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

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
12:10 am
The arrow points the way across the waiting prairie

So back to Kings Island. We'd had three Vortex rides, souvenir-shopping, and lunch. What to do now? Well, we were right near Mystic Timbers, their two-year-old wooden roller coaster. Its line didn't look too bad; why not ride that? Things we forgot: oh yeah, there's ride queues that hide how long the line is. There's no signs at the ride entrances saying how long the queues are, something which annoyed us at Canada's Wonderland too. Our wait wound end up something like 45 minutes, but on the bright side, we got to ride Mystic Timbers, which is a really good wooden roller coaster. Also in the queue we spotted some more people with ride t-shirts from other parks, including one kid whose hoodie was, I want to say, from Seabreeze out in Rochester. It was one of those parks we've only visited the one time. Also while waiting we could see the Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown log flume, closed and emptied for the end of the regular season. The back of one of the log flume rides has a ghost sign faintly reading ``Outpost Powder Magazine'' and I guess, oh yeah, that was one of the many bonkers plot elements of that movie, wasn't it?

But the roller coaster, going through autumn leaves, was great. While waiting ``in the shed'' --- a holding spot for returning coasters while the next train finishes dispatch --- we got a haunt video we've seen before, one of swarming bats. There are reportedly three of them and we've seen two; we don't know what process chooses which to show. There's one, with haunted trees, that's apparently quite rare.

The park was lovely; Kings Island was well-designed to start, in the early 70s when everyone figured to copy the Disney formula of pay-one-price parks that looked nice all over. And the change of colors gave everything gorgeous new backgrounds. While admiring the tree colors we saw the painted pawprints leading to The Beast, Kings Island's signature roller coaster. We couldn't pass that up.

This would be another 45-minute wait, but it's not like we could expect them to open a second Beast for us. Also they were running several trains, like you'd hope. The trains were looking good, too, repainted in the several colors that the ride originally had when it opened in 1979. Also it turns out this was The Beast's anniversary year so we were fortunate to get a visit during that. I don't know if this were added for the anniversary year but they had signs in the later queue area with ride trivia, like the cost of the ride then (US$3.8 million, from 1978 to 1979) and what it'd likely cost today (about $22 million) or that it still holds the Guinness Book of World Records for longest wooden roller coaster (7,359 feet, four minutes and ten seconds). In the later part of the queue we also had a good view of Vortex, adjacent, and took photographs of it in a lot of great angles against a perfectly blue sky. Ride operators agreed with us that Vortex looked great, and that this was the spot to see it from.

Also, The Beast was riding great. We expect a bit of roughness on a roller coaster, especially one like The Beast which was designed by someone who kind of technically speaking didn't know what he was doing, but was hired by people who didn't know that, which is why it rides like a sandbox project in Roller Coaster Tycoon. We remembered some hard patches when we rode it in 2017. But this time? No, it was sweet. Fast, rattly enough to be fun, but not something that, say, threatened our heads in the final helix, when the ride goes around and around (horizontally) for a good 540 degrees at top speed.

On our way to the antique carousel we found the Kings Island Rides Graveyard. It wasn't as fun as the one at Cedar Point and I don't think just because we know these rides less (mostly by lore). The gravestones don't give dates for the rides, for example, nor epigrams for particularly beloved gone rides. Some of them, also, seem to just be generic names, not even of people we remember as connected to the park, although that might just be our ignorance. But there's some fun in this anyway, such as the gravestone showing the logo for Racer, their racing roller coaster, backwards. Before Cedar Fair bought the park, one train on Racer would ride facing backwards. (Cedar Fair doesn't truck with anything running backwards, even if it's designed to.) And an odd moment: they have a gravestone for Son of Beast, the short-lived wooden roller coaster. The odd part here is there's already an actual, full-time ``eternal flame'' memorial to Son of Beast at its location near what's now the Banshee roller coaster. There was set up a coffin and gravesite and a bunch of empty seats; if this was to be a ceremony for Vortex we knew nothing of it. Didn't hear anything about it at least.

Also on the way to this we passed the Coney Island Midway, founded on rides taken from the original Coney Island. Its Halloween haunted-attraction livery was called the Zombie Mall. Some of the buildings were ``boarded up'' for, I infer, haunted houses of zombies rampaging through Kill-Mart and the Tumble Bug Market. That name caught our attention since the Tumble Bug --- which was at Coney Island/Kings Island from the 1920s until 1985 --- is just something you don't see anymore. Except at Conneaut Lake Park and at Kennywood (where it's the Turtle).

The antique carousel --- Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel #79, moved from Coney Island Cincinnati --- was in good shape. We spent a ride cycle trying to work out how many shield horses the ride had. These are, literally, horses bearing the Philadelphia Toboggan Company shield; originally these marked the lead horse, where to start taking tickets from riders, but PTC made more shield horses than they had carousel orders for. So this one had, we were trying to work out, three or four shield horses. We also found on the insides of their head shields reading the horse's row and serial number; bunny_hugger rode Row 1 (an outer horse), number 233. Mine, next to her, was Row 2, Number 353. Quite possibly the horses have been rearranged in order since the carousel began running in 1926.

The other roller coaster we really wanted to be sure we got on was Racer, and this twin coaster did not have long lines at all; I think the longer of our waits was only about 15 minutes. On both sides of the ride we were able to get some good views of Orion, the steel roller coaster under construction for next year. We worried that it would crowd out The Beast, but what it really seems to be doing is eating up space on the left side of Racer instead.

Between our Racer rides we went to the lower parts of the park. One, to ride the current Bat. It's a ride like Iron Dragon, at Cedar Point, a suspended coaster; it's taller, though, and faster, but a shorter ride. While on the surprisingly long line we spotted someone wearing his Blackpool Pleasure Beach hoodie. Also we overheard a different guy talking on the phone about how yeah, he was at the park, but no, he thought Vortex was overrated and he wasn't waiting in an hour-plus ride for that. It seemed a little unkind but it's not like he was talking to us, or even saying anything truly bad. Just that he didn't think Vortex was that big a deal.

We also got in a ride on Adventure Express, their mine ride. Unlike most mine rides, it's themed not to the Old West but rather to a jungle-exploring lost-world thing and it won't surprise you that when Paramount owned the park they played Indiana Jones music in the queues. And it was someone's birthday, so the ride operators called that out when that train loaded up. Apparently you can just get a ``Today's My Birthday'' patch when you go to Kings Island, and make potentially every ride into that moment when the whole restaurant's wait staff comes out clapping in synch.

We were coming up on the last hour of the day, and of Vortex's public life. Cedar Fair practice is that if you're in the queue when the park closes, you ride, so ... what might we ride to fill some of that last half-hour usefully? Well, how about Kings Island's beloved and newest attraction, which it will not surprise you to learn is ... the ... Antique Autos. Really. They lost their antique-cars ride years ago, and put a new one in this year, and everyone loves it. The queue for it was really long all day, but we imagined it'd have dwindled some by now. And it had, although it was still both long and slow-moving and a hornet got very interested in my Fanta Zero Orange drink. Waiting, though, gave us the time to appreciate little jokes of the ride, such as that every license plate was a reference to one of the park's rides. Like, 'BST-079'? The Beast, 1979. 'RCR-072'? Racer, 1972. Not all of them were roller coasters, which gave us our deepest puzzles trying to work this out. And it was a pleasant ride, with nice little in-jokey references, such as a faux vintage advertisement for Racer Radio, featuring twin-beam antenna technology. Racer is the racing coaster, with every element of the ride (basically) duplicated. That kind of humor.

The Antique Cars queue was slow-moving, though, and the ride seemed to slow down even more as we got closer to it. (A group ahead of us was extremely complicated and slow about just getting into the cars, somehow, for example.) We worried whether we'd have time to go to the bathroom and get into the Vortex queue.

But the Vortex queue already didn't just reach to the end of the built-in queue, and then double back and reach past the end of the temporary queue they'd assembled, but spilled on for a good hundred feet past the end of that, petering out in a vague mass near a haunted-house prop ambulance. There was not any possible way we might last --- well, that grump on The Bat said the queue was an hour long then --- maybe an hour and a half without a bathroom break.

It's all right. We were off the Antique Cars by 6:40. We went to the bathroom and joined the nebulous end of the queue in plenty of time, confident that we would have one final ride on Vortex.

Trivia: The Cadbury logo, adopted in 1921, was an adaptation of William Cadbury's signature. (William was one grandson of the company founder John Cadbury.) Source: Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers, Deborah Cadbury.

Currently Reading: Philosophy of Mathematics: An Introduction to the World of Proofs and Pictures, James Robert Brown.

PS: Reading the Comics, November 9, 2019: Two Pairs Edition, covering last week's mathematically-themed comic strips.

PPS: Would you believe it's Sunday of Anthrohio 2018 already? Yeah, amazing how the time flies.


A happy moment at the Raccoons and Procyonids SIG: the tipping over of the trash bins and the sorting out of candy within.


A fleeting moment of our performing careers: the only photograph worth a slice of anything from rehearsal for our puppeteering. bunny_hugger performs Russell the peacock while trying to find somewhere to sit or stand that doesn't kill either her back, neck, or arm. Go ahead, find any element here that's in focus. The other picture is worse.


And a last look at the charity, a horse sanctuary, with its merchandise table. This was set up outside the main events room.

Monday, November 11th, 2019
12:10 am
And you have to do your best, don't forget

Another week of nothing but publications on my mathematics blog! Here's what's been shown the past seven days, including the stuff that's just pointing to older stuff:

Meanwhile in the story comics, What's Going On In Alley Oop? Who blipped Alley Oop and Ooola out of existence? August - November 2019 It's the most alternate-history-ish storyline that I'm aware of the comic strip doing.

And now back to Anthrohio of 2018, closing out Sunday's activities and fun.


And here's the star of our show, Archimedes! The marionette would get some good time walking about and going to the Saturday night dance.


Steps are a nuisance for Archimedes, but he'll work them out eventually.


Making some friends among the fursuiters and their handlers. I believe he's getting his photo taken here.


And now he makes his debut on the Anthrohio dance floor.


So a couple of younglings were doing that dance thing where they'll focus on something and kowtow. For a while during the dance they picked Archimedes as the subject of their attentions.


More of the kids enjoying making a fuss over Archimedes, who may be a dragon but isn't used to this kind of worshipping.


Archimedes trying to get into the spirit of the thing and bowing back to them.


A little rest break let us see this dragon at a great moment, where the ground drags his tail so as to make it curve, like you'd see in a Walt Kelly illustration of Albert Alligator or something.


Back to the dance floor! Which, thanks to the lighting and the perspective, here looks like it's a six-inch-thick surface floating above the carpet. I love pictures of real things that make them look bad special effects.


Someone checking their phone while the sparkling lights twirl around behind them.


The lights come up on the dance floor after the last song of the night.


And the floor and DJ area clean up pretty swiftly. See, the dance floor is not a poorly composited special effect after all, is it?

Trivia: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 continued until January 1920, though the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919. Source: Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan.

Currently Reading: Philosophy of Mathematics: An Introduction to the World of Proofs and Pictures, James Robert Brown.

Sunday, November 10th, 2019
12:10 am
Take one last look, oh take one last look

Yes, maybe we would get a Vortex ride photo on later ride. Maybe a ride ... like ... maybe right now, since it was still about 10 minutes until the park's general opening and the queue was as short as it would ever be the rest of the day. We ran back around, taking a few more pictures, and were right back in the launch station by 10:55. Someone beside us observed that we kept noticing things worth taking pictures of, and fair enough, although a lot of that was that anything was a good photo. The ride looked quite good for its doomed condition, and the fall leaves behind made a great backdrop. The one shortcoming is that the sky was grey; but there was nothing to do for that except wait.

This time we waited for the back seat, unsure whether this would be wise. Back seats are often rougher than front. The motion can be different, especially on a longer train. This time? ... It was not rougher. It was again, a surprisingly smooth ride. Really pleasant. Thrilling, even, with different points where we felt ourselves floating. Floating's gone out of fashion in roller coasters, but it'll return.

Front seat and back seat, just as we might most want. And now the park opened to general admission. There'd be more people coming in for their last ride on Vortex. We ducked out to the bathroom, first, and then decided to make one more try on the roller coaster. The line still wasn't terribly long, although it was getting there. It was finally long enough, for example, that we had time outside the front of the little mock house, and could pose for pictures in front of the ride sign. Also while in the queue someone shoved his way past us --- I assumed it was a park worker for some reason --- and up the steps past us, while I studied how some of the windows in the ride's fake house had grates covering them and others did not.

bunny_hugger warned me a fight was breaking out. The line-cutter and someone else were yelling at each other, and they looked ready to start punching. A woman with that someone else held him back, though, just like you hear about in braggadocio. It kept feeling ready to turn into blows, but never quite did.

In our peaceful section of the queue we looked around, admiring the views. Someone else pointed out some of the footers that were for the original The Bat ride, still there 35 years after that short-lived coaster left this world. For this ride we didn't wait for any particular seat, trusting that just being on anywhere, being in the comfortable middle, was good. And it was; once again, we had a great ride.

And we discovered a sad truth about the ride photos. They were done by some automated scheme tied to an app that you had to download and purchase ahead of time and we were not going to deal with all of that. There were other roller coasters on which we could buy ride photos a la carte, at least we assume. But none of them were the ride we were there specifically to be on.

We did not jump right back into the Vortex line. For one, bunny_hugger had forgotten something back in the car: her motion sickness pill. This was probably as much roller coaster riding as she could take in short order. And we hadn't really properly eaten. Since we were going out to the car, too, we figured to check the gift shops. It'd be a good chance to find souvenirs. Which would include another brass Christmas tree ornament for Kings Island. They also had some nice souvenir pins, including one commemorating the 50th anniversary of Snoopy's famous landing on the Moon. And, in one shop fully given over to Christmas decorations, some Bronner's-grade Christmas stuff, including a mock 1950s TV set with moving scene inside. Also a carved wood raccoon in hiking gear that was fantastic but also more than two hundred dollars. At a more reasonable $90 was a wood-carved squirrel in scouting-type dress, and while that was more tempting, the squirrel's cap had a real feather and we'd rather not use that. (Real feathers mostly come from slaughtered chickens. Peacock feathers, which are shed without harming the bird, can be safer but --- they can also be gotten from industrial-grade peacock farms.)

We also overheard one family who wanted very much to buy Fast Pass wristbands from the souvenir shop, but the person who did that sale wasn't there then, or possibly that day. The clerk pointed out where to go to buy Fast Pass wristbands instead, and this seemed not to satisfy the family as they went back to the start and asked again, possibly from a different clerk. Also there was one gift shop that was all Ohio merchandise, rather than Kings Island stuff, which, huh. I don't think there's one like that at Cedar Point. There's certainly not one like that at Michigan's Adventure.

Well, souvenirs in hand, we went back to the car, got the motion sickness pill, and went back, this time actually pausing and looking seriously at the decorations. Also at the sky, which had cleared out the clouds and was now mostly sunny and blue. Also at what there might be to eat. Kings Island has this nice guide to eating options in the park, and we saw one of them was a restaurant with Impossible Burgers. We figured, we've got to go supporting that.

The restaurant was an indoor sit-down one. The line was out the door. But this was not the sign of doom we feared. As you joined the queue a staffer out front handed you a menu. You get up to the cashier and put in your order, and get one of those buzzing flashing pagers, and then go sit and wait for the meal to catch up with you. The queue didn't take long to go through. Sitting and waiting, that took some time, but probably because they were making the burgers fresh. They were really good: better than Burger King, not as good as Stella's. Really great to see offered, though, at an amusement park, and especially good to see done well.

We spent a good while eating, and enjoying sitting, and on the tv screens seeing bits of the NFL game from London. Also, bunny_hugger learned that they're playing NFL football games in London these days. To her question ``why'' I could only answer: shrug? Anyway, we'd enjoyed three great rides on Vortex, got some things to bring home, and gotten a satisfying lunch, and it was only maybe a quarter to 2:00. Everytihng we did for the next five hours would be bonus.

Trivia: Before the 1929 stock market crash Otis Elevator stocks returned about $11.50 per share. Source: Otis: Giving Rise to the Modern City, Jason Goodwin.

Currently Reading: Philosophy of Mathematics: An Introduction to the World of Proofs and Pictures, James Robert Brown.

PS: Exploiting my A-to-Z Archives: Transcendental Number, an essay where I learned how much fun it is to share the odd weird little things about numbers, like how we know stuff is true about nearly all of them, but don't know many numbers it's true for.

PPS: Some more prowling around Anthrohio 2018 Saturday.


So a door to one of the supply rooms was open and inside was the heaping piles of tables and chairs you might expect, plus a Christmas tree all decorated and unaware that it was Memorial Day weekend.


It's only been a few hours and already the cake supply is down by more than a quarter. I take it as a point of pride ours was among the first people felt safe to touch.


Fursuiters flopping out on that complex of decorative steps near the lobby.

Saturday, November 9th, 2019
12:10 am
And take one last look at the place that you are leaving

We knew a couple things, going into Kings Island. They opened at 11. We had Platinum season passes, good for an hour's early admission. Our hotel was maybe ten minutes from the park. We passed it, to our surprise, on the way to the hotel the night before. Vortex was one of the three early-admission roller coasters. A huge fraction of the population would be going there. We had to be at the park at 10 on the dot. Oh, we were tired. But if we got up around 8:30 or so we'd be able to shower, dress, maybe even grab continental breakfast, check out, and be on our way. bunny_hugger slept restlessly, as she will when it's important to wake early. The bed, old enough to sag in the middle, didn't help.

I took a quick shower; the biggest delay in our ever getting out the door is how I'm one-quarter mermaid and will shower for up to four hours, given the chance. But we made good time, despite one of bunny_hugger's students not understanding that the e-mail sent to explain a thing actually explained the thing the student was worried about. While bunny_hugger finished dressing and addressing the student, I loaded the car up and snagged some bagels and tea. And we were off by 9:30, making great time! We drove the short while to the park, and even though I turned into the wrong parking lot once, we got to the front entrance by ten minutes to 10.

It was closed.

There was a long enough line to go back onto the main road, just like Great Adventure in the Bad Old Days of the 90s. All right. Nothing much seemed to be happening. One car ahead of us dispatched a kid to walk over the hill and look at the parking lot booths; she came back and everybody just sat a while. Finally, right about 10:00, they opened the gates and we cheered as, all right, we were missing some early-admission time but apparently everybody else was missing it too. We got a great parking spot, in The Beast section of the parking lot and just a few cars off the nearest possible spot.

The park had set up a giant Christmas tree already. Kings Island does a December holiday event and we got to thinking, you know, this isn't so bad a drive really, why couldn't we do this in December? I mean, if they had any roller coasters open or something? And the weather wouldn't be too brutal?

We got through the metal detectors and growled at their absurdity. And then got to the front gate, which was decorated. And still decorated for Halloween. The whole entrance plaza was covered with a haunted house decor, and pretty well too: if we didn't know what the entrance really looked like we'd have supposed it was a Haunted House, or at least a New England Cottage, design. There was a huge line in the leftmost lane, which was closed (but also nearest the bathroom, and the one that you approach first after the metal detectors). All right. There were shorter lines over to the right. We kept going and found ... none that were open, as far as we could tell. It was 10:10. There was no way in.

There was a crowd. A lot of people there for the final day of Vortex. A lot of roller coaster enthusiasts. You can tell a roller coaster enthusiast: they're required by the American Coaster Enthusiasts to wear a t-shirt of some other park. Ideally, a roller coaster from that other park, but the important thing is anything but the park you're at. I wore my Clementon Park shirt. bunny_hugger wore the hoodie she'd gotten last year, of a skeleton riding a skeleton carousel horse, for Cedar Point. A guy ahead of us --- who pointed out someone wearing Maxx Force, newest coater at Six Flags Great America --- saw mine and said RIP Clementon. We agreed that was a shock and terrible. Watching the crowd is how I learned there's a Loch Ness Monster coaster, at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I think we spotted someone wearing Geauga Lake, which park closed a dozen years ago (and which gave Kings Island the coaster Firehawk, removed at the end of last year). Some people were just ride enthusiasts. Some were workers at other parks. Some, we'd learn later, were former Vortex ride crew.

Thing is we kept on waiting at the gate. We started speculating about what could have gone wrong. Was the park just ... not ready, somehow, for the last day of the season? Did we misunderstand and the park opened at noon? Plausible since we kept seeing on the monitors the notice that The Great Pumpkin Fest at Camp Snoopy opened at noon. But, no, park opening was 11:00.

What transpired is that early admission, at least for Halloweekends at Kings Island, is only a half-hour. We are both sure that it had been a full hour when we came in the regular season. But early admission now was only three rides. With that small a plate, yeah, a half-hour is probably plenty.

And finally they opened the gate. We proved to be well-positioned: they had roped off all but a single path leading through the park, going to Mystic Timbers, Beast, and finally Vortex, and this path started off to the right. So all those people by the left had nothing but an extra wait and the chance to go to the bathroom, which we could have both used, honestly. Along the way a few people peeled off to ride Mystic Timbers early, or to ride The Beast early. And these would be wise choices on anything but the final day of Vortex's ride. We didn't know what they were thinking.

We hurried toward Vortex. Easy for me, who has long legs. More challenging for bunny_hugger. So we noticed without stopping to admire the decoration of the park inside, like the trails of jack-o-lanterns, or the towers made of pumpkins going up the support legs of rides. We'd have time later, we hoped. We got to Vortex as they were still running test trains, and fell into the queue to find it was not long at all. We admired its launch station --- built a half-decade before the ride, for a short-lived roller coaster named The Bat --- and its Haunted New England Cottage design. The design made sense for a The Bat. It never made sense for Vortex, which had a logo of a robot arm twisting metal tracks around, but it was affordable. They had ribbons commemorating the ride's 33rd year there. And a small memorial, Vortex 1987 - 2019, in stones and with flowers beside, on the ground by the transfer track. And, two minutes after joining the queue, we were in the station.

There was a short line for the front seat ride. We decided to wait for that. We could have walked on to other seats, but this would be our best bet to ride up front. While we waited --- it was maybe four cycles, and went in no time, as it turns out all three trains were running --- the front-seat ride queue grew to a dozen or more ride cycles. We could watch the process, and admire how fast the crew was at loading people now, and even enjoy the ringing of the bell to announce a train returning, just like they have at older wooden coasters like at Conneaut Lake Park or Seabreeze.

Our recollection of Vortex is that it was a fun twisty ride, a bit rough, a bit head-bangy, but about what you'd expect for the era and the challenging layout it was expected to do. This time, riding up front --- oh look, you can see one of the other trains returning as you go up the lift hill! --- it was ... smooth. Not perfectly, but smooth enough. We could enjoy being on the ride, not guarding our ears from the restraints. Just delighting in feeling dizzy and disoriented and feeling the line of motion suddenly switch around. We expected to appreciate Vortex's last day. We didn't expect to realize this was such a good ride.

We wanted a ride photo. We basically don't get them, but this? This felt like an exceptional day. Especially since we'd discovered a new delight in the ride. But there was a crowd around the booth, and no attendant, and we didn't even see the sample pictures to tell how the picture looked. We decided to forego this. Maybe we'd get a picture on a later ride. The thing we had driven five miles through rain driving no less hard was successfully done.

Trivia: The name Richard Saunders, used by Benjamin Franklin for his Poor Richard's Almanac, was the name of a London physician and astrologer who had produced an almanac in London for two decades in the late 17th century. Franklin knew of the earlier Saunders and may have read surviving copies of the original Richard Saunders' almanac. Source: The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, H W Brands.

Currently Reading: Philosophy of Mathematics: An Introduction to the World of Proofs and Pictures, James Robert Brown. I got into this weird mood of thinking maybe I should actually know a thing about the mathematics I keep talking about all the time.

PS: Exploiting my A-to-Z Archives: Sorites Paradox, an essay I wrote to bunny_hugger's request.

PPS: More sights of Anthrohio 2018.


The video game room, which included a couple Neo-Geo cabinets, like was the early 90s or something.


And some of the more normal consoles at the gaming room. Note bunny_hugger is wearing her bunny hoodie.


View of one of the scenic ponds outside, in the Saturday afternoon rain.

Friday, November 8th, 2019
12:10 am
I'll tell you a secret, you're about to take a test

It's my usual chance to reflect on the mathematics blog. Here's the past week's worth of stuff.

So after the Anthrohio fursuit parade we visited the Dealers' Den and walked around the hotel grounds, making it back to Hospitality in time to participate in the cake-decorating contest. Let's watch.


bunny_hugger walking through the inflatable-tent connection to the dealers' den, which is set up in this sort of heavy canvas tent that give the hotel a bit more usable space when the weather is nice.


View of the hotel from the rear parking lot; we had rooms somewhere in the upper floors here, while most of the convention activities were on the ground floor in the camera-foreground wings of the place.


And here's the canvas enclosure extension to the hotel where the dealers den for Anthrohio has been. It's warmer than the rest of the convention, naturally, despite fans and air conditioner running, but it is also extremely access-controllable.


The start of the Anthrohio Cake Decorating Contest: once again they had about half as many cakes as they really needed, this time. In fairness there've been years, recently, when they had like twice as many cakes as they needed.


Our table. bunny_hugger and I shared a cake. You can see everyone trying hard to think of what the heck to do for the cake decoration.


bunny_hugger not really satisfied with the progress on our cake. The theme was Barks and Recreation and we were trying to do a campfire scene through the limited medium of not having enough tips for the icing. They have tips at all for the frosting about half the time.


And here's our final cake creation, bunny and squirrel sitting around the campfire.


Aftermath of another table's cake decorating, with a lot of utensils spread around and cookies smashed and things put together to make props.


The judging begins and we wait for the chance to explain our cake.


The first four cakes as decorated. Ours is the upper left corner. Someone used cookies and crackers snagged from the rest of hospitality to make an erupting volcano.


The next four cakes. Other people go in seriously for props; you see the cake that built a whole playground using wafer cookies.


And the last three cakes, which include some that used Cheerios and broken cookies to make sand and rocky trails and such.

Trivia: The Signal Service's first-ever storm warning was issued on 8 November 1870. It was sent to observers on the Great Lakes by Professor Increase A Lapham. Lapham had been asked by Colonel A J Myer to take responsibility for the Great Lakes region that day. Source: A History of the United States Weather Bureau, Donald R Whitnah.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford.

PS: My 2019 Mathematics A To Z: Taylor Series, one of those topics I had to keep re-thinking because I kept remembering other stuff I should say about it.

Thursday, November 7th, 2019
12:10 am
Put your hand on the gear shift, put your foot off the brake

After we gave up the idea of a Vortex Farewell Trip, bunny_hugger kept thinking. How much time did she really need for class prep? How much for grading? How much for record-keeping? What of this could she do by overloading her already burdened evenings? What of this could she do by snatching quiet moments during a pinball tournament? What of this could she do while sitting in my car, as I drove? What of this could she do in a hotel room?

Well, much of what she needed. What absolutely could not be done she could offload to her future self, who already had enough to curse her past self about. What would one or ten or a hundred more things be? And so on Thursday --- the day before MB's Halloween party, and two days before we would set off on the trip --- bunny_hugger decided that as bad as she would feel for all this postponed and rescheduled work, she would feel worse not going to Vortex's final weekend. The trip was on.

Once we worked out something. Not the goldfish, who can be left untended for shockingly long come wintertime. Preuss, the local good pet store with special expertise in fish, doesn't even feed their goldfish all winter long. We're not quite courageous enough to do that, but we could leave the fish we'd brought in over another weekend easily. Sunshine, though? ... We would drive down to Cincinnati (sp?) on Saturday, and back Sunday. Would this be all right? ... Well, the hazard with leaving a rabbit unsupervised, besides the risk of their running up long-distance calls, is that they'll stop eating, which turns into a major crisis in about two days. We wouldn't be gone that long. In Stephen's youth bunny_hugger left him alone overnight for similar trips. Previous rabbits got similar care. And we could do better by Sunshine: we have an enrichment tool, a little ball that we can put pellets in. She gets them out by rolling it, giving her exercise and stimulation. And also, then, she has to eat more slowly. Provided we left enough hay and water, and a large load of vegetables and pellets, there was no reason we couldn't leave her alone, at least for 36 hours.

We couldn't quite do that. But we did talk to E, a friend in town. He was willing to stop in Sunday afternoon, check that she had eaten, and give her a fresh pile of vegetables and pellets. So we gave him bunny_hugger's house keys, and reflected that he should have his own set in case of emergency anyway, and showed the basics. We didn't ask him to give Sunshine an eye drop, trusting that she could miss one treatment without serious irritation. And so we left instructions and a bag with a right amount of pellets and another bag with a right amount of hay, and trusted to E's good judgement.

So this was it. A maybe mad dash to Cincinnati, catching the last weekend of Kings Island's regular season, and the last days of Vortex. We left Lansing in mid-afternoon; we could hope to get there by 8 pm. If the weather held up we might even get to Kings Island in the evening. They close Saturdays during Halloweekends at 1 am, an hour later even than Cedar Point does. They pay for it on Sundays, closing at 7 pm, rather than Cedar Point's 8 pm. The one drawback: a couple years ago we went to Kings Island two days in a row, and the second day had some weird problem with our passes. It got straightened out, but if we lost precious time Sunday morning, during early admission when the park would be as empty as it could get and the chances for riding Vortex the best they would be? That could be a regrettable mess.

We did not have to decide whether to risk this. While a Saturday night ride on Vortex would be great --- and one on The Beast even better --- Saturday was also the rainiest day since the Flood. Our whole drive down it rained, sometimes mildly, sometimes bad enough that the highway slowed down. bunny_hugger nodded off, as she often will on a long car ride, and woke up at the end of the Greatest Generation podcast episode to ask if it had been raining that hard the whole time. It had not, but ... it had been raining like that the preponderance of the time.

We checked in to a Red Roof Inn which was clearly Some Other Hotel when it was built and rebranded, so that the individual rooms looked right but everything else about it was all wrong. And we had a hard think about what to have for dinner, which is to say we asked where the nearest Skyline Chili was. There was one just across the highway, turns out, although at the end of a complex web of narrow roads which make absolutely no sense for the Cincinnati (sp?) area. This was a maze of roads that would be appropriate for Pittsburgh, where you have to keep spiraling around to keep anything like a drivable gradient. I started growling because I thought I made a wrong turn about 28 times in a drive of under a half-mile's length. Anyway, Skyline Chili: really good idea.

Kings Island closed at 11 pm, after what must have been the most dismal attendance day on record. Sunday, closing day, promised to be sunny and in the 60s. Undoubtedly, everyone in the lower Midwest and the upper South would be at the park, competing with us for a ride on Vortex.

Trivia: A meteor of about 140 kilograms fell just outside Ensisheim, in Alsace, on 7 November 1492, shortly before noon. King Maximillian, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, announced on 26 November this was a sign from God, and ordered the stone displayed in Ensisheim church, and ordered his men to battle with the French. (His forces won.) Source: Rain of Iron and Ice, John S Lewis.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford.

PS: How October 2019 Treated My Mathematics Blog, which was ``crazy good'' thanks to getting a referral from somewhere for some reason.

PPS: Prowling around Anthrohio 2018's Saturday again.


Walking with bunny_hugger around the aftermath of the parade.


This neat little planter made for some great resting steps in the new hotel; it had a lot of places to just sit a while.


bunny_hugger's quest for coffee meets a sad end.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019
12:10 am
Why does the sun go on shining; why does the sea rush to shore

At the start of October, Kings Island shocked us with an announcement. They were closing the roller coaster Vortex at the end of October. This is a roller coaster they built in 1987. It's the era of the megalooper coaster, when Arrow Dynamics discovered they could use the tubular steel track of mine ride coasters and do crazy things with it: tracks that went upside-down, mostly, in loops that were not too terribly neck-crushing to ride. So in the late 80s parks went crazy putting up roller coasters that were almost nothing but chains of loops. Kings Island built theirs then, reusing the station from their first roller coaster named The Bat, a cute little place built to look like a haunted Scooby-Doo mansion.

The megaloopers have been disappearing. Great Adventure took out theirs, the Great American Scream Machine, at the start of this decade. Cedar Point still has theirs, Raptor, although now I've got to wonder if it might actually be the next doomed coaster in their collection. Kings Island explained the problem was that Vortex was at the end of its service life, and it just couldn't be maintained at a reasonable expense anymore. This is ... plausible. The thing about these megaloopers of the late 80s is that they were built with, by our standards, very primitive computer modeling, using the technology of mine ride coasters which are not designed to loop. It's credible that the rides would shake themselves apart. That Kings Island announced the ride would close, basically, four months ahead of time makes it plausible that they discovered some structural component was too near failure to endure another winter cycle.

When she heard the news bunny_hugger thought: could we make a farewell trip to Kings Island? It's outside Cincinnati (sp?), the far side of Ohio ... but, we could manage a five-hour drive. It would be harder than the four-hour drive to Cedar Point or four-and-a-half to Indiana Beach, but I've managed that before. We already had planned to go to Cedar Point the weekend of the 18th through 20th, but ... bunny_hugger's parents might be willing to watch Sunshine another weekend. If we got a little crazy we might even go down one day and come back the next, reducing how long they'd have to watch Sunshine. It would be fun to go to another park's Halloweekends event. It would be fun to see Kings Island especially as we figured we were at the end of our amusement park season.

But dull practicality held us back. The first weekend of October we didn't have time to organize anything for. Columbus Day weekend promised to be too mad, if the Cedar Point experience was anything to go by. The third weekend was already committed. The last, the 25th through 27th? Well, the 25th was right out; that was MB's Halloween party. Going down one day and coming back the next?


The problem: work. Mine, very slightly. bunny_hugger's, more. She's at the point in the semester where she's behind on grading and returning stuff. And we were facing a boss rush of events. Reading group at school for Tuesday the 29th; pinball league the 1st of November; a double pinball tournament the 2nd; a tournament she's running this coming 6th of November; her birthday, somewhere in all this; a colloquium at school the 8th; another tournament the 9th. There just wasn't any way to schedule something so frivolous as a farewell visit to a roller coaster around all that.

So, facing that workload, after our Cedar Point trip, bunny_hugger and I agreed that it just wasn't plausible. We couldn't schedule that much stuff in so short a while. Vortex would ride its last, and we would have to simply quietly regret that we would not see its final ride.

This would be the regrettable, but rational, and utterly sensible decision. The necessary one.

Trivia: George Wright for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings reached first base on clean hits 304 times in 483 at-bats, which would be a batting average of 0.629, had the statistic been invented then. Source: The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford.

PS: My 2019 Mathematics A To Z: Sample Space, one of those core pieces of probability worth looking at.

PPS: More of the aftermath of the Anthrohio 2018 fursuit parade. I missed whatever group photo they might have taken.


One of the several horses that're now regulars at Anthrohio.


And the front side of that lighter raccoon shared a couple days ago.


PunkCat, in raccoon guise, probably up to some mischief or other. You know how it is.

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019
12:10 am
Cause if a mouse can be special, well so can you

Happy birthday, my precious bunny_hugger. Thank you for spending this past year of your life with me.

Also, if you're looking for an update on The Amazing Spider-Man's plot, it's here.

So, we adopted a blur.


It's a mouse, properly, of course. The rescue from which we adopted Stephen and Penelope got an extremely pregnant mouse dropped off in their laps. The mouse had a dozen babies and the rescue thought hard about who could possibly take any of these mice. Male mice are particularly hard to adopt out, since they stink, and they won't put up with another male mouse being nearby. And if they're not neutered, you won't want to put up with them having a female mouse nearby. Well, they neutered all these mice, incredibly. And thought of us as someone who might take one or more. We negotiated down to one, on the supposition that even if the males were neutered and brothers, their best chance, they still might not put up with each other existing.

The biggest sticking point was his cage. The rescue director absolutely positively will not put up with Habitrail cages. We have wire cages with Habitrail components. The director wanted us to make an aquarium-style cage, one that you can make by using a broad plastic bin and cutting out windows. Then cover the windows with bars, screwed to the plastic. We couldn't quite figure how to do this. The director finally said that we could borrow the plastic bin that they were keeping him in already, until we could set up our own cage.

And so yesterday we made the long drive out to the rescue and met the mouse. He's a very sociable mouse, at least with humans; other mice, not so much. He was comfortable just about right away when we picked him up, too, and buzzed adorably for almost all the time. We shared talk about past mice, and rabbits, and other animals for a good hour or so, and then took him home.

We've set his bin up on top of Sunshine's hutch. This has forced us to move an accretion of rabbit-related stuff off the top of her hutch. But cleaning things up because you're forced to still leaves things cleaned up, so that's a relief.

We haven't yet gotten good pictures of him in his new habitat. We're letting the mouse get comfortable with the new circumstances, though, and trust that he'll come out when he feels secure. And even now, when it's quiet in the house, we can hear the little munching noises of his chewing on cardboard tubes or blocks of food. Sunshine has yet to express an opinion about the mouse directly, although if we stand too close to her hutch for too long she will come over, demand to know why we're messing around in Her Place, and nibbling our feet. We'll be talking with her about her jealousy.

The mouse has been named Mickey; we haven't decided whether to keep that. We are open to a companion mouse, if we find one or more that fit his temperament, but don't have one now.

Trivia: Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and English King Henry VIII both ordered gun batteries to be known as the Twelve Apostles. Source: Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World, Jack Kelly.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford.

PS: I'm Looking For The Final Subjects For My 2019 A-To-Z, so please put in your nominations for things I could write about!

PPS: So, while I wait for good photographing opportunities for the mouse let's take some photographs from Anthrohio 2018 and share them, shall we?


Peering into the ballroom where the last fursuiters were gathered, looking for bunny_hugger.


Oh look! There she is! Did she spot me?


She's coming for me! She's unstoppable! Help!

Monday, November 4th, 2019
12:10 am
Pink elephants on parade

I finished off another week with my mathematics blog. And a full week at that. Here's what I published:

I didn't have time to write a recap of the plot of The Amazing Spider-Man. I'll get to it soon. In the meanwhile, please enjoy pictures from the Anthrohio 2018 Saturday, mostly around the fursuit parade.


bunny_hugger entering the ballroom to gather for the parade.


I squatted into a place here, near the back entrance of the hotel, where I guessed the light would be good and the parade would have to walk past me.


More fursuiters gathering. I love the (modest) depth of field this picture.


Not to worry: there's raccoons!


Not only are there raccoons, but there's long ringed tails of many kinds.


Also, there's inflatable dinosaurs. They're worth noticing.


So here's your nice classic modern fursuit, someone fuzzy and gelato-colored.


The rare picture where I've got someone mid-step and it's not all blurry and awful. The photographing site was great even if the picture is backlit for grey suits.


Sometimes you'll meet a gryphon who isn't up to navigating an unfamiliar hotel with the head still on.


Oh, wow, suddenly we have tailmaws in suit now.


Unidentifiable rat character who acts like he recognizes me or something, I don't know what to make of it all. It's sad but it's completely impossible that we could ever know who Pakrat is.



Trivia: Enos, the chimpanzee that orbited on the Mercury/Atlas-5 test flight, died at Holloman Air Force Base on 4 November 1962 of shigellosis, a form of dysentery. Source: Animals In Space: From Research Rockets To The Space Shuttle, Colin Burgess, Chris Dubbs.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford.

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019
12:10 am
Some other cat looking over his shoulder at me

We chose to leave the last weekend of October open in case we wanted to go to some Halloween party or event in town. There was one, not at all in town, we really hoped we'd get to. This would be MB's Halloween party at his house in Mount Clements. MB owns, and routes, the games at the Sparks pinball museum, at a bowling alley near his home. MB is an uncanny twin to us, especially bunny_hugger. He's also big on decorating for holidays. And old-time amusement park attractions. Coin-op games. His favorite pinball machine is even FunHouse, like me and bunny_hugger.

Happily he had another party this year, and we were welcome, eagerly so. We drove to Flint, to MWS's, to carpool the rest of the way, something that gave bunny_hugger that little extra time to do class work in the car. At MWS's house briefly we got to see his dogs. The shy one seemed, momentarily, to like seeing bunny_hugger. Not me. But the enthusiasm didn't last, and she soon retreated to stand next to K and draw no closer, thank you, and maybe growl a little too softly to be heard. We all cope with our anxieties in our own ways.

Mount Clemens is near Detroit, but on the eastern side, so it's dreadfully far from us, one of the reasons we don't play at Sparks events more. As we pulled up to the street MWS, who'd been at the party last year (when we were at Cedar Point for Halloweekends) asked if we could tell which house it was.

It was of course the house with a front lawn full of decorations: zombies and gravestones and reproduction freak show signs, colored lights and smoke machines, even a fortune telling machine. It was as lavishly decorated as anything from Halloweekends, but just this one plot of land in an older city neighborhood. I was torn between amazement at the scene and sorrow for the neighbors. I have to suppose they've worked out some agreements.

MB's house --- originally built around 1885, he said --- was no less decorated inside. The front parlor, for example, had mourning wreaths and a coffin set up and, as MB pointed out, this was the room that funerals would have been, and surely were, held in, back in the day. It also had a Safecracker pinball game that he wasn't able to move out in time. We saw a bunch of people in the dining room, sitting around the circular table with flickering candle-lights and thought they were maybe doing a seance. No, but everyone agreed, it would have reasonable.

And his house is historically respectful too, very much in line with the sense that bunny_hugger and I have about our own house, which is a mere 91 years old. You know, that attitude that there's this historical integrity to the house we need to respect and preserve. He goes farther: he's got vintage, or at least vintage-looking furnishings, including a gas stove and a Monitor-hood refrigerator that would be in place for the 1920s and that, apparently, he still uses and that work fine.

His backyard had a nice fire pit and seating and such, although we didn't spend much time there. His detached garage was filled with pinball games, all in great shape. The lone disappointment is that none of his several FunHouse games were there. But the newest of his tables was Stern's RollerCoaster Tycoon, based on the video game for some reason, and one that we never see on location anywhere. Over the night we found enough times to play, though, and started to work out some of what you should do in the game. It's very like Stern's Monopoly, a license they also had for some reason at about the same time. MWS put his name on the high score table. Me, I also had some great luck playing, and got the (surely recently re-set) high score on two tables over the night.

MB was eager to show off his memorabilia, especially things he had salvaged from older Chuck-E-Cheese's or Little Caesarland or other sites. Or just old neighborhood bar signs, that kind of thing. That sort of vintage ... you know ... little stuff was so appealing to us personally.

It's not just commercial signage and stuff that interests MB, though. He's got a lighted cabinet with souvenirs from the days when Mount Clemens was the bathing resort for the Detroit/Windsor area. Souvenir dishes, photographs, pennants, all sorts of things from the days when people with money would come to partake of the waters. Those people including, by the way, bunny_hugger's grandparents, who had a mansion on a street bearing their family name, that turned out to be just a few blocks away from MB's house. Sad to say we forgot when we drove hom to go over and look at things. The mansion's been torn down long ago, although the carriage house, relocated, survives as a family home yet.

We had a couples costume, by the way, albeit one we didn't have to go to any effort for. We had almost no time to figure out costumes. bunny_hugger wore her Stitch kigurumi, and I my Angel. People loved seeing us as a pair. I think the great hulking mass of me in genetic-abomination pink captured their imagination too. In separate trips to Spirit Halloween, I had bought a Space Blaster pistol that had that right bulbous look for Stitch in Evil Mode, and bunny_hugger had bought a ten-dollar toy ukulele for Stitch in Good Mode. The ukelele would be no end of fascination to her because it was built well enough to have actual tuning pegs that could adjust the tension on the strings. But it was built shoddy enough that a single guitar string stretched out as two ukelele strings, so that both ends were tied to a tuning peg and it was impossible to tune one string independently of the other. Not that it would have held tune anyway, but bunny_hugger threatened for a while there to become obsessed with the problem of tuning this toy instrument to any kind of recognizable standard at all. MWS got some skeleton costumes and a blade, coming passably close to some skeleton warriors that you can encounter in the pinball game Tales of the Arabian Nights, giving him a costume that was legitimately pinball-related this year.

As usually happens when we get to a party we were among the last people to leave. It was past 1 am when we played our last game and said our last farewells to MB --- and even then we saw someone in a new costume to us, as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man --- and drove the hour back to MWS's place. And after that, the hour back to our place. We got back sometime after 3 am, to Sunshine's mild confusion. Well, she would be more confused the next day at 3 am.

Trivia: Excavation for the foundations of the Chrysler Building began 11 November 1928. Source: Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City, Neal Bascomb.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford.

PS: Exploiting my A-to-Z Archives: Ricci Tensor, an essay about a thing I believe is important but that I also don't think I understand well enough.

PPS: Saturday at Anthrohio 2018! You know how Saturdays always start.


bunny_hugger, Saturday just about noon, trying to find where in the hotel she's supposed to go to be in the Fursuit Parade.


Seriously though, where in this strange and alien and unnecessary hotel is the Fursuit Parade?


Ah! Maybe one of these fursuiters gathering in groups moving together might know where to find the Fursuit Parade!

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
12:10 am
When I look over my shoulder what do you think I see?

Having walked away from the Oceana Midway, near GateKeeper and Wicked Twister, to get lunch, after lunch we walked back to the Oceana Midway, to ride the Calypso and, what the heck, Wicked Twister. It's a low-priority coaster (it has a lot of braking in reverse, bad for bunny_hugger), but the queue sign claimed the wait wasn't long and, for such a day? Any ride that wasn't too long a queue was probably good. I mentioned Wednesday how we did a lot of walking, back and forth, across Cedar Point and this was when it started getting absurd.

We figured Gemini, in the back of the park (we were up front) would be a good ride. Along the way, we saw the queue for Corkscrew was listed as only about 20 minutes. That, too, was a pretty good wait so we jumped in the queue and oh, goodness. They had a lot of switchbacks open in the line. It was closer to 40 minutes all told, although the roller coaster was riding great --- everything was riding great, really --- and we were able to pay attention to parts behind the ride, and angles on the roller coaster, that we never see.

We noticed Top Thrill Dragster running. This is the park's tallest, fastest, and briefest roller coaster; you get up 400 feet, but the whole ride takes something like 16 seconds. We didn't go on it, since it's honestly not that much fun for the usual wait. But it's also the most weather-sensitive roller coaster they have and it was great to see that running in late October. Windseeker, their elevated swing ride, was also running, and that's always down for high winds.

On the way to Gemini we stopped in one of the frozen yogurt shops. They turn out to have coffee and hot chocolate too. bunny_hugger had been nodding off in the Corkscrew queue and needed the coffee. I just liked the hot chocolate, along with some whipped cream that I'm not sure wasn't meant to be put on yogurt instead. It was fantastic, though.

Gemini also had a wait of about twenty minutes, both on the sign and in reality. They were running only the red train, although two trains; we heard nothing about why the blue train wasn't running or whether it had something to do with the ride being closed the night before. They wouldn't have said anything anyway.

Around this time, the Halloweekends Parade would have been going on up front. We had seen it that day we dropped in back in September, which we thought at the time would at least take some pressure off us for our proper Halloweekends visit. This worked perfectly and I can't say the weather was significantly different between the last weekend of September and our late-October visit, this year.

We walked back up the Frontier Trail toward the front of the park. We poked in to the candle shop where we learned that the place had been ``remodeled'', with stuff that wasn't selling being taken off the shelves. And, yeah, being cut to less than half the size with almost none of the interesting candles on sale anymore is remodeling. The person working there admitted it was weird that they weren't making any more of the fall-leaf-shape candles that were always big sellers. But what all did happen we still haven't gotten.

After all that walking we got back to the Iron Dragon, right near Cupzilla, where the line was supposedly an hour. We detoured instead to Rougarou, one of those roller coasters everybody forgets exists because it's in a hard-to-find spot and isn't all that exciting a ride. It started life as a stand-up coaster, and was converted to one you get seats for like a normal ride. This is generally more comfortable but it does mean it's always a little less intense than the ride geometry suggests it should be. Then we got our Iron Dragon ride, with a wait that was ... oh, you know by now. We had surprisingly uniform wait times for when we actually went on things, most of the day.

And then we walked again to the front of the park, to do a circuit of the three carousels, naturally. And then to ride Blue Streak, which by then --- about 6:30 --- was down to a nearly normal five- or ten-minute wait. In the last 90 minutes of the park's day the crowd was ... not gone, really, but at least dissipating.

There was, for example, still enough crowd for all the cars in the Dodgem ride to be occupied and we took that ride. We tend to forget about the Dodgems, or to put them off until ``later'' and never pick them up again, not since they moved over next to Wicked Twister where we forget it exists.

After our ride on Cedar Downs we figured to make Millennium Force our last ride of the night. We'd maybe have time for one more ride, along the way. bunny_hugger asked if I had ideas and all I could think of that was not far off the track and not likely to have a long line were some of the small flat rides that fade into invisibility, like the Scrambler or the Matterhorn. Both names surprised her and we went over to Matterhorn. The ride operator thought we could both fit in a single car, and was too optimistic about how our bodies would interact with the seat belt and all. I left bunny_hugger in the ride car and went to the operator, who had already put people into every other seat on the ride, so she said I could get on the next ride cycle. So I stood there grumpily and watching the minutes evaporate on a ride that, really, didn't have that long a ride cycle. It just takes time to load and safety-check people and all. bunny_hugger didn't enjoy either, since she kept seeing me standing forlorn at the gate. And the ride doesn't do the cycle where you go in reverse like the ride was designed for. Cedar Point and its sister parks have some fear of rides that go in reverse that's got to reflect some park director's personal phobia. When all that was done I didn't want to take the time for my own ride cycle, so I just went through to the exit and bunny_hugger wanted to know why I did that when she would've waited. Overall, Matterhorn was a mistake all along.

As we walked to Millennium Force we saw the queue for Iron Dragon was almost nothing; we could easily have gotten an early-night ride on that instead, had we gone for it instead of trying Matterhorn.

The line for Millennium Force was not quite an hour. It did take us through the close of the park. Still, enough of the park's lights were still on that we could enjoy the spectacle of the park spread out like a toy, 300 feet beneath us, and whipping past us at 70 miles per hour or whatever Millennium Force does. It's a great steel roller coaster, and riding it feels like flying, which is probably why twenty years after it was built it's still getting such long queues.

And that finished out our weekend. We had to walk the long way around the park to get to our car; we passed, for example, Matterhorn just after its lights were turned out, and went past the Musik Express just as its lights turned off. I think we actually got to our car about 9 pm, an hour after the park's close.

Before we left bunny_hugger needed to do some stuff for school, and we were able to use the park's Wifi to do it. This revealed a minor catastrophe, that something she'd meant to publish to a class hadn't published, and this destroyed her mood. Not just that she hadn't published the thing that her class needed, but that it had gone on a very long time without anyone in the class asking her about it, implying that none of her students were even looking. Between my still feeling dumb over Matternhorn and this it started our drive home on a sour note. I even forgot to divert to taking the Chaussee, the pre-1950s exit from the park that everyone worries will be closed off some year. Although that's probably all right; I never quite remember how to get from that end to the Ohio Turnpike without going a long way in the wrong direction anyway.

We got home safe and sound. We had hoped that we'd spend Monday afternoon visiting bunny_hugger's parents before picking up Sunshine from them. But bunny_hugger had enough unfinished work that she didn't feel she could go. So I went alone, and spent several hours describing the high points of the weekend and leaving out the bad. I stand by this decision.

Trivia: Harry Lender's first job on immigrating to the United States in 1927 was at a New Jersey bagel bakery. Source: The Bagel: The Surprising History Of A Modest Bread,, Maria Balinska.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford.

PS: Exploiting my A-to-Z archives: Quasirandom Numbers, a chance to unify writing about Monte Carlo methods and the Merry-Go-Round Museum.

PPS: Uh, somehow I'm already up to pictures of the Friday night dance at Anthrohio 2018. All right, then.


We didn't get there until after midnight, and in the last hour the crowd was getting fairly sparse.


So this all must be before the great lens cleaning, although I like that this has come together to make it look like bunny_hugger is being trapped by an energy being on the Original Star Trek.


Stitch was always the sort of person who'd grab the spotlight.

Friday, November 1st, 2019
12:10 am
Come on and sing it with me, car wash

Despite problems I haven't run out of humor blog just yet. Here's what's run the past week.

So that was our visit to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. The next big photo event was Anthrohio, observing its first year in the new hotel. Let's take a look.


Thursday night: we peek in Main Events to see the stage being set up.


The major artery of the hotel's convention space, all ready to have furries poured into it.


Anthrohio took over all the event space in the hotel, which is a disappointment as I loved it when you had three hundred furries interacting with, like, the insurance industry.


Hospitality on a Thursday night, without anything much being set up yet.


Anthrohio mascot the Box Owl, at least its head.


Hospitality getting set up and ready to feed a good five hundred or more furries.


And now it's Friday noon already! Opening Ceremonies is ready to get started, just behind that pole obstructing my and only my view.


The chandeliers kept fascinating me for looking like something out of the Fortress of Solitude.


Plush pile! Chitter all worn out from the long drive down to Columbus.


The Tin Pan Alley can is the one I use to drum up interest in the Raccoons and Procyonids SIG; sitting on top of it is my guinea pig puppet. He's facing away from the camera, which is why he looks like an ice cream scoop of tribble.


Hey, it's Pterry! One of the great suiters who's been at every Morphicon/Anthrohio to my knowledge.


A panel where everybody had to pose a scene for Alkali to guess what the heck they were doing. I trust that whatever's going on here made sense in context.

Trivia: In Athens of about the fifth century BCE the name of the eleventh month of the year was Thargelion. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor, Jenny Linford. So, bunny_hugger wondered what I was reading, looked at it, and said that it looked like (a) a boring book and (b) exactly the sort of thing for me to read and, uhm Yeah. This is a fair cop.

PS: My 2019 Mathematics A To Z: Relatively Prime, another of those ideas that's simple but deep.

Thursday, October 31st, 2019
12:10 am
Must be the season of the witch, yeah

The jam-packed nature of Saturday at Cedar Point had implications. For future years yes. Also for Sunday. The park advised people turned away Saturday to come back Sunday. Those near enough might do so. And the weather was still going to be good. In fact, it was even better, getting up to the mid-60s and so nice that we went in without our jackets. We would have two chances to ride any of the marquee rides. One would be the end of the day, when if you're in line at the park close they let you stay there. The other would be early admission. As Hotel Breakers guests, and as Platinum passholders, we're allowed in one hour early. Traditionally, we don't use that on Sundays because we'd rather have the hour sleep. But the only way we could plausibly ride Steel Vengeance and anything else at all would be to go in when the park opened for early-admission at 10 am.

So we had to get up early, and shower quickly (always hard for me), and pack and load the car and check out. We did our best, but didn't quite get to the Hotel Entrance to the park for 10 am. We were close, though, getting in about a quarter past the hour, and we charged for Steel Vengeance. The queue was already posted at something like 90 minutes, but we figured there was no chance we'd see that line shorter.

And this gave us the time to look at some of the theming. There's a lot of queue for the ride. Cedar Point took the conversion of Mean Streak into Steel Vengeance to make a whole cast of characters for its Frontier Town, filling out names and backstories for like a dozen figures. Along the way in the Steel Vengeance queue are biography signs. One of them explains why there's a weird number of emu jokes in the Frontier Town, which is after all themed to the American West. ``Bendigo'' Chester Watkins is explained to be an Australian immigrant who came to the West with his family and a crate of emu chicks that he figured he could raise in Western Town just as well as in Australia. Which is daft, but in a way that's plausible for 19th Century Western Towns. It still doesn't explain why Cedar Point got emu-happy, but, what the heck. Anyway it's a fair bit of work to give a couple roller coasters a backstory of betrayal and revenge or something.

Steel Vengeance remains, we must admit, a fantastic ride. It's still possible to make out a lot of the old Mean Streak ride in it, but it has got extra bits of speed and barrel rolls, on the track, that a wooden coaster could not hope to do. And the ride was great, as we'd hoped. Worth the wait, which was closer to an hour than to 90 minutes. By the time we got out, the wait time was already up to three hours; we were wise to take this for our early-admission ride.

According to an events schedule we'd picked up there was a show of creepy, crawly animals at 12:30. This would be run by the Cleveland Zoo. We had just the time we needed to walk from Steel Vengeance, at the back of the park, to the Oceana Midway near the front and where the show was held. It wasn't in an enclosed venue; it was just out in the open, in the sunny skies near GateKeeper.

The show had some creatures that were legitimately, you know, Halloween-style spooky, or at least creepy-crawly. This would particularly be the Madagascar hissing cockroach, since an insect absolutely fits the bill. The ball python, too, a good solid match. The Eurasian eagle owl is also a good one, since, owls, you know? They also had a bearded vulture, which like the owl doesn't creep or crawl, but is Halloween-y. Others, though? The hosts could try to insist that the sulfur-crested cockatoo is mostly white, like a ghost, but they sound like Count Floyd trying to talk up the 3-D House Of Pancakes. Barely spooky at all was the three-banded armadillo, although that at least looks exotic and alien to northern Ohio. The fennec fox, though? No. That's so not Halloween, not by any measure. You can't present a living ball of fluff with drowsy eyes as creepy or crawly or Halloween-y. Just no.

By now, we were really ready for lunch. So we walked halfway back across Cedar Point to get to Cupzilla again, and then back again to the main midway, where we could get a Freestyle Coke. I go into such detail on this because if there is one thing we did on Sunday, it was walk back and forth a lot. We did a lot, yes, more than you might expect we could do for how crowded the park was and how the day would run only from the general opening at 11 am to 8 pm. And, Steel Vengeance beside, we didn't wait for anything that long. But we managed that by being willing to roam around and get on things as their lines seemed reasonable. And that transferred the hard work of the day to our feet. We had extremely sore feet by the end of the day --- bunny_hugger worse than me, but remember, I've never had a good-fitting pair of shoes --- and the next day, and we're still recovering thanks, in part, to what we went and did the next weekend. You'll hear about that soon enough, too.

Trivia: By the National Agreement of 1883, baseball contracts ran from 1 April to 31 October, with no team allowed to renegotiate a contract before 10 October. Source: Labor and Capital In 19th Century Baseball, Robert P Gelzheiser.

Currently Reading: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads, Derek Hayes.

PS: By the way, Thimble Theatre is trying to explain the fourth dimension, just a heads-up to keep my posting streak alive mostly.

PPS: the end of the day at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.


Pictures from the drive to save the old City Hall, and pieces from the floor and all that.


The exhibit of the attempt to save the old City Hall or at least salvage what they could of it.


The Grand Rapids Public Museum has a chunk of the Berlin Wall, too. I'm sure it's coincidence that they got a piece with the name Meijer graffiti'd on it. (The Meijer supermarket/discount-department-store chain started in the Grand Rapids area and is still headquartered there.)

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019
12:10 am
Mmm, must be the season of the witch

We got back to our hotel room to find the bathroom stinking of pot. Which was not the relaxing recovery from a too-long car trip that we wanted. The people in the house next door who'd been smoking enough pot for us to smell seem to have moved out, but the smell was an unwelcome flashback. bunny_hugger got rather tense about it and I insisted we should complain to the front desk, at least so that they would know not to charge us for smoking in our room. She didn't want to do that, and in fairness, leaving the bathroom fan to run a few minutes cleared the problem away.

Anyway we spent time thinking about what to do if this happens again. Yes, this was kind of a freak event, improbably good weather in late October. But, well, we've destroyed autumn. Halloweekends sunny and in the upper 50s are going to happen more and more. So we have to plan for that. We got to thinking of how to rearrange going to the Merry-Go-Round Museum so that we don't have to leave the Point on a day this busy again. And we have a couple plans, dependent largely on whether we'd be able to leave for a Halloweekends trip around 9 to 10 am on a Friday. This may not seem challenging but, you know, we're not morning people.

Finally we ventured into Cedar Point, which was packed, as you might expect. We walked around enjoying the spectacle of the park at night, and judging everything to be about ten times too crowded for us to go on any rides, but that's all right. we didn't have the urgent need to ride anything particular. We did go to the railroad, as something that would be ridable and let us see much of the park including the scenic displays set up for Bonetown or whatever they call their skeleton-based Old West town. This was the biggest line we'd ever seen, or could imagine, for the railroad. It was running two separate trains, too, something done on only the busiest days and a source of great delight to trainspotters. Also, Cedar Point attracts trainspotters. They have five locomotive engines and they are real, full-size ones built originally for industry. At one time three could run at once, but changes in the track have made more than two impossible to schedule.

We took a full circuit on the train, giving us the chance to be riding instead of walking. It left us back at the front of the park, though. And in a good spot to go to one of the shows. Midnight Syndicate was back, again doing gothic mystery music while a ghost story played out on the screen and stage. This one was about an obsessed artist working with mannequins while grieving his murdered wife, and he sees a poster for a kind of incredibly lifelike paint and you know where this is going. The story was all right, although we both agreed that it didn't quite work for us. I think one problem is we never got the sense that the artist had transgressed in some way. Like, if he had gotten obsessed with thoughts of his dead wife, all right, but all we could see was him learning of his wife's murder, then still grieving. Was it a week later? A month? A year? No clues given and, really, we don't see where he has too much of a reaction. Or where he deliberately chooses to do something offensive to the laws of nature. So we felt unfortunately underwhelmed by the experience.

This got us to about 10 pm, though, and we got a dinner of garlic-and-parmesan French fries. And with the hour getting later we started thinking we might even actually ride some things, like the lower-volume and higher-capacity stuff like the merry-go-rounds. The Kiddie Kingdom carousel was already closed for the night, but the Midway Carousel and the Cedar Downs carousels were in good order.

Somewhere we heard someone claim that the line for Magnum XL200 was surprisingly reasonable. On investigation, yeah. It was only something like twenty minutes, a wait we were happy to wait. On getting to the gates we heard the ride operator say, ``And look there, coming up the steps, it's Donovan.'' I assume this makes sense to the ride operators. I answered, ``Donovan? I love Sunshine Superman,'' that being the first Donovan song I could think of and hoping it was Donovan. This led bunny_hugger to comment how she hated There Is A Mountain. This earwormed herself for the rest of the night. Oh, also Magnum was running fantastic, and our seats, in the middle of the ride, gave us a really satisfying amount of zero-gee time on the smaller hills.

We had, earlier, seen the Gemini racing coasters running. And running two trains on both the red and blue hills. This is great, for capacity and for an experience. We figured that would be another ride with a modest queue for the circumstances. Perhaps it would have, but when we went up the ride was gated closed. There was no explanation; they'll never explain why a ride is closed or how long until it'll reopen.

Outside the ride was a park emergency vehicle, lights flashing, that stood for a few minutes and then pulled out heading towards the secret staff areas of the part of the park. We do not know that there's a link here. The next day, we would see the red train running --- two separate trains --- but would never see the blue train running. We also do not know that this is connected to Gemini closing early on the allegedly busiest day in park history.

With the night nearing its end there were two rides it would make sense to consider closing on: Steel Vengeance or Maverick. Steel Vengeance had a posted wait time of three hours which, uhm. No. Also they have a wait time sign that goes up to three and a half hours. Wow.

So instead we went --- well, not to Maverick. To one of the gift shops in the Frontier Town area, one of those that we always overlook. It didn't have stuff we really wanted. But it did have a neat variety of your old-time vintage toys, the kind of thing we see at Crossroads Village or the Old Time Toys section of World Market. Also shelves full of vintage tins from the kinds of general store where they didn't let you pick stuff off the shelves yourself. We spent a fair bit of time just photographing that stuff and wondering when Cedar Point got it, and what for.

Then we got into the line for Maverick, which promised to be around an hour. It moved at a fair pace, and as we expected the park closed while we were in it. We were closer to the end than we realized, too. After our post-closing ride we saw there was almost nobody left in the queue. Which seemed impossible, until we did the arithmetic: Maverick was running six trains, each carrying twelve people. We had got into the queue at about 20 minutes before the park closed so if three people joined the queue each minute? There'd be enough capacity to empty that line before we got back to the station.

The ride operator then said the happiest words you can hear at a Cedar Fair roller coaster: if there were no one waiting for our seats, we may stay for another ride. No one was waiting for our seats, so we got the rare re-ride. And rode one of Cedar Point's three most popular roller coasters twice, while in the park for four hours, on the Busiest Day The Park Ever Had. If you believe the retroactive press.

Dang but that was a great way to close out a sometimes trying Saturday.

Trivia: The Cassini probe's first Venus flyby passed about 284 kilometers above the surface of the planet. Source: Mission to Saturn: Cassini and the Huygens Probe, David M Harland.

Currently Reading: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads, Derek Hayes.

PS: My 2019 Mathematics A To Z: Quadrature, one of those ideas that's been around forever but that we don't need to talk about anymore.

PPS: A few last glaces around the Grand Rapids Public Museum as that closed for the day.


Skeleton of a whale hanging in the great open space of the Grand Rapids Public Museum.


They have a geological clockface showing various eras of the Earth's history, with the present day represented by these Flintstones dolls.


Stained glass window that I'm assuming came from something demolished for 1960s urban renewal or maybe Interstate construction.

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019
12:10 am
You got to pick up every stitch

Driving back to Sandusky from Cheese Haven went nice and smooth and well right up until it didn't. This started with traffic backed up a couple of city blocks not far from the Merry-Go-Round Museum. Then we got to an intersection where cop cars blocked the road and they pointed us off to the right, to more major roads. The roads that the city wants people to take to Cedar Point. So, with episodes of the Greatest Generation podcast playing, and bunny_hugger intermittently micro-napping, we took our little tour of other Sandusky streets and tried to think if there were anything else we had meant to get to in the town. A movie or something.

There were some nice points. Driving past a costume shop way off in the middle of an over-large strip mall, that I was tempted to go off and visit but didn't. Or the great mysterious Pyramid building! It was this tiny building, most recently a pet salon, underneath a wood-slat pyramid tower and we had seen it years ago for sale, and staying there. We sometimes talked about getting it to be our Cedar Point Visit home, although as a building this small --- apparently only ten feet wide and like 25 feet deep and probably not zoned residential --- this would've been dumb and possibly illegal.

And now it's impossible! The building was gone. Not the pyramid, which was there, and which provoked debate between me and bunny_hugger about whether it was the Pyramid Building, without the building. The great roof was there, but the place was a park. I thought that couldn't be it, it had to somehow be a different pyramid? Because Sandusky would have two pyramid buildings near one another for the reasons? bunny_hugger was sure that had to be the place we'd seen in past visits but hadn't been able to find recently.

She was right, of course. The Pyramid Building, vacant for years after the pet-groomers went out of business, had been seized for taxes or whatnot. And the building itself, constructed only in 1979, the same year Skylab fell, was demolished. The great pyramid --- actually a detached structure all this time --- was saved, though, and used to strengthen the neighborhood park's identity. So it's sad that we lost our absurd fantasy of having a summer home in northwest Ohio, but at least the most important part of this local strangeness survived and can be expected to stay around.

Also staying around a while: us, in traffic. Traffic advanced very slowly if it all, often by cars giving up and turning the other way. We finally got up to some cops who told us, Cedar Point's closed. And all I could do is stammer, ``But ... it's our hotel. We're staying there.'' And I held up the parking-pass that we got from the Hotel Breakers, as evidence that I wasn't totally fibbing. The cops said all right, then, and let us continue.

This would repeat as we drew closer to the arteries leading to Cedar Point. Traffic even got less bad as we got closer. The final leg, leading directly to the Causeway, was even clear of traffic, the result of cops turning away everyone who didn't think to say they were staying at the Hotel Breakers.

I wondered how bad parking would be, but also saw that there were no cars parked on the grass along the Causeway that connects the mainland to Cedar Point's parking lots. This had been full up the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend 2011, when the park was the busiest we had ever seen --- until then --- and, like, the local cell phone system crashed under people tweeting about how impossibly busy it was. And I was also disappointed to see the Marina Entrance and the Hotel Entrance --- the two (of four) entrances to the park we pass most closely on the way into the hotel parking lot --- were both open. If the park were closed we wanted to see the strangeness of the place being shut in the middle of a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

I figured it would be hard to find a spot in the hotel parking lot. It was harder than that. I drove aisle after aisle as bunny_hugger tried not to let me notice how anxious she was getting about parking. (Really she was very unhappy about all the traffic, but doing her best to not express her unhappiness, lest it aggravate me while I was driving.) We finally found one, in the last row, the farthest lot, past even the shuttles that Cedar Point uses to get people to off-the-Point hotel rooms. Between two Largemobiles that were parked a little too close to our lines. We were able to fit in only because I drive a subcompact and was willing to risk it, and even then, didn't pull in the whole way, giving my doors that little extra bit of space.

When it was too late I realized: Cedar Point has a traffic radio. We never listen to it, because when would it have anything useful to say? But if it had anything worth listening to, it would be through this. Nominally the traffic radio ends at like 1 or 2 pm, another reason we never hear it; we usually get to Cedar Point around 3 pm at the earliest. But if it were going to have a long broadcast day, this would be it, too. But we didn't think of it, and we didn't remember what frequency it was anyway, and, oh, too bad. I don't know what the traffic radio would have been here, but I like to imagine it was just a stream of expletives being bleeped out. Well, maybe next October.

On social media --- bunny_hugger checked Facebook, I checked Twitter --- the park was getting roasted. A lot of people complaining about making the many-hour trip only to be turned away two miles from the park, and replies assuring their tickets were good for Sunday if they came back. Or to contact this number if you can't do Sunday. It was fun to watch from our safe remove. The park had apparently reopened about an hour before, when one of the cops was telling us the park was closed. We can forgive him not having up-to-the-second updates and telling people to head away anyway. Later, Cedar Point watchers would assert this was the first time the park had closed for reasons of reaching capacity in its history. That's so thrilling a prospect that I instinctively doubt it. Never mind the days in, like, 1906 where the park had four rides and three of them were just metal benches in the sea. All claims about amusement parks are guarded by puffery. And once they've been heard, they evaporate, leaving only faint memories about whether this same thing happened three years ago, or thirteen years ago, or every year in the 70s. I like the thought of being at Cedar Point on the Busiest Day The Fire Marshalls Would Allow It To Have. But I'm going to do my best not to believe it, or let you believe it, without citations.

Trivia: Benjamin Silliman, appointed as professor of natural science to Yale in 1804, had an allowance of $9,000 for books and laboratory apparatus. Source: Yankee Science in the Making: Science and Engineering in New England from Colonial Times to the Civil War, Dirk J Struik.

Currently Reading: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads, Derek Hayes.

PS: Reading the Comics, October 24, 2019: Just Mentions Edition, comic strips not needing a full detailed discussion this past wek.

PS: More poking around Old Downtown Grand Rapids in reconstructed form.


Ticket and scheduling booth display at the Grand Rapids Public Museum's exhibit of the old train station.


Close-up view of flyers for the Union Pacific and for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, which operated from 1854 to 1918, from Cincinnati to the Mackinac Straits. It first operated trains into Grand Rapids in 1867. It changed the name from 'Railroad' to 'Railway' in 1896, letting you date the flyer a little more precisely.)


Closer picture of railroad tickets at the museum railroad station.

Monday, October 28th, 2019
12:10 am
Even my pajamas, when I don them have somebody else's initials on them

Have you got my mathematics blog in your RSS reader? If you haven't, don't worry. You can pick up the past week's writing here:

Some special stuff in the story strips. What's Going On In Judge Parker? Why has Rex Morgan stopped updating? Is Norton gone? August - October 2019 in plotting. Also, a mention of Funky Winkerbean, which is being annoying again.

And now to closing out our day at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, with a last look around the carousel as they closed that ahead of the museum. In hindsight, we should have gone to the carousel first and then to the dragons exhibit, but we'll remember that for next time.


More scenery panels of the Grand Rapids Public Museum's Spillman carousel. Nice scene of a woman on a boat beside some swans.


Another dappled horse on the outer row of the carousel, this one with a silver cherub as a secondary figure.


Lion on the Spillman carousel, which has six menagerie figures. Lions and tigers are common non-horse figures on any carousel, though.


The giraffe, another of the menagerie figures on the carousel.


A better look at the front of the giraffe, and the figures around it.


Another look at the chariot. I'm not sure whether this is the same chariot as before or whether the two chariots on the carousel have the same design.


Close-up view of the deer, with antlers that were most likely from a real actual deer.


The Wurlitzer band organ, also a 1928 construction and also from North Tonawanda, New York, originally. It had originally been in the Stanley Theater of Jersey City. And then spent two decades at the Roaring 20s Pizza Parlor on 28th Street, Grand Rapids. All right, that.


The sign they put across the front to warn ou the riding day has ended.


Part of the museum is the Streets Of Old Grand Rapids, with buildings and such from the 1890s.


A streetcar that I trust is one formerly used by the Grand Rapids Street Railway Company.


And a train station; I don't know whether it's a reconstruction of Grand Rapids's or whether it's pieces salvaged from the actual thing.

Trivia: The first Airbus, a twin-engine, 42-ton A-300, made its maiden flight on the 28th of October, 1972. Source: Mastering the Sky: A History of Aviation from Ancient Times to the Present, James P Harrison.

Currently Reading: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads, Derek Hayes.

Sunday, October 27th, 2019
12:10 am
That it's strange, so strange

Saturday we figured to go to the Merry-Go-Round Museum first, and then into the park. We usually do this, unless it looks like the Sunday afternoon weather will keep too many rides from being rideable. The weather forecast for Sunday was great: upper-50s-to-low-60s and partly cloudy. The weather for Saturday was also great: mid-to-upper-50s and sunny. We, not figuring we needed the morning hours, slept in late enough housekeeping never came to our room. And we set out, aware that it might be a busy day at Cedar Point. But surely nothing like the Columbus Day weekend in 2011, when the park was so crowded they were parking cars all along the causeway leading into the park, right? ... The constant stream of cars going into the park, as we drove out, suggested otherwise. It was looking busy. Crazy, crazy busy. No, busier than that.

In hindsight, what we should have done was turn around and go back to the hotel room and re-planned. Either to spend the whole day in the park, or to get exams that bunny_hugger could grade in the car. We did neither. We went to the Merry-Go-Round museum in the confidence that sure, it might take an hour to drive from this spot two miles away back here, but it wouldn't be riotously long.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum was more crowded than usual; I don't know that it was overflow Cedar Point visitors, though. They didn't have guided tours, a bit of a shame, as it's fun seeing bunny_hugger quietly match her knowledge against the museum's staff. Also because they had new mounts on their antique carousel and we wanted to know more about them. I noticed that they'd taken off a fox, for example. But they had put on this great-looking little hound dog. Also, on the innermost ring, a tiny rabbit with a sign warning that only those 60 pounds and under may ride it. Gorgeous little rabbit, though. It's got ribbons with two names, Bob and Effie. The significance of this is unknown to us.

The museum had its raffle horse completed for the year, too, a nice blonde horse with maroon and purple and cyan saddle and gear. Between us we got a dozen and a half tickets for it. The ticket-taker up front mentioned how she remembered, one year, selling the winning raffle ticket. It was to a guy from Texas who declared there was no point selling any more because he was going to win that year's raffle. And, yeah, the winner that year was from Texas. I realize this doesn't quite prove it has to have been him, but, you know? It's a good story, let's go with that.

The band organ has a scroll of Halloween tunes, and we always wonder what song we'll get on the carousel rides, which happen around once an hour or so depending on the attendance size. bunny_hugger was hoping for the Funeral March of a Marionette, or as normal people know it, the Alfred Hitchcock theme. What we got was a version of Dem Bones, at least for our first ride. For the second we got The Addams Family theme, which like a lot of these TV themes padded to three minutes goes off on some weird diversions mid-tune.

They had the carver we see every year there again. He was hard at work for something for next December: a Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer figure. It was in pieces, and just the bare wood, but it had that Rankin-Bass shape already. We don't know whether it's going to be on the carousel just for the holiday season or whether we'll see it during a future Halloweekends visit. Or if we do make the trip we always plan to, to see the ride some summer day when we're going to Cedar Point on the side.

The attendant at the gift shop --- once more they didn't have any new carousel music CDs, although we also don't have computers that play CDs anymore --- warned us that it was really busy getting back to Cedar Point. She showed the traffic maps of Sandusky, and all the dark red and even black lines. Ominous stuff.

bunny_hugger had a great idea. In Port Clinton, maybe ten miles west of Sandusky, is Cheese Haven, a shop which ... well, it's right there in the name. We almost never get there, though, since we're usually leaving Cedar Point way after the close of business. Now? As long as they didn't close before 5 pm on a Saturday? We could get there. Maybe even get some good novel cheeses.

So we set out west and got there and had a mystery solved. I had thought that Coon's Candy, in Nevada, Ohio, used to have these mysterious old framed newspapers about the deaths of William McKinley and Warren G Harding, and that were gone the last couple visits. Nope; it was Cheese Haven, and they still had them, flanking the doors, for whatever reason. They had a nice array of cheeses, including plenty of samples of both hard cheeses and spreads. Also, like, Boyer candies I ordinarily see only in Altoona or in very dusty form. We cursed ourselves for leaving the canvas cooler bag at bunny_hugger's parents, but after all, we didn't think we'd be getting anything that needed refrigeration. I bought a slender plastic cooler bag, and hoped it'd hold up to keeping cheeses safe against the effect Sunday afternoon might have in the back of my black car. It did, and now that's joined the heap of stuff I keep in my car Just In Case, along with jumper cables and a light rain jacket.

Between driving out to Cheese Haven, and wandering around, and buying stuff, and driving back we spent maybe an hour and a half away from the red- and black-traffic lines of Sandusky. This would be all that we needed, right? It might be a bit heavy driving back to our hotel, but it'd be no real issue, surely.

Trivia: The USS Kearsarge, which recovered Wally Schirra after his Mercury flight on the 3rd of October, 1962, had left the port of San Diego the 1st of August. Source: Sigma 7: The Six Mercury Orbits of Walter M Schirra, Jr, Colin Burgess.

Currently Reading: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads, Derek Hayes.

Exploiting my A-to-Z Archives: Pigeonhole Principle, another of those things that seem so obvious it can hardly be mathematics, but it's really good mathematics despite that all.

PPS: Word on the street is that life is a carousel, my friends. SAM_6438.jpg

Looking at the scenery panels in the middle of the Spillman carousel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. I don't know how original any of the designs are, but they do look plausibly 1928.


Looking up at some of the rounding board of the carousel, plus the ceiling of the enclosure, which is this cute little side building to the Grand Rapids Public Museum.


Butterfly-woman that's one of the designs you see on these carousels all the time. One of the Cedar Point carousels has this but as three-dimensional carved figures around its top.

Saturday, October 26th, 2019
12:10 am
And when I look in my window, so many different people to be

So we planned to get right into Cedar Point. We didn't, though. We had got there just at sunset, and the silhouettes of the amusement park against the reddening sky was too beautiful to just ignore. We had to watch it, and photograph it, and delayed going in for that, and this was the correct thing to do.

The park was fairly busy, harbinger of the weekend to come. We figured Steel Vengeance and Maverick, the big rides at the back of the park, were impossible except maybe as a last-ride-of-the-night. Gemini wasn't running, as usual for Halloweekends Fridays. The Mine Ride, celebrating its 50th year, was, and we started our riding on that, with a fair enough 15-minute wait. They were running three trains, more than usual, and they were full.

We walked the Frontier Trail towards the front of the park, and checked in on the glass-blowing workshop. Not long enough to see a show, but enough to see how much stuff they're carrying these days. Part of the Trail had been, for years, a steampunk-themed haunted walkthrough area. Nowadays it's changed to a more standard-issue haunted trail with fake gravestones and all. And something new: a plexiglass-lidded coffin that someone alive stood in, with several rats crawling over him. You understand what they're going for, but the rats were a pair of big fat dumbo rats, the kind that look like the heroes of a cartoon who stand up to the mean dogs, so the horror was mild. The rats kept trying to lick at the plexiglass and put their heads under the fingers of onlookers.

Cedar Point had the grease trucks back, so we could again get a Korean-barbecue style tofu meal at Cupzilla. These were all put into a little corner near Iron Dragon and where the Wildcat roller coaster used to be. In much of the rest of the area was the Boneyard Battleground. This was several stages, two of them for bands and dancers, one of them for acrobatics and stunts. Each stage was made up to look like stuff built out of a postapocalyptic junkyard. On each a band or set of acrobats would perform for something like twenty minutes. Then the emcee, the Queen of the Boneyard, would come out and declare the next performers competing for their lives or whatnot would be ... this. And this continued in cycle. The result is that the spectacle, with lights and music and flames spitting into the air, ran for five hours total, 7 pm to midnight, without interruption. This was great for making sure it always felt like something was going on. It also meant that this point got choked by the crowds, though.

And there were crowds. Blue Streak, the oldest roller coaster and the lone surviving wooden coaster, had a line of maybe twenty minutes. That was very worth it, though; the ride felt surprisingly smooth and lively. I joked they had greased the tracks. We would get back to the Kiddie Kingdom carousel --- mercifully the ride operator was not the one we'd had the unhappy encounter with the month before --- and that was nearly full, even though it was close to the end of the Kiddie Kingdom ride's day.

I had worn, that day, my Herschell-Spillman Factory Museum t-shirt. And it was warm enough that I hadn't zipped up my hoodie. The shirt had silhouettes of many of the Herschell-Spillman rides, many of which were for kiddielands. And we realized we could recognize many of them at the park. We realized these were plausibly some of the oldest rides in the park, as the Herschell-Spillman company specialized after World War II on kiddieland ride packages.

While we were near the front of the park we got on the Tiki Twirl, formerly Calypso and still playing calypso music. And went over to GateKeeper, which is both a great roller coaster and really good at moving people through. This had another wait of about a half-hour, although we got to enjoy watching the orange moon rising above the waters of Lake Erie from the queue. The only sad part to that is while the Moon was its most orange it was also behind a fence, so our cameras focused on the fence rather than the interesting stuff. By the time we were out of the queue the Moon was high enough that it was a beautiful view, but not the one we'd found so attractive.

While we were up near the front of the park we got rides in on the Midway Carousel --- bunny_hugger resuming her project of deliberately riding each horse --- and the Cedar Downs carousel. Both were nearer full than we'd ever seen them.

And this threatened to fill up our night. We chose for the end of the night to ride Raptor, the mid-90s heavy-looping roller coaster. Its estimated wait had fluttered all night between 30 minutes and an hour, and it was projecting closer to 30 minutes this time and, what the heck, it's better to do something. And this was how we did see out the night, with another great ride, one that again felt like they'd been greasing the tracks.

So this was our Friday evening. Not a heavy load of rides, no, but those we did get to were working great. Good start to things.

Trivia: At the end of 1955 the New York Herald Tribune showed its first profit in four years: $45,000. Source: The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune, Richard Kluger.

Currently Reading: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads, Derek Hayes.

PS: Exploiting my A-to-Z Archives: Osculating Circle, one of those things that doesn't seem like it could be much, yet is.

PPS: Hey, how about a carousel?


Strikingly dappled horse on the outer ring of the Grand Rapids Public Museum's Spillman carousel.


One of the chariots on the Grand Rapids Public Museum carousel, with quite the scene of fae folk and whatnot.


Looking up at one of the goats, and seeing some of the panels.

Friday, October 25th, 2019
12:10 am
Even our piano in the parlor Father bought for ten cents on the dollar

Had another full week at my humor blog. If you didn't see it before, here's your fresh chance:

So hey, how about a big pile of photographs? Here's some more wandering around the Grand Rapids Public Museum.


Close-up of some of the mechanism for the Grand Rapids City Hall clock. I'm going ahead and guessing it's an escapement, since that's what I call any clock mechanism like that.


The display side of the City Hall clock.


An airplane hanging near the City Hall clock. I can find that the plane, NC11301, was a Driggs Skylark 3-95 constructed in 1931. Beyond that I can't find out anything; even some online aviation museums just say this is a plane that exists. Why it's noteworthy is to me a mystery. Even the museum's web site barely acknowledges that the thing exists, much less says anything about why it's worth attention.


The museum has taxidermy exhibits of native wildlife, so yeah, raccoons are among those on display.


Taxidermy raccoons always seem to be less grey than they appear while living and I have no idea why. Yes, I spot the anti-raccoon propaganda on the sign there.


Paw. You're welcome.


Tiling in front of the elevator that I think</em> was recovered from the old City Hall? I'm not sure, but bunny_hugger will be able to tell.


We didn't have time to explore more of the museum as we needed to get to the carousel, a 1928 Spillman along with a Wurlitzer band organ. The ticket booth is original to the carousel, according to the National Carousel Association's census.


A first peek at the carousel, which is both very well-restored and in a great enclosure.


Closer look at the lion and some of the other carousel animals.


The carousel got a good restoration in the mid-90s and it's still looking sharp.


And that was the middle-row horse. Here's what the outside looks like.

Trivia: On 25 October 1902, after a week of lessons, Barney Oldfield drove Henry Ford's ``999'' racecar in a race and covered the five miles in a record five minutes, 28 seconds, lapping the runner-up. Source: Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire, Richard Bak.

Currently Reading: Live TV From The Moon, Dwight Steven-Boniecki.

PS: My 2019 Mathematics A To Z: Platonic, which gets to be pretty solid, because naturally.

Thursday, October 24th, 2019
12:10 am
When I look out my window, many sights to see

The last several years we've made our Halloweekends trip to Cedar Point the last weekend in October. It's fun seeing the season out. It's fun being as close to Halloween as possible. Some special years it's even after Halloween, and as close to bunny_hugger's birthday as can get. In picking our weekend for this year, though, we went for the week before the end of October. Partly, this would give bunny_hugger some more breathing space before a boss rush of pinball events and work committments. And this would open up time for Halloween parties or haunted house trips or such, that we've had to turn down the last several years. And the penultimate weekend in October should be about as good, right?

We set off bringing Sunshine to bunny_hugger's parents almost on time. We wanted to set out at 11 am, and actually left at 11:15, which is still doing great. We spent longer talking and eating lunch than we had hoped, and set out from them about 2 pm. We left knowing it was unlikely that we'd get to the Hotel Breakers, on Cedar Point, early enough to take advantage of early admission. Ah, but, how would the crowds be?

Halloween events are amazing money factories for amusement parks. Cedar Point's Halloweekends just keeps getting busier. And this year has been busier yet. Some amusement park snobs blame their new Gold Pass. This is a season pass, introduced for the 2020 season --- Cedar Point's official sesquicentennial --- that's a great deal. It's got many of the benefits of the platinum pass, my and bunny_hugger's level, but at half the price. It's only good for Cedar Point, which is the drawback for us. But it's so much better than the standard season pass that it's a great bargain if you don't want to go to other parks in the chain. It's been selling like it was the elixir of life. And once they put 2020 season passes on sale they were good for the remainder of the 2019 season, including Halloweekends.

So Cedar Point has been crowded. Again, amusement park snobs blame the Gold Pass for this. Surely it contributes. Also contributing, though, is that the weekends in Sandusky for September and October have been gorgeous weather. We've been to some truly brutal Halloweekends, days that were freezing or raining or both. What we'd want, for ourselves, is weather that's ... you know, bad enough to keep the place from being overcrowded. But not so bad as to shut down all the rides. Especially since they took pinball out of the indoor arcades.

Friday's weather looked to be ... not bad, for our purposes. Hovering around the 40s, light winds. Enough that you need to wear long underwear, not bad enough that you need the heavy jackets and winter gloves. The forecast for Saturday and Sunday, though? Highs near 60, clear skies, light winds. Well, the forecasts are always wrong one way or another, and maybe all the locals got their Cedar Point trips out of the way the previous six gorgeous weekends in a row.

The drive down was fine, except that bunny_hugger fell asleep rather than grading. This was annoying in two aspects. One is that she's been getting her sleep habits under control and has been less prone to afternoon naps and this seems like regression. The other is that she did have roughly 1,432 essay questions that needed to be graded by ... 11 am tomorrow ... and three or four hours' work going down to Cedar Point would have made this week considerably better for her. Oh, and we hit a weird traffic near-stop in the transition from US 23 to the Ohio Turnpike. Worst is knowing that I had the chance to divert and all it would really have cost was seeing some of the sites of Maumee that we never stop at anyway other than the Speedway gas station where we use the bathroom.

At the Hotel Breakers check-in were a lot of people. Quite a line, really. It moved at a decent enough pace, but any hope of getting the last couple minutes of early admission vanished as we admired the skeleton carousel horses and the not-quite-muted playback of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Our room would be just off the central rotunda, and I'm all but certain we have stayed in this precise room before. And with some layers to fend off the fair-but-not-bad cold we were ready to go in.

Trivia: Americans eat an average 26 pounds of bananas per person per year, more than any other whole fruit. Source: Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, Michael Ruhlman. (I am way below average and thinking of the poor soul who's choking down, like, 49 pounds this year to make up for me.)

Currently Reading: Live TV From The Moon, Dwight Steven-Boniecki.

PS: Some stories about becoming a mathematician, a break from the heavy mathematics talk for some talk about being a mathematician instead.

PPS: More prowling around the Grand Rapids Public Museum.


Grand Rapids, it won't surprise you to hear, built a City Hall in the Gilded Age, a great heaping pile of bricks and crenellations. Nor will you be surprised to know they tore it down in the 60s as part of urban renewal. So, here's the clock, saved from the tower and even restored to working, at least for twelve-hour intervals.


More of the gear and mechanisms of the former Grand Rapids City Hall clock. I assume the small clock face is there so people setting the thing know the city clock is showing the right time?


A view of two faces of the Grand Rapids City Hall clock, with most of the interesting mechanism.

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