's run. We hope it's nothing more than that.

As for the movie? It was How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third(?) movie in the series. Mostly we went to see because of the promise of Female Toothless and the movie delivered that. The movie was at its best, really, when people weren't talking. Toothless trying incompetently to do something mating dance-like was great. Venturing into awesome scenic beauty full of dragons of all body shapes? That's great stuff.

The plot? ... Well, we missed the second and possibly any other movies in the series so we have the sense there's stuff we should have known going on. But we both realized that, fundamentally, we had no idea what the Big Bad's plan was. The movie set him up as a dragon-hunter with such a devious mind that he could think several steps ahead and anticipate the heroes' moves, and force them to put themselves at risk. All right, but how does he know these actions are going to lead to this result? I get they're going for that Xanatos thing where there's somehow always a plan to handle whatever the heroes chose to do. But it was preposterous in Gargoyles too that everything was some contingency, and there at least there were months or years for Xanatos to think up and implement plans. In the movie, there's just a couple days. Is the villain really that clever or has he just got the advantage that the screenwriters are on his side, up through the big fight scene at the end?

We liked the movie well enough. And were glad to see it at the Sun Theatre, even if the place has had a bit of a winter.

Trivia: Soy sauce is the third-best-selling condiment in the United States. (Mayonnaise and ketchup are ahead of it.) Source: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

Currently Reading: Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York, Ted Steinberg. ``As early as 1906, a water sample taken from the Gowanus Canal revealed an oxygen saturation of 0 percent.'' ... Well, that's sunny. You'd like to think it's not literally true that capitalism grows only by killing the Earth but there's some pretty noticeable correlations here.

PS: Reading the Comics, March 9, 2019: In Which I Explain Eleven Edition, mathematical comic strips.

PPS: And the Halloweekends 2017 trip, back at Cedar Point.


And then I went and got arty again, shooting very close to the ground in the Kiddie Kingdom.


Jack-o-lantern figure and Halloween wreath decorating the gate outside the Kiddie Kingdom carousel.


Figures outside the corn maze at Cedar Point. That's, I think, Rougarou in the background. Cedar Point has the Peanuts license so it's neat to see them going with some other-brand figures for this.

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019
12:10 am
Burgers and fries and cherry pies, it was simple and good back then

Some other stuff done during bunny_hugger's spring break. We took a day to go to her parents. We've been averaging about one visit a month there. Might not be enough for her but it seems to be hard to find more chances, now that half of all days are pinball events.

bunny_hugger's father wanted to show off the French fry maker and equipment that was his whole wish list for Christmas, and that I'd done so much to mess up at the actual day. He's used it before at least once and this was a good chance to see what he could do. The biggest controversial moment was his revelation that he didn't wash the potatoes before slicing them up because ... I'm not clear, really. I guess that being fried in oil for sixteen minutes would kill anything anyway, and brushing some water on the potatoes wouldn't help appreciably. Maybe not, and it's not like they weren't rinsed before shipment to the grocery anyway, but still.

bunny_hugger's mother made the burgers, vegetarian patties which she fried in a pan. This went so well it inspired me to try grilling vegetarian burgers in a pan, rather than leaving them in the oven, later in the week. Mine didn't work so well; I ended up burning the edges of the burgers somehow, despite following the directions on the package. (The interior was good, though, so I'm apparently on the right track.)

Afterwards we made another try at the first chapter of the Mice and Mystics expansion set. We've been beaten by the new chapter twice already. But this time, with some better use of our party's spells, and some lucky rolls, we ... got beaten by the new chapter. But we got much father along, with things not turning bad until one room where we unfortunately set off a ``surge'' of a new, major minion and, we think, messed up our priorities about which to go after first. It was really going well, though, right up to the point it wasn't. I bet next time we crack it.

Trivia: The first woman named to the Ford Motor Company board of directors was Marian Heiskell, who joined in the spring of 1976. Heiskell was of the Sulzberger family, owners of The New York Times. Source: Ford: The Men and the Machine, Robert Lacey.

Currently Reading: Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York, Ted Steinberg.

PS: Getting back from the Merry-Go-Round Museum to Cedar Point.


Who wouldn't enjoy the cold beach of a late October day on Lake Erie?


Giant Panda on the Kiddie Kingdom carousel. It was certainly a bear when it was originally carved, but the question is when it got turned into a panda. It seems plausible it might have changed over during the Giant Panda craze of the 30s, when westerners finally found out this creature wasn't just a legend, and Walter Lantz created the immortal Andy Panda cartoons that you all remember as featuring a character that sounds like the name of a cartoon character.


Trick-or-treating station inside the Kiddie Kingdom.

Monday, March 11th, 2019
12:10 am
Restless bones etherialize

I'm still mostly doing comic strips on my mathematics blog. It's been a busy week even if somehow none of it rates a journal entry somehow?

All right, well. In other comic strips. What's Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? What's that weird Bangallan Navy ship? December 2018 - March 2019 plot recap here.

And then let's clear out the last of pictures from the Merry-Go-Round Museum as seen in October 2017.


One of the carousel horses that was loaned to the White House as part of Michelle Obama's decoration that year.


I forget the story of this horse; possibly it's just to show what it looks like with the wood restored and primed but before paint is put on. Lot of jewels in place considering that, though. Hm.


And some more pictures from that fascinating, and huge, display of a proposed ``Toy Town'' amusement park. It's credited as ``Designed by Messmore and Damon Inc'', drawn by H L Messmore, colored by Albert Coppock, and was for a park that was proposed for ... Iowa(?). Among its theme areas would be an Easter section.


And here's part including a Santa Claus area, a wild-looking ice cream cone observation platform, a Noah's Ark, and ... uh ... a Holland area?


Toy Town, had it been made, would have including this Wizard of Oz area and wouldn't that have been great too? Also notice the dance hall with the row of animals just underneath the roof line.


The ticket window here was (if I remember right) that for the carousel ride at Euclid Beach Park, in Cleveland. I'd thought that Cleveland was trying to get it back, too, but apparently their secret agents have been foiled so far.


View of the front of the Merry-Go-Round Museum building. When this was a working post office this is the area the public would have access to.


The brass ring dispenser. A ride operator would go up the steps, pour a bucket of mostly silver and one brass ring into the opper up top, and swing the arm out where people on the outside row could reach their hands out and grab a ring.


Carousel-style chair set up for kids going to the Wanamaker's Department Store barber and who wanted to spend their entire haircut being told to stop jumping around like they're riding a real horse.


Billiken posed as the secondary figure on one of the museum's own-carved horses and mounted on their antique carousel. It turns out billikens were created by a Kansas City art teacher in the 1890s. And while billikens have mostly been dismissed from American pop culture apparently they're still enjoyed in Pacific Asia? I never noticed them when in Singapore, for what it's worth, but it's quite plausible that I didn't realize this was a relatively modern American import rather than a mysterious figure of ancient lore.


The band organ roll they play during October. The selections: The theme to Ghostbusters; The Purple People Eater; Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead; Dem Dry Bones; theme to The Addams Family; Funeral March of a Marionette (the Alfred Hitchcock Presents theme); the theme to Batman; the Skeleton Rag; Chopin's Funeral March; and Eduard Holst's Dance of the Demon.


And some of the many other scrolls that they don't use during the Halloween season. There's a lot of waltzes, marches, and the occasional fox trot. And some toe-tappers like Let Me Call You Sweetheart or A Cup Of Coffee, A Sandwich, and You.


And the outside of the Merry-Go-Round Museum, once one of the rare circular-floorplan post offices. Still looks great.

Trivia: Among the rules set by the American Association in its organizing meeting, the 3rd of November, 1881, was that the home team would be obliged to pay each game's umpire. In the National League the umpire was paid by the visiting team. Source: The Beer and Whiskey League: The Illustrated History of the American Association --- Baseball's Renegade Major League, David Nemec.

Currently Reading: Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York, Ted Steinberg.

Sunday, March 10th, 2019
12:10 am
Weird glows gleam where spirits dwell

What can I say; it's been a quiet week? So here's more Merry-Go-Round Museum pictures from when we visited around Halloweekends 2017.


Among the curios at the Merry-Go-Round Museum is this huge display for ``Getaway Summer Shoes from Thom McAn'', an advertising thing that I'm going ahead and guessing is from 1983 at the latest. Why the shoe models were posed on carousel horses? I don't know. How did it get here? Again, unknowable. But interesting anyway.


Another of the carousel stamp horses and the stamp based on it.


Edgewater Park in Detroit closed for good in 1981. I don't know if their antique carousel was sold before the park closed.


Probably I've shared this figure before, but, this kind of secondary figure on an animal is fun.


Rooster that's in its original factory paint. Also that's taken some injuries since at some point it was used as an archery target; there's arrow damage on it.


Row and number badge for a Philadelphia Toboggan Company horse. This is on the inside, the non-romance, side where it wouldn't be obvious to readers. If I've understood things rightly the 'row' number counts from the outside in, so this would be to the left of the outermost row.


One of the Merry-Go-Round Musem's street organs, although not the one they usually turn on for demonstrations of just how loud these things can be.


One of several quite detailed miniature carousels at the museum. The lights are working and there's mechanism to make the inside horses rise and fall, although I don't believe that was working yet.


bunny_hugger takes a quick look at the miniature rabbit on the carousel. In the far background is a replica of the Schwabinchen figure from the center of that now-gone Cedar Point ride.


The top is one of the horses they use to show what repair and repainting is like, which is why there's the sharp vertical-line divides between the horse's conditions. Underneath, a kiddie ride mount, a rare fox.


Oh yeah, this little Mighty Mouse is still around. He had been up in the front of the building in previous years.


A rare carousel-style horse designed to be a rocking horse. It's something I'm surprised wasn't done more often. Who do you have to be to get something like this? ... owner of the company that carves carousel horses, turns out.

Trivia: The cosmic background radio noise detected on radio antennas in 1965 --- the piece that would make the Big Bang the compelling explanation for the universe's origins --- were detected at the 4080 MHz frequency. Source: It Happend In New Jersey, Fran Capo.

Currently Reading: Dreamlands, Rob Ball. All pictures, many of them modern tintypes, of Dreamland Park in Margate, England. The tintypes and many of the color pictures are from while it was abandoned and derelict; the park, joyfully, has come back to life. (Sad to say it reopened about a month after our last visit to England so we couldn't get there, but, we do want to, at least while it lasts.)

Saturday, March 9th, 2019
12:10 am
You oughta be in pictures

Sunday we had a full, busy evening. The start of it was dinner. MWS and his family go to trivia nights at a restaurant near his house. We hadn't had the chance to go in a while, but this week was Spring Break and lacked any particular pinball events and so we had the time. Plus the restaurant promised Impossible Burgers and we're eager always to try those where we can.

Trivia Night proved a roaring success. Fewer of MWS's family was there than, say, last summer when we did this a lot. But our group still had enough to dominate events. The most controversial question was a celebrity one: ``within five years, what is the age of William Shatner?'' I did my best, going from the idea he was about 35 when the Original Star Trek started and it's been fifty years from that. Fine enough, but the host said the answer he'd accept was ``the five-year range of 85-to-90''. One of our party argued, successfully, that that isn't Shatner's age ``to within five years''. We missed one question, and one optional question, through the whole of the regular rounds and so were already in the lead going in to the finals. (The question we missed was to name two of the three Saturday Night Live cast who in the last sketch of 1995 were eaten by bears or something like that.)

The final question was one that MWS's roommate K would have gotten, although our presence reassured him. The question was which US President called ``the darkest moment of my life'' having the screenplay he sent to Adolph Zukor rejected? And the key there was that you had to provide the first and last names of the President. Normally they accept just the last name. So it implies it has to be a president whose last name is ambiguous, but whose first and last name is not. And it has to be someone from after movies were a thing, so the only possible candidates would be Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Since I was the one who knew anything about Adolph Zukor that clinched the deal. We figured every other team would make the same deduction, though, and to have a chance of winning we had to bet big, and ... we did, and nobody else bet big and got it right. So we ended up way over-winning, coming up just short of a perfect score and finishing like double any other team's score.

Also their Impossible Burgers were fantastic. MWS tried a bit of mine and said it tasted like a better grade of beef than what he got from a real-meat burger.

After that we went back to MWS's for some playing. We'd had a couple rounds on MWS's personal pinball, a Star Trek: The Next Generation, before dinner. After we played a couple rounds of Fluxx, a take-a-card/play-a-card game whose gimmick is the specific rules and objectives can change at any time. I won the first round, despite at one point K swiping my hand of cards (as the rules allowed). After he had done that, and played out his plundered cards, I pointed out how he could have played one card from my lost hand, and then stood pat for a round and almost certainly would have won. Second round was a bit more devious as we were getting the hang of play. I saw MWS setting up a play that I had the cards in my hand to foil, so told bunny_hugger to be ready with her Nelson Muntz Ha-ha laugh. I can't do it myself. But then MWS played a card that let him swipe one card from my hand, and he picked the one card that let him win the game right then. So bunny_hugger got to use the laugh after all, only at me.

Anyway after two games I feel confident in my mastery of Fluxx.

Afterwards we played a game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. The theme of the game is your party explores a haunted mansion. Then, a game event happens, the Haunt. Depending how the Haunt happened the rules change. (Usually) the party divides into two factions, each trying to foil the other. This time we got one we had played before and dimly remembered not liking, but thought it was so long ago and we couldn't pin down just what was wrong with it, so we played on.

So here's the problem with it. It turned to me, MWS, and K trying to kill bunny_hugger's character. But we had our best chance to kill her if we avoided her for as many turns as possible, building up the stats that let us succeed. All right. Oh, also, she had an item that made her much more likely to defend against these attacks. So for both of us the logical way to play was ``waste as much time as possible'', with actual combat happening rarely and ineffectively: neither of us was able to do much damage to the other. Betrayal games usually last around one to two hours. This one took four hours, and it was after 2 am before it finally broke up.

Mind, I did get a really good moment out of this. Part of the scenario had a ghost holding, and using, a medical kit. For several rounds everybody asked why a ghost would have a medical kit. Then I thought of why, and did that face-brightening smile you saw from the sloth in Zootopia. I offered that I knew why a ghost had a medical kit, and got out of bunny_hugger's punching range. ``For their boo-boos!''

I did think of it right there, but allowed that I read a lot of Harvey Comics back in the day so I probably had influences there.

bunny_hugger checked with I'm-going-to-say BoardGameGeek and found that yeah, pretty much everybody hates that Haunt. It's got a great idea, but the rules of engagement are screwed up, and anyone who knows what they're doing will end up in the same spot we did. Part of the Betrayal chic is that there's dozens of possible Haunts, and not all of them were play-tested to the point of being reasonably balanced. We should probably make a note so we don't play this one again.

Trivia: Britain's Royal Navy, by 1680, had a tonnage of about 132,000, compared to France's 135,000. Source: To Rule The Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World, Arthur Herman.

Currently Reading: The Originals: The New York Celtics Invent Modern Basketball, Murry Nelson. Well there, there's a game that got to fifty points. ... Which in fairness is pretty amazing considering this is before there were shot clocks or necessarily backboards. Also mentioned is a guy who could, impressively, palm the basketball. (Which was about two inches bigger in diameter than the modern one, and made of a less grippable material, mind.)

PS: The Merry-Go-Round Museum! I've got like two dozen more pictures I think worth featuring here, so get comfortable.


Here's a good close look into the eye of that 1908 Charles Carmel horse and enough scope in the background that you can see the centerpiece of the Merry-Go-Round museum, their carousel. The machinery and platform are antique, though the mounts are ones they've made themselves.


So I find on this trip I took a lot of pictures where a horse is shown in front of a picture of that horse. You can cope with that. Alternative caption: ``Don't talk to me, or my me, ever again.''


Handy glossary page in case you ever need to bluff your way through a conversation with a carousel enthusiast. ... You probably would have guessed what a ``portable carousel'' was without the hint, I admit.

Friday, March 8th, 2019
12:10 am
Of a Requiem bell

What do I write with the intention of being funny? This kind of stuff:

And now to the Merry-Go-Round Museum, which we always visit at least one day during Halloweekends.


The Merry-Go-Round Museum's own carving for 2017. We got something like 18 tickets for the raffle to win this, the first time (we think?) that they haven't done a horse for their annual raffle. We did not win. But, you know, we keep hoping.


Close-up of the piano that usually sits outside the Merry-Go-Round Museum and that explains something about the building they're in.


The Merry-Go-Round Museum has many pieces from the Charlotte Dinger collection, many of them famous within the world of carousel enthusiasts. Here's replicas of some of the 1980s stamp series celebrating carousel art, and two of the carousel horses that modelled for those stamps.


So the mouse maxed out her stealth stats before messing around with this wolf.


And here the wolf just can't even and is spending the day flopped out as a saddle blanket.


Possibly the oldest mount they had on display, a stander lion from around 1880.


And here something to amuse the kids: a roller coaster 'simulator', which shows video of a couple of Cedar Point coasters. It doesn't have the mechanism to shake the car around, though. And sometimes when we go there it's not working at all, or it's been relocated somewhere else.


One of the many scenery panels from antique carousels shown at the museum, from where Vigo the Carpathian plots to take over the world.


Yeah, I'm back on my Dutch angle stuff.


Another of the postage stamp horses and the stamp based on it.


A second-row stander from about 1908, with the original paint still on it. A Charles Carmel carving, according to the label that I got in a different picture.


A century of living can be hard on a horse but good for having stuff in the far background.

Trivia: The first advertisement for telephones was a handbill published by Gardiner Greene Hubbard and Thomas Sanders in May 1877, two months before the creation of the Bell Telephone Company. (They --- both fathers of deaf children --- were among Bell's earliest financial backers.) Source: Telephone: The First Hundred Years, John Brooks.

Currently Reading: The Originals: The New York Celtics Invent Modern Basketball, Murry Nelson. So I know about the many rules changes that encouraged offense, neutered defense, and pushed games to be higher scoring but it's still wild to read about a game that finished after double overtime with a score of 28 to 25, or a player who leads the league because he averaged, like, seven points per game. Or one player making all of the team's field goals (four!) that game.

Thursday, March 7th, 2019
12:10 am
When you hear the knell

Similar lack of time to write today. Here's pictures from Halloweekends 2017, nearly all of one very specific event that you'll not see happen again.


The heavens cried as we left Cedar Point. It was just for a few hours on Saturday, though, for our visit to the Merry-Go-Round Museum. But along the way we passed Mean Streak, being renovated into Steel Vengeance, and I drove slowly and took pictures quickly. Here you can see part of the far end of the structure partly disassembled, and new, twisty, track already in place.


Most of the Mean Streak wooden structure would remain in place; some of it would be renovated or, especially, expanded on. The tower off to the right is the first lift hill, increased significantly in size by the new ride construction.


Construction crane beside the lift hill of Steel Vengeance, and some of the support structure torn up for it. Also you see how close the ride comes to the road that leads around Cedar Point and to the Hotel Breakers.


Close up on the lift hill, and part of the track that goes through that structure. A major part of Steel Vengeance is track that does barrel rolls, so that you're twisting clockwise or counterclockwise. This is basically impossible for a wooden-track roller coaster, but easy for a steel one, and the red steel track here shows some of the changeover.


Another view of that point where the track cuts through and, you'll see, flips entirely over while underneath the original lift hill.


Mean Streak had a lift hill of 161 feet, quite high for a wooden roller coaster. As Steel Vengeance the lift hill rises 205 feet, and it drops much more nearly vertically.


I don't think anyone could make out how the lift hill was expanded from this photograph, but it does show you just how steep the first drop is. It's considerably tighter a drop than Mean Streak had.


Launch station for Mean Streak-and-Steel Vengeance, with the little bunny hop put in before the lift hill. It's a fun little addition to the ride before the real action gets under way.


Closer look at the bunny hop which starts off Steel Vengeance.


And a glance out to the other side of the road. This side of the point faces Sandusky, across this bay. You can see what a sunny day it was for this late October visit to the park.


You pass more roller coasters along the access road. This is Maverick, still one of the most popular and longest-wait rides a decade after it opened.

Trivia: On (Congressional) passage of the 13th Amendment, Secretary of State William Seward sent copies of the new amendment to all states, including those still under Confederate government. Mississippi governor Charles Clark (or someone on his staff) allegedly defaced the State Department seal from his state's copy. Source: Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America, William C Davis.

Currently Reading: The Originals: The New York Celtics Invent Modern Basketball, Murry Nelson.

PS: Reading the Comics, March 2, 2019: Process Edition, a handful of comics that somehow turned into 1100 words about a Dennis the Menace strip. I don't know either.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019
12:10 am
Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize

I didn't have the time to write anything. So here's some Halloweekends 2017 pictures you might like. This I think closes out our Friday night there.


bunny_hugger walking up to Millennium Force, the gorgeous color-shifting and here, purple, tower on the right. The ride usually has a line of about 14 hours' length, but if you go, say, right before midnight on a cold, rainy Friday in October you can just about walk on.


Millennium Force train dispatching. Someone in that seat on the right is leaning way off and throwing heavy metal horns in a move that can not have made the ride operators comfortable, but as long as she straightens out by the time they get to the top of the lift hill it should be all right.


Millennium Force as seen from the ground, after the midnight hour when the park closes all its queues.


So here we get to the long walk back through the rain-slicked park. Here's a view of ValRavn in the distance.


This bright red one is Rougarou, the conversion of Mantis from a not-really-comfortable standing roller coaster into a decent seated roller coaster that bashes your head against the unpleasant head restraints.


And here's a different view of ValRavn, a bit brighter and therefore a little more suitable as the cover for my CD of acoustic covers.


Yes, that's ValRavn on the right again, and the Sky Ride station --- with a grease truck underneath it --- on the left. Notice the pumpkins left around as decoration.


Walking back to the Beach Entrance. That's Windseeker right ahead. On the right is an ad for the Great Pumpkin Fest, featuring Linus dressed as a mummy, the way ... anything in the Peanuts comic strip ... ever ... suggested an affinity between Linus and mummies?


The Aquatic Stadium, in the midst of being an alien spaceship that's landed and is abducting that flower bed.


bunny_hugger taking a quick picture of the Aquatic Stadium abducting flowers.


View from the 'boardwalk' of the hotel, with the central tower --- I think it's the oldest part of the Breakers and the only one with historic integrity yet --- illuminated.


Glancing over the hotel at the new water tower, with the top of the Power Tower drop tower forming an illuminated crown.

Trivia: Tetleys tea was taken over by an American firm in 1961, and became British-owned again in 1972. Source: Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire, Roy Moxham.

Currently Reading: The Originals: The New York Celtics Invent Modern Basketball, Murry Nelson.

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019
12:10 am
You --- you know that life is terminal

Saturday was another day in the pinball mines in Fremont. Two tournaments, one for the Fremont Pinball League and one for the Monthly tournament. Both at the Special When Lit facility, where the state championship was held in January. These events used to be held in the Blind Squirrel Tavern and for most of 2017 and 2018 they had a nice easy low-key pattern to them. Six to ten of us would gather, and play five games for hours and hours and we'd come away having earned the ratings points that get us to International Flipper Pinball Association glory. That changed over 2018 and maybe changed forever with the championship hosting. A lot more people are showing up now. Fremont locals still show up, too. But the events are attracting more, and more skilled, people.

We're responsible for at least one of them. RED, who maintains the pinball games at the Lansing Pinball League's venue, finally carpooled along with us and MWS. He's quite good. So is MWS. With venue hosts AJH and PH there it'd take some luck to get to the final four, where the major points prize is. But what's there to do except play?

There was reason for hope, though. bunny_hugger had the night before held her own in match play, direct head-to-head competition, in the highest-ranked group at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum, and that was a group with two people who're plausible candidates for next year's state champion. And me? I'm always optimistic. I had a less good night at Marvin's, but I did well after a rough start on the electromechanical game there.

15 people showed up for the League tournament, and 16 for the Monthly. We were not final four for either. bunny_hugger had a particularly rough time, not making it past the first round in either. She did turn to me to demand, I just read that sports psychology book (The Inner Game of Tennis), what should she do? And I gave the advice of the book. She was playing Iron Maiden; what did she want to do? She wanted to start Mummy Multiball. OK, so visualize as perfectly as you can the exact steps you need to do to start Mummy Multiball, then, go up and relax and just let it happen. And, skeptical though she was, she did, and she started Mummy Multiball exactly perfectly. Unfortunately she didn't have a clear vision how to keep that multiball going long enough for the score she needed. But this precise step at least? That went great.

And me? ... Well, I forgot to bring my Reese's Pieces. Why does that matter? Because I picked up the habit of stepping away from the pinball machine after a bad ball and eating a couple Reese's Pieces. As with many sports superstitions, it kind of helps, even though I know it's a superstition. Doing anything that lets you feel like you're in control, weirdly, helps you get back in control. So without them, I'd have nothing to do but draw on my inner reserves to come back from a bad ball.

And I had bad balls. My whole game of Eight Ball, for example, where I never got the game under control. Or Iron Maiden, on which basically nobody but RED had a good game all day. But seriously, I needed to get 15 million points --- this on a game which can give you 25 million points for plunging the ball skillfully enough --- to win, and not only did I not, but I came in last place. The only finish that could possibly have kept me from moving on, one round, and even that needed other players to finish in just the right order. (We were playing in groups of four, so relative order on each of a set of games determined who would move to the next round.)

For the League tournament I made it to the second round, but missed by one point --- one better-place finish --- getting to the final four. For the Monthly tournament I didn't make it out of the first round, again missing by one point, one better-place finish. I did well enough in the consolation rounds --- took ninth place for the Monthly tournament --- and given how valuable those are, that's not bad. But we'll need to do better to be confident of rating for the state championship.

Still, there's some good in this. One is that, well, for all that the Fremont tournaments are attracting more people and better people, we're not sinking. Either of us were, basically, a whisker away from making it to the next round. And the tougher set of players going to these things means the events are getting to be worth more, even if they're not the low-key affairs they once were. Also, we're playing that well despite events being a little more serious.

Also regarding my play: I had some serious breakthrough moments. One was on Johnny Mnemonic, where for some reason I wasn't able to hit the ball-lock shots that I always go for. That's the easy way to score a billion points which will usually suit you very well. (The game is high-scoring; one billion points is a decent game and two billion points usually wins, unless you're playing AJH, in which case you don't win.) But nobody had the lock shot. I was able to find the orbits, though, the long arcs to the left or right of the game, and put together a first-place finish on that. Later in the consolation round I again wasn't having much luck with locks. But I aimed for, and started on purpose, Spinner Millions. This is a great mode that can build up hundreds of millions of points awarded as bonus. And, thanks to a bug in the code, awarded again, doubled, your next ball. The result is I had a six billion point game, my best ever, and close to bunny_hugger's best game ever on that. Tossing my normal strategy out the window in favor of what's working at the moment? That's something I should have been doing at the state championship. I even beat AJH on the game.

And then another piece. Mystic. It's an early solid state game. It's an often brutal one. Drop targets represent the spots on a tic-tac-toe board; the more rows, columns, and diagonals you make, and better complete squares you fill, the higher your bonus. And that bonus carries over ball to ball, so if you have a great first ball you have already won the game. The catch is usually you have 19 lousy balls to one good ball. Topping 100,000 points means you've had a good game and very likely have won the group, in match play. The ball, particularly, tends to come out of the pop bumpers up top and drop right down a drain. Hitting any of the drop targets too hard also leads it to drain. This Saturday, though? I started patting the machine as the ball bounced around the pop bumpers, hoping to shake the table just enough the ball lost energy and dropped lazily onto my flippers. And it did, surprisingly often. In January I'd worked out a couple gentle backhand flips that seemed to hit drop targets without draining, so ... I had a bunch of good games. I don't think I had any game below 300,000 points, and I had two that were over 500,000.

Have I cracked the game? I don't know. But often when you have an outstanding game like that you go on to faceplant pretty hard, and here I didn't. But while anyone will have one good game on Mystic, having three good games in tournament --- and several more outside --- is just not something that happens. Maybe I've figured something. Or maybe I got quite lucky; that will also happen. Still, if I was just lucky, maybe this will encourage people to take me to less capricious games.

And KEC, a longtime Fremont player who goes to just every tournament she possibly can? She rolled Mystic, putting up more than a million points when the score display tops out at 999,990. She scored so many points that she actually lapped the other players: strike a million from her total and she'd have still won. Which was fantastic to see, and be able to congratulate her for. And it strikes me that when she got there earlier in the day she played a game of Eight Ball where the millions digit spontaneously lit. It's a glitch the game has, the result of someone retrofitting a seventh digit into what had been a six-digit display. She couldn't count that million-plus game for the seeding position it would offer. No matter. She got the million where it would do her more good.

Oh yeah, so. RED finished first and second. I didn't catch which was the League and which was the Monthly finish. But bunny_hugger and I have never finished first in either, and we've only reached second a few times in the old, more casual days. As soon as the results from this post he's going to be high up in the state championship race for the year. Good for Lansing's reputation as having skilled players, bad for our chances to make championship next year. Hm.

Trivia: Railway stocks dropped more than 15 percent in the two weeks after the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Insurance companies dropped between 15 and 30 percent. Source: The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market's Perfect Storm, Robert F Bruner, Sean D Carr.

Currently Reading: The Originals: The New York Celtics Invent Modern Basketball, Murry Nelson.

PS: So, some Halloweekends stuff.


Singer for the Midnight Syndicate show. If I remember the framing device correctly she might have the reincarnation of one of the ghosts pursued by the ``Sandusky Area Paranormal Society'' members who prowled around the audience area until they came to a gruesome end.


Mysterious treasure box and the pillar and fallen tree trunks and such. As the show went on video screens showed a paranormal investigator getting lost in the mystery of this box and pursuing it to Cedar Point, and this building, and banging on the door, at which point the lights failed in a supernatural explosion of energy.


Rides graveyard. The sign for the former Mean Streak --- its successor hadn't yet opened --- along with a car from the train. To the right of it, the gravestone for Turnpike Cars, taken out a couple years ago for ValRavn construction.

Monday, March 4th, 2019
12:10 am
Start to shriek and harmonize

My mathematics blog all but disappeared this week. I don't blame you if you missed it. If you didn't catch it on your RSS reader, here's what I published from last Sunday to this:

Meanwhile I had an eagerly-awaited story strip update. What's Going On In Alley Oop? What are the new writer and artist doing to Alley Oop? December 2018 - March 2019 covered the end of the rerun period and nearly two months of the first story from the new creative team.

Now let's poke back in on Halloweekends 2017. I am never going to be all caught up with anything ever.


One of the many games inside the Coliseum. I'm not sure what attracted us to the Whac-a-Mole; possibly the typefaces on the signs and on the games.


Row of Whac-a-Mole games. Many of them had some problem or other; note the one on the far left promising the current score is LOO. None of the ones we tried dispensed the promised tickets.


Some of the row of electromechanical pinball games that Cedar Point got sometime in the 1970s and just kept there until they fell apart. Notice that Old Chicago has a 'temporarily' out of order sign on it; Sea Ray, I believe, also wasn't working.


More of the row of pinball games they'd let age unto inoperability. They're all gone, now, as of October 2018.


The oversized pinball on the far end is Hercules. They had two of these giant-sized games, which were marketed at amusement parks. These games were also in terrible shape; many people would walk away after one or two balls as it was just too dull to go on to the third. Next to Hercules was a Pioneer/Spirit of '76, one of the few games that just kept on working, somehow, up to the summer of 2018.


bunny_hugger rolling a ball in the miniature bowling alley. It's a more fun attraction than you might think, but games are often abandoned partway through, sometimes because the other alley has swiped all the balls.


Trouble brewing. Someone snuck a Six Flags Great Adventure cap into Cedar Fair's flagship park, Cedar Point!


The state set for Midnight Syndicate's concert/haunted-house show.


Atmospheric decoration, in the form of 1920s movie posters, for the Midnight Syndicate show.


Close-up of some of the stage decoration for Midnight Syndicate: skeleton-headed angels and twisted vines and a lot of purple lights.


Midnight Syndicate's drummer, one of the two performers presenting music for the whole show.


And this fellow in the top hat played keyboard.

Trivia: In the American Bar Association's debates of 1963-64, on how to clarify the succession, The Caine Mutiny was cited as demonstrating a potential hazard in allowing the Vice-President to unilaterally rule on the inability of the President. Source: From Failing Hands: The Story of Presidential Succession, John D Feerick.

Currently Reading: The Originals: The New York Celtics Invent Modern Basketball, Murry Nelson. So you remember how before World War II there was the stereotype that Jewish people naturally played the best basketball? Sure, we all do. Well, then as now people tried to understand the ``reasons'' why certain ethnic groups might be seen a lot in particular occupations or particular sports. Because, you know, it's a deep mystery why impoverished city-dwellers might like a sport that requires little equipment, little space, can be played indoors or outdoors, and can be played with any number of people including ``alone''. Or why second-generation immigrants might play an American sport with no cultural connotations that might worry their parents that they're losing touch with their heritage.

Anyway, some writers did try looking for deeper reasons and here's one from Paul Gallico, then a sports writer. (He went on to write Lou Gehrig: The Pride of the Yankees, basis for the movie; as well as The Snow Goose, The Poseidon Adventure, and Manxmouse: The Mouse Who Knew No Fear.) So Gallico had this analysis about basketball: ``it is a game that above all others seems to appeal to the temperament of Jews ... I suspect, that it appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background (because) the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodgery, and general smart aleckness.'' And, you know, white people, why do we gotta be like this? [1]

[1] I mean, if we count Italians in the 1920s as white because oh this is so tiring.

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