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

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Tuesday, July 16th, 2019
12:10 am
What a town to live in, what a place to see

Had we woken a little earlier Sunday we might have got to the hotel's continental breakfast. We weren't going to wake a little earlier. But then I remembered: oh yeah, I could just grab some stuff and bring it back to our room to eat. And then I had another great idea. I put a couple of the rubbery scrambled-egg patties on the bagels they had, and from this made an egg sandwich which is going to be my new hotel-continental-breakfast option. It wasn't good, exactly, but it was better than the egg on its own or the bagel with a block of rock-hard cream cheese badly smeared across it by plastic knife would have been.

In the last couple twisting roads leading to our amusement park target we saw a rabbit. A wild cottontail, hopping towards the road. bunny_hugger cried out to it, no, go back, don't go in the road. The rabbit complied, hopping back into the suburban woods. A good omen, surely.

Our park for the day --- and the reason we took this trip rather than any of the others --- was to get to Seabreeze Amusement Park. It's an ancient park, tracing its opening to 1879. It's one of the handful of remaining trolley parks. Trolley parks were built at the end of streetcar lines, often built or owned by trolley or electric companies so as to provide something to use their product during evenings and weekends. Your town probably had one, and it closed in 1921, 1933, 1958, or for a lucky few, 1976. Or your town is Pittsburgh and the park Kennywood, or Rochester and your park is Seabreeze. (I exaggerate; but Wiipedia is of the opinion something like thirteen trolley parks still remain. bunny_hugger and I have been to nine of them together.)

A 140-year-old park would be enough. It also has the Jack Rabbit, a roller coaster opened in 1920. Seabreeze claims it's the oldest continuously-operating roller coaster in the world, cutting off Lakemont Park's Leap the Dips thanks to the long periods when that ride stood without running or being operable. It's one of two roller coasters still named Jack Rabbit, a name which in the 1910s and 1920s was among the default names for roller coasters. The Roller Coaster Database lists 39 Jack Rabbits as having existed; Kennywood and Seabreeze have the only ones still running under that name. (Clementon Park, in New Jersey, used to have a Jack Rabbit; it closed in 2002 as part of the park's great decline. Its replacement, now called Hellcat, was originally named J2, short for Jack Rabbit 2.) It's in the three-way tie for fourth-oldest still-operating roller coaster in the world. Its fellow 1920 roller coasters are the Scenic Railway at Dreamland, in Margate, UK, and Jack Rabbit at Kennywood.

The parking lot outside the front entrance seemed small. There are more parking lots --- we drove past some, on the last approach, after seeing that cottontail and after passing an estimated 12,564 traffic circles --- but they wouldn't be needed. Seabreeze forecast a slow day. It had been cold. It was very likely to rain. They had, the day before, given up on opening the water park for Sunday. But the only way we could see Seabreeze at night was to go on Sunday. It wouldn't be much night: the park would close at 9 pm. But this was later than it would be open any weekday. Had we given in to the weather, and postponed our trip a week, we would have had more night chances. But Canada's Wonderland and Seabreeze were the only parks we figured we really wanted to see in that twilight glow and illuminated by night. And, hey, a slow day at a park implies good riding chances, too. When you're a roller coaster enthusiast travelling from far away, you want a park to have a slow day just the day you visit. Not the rest of the time.

So the parking lot seemed small, and was empty even for that, although we were there just about at the moment the park opened. They already had the sign out front with the rain check policy. It was not raining, not just yet. But it head that morning. And the sky was a uniform grey. It looked ready to rain any moment.

There was a bright fellow out front, though, watching the gate and helping people through the turnstile or through the gate that's the wheelchair-and-crutch-accessible alternative. We got our tickets, at a small discount, thanks to it being so early in the season, and stepped in, and immediately liked the place. Almost the first thing we saw in front of a flowerbed was a sign labeled ``On This Site --- Through The Years''. It showed photographs from the park in the mid-60s, and some earlier eras in photo insets, and explained some of what used to be there. We like any park that is also a museum about itself.

Jack Rabbit was the first thing we wanted to do, and the most important thing we wanted to do. We wanted to see the whole park, but the 1920 roller coaster was the priority. It's quite near the entrance. Then I got distracted by another ``On This Site --- Through The Years'' sign. It listed eight roller coasters now gone, and had five photographs showing six of them. One of the gone roller coasters was the kiddie coaster, since replaced by Bear Trax. Bear Trax is not open to unaccompanied adults, so we did not have to worry about whether we'd choose to ride a small, surely knee-banging roller coaster. But the sad thing is what it replaced, a steel kiddie coaster from the Allen Herschell Company. That roller coaster was named Bunny Rabbit. The perfection of that as a name, especially sitting across the midway as it does from Jack Rabbit, is almost too much. And, granting that the original Bunny Rabbit maybe needed replacement, but why not put the fantastic old name on the new kiddie coaster?

My distraction, and the small crowd size, misled bunny_hugger into thinking Jack Rabbit wasn't open yet. When I learned that was what she was waiting for I explained that no, I'd seen people just getting off the ride, right before we got to agreeing that Bunny Rabbit was a great kiddie coaster name. So here we went to our first ride of the day, and the most important roller coaster of the park.

Jack Rabbit is 99 years old. The cars are not. The current train is sleek and stylish and has looks great. But it has some modern features like a seat divider and seat belts and individual restraints. So we can't ride it the way it originally opened, which would surely have been a single seat, no seat belt, and possibly not even a bar that locked down. It might have run with just a bar to grab on, and a warning to not stand up during the ride. There may be other things that have changed from the ride's original configuration. 1920 is about the time of the invention of upstop wheels. The wheels of a roller coaster hold on both above and below the track, making it all but impossible for the thing to fall off. (Some roller coasters hug the track with a different mechanism but the point is the same.) Quite likely when this ride opened, though, the train only rolled on top, the way a real train rides on real tracks, and all that kept it on the track was that it didn't go so fast as to threaten to fly off. The train was partly destroyed in a fire in August 1923 and rebuilt. Would they have missed the chance to not exploit the upstop-wheel technology, and its prospect of faster rides and steeper drops and bigger hills?

This is not to deny its historic nature, though. First, a thing modified by long use is still historic. Second, it still dispatches, and brakes, by the use of levers, the classic old-fashioned way. Electronic controls are all but universal, and for good reasons, as they make accidents harder. But the ride operator grabbing and sliding a network of mechanical controls? This is beautiful, and great to watch.

Our first ride on Jack Rabbit was not a solo ride, but it was close. We would get several rides on the roller coaster, never alone, but also never having to wait. The roller coaster is a simple one, as you'd expect from it being a 1920 model: climb the lift hill, go out into the woods, turn around and come back, with hills of varying sizes along the way. The trees around it have grown tall, threatening to touch riders. It's a great ride, exactly the sort of old wooden roller coaster to appeal to me and bunny_hugger. Plus, the launch station has a fantastic sign. I've got pictures, but if you don't want to wait, you can see it at the roller coaster's Wikipedia page.

Oh, also. Most of the station is reasonably recently painted and fresh-looking. There is a part that is not. They have a plaque explaining this. The park, like most, has gone to pay-one-price. But there was a relic of the pay-per-ride days. On one of the beams of the station, as you enter, is the instruction ``PAY AS YOU LEAVE''. The instruction is from around 1920, they believe. It's badly faded. The plaque says they couldn't bear to paint it out. The only baffling thing: wait, you only paid for the ride on exiting? ... What did they do about Charlies on the MTA? And, alas, the sign doesn't tell us anything. The park explains much about itself, but it does not explain everything.

Trivia: The last formal geology briefings for the Apollo 11 crew were in mid-April 1969. Source: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of NASA's Apollo Lunar Expeditions, William David Compton.

Currently Reading: Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process, John McPhee.


PS: So at La Feria, we were simply trying to get to the biggest and most prominent roller coaster, and ride, at the park, by the strategy of walking toward it. How hard could this even be?

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All right, so the entrance to Montaña Rusa wasn't through that underpass built into the roller coaster. But wait, here's another underpass and surely the entrance is in there?


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... Pfaugh, all right, it's a miniature train ride that runs underneath the roller coaster and that's great but it's not getting us any closer to the entrance. Still, we're by the lift hill, the station has got to be nearly in view already so let's just see ...


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Oh for the love of Mike ... all right. But, lift hil land some of the return leg of the roller coaster, with a kiddie helicopters ride tucked in-between in a wonderful use of space. We're surely close!

Monday, July 15th, 2019
12:10 am
Kind help right there to serve you

And what about my mathematics blog? It had another good week, by which I mean, three fresh posts, as you saw in your RSS reader or are encountering just now:

And for the story comics? What's Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Who are these Avari people? April - July 2019 saw the start of a new story and I can bring you the setup for it at least.

Next up: I walk home from the mall to the hotel we were staying at in Mexico City! Forty-two pictures of that hike!


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A bonus little spot of nature as witnessed walking back from that mall to the hotel: one of moxie_man's cousins, a black Mexican grey squirrel. Black-furred grey squirrels are common enough in Lansing and some other towns; I didn't realize there was such a colony in Mexico City too.


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More of the mysteries of nature: a pair of blue jeans strewn across the lower tree cover.


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And here just a view of one of the highways, plus the elevated highway above it. This looked so much like highway construction in Singapore as to make it almost feel like returning to a former home.


So I overestimated. Anyway that closes Saturday. Sunday was a free day for bunny_hugger as the conference had nothing scheduled but tourist attractions. This would have been our chance to see the really big pyramids, but we had other plans. We took the chance to go to the other big amusement park in Mexico City, La Feria Chapultepec Magico. So let's please enjoy that now.


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Sign outside the entrance to the park. There's different level admissions, with the higher-cost tickets getting you the more thrilling rides such as the big roller coasters. The lower-end tickets get you mostly the kiddie rides so that, yeah, that's a very good thing to offer parents whose kids are not going to get on something scary like a roller coaster that goes UPSIDE-DOWN. Note the prices are in pesos, so that even the Platino level is like US$10.


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Menagerie of figures outside the entrance to La Feria. I never got a handle on what was and wasn't a mascot but the grasshopper seems particularly important.


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The other half of the mascot garden outside La Feria's entrance gates.


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bunny_hugger ahead of me in the queue, readying to buy our tickets, in case her Spanish skills were up to the task of buying one of a selection of things. (They were.)


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Quimera, the steel roller coaster right up front that dominates your view as you approach the entry gates. This ride used to be at Flamingo Land, in North Yorkshire, England, an amusement park of some note there, and a place where Findra worked in her youth.


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A Musik Express at La Feria, although I have to say, ``Train of Love'' is a more exciting name for it.


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Montaña Rusa! The roller coaster we most hoped to ride and wthought we would never get the chance to! Here's the top of the first lift hill, with the traditional wooden roller coaster top-of-the-lift-hill warning sign. It doesn't seem to warn you not to stand up, though, a break from custom.


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Yup, that Montaña Rusa is a beautiful roller coaster. It must be easy to find its entrance, right? Just look for ... uh ...


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Right, the entrance for Montaña Rusa has to be right around somewhere close to the lift hill. This looks likely, right? Also, neat mountain-covered castle image props for this pedestrian underpass which does not lead to the roller coaster's entrance. Nor exit.


Trivia: Before the adoption of standard railway time Pittsburgh train stations would have six different station clocks. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process, John McPhee.

Sunday, July 14th, 2019
2:20 am
What a funny feeling in my eyes and ears and throat

Sunshine has been sneezing.

I don't disrupt the ruthless chronology of my life lightly. But I've just finished the Saturday of our Niagara Full trip, so this is a minimally disruptive time to say what's happening, like, this week.

So our pet rabbit has been sneezing. Like, a lot. A sequence of two dozen short little sneezes, often with her sitting up and trying to brush her nose. We can't deny the adorability of a rabbit trying to groom her face in-between sneezes that will not stop. If she looks cross at her body betraying her it only makes things more wonderful. Still, this is more sneezing than a rabbit should do. So we took her to the vet's.

And there, the diagnosis is: we're not sure. The prime suspect is pasteurella. It's endemic to rabbits. It's usually kept in control by the animal's normal immune system. It's an opportunistic bug, reacting when something disrupts their immune system and taking the opening to kill the rabbit. It's strange that Sunshine would have left such an opening --- we don't think she's been through anything disruptive, and she is a young, energetic rabbit. But it's the obvious guess given the sneezing and that she hasn't got other problems.

The treatment is a double barrel of antibiotics, one as eyedrops, one as a daily injection. This is the aggressive treatment. We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the death of Penelope from abdominal cancer, and are just past the eighteen-month anniversary of Columbo from a disease that this vet suspected but could not prove. We could not give anything but the aggressive treatment.

Sunshine is not happy receiving it. Part of it is the injection. We built experience giving Stephen injections. He was old, though, arthritic and complacent. We had given Columbo some. He was trusting and patient. We gave Penelope subcutaneous fluids. She was hardened to life. Sunshine is young and does not see any reason that we should be doing things with the scruff of her neck. It does not help that the first time we on our own gave her the penicillin we fumbled it, causing her unwanted and unnecessary pain. We seem to be rusty. I think we're doing better at finding a spot in her back that she doesn't flinch from. But it is hurting her trust in us.

The eyedrops we assumed would be easy. She takes an eyedrop twice a day, in her cataract-stricken left eye, already. She is willing to take a second eyedrop in that eye. She does not even mind this has doubled the number of drops in that eye; we can't give the two different kinds of eyedrops in the same session, so she gets an eyedrop and a treat in two sessions separated by an hour or so. She sees no reason for us to fiddle with the other eye. She fights us on this. She's a young rabbit, strong and fast. She can get away from us anytime she wants. I've had to start anticipating the places she will run, and blocking them off while she's distracted.

She is not happy about this, and is not leaping out of the cage for her eyedrop and, more important, the treat the way she used to. We hope that the injections and extra eyedrops will be temporary, and will pass soon enough that she does not come to resent us permanently.

Maybe she will. As I write this she's come out of her pen and sprawled at my feet. I'm stroking her forehead and ears with my nimble toes. Rabbits love to be petted on the head and ears. Sunshine does not ask for head-pets with the quiet insistence of Columbo, but she does come up and hope for them, and I hope I can give her enough for us all.

I think she is sneezing less, just a couple days into the antibiotics.

Trivia: In an 1813 statement the English East India Company declared they were not looking to increase British demand for opium, and proposed raising the price of the drug in Britain to its highest possible levels and that it would support, if possible, banning the drug for all but medicinal purposes. Source: Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Currently Reading: Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process, John McPhee.


PS: Allow me to focus on one tiny piece of this shopping mall in mexico City.

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The food court had this cute tiny carousel, so I stopped for a picture of the raccoon.


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And here's the skunk, who is very clearly different from Bambi's friend in ways that would stand up to any legal action.


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And for some reason the rabbit is bipedal and dressed for the kind of job where coworkers go out to Chili's for a celebratory dinner after some major networking issue is cleared up. Also you ride him piggyback, I guess.

Saturday, July 13th, 2019
12:10 am
I just want to crash through the ceiling before it gets too real

We were getting near 6 pm, around the last hour of the park, and getting a bit hungry. So what would be a good snack? We were right by a funnel cake stand. Sounds good. They asked if we wanted the regular or the deluxe funnel cake. I decided, sure, why not?

So this would be the single dumbest thing I said over this trip.

Not that this was stupid in principle. But in practice ... well, they made a funnel cake. And then ... nothing happened. I waited. They waited. bunny_hugger waited. People came in to the funnel cake stand. People left. Other customers came up, ordered ice cream, got it, and left. There was a ... something ... holding things up and while they apologized I also never got clear what the problem was. We heard in the distance the Wild West gunshow going on, the 6 pm repeat that would've been instructive to see. Finally I said to the guy working the counter, look, it's okay if I just get the plain. And he asked if I was sure, and I was, and he gave it to me. He didn't refund the dollar difference between the regular and the deluxe, nor offer to. I decided I did not have enough time in my life to raise the issue.

While we sat and ate and thought about the bizarreness of all this we noticed the midway games starting to close up. It was a heck of a thought that the park was so empty even leaving open booths where someone just has to supervise while people come up and give them money wasn't worth it. When we were finished with the funnel cake we started walking back to the wild mouse. And there we got stopped: park employees warned us, they were closing the park down, starting with the far western end and moving east. It was not quite an hour to the park's closing anyway, but they were saving that hour of staffing.

Oh, something I failed to slot into the time when it did happen. We were looking at the map at one point and an employee came over to ask what help we needed. And we didn't really, we were just getting a sense of the layout. But he knew we were amusement park fans, mentioning bunny_hugger's Indiana Beach t-shirt. At that moment I didn't know that Indiana Beach and Fantasy Island had the same owner; I just thought, wow, he's aware of this small and quirky amusement park several states over. That's great. (I was also wearing a park t-shirt, but for some other small park that I couldn't blame him for not recognizing.) Great moment, though, nevertheless.

So with the Crazy Mouse closed off instead we went to one of the rides which hadn't gotten the news, the Silver Comet. The sweater was still hanging on the fence and we decided that we should let that rest there. Either the person it belonged to, or park lost and found, would recover it soon enough. There was a short queue and that gave me time to notice another rabbit hopping around the supports for the roller coaster. It was too far, and moved too soon into the tall grass, for me to photograph or to point out to bunny_hugger. Another good ride, though. And ... we noticed coming off that the ride queue had not yet closed. We could dash around and get one last ride in. And that's what we did, securing a front-seat ride for the next-to-last ride of the day.

But this did impose a tradeoff. As bunny_hugger silently feared, the gift shops closed before the few straggler patrons left the park. Possibly they closed as early as the midway games did. Possibly if we had dashed for the gift shop rather than a second final Silver Comet ride we'd have been able to get something. An ornament, perhaps. A t-shirt, likely. They had some nice designs, and for some reason amusement parks won't sell merchandise online. bunny_hugger would curse herself for not buying something when we went out to the car mid-day. It would have been the logical time to buy something and we really ought to have. She was worried we'd end up with no good souvenirs of the whole trip. I couldn't argue that this was impossible; our next park was going to, similarly, be a small independent park and who knows what they might have.

And now there was more rain. And cold. We drove, going off to a Red Roof Inn in Batavia, New York. bunny_hugger had picked it out as being near enough to all the amusement parks we'd want to go to --- including Fantasy Island --- even though it wasn't beside any of them. It was a weird model, clearly something that was rebranded as a Red Roof Inn rather than built as one. And the rooms were subtly old-fashioned, like, the door handles were knobs rather than the much more accessible bent-lever handles of today. The sink was inside the bathroom, rather than outside, the way the current Red Roof Inn fashion has ... at least on our side of the hotel. During our stay I'd see the doors to other rooms open, for housekeeping, and see that some of them had the sink outside the bathroom. Something strange is going on there.

Also it was noisy. We heard a lot of whatever was going on in rooms on both sides of our floor. bunny_hugger was sure she couldn't sleep in such a noisy room. So, I went to the front desk to ask. They said there weren't any available rooms, other than smokers' rooms, if we wanted those. We didn't want a quieter room that badly. Also: there are still smoking rooms in New York state hotels? Wow. Possibly the clerk was brushing us off.

Where to eat? In or near Batavia, a town that is not one of your big cities like Cooperstown? ... There wasn't much that seemed interesting. One prospect came to us through a several-years-old report on a pinball maps web site, a pizza place which allegedly had a Gottleib Tee'd Off. It's an early-90s comic golf game, one of a couple of ``oh yeah, we don't have to license comedy golf from Caddyshack'' games made in the 90s. We don't have particular affection for the game, but it is rare to see (even rarer than Williams's No Good Gofers, their entry in this genre). And it was on location, and we like supporting places that have pinball on location.

Great, but ... what location? The restaurant's name was not in my satellite navigator, which got new maps just a month or two before. Neither was the street address. We drove along the part of the town that seemed like the address should have been in, and never saw it. We drove into the next town, supposing that there might have been some confusion between, like, the Town of Batavia versus the Township of Batavia. I don't know that there was any, but this sort of thing happens in Michigan and especially New Jersey all the time.

So with that failed we went to a family restaurant that had going for it that we could say with certainty it existed. And this was a pretty solid choice. They had several good vegetarian options, very cheese-based ones, including a plate of macaroni and cheese which was enormous enough bunny_hugger was not able to finish it unaided. (I have been unable to finish a restaurant meal maybe twice in my life.) Also a four(?)-cheese grilled cheese sandwich which was not as fantastic as its equivalent in Rennes, France, but which was a great thing to discover in Batavia, New York.

When we got back to our hotel room the place was basically quiet enough, apart from some dogs barking in the early morning hours. Nothing bad enough that moving would have really helped.

Trivia: In 1953 Pandit Nehru estimated that India had over thirty different calendar schemes simultaneously in use. Source: Ideas: A History from Fire to Freud, Peter Watson.

Currently Reading: Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process, John McPhee.


PS: Of course I'm not just done with the day, technically.

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On the way back to the hotel from the Pyramid Cuicuilco there was a good-sized, fairly upscale shopping mall. I thought that would be a good spot to get something to drink and someplace air conditioned to rest, especially as I faced a long walk uphill. So here's some of what an upscale Mexico City shopping mall had to offer: frozen yoghurt and Starbucks.


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Also the local Apple store licensee, the iShop. Yes, I stopped in and doodled some quick casual nothing on the iPad and the picture came out with a fresh liveliness I can never do when I'm trying to draw on purpose.


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I mean, this place was fancy enough it still supported a RadioShack, see? ... Also, the Cafebrería in the upper right corner was the dedicated bookstore, in a tiny space yet still able to support a small, overcrowded cafe.

Friday, July 12th, 2019
12:10 am
Lunch counters, at banks and the theatre

It's my weekly recap of my humor blog! What's run there the past week?

And now let me bring to you ... the last of my Cuicuilco Pyramid pictures! From the first trip there. There's more to come, don't you worry.

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One last look at the channel in the top tier leading to the altar area, with a view of one of the cutouts where the channel's path gets about twice as wide.


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Walking back: a plaque commemorating the establishment of the Cuicuilco Pyramid park and nature preserve.


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Preserved nature. I grant a lot of the pictures look more or less like this, but I like how many different stages of a grass or tree's life cycle are shown here. All those many colors, even in the greens.


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More of the lined path leading out again.


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Now isn't that a fine, upright, healthy-looking plant ... oh, wait, what's that?


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Local wildlife! One of the few non-bird animals that I actually saw in the nature preserve.


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Tree roots growing out and around volcanic rock in just this lovely pattern.


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More of the walking trail, including another one of those little cuts in the end that's got to be a drainage channel. Also notice in the back just how much the mountains loom over the city. You don't get this in Michigan. Or New Jersey, for that matter. Or the Hudson Valley.


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Cactuses and possibly even aloe vera growing in the wild, as if that were a thing that could happen. Pretty sure these are plants that have to grow in carefully tended pots.


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All the colors of the rainbow, just out of order.


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Oh, and a quick look back at the entrance, showing the station where the guard and --- at that little desk out front --- the sign-in book sits.


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And the return to the City: the street outside the park entrance. Oh, notice that big O sculpture on the right, with the off-center o cut in it?


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So the Cuicuilco Pyramid is right near the 1968 Olympic Village, and a good bit of its architectural exploration came about as side effect of developments built for that. Which seems bizarre, like, that there was this 3000-year-old pyramid just sitting around town and it took needing to house pole vaulters for two weeks to get it studied? That is crazy, right? It's not just me?


Trivia: Slopes leading up to the outfield wall were eliminated from major league ballparks by the 1950s, with Cincinnati's Crosley Field the last holdout. Source: Level Playing Fields: How The Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris.

Currently Reading: Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process, John McPhee.

PS: Particle Physics Made Hard, a follow-up on something I talked about last week.

Thursday, July 11th, 2019
12:10 am
And I don't want to show you my feelings, I don't want to force you to deal

Now, dressed a bit more warmly, we went back into the park. We toured the kiddieland rides, not being ridden, and the sculptures. One I noticed had an airbrushed-art panel of a wolf with a tiara holding a magic wand of some kind. I recognized it from art at Bowcraft. bunny_hugger tells me this isn't a character from Something, the hot new content experience, but is probably just some general amusement-park-character-package available ... somewhere. All right. Fantasy Island has a miniature railroad, according to Wikipedia one of the park's original rides. It wasn't running, though. It did go around a Gulliver's Travels statue installation that looked like a Jack and the Beanstalk figure was laid down. The Lilliputians tying Gulliver down are garden gnomes.

We took at last our ride on the carousel. It's also (if Wikipedia is correct) one of the park's original rides, a metal-base, fiberglass-horse Herschell-Spillman of the kid they made a lot in the 50s. There's its twins at many parks and carnivals, including Storybook Land in New Jersey and, travelling, with the carnival that's probably in Fremont, Michigan, next weekend. I think the ride was less rough than (say) the one for Fremont was, although the ride also wasn't as fast.

There was a show starting now, at the theater in the kiddie area. We missed the name. The sign claimed it was titled If The Shoe Fits, which is a good name for a fifteen-minute comic performance for a kiddieland theater. Not this one, though. The plot of this was a goofy Prince (played by the sheriff) and his Trainer/caretaker (played by the deputy) being challenged to a duel for the kingdom by a wandering Pirate and his Dopey Assistant (two of the bank robbers). It was a nice, fun performance. It didn't feel nearly as improvised as the wild west shootout. There were a couple moments where the performers threatened to break into song --- the stereo started playing Generic Musical Opening Chords and a bubble machine came into action --- and the performers cut that off, saying they weren't doing that, or they couldn't afford it. It's cute but it didn't get much of a laugh from the kids in the audience, possibly because they haven't yet watched enough Animated Musical Theme Product to appreciate breaking the narrative. (On the other hand at that age I would swear my favorite thing to watch was The Muppet Show, in which all the best sketches are about breaking the narrative.)

But I think I'm on sounder footing saying the audience was a bit confused. At one point the Pirate and Dopey Assistant had a silly little exchange, that none of the actual kids responded to. bunny_hugger laughed, though, that delightful thing when she's caught by surprise by the subject. (I smiled, myself.) One of the kids sitting turned to look at bunny_hugger, then laughed herself. Possibly she was laughing at my dear bride's laughter. I think the kid just now understood that this was something it was correct to laugh at.

More drizzling rain. We got coffee from the coffee-and-candy shop off the main entrance. The coffee came from those thermos jugs you press the lever on top to make dispense, which wouldn't give bunny_hugger anything. Turned out it wasn't out of coffee, the obvious problem. Some part of the internal mechanism, that siphons coffee out and through the faucet, hadn't been put in and nobody suspected until she said anything.

And we looked at something interesting we'd spotted at the north end of the kiddieland area. This was a ride called Goosey Goosey Gander. It was clearly old. It's a flat ride, cars going in a circular path, except that the cars are geese or ducks, painted brightly and wearing hats and jackets and boots. We'd never seen one like this before. No kids were riding it, so we couldn't confirm bunny_hugger's guess that the legs would trot along while the ride moved. Neat discovery, though. We explained to the bored, possibly indistinctly suspicious ride operator that our amusement-park-history interests made this worth photographing. She seemed to accept that claim.

We walked through the light rain back to the west end of the park, peeking at the performance area where later in the season singers might perform. And then looked at the Crazy Mouse, while a couple of people in park management raincoats also stared at it. Also about this time I noticed a wild cottontail rabbit, prowling around the end of an empty picnic pavilion, eating damp grass. He gave us a little time to watch and admire before hopping off, running way back to the pavilion area's buildings.

We went for another ride on the Crazy Mouse, since the inspectors didn't seem to do anything particular about the ride's state. This was when we discovered there were not just designated smoking areas but also designated vaping areas, and that they weren't near one another, as if for fear the smokers and the vapers would fight each other. And we took a ride on the Crankshaft Cruisers, their antique-car ride. The track's nice enough; it doesn't have enough scenery, though, and it's got only one or two billboards. Nice old Mobilgas logos for the fuel station, though. (Mobil was the form Standard Oil took in New York, back when we pretended to care about breaking up monopolies.) Somewhere along the track we saw a small pile of popcorn. bunny_hugger judged the scene, ``Aw, someone spilled their popcorn''. I, with more experience in having siblings said, ``Aw, someone punched her brother'', which is at least as defensible an interpretation.

One of the group prize games we'd seen was called I Got It. We saw right away that it was something like Fascination. Players try to bounce rubber balls into a five-by-five grid of holes, to get a row, column, or diagonal. It's purely mechanical, with the only operator tool being a lever that slides open a grate and lets balls drop out for recollection. The game operator calls out ``now toss ball one, now toss ball two'', and so on, a set of turns until someone calls out ``I got it!'' It looked fun. When we first stopped in there weren't enough people to play a match. Now, later in the day, we were lucky: there was a family there, and we were able to buy in to the several rounds they were playing. The advantage of a group like that is, well, it's more fun. More tense. The disadvantage is your chance of winning drops. The game offers lots of chances for things to go wrong, or weird, though. Like, there was a small hole in the walls of my target, which I figured was unimportant because what were the chance a ball would move in exactly the right way to slip through that? So you know what happened. There's also other weirness: a ball can come to rest on top of another ball, for example, which fate kept happening to bunny_hugger. Some of the kids in the family bounced balls hard enough they bounced out of play altogether, and at least one bounced into someone else's play. I guess that counts for getting a bingo line? Hard to say.

It took maybe a half-dozen rounds, but bunny_hugger finally won, getting one of their little laminated I Got It! coupons good for some number of tickets. And the family dispersed, after playing they thought enough of the game and wanting to redeem some prizes for themselves. A single I Got It win, for the number of people we had playing, would allow bunny_hugger to get ... nothing much, really. Maybe some Tootsie Rolls. After thinking it over we just left, taking the I Got It! coupon as the souvenir. But if we ever go back to Fantasy Island, we'll certainly bring it and maybe combine our winnings, if we have any.

It was time to ride Silver Comet again. This time on walking in I noticed a sweater hung over the fence near the entrance. It was wet, as anything left in the light drizzle would be. I can't swear that it wasn't there before, when we first rode, but I noticed it now. This kind of thing always leaves us with a tough choice: take it to lost-and-found, or trust that whoever left it would retrace their steps and find this? We ultimately left it, but that never feels like the right choice either.

On this ride a kid noticed us wearing our rain jacket and poncho and asked why we were doing that. I asked if he'd ever ridden a roller coaster in the rain. Bested by my logic, the kid turned to confabulation: oh, sure he had. In fact one time he rode and there was this awesome storm and lightning was striking all around. That sounds like an amazing ride, we said, with our own roller-coaster-in-the-rain stories bested. The kid agreed and trotted off to the exit, happy. (bunny_hugger has the better roller-coaster-in-the-rain story, of a ride on JackRabbit at Kennywood dispatched just before the rain made that a foolish and painful and wild thing to do; our joint rain stories are things like Cedar Point's Roller Coaster Appreciation Night and of getting our skin blasted clean by rain intercepted at fifty miles per hour.)

It was drizzling lightly enough not to make the ride miserable. Fun roller coaster.

Trivia: At its October 1848 opening the Frankfurt Parliament agreed the constitution should include freedom of speech, press, and religion; trial by jury, abolition of manorial rights and other privileges; and equality under the law. Not agreed to: whether Austria should be part of a German state. Source: 1848: The Revolutionary Tide in Europe, Peter N Stearns.

Currently Reading: Space Shuttle Challenger: Ten Journeys Into The Unknown, Ben Evans.


PS: You know what? More pictures from my Saturday in Mexico City, that's what.

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And now what you really wanted to see: me attempting panoramic shots! Here's the view from atop the Cuicuilco pyramid looking north and east.


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And the panoramic view looking to the south and west, including of the altar.


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Staring directly down into the altar area and the cover which shelters that.


Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
12:10 am
An origami plane to a distant land

We heard something going on in the Old West section of the park. It was their 3 pm gunslinging show. Or, at that point actually, the pre-show. This involved several of the park performers, including the guy who'd play the hapless sheriff in the show, doing small bits of clowning around. Like the guy who'd play sheriff holding out a collapsible chess board, to have it collapse, and need help tidying things up. That sort of silly comedy.

The show, when it started, presented itself as the deputy (the lone woman performing) grumbling, out in the street, about the sheriff. And trying to coax him out of his office. Here we got to wondering just how much of this was scripted. It was comic, of course. But parts of it sounded improvised. The sheriff started talking about how he couldn't come out because he was having trouble putting on his pants. He said something about how he needed the help of two horses to put his pants on. The deputy asked him exactly how. He started saying how they would stand him on his head, and the deputy asked for more details and you could hear where the sheriff didn't know where he was going with this. It was fascinating to listen to. Later, after the sheriff came out for a few moments, he said he had to go across the street (from the Sheriff's office to the Golden Nugget, a restaurant) to put on some pants. ``Why do you need to change your pants?'' asked the deputy. ``Didn't say I was changing my pants. I'm just putting another pair on.'' With this weird, possibly improvised line, the performance made bunny_hugger burst out laughing and she never stopped liking it. She's still, weeks later, occasionally grinning about the line.

Pants would become a bit of a recurring theme for the show. The premise leading up to the gunfight was that a trio of bank robbers were coming into town, figuring they could easily take things over considering the deputy was a woman and the sheriff was, well, the guy with the collapsing chess board. Catch is near the end of the first at, one of the bank robbers squatted down and ripped his pants in what did not seem to be a scripted wardrobe problem. Can't blame the performers coming to the brink of cracking up there.

So, I noticed before the show that there was a heap of mattresses near one of the buildings, with a 'PLEASE KEEP OFF THE MAT!' sign that one of the performers removed from the top just before the show started. But when the first act reached its conclusion, with surprisingly loud caps being fired --- very near in our direction, because of where bunny_hugger and I stood compared to the actors --- I forgot about that and took the bank robbers' retreat to be the conclusion of the show.

So after a few minutes, many of which seemed to be spent with the robbers working out whether the torn pants needed particular action, they went to the second half. Here the robbers beat up the hapless sheriff. The deputy tries to bring them in. The sheriff comes back in costume as a grizzled old miner or something. And they get to the dramatic shootout. This includes --- just like you see in old books about amusement parks with Wild West shootouts --- one of the robbers climbing up to the roof of the Golden Nugget, and, as the final robber shot, twisting and falling off the roof, onto the mattress. Good stunt, and a fun show all around.

While the many amused kids gathered around to take an oath of behaving like good kids from the sheriff we walked through, over to the kiddieland area. The park had a bunch of props with fairytale or fairytale-adjacent themes. The Yellow Brick Road, mentioned earlier. A Jack and the Beanstalk figure. An Alice in Wonderland prop where Alice is outgrowing the house she's in. A whale's head that we thought at first was another weird amusement park appearance of Moby Dick (as seen at Storybook Land in New Jersey). No; this was Pinocchio, with the wooden man, Geppetto, and the cat inside the whale's mouth, behind a plexiglass screen so the photographs are lousy.

And we got to see the park's newest roller coaster, Dragon's Flight. So new a coaster that it's not even installed yet. It's on the park's maps and their brochures as the new ride for 2019, but they didn't have any of the track or the loading station installed. That's all right. It's a small roller coaster, a Dragon Wagon such as you see at many carnivals and small amusement parks. It's designed to be set up in, like, twenty minutes. They just hadn't finished installing yet. This is two years in a row that we've been to a park with a roller coaster too new to have installed. (Lakeside Park in Denver last year had a Pinfari Zyklon assembled but not ready to ride when we visited. That ride, remarkably, still isn't running, or apparently even named, so we don't have to feel bad about not waiting two weeks last year to visit when the roller coaster would be open.)

The Roller Coaster Database, citing some promotional video, thinks this ride is the Dragon Wagon which had been at Indiana Beach, which we had seen and wasn't running last time we were at that park. This is possible. Plausible, even, since Indiana Beach and Fantasy Island are both owned by Apex Park Group. What has me skeptical is that we could see the train at Fantasy Island. It's a dragon with red scales, and the back of the ride says 'Beauce Carnaval'. The Roller Coaster Database's pictures of the Indiana Beach Dragon Wagon show it having green scales. And while it's possible the Dragon Wagon was at Indiana Beach for years without its former owner's name being taken off the back --- especially as Indiana Beach was for years owned by people who had no interest in or ability to run an amusement park --- it seems ... weird. (On the other hand, Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, had a ride with the Cypress Gardens logo on it for years.) So what is the truth? There is no way to know. I suppose we have to pop in to Indiana Beach and check if they still have their Dragon Wagon.

Oh, and there was one more roller coaster. A kiddie coaster, a Wacky Worm-style little one designed to batter the knees of adult riders. This one's called Max's Doggy Dog Coaster, and the front car has a Dalmation's head on it rather than a worm. We were a bit hesitant to ride, unaccompanied by kids as we were. But the ride operator didn't mind. The ride operator might have been a little bored waiting through the slender crowd and occasional rain. We got two circuits, enough to appreciate things like the flower-bell-shaped ride lights and how close the ride comes to the trees in some parts. And the giant daisy props outside the ride's enclosure. It's a fun ride, and it didn't smash our knees too badly.

And of course it was raining again. Not enough to close the park, but enough to make us feel cold and a bit lousy, after not quite two hours there. So we figured to go out to the car and get our rain jackets. Well, my rain jacket and bunny_hugger's poncho. bunny_hugger asked if maybe we should stop in the gift shop first, before we go out, and buy any souvenirs we wanted. I said nah, there'd be time for that near the end of our day.

Bonus fun activity: see if you can spot the single dumbest thing that I said during our parks trip.

Trivia: The now-standard telephone number keypad, named ``right-reading 3-by-3 plus one'' during tests in the 1950s, was neither the fastest nor the most preferred of touch-tone dial arrangements Bell Labs experimented with. (It was the layout that best fit available space and electric circuits in the phone case.) Source: Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: Space Shuttle Challenger: Ten Journeys Into The Unknown, Ben Evans.

PS: Reading the Comics, July 2, 2019: Back On Schedule Edition, wrapping up a slow week's worth of comic strips.


PPS: more looking around the pyramid. I still find it all gorgeous to look back on.

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The channel cut in the top of the pyramid as it leads to the altar area. The sun angle really helps make it look like the place is filled with void. I don't know what those white mountain-peak structures in the middle background on the right are.


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Looking again at the altar area, this time from an angle that showcases how there's several levels to that.


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A longer view of the channel, including the spots that look like they're insets to make it possible for people to scrunch against the all and let someone pass? Hard to say. The channel is maybe four feet wide most of its length.


Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
12:10 am
And now I want to fall into something else

Fantasy Island's front midway has that 70s-style Faintly Americana style architecture, with a nice small stone-lined waterfall and the carousel, a 1950s metal Herschell-Spillman model that was probably part of their standard Kiddieland package. Also the park has a replica Liberty Bell, ``Presented to Fantasy Island in commemoration of America's Bicentennial 1776 - 1976 by bells [sic] Markets''. This according to the sign that represents my favorite kind of sign, the sort that gives a full explanation that doesn't explain a thing. The replica bell doesn't have a clapper and the 'crack' is just an indentation in the moulding, not ... like ... a full crack.

The park spreads out, basically, perpendicular to this entrance, with to the right a Fairy Tale Forest that has a bunch of statues representing figures. Also a Yellow Brick Road, in the pavement, which runs from the main gift shop over to ... the Fountain of Youth. Which is a wishing well. This rekindled my question about why more amusement parks don't rip off draw inspiration from the public-domain aspects of The Wizard of Oz. It also made me realize ... I'm not an Oz expert, but ... was there even a Fountain of Youth in the Oz books? It seems like something L Frank Baum should have played with. Certainly some kind of age-manipulation gimmick, anyway. I'm also not sure there were any gift shops in the Oz canon, although I would generically imagine Baum to have at least one scene in an Oz Department Store, wouldn't you? The rest of the kiddieland sections are off to the right of the park and we'd get to them in time, don't worry.

To the left from the entrance midway is an Old West themed area. That's mostly buildings; I don't think there's any particular rides. But there's an area for show, and we'll get to that in time too. Anyway, past that we get to the Action Zone, I think is the theme. The one with the major reason for us to come here, rather than another park in the area.

This would be Silver Comet. It's a roller coaster, built in 1999. It's a wooden roller coaster, although the infrastructure holding it up is steel rods. In this it's very like the J2 roller coaster at Clementon Park in New Jersey. The station is this gorgeous, old-fashioned-looking thing, with the name spelled out in a column, one letter at a time, with different rainbow colors behind each letter. The style of that, and of the balls-with-motion-streaks behind them, is old-fashioned and gorgeously so. This is because they were going for something. The station was built to evoke the station of the Crystal Beach Comet, one of the centerpiece roller coasters of the nearby (and defunct) Crystal Beach, Ontario, amusement park.

The Crystal Beach Cyclone has some cultural heft. The original roller coaster --- one of a trio of ``Giant Cyclone Safety Coaster'' which opened in the late 20s; its sisters were the (original) Palisades Park Cyclone and the Lightning at Revere Beach, Massachusetts. This line of coaster was notoriously rough. The New Jersey and Massachusetts coasters lasted less than a decade. The Crystal Beach Cyclone kept a nurse's station near the park, a bit of utterly legendary marketing. And the Cyclone ... was rebuilt in 1948, enough that the Roller Coaster Database regards it as a new coaster, the Comet. That one's been moved to Great Escape, a Six Flags-owned park in upstate New York. The eastern side of upstate New York, so it was outside the scope of our visit.

Still, this gives an idea of the presence that the Crystal Beach Cyclone/Comet had. And why it would be the thing they wanted the park to evoke. The Fantasy Island Comet is a 1990s Custom Coaster International build, a triple-out-and-back ride meaning that it goes on an approximately linear path ... you know where this is going. But it's got a lot of nice touches to it, including the coaster turning around on a segment of track with a dip in it. In some ways it's kind of a half-size Mean Streak, certainly a good thing to evoke for folks like us. We took our first ride just rushing up to the platform and taking whatever seat we could get, mostly out of fear that the rains might return, or get bad enough the park had to close. If time allowed we'd come back to try to aim for a front seat ride. As it was, we got a back-seat ride. The park was empty enough there wasn't much of a wait.

We could easily have gone back to this ride, but there were other roller coasters at the park, and we figured to ride while the weather was good. The other significant roller coaster is the Crazy Mouse, a spinning wild mouse that's at the far western end of the park. It's a twin of the Crazy Mouse at DelGrosso's Amusement Park in Tipton, Pennsylvania, although the Roller Coaster Database lists them as different models, I think because the company that made DelGrosso's was bought out and some of the control systems changed. Also the twin of The Exterminator at Kennywood, and --- for a ride we haven't been on at a park we want to get to --- Margate Dreamland's new Pinball X. The ride's so far at the end of the park that the signage gets a bit vague. We weren't positive when we approached what ramp was the entrance and what the exit. It was a slow enough day they didn't much care.

The ride has a sign warning that the ride needs at least two adults and two children to ride, but that on an ideal day, warm and without wind, they can operate with the minimum of two people. It was a cool-to-cold day, with wind and scattered rain. They were sending out groups with just two people. One hesitates to be skeptical, but I am forced to wonder. Could the sign simply be a bluff, so that on days when the queue is long, they can force pairs of people to accept that other people will ride in the car with them? ... But then why have the warning that it's only cool and windy days when they need to fully load the cars? It's a bit mysterious.

This, maybe a half-hour in since we got to the park, got us rides on all the non-kiddie coasters. So you see why this was a good park for us on a day that might be cut off for rain at any time. But the rain was holding off, at least a bit, and we could explore and do more with the park. We went back to the Comet for another ride, this time getting in front. I enjoyed the front seat more, but I can't say the backseat is a worse ride here. And we noticed that the park had another Ride Manufacturer Information Plate, with a different format than the ones at every ride at Canada's Wonderland. This was more like the information plate at Shivering Timbers, at Michigan's Adventure, from the same manufacturers but installed in 1998. They just liked talking up their technical specifications back then.

And now we had the time to start appreciating the park as a whole. We did look over the games areas, which were lovely to look at but none of which had pinball. They did have some video games, all set just a little too far from each other in too big a space. And several proper midway games, which we'll get back to.

One of the islands in the park's lagoon has statues of, well, Indians gathered around their teepee. This is at the edge of the Old West themed area which I suppose explains why it's there. It's been around long enough to be a signature feature of the park, I guess, and shows up on maps and the like. We stopped along the bridge to look over the water and at the eager catfish gathered underneath. bunny_hugger had overheard a kid talking about how ``they have antennas'' and couldn't understand what that was about. When we saw, we understood. There was a little feeder station, with a dispenser for Cheerios, and we gave the fish some of that to enjoy.

Now it was getting near time for a show.

Trivia: The Chesapeake Bay is an impact crater of about 90 kilometers in diameter. Source: Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World, Nick Lane.

Currently Reading: Space Shuttle Challenger: Ten Journeys Into The Unknown, Ben Evans.


PS: Here's more pictures of me getting around that pyramid in Mexico City a year and a half ago.

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A look down the south-face slope from the top of the Cuicuilco Pyramid. This part at least isn't safe to pass, apparently.


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Looking to the east from the south end of that pyramid's tier. You can again see the warehouse structures leading to the tunnel beside Structure E-1 in the center right there.


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Looking back north again, near the channel cut at the top of the pyramid, and looking over the ramp back down to the ground level and, past that, the road leading to the park entrance.

Monday, July 8th, 2019
12:10 am
How to act like a king when always treated like a king

After what seems like ages of torpor my mathematics blog roared back into action this week, with ... two comics posts, me rambling a bit about a YouTube video, and the review of my readership that isn't properly speaking mathematics by itself. Well, here's what you were missing:

And for the story comics I get to report on a delight. What's Going On In Mary Worth? Do all Mary Worth characters fall for romance scams? April - July 2019 in review.

You know what I need here, now? More pyramids.

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Looking north from on top of the first tier of the Cuicuilco Pyramid. You can see how this is a forested refuge very much in the midst of city still.


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And a look down from the first tier toward the access road. I believe that's the museum in the upper right corner.


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The less-friendly path leading up to the second tier of the pyramid.


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View from the second tier looking down in the direction of Structure E-1. The stone arches were some kind of storage space, I think it was.


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Another view of the storage space that goes toward Structure E-1, and is part of the source of that cold air which pours out from the other side.


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And here is the small museum (and behind it bathroom) photographed earlier.


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A view of just how broad the second tier was. Plenty of room for a large number of people to be present at once.


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The slope up to the top, third, level of the pyramid.


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Channel cut in the top level of the pyramid. This alley leads toward ceremonial spaces, including an altar.


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The altar on top of the pyramid, and an area that lets you see how big the cut in the top was. I believe there's still archeological work going on which is part of why the area's sheltered from sun and rain.


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Museum plaque that explains the altars, including a bit about the developing state of archeological knowledge about them. And the interesting bit that as of the plaque-writing only half the building was explored. I felt awfully good about myself for making it through the Spanish side of this text and only somewhat doubting myself that cinnabar was involved. I mean, when do you ever hear anyone talking about cinnabar? Exactly.


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View of the altars and their inset part of the top tier, looking mostly north. Something about the blend of this very old structure and the superhighway beside got to me.


Trivia: Dutch records claim not less than 27 pounds of gunpowder was fired on the 8th of July, 1661, in salute to Governor John Winthrop for his visit to New Amsterdam. Source: The Island at the Centre of the World: The Untold Story of the Founding of New York, Russell Shorto.

Currently Reading: Space Shuttle Challenger: Ten Journeys Into The Unknown, Ben Evans.

Sunday, July 7th, 2019
12:10 am
We don't know how he travelled but we all know where he went

Our Toronto-area hotel had a check-out time of noon, and in view of the weather we were looking to go to a small park near Buffalo, maybe an hour and a half away, that shouldn't need a full day. We went to sleep confident that we could sleep in through 10:30, maybe 11 am, and still have plenty of time to WHAT IS THAT GOING OFF AT 7:30 IN THE MORNING?

So you maybe remember that when we checked in we saw the wedding rehearsal and all for an Indian family. As we left for Canada's Wonderland we passed people dressed in wedding-class garb, looking dazzling and in that mood of happy-but-stressed-out. Well, I infer that the wedding itself was on Saturday, and that they planned on an outdoor reception, and that the DJ decided he had to test his sound equipment and that's why he started blazing music at top volume at 7:30 am on a Saturday. I stumbled out toward the elevator trying to figure what kind of complaint I could make to the front desk, or if it would be enough to just show up looking like I'd been rattled out of bed at 7:30. The elevator wasn't responding, though, and the one time an elevator did open at my floor it was already full of people dressed for the wedding. And by that time the music had dropped down to a sane level, or cut out altogether, so I went back to our room. I accomplished nothing but the important thing is that I had a plan and acted on it.

When we woke up again, only this time meaning it, and more tired and cranky than we wanted, we had the breakfast question. Tim Horton's it was, then, for a fresh round of the BeyondMeat sandwiches. It turned out these had only just been rolled out from test market to nationwide that week. Also that by ``nationwide'' they mean ``the nation of Canada, of course''. There's no telling whether it will come to the mid-Michigan Tim Horton's world. We have a similar frustration with A&W Canada, which apparently has Impossible Burgers that we haven't seen here. Still, it's good to have at all and we did our best to encourage Tim Horton's in doing more of this.

And so we drove mostly south, driving for the western border between Ontario and New York. US Customs asked what we were bringing into the country and we realized ... gosh, we hadn't really picked up anything. Oh, this stuffed doll, and I pointed to the Behemoth plush that was our big Canada's Wonderland souvenir. It seemed odd that we hadn't had more. Still, this brought us on another toll road, a spur of the New York Thruway. This was another toll road that ... didn't ... have any toll booths. Just a warning that we needed to text some number to arrange payment which, yeah, good luck. I've never successfully sent a text message to a strange number with my phone. I'm not much better at sending text messages to people I know. I think all my exchanges have been with people who texted me first and I just hit reply. Granting, my cell phone is about 840 years old --- its company logo is Mergenthaler --- but still. Anyway I haven't been called into Toll Road Jail so that's that.

Our goal was a park on Grand Island, which is a good-sized island in the Niagara River, basically just across the river from the cities of Niagara Falls and of North Tonawanda.

Fantasy Island was, until 2017, known as Martin's Fantasy Island, for its then-owner Martin DiPietro. There's still one or two things that say Martin's on it, but now, the park's owned by Apex Parks Group, the company that saved Indiana Beach. Before 1994 the park was known as Two Flags Over Niagara Fun Park. It was only known as this for two years. And apparently, they changed the name because of Martin DiPietro's buyout. It seems to have come before Six Flags could file a writ of srsly in trademark court. Before 1993 it was called Fantasy Island and that's as much intrigue as there is in the park's name history. Wikipedia mentions some of the slight cryptic weirdness in ownership you expect from a small park, like that it went bankrupt in 1982, was bought by Charles Wood, sold to International Broadcasting Corporation, and then re-bought by Wood after IBM went bankrupt. There's mysteries here. I refer to the Wikipedia site claim that the kiddie ride Bugs ``was in storage behind the wave pool [ from its 2011 removal ] until end of 2016 season when Martin DiPietro took it with him as he departed from the park''. Let that sentence roll on your head a while.

But this we expected to be a half-day park, something we could explore fully in like four hours. The park was scheduled to close at 7 pm. It has three roller coasters, only one of which was of particular interest. The weather was cool and rainy, and threatening worse rains. Which is why we chose to go to Fantasy Island on Saturday. Sunday looked likely to be better. Monday better still. So if we had to lose time in a park because of rain, Fantasy Island looked like the one we'd least regret having rained out.

And it was threatening to be rained out. We got to the park about 1:30, to overcast skies that kept looking ready to be rainy overcast skies. I put some sunscreen on my face and neck, and that was all I'd need. I had a t-shirt, regular shirt, and my Blackpool Pleasure Beach hoodie, plus the GateKeeper rain jacket I always keep in the car. bunny_hugger similarly had several layers ready plus the d'Efteling rain poncho. The day might be short. That's all right. Few people were there. We might be able to ride everything in two hours, weather permitting.

Trivia: The first Bose-Einstein Condensate made, in 1995, was made with two thousand atoms of rubidium. Source: Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide To The Elements, John Emsley.

Currently Reading: Space Shuttle Challenger: Ten Journeys Into The Unknown, Ben Evans.


PS: Finally! Cuicuilco Pyramid, climbed! A tiny little bit.

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Looking back down the first stretch of the ramp's slope. They're volcanic rocks gathered to make most of this base and it felt weird and a little unsettling walking up this after seeing that portrait of the area enveloped by a volcanic flow.


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A close-up of something that's been in the background of many of the north-facing pictures: Six Flags Mexico is very visible from the pyramid. The roller coaster is Superman: El Último Escape, and the other tall structures are drop towers or reverse bungee rides or the like.


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Part of the first tier of the pyramid, roped off just enough to ensure that you only go there if you're really confident in your footing. I had the sense this was a new and maybe temporary restriction.


Saturday, July 6th, 2019
12:10 am
He couldn't even pay his rent

Our visit to Canada's Wonderland was going so very well that we could start taking risks. We could dare their newest ride, the Yukon Striker dive coaster. This was back in the Frontier Canada area. The line --- well, we didn't know how long it would be. None of the rides had signs giving estimated queue times. We did sometimes on the TVs set up in rides see queue estimates. Possibly this is data only available to people using the Cedar Fair app, which would get us right cross. Anyway, despite Yukon Striker being their newest marquee ride --- I think it's listed as the longest tallest fastest dive coaster in the world, and never mind how many qualifiers that is --- the line was not ridiculous. I doubt it was a half-hour to get through, and the queue was nicely decorated with Gold Rush-themed props, like you'd expect.

It's a better ride than ValRavn, Cedar Point's dive coaster. Yukon Striker is a bit longer, particularly, making the ride feel more balanced. And its first dive --- after it holds you at the top, dangling, pointing down before release --- goes into the water. (Their web site doesn't have an actual ride video yet.) Into a tunnel in the middle of a pond, that is, but what you pay attention to is diving into water. Good ride and good use of the environment.

And yet what impressed us was the way they handle personal articles. There's no carrying anything unsecured on the ride and justifiably so. To deal with personal effects they have metal bins dangling from a conveyor belt. You put your stuff in the bin when you're two trains away from loading. The belt carries the bin over, above the track, and back down again to the unloading area just in time for your ride to finish. Ir's a great scheme. It uses ride time well, it means there's no fussing about when you should be loading, and it's neat watching bins of stuff shuttling along. More parks should do this.

Now we could move to the low-priority roller coasters. This would be The Fly, their wild mouse. We'd thought this one a clone of the Mad Mouse at Michigan's Adventure, and while a wild mouse will always be special, wild mouse rides also tend to have very long lines. (They get a lot of riders, and can't carry many in one train, and Cedar Fair, which likes cars stopped and riders seatbelted in, makes the trains launch slowly.) It had a bit of a wait but nothing too bad. And the ride was nothing like Mad Mouse or any other wild mouse that I remember. A wild mouse roller coaster typically has a very boxy, rectangular layout to its track. This had big long diagonal sweeps, including a big drop before the back-and-forth segment that's the distinguishing feature of wild mouse coasters. The ride seems weirdly long, but it turns out it's only like fifty feet longer than the Michigan's Adventure wild mouse. It certainly sprawls much farther. I'm used to the wild mouse having a really compact footprint. Weird, which is good.

At this point, believe it or not, we had only one roller coaster to ride again. So we did not. We took another round on Thunder Run, this time with me tipping off bunny_hugger where to see the dragon within the mountain. And then we could get to that last roller coaster. So ... we did not. The thing is, that last roller coaster was The Bat, another boomerang coaster. Like the Boomerang at Six Flags Mexico shown in pictures here recently. Or like the Boomerang ant Elitch Gardens. Or the Sidewinder at Hersheypark. Zoomerang at Lake Compounce. Sea Serpent at Morey's Piers in Wildwood. These are all the same design, and they all make bunny_hugger sick. The coaster pulls you up a hill, drops you to do a loop, a helix, another loop, and then up a second hill ... then back down, backwards, and the backwards part always nauseates her, even through her motion sickness pills.

There are some remediation strategies. One is not to ride a coaster on an empty stomach. The cliche is that having a full stomach makes you throw up, but, having eaten a reasonable something stabilizes the gut. We'd just had a dozen small doughnuts, though. So we went to the only Freestyle Coke stand we could find, to try this special exclusive purple soda that signs all over the park advertised as just for Canada's Wonderland. Being thirsty seemed like a bad idea anyway. And time doing nothing challenging afterwards helped; we figured after the ride would be our big gift shop visit.

And so we went to The Bat, and the ride was ... not bad, actually. I mean, it was the same ride as we expected. But bunny_hugger didn't get as nauseated as she expected. And the restraints didn't batter my head as badly as I expected. All went, really, pretty well.

We puttered around the lovely evening light, and the gift shop, for a while. And kept thinking hard about this retro-70s-style park hoodie that was just over the top in the right ways to delight us. But the price was a bit much for that, even if it had stripes of yellow, orange, and 70s Red for the collar and cuffs and waistline. It's just ... mm. So very tempting, though.

There was about an hour left in the park day, all of it in glorious night. We took the chance to walk back towards the Minebuster, but stopped at the Antique Carrousel because, of course we would. Here we took two rides, I believe, one on a surprisingly full carousel and one where we rushed to get on the chariot. You don't get many chances to ride an actual antique chariot, especially not one that's 'yoked' to the horses in front. I think this is only the second time we've been on one such. (The other was at Elitch Gardens.)

We stopped by Behemoth, confirming that by night its entrance looks like something from Batman: The Animated Series. But for our last ride of the night? I thought the Mighty Canadian Minebuster would be a good choice. And it would be. There wasn't much queue, and the ride, going off a long way into the darkness over the closed water park, felt ... not quite like Kings Island's The Beast, roaring off into the void. The city lights were too much to make that illusion work. But it evoked something of that, going well away from the body of the park and only just coming back.

And ... we had, like, five minutes left before the park's closing hour. If we hurried, we could get on something again. Minebuster? Or ... you know, Yukon Striker is right next to it. And so that's what we dashed onto, for our final ride of the night. And the penultimate run of Yukon Striker for the night. Plus, since we'd gotten a stuffed doll and some other stuff, we had something to put on the conveyor-belt system this time.

This, finally, closed out the park. We walked back enjoying the scenery and what was still lit and all, and the last couple of rides running. Apparently nothing much had a queue at the 10 pm closing hour. And also marvelling that we had, indeed, ridden all sixteen of the roller coasters we possibly could have in a single day at Canada's Wonderland. Our trip was off to a great start.

This did leave us the problem of where to eat. We'd have happily gone back to the Indian place from the night before, but they had already closed. We went instead to a Tim Horton's where we discovered they served breakfast anytime. And that they had BeyondMeat-based breakfast sandwiches, with sausage and everything. This was perfect. ... After a bit of a delay, when one of the workers came over to apologize but they needed to make a new batch and it would be a while. Which was fine; I was expecting them to apologize that they had run out. Meanwhile we were on our third Tim Horton's visit for, so far, 36 hours in Canada.

Off to bed. We would be getting on the road in the late morning.

Trivia: In 1651 François Pierre, chef, wrote the first modern cookbook, Le Cuisinier français (The French Chef). He signed it pseudonymously, using La Varenne, name of Henri IV's cuisinier. Source: The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, Joan DeJean.

Currently Reading: Space Shuttle Challenger: Ten Journeys Into The Unknown, Ben Evans.


PS: Will I ever actually climb this pyramid? Let's just see how long I can drag out that question.

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A view from the west face of the pyramid, showing off all three levels and how the levels get to be less level away from the north side's ramp.


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The more run-down face of the pyramid; note how many tiers are chained off by fences or tape.


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The long ramp running from the north face up the pyramid. It's in quite good shape and while I wouldn't want to attempt it in a wheelchair, it's probably accessible to people using a crutch.

Friday, July 5th, 2019
12:10 am
You're faced with the easiest task

And how's my humor blog looking?

Now let's get back to the Cuicuilco Pyramid. And particularly the small, three-room museum explaining the place.

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This is what I was up against in puttering around the museum. I absolutely don't blame them not translating every piece of Museum Spanish into English, and I did feel like I was able to at least follow the important points here: that during the last Ice Age, there were still raccoons (mapache). Also megafauna.


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Artifacts of the times. I did think I was doing all right reading the plaques, thanks partly from context and partly from a Spanish Dictionary I had on my iPod, although somehow I was defeated by the description of the materials and couldn't work out ``asta de cérvido'', thinking it was a bone rather than, you know, deer antlers. I can get ``asta'' not being in the little not-online dictionary, but ``cérvido'' is a mystery.


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And again I understand the overall gist of this, but I've been culturally trained to think ``El Hombre Chimalhuacán'' is a really cool hero.


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So, now, the pyramid here was built of volcanic rocks. And its period of use seems to have come to an end with a volcanic eruption. So here's a vast picture --- it's about six feet tall and maybe thirty feet long --- depicting what the end of that might have looked like and it's a powerful thought.


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Less powerful thoughts: human artefacts of the area. I believe each shelf represents a different social era as the archeologists have worked it out.


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Pots from different eras --- you can see some labelled, like, Cuicuilco IV or Cuicuilco II --- although I couldn't understand the signs explaining what archeologists see as significant differences and I don't understand the field well enough to work it out for myself.


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And a map of the vicinity of Mexico City (center), and the wildlife that could be expected by the people who settled the area. Of course my eye was drawn to the cacomixtle and the conjeo.


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And hey, see? They mention how settlers could expect to see coatis (tejón; yes, the word normally translates to badgers, but it's also used in Mexican Spanish for coatis, and note that it's listed immediately after raccoons).


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And a broader map showing where the pyramid is in relation to the lake which used to be Mexico City.


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Stepping back outside to see the pyramid again.


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Family taking a bit of a break in the afternoon sun.


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Archery! A handful of people were using empty space to practice this Saturday afternoon.


Trivia: Abbott Kinney was a tobacco mogul whose factory in New York City's Chelsea district hand-rolled eighteen million cigarettes per week until 1892, when a fire started by a suspended gasolier destroyed the building and its entire stock. Kinney moved to Southern California afterwards. Source: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's Pulp Comics, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson.

PS: How June 2019 Treated My Mathematics Blog, a scathing indictment of a blog I forgot to do anything with last month.

Thursday, July 4th, 2019
12:10 am
A guy from old New Brunswick

We felt we had time to ride the Antique Carrousel, as Canada's Wonderland spells it. (While I prefer carousel, there's not a unique spelling of the word.) This is in a handsome circular building with, as mentioned, three angels as heralds on the top. Inside turns out to be ... not quite an old friend. The carousel, Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel #84, built 1928, had previously been at Palisades Park in New Jersey. While Palisades Park closed before I was born, it's quite plausible that my parents, or my grandparents, rode this. And before Palisades Park it had been at Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, so some of 's ancestors might have ridden it too.

Taft Broadcasting, which built the park, bought the carousel in 1972 when Palisades Park closed. They put it in storage, and left it there nine years, ready for a park to put it in. It seems amazing to think they were buying carousels that far ahead of need, but I suppose Kings Island had worked out quite well so they figured they'd need more. (If all else failed they could have put the carousel in Kings Island or Kings Dominion. At the time, Cedar Point, a similar class of park, had four carousels.)

The carousel's looking good, as you might expect. Delightful to us is that not only do they have the chariot on it, but they also have a yoke to the two horses in front of it, so that the vehicle is sensibly ``pulled'' by something. There's no riding the chariot's horses, and the park prevents that by the elegant solution of having a bit of wrought-iron decoration on the pole that blocks the spot someone would need to sit. And it doesn't look like an obstruction; it looks like decoration. It's an elegant bit of human-interface design. Also they had the little row-and-column number badges on the insides of the horses, a touch of how things are made that we discovered first at our last trip to Kings Island. So we're all happy with this.

And now we could get back to roller coasters, including rides we weren't perfectly positive we wanted to ride. This would be Time Warp, which you could only guess used to be a Tomb Raider-themed ride by looking at it. Well, by looking at the queue or the ride logo or whatnot. The ride itsel is a flying coaster. This sounds like an exciting model. It's ... not. The ride has you stand up in a cage, and rotates the cage around. It does make a pretty good feeling of flying, when your cage is leveled out and you soar in a line. But then all your weight is pressed into your chest. And the ride insists on doing foolish things like making a turn, at a speed where you feel like laundry being tumbled. So it's not that fun a ride. Still, flying coasters like this have become rare --- the only other one I'm sure I've ridden is Super Flight at Rye Playland --- and we didn't want a weird ride to go unloved. Not that it was in danger of this: it had a surprisingly long queue, considering the ride combines ``going upside-down'' with ``being slow and a bit painful'' and doesn't even have a coherent theme. Something about the package appeals to a Canadian audience is all, I guess.

Beside that is Flight Deck, which again we had ridden long before we rode it. It's the same model roller coaster as Thunderhawk at Michigan's Adventure, and Batman The Ride at Six Flags Mexico, and Mind Eraser at Elitch Gardens, and for that matter many more parks. In fact, Six Flags put in at least three of these rides, all named Mind Eraser, at different parks, as if they forgot they'd used that name already. So this was a ride to get on once we felt confident we were going to ride everything we really wanted, although I don't think we had yet expressed that aloud. Still, we'd gotten on more than half the roller coasters and had nearly half the day to go. The mathematics of it were looking good. Flight Deck was, in Paramount days, known as Top Gun. The exact same ride names, and shift in ride names, happened at Kings Island, but their Flight Deck is a completely different kind of ride and has since been renamed The Bat. There's also a The Bat at Canada's Wonderland, but that's a different kind of ride too.

We were getting a bit hungry, and thought of this doughnut stand we'd seen beside the macaroni-and-cheese place. The direct path to that took us through ... a couple of Arabian Nights-styled buildings hosting a photo booth and some kind of show that wasn't running that day. Then past a large globe on a neat pedestal with friezes of the four elements, and a passageway lined with flags of the world. With, in some cases, obsolete flags of the world, such as ones for Siam or Imperial China or one that's definitely an obsolete British Colony flag that I couldn't identify. The area has a plaque identifying The Grande World Exposition of 1890, a thing which did not take place in reality. But it was one of the park's original themed areas, meant to be a World's Fair-themed area. Much of it had been chopped off and re-themed for other attractions, including Action Zone. But it's recently made a comeback, as the park tries to get a bit better balanced again. The Antique Carrousel is considered to be part of the Grande World Exposition area, and fair enough. So is the Swing of the Century giant swing ride. So is the Flight Deck roller coaster, because ? ??? ??? ?? ???? ??? ?. Also Time Warp, because ?? ???? ?? ? ????? ???.

The doughnuts were from a stand called Tiny Tom Donuts, ``Celebrating 25 Years at Canada's Wonderland'', and they invited everyone to watch them being made. They're made by this cute automatic machine that pours out dough, circulates things, and puts them on a conveyor belt to cool enough to be put in a bag along with some cinnamon or confectioner's sugar or whatever. They're tiny, so we didn't feel bad about having a dozen doughnuts each. Really hit the spot, too. Apparently Tiny Tom has locations in town, too, and the bags included coupons for their newest in-town store. On the outside of the Tiny Tom Donuts is a cartoon figure of a slightly pudgy grandpa type saying, ``Hey dude! Watch your donuts being made!'' It seems gleefully silly.

The next-most-interesting coaster of the handful left to us, now, would be the Vortex. This is a suspended coaster, the cars dangling on a long rigid pole underneath the track. (Inverted coasters don't dangle so far below; suspended coasters can swing side to side in greater arcs.) This is a ride very like Iron Dragon, at Cedar Point, and for that matter Top Gun Flight Deck The Bat at Kings Island. We always like a suspended coaster. This one offered the extra thrill that it goes up and over some parts of Wonder Mountain, the park's central feature. Not over much of it, but still, enough for a dramatic view. And it is a surprisingly intense ride, for a suspended coaster. Iron Dragon and The Bat are good, swoopy, pleasant rides that get a real feeling of flight to them. This one was thrilling in a way we didn't expect. Going over the mountain, and seeing what used to be observation platforms, added to that.

We were having an extremely good day for getting on the roller coasters and other high-priority rides. And we still had several hours to go.

Trivia: In a 1957 interview with the New York Herald Tribune, James Thurber mentioned how the early drafts of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty included a scene where Mitty beat Ernest Hemmingway in a brawl at the Stork Club. It was removed when Thurber was convinced the story should not have anything so topical. Source: America's Humor: From Poor Richard to Doonesbury, Walter Blair, Hamlin Hill.

Currently Reading: DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's Pulp Comics, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson. The author's thesis that Superman didn't make so much of a difference in the kinds of comics DC was publishing seems all right. The choice to reprint extensively from some stories of the era is defensible, sure, but dozens of pages of Our Hero and the Yellow Peril Chinese Villain shuffling back and forth not actually accomplishing anything is tiring. But the bizarrest thing is the decision --- more than once --- to not print the end of some of these stories, citing the rarity of the original books. If they mean to say they couldn't find the comic books where these stories ended, all right, but the wording makes it sound like this book didn't want to spoil the advantage collectors who own these 1936 DC comics have in knowing just how the cliffhanger ending of White Guy Versus Chinese Stereotype Man came out. Also, I know I comma splice a lot, so trust me when I say Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson comma splices a lot.


PPS: revealing more mysteries of the Cuicuilco Pyramid!

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Here's a better view down the dry moat around the Cuicuilco Pyramid's base.


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And from the main land another look up at the pyramid, which maybe gives some idea the scale of the thing.


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Another view of the whole pyramid's height, in which it's harder to make out the scale but there is a lovely tree posed dramatically in front of thigns.


Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019
12:10 am
Ya won't get to it to get at it again

Taxi Jam wasn't the only roller coaster in Kidzville. There was also Silver Streak (manufacturer name Suspended Junior Coaster). It's classed as in Inverted coaster, which makes it sound like it goes upside-down. I don't think that it does; it just banks pretty far. I don't remember a point where you go upside-down. ``Inverted'' here means the train hangs below the track, rather than rides on top of it. It's a nice ride, and understandably popular as it offers the kinds of thrills you'd expect on, like, Leviathan without being so intimidating.

After riding this both bunny_hugger and I started seriously thinking: we've been here five hours. We've got seven to go. We've ridden eight of the sixteen roller coasters we could. We might just ride everything after all. We left it unstated, at that point, as we walked toward Behemoth, the 230-foot-tall hypercoaster at the other side of the front of the park from Leviathan. And then stopped midway through to admire several families of geese, with goslings, at a pond.

Behemoth is a huge roller coaster, although what really attracted us was its entrance sign. It's a string of letters, each tall and skinny, on tall skinny pillars. I suppose it's not actually Art Deco, but it evokes that in a way that was gorgeous to start and that we both knew would be only more beautiful at night. The ride itself is again strikingly like Leviathan or Millennium Force, a lot of great swooping smooth arcs on a track that, mostly, goes out and back again. As a fan of sea monsters I hate to admit this, but I liked it better than I did Leviathan. Curiously, Behemoth --- named for a monster of the land --- runs alongside and partly over a pond. Leviathan --- with a sea serpent as its icon --- runs nowhere near the water. One suspects the naming was done without thinking through the theme that deeply.

bunny_hugger looked seriously at a Behemoth hat, in the gift shop afterwards, and I may have joked about her forming her new Halloween outfit. Didn't buy one, but did start thinking about the Behemoth plushes, one of which she did ultimately get. There were a good number of T-shirts with their Behemoth-Versus-Leviathan rivalry, all tempting stuff. I would not get a t-shirt from Canada's Wonderland.

With this, we'd ridden all our high-priority roller coasters. We still wanted to get to Yukon Striker, the park's brand-new dive coaster, but we expected that to be such a long queue that we would skip that rather than miss, like, a half-dozen other things we could do. So we went looking for smaller roller coasters. Like, we were right beside Backlot Stunt Coaster. This is the twin to a Kings Island ride. And like the one at Kings Island it started as The Italian Job, themed to the I-want-to-say-forgotten-remake. When Cedar Fair bought the parks from Paramount, they rebranded all the rides that had been movies with, apparently, the first thing that anyone said, and they've stuck with it.

Oh, but along the way we walked across a bridge and noticed in the water below a lot of koi, or a similar fish. They were swarming around the bridge, suggesting that they expected food. There wasn't any food-dispenser there, though, nor signs that there had been one recently removed. There must be some other feeding station that the fish have learned from. We never found it.

Also near this bridge, and the entrance to Backlot Stunt Coaster? A family searching for a lost sneaker. Somehow it had gone over the bridge and into the water and they thought they'd found it near the water's edge. The father of the group had jumped over the fence and was walking into the trees lining the water, while arguing with his wife who was telling him he was going the wrong way about whether the right way was passable. We never saw how the shoe search turned out.

Backlot Stunt Coaster's a nice, tiny little ride. It launches with a linear induction motor, a feeling I really enjoy. And it putters around a cramped track full of Movie Los Angeles stuff. There's a point in the ride, here and at Kings Island, where it's supposed to stop and let an attack helicopter shoot up some oil cans. At Kings Island, when we've visited, those props haven't worked and so the train just stops for a moment while we watch nothing. Here, the train didn't stop, which made for a better ride but also left us with the impression that they're really letting the theming fall apart. (The train stopping is, surely, to give the other train in the station time to finish loading, do the safety check, and launch. Our train not stopping probably reflects the roller coaster only running one train so that there's no need for pause.) Also serving this impression: the billboard that the train, in its last leg, leaps through. The billboard's supposed to look like it's been torn open. The one at Canada's Wonderland looks stretched and torn, more than I remember Kings Island's, and worse than you see in the park's official ride video. It's always easy to imagine the non-marquee roller coasters are about to be renovated out of existence. But it's hard not to get the vibes that they're abandoning Backlot Stunt Coaster in place until they're ready to completely re-theme it.

Trivia: New York City's Embassy Newsreel Theater closed the 6th of November, 1949, twenty years to the week after it first opened; it estimated 11 million patrons had paid admission over its life. Source: The American Newsreel, 1911 - 1967, Raymond Fielding.

Currently Reading: DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's Pulp Comics, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson.

PS: A Neat Fake Particle Physics Simulator, in which I don't actually do anything, but share a thing you might do.


PPS: revealing some of the mysteries of the Cuicuilco Pyramid!

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And here's the museum plaque which explains La Kiva, at least etymologically: it was named by a United States archeologist who discovered it and pointed out the resemblance to structures from Southwestern United States-based Native Americans. And it falls just short of saying where ``Kiva'' as a name comes from. (Wiktionary says it traces to the Hopi.)


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A view of La Kiva, or at least its entrance, and the shelter used to protect it from the sun. And you can actually see things, which is a good change.


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Past La Kiva is this view, showing off the lowest base of the pyramid and the dry moat which surrounds it.

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
12:10 am
Ya won't get to it to get at it again

The next-priority roller coaster was in the kiddieland area, Planet Snoopy. Which you get to by crossing a bridge and walking under a rainbow arch. Which makes no thematics sense for Snoopy. It kind of made sense for the park's original incarnation, when this was a Hanna-Barbera-themed area. Not that, like, Yogi Bear did much with rainbows, but it makes sense as a frame for walking in to a cartoon setting. Along the way we passed a pond with a good number of geese. Also puttering along by the geese: swan boats. Not floating freely, like we're used to. They were on an under-water track. Like I thought only happened in Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Planet Snoopy has the Peanuts Character Carousel, the kiddie carousel which originally had, well, Hanna-Barbera figures. Now that you can't ride Snagglepuss's back anymore, what is there to ride? Such beloved Peanuts characters as: nobody. It's all horses and similar normal carousel figures. I don't know why they call it Peanuts Character Carousel except maybe as a spasm of misplaced marketing. On top of the Peanuts Character Carousel's house is a sculpture of three cherubs, a cute thematic resonance with the antique carousel's three angels.

Our target was the Peanuts Ghoster Coaster. Originally this ride was Scooby's Gasping Ghoster Coaster. That's the name bunny_hugger's brother knew it as when he rode it. It's got a haunted-house theme, with a spoooooky old manor house you walk through to get to the launch station, plus a comic-headstones graveyard out front and all. So you see how the original name fit together enough you wouldn't ask ``what's a 'ghoster coaster' s'poseter be?'' Besides a powerful assonance it'd be a fool to reject? Anyway, when Cedar Fair bought the park and they lost the Hanna-Barbera theming, Canada's Wonderland renamed the place Peanuts Ghoster Coaster and put up a sign showing Snoopy dressed as a vampire on top. What does Peanuts have to do with vampires? What do vampires have to do with ghosts? Look, just get on the ride, all right?

Peanuts Ghoster Coaster is a junior roller coaster, designed for two kids or for one adult and a kid in one seat. bunny_hugger and I thought, briefly, that we would be able to both fit in the same car. No, we are not even close to it. An adult and a kid could fit. We needed to ride separately but by the time we worked this out all the other rows were taken. I wanted to wait for the next car, but the ride operators didn't understand me and thought I wanted to just walk through and leave the station. I insisted on going back into the queue --- the gates hadn't closed --- and they let me, and I didn't inconvenience anyone because they were keeping people from entering the queue area until a train was ready to load. All right.

So, I waited for the next train --- they were running two trains --- and everything seemed like it should be okay. But behind me a father had two kids to ride with, and they wouldn't all fit in one car, a thing unforeseeable unless you read any of the signs warning only two people to a seat. That's all right. While I fumbled a surprisingly long time with my seat belt he concluded he could set both kids in one row and then come join me in my row. I ... had to tell him, that's just not possible, and he finally accepted this and went back behind the queue gates to ride next train. Meanwhile bunny_hugger's train had already finished its circuit and was waiting for us to go. So this was the time for a fresh hold-up. Someone came up the exit door asking about a lost hat. The operators gave him some time to look through the storage bins, but he couldn't find them, and was getting worried about this. Finally someone remembered: oh, yeah, they'd taken that hat out of the storage bins and put it in the operator's shed. So after a moment's delay for that, finally, our train could be dispatched. The Ghoster Coaster was another of the rides at Canada's Wonderland the day it opened --- they had three wooden roller coasters, which is great by any standard --- and it's a good junior coaster ride. It reminded me of Zach's Zoomer, at Michigan's Adventure, but they're not really that similar besides being small wooden roller coasters.

On the way out I was delayed even more by noticing another groundhog, and stopping to photograph this too. I tried to explain to bunny_hugger what all had happened and even I wasn't convinced it did.

We walked out of Planet Snoopy to the adjacent Kidzville, to what seem like older-but-not-yet-teen-grade rides. There we passed the performance pavilion where they had the Peanuts Gang Beach Adventure show going on. This was one of the handful of live shows running that day. It's people in Peanuts character costumes moving along to a recorded program about what a swell day they're going to have at the beach. You know, like you saw in Charles Schulz's comic strip all the time. We also passed Taxi Jam, née Top Cat's Taxi Jam, a kiddie coaster. A tiny kiddie coaster, the kind that takes your knees behind a taxi and whacks them with a cab. Should we ride it? Just for the credit of saying we had ridden it? But the line was short. But it would probably be painful. Fortunately the ride sign said no unaccompanied adults may ride it. So we could skip it, the way we both really wanted to, without feeling like we were choosing to pass up on something we could easily do.

And we stopped at a park Tim Horton's, for coffee and tea before thinking about what next to do.

Trivia: At the beginning of 1917 Daimler demanded a 50% price hike in vehicles made for the German war effort. The year before the company had paid a 35% divided to stockholders, and written off the entire book value of its production plant. Source: The First World War, Hew Strachan.

Currently Reading: DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's Pulp Comics, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson.


PS: And I continue to tromp around the Cuicuilco Pyramid.

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This tree, tagged as number 8, is waiting for its order from the cafe and hopes to be served soon.


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Gentrification. Another look at the Cuicuilco Pyramid, showing off the sloped path you can walk up, with modern construction visible in the far background.


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And some discussion of the pyramid, giving useful stuff like its size and that it was built in several stages and out of volcanic stone. We'll come back to the volcano part there.

Monday, July 1st, 2019
1:23 am
In places all around you

[ Sorry to post late, everyone. I had just assumed that we'd be home early enough in the evening that I could schedule this post, and I also assumed that I had finished writing it and uploading images and all that, and it turns out absolutely none of this was true. Really it's a little amazing that this post exists at all. ]


Why have I not renamed my mathematics blog Reading the Comics? Because I keep pretending I'll get around to writing something else on it. Will I? Dunno. Here's what I actually published on it this past week, though:

One thing that is going on steadily? Me telling people important story comic-related news, such as What's Going On In Mark Trail? Did Mark Trail leave JJ Looper for dead or what? April - June 2019 plot in review.

And now let's see if I couldn't manage to sneak up on the Cuicuilco Pyramid yet.

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So, you know, don't go walking into that grove of cactuses. This seemed to be a service road that crossed the walking trails. I didn't see any vehicles but it's not like I was there all that long.


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Leaves on a tree, caught in the light. It was January when I visited so this was winter, when the plants were as huddled down as they get for the season. So the plants weren't bare, exactly, but it was obvious I was seeing them in retrenchment.


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More leaves seen at what I trust is the hungriest part of the tree's year.


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Despite the winter conditions --- you've noticed how much of the flora was just brown --- there were still colorful plants, like this purple one.


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I'd gone the long way around the nature trail and come up on this structure, labelled E-1, part of the pyramid complex.


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An explanation of the structure, and another chance for me to see what I can do with Museum Spanish. I assume there's some reason that the Spanish panels are one above the other, while the English is one to the right of the other, but I don't know what it is. It might be as simple as the person laying them down set them in the wrong place. (I'd probably have put the English one above the other on the far right, for visual symmetry.)


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The E-1 Structure is a pyramid, roughly, and the stairs run up about ten feet or so from the ground. You can just make out a person behind it, on the left, for some sense of the scale of the whole thing. It's quite flat on top.


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A small subterranean tunnel behind E-1. It's about where the person in the last picture was standing. The air pouring out of it was quite cool; it felt like having an air-conditioner blasting me.


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Looking at the main pyramid from ``behind'', relative to where I'd started. I took this photo just up the hill from E-1, and the gentle slope and ramp from my first picture of the pyramid is roughly opposite this angle.


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The pyramid has three tiers, and while you can walk along each of them the south side of this lowest tier is a bit rough and un-level.


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A local bird in one of the trees. I have no idea what kind of bird it is but that's all right. An experienced bird-watcher will not be able to even make it out.


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Curious little cut in the walkway's edges. I don't know its purpose. It didn't seem to be angled or placed right to let rainwater drain from the walking path.


Trivia: In Athens of about the fifth century BCE the name of the seventh month of the year was Gamelion. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards. </p>

Currently Reading: Classic Album Covers of the 60s, Storm Thorgerson.

Sunday, June 30th, 2019
12:10 am
If ya don't get at it when ya get to it

Happy anniversary, my dear bunny_hugger. Thank you for making so many happy years with me, and may there be many more to come.


Wild[e] Beast[e] is in the Medieval Faire part of the park, a pretty well-done set of themed rides. Near it is the park's biggest roller coaster, the gigacoaster Leviathan. This means its peak is between 300 and 400 feet high. This was only my second gigacoaster, after Millennium Force at Cedar Point. As the name implies, it's got a great sea-monster theme to it, with a gorgeous three-dimensional sign out front. And the cars have this neat scaled pleating to suggest a sea serpent.

The ride had a bit of a wait, although nothing like what we'd expect from Millennium Force. It was a maybe twenty minute wait, which is just ... nothing. We had some worries that the first nice day after a couple rainy days would see the park packed, but no. Or at least not packed beyond what rides could take. Nope. We just had a really good day of riding conditions.

It's a fine roller coaster, and --- rather like GateKeeper at Cedar Point --- much of it runs along the front of the park, as if it guarded the gate. The theme is fantastic too. If something's wrong with the ride, it's that it feels short. Which is strange. The Roller Coaster Database claims its length at three minutes 28 second, by any standard a quite long ride. The ride video takes two minutes, though, and much of that is the lift hill. This matches my impression. We did spent time in the gift shop where they didn't quite have the sea-monster T-shirt that I'd want to ride. But they had some that were close. A lot of shirts I'd be all right with, anyway.

Our next goal was the Dragon Fyre roller coaster, so we got diverted on the way. Among the flat rides in the Medieval Faire section is Spinovator, a name that does not fit the theme in the slightest. It's a Calypso-style ride, four cars on an axis that spin around, on a large disc that itself spins around, and that's on an incline so the cars are gently rising and falling. Cedar Point has one, now re-named the Tiki Twirl. Canada's Wonderland's, though? This one had cars with the shape of barrels, or at least cut-open barrels.

And bunny_hugger recognized this, solving the mystery of an ancient recollection. She remembered being at a park, as a child. One with a Calypso, one with barrel-themed cars. She rode it, a lot, as one of the handful of park rides that she didn't find scary. (The Calypso is very like the Scrambler in its motion, something that's exciting without intimidating anyone.) She remembered the name: Friar Tuck's Buckets. She had never been able to find this ride, to pin down what park it had been at. But now? ... Spinovator is an absurd name for the ride --- not because it describes the motion badly, but because it doesn't fit the theme. Friar Tuck's Buckets? That is a name that perfectly fits the theme. The ride was there from the park's opening in 1981. And a park she had been to once, as a child, and that she got mixed up with the similar Kings Island? Definitely. We hopped into the queue for a ride on this old friend rediscovered.

Except. Spinovator got that name in 1997. Before then, according to Canada's Wonderland, it was named Quixote's Kettles. There's no mention anywhere of an earlier name. Park nostalgia sites have reminiscences of Quixote's Kettles. Nobody mentions Friar Tuck's Buckets.

So what was Friar Tuck's Buckets? And where was it? Could the name be just a conflated childhood memory, shifting Kettle to Bucket? (Consider that in the old days the buckets even had giant ``rope'' handles.) Shifting Quixote to Friar Tuck? It's a set of recollection errors, but none that seem unreasonable, especially when there are food places with names like The King's Feast, and who knows what names there might have been in the mid-80s?

There's no being certain, though. Memory always lies. Sometimes it lies too slightly to need correction. Sometimes it just confounds.

But after that diversion we got back to our real objective, the Dragon Fyre roller coaster. This is another of the park's original roller coasters, and a steel rather than wooden coaster. It was known as Dragon Fire from 1997 to 2018, but it was Dragon Fyre before that. Again with the spelling. It's a simple double-corkscrew roller coaster, the kind that was in vogue in the late 70s-early 80s. That era was when the problem of a looping roller coaster had finally been solved, so a coaster that just goes upside-down a couple times was enough to draw four-hour-long queues. It doesn't draw that anymore. It's almost a puny roller coaster, not least because Leviathan towers over it.

In front of it is another iron sculpture, this one of a bipedal dragon standing on hind legs, wings flared and arms reaching out. Fun figure. I'm glad it's there.

We looked around the Medieval Faire region some, pondering the games and why, for example, something was named Whac-a-Mole II. Or why a game was called Peach Basket on the big sign out front, but Muck Buckets on the small sign giving the price and rules. The answer, of course, is that nobody's worried about perfect consistency in these things. We also looked at the Celebration Plaza, which sounds like it should be a separate area. It's a spot in the Medieval Faire region meant for shows and other public-gathering events. There weren't any shows; we were there too early in the season. Everything had a starting date of, like, a week in the future. But the Celebration Plaza was up next to a pond, and that had a couple families of ducks, including many with ducklings. And that was lovely.

Trivia: Around 1880 the Alpena, Michigan, Echo cut off the newspaper's daily telegraph service, allegedly because ``it could not tell why the telegraph company caused it to be sent a full account of a flood in Shanghai, a massacre in Calcutta, a sailor fight in Bombay, hard frosts in Siberia, a missionary banquet in Madagascar, the price of kangaroo leather from Borneo, and a lot of nice cheerful news from the Archipelagoes --- and not a line about the Muskegon fire''. Source: The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's Online Pioneers, Tom Standage.

Currently Reading: Classic Album Covers of the 60s, Storm Thorgerson.


PS: So I was getting close to the Cuicuilco Pyramid. How would I drag this out?

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And here I chose to walk along a side trail and totally did not get lost trying to approach the pyramid, I swear it.


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Parts of the nature trail offered even better views of Six Flags Mexico's taller rides.


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And here's a wonderful gnarly tree that was great to look at and which will be the cover of my 1975 album.


Saturday, June 29th, 2019
12:10 am
You gotta tune your attitude in

It happens we nearly followed the young woman who'd needed our map-reading skills. We figured to go next to the wooden roller coasters. Canada's Wonderland has several, including three that were part of the park's original set. The Mighty Canadian Minebuster is one of those. It's in the Frontier Canada-themed park area, just next to their brand-new Yukon Striker. The Frontier Canada themed section of the park is also new, oddly. Wikipedia says a Canadian-history-themed section was always part of the park's original design, but it took from the opening in 1981 to this year for the section to be organized. I don't know what theme the area had before 2019.

There was only a short line. A slightly tricky one to get to: the entrance queue starts the same path for regular and Fast Pass line-cutters, and bunny_hugger doubted we, who refuse Fast Pass, should be going down there. The queue splits into the regular and the line-cutter paths later on. The queue looked longer because of the loading station. The station had ample room and railing queues for each of the rows on the train, but they were being kept empty. The gate attendant only let through one trainload of people through, and only when a train was coming to the station. Not sure why, but sometimes Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point runs the same way. Minebuster is a fun ride, a wooden out-and-back roller coaster. It goes off a good distance, past much of the waterpark and back again, and even gets into some remote areas. It's no long, remote wilderness coaster like The Beast at Kings Island, although our night ride on it --- after the water park closed --- had some of that feel of rambling off into the darkness.

We noticed a ride information plaque, something we'd come to realize was on every ride at the park. This gave the park and ride name, but also things like the manufactured name and the year of manufacture and recommended speed and all. The recommended speed for this was 'Gravity', something common to several but not all of the roller coasters. What struck bunny_hugger was the manufactured name of this was 'Shooting Star', and there was some mention on another plaque that it was inspired by the ride at Coney Island.

So ... Coney Island, New York? Because so far as we knew offhand there was no Shooting Star at any Coney Island amusement park. There was a Shooting Star roller coaster at Coney Island, Cincinnati. And Canada's Wonderland was built as a sister park to Kings Island, the park made by rebuilding the parts of Coney Island Cincinnati that weren't still underwater. So it would make perfect sense for Kings Island to build a roller coaster replicating the old Shooting Star. It would make some sense for Canada's Wonderland to make that, since the company building the park had the rights to the old roller coaster. But why put forth a claim about Coney Island Cincinnati, a park that any Toronto-area resident would identify as ``probably something you just made up''? I guess by saying it's from Coney Island they were putting forth a claim that was true but that any reasonable reader would think was about Coney Island, New York City, the more prestigious park. It's all a weird adventure in signage.

So as I make it out, that was the 225th roller coaster that I've logged. It's a minor milestone. We didn't take a picture of it to send to the American Coaster Enthusiasts, though.

Yeah, I'm not finishing this trip report before, like, Pinburgh.

We were ready for lunch. One interesting-looking stand offered macaroni and cheese. A more interesting-looking stand offered poutine, but the line for that was out the door. So macaroni and cheese it was, and the line for that was less bad, but still long. We made the planning error of having lunch between noon and 1 pm and by the way Pinburgh this year is the 1st through 3rd of August so you can plan when you want to start reading me again.

But I mention this mostly because we also got cups, for pop, only to discover there weren't any fountain drink machines at the macaroni-and-cheese place. The cashier --- the lone person working the lunch rush by the way --- told me we should just use the fountain drink machine at the poutine place. Which was at the end of the queue there. Like, you could get at it without waiting through the line, but you did have to open up the exit gate and hope someone would give you space to work. This probably is no trouble away from peak meal times, but it left us feeling like pushy jerks. We'd find a nice shaded spot to eat lunch, and afterwards went back to the poutine place to refill our pop. This felt illicit, but we had the all-season drinks pass, and they had told us to just go up to the machine and refill, so what could they expect us to do?

Our next ride was another wooden roller coaster, one of the park's original rides. This would be ... well, we visited it as Wilde Beast. Before this year, it was known as Wild Beast, and that's how the manufacturer's plate identified it. Before 1996, it was known as Wilde Beaste, which is what the Manufactured Name on the manufacturer's plate identified it as. Why all the renaming for a cute little ride like this? That's a fine question, and to get right to the heart of the matter, ? ??? ?? ???? ? ?? ??? ??? ? ?? ??????. It's a figure-eight roller coaster, so now you know what path it follows. Its design is based on another Coney Island Cincinnati roller coaster, Wildcat, which had closed in 1964 (before the near-extinction of Coney Island). Wikipedia says it also appeared in a Fraggle Rock episode, which is neat.

I get the idea of using ``Wild Beast'' as a name, especially in 1981 when Kings Island had just opened their impossibly popular The Beast. Mixing that with memories of Wildcat and you get Wild Beast. This would be great if anyone in Toronto could possibly have remembered a roller coaster that closed seventeen years before, in Cincinnati. Why the semi-competent old-timey fake spelling? Goodness knows. The ride is in the Medieval Fair themed area of the park --- a strongly themed area, with everything looking ready to be a Disney Fairy Tale movie --- but still. ``Wilde Beaste''? I don't know why the spelling changes. On their web site you can get a ride movie, and see the obsolete Wild Beast logo, and in the URL see the current Wilde Beast spelling.

In front of the ride is a metal sculpture, of a large wild boar carved of iron. There's long thin strips of metal to suggest a shaggy mane, even, and the result looks great. It's a good, well, wild beast. There were just enough of these kinds of sculpture in the park --- such as a dragon in front of the Dragon Fyre roller coaster --- to make it mysterious that there were any, and that there weren't more.

Another little mystery? Many of the operator stations had plaques commemorating a ride crew getting recognition for something. Crew of the Year, particularly. So why did the Wild[e] Beast[e] station have two Crew of the Year plaques, 2009 and 2011, for the Drop Tower ride? That's a fine question, and to get right to the heart of the matter, ??? ??? ????? ?? ??? ? ?????? ?? ? ??.

Also decorating the park in odd places: signs on tall poles that made us aware of things like the distance to the second loop of The Bat roller coaster, which was 34 meters. Why would we wish to know this? I don't know. I get signs saying how far one is from the entrance queue, but distance to, like, the highest point of a ride or the end of the track of something? I would like someone to get right to the heart of the matter regarding this.

Trivia: Asian elephants were apparently first tamed by about 2000 BCE. Source: Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle, Steven Vogel.

Currently Reading: Classic Album Covers of the 60s, Storm Thorgerson.


PS: More of the Cuicuilco Pyramid.

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Part of the plantlife, and volcanic rocks, with a corporate(?) high-rise in the background, past the edge of the archeological site.


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Which is more adorable: that picture of the opossum carrying her babies, or the way they spell ``cacomixtle''? Because, not gonna like, ``cacomixtle'' delights me.


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And a first view of the Cuicuilco pyramid. It's not a very tall one, but it's pretty substantial in size and, it turns out, you can just walk up the side like that as if that were a normal thing anybody could do?

Friday, June 28th, 2019
12:10 am
He's the ladies' first choice, with a laugh in his voice

Still haven't missed a date on my humor blog, as you can see by my RSS feed. Though I suspect I'd probably do better if I did cut down a little. Well, we'll see. Here's what I've published recently:

The day after Six Flags Mexico, a Saturday, bunny_hugger went back to the conference. I went around town on my own, starting by looking up whether there was anything interesting in walking distance. And there was, although it was downhill, which is great for the start of the day and less happy at the end. But here's what I found.

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As I set out walking to the Cuicuilco Pyramid the first thing I saw was this meeting of the Mustang Club, held in the parking lot of our Hotel Royal Pedregal. It seemed to me quite similar to any gathering of guys with vintage cars as I might have seen in the United States.


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So here I learned that there was a new Woody Woodpecker movie coming out, and also that anybody cared about Woody Woodpecker anymore. The movie would come out in the United States direct-to-DVD a couple months after it opened in Latin America. Also I learned what Mexican Spanish is for ``Woody Woodpecker''. Also I learned that sometimes the trash isn't cleaned fast enough after rush hour, but you could say that about any city, really.


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The cheapest form of humor is surely deliberately mis-reading foreign languages, but I have decided that the idea of a major dig being a ``profound excavation'' amuses me and I don't care. (Yes, I know I am playing on the idea that we'd somehow find ``profound'' to not mean ``deep''.) Also, it features a billboard for the Six Flags Christmas in the Park, featuring Santa on a roller coaster not actually at Six Flags Mexico.


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Small public park that I passed along the way to the pyramids. This is a large concrete sculpture that ... seems inscrutable to me. Like, there's a bunch of tiny indents, that look like ladder steps, in that part labelled 1, 2, 3, through 7. But the indentations were way too narrow for anyone to do anything with.


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Another part of the confusing park concrete sculpture: an open-face spiral staircase up to an unopenable door, and ... some kind of basin, on the right?


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What's got to be an artistic installation at this point: the basin mentioned above and then some concrete figures that look kind of like something wrapped in cloth.


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At least some of these words have got to be the name of the park.


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Remember my talk about Six Flags Mexico being so close to the hotel that, had we been confident about the directions, we could have walked there? I walked from the hotel to this spot and look at that: Superman El Último Escape and the Six Flags Mexico drop tower.


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And finally I get to the Cuicuilco Pyramid archeological site. I spent a good while trying to work out the gist, at least, of the panel on the left side of this map and feeling pretty good about my ability to work through Museum Spanish, and then discovered the panel on the right. Which confirmed that, hey, I didn't do too badly after all.


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Entrance plaza to the Cuicuilco Pyramid archeological site. The building there had a park attendant, as well as a book to sign in. The brick landscape here, with open centers and grass growing in, was very like many parking lots I'd seen in Singapore, part of what made the city feel very much like revisiting that part of my life.


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Map of the archaeological site. Fun thing to ponder: site number two. What's a word like 'Kiva' doing somewhere they speak Spanish?


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The very start of that green-line trail, seen from just past the point number 1 on the map in the above picture.


Trivia: The Indian Standards Institution in 1959 issued its Specification for Black Lead Pencils, giving grades for writing pencils, tests for uniformity, strength, wear, friction, and blackness. The kinds of wood to be used were not specified. Source: The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: Classic Album Covers of the 60s, Storm Thorgerson.

PS: Reading the Comics, June 21, 2019: I Have An Anecdote Edition that gets into computational complexity.

Thursday, June 27th, 2019
12:10 am
But they're to it and at it and at it and to it

We went into Canada without any real currency. Maybe C$3.50 in a toonie and some quarters picked up in loose change. We figured at some point we'd stop at an ATM and get some of the local scrip. But on our drive in, we never did; we used credit cards for gas and the restaurant and all that. Ultimately we'd never get any Canadian bills, and the only currency exchange we'd do was when I got four quarters for a US dollar out of a bilingual change machine. But this is relevant in today's story only because the satellite navigator's path from our hotel to Canada's Wonderland took us onto a toll road. I worried about how we'd pay at the booth, and never came to a toll both. We just passed signs warning that non-Ontario plates would be billed by mail. So I guess they're photographing license plates and sometime I'll get a notice from the province? Anyway, really feel good about the surveillance state thinking of me like that.

Canada's Wonderland was built in the 70s (it opened 1981) by Taft, the company that also built Kings Island and Kings Dominion. It used roughly similar design philosophies for each park, to the point that bunny_hugger's memories of her first trips to Kings Island and to Canada's Wonderland merge together. The park is now part of the Cedar Fair chain, so our passes for Cedar Point and Michigan's Adventure would get us admission. The entrance was just off the toll road, like, immediately across the street from the off-ramp. That was disconcerting. The front gate, of a style like the current Michigan's Adventure, faces a major road that itself is opposite some strip malls. So, like, if we had wanted we could have gotten our hands stamped, gone out to Subway for a lunch at civilian prices, and gone back in. We didn't, but the option was there.

Like Kings Island, the front of the park has a wide reflecting pool with International-themed gift shops around it. And here a park employee came up and took photographs of the two of us which, ultimately, we would buy as souvenirs. In front of the reflecting pool is the Canadian flag rendered in flowers. Behind the pool, rather than a one-third-scale Eiffel Tower, is a mountain. Wonder Mountain is this massive concrete construction, with two layers of waterfalls leading to the reflecting pool. Apparently in the old days you could walk around it as a viewing tower; that's long-since gone. Several roller coasters go through the mountain now, though, or above it, and it dominates the skyline and any impressions of the park.

So perhaps unwisely, we started our riding day with the Wonder Mountain rides. I say unwisely because it turns out --- we hadn't checked --- that Canada's Wonderland has seventeen roller coasters. This is as many as Cedar Point has. We normally take, like, the three days of Halloweekends to ride all of those at Cedar Point. What chance would we have in one day at Canada's Wonderland? We had thoughts that maybe we should have planned a two-day visit. But we resolved, you know, we'll do what we can and enjoy that. But after the Wonder Mountain rides we would go by priority, the things we'd feel worst about missing. There were some roller coasters --- the wild mouse, the one that's a clone of Michigan's Adventure's Thunderhawk, the boomerang shuttle coaster --- that we wouldn't feel bad about missing. And it would turn out there was one kiddie coaster that doesn't allow unaccompanied adults. Still, it's a lot of riding to hope for in a twelve-hour park day.

Thunder Run is a kids' coaster, with a train that has a real, like, steam-locomotive-shaped train out front. It goes around a short spiral twice. Its second time through the station the ride operator says ``Choo choooooo'' into the microphone. It's fun and it left me with strange operational thoughts. Like, someone was the first person to think of choo-choooooing. Who was that, and what was their inspiration? When did this become standard? Are operators obliged to do it, or do they just do it because it's kind of fun and gets a good crowd reaction and why would you not do it then? ... Anyway, the train goes outside and inside the mountain. Inside it spirals around a nice giant dragon head that bunny_hugger missed on our first ride. I tipped her off to where it was and where to find it so she didn't miss the next trip.

Thunder Run was one of the five original roller coasters at Canada's Wonderland; it was there the day the park opened. Curiously, it wasn't built into Wonder Mountain when it first opened. It was moved into the mountain in 1986. I don't know where it originally was. There's a ride video on Canada's Wonderland's web site, although good luck finding the dragon there. (Its eyes do glow, which might help.)

Our next stop was the bathroom built into Wonder Mountain, which it turns out was there from the original construction. That's fun. I like a good thematically interesting bathroom.

But our next ride was Wonder Mountain's Guardian. And it's a roller coaster ... I ... guess? It kind of challenges definitions. It's built into the mountain, and in fun ways. There's ``fossilized'' dinosaurs in the ``cavern'' walls, for example. Also actual fossilized footprints of a groundhog who visited the platform when its concrete was still wet. But what's challenging about this is that it's partly an interactive dark ride: you have laser guns that you point at targets to make stuff, much of it on giant video screens, happen. It feels much like a roller coaster, since you start out by ascending a lift hill and you go on a short track around and through the mountain some. But then you get into the interactive part where ... honestly, it just feels immoral. You get dropped into some kind of dragon workshop and everyone stops their work to fight off you, the intruders. And yeah, they're shooting arrows and throwing spears at you, but, I mean, it's their goldsmithing you're interrupting. I don't think it's just that bunny_hugger and I are furries and inclined to take the dragon's side in a quarrel like this. I think we've just reached the point in life we can't enjoy shooting somebody without a moral context.

It's a hybrid ride. There's a bit of roller coaster, including a darned surprising bit of free fall. There's a bit of interactive dark ride. I guess overall we feel like it's enough roller coaster to count on our tallies, but, mm. It still feels funny calling it a roller coaster somehow.

We stopped to take a good serious look at our maps. And in the garden planter nearby noticed something: a groundhog. We're always fans of wildlife at amusement parks, and this was a good-size and not-particularly-shy groundhog poking around. It gave bunny_hugger some nice long looks, and she watched, not reaching for her camera lest she scare the creature off. That was a great moment, though.

After the groundhog went back to its business a young woman came up and asked our help getting to the water park. (We had a park map open, which is part of why we looked ready to be asked something.) We did our best to guide her, but admitted we hadn't been there before. Our advice was that the water park was beside this particular roller coaster, and that would be a landmark. We will never know whether we led this poor person astray. But we gave our sincerest best advice.

Trivia: The General Diet of the Hanseatic League met, three times out of four, in Lübeck, though other cities would host it. Source: Gold and Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages, Jean Favier. (Meetings were not regular. Lübeck was a very central town.)

Currently Reading: Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America, Michael A McDonnell. (It probably won't surprise you to learn but a lot of the last week and a half I haven't actually been reading anything, rather than taking my time through a book that's only like 350 pages. But, like, half that week we were on the trip I'm describing, and then there was post-trip expeditions, and a day out at pinball, and other stuff that took me away from my normal reading times.)


PS: Here they are! My final pictures of Six Flags Mexico!


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Flash photograph of the gazebo up front with the nativity scene inside.


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A non-flash photograph: near the entrance there was enough ambient light you could see both the trees and the lights around the trees. Notice how the crowd's just pouring out of the park.


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A last look at the entrance to Six Flags Mexico. Fun park. Would be nice to see it again sometime.


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