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

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Thursday, November 15th, 2018
12:10 am
Oh what fun Great Pumpkin brings when Halloween is here

One weird little side note happened on driving back from Cedar Point. That was at the Speedway in Maumee where we always stop for a break and to refuel. bunny_hugger wanted to get a hot chocolate out of their machine, and it wasn't working, and someone on staff noticed her frustrations. Something had clogged up the dispenser and apparently it'd been like that a while. They said this now explained why there was an abandoned cup of hot water earlier. Anyway in compensation they made a hot chocolate (with mini marshmallows) from behind the counter, their higher-grade machine, because Speedway now has a deli counter and two grades of coffee/hot-chocolate makers. All right.

Monday we spent most of the day at bunny_hugger's parents. The only real work to do was picking up our rabbit. I didn't think we had time to play Mice and Mystics, unfortunately, since we were in the midst of the last chapter in this kit. But that was because we were taking time to carve jack-o-lanterns. Once again we hadn't had time to go to a pumpkin farm and pick ones from the ground. But I got a couple good-sized ones for us from the Horrock's farmer's market. bunny_hugger carved this neat, witchy one with a neat pupil design that squirrels ate away right away. I had a moment of inspiration and carved a pumpkin with a bat silhouette design as a mouth.

But our excellent carvings would go barely appreciated, except by ourselves. We had a terrible trick-or-treating turnout, with just three kids showing up in two groups. We've had turnouts that lousy before --- one year just a single group of kids --- but those had excuses, like bitter cold or rainy weather. This? It was cool, but clear. And bunny_hugger had listed our house on a local Facebook group as yes, giving away candy, including full-size candy bars for the first half-dozen kids. It's disheartening.

After trick-or-treating, such as it was, we dressed up and went to our local hipster bar for their Halloween party. I realized very late in the game that I couldn't think where my scarecrow accessories were (bunny_hugger knew and I would have had I asked her), so I just put on my red panda kigurumi. And answered a number of people who weren't sure whether I was dressed as raccoon or red panda. Always happy to answer, and to give the pro-tip for telling: red pandas have dark bellies. They're one of the rare mammals who don't go in for Thayer's Law. bunny_hugger brought out her basilisk costume. She'd used parts of her dragon costume, and old bat and bird costumes, plus a new chicken mask to make this. It had been a slightly confusing hit at the Fear and Trembling pinball tournament the previous week.

We hung out with several of our pinball league people, regretting only that we'd have to go home (work the next morning) before the costume contest. MWS was there, and in a free raffle won a set of prizes that can only be described as ``had a ten dollar budget at the thrift store''. It included a videotape of Bozo the Clown cartoons, a comic plate, and this enormous terra cotta dolphin that, near the end of the night, he accidentally knocked off a chair and broke. bunny_hugger, respecting her family's heritage as a gluing and epoxy master, volunteered to fix it. And she would, after a couple false starts and learning that, for example, you need to use a lot of Krazy Glue to glue terra cotta back together. We were able to return it to him this past Saturday, at a nice well-populated pinball event where everybody could wonder at and be a little bit too impressed by someone's old souvenir.

Trivia: George Westinghouse instituted a half-day off on Saturdays for his workers in June 1871, following his first trip to England. His wsa the first Pittsburgh-area firm to do so. Source: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, Jill Jonnes.

Currently Reading: Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre, Jack Zipes.


PS: Finally, the end of Saturday night, Pinburgh 2017.

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Aftermath. With the D Division finals done at last --- only the A Division took longer --- normal people can go around and play the tables which vexed us so.


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The stage, and the tables for A Division, all cleaned up after the end of its games.


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Pinburgh nestling down for the night and looking all cute and innocent and all that.


Wednesday, November 14th, 2018
12:10 am
And sing pumpkin carols tonight

Speaking of Rougarou, subject of our hand stamp from when we left the park for a few moments: we hadn't ridden it yet this visit or, possibly, this year. It's a low-priority coaster for us. It hadn't been comfortable when it was the stand-up coaster Mantis. The conversion to a seated coaster should have worked great, but the over-the-shoulder restraints are too likely to bang our heads, boxing our ears. But the ride was right there, on our path, and with no line to speak of. Why not ride it? And there was no line: we walked up, getting to the platform --- to the front row --- just as the gates were opening. It's impossible to get more literally a walk-on than this.

All this would be great except that it did start to drizzle again. Not hard enough to make the ride one that blasts skin off our faces. But hard enough. The over-the-shoulder restraints did their best to box my ears, but I think the hat helped soften the blows. And it didn't fall too far forward, building my confidence that I could wear this on an intense roller coaster and just enjoy the ride rather than worry I might lose it.

We were walking towards the back of the park again, following the Frontier Trail when in an unforeseeable development it started raining again. Lightly, but still. We were past most of the shops on that trail, which had closed, but noticed something we just had never paid attention to before. It's a grist mill, complete with waterwheel --- and, above the building, waterfall --- and a lot of cogs and gears and a roped-off upper floor. Also bags of old Ohio and Michigan grist mills. And an aged poster with a ``Cut-A-Way [sic] Drawing'' that helped us roughly figure out what we were looking at inside this. bunny_hugger has felt the loss of some of the secret, secluded areas of the park as they've renovated and rebuilt places recently. This could be a new little secret quiet spot. bunny_hugger tried to take a long-exposure picture of the dark upstairs. I tried to take a flash photograph while, it turned out, her shutter was open. So that should be an exciting result in plays of light.

With the rain still not just leaving already we darted back to the base of the Frontier Trail. The Red Garter Saloon there has music shows and we would take in the next-to-the-last of the day, and season. It was dubbed Eternal Jamnation, playing late-70s/80s rock. I spent nearly the whole show worrying that the barrel of my camera had gotten fogged up and it would never take a clear picture again. But that seems to have been an effect of the dark room and bright, colored stage lights: pictures after the show when house lights were on were just fine. Still, I did drop my camera once over the weekend and that's got me worried.

One hour left in the season! So we walked in the direction of Gemini and had to pause a moment because ... yeah, there was a Dippin' Dots ice cream stand that was still open, even though it was like 40 degrees out and 7 pm on the 28th of October. All right.

The one important roller coaster we didn't have the chance to get to yet was Gemini. In past years late-closing-day rides on Gemini have been slightly hilarious affairs, with the train getting stopped in the braking area because they don't have enough people to dispatch the other. We've several times had what are technically walk-downs, going from the braking area to the launch station. But we wouldn't this time. Gemini was closed, as it had been --- far as we could tell --- all weekend. Probably not a malfunction, just a closure for the weather. And we'd been on it earlier in the season. It's just a shame to miss a chance on it.

But that did give us a compelling answer for what to make our last ride of the season. Steel Vengeance was right there, and with a promised wait time of ... well, 3/4 of an hour. But that's the shortest wait time their sign can show. It can't have been twenty minutes. We were out quickly enough we were able to make another go-round, increasing the margin by which we've ridden this at night compared to the day. I think we're at four night rides to two days rides. Something like that. We were there late: the ride operators were warning the next load of people that they were about to enjoy their last ride on Steel Vengeance for the season. I'm not sure if we had the time to rush back to the entrance and get one further ride in ourselves, but we weren't quite up to three back-to-back rides on that particularly intense roller coaster.

And so that closed the season. We enjoyed the short walk back through the rain-painted pavement, and bade our farewells to Cedar Point for the year. We hope to get there early next season. Perhaps even do a May trip. We can hope to.

Trivia: The Plasma Analyzer instrument (among many others) on Pioneer 11 was switched off for its encounter with Jupiter in 1974. It finally restarted in late 1977. Source: Mission to Saturn: Cassini and the Hugyens Probe, David M Harland.

Currently Reading: Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre, Jack Zipes.

PS: My 2018 Mathematics A To Z: Oriented Graph, some of the fun of graph theory without the pictures that actually make graph theory fun. Hrm.


PPS: And let's close out the arcade, Saturday night, 2017.

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A Williams Beat The Clock, a title that actually has only been used twice, once for this game with its variety-of-sports theme. It's from 1963.


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bunny_hugger getting ready to cream me on Jive Time, a game we've mostly played in simulated version on the Wii, wherein she regularly creams me.


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Laser lights provide evidence that there's some musical act or something going on the other side of the room.


Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
12:10 am
What fun it is to trick-or-treat

The Midway Buffet is close to where the Halloweekend parade either starts or ends, depending on whether it goes from front of the park to the back or the other way. And it's enclosed, and heated, making it really good on cold rainy days. Last year it had coffee; this year, no. And no creamer or sugar fixtures suggesting that this maybe wasn't because they were running out of stuff at the end of the season? But it was certainly a ``this is what's left'' buffet. For example, the centerpiece of one of the islands was the suggestion to try making loaded fries. They had fries and tater tots, and two kinds of melted cheese, and some chili sauce, and good luck to you. The other tables had even less fully matched entrees, like hot dogs with buns but no relish or sauerkraut or mustard. Could put some melted cheese on, though, if you crossed the serving tables. Anyway, we had maybe too much to eat --- enough that we didn't make one more trip to Cupzilla --- and watched the rain dwindling as people continued to leave the park.

The parade was to start at 4 pm, and we didn't know which direction it would come from. We picked a spot that the parade was scheduled to pass, and waited for signs of something happening like distant noise or security guards clearing a path. But they never came. We started wondering if the parade had been cancelled for weather. Which, since the rain had stopped by 4 pm, made this even sadder. Bad enough to rain metaphorically on our parade. But to stop raining once the work of cancelling the parade was done? That's just being mean.

We figured to walk back toward the hotel exit, though, to stow the stuff we'd bought. And since we were following the parade path, to give us a last chance to see the parade if it was just starting late or something. No luck.

They still stamp your wrist when you go out to put something in your car. Even if you have season passes, like us. Or maybe we didn't need to, but we've never dared ask if we can't just use our passes. Anyway we had green-ink Rougarou stamps on our wrists for the rest of the day. Also, at the car, bunny_hugger discovered she did have a second, dry, pair of gloves so she had a rather more comfortable time of the next five hours in the park.

So we walked back to the front of the park, by the Buffet and the parade route and all. And found that Cedar Downs, the racing carousel, was up and running. So we diverted to that, naturally, and bunny_hugger began the project of riding each one of those horses. This promised to be challenging since all the horses are one of four styles and they're really distinguished only by the patterns on their saddles. These patterns range from things that look like heraldic patterns --- checkboards and clovers on a green background and such --- to stuff that suggests they were painting and it was 1969 and why not do some irregular wavy line thing. We thought we had a breakthrough when we noticed bunny_hugger's horse had a little 'Row 8' figure imprinted on the left harness. But it turns out these numbers are meaningless. We found row numbers for a couple of horses, but nothing in anything like order. Not all on the outermost row, either. We can use the Row 8 as a reference point, but only if we start out from near it, which we'd know from following the heraldic patterns anyway.

Then on to advancing the Midway Carousel and the Kiddie Kingdom carousel ride projects. These are easier to follow the rows for since the mounts have different armor and, for the Kiddie Kingdom carousel, often different species. Like, that's the one with rabbits and ostriches and bears and all.

Also in that area of the park is GateKeeper, one of their modern smooth and really sweet rides. Not too intense, either; it just feels like flying. Between its really good capacity and the lightness of the remaining crowd we barely had to wait to get on the ride. ... Until we did. Because bunny_hugger's big winter coat got bunched up behind her back. And she couldn't get up and sit back down easily because the seats are raised to high off the ground. I have to jump a bit up to fit, and I'm tall. She's short; she needs help, or time, and the ride operators weren't willing to offer either right then. We had to get off the ride and go back around (they let us cut right back in) and bunny_hugger was ready to curl up and die from this. After the slight inflicted by Mine Ride, and the joy of Millennium Force's restraints being fine, this was a betrayal from a friend.

Not a betrayer: Wicked Twister. It's another roller coaster in that corner of the park, and one that never has a wait because it's a very short ride. It's basically twin spires, and uses a linear induction motor to move the cars from stopped up to speed so you get two climbs and falls on either tower of an upright U-shaped track. I do like the rapid acceleration from nothing --- it's the kind of motion that's the fun part of Top Thrill Dragster --- although that the ride finishes with no-less-fast braking, half of it backwards, keeps bunny_hugger from wanting to ride it more than once a year.

Also no betrayer: Troika. We don't get to this much, and for no really good reason. It's a Scrambler-type ride, cars rotating around an axle that itself rotates. Its novelty is that the larger rotations go up at an angle from the ground, so that you're rising and falling through the ride. It's great fun. It's no mystery why Scramblers stay popular: they're a fun ride, and don't look so intimidating that little kids or mom will refuse to ride it. It's a bit of a mystery why Troikas aren't more popular. They're one of the two logical next steps up in intensity from a Scrambler, and this is one. So I don't know why there aren't more Troikas. Maybe some inexplicable twist of amusement-ride corporate history.

Trivia: Among matters needing correction after the United Kingdom's calendar reform of 1752 was that herring fishers were obliged to set out to sea and return from the fishing season eleven days earlier than intended. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: Lum and Abner: Rural America and the Golden Age of Radio, Randal L Hall. It's mostly scripts from the earliest years of the show, and written out in enough eye-dialect that it's better read slowly. Although the introductory matter, talking particularly about where writer/actors Chester Lauck and Norris Goff came from included this eyebrow-raiser: ``In 1937 Polk County [ Arkansas ]'s only black resident died.'' (This in part of discussing why black people never appeared on the show; Lauck and Goff came from the Ouachita Highlands area, and set their show in the area, and there were extremely few black people there. And, mm. Given how the typical Lum and Abner character was guileless to the point of acting dumb, and that Lauck and Goff did basically all the voices until the show converted from 15-minute daily serial to weekly 30-minute show ... I mean, it saved the show from having a major Racefail, but because of actual historical ethnic cleansing. It's not right to call that lucky.)


PS: Getting into the evening of Pinburgh 2017's Saturday here.

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The Toontown Rewritten folks had packed up and cleared everything out, but this poster art still left me thinking it looked good, at least.


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bunny_hugger trying her hand in the Intergalactic Pinball Tournament. It was the side tournament. I didn't play; I'd felt like I had played as much good pinball as I possibly could.


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bunny_hugger doing something that I assume is a good thing on the arcade game Satan Shol Low. I don't know it.


Monday, November 12th, 2018
12:10 am
What makes him so good?

I didn't quite have something on my mathematics blog every day this past week. Here's how close I came:

And story strip news! What's Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Who Was That Incompetent Mugger? August - November 2018 plot recap, right here for you.

So! I'd won second place! What now, now that the competition at Pinburgh was over?

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Somebody looks barely capable of processing having (a) a perfect round and (b) second place championship, D Division, at Pinburgh. (This is as good as I have ever looked, besides my wedding picture.)


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Meanwhile among normal people. Couldn't tell if these were people cosplaying or just hanging out.


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Meanwhile among normal people. Couldn't tell if these were people cosplaying or just hanging out. The extremely long hair suggests, but there's so much I don't know.


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Meanwhile among normal people. Couldn't tell if these were people cosplaying or just hanging out. What do you make of a Nathan's Hot Dog hat?


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My hardware. There's nothing on the back of the Perfect Round medal. The back of the D Division medal says everything it must.


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We went back to our hotel room to recuperate a little, and then saw --- and mostly heard --- this wedding(?) party, even though it was more than a block away and several storeys below ours, so that my picture looks like the graphics on the Sims has really got detailed.


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bunny_hugger warning the wedding(?) party they better not be making a racket like that when we need to get to bed.


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And then way, way, way down in the plaza just before the hotel was this person trying to manage two dogs.


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Abandoned plush doll in the street as we walked back to Pinburgh.


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Meanwhile among normal people. Couldn't tell if these were people cosplaying or just hanging out. But hey, nice colored tails, that's always great.


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bunny_hugger enjoying a bit of free play on Black Knight, which she didn't yet understand but would come to appreciate the charms of.


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The bouncey attractions, all worn out for the evening already.


Trivia: In the summer of 1965 four third-year mathematics students at the University of Waterloo developed WATFOR, Waterloo Fortran, a compiler that let the school's System/360 model 75 run around six thousand jobs per hour. It reduced the cost of running a student's program from an estimated ten dollars to about ten cents. Source: A History of Modern Computing, Paul E Ceruzzi. (Ceruzzi isn't clear to me whether that's ten dollars American or Canadian.)

Currently Reading: Lum and Abner: Rural America and the Golden Age of Radio, Randal L Hall.

Sunday, November 11th, 2018
12:10 am
Making spirits bright

I woke up first, as usual, Sunday. As bunny_hugger got the day organized I packed up what I could and moved it to our car. We had a couple doughnuts from Jolly Donuts, left from the day before. bunny_hugger had the good thought to go to the Starbucks in the hotel before it closed for the season. Which they turned out to be doing for 11:30, a half-hour after checkout. Last year they'd closed at 11 and she had been sour about where to get coffee in the park on a Sunday morning. (That would be the one Starbucks inside the park, overwhelmed by people with the same idea.) We got our room cleaned out. And, having learned from our experience last year, we left the car as near the hotel exit, rather than the beach exit, as possible, so we'd have as short a walk as possible when the day ended.

Which we were emotionally prepared to make sometime before the park actually closed. It was continuing to threaten rain and we had agreed that it would be ridiculous to spend another day in pouring, freezing rain just for one last ride on Wicked Twister or something. We didn't end up leaving early, since the rain never quite got that bad. But we were prepared for it. For example, right after we entered, we noticed that Top Thrill Dragster was, against its reputation, running. And it had a not-bad half-hour queue. But then it started to drizzle and we figured, you know, we don't like the ride enough to get accelerated to 120 mph in the rain. If it even kept running in the rain; the ride, which goes up 400 feet, is very sensitive to any kind of wind. So we left. I think correctly; it was raining a bit harder about when we would have got to the launch station.

We decided to use the early hours to check out shops. They've carried retro T-shirts for some vanished rides, for example Disaster Transport. But they had run out of the size bunny_hugger wanted, and they were still out of that. We also thought to get a retro Fascination t-shirt for MWS, who loved that game when it was at the park. But they were out of his size, also. Last day of the season, you know?

After another round of Kiddie Kingdom carousel rides we went to the Frontier Trail, which has candle shops and gemstones and woodworking and all that. We got to an interesting but also inescapable conversation with the woodworker, who also volunteers at the Merry-Go-Round Museum. bunny_hugger was intersted in a carousel horse they had, in the working area. It looked extremely well-worn, and also like it had maybe been dropped from a spaceship and reassembled by people who hadn't ever seen a horse before. All cracks and nails and metal straps holding it together. We wanted to know more of it, but all the woodworker knew was what bunny_hugger was able to spot. It seems to be a C J Parker horse. Probably carved around 1910. And used just forever. You can see not just where metal straps were put in place to hold the thing together, but that the metal straps were then worn down by subsequent riders. Also a lot of paint, and a lot of paint scraped off, possibly by someone who realized they were in way over their head trying to strip and re-finish this. Great talking with him about it, and about carousels and carousel-carving. He allowed that he might not be as good as the great carvers of the Golden Age, but that he was the person you turn to for a preservation and restoration job as difficult as this.

He also volunteered a great answer for the Ship of Theseus Problem. Said that the rule of thumb in museums is that if you can't keep about 80% of the original material in a thing then your restoration is destroying the thing's value as an artefact. So, it's nice to have some numbers on that. I look forward to using this the next time I'm pulled into an argument on whether the Star Trek transporters are murder.

Cedar Point has added jack-o-lantern decorations for Halloween for several years now. They've mostly been plastic. This year we saw ones that were real carved pumpkins. Several of them were set up outside the woodworking shop, and were in advanced states of decay from age and squirrel attacks. A woman sitting on the covered porch by the woodworker's pointed to these sad, crumpling pumpkins and said, ``They look like I feel''. But she also said she remembered, even this chilly, rainy day at Cedar Point was a day at Cedar Point, and so much better than a day at work or something would be. Good attitude.

We visited the shops we always like to. Particularly this china shop run by an elderly German woman. It's a lot of ceramics with mottos like 'If you want the best seat in the house, move the dog' or 'Mom is a short word for miracle', that kind of thing. Also some fine art, ornaments with great detailed illustrations of wildlife and such. It turns out the woman paints those herself too. We had just assumed these more finely-detailed elaborate things were brought in from an outside supplier. bunny_hugger bought something, as she always does, partly from liking it, partly from not wanting this spot, which feels like it belongs in an amusement park of the 30s full of independent concessionaires and making attempts at looking respectable and artistic, to vanish unnoticed.

We spent a good while in the candle shop, admiring the figures but not quite getting any. Similarly the glassworks shop, which reminded us there was a glass-blowing demonstration starting in minutes. A nice thought but we figured the best use of our time was, since we'd finished souvenir-shopping, to stow everything, then get some lunch, and get in position for the Halloweekends Parade.

Trivia: Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle together laid a wreath at Paris's Tomb of the Unkown Soldier on Armistice Day 1944. Source: 1945: The War That Never Ended, Gregor Dallas.

Currently Reading: Lum and Abner: Rural America and the Golden Age of Radio, Randal L Hall.

PS: Reading the Comics, November 3, 2018: Arithmetic Is Hard Edition, another four comics to read.


PPS: I didn't get any good photos while actually playing, for obvious reason. Let's zip ahead to the conclusion.

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So this was the final score of the tiebreaker that determined whether I would finish D Division in first or second place. I was player 1. Before you aww, you should know that while it doesn't show, the ``100,000'' light should have been lit: my score was 152,950. Unfortunately, my opponent had also soft-rolled it; his score was 163,610, and almost all of that after his fourth ball (it's a five-ball game); he just plunged the last and collected my congratulations.


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The Genesis on the left there? That was the moment of my greatest triumph during the matches, as I was able to use a little bit of rules knowledge to set up a 6x playfield multipler and multiball that, incredibly, none of my competitors knew about or were able to use. So the penultimate round I was able to use this to leap from middling to holy cow he's unbeatable in an instant of play; in the last round, I was not quite as successful, but still, put myself to where I could be in a tiebreaker for the championship.


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And yes, the backglass for Genesis is from the era when Gottleib Premier was going for hilarious or ugly photographs but, here, look at the detail on this guy. That is seriously committing to whatever the heck they thought they were trying to do here.


Saturday, November 10th, 2018
12:10 am
Halloween is here

By the time we were back to our hotel, and feeling warmed up, and had got some necessary work done, it was already twilight. We thought about eating in one of the handful of enclosed restaurants, but also thought we should maybe let the crowd thin, possibly in the drizzling rain. But then indoor restaurants would be crowded too. We took a chance, trying the Raptor roller coaster, and waited through a line that occasionally got rained on, and that took just long enough to worry us that we'd miss one of the indoor shows.

We do like getting to shows, not just because they're indoors and dry when the weather gets bad. The one we went to, and got to within a minute of its starting, was the Midnight Syndicate. They do spooky-sounding music, along with these strange, eerie performances. Last year, for example, the show set up that there had been supernatural events happening and the Sandusky Paranormal Researchers Society was investigating. So while they played music people in Dopey TV Paranormal Reality Show outfits prowled around and unleashed some ghosts or demons or stuff. This year they acknowledge that (and past performances) as some strange things of past years. The performance this year included video of a guy working out the meaning of occult symbols, also shown on the actual performing stage, and getting obsessed with and haunted by ghosts of Cedar Point amusement-park-goers of ages ago. And racing to the theater we were in, ultimately pounding the door and racing inside while ghosts pursued him. It's a fun performance with a nice blend of music and fourth-wall-breaking tricks.

Since we were up front we went to the carousels next. bunny_hugger thought to make it a point to try to ride every mount on the Michigan's Adventure carousel, a modern fiberglass construct like ones at many parks. But it was natural to extend that to Cedar Point's three carousels. We made more visits to both the Midway and the Kiddie Kingdom Carousel than we might ordinarily make thanks to this project. And I guess I'm part of it too, since I normally sit beside her.

The project seemed stalled by the upsetting sight of the third carousel. That's Cedar Downs, the racing carousel. It actually goes fast, and each file of horses can move forward or back relative to each other. But Cedar Downs wasn't running. There was no ride operator, the lights were off, the ride looked abandoned. bunny_hugger feared the ride was closed for the season, since if it were something so bad they weren't going to fix it Saturday, why would they fix it for the final, eight-hour, day of the season? I didn't think that likely, but I never think that sort of thing likely, even though it would make perfect sense if exactly that happened.

Now it was late enough we figured to eat. We went to Melt, an indoor restaurant near one of the kiddie playland areas. It used to be the Joe Cool Cafe, and before that a macaroni-and-cheese place, and so on. Apparently Melt is a regional chain of fat-sandwich-based diners. Our server warned us that the macaroni-and-cheese sandwiches we were ordering were quite large. We did not understand what she meant. She meant that they sliced out a cubic yard of baked macaroni and cheese, breaded the outside, deep-fried that, slathered it with any kind of extra cheese you wanted, and then put it between two slices of bread, and then brought it to your table, using a Ford F-350 to manage final delivery. So this was maybe too much for us to eat, even given how much walking around we'd be doing. But it was awfully filling.

Anyway the real appeal of Melt wasn't the food. Cedar Point, it turns out, has saved many of the signs and posters and bits of decoration from past incarnations. Some of it is in the Town Hall Museum. Much of it --- especially, much of it from the 80s and 90s, bunny_hugger's formative years --- is here. Before about 2000, Cedar Point's ``you must be this tall'' signs included custom-made characters warning you in word balloons and holding out a hand or a sword or a tail or something to say how tall you must be. Several of them are set out as wall decorations. More are shown in picture form, as concept art got printed out and colored and framed. There's more, too. Old promotional art, like art for the Magnum roller coaster showing the ride far above the sky in a pose reminiscent of the backglass of the Comet pinball game. Obsolete signs from shops or attractions that have changed names. A complete park map from sometime around 1965, including the interesting item that Blue Streak (then their only roller coaster) was named just ``Roller Coaster'' on the map. We could have spent hours there just looking at the graphic design evolution of Cedar Point.

Also on a TV there I noticed a campaign ad. It promised that if the Americans took back the House of Representatives, the Democratic Party would obstruct Trump's agenda, allow asylum-seekers, have the government take over health care, raise taxes, launch investigations of the future Disgraced Former President, and maybe even start impeachment proceedings. And the crazy thing is the Republican Party paid for this! Anyway, in my local Congressional district the Vichies lost --- to my great surprise --- so I'm looking forward to calling my new Representative to ask how she's doing living up to those promises.

When we were finished, and full, it was already 10 pm. But the drizzle had mostly stopped, and it had been cold enough that people were leaving the park. This made for good riding chances, with short lines. We tried to go to Gemini, but found that roller coaster closed. We got back to Corkscrew, our old friend. And we decided to brave Millennium Force. We'd feared the seat belts, given the experience at the Mine Ride. And having eaten an estimated 22,874 pounds of fried macaroni and cheese two hours earlier. But it was all right: sitting up carefully, and with jackets unzipped, we were able to fit our seat belts on and snap the restraints into place. Millennium Force is a fast and exciting ride and it's great at night, giving a fantastic view of the whole point lit up. And we could get a few quick looks at where the dinosaur animatronics had been, but no clear idea of what was there, or what was going in there.

Also remarkably, Millennium Force had a short enough line we could get one further ride in. We dashed over to Iron Dragon, waiting for the front-seat ride on what turned out to be the last right of the night. Iron Dragon's always a good night ride and there is that extra little thrill in being on the final ride for the day.

On the way back we stopped in the Sweet Shop, which hadn't quite closed. We got some fudge for bunny_hugger's father, consolation for my screwing up our getting any when we passed through Mackinaw City in August. Also in the adjacent Snoopy Place store, bunny_hugger mentioned how in the old days when Cedar Point had the Berenstain Bears license there was the Bears' Treehouse as a performance spot inside that building. And we realized, oh, that's got to be it still there. It's relabelled the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, because kids don't know what a puppy farm is, and it's got T-shirts and sweatpants and stuff like everything else in the shop has. But that's got to be just barely touched from Berenstain Bears days.

We got back to the hotel room, and it seemed quiet enough. And it did stay quiet enough through the morning, glad to say. We could have as well-rested a final day of the amusement park season as possible.

Trivia: After the discovery of Pluto it was found to have been photographed, but unnoticed, by the Mount Wilson observatory in 1919 and, faintly, by the Lowell Observatory in 1915. Source: In Search Of Planet Vulcan: The Ghost in Newton's Clockwork Universe, Richard Baum, William Sheehan.

Currently Reading: Lum and Abner: Rural America and the Golden Age of Radio, Randal L Hall. The book is copyright 2007, but mine is the first stamp on the check-out page and the book seems un-used. (The university library sticks to stamping.) I can't find the acquisition date but I'm really hoping it's only been in the library for a couple months. Eleven years is a heck of a wait for something to be taken out.

PS: My 2018 Mathematics A To Z: Nearest Neighbor Model, which comes as close to my actual area of expertise than anything I've ever written, if I'm not mistaken.


PPS: Drawing closer to the big moment when I got to play and faced three rounds of the highest-stake pinball I've experienced.

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More repairs! For once it's not Cirqus Voltaire that needs the help. Note the metal bar, set on a hinge on the main cabinet, that fits into a circular hole on the underside of the raised playfield. Yeah, it's held up just like the hood of your car.


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Meanwhile, looking over at the A Division finals, which can't possibly have got organized yet if people are just camping on stage with a lot of things that could spill on their carpet.


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Finals back under way. Note that Jungle Queen being played in the center. It'll come back to me.


Friday, November 9th, 2018
12:10 am
I don't know

The past week on my humor blog:

And that time at Pinburgh 2017 when we'd be in the playoffs and searching for a place in finals:

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bunny_hugger watching a competitor get off to a fair start on Stars.


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bunny_hugger getting to the serious work of putting up her own score on Stars.


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Sometimes, you have to do a slap-save. (I'm not sure that is actually what she's doing here, but it seems plausible.)


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bunny_hugger talking with some of the Michigan Pinball community between her turns at play.


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Our tournament official whose name I never did catch, working on keeping all his paperwork straight. Scores were uploaded to Pinburgh's official web site as they were entered so you could follow action quite closely.


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Emergency repairs. I was very nervous about Cirqus Voltaire going down, possibly to the point of needing replacement, because I not only knew the rules of the game well but I'd played that exact table and I knew something valuable about its tilt: it was incredibly prone to tilting. I figured the game was my ace in the hole. But the game got back in order (although it needed several more quick repairs), and yes, two of my competitors did tilt at one point or other. So yes, the game was one of my two aces.


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Outsiders would never guess how rampant plagiarism is in the world of competitive pinball. (This was not actually the final scores, but wouldn't it be great if it were?)


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D Division wouldn't get any trophies. We'd be up for medals. First through fourth place, here. ... Yes, there was an Avatar pinball game.


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More emergency repairs. I don't think that playfield glass can be from Stars --- notice the coin box isn't open --- but then it would have to be off Genesis, which I don't think needed any repairs during the tournament. I might be mistaken.


Trivia: During the Space Race the third-floor mission control room at the Manned Spacecraft Center was used for all launches except three Saturn I-B tests, one Saturn V test, and Apollo 7. Those five exceptions used the otherwise identical second-floor control room. Source: Go, Flight! The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965 - 1992, Rick Houston, Milt Heflin.

Currently Reading: Popeye, Editor Mike Higgs.

Thursday, November 8th, 2018
12:10 am
Laughing all the way

Saturday at Cedar Point we started by leaving Cedar Point. We always visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum in downtown Sandusky. Since everywhere to eat in downtown Sandusky closes at about 11:15 am in 1984, we didn't go downtown to eat. We went to Route 250, and the start of the strip mall district, to eat at Jolly Donuts. It's a real proper little diner that, we overheard a waitress saying, was actually a railroad-car diner. They'd found a picture of it being wheeled into place fifty years ago. Which is neat but also seems late in the game for a railroad-car diner. Maybe it was relocated? Besides lunch we also got a couple of the very few doughnuts they had left (they were near closing), to be a snack for the next morning.

And then we drove away from the Merry-Go-Round Museum, to the nearest Meijer's. We figured we could get needed motion sickness pills from them (we could) and also a cheap scarf bunny_hugger might use for the weekend (we could not). So we went to the Sandusky Mall, where they had a JC Penny's and, ultimately, a scarf that seemed all right. Also more expensive than bunny_hugger thought she could get at CVS, which we knew was near the Merry-Go-Round Museum. I proposed we get this and, if CVS had a cheaper one, fine, return this scarf at the Penny's near us. CVS had scarves, although not so much cheaper than this. Also motion sickness pills, so, time-wise, we'd have been better off skipping Meijer's and Penny's altogether. Well, we also picked up some canned chilled coffee and pop, to take back to the hotel room. This revealed to the CVS cashier and some friends there that they make Diet Coke with weird flavors now like Blood Orange and Death Cherry and some other stuff I can't get quite right, so, glad to bring them that joy.

Ah, but the Merry-Go-Round Museum. That was ... surprisingly busy! There was a pack of maybe two dozen people there. We weren't clear on exactly what was going on. But there was some kind of special event going on in the evening. As we wandered around they were setting up tables with two layers of tablecloth. And the woman in the gift shop, who somehow remembered(?!!) that we were from Michigan asked if we were there for the Spartan baseball event at the sports complex Cedar Point owns. While we understood each of the individual words in that sentence their combination was beyond us, and we explained we were just there for Halloweekends and our annual visit to the museum.

The size of the crowd brought benefits. We could overhear the docent explaining the museum exhibits and appreciate the thrill of people learning cool stuff about carousels, and new-learning energy is always great. Also this was the first time we've ridden the carousel they have --- nearly all animals that they've carved --- when it was nearly full. It's nice to have a carousel to yourself, but to have people everywhere? That's also wonderful.

For the nearly-full ride the band organ played the Alfred Hitchcock Presents theme. The docent asked if we recognized it, and sure, but what we didn't recognize is that it was actually a classical piece, the Funeral March of a Marionette. The band organ there is set up, for October, to play Halloween-ish themes and so we have rarely heard it playing normal carousel music. We did stick around for another ride and wondered what it would play that time around. Some of the choices are good music for this, like the theme to The Addams Family. Some are a bit of a stretch but makes sense like Chopin's Funeral March. (It might not be Chopin's. But it's a funeral march at least as good.) What we did hear? The theme to Batman '66. The Halloween connection is vague. It's also kind of a dumb band organ tune. It gets musically interesting in the stuff that isn't the na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na part everyone remembers. You know that thing where sitcom music gets padded out with a middle section so that it can maybe get airplay. I'm not saying the added section is the best part, since na-na-na-na is so infectious and gleeful. But it's better band-organ music. And they did do some clever arrangement to try to get the feel of the song given the constraints of how a band organ plays.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum has had some reorganization since we visited it last. Some things were off exhibit. New things were moved in, though, so the museum doesn't look any less full. They've currently got exhibits organized much more strongly by theme, so that, for example, there's a whole stand of nothing but deers. I'm not sure whether that's a better organization or whether it's just different. They've also moved to putting the explanatory panels on free-standing plastic mounts, rather than painting them onto the walls or display shelves, so that it should be easier to reorganize exhibits as fashions change.

What does seem diminished is the gift shop. No carousel music CDs this time around, for example. And no carousel calendar for 2019, although nobody has printed one of those in years. They had older calendars though, including one from (I think) 2008 sitting unopened. They did have some new Christmas ornaments, tempting bunny_hugger successfully. We put in our traditional 18 entries to try to win the horse they're raffling off this year. (They're a dollar each, 6 for $5, so bunny_hugger buys ten dollars' worth and I buy five dollars'.) And we learned why last year's raffle horse was still at the museum: one of the carvers won it, and decided to leave it at the museum where it could be shown. I'm not saying we'd do that, were we to win. But it would solve the problem of transporting it from Sandusky, at least.

This took us until pretty near 4 pm, when they closed and when they were setting up for the night's event. So we headed out, stopped at CVS as mentioned above, and then went back to the Hotel Breakers to figure out our night at Cedar Point and just how warm we would need to dress.

Trivia: In its first year the Empire State Building earned $1.05 million in rents. The observation decks earned $1 million. Source: Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, Daniel Okrent.

Currently Reading: Popeye, Editor Mike Higgs.

PS: Reading the Comics, October 30, 2018: I Spot An Error Edition in a comics post with a bunch of new tags.


PPS: Discovering in finer detail what would wait for us in Pinburgh 2017 finals.

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bunny_hugger with the other 23 competitors in the second round of playoffs, listening to her instructions and group assignment and all.


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Play! There were six groups playing, on the three banks of machines. The first four games on the left are the ones I'd spend three rounds playing, by my choice.


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Meanwhile I wasn't needed anywhere, so I looked at other stuff around. Here's a pretty fun-looking backglass with improbably-dressed women and after a bit of a lopsided match. But this era of game, especially from a European game maker, could have wildly unpredictable scores.


Wednesday, November 7th, 2018
12:10 am
I don't know

I'm going to include another photo dump here; I just don't think I have the time to write up much of Saturday at Halloweekends right now. So here, instead, please enjoy discovering what would wait for us in Pinburgh 2017 finals.

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bunny_hugger in that odd little hammock of time between when we needed to be there and when anybody needed us to be there.


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Finals banks for the D Division, which would so dominate our day.


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Genesis and Stars were two of the games in the set that I would keep going back to, because I somewhat knew them and going to that bank really worked out. Avatar, on the right, started off another quartet of games --- you can see the 'Set 30' on it --- that I never played in competition.

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Cirqus Voltaire and Mars Trek, the rest of the 'Set 13' assembled for Division D finals, and that I would play so much of that day. If I'm not mistaken these were not actually the original Set 13; games were drawn from various of the qualifying-play sets and they never bothered taking the signs off the games because, really, why bother? You need to identify them somehow. Each set tried to have one modern, one electromechanical, one early-solid-state, and one late-solid-state game.


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bunny_hugger calling her shot.


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Competitor starteld to learn that yes, the art on Cyclopes really is that ugly.


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Instructions! The tournament director (the fellow top center, reading off a card of some kind) explains the rules to all the competitors, even those like bunny_hugger and I who had first-round byes.


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At the start of the tournament everyone was to get thirty seconds to test each of the games. This is a chance to learn about things like the skill shot, how sensitive the tilt is, how energetic the kickouts are, how bouncey the flippers are, all potentially valuable information if you're playing. The tournament director tried to set up a conveyor belt where everyone got their time, a whistle blew, and everyone moved one game over. People kept missing their cues. The director commiserated to me --- still waiting to get on a table in the first place --- that his nice conveyor belt was already broken.


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MWS did not have a first-round bye, in the C Division games, and he was finding Jack-Bot not playing the way he had hoped.


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Instructions! Players being told what the rules are for tournament play, and gathering everyone who didn't have a first-round bye together.


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Since we had some time we went to the Westin hotel, to get coffee and bagels. And then we saw this great little whiteboard at Katie's Kandy.


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Back to the convention center. bunny_hugger waiting to learn her fate.


Trivia: Terry Toons made 52 Heckle and Jeckle cartoons from 1946 to 1961. Source: Terry Toons: The Story of Paul Terry and his Classic Cartoon Factory, W Gerald Hamonic. He adds a PhD after his name which is a little ... odd ... considering.

Currently Reading: Popeye, Editor Mike Higgs. Most fascinating stuff at least early on is strips from before Popeye joined the comic, or from after Segar died but before the bundle of Sagendorf strips from the late-60s-to-early-80s that the reun endlessly now.

PS: My 2018 Mathematics A To Z: Manifold, one of those things you need but don't realize is even there.

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
12:10 am
To each house we go

We walked towards the front of the park, through the Frontier Trail which in past years had been a steampunk-themed walk-through haunted performance area. No more. Apparently steampunk has passed. They had a Haunted Barnyard Or Something theme, with Frontier Trail people dressed as monsters and I'll admit we were so focused on ourselves I don't think I even noticed the thing the first time through.

But we found the most important thing, the Cupzilla grease truck with the Korean barbecue. It's got really really good tofu-and-noodles and spices. We brought it over to one of the Coke Freestyle machine stations and answered people who wanted to know where we got that since it smelled so great. With food and drink we went into the Colosseum, to eat in comfort and in sight of ... the ... pinball ... machines ...

Which weren't there. The whole back row of games, mostly 1970s tables that had been at the park forever, was gone. Nothing but empty space there. Even the two Hercules tables, giant-sized slow pinballs set for the amusement park trade, were gone. The tables had been in increasingly bad shape --- the last time we played them, two months ago, in our visit with MWS only the Pioneer and the Hercules tables even worked --- and some had vanished, but this was something else. They all disappeared, all at once. A bunch of the mechanical attractions, strength-testers and love-provers and the like, were also gone.

We took photographs. The next morning posted pictures of what we termed the Cedar Point Pinball Massacre, until we heard about the law-abiding gun owner in Pittsburgh who decided to stop abiding and instead share his Republican ideals with his victims. I deleted my tweet about that quickly. bunny_hugger edited her Facebook post, although after a casual friend nudged her about her wording.

Still, the pinball machines. We thought we might know what happened to at least one of them: the guy who runs the pinball league at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum had mentioned about two months ago he bought an Abracadabra. One of the games Cedar Point lost since about two months ago was a severely worn out Abracadabra. We asked. No; that was coincidence. Cedar Point apparently did auction off the games, though, and we have no idea to whom. But at least this suggests the games went to people who appreciate pinball and that's something.

We did circle the colosseum, to see if any pinball games survived or if they moved or if any new games were put in. No, but we did verify their vintage, full-size Skee-Ball alleys were still in. We also went to play Whac-a-Mole, with some of the ancient machines still working, although they didn't give out tickets.

Now it was after 10 pm. We had missed the Kiddie Kingdom Carousel. We did venture out to Blue Streak, which was running and had very little line and I think this is the ride where an operator recognized bunny_hugger's Stitch kigurumi but as a hat. Next to the lone wooden roller coaster is ValRavn, the dive coaster, and we noticed that one reported a line of about 15 minutes. It was maybe a bit longer than that, but still, pretty good short wait time. We had a back-row seat. It's not the best view --- the point of a dive coaster is being held at the top of a vertical drop, facing down, and the back seat is more nearly horizontal --- but it might be a better ride. You sit waiting, in suspense, at the top of the ride and have the chance to appreciate the scenery before suddenly plummeting.

Now we went to the back of the park, where the line for Steel Vengeance was on the sign as 3/4-hour. But that's the smallest increment their sign can show. The park seemed fairly empty ... we figured this was our best shot at it. The park employees at the entrance asked if we had cell phones on us and we answered, honestly, no. We had cameras, but those weren't phones. But you're not allowed to have a phone in the ride queue. This to make sure people don't take phones out during the ride, which is intense and full of abrupt changes of direction. They don't pat you down or anything, but they do ask you up front and have people walking the queues to make sure any phones taken out are put in lockers. The same would probably apply to our actual cameras. Which is a shame, as the wait area has a lot of signs talking about the characters and background story they've created for this area of Frontier Town. Steel Vengeance is a roller coaster that comes with backstory, and it'd be nice to get down just what the backstory is. But this is how Steel Vengeance came to be one of the rare roller coasters we've ridden more at night than during the day.

So last winter bunny_hugger's mother knitted me a roller-coaster-riding hat. It's a regular cap, yes, but it has long straps that can be tied under the chin. bunny_hugger's had one for a year-plus now and it's great: all the enjoyment of riding a roller coaster in the fall, without your ears being chewed up by the wind. I did not forget to bring my hat. What I did, though, was feel horrifically unsure that my feeble knot was going to actually keep it on my head. This was nerve-wracking enough for Blue Streak, which is a relatively gentle ride of hills and valleys. ValRavn made me nervous and I kept putting a hand on my hat. For Steel Vengeance I was terrified the hat would blow off, so I tied it tight enough I couldn't get it off later. And trying to hold the hat on encouraged it to slip forward, covering my eyes and if anything making it more likely to slip off. (It didn't.) But the ride photo for this, and for all my roller coaster rides through about Saturday, would be this hilarious thing of me, but with a red knitted cap of a face and what of my mouth you can make out looking nervous instead.

To our wonder we finished Steel Vengeance --- a great ride, certainly the most intense of the steel roller coasters there --- before the park's close at midnight. So we went to Maverick, which always has an enormous line during the normal season. The wait for this roller coaster was only about twenty minutes, time enough for bunny_hugger to notice a bit of theming left over from White Water Landing, the log flume ride torn down to put up this roller coaster. Also for the park to officially close. We waited for a front-seat ride, since it seemed likely to be our only ride on it this season. We got lucky, too: they declared they were only running three more train cycles when we were in position to ride the second of those. So we got nearly the last ride of the night, in the front seat. Great fun even if I did shove my hat into my face again. Some of the lighting in the ride's tunnel was working now, too, which makes the experience more fun.

With the park closed we walked back to the hotel. Not too fast; no reason to hurry, since we weren't that cold, and the puddles on the sidewalk meant that everywhere we looked was this beautiful complicated play of light and color and dark. It was a really good end for the night.

Trivia: After the elections of 1863 the number of anti-administration representatives in the Confederate House of Representatives rose from 26 to 41 out of 106 districts; in the Senate, from 11 to 26, out of 26 members. Source: The Confederate Nation, 1861 - 1865, Emory M Thomas.

Currently Reading: Popeye, Editor Mike Higgs. Some kind of review of Popeye's place in the pop culture, published around 1989, when he had left it. Some overlap with the Bud Sagendorf Popeye: The First 50 Years book so important to me and bunny_hugger, but not entirely. Also some weird casual bits where the writer didn't care enough about something he was sneering at to get its points right. Bad form.

PS: How October 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog, the easiest yet most tedious post to write all month!


PPS: Now to look at the third day of Pinburgh 2017, when playoffs happened.

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Why we play: the trophy for first place, A Division, for Pinburgh 2017. Also around it are some of the medals given out to those who finish top four in the lesser divisions.


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People checking in for the playoffs, Day Three. Not many yet, but we were there early because we were in the playoffs for Pinburgh how could we dare miss that?


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bunny_hugger getting in a little practice on the pool-and-casual-sexist-joke themed Breakshot. Our pinball bestie MWS is beside her there.

Monday, November 5th, 2018
12:10 am
How do you think he does it?

Happy birthday, dear bunny_hugger. Thank you for spending the past year with me.


I should have written a little more on my mathematics blog this past week. I just lacked the time. If you skipped seeing it on your RSS reader, here's the content, nicely assembled for you:

And to the story strips. What's Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Is The Rat Nearing Death Yet? August - November 2018 in plot recap form here.

And now the rest of my pictures from the second day of Pinburgh 2017. This would be mostly lunch break, two more rounds, and then when I finally emerged from that cavernous room which, between one thing and another, I didn't leave (apart from the attached bathrooms) for over twelve hours straight.

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bunny_hugger in the lonely quiet period during the lunch break. My group ran late, because we were behind that Lyman F Sheats group that ran long and had a malfunction and all that. So I think this was when I found bunny_hugger, who was eager to tell me about her perfect round.


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Waiting on a replacement game. After lunch break there were still two rounds to go and one of mine had to be diverted to the row of games along the back of the venue.


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Bally's 1968 game Minizag, which does not have Christiaan Marche artwork but still, wow, look at that style.


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Playfield for Minizag. It has 'Zipper Flippers', which, in response to certain targets, will zip together so that in theory it's impossible to lose the ball down the center. In practice, if you're playing nervous, you can lose the ball between the zipped-together flippers, and then you feel terrible. Note the playfield lights spelling out G-R-O-O-V-Y.


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Stilt-walker clowning around with some of the people wearing Toontown Rewritten props. The woman in the red shirt had a cute cartoon-animal nose that I didn't get a good picture of.


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Nighttime. After a long day playing and, for me, never leaving the one convention hall except to go to the attached bathrooms, the balcony outside seemed impossibly huge.


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Closing announcements! Mostly regarding playoffs and tiebreakers to see who would go to finals the next day and in what seeding. bunny_hugger finished top 16 in the D Division, and so would get a first-round bye.


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bunny_hugger showing off the medal she earned for her perfect round.


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bunny_hugger returning to the scene of her triumph, where she beat all comers on a game its designers thought of as a companion to Gorgar despite being different in like every way.


Trivia: The `cellar' at which the Gunpowder Plotters stockpiled their powder was at ground level, with convenient access to the Thames. Source: Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World, Jack Kelly.

Currently Reading: Popeye, Volume 1. Editors Justin Eisinger, Alonzo Simon.

Sunday, November 4th, 2018
12:10 am
In costumes bright and gay

We got to the Hotel Breakers later than we originally wanted, of course. We didn't have to wait through a long line checking in, though, something bunny_hugger had feared. We did have to wait, since apparently everyone went on break just then, but we were the entirety of the line most of that wait. Also we had a third-floor room just off the center rotunda, which seemed to promise a nice quiet room since there's no fourth or fifth floor except it turns out at the center rotunda. It turned out we were in a wing just far enough off the rotunda that we didn't have anyone running around above us. But we didn't know that right away. And bunny_hugger worried about it, and my assurance that we could change rooms if it were noisy Friday night didn't reassure her since last year's room wasn't really loud until Saturday night.

We settled into the room a while, though, and I think bunny_hugger had to deal with some annoying student problem. So we ended up getting into the park after 7 pm, not just after early admission but also after regular admission. The good side: it was non-rainy enough that bunny_hugger felt comfortable wearing her Stitch kigurumi inside. The park doesn't allow people to wear elaborate costumes --- I think stuff that conceals the face or that might fly off on rides is the issue --- but kigurumis are the sort of casual thing we've seen in the park the last few years, and she finally was courageous enough to try. I failed to bring my red panda kigurumi, but definitely should next year. (Unless they do finally make an Angel kigurumi in my enormous size.) As a bonus, the fleece outfit with its pull-up head was warm enough around the neck that she didn't miss her scarf. The down side is that underneath a jacket it was hard to tell what she was dressed as. One ride operator noticed, but thought it was just a Stitch hat.

There was already too long a line for Steel Vengeance and for Maverick for us to ride. But we were close to the Mine Ride --- sad to say not dressed up as Mystic Mine Ride in repeat of last year's Halloween stunt --- and that was a good start. Also I was surprised it was running, given that Halloweekends Fridays don't usually have all the rides running. Possibly it was open because some ride like Top Thrill Dragster, more sensitive to the wind, was closed.

The trouble came when they pulled the restraint bar down. Each of the three seats in a Mine Ride car shares a restraint bar mechanism, so it has to fit everyone or no one. And bunny_hugger, between her long underwear, Stitch outfit, and (buttoned) jacket, came precariously close to not fitting. We think the restraint went down farther than usual this time on this ride, but still. This caused her to fear what would happen on rides with tighter constraints, like Millennium Force, the seat and restraint for which don't fit female body shapes well to start with.

And I'm sorry to admit I lost my temper. The day had been a series of things bunny_hugger worried about --- her back, the mail, our late start, the Halloween party we were missing, my galoshes, a scare about whether she'd left some medicines behind, the weather, her scarf, the check-in queue, her students, and now the ride constraints --- and me insisting that it would all be okay. And I have a terrible manner for answering this kind of anxiety. I tend to be the sort of person, faced with a problem, who'll say, ``it's all right, it's not like anybody's arm fell off.'' And then bunny_hugger will hold up somebody's loose arm and say, yes, yes it is, here it is. And then I answer, ``Fine, but it's not like his head got chopped off.'' And then she holds up his detached head and says, yes, it's right here. And then I answer ``All right, but nothing worse is going to happen to him now'' and then somehow this isn't consoling. And then we have several more go-rounds until everybody is angry. I didn't have anything left, and I should have had, and I'm sorry. Which left us in the Town Hall Museum, beside the gryphon statue and this great scale model of Steel Vengeance that promised to be working someday, feeling at our worst.

Also while there I realized there was a great picture to be taken, with the gryphon in foreground and the carousel horses on display in deep background, but the line of sight was never clear of people walking around to take it. bunny_hugger suggested we come back on a less-crowded day, and we forgot to the rest of the weekend. We also forgot to come back and visit the carousel horses.

But then this was also the worst the weekend got. After that nadir, after the wringing-out and talk about it, we could go back out and have a better time.

Trivia: The captive balloon for the 1893 World's Fair was named the Chicago; it held about 100,000 cubic feet of hydrogen. Source: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson.

Currently Reading: Popeye, Volume 1. Editors Justin Eisinger, Alonzo Simon.

PS: Reading the Comics, October 26, 2018: I Am Overloaded Edition as there were a lot of comic to write about last week.


PPS: What was so exciting for me on the second day of Pinburgh 2017.

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It was all worth it. Ready Aim Fire! got to be working very well, by my count. My score on it was twice anyone else's and with that ... you can see ... I had a perfect round, 12 wins. This launched me to the top of the D Division and I never really sank from there.


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Final scores on the final game of my perfect round. Since I got last pick of place this game, I don't know how I ended up Player 3. Typically people pick the last position available so I would expect to have been Player 1, but it looks like one of the other players had a preference for going first. Which happens; I have an idiosyncratic preference for second, given the chance. Most modern games let the operator turn off extra balls; older games, though, they can't, or it's hard, and the tournament just deals.


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And the Ready Aim Fire! layout, which I got to like so. It's an early solid state game, but plays very like an electromechanical: hit sets of the same-colored target to collect bigger prizes. I had that rhythm where I could just keep sending the ball to the nice safe targets up on the top there and what a nice arrangement that was.


Saturday, November 3rd, 2018
12:10 am
Dashing through the streets

We were always going to go to Cedar Point for a weekend visit sometime during October. The lone question was when. I suggested we go closing weekend, the last weekend before Halloween. I thought I had good reasons. There's the neat scene of the park closing up for the winter, for one. It's the closest to Halloween we can get. The weekend before bunny_hugger would be working on Fear and Trembling preparation. The weekend before that would be Columbus Day, which we've learned is an impossibly busy weekend. Before that and you're barely into fall. So it seemed like closing weekend was a good choice.

The first evidence that we picked wrong was how we got invited to a Halloween party for the Saturday we'd be away. bunny_hugger used to get invited to Halloween parties, before I started weighing her down, but it's been years. We'd have definitely gone, though; the host is one of our pinball friends we don't see enough. The second evidence that we picked wrong was that the Special When Lit tournament date got set for the Sunday we'd be away. This is our major westside-of-Michigan points mine. bunny_hugger could really have used the points from a strong finish --- or an appearance at all --- at this tournament and now that just adds some more pressure to the November and December Special When Lit events. She has less fun when she's playing under pressure, and then I have less fun during the long drive home.

Still, it's a weekend at Cedar Point and that can't be bad at all. So we got up bright and nearly on time and then while bunny_hugger was in the traction machine that helps her neck, her back unleashed on her a spasm of agony and pain as if it were seeking revenge for a lifetime of insults. Bad enough she needed me to help her up and out of traction. Worse, she remembered that we hadn't held the mail, so we had to hurriedly put a hold on it. And worry about the Friday mail, which would sit in our mailbox --- always leak-ready --- until Sunday, when we were expecting rain. We got rain, although it didn't destroy the mail as we expected. Also, mysteriously, we got a card in the mail on Monday even though the mail was still officially held then. Mail holds have to be at least three days long. And we did get a bundle of mail, with the hold notice, on Tuesday. We can think of explanations for this, but they're all weird nevertheless.

All right. So we were on the road to bunny_hugger's parents, to drop off our rabbit Sunshine, late. We were off at all, though, and going to Cedar Point. And it might be a cold weekend, but we were dressed for that. And it might rain. The forecast was, indeed, that it would rain a lot. And it did rain a lot. But at least bunny_hugger had her water-resistant shoes and I ... left my boots at home. Something we realized well past when it was too late to go back. She suggested I might buy new boots. Possible, if we stopped somewhere that had non-leather boots big enough for my feet. Or what about getting galoshes somewhere? ``Where would we get galoshes,'' I asked, ``1955?'' The answer turned out to be her parents' closet, where her father had nice big clunky rubber overshoes he had forgotten about and that were buried under enough dust that you could mistake them for being tan. They fit over my own huge canvas shoes fine. And between those and the heavy-duty socks my feet stayed warm and, even more amazingly, dry. We returned them in good order, washed clean enough to shine.

So after a hearty and big lunch we were off. Late, yes; we'd probably not get to take advantage of the early admission to the park which staying at the hotel and being season pass holders would give us. But we were on our way and ready and bunny_hugger lost her scarf somewhere. I tried to argue that she would have had to have left it at her parents', but I admitted I did not specifically remember seeing it on their coat rack. The time we had saved by bunny_hugger thinking to ask her father about shoe coverings we would lose to finding some neck covering.

So it is an overstatement to say the trip was cursed. But it did start out feeling pretty snakebitten.

Trivia: The 1889 platinum-iridium meter rod, used for the definition of the metric system length, was 102 centimeters long, deliberately. The meter was the distance between two notches cut in it. Its error margin was one twelve-thousandth of an inch. Source: Measuring America: How the United States was Shaped by the Greatest Land Sale in History, Andro Linklater.

Currently Reading: Popeye, Volume 1. Editors Justin Eisinger, Alonzo Simon. IDW-published collection of the recent comic book that I somehow never got around to reading before.

PS: My 2018 Mathematics A To Z: Limit, one of the big concepts and one I did entirely without formulas! Trust me, this is an accomplishment.


PPS: Pinburgh, Day Two, and round three. There's a reason I can pin this down so precisely. It's such a cool reason, too.

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Lyman F Sheats, one of the great pinball programmers, on a Captain Fantastic. He and other A-Division players (one of whom I knew) were playing on the same bank of tables I was, second day, third round, although in a different and much higher-level group.


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LFS --- you'll see his initials as the defaults on high score tables, for new or newly-reset games --- showing off some stylish pinball stance.


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Emergency repairs under way on the early-solid-state game Ready Aim Fire!. Lyman Sheats's group had to go to a backup game rather than play it. The technician had the whole length of my quartet's game of Diner to get it working.


Friday, November 2nd, 2018
12:10 am
Such a supple wrist

This week my humor blog had so flipping much about the comic strip Henry in it. If you want to read it anyway, I would be glad to have you try. Thanks.

I have fewer pictures of the second day of Pinburgh 2017. But it was a more momentous day. Here's some highlights.

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Gathering! Pinball players ascending to the second day of Pinburgh 2017 at ReplayFX. There were people not yet exhausted enough to stop walking up the stairs, but that would change.


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Fresh instructions! We had a slightly better spot the second day to hear the inspirational exhortation: ``[ something ] ''. This was the day for division play, with me and bunny_hugger down amongst the D Division.


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Danger signs! Lighting these were ways to draw the attention of techs or tournament officials, in case something needed repair or a ruling.


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Cosplayer taking a break to play some video game among the free-play area.


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bunny_hugger racking up a high score on Mouse Trap. I couldn't play it worth anything myself.


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bunny_hugger racking up a high score on Bubbles. I couldn't play it worth anything myself.


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Don't know who these people filming were or what they were filming for, but FunHouse is a great game to convince people that pinball is fun and accessible.


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``Hey! Where'd everybody go?'' ``They've gone to Jason's Furniture, Route 35 in Neptune City, where everybody goes!''


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Furry hanging around even though it's like three weeks after Anthrocon wrapped up.


Trivia: The Vanguard TV-2 test vehicle, though complete in external form, had (by design) only one working engine, the first stage. The second and third stages were inert dummies. The test article was still regarded as ``incompletely developed'' when it was accepted at Cape Canaveral. Source: Project Vanguard: The NASA History, Constance McLaughlin Green, Milton Lomask. NASA SP-4202.

Currently Reading: Vic and Sade on the Radio: A Cultural History of Paul Rhymer's Daytime Series, 1932 - 1944, John T Hetherington.

PS: Reading the Comics, October 25, 2018: How To Save Your Tangled Earbuds Edition, or how knot theory will make your life better!

Thursday, November 1st, 2018
12:10 am
The scene was rocking, all were digging the sounds

The fourth of the quarterly pinball tournaments bunny_hugger runs is Fear and Trembling. It's also the one that feels most jinxed. The first one was held the day after the 2016 Presidential Election and it felt even more dismal than that suggests. bunny_hugger and I were two-thirds of the attendees. The one in 2017 was slightly better attended, with ten people there. Six of them people who'd never been to a pinball event here before, five of them never anything before or since. The augurs were bad for this one too. It would have to be a Wednesday night. Halloween was already an event at the hipster bar. We don't dare do something the day after the election again. So the 24th was the only choice. Which was also a key night for the One Well pinball league, in Kalamazoo. A lot of people who always go to bunny_hugger's tournaments couldn't make it, because it would screw up their seasons in the Kalamazoo league. Even the day before the tournament bunny_hugger had few people committed to attending.

bunny_hugger built the trophies for this, as she always does. Her medium was stuff from Michael's, repurposed, particularly a couple of nicely gothic Halloween-themed candlestick holders for first and second place. Third and fourth place were made with Halloween miniatures, so the quartet had this nice theme of bats and ravens. This was all finished later and under more stressful conditions than bunny_hugger would have liked. Adding to the stress and chaos: she wanted to adapt her dragon costume of last year into a basilisk costume. This required finding a chicken head --- which succeeded after three costume shop visits --- and repainting the dragon-foot shoe coverings she'd repainted for several Halloween costumes in past years. All, again, way closer to deadline than would really be comfortable.

The format was pin-golf. In this you play pinball not to get a high score, but to complete some goal in as few balls as possible. bunny_hugger shakes up the format by making players choose one of two alternatives before starting play. Thus the Fear and Trembling title, which refers to the terrors of having to make a choice and is why in an ideal world it would run in the time between Halloween and Election Day. Picking games for the pin-golf course wasn't too hard: the venue has a half-dozen that are obviously Halloween-ready, like Elvira's Scared Stiff, The Addams Family, and Ghostbusters. Others that can be if you squint, like Tales of the Arabian Nights (genies and whatnot) or Indiana Jones (adventure and whatnot). Picking out objectives was hard, and bunny_hugger and MWS and I spent a night the weekend before the tournament trying out possibilities and making sure they were all doable. Some of these games and objectives we had used last year. But we made them simpler. This followed experience last year where people had a tough time finishing objectives. And advice on TiltForums to the effect of there's no such thing as too easy a pingolf objective. Somehow, in competition, even the simple objectives are hard objectives.

So how did the actual tournament go?

In turnout, pretty good. 13 people showed up, a nice Halloween-ish number. We even got two people who'd dropped out of the Lansing pinball league to put in their entries. And the objectives were, indeed, not too hard for most people. MWS finished the nine holes with 18 strokes, averaging an objective in two balls. Me? Not nearly so well. Despite my having come up with the majority of these objectives, and done all of them the previous weekend, I just stank up the place while actually playing. I think I managed to accomplish only four of the nine at all. The moral victory was going out the final game on a hole-in-one. This was on Monster Bash, where one objective was just to start the Mosh Pit Multiball. (Last year the objective had been to start that Multiball, and then hit the add-a-ball twice, to make it a four-ball multiball.) But, wow, it was hard for me. I'm not sure but I think I tied for something like tenth place. Bit of a fall from last year, when I had a rare first-place finish.

I had meant to go in costume, wearing my scare-crow outfit, and then realized the day of the tournament that I didn't know where that was. So I fell back on the red panda kigurumi, which is safe enough and got a lot of people asking me to say whether I was dressed as red panda or raccoon. I'm always happy to answer questions like that, and offered the protip: red pandas have dark bellies. Most animals, including raccoons and coatis, have light bellies. bunny_hugger's basilisk costume confused people more, possibly because the chicken head drew so much attention that the bat wings and dragon tail didn't read right away. She did include a printout of information about the basilisk legends and had it ready for people to read, remarkably like me and coatis for my first ten years in furry fandom. (People stopped thinking coatis were a species I made up sometime around when Brandy and Mister Whiskers went on the air. Coatis turned up in a few episodes of that show.)

And near the end of the night the bar staff asked if we could clear pinball tournament stuff off the one big table they have, so that the Dungeons and Dragons group could set up. The Dungeons and Dragons players were, bunny_hugger figured, the one group who would absolutely recognize a basilisk costume on sight. And maybe they did but they saw her long before talking with her so the delight of recognition that we trust was there passed before we got to see it.

Trivia: The new names of the French Revolutionary Calendar's months were made public in a decree dated 24 November 1793. The calendar had come into operation in October. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Vic and Sade on the Radio: A Cultural History of Paul Rhymer's Daytime Series, 1932 - 1944, John T Hetherington.

PS: I'm Looking For The Next Set Of Topics For My Fall 2018 Mathematics A-To-Z, so a fresh set of requests.


PPS: And closing out the first day of Pinburgh 2017 here.

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Sonic pinball was a Spanish company, and its games often have this sort of weird, great 70s-novel style to them. If this thing were on a yellow-spine DAW science fiction paperback, would you pause before buying it? No.


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And sometimes you get the occasional backglass art you still can't believe you saw, even when you have evidence of it. Also this game is from the era when there was no clothing material known to humanity that would conceal a woman's nipples, or even just fail to highlight them some more.


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End of the day. People hanging around waiting to see what playoffs might be necessary and what divisions they'll be put in tomorrow. I am impressed with the facial expression of the woman interacting with the stilt-walker.


Wednesday, October 31st, 2018
12:10 am
Don't squish me or death wish me, that's all I have to say

October was kind of a low-event month for us. On purpose; we've been feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities lately. We did stuff, of course. Pinball events most numerously. Finals at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum league brought us to our perpetual favorite-ever state of affairs, me against bunny_hugger to see who continues in the winner's bracket and who goes to the losers'. Or the monthly Special When Lit tournament, formerly Blind Squirrel League, where both bunny_hugger and I were in contention for the top four, and this after she had played a tougher group than I did in the semi-finals. But we did a lot of staying home from things, something that got easier when I caught a slight but lingering cold that had absolutely no idea when it had worn out its welcome.

So here's the sort of low-key thing occupying our thoughts all month. Around mid-September I bought a bag of bird seed, that we use for squirrel food. And left it in the house overnight. This was a mistake. It let grain moths out. Just a couple, the first few days, and then a cloud of about four hundred million that blotted out the dining room light.

There's only one thing to do for that, at least if you aren't willing to take out the insecticide. That's to put all the grain-based stuff they might eat in the freezer, to kill any eggs they've laid, and in the refrigerator, until the moths are all dead. This made me aware of just how many grain-based things we had stockpiled in the pantry, since, like, a box of Knorr noodle mix is always cheap and doesn't go bad. Also that the freezer was packed full since I'd noticed vegetarian pot pies were on sale and stocked up on that. We were able to clear some room in the freezer, but also had to take some stuff to bunny_hugger's parents to keep in their freezer.

And with that done, we had to wait the moths out. The population wave reached its peak in early October, and finally started to recede from there. And eating out our stockpile of food, most of it frozen yet, was a weirdly instructive event. I didn't realize just how much stuff we had. It's not like we waste food, not much anyway. Sometimes a bag of salad will go off, or we'll discover the gravy we saved after the vegetarian turk'y roast has got moldy. But in my hands I've taken grocery shopping to the point where it's borderline food hoarding. We live in a reasonably stable society, touch wood. It's reasonable to have a week's worth of ready-to-make food in the house. Two weeks' worth, sure. But we were able to eat for more than a month with replacement needed only for perishables like bread, or French fries when we wanted more vegetarian burgers. I should maybe shop more judiciously.

I'm not sure when the last grain moth fluttered around our kitchen or bathroom, their preferred hangouts.

Trivia: John Mohr opened Chicago's first (recorded) candy and cookie factory and store in 1837; it made and sold pralines and sugar wafers, among other things. Source: Sweets: A Natural History of Temptation, Rim Richardson.

Currently Reading: Vic and Sade on the Radio: A Cultural History of Paul Rhymer's Daytime Series, 1932 - 1944, John T Hetherington.

PS: My 2018 Mathematics A To Z: Kelvin (the scientist) and here's a very tiny piece of his life.


PPS: Startling sights at Pinburgh 2017 day one!

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Some tall boys at ReplayFX/Pinburgh.


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Also they just ... sell ... furry tails, like this was happening in the same place Anthrocon does or something? Weird?


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[ INT BALLY HEADQUARTERS. ] VP of marketing: ``So, I know we were asking last week if it was 1990. I had my people do some research and can now answer, 'yes'. ''


Tuesday, October 30th, 2018
12:10 am
Cats can be callous, and cats can be cool

And a little treat for the weekend after my birthday: pinball! The VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Hall Of Fame Museum ... whatever that is, the former VFW hall turned into a private pinball club for a guy whose collection is literally several hundred games, was having an open day. Zoning only lets the place open a couple times a year. So this was a new thing for the year, an open Saturday. Perfect for us. We'd get there in time to spend about six hours roaming between the buildings. MWS, to our surprise, couldn't make it. We'd have the rare pinball event where we didn't really team up with anyone. We knew people there, of course, just didn't do more than wave hello most of the time.

Our first game was, of course, FunHouse, both of our favorite. To my disbelief, the 18 million-point high score I'd put on the table back in May was still there. bunny_hugger wanted to play, ideally to get to the high score table. That started at a meager 12 million, that sure seemed like it should be attainable; I don't know how it hadn't been beaten by anyone in the club. But we stepped up and confidently faceplanted. Sometimes it takes a bit to get used to a particular table. We gave it another go. This time bunny_hugger had a good, solid game, getting to the midnight multiball several times and even collecting a jackpot. She'd get to 17 and a half million, which I honestly thought beat out the high score I had on the table. It still certainly beat the fourth- and third-place scores on the table. And all I had to do was finish off my game, which was at a respectable but not awesome seven million points. ... At which point I had one of those balls that just goes on forever, where I kept hitting the mirror for awards, and the left ramp for frenzies, and the midnight multiball for just what it sounds like. And even got two jackpots one multiball. I ended up getting twenty million points, so that bunny_hugger's great score was merely fourth place, sure to be knocked off the next time anyone has a high-score game. Still, we both got on the high score table on the same game, which is great, and the high scores are now three-quarters us. Good place to be.

So, that reason for her to kick me done, we had a nice time wandering the huge collection just playing whatever caught our fancy. The 1979 Star Trek pinball, all decorated for the Phase II TV series that never happened? Bally's Dolly Parton-themed early solid state game? Absolutely. The Alvin G &amp; Company Al's Garage Band Goes On A World Tour? And Mystery Castle Of Doom? Of course. bunny_hugger put up a great game on that, one that came rather near the wizard mode we assume exists when you've collected all the mystery items from the castle. We briefly broke the two-player Soccer-Ball table (a ball got stuck where it couldn't be kicked out into play), but that cleared up just as we finally got someone over to look at the mess.

And some mysterious games. Italian maker Apple Time's 1987 Thunder Man, which looks like the game for an incoherent movie that just plays on the Generic Cable Movies Channel back in the 80s. Gottlieb's Class of 1812, which we mostly played to hear the clucking-chicken multiball and forgot all about playing, you know, the game for strategy or anything. We tried to play some of the Zaccharia tables, although at least one of them was refusing to start, possibly just from being out of credits. (Many older games can't really be set in a free-play mode, but can be set up so it's easy to mechanically add credits.)

This trip we didn't have any particular aim, not playing all the 1950s woodrails nor playing all the late-solid-states nor playing all the games that got me into pinball in the 90s. We did play many of them --- Secret Service, FunHouse, Checkpoint --- but that was just because we were near when we were ready to play something. It's all right sometimes not to do something efficiently, and just enjoy the moment.

As the last minutes arrived we were near a great game to close on. Bad Cats, one of the cartoon-chaos-themed games of the late 80s. bunny_hugger had a pretty good game. I had a mediocre one. But, well, that's all right. We were there, we were playing; that's what we'd hope to do. With luck we'll do it again.

Trivia: Baseball was banished from the Boston commons in 1869. Pro-baseball players put up a slate of alderman candidates for the elections in December; eight of the twelve on the ``Red Ball'' ticket won, restoring public play there. Source: Level Playing Fields: How the Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris.

Currently Reading: Vic and Sade on the Radio: A Cultural History of Paul Rhymer's Daytime Series, 1932 - 1944, John T Hetherington.


PS: More of that first day of Pinburgh 2017.

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Back to the pinball! One of my post-lunch game sets brought me to Safari, featuring this backglass, and a tiger that makes me want to know which of my furry peeps here did this.


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Player of Eight Ball Champ who's reached the level of pinball expertise that he doesn't listen to the game. You're allowed headphones and some players use that to block out crowd noise, or listen to some comforting music, or whatnot. I can't imagine doing it, since I do draw so much from the audio cues of the game. But it happens anyway.


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Oh, so, here's that inflatable slide from earlier. Looks like some kid's riding it.


Monday, October 29th, 2018
12:10 am
A pinball wizard's got

I am in such an iambic groove on my mathematics blog. Look at these titles. Spoiler: every one of these essays features comic strips.

And the comics. What's Going On In Mary Worth? Why Is Everyone Rightly Mad At Mary Worth? Oh, don't get me started.

Now here's a slightly oversized batch of images from Pinburgh, because otherwise I'd have a change between Day 1 and day 2 photographs right in the middle of Thursday's photo dump. Please forgive me.

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A ... something! ... that I saw through an alley while walking out to lunch the first day. It certainly does seem to be an interesting something, right?


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View of the free-play area of ReplayFX, the event at which Pinburgh happened. The tournament area is on the other side of the bridge.


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At the convention were a couple games set up with novelty challenges. Here, a game's been set up so the flippers draw their charge from your bike-pedalling. The faster you pedal, the stronger your flips.


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Free-play area of ReplayFX/pinburgh. The lower left area is selling stuff.


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And here's the view of the tournament area of Pinburgh, during lunch break. Upper center is the stage, where the A Division finals will be. The D Division finals would be held on some games just off to the right of that stage.


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ReplayFX isn't all about pinball; here, you see some of the many arcade video games and the stage where Billy Mitchell himself emceed the arcade championships.


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So all General Leia cosplayers spend their time going around taunting the Stormtrooper cosplayers, right? Good.


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Oh, yeah, so somebody cosplaying as one of those things from the new movies or maybe the prequels I guess figures on joining Leia's action.


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And yeah, she won't even give them the dignity of insulting them. Cold.


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ReplayFX set up an 80s Game Room, so you could enjoy the comforts of those nostalgic days of playing NES games while looking over the Monongahela River.


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Bit more view of the 80s Game Room, which was just set out in the open. Past that was someone broadcasting the event, possibly to a podcast or streaming service, and beyond that some tables for events we never saw because we were busy playing pinball.


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Actual vintage magazines set out so you could really soak up the 80s feel why was Kodacolor using a picture of a woman with a pig for its magazine spots?


Trivia: During the summer of 1934 Fred Allen stopped capitalizing letters while typing. Hypotheses include necessity (that he dropped his typewriter, damaged the shift bar, and never had the chance to fix it), expediency (saving type so Allen could nearly keep up with correspondence), or style (he was a fan of e e cummings). His handwriting remained all capital letters. Source: Fred Allen: His Life and Wit, Robert Taylor. (``Doesn't the shift key on your typewriter work?'' asked Goodman Ace. ``Yes,'' Fred replied, ``but I've never been able to shift for myself.'')

Currently Reading: Vic and Sade on the Radio: A Cultural History of Paul Rhymer's Daytime Series, 1932 - 1944, John T Hetherington.

Sunday, October 28th, 2018
12:10 am
Obey the signs and boundary lines

For my birthday --- a month in the past now, but don't worry, we did less stuff worthy of journaling in October so we're catching up soon --- we made our traditional visit to Kokomo's, in Saginaw. It's about an hour away. But it's the nearest roller coaster we've ridden, and that's always good for a pleasant, quiet afternoon. And their weird miniature golf course is always good for a round. Not two rounds, as we learned one time when we tried a second go-round in the day. The second time around we breezed through efficiently and without merriment. But one round per visit? Always good.

Some sad news when we arrived. The fortune-telling toucan by the front door, which always seemed iconic to Kokomo's (their mascot is a toucan) wasn't there. There was one of those every-80s-arcade-game-in-one arcade machine there instead. I hope the machine is just out for repairs and they put the video game in for a placeholder. But that they put something in as a placeholder is ominous enough.

More sad news after we bought our ride tickets. The roller coaster, the Serpent, was closed. It's never been closed when we visited before. In the past bunny_hugger had sometimes called to ask how late in the season they run the ride, but that's always been ``until the weather is too bad'', and somehow it never is for the visit on my birthday. It was cool, maybe, but the day was bright and sunny with just enough clouds to make the setting sun beautiful. But the roller coaster wasn't running. Whether for the day --- our guess, given it was a Wednesday and the place wasn't even busy enough to be slow --- or for the season we didn't know, and didn't ask.

So besides arguing about whether recriminations were appropriate over our not calling ahead of time, what was there to do? ... Well, miniature golf. The course is crazily complicated, with many of the greens having a choice of two holes. And all having evidence of more holes, many of them covered by movable rocks. A couple spots that had been cracked in previous years were patched. The 13th hole, the one with three levels and a tiny trough, barely wider than the golf ball, to get from one to the other, remained as baffling and difficult as ever. It's a fun course and we really need to get from someone the story of why it's so strange. And the skies were beautiful, and I found that the waterfall setting on my camera, applied to the miniature course's waterfalls --- where I could set my camera on a rock and let it work out the twenty-second exposure without moving --- did indeed produce some beautiful pictures with these misty washes of color from the waters.

Without the roller coaster there wasn't much else to appeal at the park. The go-carts are nice, but there's never a crowd when we go to them. But they assured us that we could save our purchased rides --- on a swipe card, now, rather than the wristbands of past years --- for a future visit. Maybe next spring we'll make an early trip to complete and complement this one.

And we weren't going to go all the way to Saginaw and not get sushi. The Hello Sushi place was open, and serving as well and as efficiently as ever. We had a really good dinner, just as we'd have hoped.

But, yeah, we so should have called ahead.

Trivia: Thomas Edison's mechanical ore-separating machine used enormous rollers sped up to 700 rpm, but which were to disengage the clutch and roll freely when boulders did hit, so that rocks would smash each other rather than tear up the rollers. In principle, a rock of six tons or more could be reduced to fist-sized stones in about a half-minute. Source: Edison: A Biography, Matthew Josephson.

Currently Reading: Vic and Sade on the Radio: A Cultural History of Paul Rhymer's Daytime Series, 1932 - 1944, John T Hetherington.


PS: Pinburgh 2017, Day One, in the slow time between rounds.

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Technician at work in-between rounds and somehow looking so incredibly alone.


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There we go! Pinball is working again and the tech can go back to wherever they come from.


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Group photo opportunity! An attempted gathering of the women of Pinburgh for a group photo and I do figure there's people missing. bunny_hugger's up on stage, on the far left.


Saturday, October 27th, 2018
12:10 am
Let the sunshine in

One of the things bunny_hugger knew about this house, when she bought it two decades ago, was that it would need new basement windows. The existing ones were these thin, plastic or plastic-like things with cracks in them. Over the years, they were left in place because there's always other stuff that demands more attention, you know? But finally last year they started getting even worse, with a hole in one bad enough it was letting cold air pour in. And given the window's arrangement and its terrible shape there wasn't anything we could do to even cover the hole well. It was finally time to get them properly replaced.

That we finally did a couple weeks ago. There's a contractor in the area that specializes in glass blocks, and he had a nice presentation about how they looked and how they insulated. Even better, he had a price quote that was maybe half what we had feared it would be. And so I woke up bright and early one Monday morning, in order that I could let the contractor in, and hoped that the noise wouldn't wake bunny_hugger too early. (I usually need less sleep than she does, in part because I don't have to get up early to go to work Tuesdays and Thursdays or, for that matter, any day.) As if breaking out ancient windows, clearing away their cement framing, and putting new windows in place would make noise.

Well, it made some noise. Our rabbit seemed a little concerned during some part of the work that involved a lot of grinding sounds. I took that to be clearing out old cement holding the former windows in place. But didn't check because I don't want to be that guy that keeps nosing around contractors. They know their job.

And, well, it was brilliantly successful. By the end of the day we had these nice glass-block windows with openable vents in the four window spaces. There's way more light in there. There's also clearly less unauthorized air blowing in, either from cracks in the windows or from small openings where, like, pipes go through the basement frame that the contractor had pointed out, and that they sealed.

And it was even more of a bonus. The bricks underneath our front step have been decaying and falling out of place for years too, to the point that the middle two feet of the step was hollowed out. Besides setting concrete for our new windows, the mason was able to rebuild and re-cement the steps on our front porch. That's not so dramatic an improvement as the windows, which leave so much light pouring into the basement that weeks later I'm still getting used to it. But it's a good step up.

So, we hoped that having basement vents might help us with a problem. When we run the dryer the basement fills with hot, humid air. Opening the vents did seem to help keep the basement cooler. Also keeping the basement cooler: the dryer wasn't heating up any, so it would just tumble clothes forever. This made for a wonderful discovery as bunny_hugger tried to dry clothes for work the next day. (I took the clothes to a laundromat nearby while she prepped for class.) And we called the first appliance people who'd answer our call.

This problem was simple. The dryer had a bad fuse, so it wasn't heating up. There was another problem we might want fixed, though. The air vent had a bunch of holes around the base; did we want that replaced? This seemed like a good chance to me. In about an hour and after a lot of banging about the old air vent was a pile ready for the recycle bin, and replaced with a nice shiny new one still tied to the basement's ceiling by the same wire someone had used as an ad hoc support for the old. And now, with the dryer run, the leaking heat and humidity is --- nothing. And there's not stray lint being blown over the basement either. We're feeling pretty good about what this bids for the future of our basement's livability.

Of course, now the dehumidifier has broken, and we'd only had it about four and a half years.

Trivia: The antenna used for rendezvous radar failed on STS-92, an International Space Station docking flight. The shuttle Discovery rendezvoused and docked without radar. Source: Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System: The First 100 Missions, Dennis R Jenkins.

Currently Reading: Vic and Sade on the Radio: A Cultural History of Paul Rhymer's Daytime Series, 1932 - 1944, John T Hetherington.

My 2018 Mathematics A To Z: Jokes, and talk about jokes.


PPS: Pinburgh 2017, Day One.

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And here's what it looks like when you're up on stage. And it's the first round of the first day and nobody has any idea who you are and has better stuff to do anyway. I'm a little surprised we had that big an audience.


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So on the left there is a virtual pinball. The playfield is a big flatscreen TV and it plays a simulator, just like on Pinball Arcade. The effect is ... kind of eerie. If my head's in the right place, it looks like real pinball but slightly off. If my head's not, it looks like some weird parallax error. But it would be a great way to have a huge variety of playable ``games'' and essentially no maintenance budget.


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Some of the vendors selling stuff that isn't whole pinball games.


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