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

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Sunday, January 20th, 2019
12:10 am
We were the first to see the purple skies

And then we can get into the first tournament of the 2019 campaign. This was a Bill's Basement tournament, at the home of BIL. He's got something like ten games in his basement, and a couple more in a bedroom. A couple times a year he has a daylong tournament and party. It's always reliable fun and somewhat crowded. He's gotten some different games from the last time we attended one, replacing Jersey Jack's Wizard of Oz with Jersey Jack's Dialed In!, for example. And different electromechanical and solid-state games. The format was to be eight rounds of four-player groups on randomly chosen machines, with International Flipper Pinball Association scoring: seven points for a first-place finish, five points for second-place, three points for third-place, one for last place. Top eight players going to the A Division finals, next eight to B Division.

A twist this time: we didn't know BIL's WiFi password and were too shy to ask. So we had no idea where we actually were in the standings all day, and could only go by our impressions. I'm not sure if this is better or worse than knowing exactly how far out of qualifying, or qualifying for A Division, would have been. Also a twist: AJG was there. He hadn't yet committed to attending state finals, but here he was breaking his latest retirement from competitive pinball. Later in the day he mentioned, the first time we were in a round together, that he and I hadn't had the chance to play together all day. About five minutes later I realized that would have been a time to tease him by saying yeah, I was surprised to see him at something as not-small-potatoes as a Basement tournament.

My first round was on Dirty Harry, against three guys I knew well from Marvin's League. And I had this killer second ball that by all rights should have won, except that PAT had an astounding third-ball rally. Fair enough. Next game was Aztec, an electromechanical, my traditional strong point. Aztec was also one of the games that, at Pinburgh 2016, gave me a complete failure round of nothing but last-place finishes. This instance of the table gave me another fourth-place finish, and later in the day would give me another, and a third-place. Next was Laser Cue, a solid-state game that I'd had several good and one great practice game on, and on which I crashed and burned. Older games are usually my relative strength; this was dismal. bunny_hugger had finished her first round in fourth place, the next in third place, and the next round in second place. I advised her to keep up the pattern.

And she did: she took first place the next round. I did too, to my wonder, on the modern game Metallica. For me, then, a stumble on Dialed In; even though it's a Jersey Jack game, I put up a lousy one, coming in third place. But then, finally, some relief: we were on Genesis. BIL had announced at the start of the tournament that it was played on the settings that made my Pinburgh 2017 triumph possible, where knocking down these three drop targets in a row advanced all the body parts you collect in the game to build a robot. bunny_hugger worried that he'd given away my strategy. I said, confidently, nobody was going to try it. I was correct, and got a first place. Then another round of Aztec beat me, and then I got back on Genesis. That time I ended up in second place, but by a whisker. bunny_hugger went for the cycle again, a second, a fourth, a third, and a first-place finish.

So we were sitting around the living room, watching baffling time-filler shows and BIL's wife doing some craft projects. And CST and RC sitting on the floor, playing with BIL's new cat, a kitten about the size and heft of a kitten's own sneeze, a scene of incredible adorableness featuring a couple of middle-aged men. And someone called us over. bunny_hugger and I were tied. We had to play off. Mercifully, not to determine who made it to B Division finals, just to settle seeding. But we'd both had two first-place, two second-place, two third-place, and two fourth-place finishes over the eight rounds. And she beat me, fair and square.

I had a lousy playoff round, going third, fourth, and fourth, including another rotten game of Aztec. I don't know why I couldn't get the hang of that game; it's understandable not to play well in a tournament but usually you can have a good ``revenge'' game afterwards, and I couldn't. But somehow the older games that usually like me so did not that day.

bunny_hugger, meanwhile, had a good playoff round. I think she had two second-place and a first-place finish, winning the B Division. Which is great. My first-ever first-place finish was also at a Bill's Basement tournament, B Division. Her trophy's more exciting: it has a small light, at the base of a lucite pillar that illuminates a replica of the Genesis pinball table. It's great.

We had carpooled, at least from Lansing, with JTK. He's one of our Grand Rapids friends, and the guy we'd carpooled and roomed with at Pinburgh 2018. And we realized this was the first time we'd seen him since Pinburgh 2018. MWS had planned to be at the tournament (he wouldn't carpool with us; that wouldn't make sense), but he was feeling sick and had to bow out, leaving room for AJG, the top of the standby list, to come in. AJG would come in merely third place, but still take home 11.01 IFPA points. So if this year is anything like last, he's already one-sixth of the way to state championships for next year.

Meanwhile bunny_hugger, finishing in ninth place behind all the A Division players, earned 2.78 IFPA points. It's probably already one of her top-twenty finishes of the year, although it's only about 1/24th of what she'll need to make state again. Still, three points in January is as good as three points in December, and there's still whatever she can get in December. (I got 1.25, which is better than nothing, but won't be in my top-twenty unless I have a dire year.)

Trivia: There are only about seven hundred miles of unclaimed ocean space between the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Cape Verde Islands and the St Peter and Paul Rocks (owned by Brazil) Source: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: Sigma 7: The Six Mercury Orbits of Walter M Schirra Jr, Colin Burgess.


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Close-up of the front of the Blue Streak train. It's a ``Century Flyer'', from National Amusement Device Company of Dayton. I believe it's the same model train as on the Thunderbolt at Kennywood. The light here might have worked at one point; the rolling motion of the wheel was supposed to generate power to drive the light. But at least at Kennywood, the rumbling around broke lights too often for that to reliably work.


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Conneaut Lake Park's Music Express, which was not running when we visited but which left us with the nagging feeling that didn't they not have the cars on the track previous visit? And did they ever have an umbrella for the ride? There's no way to tell except by looking at old pictures, alas, so we will never know.


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And the Tumble Bug! One of the only two Tumble Bugs still known to exist (the other is the Turtle at Kennywood). Notice some of the machinery's been put into a case painted like a tiny house here. Isn't that adorable? The coloring of the axles is pretty nice too. In the far background you can see stacks of inner tubes for the lazy-river ride.


Saturday, January 19th, 2019
12:10 am
You open wide and we look in and throw in several aspirin

bunny_hugger noticed the problem first. Our pet rabbit was slow to finish her vegetables, which is weird for such a food-oriented rabbit but will sometimes happen, especially if, say, the dandelion greens seem a bit off or something. But she was leaving droppings everywhere. Rabbits will often leave a few pellets in random spots, but she'd been very good about keeping nearly all of them in her litter bins. But I diagnosed the problem first: she was hopping weird. She was holding her left hindpaw up, the way you might if you'd wrenched your ankle and still had to get around.

It was a couple days before we'd be able to get her to the vet's. But we could make some accommodations. Put her food dish lower down, so she wouldn't have to stand up so much to eat. Set out one of the low-rise litter bins, so she didn't have to hop in to use her litter. These two steps alone got her eating and litter habits back to about normal. And we had a hypothesis how it happened. The night before we noticed all this trouble we'd started a fire. As bunny_hugger squatted by the fireplace and struck a match, our rabbit startled and scrambled into her hutch and up the ramp to the upper level. All the other rabbits bunny_hugger has had enjoyed, or were at least indifferent to, the fire. Sunshine is the lone one who seems afraid of it. She eventually came downstairs, and lay in her open pen area, but on the side opposite the fire. We hypothesize that in the scramble away from the fire she caught her leg somewhere and wrenched her ankle.

At the vet's she was looked at first by T, the technician who'd done so much to care for Stephen. T had met Columbo, but we realized, hadn't seen Sunshine before. Nor Penelope, during the too-brief time she was in our lives. So we were happy that T could meet our outgoing, friendly, people-loving rabbit, even in one of the few settings that makes her nervous or even shy.

The vet examined Sunshine with a logical rigor that we both appreciated. She did speak of the threat of E Cuniculi, the parasite that destroys rabbits' brains and that we suspect killed Columbo. (Or a variant of E Cuniculi did; the titer for it had come back negative.) That would be dire. But the suddenness with which the ankle problem came on, and the lack of other symptoms, rated this as less likely. She couldn't find a specific injury, but there was this very sensitive spot in Sunshine's left Achilles tendon, not matched by one on the right. A very consistent flinch to being touched just in this spot. Her verdict was that it was probably a pulled tendon. The prescription, just what I'd imagined: a week on the anti-inflammatory painkiller meloxicam.

The inevitable question: how would she take it? Rabbits usually like meloxicam, because it's this sweet gooey liquid. But you get it from a syringe shoved into the face, which they might be cool to. Sunshine was suspicious and hesitant the first time we pushed it into her. A bit uncertain the second time too. After that, though, she was sold. She's always been a food-oriented rabbit, and something that's apparently that delicious? By the third day she was yoinking the syringe from us. By the fourth, she actually put her forepaws on me and shoved me --- punching me --- to get me to drop the thing and let her have it. So, no serious problems getting her to take her medicine. Also she's hopping better, too; by Tuesday her hopping was looking natural.

And we were prescribed to ``limit her activity'', lest she injure herself doing too much while she should be healing. But that's a hard rule for humans to follow, never mind animals. What we're able to do is close off her hutch, with the ramp, so that the most physically taxing thing she might do is unavailable. And keep her food low, so she doesn't need to stand on her hindlegs. She has done a bit of scampering around, in that tail's-on-fire explosion of energy that happy rabbits sometimes do. (One of these quick scampers managed to knock over two litter bins in one burst.) It's not much, but it's about all we can do.

Something we discovered incidentally was that she's got sore hocks. Little, lingering bruises on the back end of her feet. We had never noticed before and the vets hadn't noticed when we had her checked out in May. This might be a clue to her past; if she'd been kept on a wire-floor cage, it might have hurt her feet that way. It certainly can't be from her current housing; her pen area is fleece on top of a rug.

bunny_hugger, as usual wiser than me, has figured what to do when we next make a fire. We'll just put Sunshine in the upper level of her hutch, the place she wants to flee to, before we light the fire. This should keep her from injuring herself again, at least not this way.

Trivia: The New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers attempted to travel by a motorcar caravan to their 1904 season opener. On the Brooklyn Bridge one car collided with a horse-drawn wagon, and the players went the rest of the way by train. Source: A Game Of Inches: The Story Behind the Innovations that Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris.

Currently Reading: Sigma 7: The Six Mercury Orbits of Walter M Schirra Jr, Colin Burgess.

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Tiny, monkey-doll-inhabited, replica of the original Blue Streak trains, a decoration hanging from the top of the Blue Streak station.


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And here you can see the full-size original trains for Blue Streak, which haven't been in use for decades, but fewer decades than you might think. Also notice the nice big brake levers there.


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Blue Streak's current train, arrived and ready for unloading.

Friday, January 18th, 2019
12:10 am
While you dwell within it you are ever happy there

Are you using RSS to keep up with my humor blog? You can use this instead.

Here's more of Conneaut Lake Park. Special feature: a view of what I believe to be the oldest steel roller coaster still in operation.

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Ghost ride at the Conneaut Lake Park Kiddieland. I'm nagged by the feeling that we had seen the ride which had been here in an earlier visit, but I keep failing to go back and check.


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Car ride at the Kiddieland. I'm fairly sure the red car there is meant to evoke a firetruck, or they just put a couple steps of a ladder on a car for no reason, but I think the important thing is how these vehicles look like they come directly from Batman: The Animated Series.


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Pony-cart ride in Kiddieland. I think you can make out the Lowe's UPC sticker on the roller there.


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And here it is ... the oldest steel roller coaster still in operation! It's the Little Dipper, in the Kiddieland, a 1950-vintage Allan Herschell-made kiddie coaster. We weren't allowed to ride it, but we have ridden its twins at other parks, particularly Quassy in Connecticut.


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The station, and the back of the train, of the Little Dipper. Between this picture and the previous one you get the gist of the whole track.


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The trains of the Little Dipper coaster. Scuffed a bit, yes, but as best we can tell still perfectly functional.


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You might ask whether painting a jeep ride in Laugh-In asterisks is really true to the nature of Beetle Bailey. I say yes, of course it is.


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Junior Caterpillar ride at Conneaut Lake Park's Kiddieland. There aren't many of the full-size Caterpillar rides anymore; junior ones are fairly common, though. It has this bouncing up-and-down movement as it rolls around that looks like it'd be pretty good fun. Shame there isn't an adult-size version.


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A wizard-and-dragon painting someone put up on the side of the Kiddieland carousel and also on their rockin' van right after they discovered Tolkien in 1978. I jest, of course. It was Terry Brooks they discovered.


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Although the water park wasn't open when we visited --- it was a bit cold for that anyway --- it is functional again, and that made a huge difference to the park's viability. Anyway, here's the outlet of one of the pairs of water slides.


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The station for Blue Streak, the 75-plus-year-old roller coaster that first drew us to the park.


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View of the Blue Streak's station, and train, from the ramp leading up to the station. I don't know whether the whole train is named 'John Lee' or 'Lee John', or whether the front seat is named for 'Lee' and the second named for 'John'. No other seats have names alongside them, if that clears up anything. It does not.


Trivia: Intelsat 1, launched in 1965, could carry 240 voice telephone communications at one time. Or it could carry a single black-and-white television signal. Source: How The World Was One: Beyond the Global Village, Arthur C Clarke.

Currently Reading: Jay Ward's Animated Cereal Capers: The Adventures of Cap'n Crunch, Quisp, Quake, King Vitaman, And Much More, Kevin Scott Collier. (There's not actually much more. Those are the major figures Jay Ward animated, turns out. But I have learned things about Cap'n Crunch it's going to be hard for me to forget.)

PS: How All Of 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog, a slightly late recap of twelve months' worth of posting.

Thursday, January 17th, 2019
12:10 am
We're leaving together but still it's farewell

With New Year's Day the 2018 competitive pinball season officially ended. There'd be a couple days while the backlog of event results were entered, so we couldn't know precisely what would happen. But I was feeling good. I'd been in 16th place, but I had several strong finishes in that last week and figured that would be just enough to lift me to 15th. And bunny_hugger was in 24th, with poorer last -week finishes, but it should be enough to keep her ahead of TG.

And there had been some drama. After the announcement of the Fremont site for the state championship, AJG declared he was Done with competitive pinball. And told everyone he had finished. His anticipated outcry of people wanting him to come back didn't arrive. This may be because everyone would rather have this too-tough competitor out, by fair means or fowl. Perhaps because he's one of the social leaders of the eastside players, and less known (and liked) on the westside.

GRV also declared he wasn't going to play, possibly because the Fremont facility would not be up to his standards; bear in mind, the pinball machine that most recently came off the factory line at Stern headquarters is not up to his standards. But also possibly because he's advocated this weird conspiracy theory that alleges some kind of malfeasance on the part of AJH and PH in the tournaments they run out in Fremont. Nobody knows what it's supposed to be, exactly. The head of the IFPA said GRV had presented his evidence and declared it a ``nothingburger'', his words.

Over the last few weeks GRV made up spreadsheets showing projected first-round matchups. This under various conditions of who would play and who wouldn't. And rankings (and matchups) under other assumptions, like, what if the IFPA ruled that only a certain number of events at any one venue counted. If only five events at one venue counted, bunny_hugger jumps up several positions in the standings and I jump up one. If only three events at any one venue count, she jumps up even higher. This all reflects a weird ongoing bit of Michigan pinball drama where there's a couple people who think certain figures are overrated, getting their standings because they play so much they can't help but get lucky some. (This sort of complaining is why for this year only the 20 best-rated events of the year count, rather than everything played.) And ... you know, it's hard not to notice the people most often complained about as ``overrated'' are bunny_hugger and KEC, the two highest-rated women in the state. Like, nobody complains about me being overrated, even though my average play, and finishes, are only barely better than bunny_hugger. I'm usually rated higher than her, yes, but that amounts historically to I have one high-value finish in a big event each year and she doesn't.

The deadline for accepting, or declining, invitations to the state championship came nearer. Some medium-valued people who'd declared they weren't coming earlier officially declined. AJG ... did not. GRV insisted that AJG would bow out, to the point of declaring that he would unfriend AJG on Facebook if he did. A couple people placed bets on AJG's decision, to my amazement. I figured under no circumstances would AJG bow out. He's too likely to win, after all. And this year for the first time there's a large amount of money due the winner.

Finally, though, the decision day came. GRV either formally declined or let the deadline pass, declining by default. AJG accepted his invitation. Incidentally, knocking KEC out; if one more person had not attended, she would have been in as the bottommost seed, after absences. She's the top alternate instead.

And my final standing? With that strong final week I crawled out just ahead of MAT, a stalwart at Chesterfield and who had gotten barely a third of a point ahead of me by the end of the year. But I was not in fifteenth place. JEK, a Fremont stalwart, had won the final Fremont monthly tournament, and earned 16.72 points in the IFPA standing, leaping him up six or seven places and ahead of me. That lousy third-round monthly finish, and my lousy standing in the league final, made my whole strong December a Red Queen's Race of finishing right where I'd started. ... But, then, if I hadn't played, and played so well, I'd have drooped possibly to 20th or so. Still in, but I wouldn't be the high seed going in the first round.

And bunny_hugger? ... Well, she held out, above TG, whose solid finish New Year's Eve still left him about two points behind her. But RHY, another of the Fremont stalwarts, had finished in third place in that monthly tournament that JEK won. This brought him enough points to overtake bunny_hugger. She was knocked down to 25th place.

She would still be in the finals, yes. Five people above her were not attending. But she had wanted to be in on her own merits, for safety's sake, and to quell any eastside grumbling about her somehow 'not deserving' her place in finals. So this was a disheartening start to the year.

It could have been worse. With the people currently slated to attend, first round, I'll face DAD, and she'll face JEK. Not matches either of us are happy with. But had AJG and one other person who took forever to accept not attended after all, our first-round matches would be against each other. Not a fun prospect. I did give her my best advice on how to beat me, on the tables there. She said something about my asking to be tossed into a briar patch. I can't imagine why.

So that's where things stand for what we expect to do this Saturday, in Fremont. A spot on the western end of the state. A place with not much in the way of hotel space. A place at the end of many tiny, minor roads. There's snow forecast for Saturday. More snow forecast for Lansing, which most every eastsider will have to drive through. I don't know how many people are thinking they'll drive in the day of. I don't know how much to trust a forecast this far out. Still. Could be an exciting day.

Trivia: In 1922 Fox studio's newsreel division released a special feature, Face To Face With Japan, studying the question of whether war threatened between Japan and the United States. Source: The American Newsreel 1911 - 1967, Raymond Fielding. (I don't know what verdict the series reached.)

Currently Reading: The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World, James Barron.


PS: Prowling some more around Conneaut Lake Park's Kiddieland.

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Some of the well-used mounts on the Kiddieland carousel at Conneaut Lake Park.


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The richly-detailed head on the chariot for the Conneaut Lake Park Kiddieland carousel.


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Staff building in the Kiddieland area, sporting an animal figure that I keep thinking looks like a something, but that I can't place. If it is a character I should recognize please let me know. I'm mildly distracted by it.


Wednesday, January 16th, 2019
12:10 am
And Mister Lang is very old

Once more Michigan's final pinball event of the year was a tournament at MJS's pole barn. MJS figured to do a different style format this year. Qualifying would be ``Herb style'', based on playing up to two rounds of twelve different games. Your ten best-ranking scores would go to make your standing. This could include two good scores on the same table, a thing that's not novel, but that I didn't understand until I heard it explained like four times over. The top eight finishers would then go to a ``ladder style'' playoff. In this, the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth seeds play a game. Whoever comes in last is knocked out. The remaining three are joined by the fourth qualifying seed. That quartet plays a round, and whoever comes in last is knocked out. Then the remaining three are joined by the third qualifying seed, and so on. You see why it's called ladder-style. The style has fallen out of favor, despite the way it rewards a good qualifying seed and despite the way it encourages Cinderella-streak finishes. The International Flipper Pinball Association rates the value of a tournament on how many meaningful games the ultimate winner plays. If he's first-seeded and only plays one game to defend that position, then the tournament counted as only one game.

But MJS had thought this out. All ten of the qualifying games counted as meaningful. Four-player games count double, to the IFPA. And the tournament wouldn't end with a four-player group (credited as two meaningful games); among the final four, the loser would be knocked out, and then the three survivors would play (credited as 1.5 meaningful games). The loser gets knocked out again, and the two survivors play (one meaningful game). So the first seed would be rated as playing, at minimum, 14.5 meaningful games. And, if the number eight seed managed a run to the first, the tournament would have 22.5 meaningful games. It would be at minimum enough IFPA points to change anyone's rankings. It could be enough to catapult someone into a first-round bye in playoffs.

bunny_hugger and I went there, outside Kalamazoo, together. We'd thought about riding with MWS and RED --- who maintains the games in Lansing and who's barely played competitively outside Lansing --- but we needed to drop Sunshine off at bunny_hugger's parents. We were staying at a Red Roof Inn in Kalamazoo, the better to avoid an hour-plus drive home after midnight New Year's Eve, in perhaps uncertain weather. Our room was all right, but did have a bunch of little issues, like one of the bolts of the toilet seat being broken off so the seat wriggled around. And there somehow being an intact bus pass on the bowl. And there being no trash bin. Not sure what's going on there.

SMS --- MJS's daughter, and one of the top-ranked women in the world before her life took her away from competitive play --- was there, but somehow I kept missing the chance to say it was good to see her again.

We had the idea MJS wanted people to play in groups, the better to ensure honesty during play. But we encountered a few people playing lone games. Sometimes we teamed up with them. bunny_hugger and I played together, our reputation for good sportsmanship overcoming anyone who might ask whether husband and wife would refuse to fib for the other. There were twelve games to qualify on, four of them modern games, four of them solid-states, and four of them electromechanicals.

MJS asked people to play some games, then bring their scorecard back for entry, then play some more games. Not everyone understood this, and would try to play all the games. Two results of their mistake: nobody could be quite sure of their standing, since there were a lot of unreported scores. And after qualifying ended there was a long stretch while scores were entered. But there were some nice side effects too. For example, people who were diligently getting partial scores back in, like me and bunny_hugger, got to rest on top of the standings. For a while there bunny_hugger was top-seeded, and for most of the day she was positioned ahead of me. I was confident that if either of us qualified --- a dubious prospect, I thought, given things like my terrible play on Metallica --- it'd be her. She insisted I would finish higher than her, and made a $10 bet with me on it.

She had some good scores on the electromechanical games Grand Prix and Bronco, and two fantastic scores on the solid state Meteor, but otherwise not much on the older games she figured she had a relative advantage on. She did have several tables on which both her scores were within whiskers of each other, showing off her consistency if nothing else. And me, well, I had a surprising and crushingly good game of Banzai Run --- a late-80s table with two playfields, one of them a vertical thing on the backglass --- that was the best anyone had. And a really solid Whirlwind, and the fifth-best Funhouse and Deadpool games anyone put up. I qualified for playoffs as seventh seed. bunny_hugger took my ten bucks.

There was danger in the playoffs, besides the risk of bunny_hugger kicking my shins. Also making finals was TG. Who, if he finished high enough, could overtake bunny_hugger in the state rankings and bump her out of 24th place, outside of earning her spot in the 24-player state championship. (There were people we were confident wouldn't play, but it always feels better not to have to rely on that.) So now bunny_hugger had a mission for me to knock TG out, as soon as possible.

Couldn't do it the first game, which was, I think, Pop-A-Card. Pop-A-Card is a 1960s single-player electromechanical game, with a feature that lets you earn extra balls that, from the game's design, you have to play. I got in one of those rhythms where I could not stop earning extra balls. It was a fantastic game for me, better play than I really needed. It didn't knock TG out, though. The next game, also on an electromechanical, I played more normal on. But TG had a bad game, and got knocked out. So his threat to bunny_hugger's ranking was over, at least unless the tournament turned out to be worth even more than we expected. It would have been more sure had he lost the first round. But, well, it was the best we could do.

I made it through one more round of playoffs, and got to feeling pretty good about myself. If I avoided finishing in last place one more time I'd be a top-four finisher, earning enough IFPA points to maybe advance to a better seed for state championships. And to get a bit of the cash payout given to the top four finishers. I didn't just have a lousy game. I had a lousy game while playing MSS, who managed to put up 10 points on his first ball. And another 10 points on his second ball. But who managed, on the remaining three balls of this electromechanical (which, like most of its vintage, are set on three-ball play) to beat me. He would go on to finish the tournament in third place. I would go on to eating things before the ball drop in Times Square.

As midnight neared MJS's family passed out noisemakers and plastic flutes of champagne and party hats and costume jewelry, and we made a good noise in-between people asking why the three clocks in the room (if you include the TV's countdown) didn't agree. MJS said the Nixie tube clock atop one of the games was the one getting its time from WWV and so was the trustworthy one. And after midnight we huddled outside to watch their fireworks.

Afterwards, the crowd dispersed fairly quickly. The final pairing were CST and MWS, and it finally ended with CST --- who'd been the number one seed anyway --- winning, taking home for the year more points than he would have gotten for winning Lansing Pinball League. The IFPA rules really make tournaments more valuable than leagues, especially leagues with long seasons.

Still, we got to congratulations all around, and then a couple rounds of dollar games, including my traditional post-midnight creaming of everybody on Centaur. I can't explain why, but that game, at the end of the night, is one I master every time. Now that I've said this, it'll never happen again.

When everything finally wound down, MWS and RED were still a bit hungry. So they drove to a McDonald's nearby, one of the handful of things open after 2 am New Year's Day. So did everyone else in Kalamazoo, and there were weird long-line events like people honking at the unmoving line. Or someone having an impossibly complicated problem with their credit card payment. You know how it is.

Anyway, we got back to the hotel and went to bed. The next morning MWS and RED were woken at 11 am by a housekeeping staff that wanted them to know it was check-out time and they should be gone by now. We got no such wake-up call. The signs on the doors said check-out was at noon. And we turned our key cards in to the front desk at noon, with the clerk saying nothing about that choice. bunny_hugger got a coffee and I tried to get a tea from the lobby, although somehow the hot water in their thermos had cooled off. I don't know. The clerk offered to get fresh hot water but I didn't want tea that much.

We drove out to a Cracker Barrel on the way back from Kalamazoo for our traditional quite late New Year's brunch. The place was packed, as it usually is New Year's Day. bunny_hugger had worried that we spent so much time in the hotel lobby trying to check out that MWS and RED would be annoyed; I was right in predicting that they'd still be waiting to be seated. The staff apologized that they were out of biscuits, but said they might have some more made before too long. Turned out, yes, they were able to. So we got to eat everything we'd planned to. I took home the remainder of the tiny bottle of blueberry syrup from my pancakes, as it seemed wasteful to leave the rest of it to ... whatever its fate would have been. So apparently I'm starting out 2018 by being rather old. I can accept that.

And there was another footnote. TG had come to the event with his wife, something he often does. She doesn't play. She sat, mostly, looking respectable and dignified and occasionally talking to anyone nearby, but not participating in the event. She seemed all right with that. She left behind her makeup case. Nobody noticed until the end of the night. Considerable negotiations worked out that bunny_hugger and I would be the ones passing closest to TG and his wife, in that we would drive through the town where they lived. At least it wouldn't be far off the Interstate. But we kept failing to make phone contact with them to learn their exact address. But CST lives in the same town, and he and TG see each other all the time. We had his address. And couldn't make contact with him either. But we got to his house, wondering if it was the right place before we noticed a lot of turtle sculptures (he's a turtle fan), including one with his name on it. There we knocked, several times, and got no response. The makeup case wouldn't fit in his mailbox either. So we set it between his screen and main door, left a message explaining it all, and two minutes later got a text that oh, yes, CST had been there, just napping, and must have missed hearing us. But that all got sorted out, at least.

Trivia: No point in England is more than 70 miles from sea. Source: A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped The World, William J Bernstein.

Currently Reading: The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World, James Barron.

PS: Reading the Comics, January 12, 2019: A Edition and that's not a typo, that's me gently bating grammar nerds.


PPS: Let's see more of Conneaut Lake Park's carousel.

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And now entering the Kiddieland. The green bin seemed to be some kind of theater, perhaps. Those certainly look like replica crayon tips at the top of the structure, although a bunch of them had fallen over.


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Picture standees of nominal mascots (I don't know that there's any representation of them besides this). Connie Otter was, on our first trip, our first hint of how to pronounce the name of the park. We didn't take pictures of our faces as the otters' noses this time and it's probably best not to think too hard about that prospect.


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The Kiddieland carousel, a Herschell-model ride that I believe dates to the 40s. Our first visit, in 2013, it was turned by hand, but every visit since the motor's been working.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019
12:10 am
And oh, the good times hurry by so fast

Between Christmas and New Year's we try to get to the Potter Park Zoo, where they set up the Wonderland of Lights each year. But to get there that week, between family needs and pinball needs and that they're only open for it Thursdays through Sundays we had the one chance to get there, the 30th of December. We set out a bit late, arriving about 6:30. But it's not a large zoo, really, and while three hours would be better for seeing all the lights and what animals were not hidden in winter quarters, two and a half hours would be adequate. Two would be just barely enough.

We got in, though, and spent a bit of time wandering around the gift shop, naturally. They turend out to have hot chocolate there, too, not just in the snack shop farther back of the park, but we figured we'd get some later. The we went to another building, the one up front that has activities for the kids and a couple of animals with handlers out in the open. I watched about two full cycles of a docent showing off the barn owl, and how dazzlingly silent the wings were when flapping. The docent did this by twisting his arm, so as to throw the owl off balance, and warned that yes, the owl might lose his footing altogether but it would be all right. This didn't happen while we were there. Not on display: a rabbit. The last several times they've had a rabbit on exhibit, and it was a strange feeling to see one so soon after the deaths of Stephen and then Columbo. But, no rabbit this year. They did have an armadillo, puttering around and poking at the collapsible pen in hopes of collapsing it. And sometimes attacking a plastic ball. The docent there also showed how the armadillo would roll onto its back, the better to lure unsuspecting nuisances in where they could be clawed. Good fun.

Outside, in the cold-but-not-frigid weather, we got to see some nice familiar sights. The many Christmas trees decorated, quite a few of them from local dentists somehow. The otter enclosure (although no otters were visible). The grey wolves, one of which started prowling around while we watched. Lights, including strands made to look like trees, and actual trees with spotlights giving them gorgeously complicated patterns of light.

At my suggestion we poked into the building that houses some of the primates and that's winter quarters for some of the lions and tigers. Also an enclosure that we would've sworn used to have lemurs and this time had ... ah ... one of those long-horned birds that's always turning its head away when you photograph them. It was cozy, though, and great seeing the animals.

Also we discovered some fossils. One of the plaques, about how zoos help endangered animals, we noticed was sponsored by Capitol Federal Savings Bank. If my research is correct, they changed away from that name as recently as 1991. Also inside the building, a bench sponsored by Theio's Restaurant. Theio's, to everyone's shock, closed in March 2018, and was actually torn down to the ground in early fall. Above the bench sponsored by the long-lost institution: a big, maybe 19-inch, Apple CRT monitor, from the era when everything was beige and they still had the rainbow logo. It wasn't plugged in to anything.

That done we ventured out again, walking past a wall of light strands, and in the general direction of what in summer is the bird enclosure. And the public address system interrupted its Christmas carols. A few moments later they stopped altogether. It was only 8:00. What we hadn't realized was that the zoo did not close at 9:00. We had remembered it wrong, and failed to check, and now it was the last day of the lights and we had only seen about half of them.

bunny_hugger, driving, took her disappointment to make a side tour. She'd seen a map of noteworthy light displays at houses in our neighborhood, and there was no reason we couldn't drive up to and see ... all right, the police have that street blocked off and there's a lot of flashing lights. Maybe not there. We went across the interstate, to the portions of our neighborhood chopped out of our universe when the highway came in. That area's got a reputation for being the worse part of town. But it's one that decorates much more for Christmas. We drove back and forth across the surface streets, finding not just decorated houses but, usually, at least one fantastically decorated house each block. One even with a nativity scene bright and wide enough that other cars were stopping and taking pictures too.

And some other trivial stuff. We found, for example, this one cute model of house that whatever builder put up over and over; I think we counted three in a row at one point, and eight on one not-long stretch of road. One at least had a dark rather than light color scheme, so there was some hope of telling these 1920s houses apart.

We spent maybe an hour in our consolation tour, and it was worth the doing. We got home, feeling pretty good about the night as it turned out.

Trivia: Though there are only fourteen different calendars, that is, combinations of weekdays and dates, in the Gregorian scheme, the calendar of 1872 was not repeated until 1912, forty years later. (The Julian year 1872 was repeated in 1900.) Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World, James Barron.

PS: Let's see more of Conneaut Lake Park's carousel.

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If your eye can't figure how to parse the shield on the Conneaut Lake Park carousel's gondola here into a 'CLP', that's because it's a 'CW'. This denotes Carousel Works, the company organized in the late 80s to build one new wood-carved carousel and that just kind of never stopped.


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Possibly the lead horse for the carousel. Notice on the blanket there the little figure of a horse, tolerably close to itself, with the knight holding a 'CLP' banner and riding up to a castle.


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Some of the inner-row mounts on the carousel, including two rabbits. Replicas of antique mounts, probably not from this carousel originally, but still.

Monday, January 14th, 2019
12:10 am
But it's only there to dance to, so you should't take it to heart

My mathematics blog has returned to the lassitude it usually enjoys after an A To Z sequence. All that's been going on lately has been comics, and not a lot of those. Here's this past week's content:

Now for the real, important questions: What's Going On In Mark Trail? Who Are These Guys Mark Trail Is Punching? Enjoy this October 2018 - January 2019 plot recap before looking at pictures of Conneaut Lake Park, dated Labor Day Weekend 2017.

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Extreme-perspective view of Conneaut Lake Park's sign, and across the street, the Blue Streak roller coaster. You can see their panel sign for the ride; that new sign and logo dates, I think, to 2014.


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Entrance gates to Conneaut Lake Park, icons of the time when they tried to be a gated, admission-charging pay-one-price park.


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The first rides you get to in Conneaut Lake Park, if you go in by way of those entrance gates. I assume the Flying Scooters are decades old, although the rides have made a comeback and started appearing in new-made models. Note the park is able to support having its logo painted on its trash bins now.


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The ghost of a ride, along with a planter that ... is a bit hard-used, but has got flowers in it and even got them watered recently.


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This dog would like to know what, precisely, my deal is. So would I, pupper. So would I.


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Welcome sign explaining the park's antique carousel. Nearly all the mounts on it are replicas, as the originals were sold off to keep the park alive, although the replicas are getting near old enough to be of historical interest in themselves. They come from the Carousel Works of Mansfield, Ohio, which has been doing new carved carousels since the late 80s.


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Some of the horses on the Conneaut Lake Park antique carousel.


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Sign attached to the fence between the carousel and the Blue Streak roller coaster. It's not wholly misplaced, since the kiddie land is just south of the carousel. I'm not clear when the heyday of Mouse was, though.


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More of the (replica) horses on the Conneaut Lake Park carousel. The one on the left has a strong Western-cavalry motif, one of the common styles of antique horses.


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Flag and a CLP shield atop the Conneaut Lake Park carousel.


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There's several smiling face roundels around the center of the carousel. Of course I took a photo of the one that had been taken down for whatever reason. I didn't get pictures of just what the labels are. I think they were names of peple connected with the park and its history suggesting that these are loose caricatures of park-important figures.


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Conneaut Lake Park carousel goat, as seen from the inside. I'm not sure what the little lead at the back of the saddle is supposed to mean.


Trivia: The Wright Bothers' glider of 1900 had wings 17 feet wide by five feet long; that of 1901, 22 feet wide by seven feet long . Source: First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World, James Barron.

Sunday, January 13th, 2019
12:10 am
And then I saw the Jag slide into the curve

Flint is not quite on the eastern end of Michigan, but it's getting there. The next day, Saturday, we were going to the western end of the state. At least the lower peninsula. This was to Fremont, for two of the seven pinball events happening between Christmas and New Year's.

Special When Lit is the name of the amusement-game-routing company that AJH has formed. Its headquarters is the back of the financial-advice office his father PH runs. PH is the new International Flipper Pinball Association designate heading Michigan pinball competitive events. He took over the post in September. And PH decided that the venue for the 2019 state championship --- to be held next Saturday barring catastrophe --- would be Special When Lit headquarters. His reasons were good: they needed a place where PH could be sure of game conditions, and he only had a few weeks to select one. The place is private, so competitors won't have to risk random outsiders coming in and maybe messing up play. It's got a large number of games, and even better, games of different eras of pinball. There's electromechanicals, early-solid-state, late-solid-state, and modern games. The only real objection I would draw is that it's another west-side venue, and the west side of the state (well, the lower peninsula) has hosted the championships three years running now, and the east side is no less vibrant a pinball scene and should get its innings. But there wasn't much time to pick a site, either.

Anyway. The last weekend of December offered some important things. The routine finals for the Monthly and for the two-month-long ``league'' finals of Fremont. Potentially, a lot of points for the IFPA ratings. AJH and PH read and follow the IFPA rules studiously, and know how to get the maximum value out of a couple hours' pinball. Valuable time at the venue, practicing on the tables that will be at the championship. We expected a big crowd to be there. And there was, although not so giant a crowd as you might think: seventeen people (one of them a guy from Oregon who was visiting family). There's usually ten to twelve people. bunny_hugger and I are regulars. MWS, coming from Flint, is a semi-regular.

So this promised a lot of pinball play. AJH and PH organized it well, three rounds of play, alternating between monthly and league tournaments in a way that's confusing, yes, but means that if you're eliminated you can go home sooner. A good strong finish in either round would put bunny_hugger securely into the top 24; she'd been hovering too near the cutoff for months. It could also improve my and MWS's seeds. And there'd be only two more events in the year, neither of which promised such a rich harvest of IFPA points.

It wouldn't be, though. I had a pretty good first round for the monthly tournament. I picked the newly-arrived Gillian's Island, a 1992 Williams table that you never see in tournament play. It hasn't got much variety in what to do and the real killer is there's a move where a player can give everybody else but him a million points. I did this, in fact, but I managed to come back and nearly take first place despite handicapping myself a million points. But I got through that.

MWS didn't, knocked out after a tie in a bank (with me) that gathered a Data East Games of the 90s theme. Well, we played the Data East Star Wars, and Lethal Weapon 3, and Jurassic Park. The first game we'd played was Gilligan's Island, which isn't a Data East game but we agreed, it might as well be. It just plays like that. Disappointing to drive three hours one way (albeit two of them carpooling with us) only to be knocked out right away. Worse, though, bunny_hugger also got knocked out, wrecking one of her two chances to secure her standings.

I'd make it through the second round too, but then get knocked out before the final four. This left me in sixth place. Between AJH and PH's understanding of the system, and the large number of high-valued players who came to the tournament, that was worth something. Wouldn't be like that any old month.

In the League tournament, though, things were more dismal. We all bottomed out in the first round, in positions from 11th through 13th, not enough to help any of us. Worse, it would turn out that JEK, who'd been well behind everyone all year, won this format, taking in 16.72 IFPA points. That's more than I got for my third-place Baby Food Festival win back in July. The action launched him way up in the standings, ahead of me, and undoing the bit of good work I'd done for myself the weekend.

My ultimate elimination took time, so MWS and bunny_hugger were sitting around a long time grousing about their finishes and talking with other people and all that. By the time we left, after 9 pm --- and with the tournament still three hours from finishing, so maybe it's lucky we didn't do better --- it was starting to rain, and freeze, and freezing-rain. And fifteen minutes out we realized bunny_hugger had left her iPod behind.

So we lost time to recovering that, and still managed to leave her travel coffee mug behind. But between that lost time, and the freezing-rain conditions, our prospects of getting to this birthday party of a friend in Grand Rapids were getting --- WAIT THE CAR IS SKIDDING.

I was taking an extremely gentle turn, at maybe 30 miles per hour, when I realized the car wasn't exactly behaving right. It was just drifting along its own way. I tried to steer back into the lane, and it wouldn't, and then the car started to rotate. I remembered back to driver's ed days: if the car starts spinning, steer into the turn! ... Which way is in? Like, the front of the car was going to the right, so do I turn right? Or left? When I couldn't figure out what to do, I stopped turning. I didn't slam the brake, for fear of making things worse, but when the car started slowing, drifting along the middle of the empty country road, I tapped and slowly increased pressure on the brake. We came to a stop at the edge of the road. And we all caught our breath while I tried to figure out where the emergency lights button was.

Fortunately we weren't going any faster. And the road was empty. But when we resumed, it was even slower, so we scratched the whole Grand Rapids idea. The drive to our home would be a bit over three hours total, compared to the two hours it should normally be, but we got there safe and sound.

Trivia: Before 1962, when it was taken over by the Port of New York Authority, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (the PATH line) was known as the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. Source: Railroads of New Jersey: Fragments of the Past in the Garden State Landscape, Lorett Treese.

Currently Reading: The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World, James Barron.

PS: OK, we're getting very close to actually entering Conneaut Lake Park now.


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Viewing the Toboggan or Corkscrew Coaster from the end farthest from the park, showing something of the size of the grass lot available.


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I took a picture of bunny_hugger taking a picture of the Toboggan/Corkscrew Coaster.


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Sign, and fence, for the Camperland beside the amusement park.


Saturday, January 12th, 2019
12:10 am
But you can still find it each year when you look in the eyes of a child

There are a couple things we try to do between Christmas and New Year's every year, besides the Silver Balls pinball tournament. Among them is Crossroads Village, the historical village of relocated buildings assembled just outside Flint. They decorate the place with a staggering number of lights, and run the short but full-size train along a path surrounded by holiday light displays. Plus it's a chance to visit their antique carousel, which still runs fast enough to be a thrill ride. Sometimes it's also a chance to ride the Superior Ferris wheel, which also runs very fast. We've been having a warm winter; there wasn't any snow on the ground, nor was there the threat of any. The day started out ridiculously warm, but it was forecast to be mid-to-upper 30s by night. Chilly but not actually cold.

We were threatened with a minor disappointment when we got there and went back to the rides first: the Ferris wheel wasn't running, according to a sign at the ticket booth. Except I thought I had seen it running. It turned out they just meant the Ferris wheel operator was on break. We spent some time, after our carousel ride --- and walking around examining the stuff on sale at the fundraiser table --- sticking close to that end of the village. When we saw the ride going again, we finished up experimenting with long-exposure shots of the village at night and got back to the ride, so you know where our priorities are.

There was another minor disappointment. There are a couple of gift shops at Crossroads Village, one-or-two of them in the storefronts that used to be a general store and a store-plus-post-office. (They share an internal door so I don't know whether to consider them the same store. Both sides have cash registers.) There also used to be a shop, with penny candies and the like, opposite the street from this. But it was closed, and dark, though we could make out a Christmas tree inside. Apparently it's now where they have Santa sit for visits. And since we were there after Christmas, no Santa and so nothing in that building for us to look at.

And then another disappointment. At the opera house they always have a Christmas melodrama. In this a couple of actors, including a great moustache-twirling actor who plays the heavy, run through a story about how the villain is planning to destroy Crossroads Village and only the love of the good-but-kinda-boring man and woman can save it. But not this year! They had a Christmas Magic show scheduled instead. It was a fun show, sure, and we got to sit in the balcony for what we're pretty sure was the first time. The tricks were the not-overly-complicated sorts of stage magic, cutting ropes into pieces that reassemble and tricks like that. One was even given to a girl who was brought up on stage as volunteer.

I know this makes it sound like the whole night was us seeing that things weren't what we wanted them to be. But this more reflects stuff that we weren't expecting. And it's not as if the Ferris wheel didn't start running, or that we were looking for something particular in the gift shop that we didn't ultimately find. Or that we didn't enjoy the magic show.

The centerpiece of the night, and almost of our time there, was the ride on the train. Once again we forgot to bring a rag with which to wipe clean the windows when they fogged up, but never mind. They had most of the light displays, many of them animated, that we remember from each year. And I think some of them even photographed all right in my camera's low-light mode. On the speakers they only played Christmas songs, and didn't mention the story of how they got a Christmas dragon. (They had ordered the dragon animated lights for Halloween, but it arrived late, and they rolled with it.) A little disappointing, but you know, not a serious problem.

We did buy some kettle corn there, and the village staff were very enthusiastic about my decision. One talked about it as me giving bunny_hugger a great gift, in this. And when we were leaving the opera house after the magic show one of the staff stopped to congratulate me on the choice to get kettle corn. Well, it is good kettle corn, and we didn't eat quite so much of it as to make ourselves sick. We even had some for the next day.

Trivia: About twenty billion aspirin tables are consumed in the United States each year. Source: Molecules at an Exhibition: The Science of Everyday Life, John Emsley.

Currently Reading: The Reshaping Of Everyday Life, 1790 - 1840, Jack Larkin.


PS: So the next day we visited Conneaut Lake Park, for what we hoped to be a full-day visit to a park that's suddenly somehow no longer struggling so close to death. Here's what it looked like as we arrived.

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Abandoned Toboggan-model roller coaster at Conneaut Lake Park. This ride was owned by an independent concessionaire and just left in place; the park's moved it to the far end of the (grass) parking lot. The Roller Coaster Database claims the ride's name is Toboggan, even though, well, you can see what the ride signage says. (There are ride pictures showing signs that say 'Toboggan', though, from when it did run in the early 2000s.)


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The ride hasn't run since 2006, and while it's listed on the Roller Coaster Database as ``In Storage'' that seems like a charitable description of things.


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Close-up view of the ride disassembled and stacked and waiting for transportation or to reassembly or ... whatever. It would look like this, put together and running.

Friday, January 11th, 2019
12:10 am
Hey fifteen, there's never a better wish than this

So what's been happening with my humor blog? If you didn't already know?

And a last bunch of pictures from our drop-in at Cedar Point!


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More stuff being set up for Halloweekends. In this part of the park they'd set up a County FairFear. Each little stand like this would evoke some carnival game but be a joke based on it, and not a game at all (sad to say). Here, for example, the Cow would be a bartender, with a tip jar nearby.


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Another joke fairground stand for the County FairFear. Knowing that this is a joke, do you know what would be erected here in a couple weeks' time?


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Inside the Town Hall Museum we discovered this old friend! This statue of Mercury, readying his sword to go slay something or other, used to be at the Marina Entrance but vanished when that area of the park got renovated for the ValRavn roller coaster. Now it's in a weather-protected area but also not inside a fenced-off area so anyone can just go up to and touch it and whatnot.


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bunny_hugger casting a surprisingly deep glimpse at ol' Merc here. Well, I'm sure one of them would say if something were going on that I needed to have a reaction to.


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Scale model of the Mean Streak roller coaster on display at the Town Hall Museum. You get from this an idea of just how much roller coaster it is, or was. Not visible: how much time it spends inside its own support structure (which is a cool part), or how it ends in a braking area that then drops to go into the station, a testament to how the drive to make this a tall wooden roller coaster was ultimately foolish: the ride ends with gravitational potential energy unused, except to strain all those pieces of supporting wood.


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Another scale model in the Town Hall Museum, this one of White Water Landing, a log flume taken out a decade-plus years ago to make room for the Maverick roller coaster. Note the simulated water in the trough there.


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Armored Horse, removed from the Kiddieland Carousel and put somewhere safe. This is one of the famous carousel horses; you can find its picture on the cover of any book with a title like The Golden Age Of Carousels. Also on the Merry-Go-Round stamps back in the 80s. Or if they ever make new merry-go-round stamps.


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And the three horses removed from the Kiddieland Carousel as being pieces too precious to have in actual operation. But they're still nicely available to be seen; just a bit disappointed there's no mirror so we can see the other, albeit less decorated, side.


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Coin-operated attractions on display at the Town Hall museum. None of them work anymore, although given their basic mechanical nature any of them should be able to be made operable. One of the coin-operated horse-racing machines worked recently enough that bunny_hugger and I played it, a couple years ago. Anyway, can you imagine a world where Tom Mix was a movie star? Weird idea, huh?


Trivia: In 2004 India exported 299,000 trailer-equivalent-unit (about twenty-foot long units) cargo containers to the United States; it imported 148,000. Source: Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World, Brian J Cudahy.

Currently Reading: The Reshaping Of Everyday Life, 1790 - 1840, Jack Larkin. For some reason Larkin seems to view ``cigar'' as an alternate spelling and he uses ``segar'' for the bulk of the book and I'm sure there's a reason and that reason is ?.

Thursday, January 10th, 2019
12:10 am
And above all this bustle you'll hear

Silver Balls In The City is the oldest of the pinball tournaments bunny_hugger runs. The original ran obscenely long, the result of allowing too many strikes --- players had to lose four games in head-to-head play --- and too many players --- we ran out of tables, so some groups had to wait, in the first rounds, for another group to finish --- and too many games running long or malfunctioning, forcing replays. There's more tables in the venue now, although many of them are newer tables, ones that expert players can play forever. There've been fewer people attending Silver Balls, part of there being more tournaments altogether. But the tournament, in that hammock betwixt Christmas and New Year's, is one at a good time. The only conflict this time: after having nothing but karaoke nights Thursdays for months, and for several of the past years in the week after Christmas, this year, our venue was having an emo dance party. The clash between a Christmas tournament and an emo DJ was very funny to everyone who wasn't bunny_hugger. Still, that wasn't to start until 9 pm, and would probably start late, and the tournament was slated to start at 7:30. Might well be something that only affected the last few people.

Also potentially trouble: the software available to run strikes tournaments doesn't work for Progressive Strikes, where you get from 0 to 3 strikes per match. I was confident we could run this all on paper, using index cards to track players, draw groups, and pick games at random. I'd seen them do this at a three-strikes tournament at the VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Hall of Names For Itself a couple years ago. And in the main, yes, this worked okay. The trouble came about four rounds in, when I made a mistake recording someone's strikes so that we mistakenly recorded them as knocked out when they weren't, and we had to do our best to compensate for that. Worse, as that got sorted out, another player insisted we check that we had his strikes recorded correctly, all the while that the groups that we ourselves were playing in get over there and play. It was honestly a relief when I got knocked out, and could dedicate myself entirely to the bureaucracy of tournament-running. I think the index cards basically worked, but it's too easy to go from 'this person finished second' to 'write two X's on their card'.

We got the approximate number of rounds right. And were even basically right that the emo dance party wouldn't be too distracting; the DJ was a bit loud, but not so much to spoil the event. Admitting here that I did put earplugs in. We've got a box of cheap earplugs brought to every pinball event, ever since we learned that asking the venue ``do you have anything scheduled for this night that we'd like to run a pinball event?'' does not mean they'll give us any hint when they decide later on to schedule something. The worst bother was a group sitting at the end of the balcony, listening to the music, wanting a group playing in the tournament to go away. They asserted one of their party was epileptic, and many pinball games do a lot with strobe lights. Maybe, but bunny_hugger got the vibe they were just trying to chase people away from their corner. They had turned off tables, for example. But they accepted the assertion that this was a charity pinball tournament, and shuffled over to a table about a dozen feet away. And in more positive interactions with random people who happened to be nearby: a couple of the people playing darts donated $20 to the cause, which was sweet.

What we didn't get right was the timing. A dozen rounds would be a well-timed tournament at two-to-three rounds per hour, the pace of the progressive-strikes tournament we'd been at a few weeks before. But those tables were faster playing. Ours ... we had one round alone that took a full hour. Part of that because a game malfunctioned, of course on the last ball of the last player, and had to be wholly replaced. But part of that because one game of Junkyard --- which has the reputation for a good quick-playing game --- went on for an hour. The game typically scores around five million points. CST put up a score of 68 million points. And he came in second.

So the tournament went on, and on, and on. bunny_hugger did far better than me, getting into the final eight competitors. But we were still going on past midnight, past 1 am, finally to a match on Deadpool --- not a short-playing game --- between CST and MSS. Who was like a week off that astounding game where he earned a half-billion points on Bram Stoker's Dracula on his third ball. This while RLM, with whom MSS carpooled, tapped his foot exhausted and wanting to get home already because he had work the next day, thank you. (Also the week before, RLM had been organizer and winner of a Grand Rapids tournament that itself took until past 1 am, also on a workday.) CST had an awesome game. MSS had a good game, but it wasn't that good. CST took home the giant, Santa-tipped statue rebuilt from one DMC had donated. And we got home technically speaking before 2 am, with the resolve that we would not do a Progressive 10 Strikes when there were 22 people competing, not ever again.

Trivia: The Hamburg-American Packet Company, a German steamship company bringing American wheat, beef, pork, and kerosene to Hamburg pioneered ``steerage class'' when after 1873 it modified ships to carry central and northern Europeans fleeing the Long Depression to the United States as the returning cargo. Source: A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters, Scott Reynolds Nelson. (HAPAG pioneered the steerage-class immigrant trade.)

Currently Reading: The Reshaping Of Everyday Life, 1790 - 1840, Jack Larkin.


PS: And some more of what we saw during the Cedar Point drop-in, Labor Day weekend of 2017:

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Witch's Wheel, in motion. We didn't have reason to think this was its last full season at the park; it was just pretty. In the background is the Gemini roller coaster.


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Glimpse of the roller coaster Mean Streak, being converted to Steel Vengeance, against a spectacularly-colored setting sun.


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And some more silhouettes of Mean-Streak-becoming-Steel-Vengeance against the evening sky.


Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
12:10 am
Sing some carols loud and clear and set the lights aglow

When bunny_hugger woke early Boxing Day, I stirred too. She asked if I wanted to ride to the airport with her and her brother. I said I did. She asked, ``Really? Why?'' And I said that was a good question and went back to sleep. So I am told, anyway. I don't remember the experience.

While I slept, then, she drove her brother to Detroit airport. This for what we had thought would be a short flight back to Newark. Or not, anyway. When he was booking his return flight he searched for ``other airports nearby'', and thought he was booking a return to EWR. No; he misread SWF, which none of us ever heard of. It's Stewart International Airport, in Newburgh, which is like Newark operated by the Port Authority. It's about sixty miles north of the city, that is, farther away than some parts of Pennsylvania are. But there's a shuttle to Metro North, and that takes you into the city, and that's what he would be doing (he called to check in) while we finished packing up.

Were our time our own we'd have stayed into the evening. But we had obligations. Particularly there was preparation work for the Silver Balls In The City pinball tournament, one of the seven potentially standings-changing events left on the calendar. And one of the quarterly tournaments she runs to raise money for the humane society. This one, particularly, in honor of our lost rabbit Stephen. The awards for it needed finishing. Not much, since bunny_hugger was reusing one trophy donated by Lansing League member DMC (and that already had a silver Santa Claus on top), and was giving out photo-ornaments that just needed pictures inserted in the frames for the other top finishers. But it still needed preparation. So we gathered Sunshine, and most of the things we'd need to bring back home, and went.

And once home got to the serious business of setting things up. This included getting the color pictures for the ornaments printed out (we have a black-and-white laser printer), trimmed, and presented. Which took so little time, compared to the usual painting and gluing and laminating and everything else of making a full ornament that bunny_hugger started to feel preemptively guilty. Also we prepared the presents we'd be sending to my parents --- who, being in Baltimore, weren't at home to get anything and so were fine with our sending stuff late. This let us defer some store and post office visits from the busy time before Christmas to the busy time just after Christmas.

And we had also to make some decisions about Silver Balls. The format was to be a Progressive Strikes tournament. In past years it's been strikes: you play head-to-head matches until you lose a set number of games. It was four, the first time we tried this, in a tournament that ran six hours and got to Last Call. Since then we dropped to three strikes, and the tournament ended in a reasonable while. But Progressive Strikes are a bit different. In this you play in groups of four, and take zero, one, two, or three strikes. This depends on whether you finish first, second, third, or fourth in your group. It's a little different in styling. The question is how many strikes in total you should get. We settled on ten, figuring this would be on average the same number of rounds we played in previous years. Surely that wouldn't go wrong.

Trivia: In 1957 Harry S Truman proposed that the question of whether a President had become unable to serve should be given to a commission consisting of the Vice-President, the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the House, and the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate, who would be empowered to select a group of medical authorities from top medical schools, which would judge the President's condition. Source: From Failing Hands: The Story of Presidential Succession, John D Feerick.

Currently Reading: The Reshaping Of Everyday Life, 1790 - 1840, Jack Larkin.

PS: From Early September 2017 when we drove to northwestern Pennsylvania for a last amusement park visit. We stopped in a nice central spot for lunch.

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Our Labor Day weekend visit let us go to Iron Dragon, which was running a virtual reality coaster experience. This allowed the ride to run so slowly, with so much time in-between train dispatches, that it had a half-hour-long line when the park wasn't even busy. In ordinary circumstances there wouldn't be a line.


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Riders fussing around with the virtual reality goggles, which gave one the image of sitting on a wagon-train cart that gets grabbed and flown around by a dragon. The idea's nice enough but I'm not sure it's better than just having a motion simulator instead.


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And a glimpse of the Cedar Point water towers, new one on the left, century-old one on the right. It'd be gone for 2018.

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019
12:10 am
Trim the house and trim the tree and let the spirit show

I was the first of the kids up Christmas day, and got dressed and came downstairs as Angel quietly enough not to wake bunny_hugger's father. bunny_hugger would be upset with herself for how long she slept, missing time with her brother, but she hadn't gotten very good sleep on the inflatable mattress. Not while I was also sleeping on it, anyway. It's a small thing, and it transfers all the many movements I make right over to her, and she's a light sleeper. bunny_hugger's father repeatedly defended the mattress as the ``most comfortable air mattress made'', but this is a case where a futon would probably be better. Anyway, much of the time she spent sleeping her brother was either sleeping or off in his room wrapping things.

And it was lovely when everyone did get organized and together. As we got to unwrapping presents there was even a bit of snow outside, a light flurry that didn't stick so we got all the fun of a white Christmas without the work. We had the chip dips made from those spices, yes, but the hot spinach-artichoke dip took priority. And it turned out we forgot to bring along one gift for bunny_hugger's brother's girlfriend. He had been opening those and sending her pictures so we could appreciate them and he could save luggage space. It was one from me, a bread-warmer, that the store had wrapped up so bunny_hugger never actually saw it.

The gift we're going to specifically remember was a small box put inside bunny_hugger's stocking. It was a bin of something like fifty plastic nails. They're designed as things one practices the art of nail-painting on. bunny_hugger's father explained he had thought she could use these to practice painting of miniatures, like the Mice and Mystics figures she hopes to complete sometime. The reasoning was bizarre and the more he explained why he'd give this strange thing, the more bunny_hugger's mother curled over, laughing. It was a gag gift. Her father had gotten the box of practice nails sent for free along with something or other, and he thought to make it a prank. And, must say, a prank that got us.

I was able to call my parents, who were visiting my brother and his family in Baltimore. The highlight there was chatting with my nieces. The younger niece asked me how to make an iPhone. I explained you had to take a box of iPhone powder and mix it in a bowl with some eggs and water. As she listened intently I had a moment of conscience and tried to underscore that you only do this with an iPhone mixing powder, not with a finished iPhone. Well, my sister-in-law hasn't called to complain yet, so far as I know.

We had our traditional viewing of the Alastair Sim Scrooge, including bunny_hugger's father's traditional question of, ``Wait, Patrick Macnee [ who introduces the DVD ] is in this?'' He's the Young Jacob Marley. Also the traditional wondering of whether, as Macnee claims, his family really does gather around to watch the movie every year. We also had a traditional moment of complaining about the universal remote, because someone sold bunny_hugger's parents a remote control far too complicated for their DVD-DVR-and-TV setup, or for that matter too complicated for any TV starship from before 2006. The thing has a screen in the middle of it. We had to pause a while for something, and the DVD player turned off, and her father doesn't know any way to turn the DVD player back on except by ejecting and reinserting the disc, so we had to find where in the movie we'd left off, and kept overshooting. So we lost parts of a scene that were, ultimately, not worth the emotional labor of getting back to.

After dinner, and dessert, we played a game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill with bunny_hugger's brother. We asked her parents to play, but, as traditional, they didn't want to. They don't like the aspect of the game where the Betrayal happens, and the game shifts from cooperative to competitive play (typically) with a goal and new rules imposed by chance. (I suspect her mother would get the hang of it after maybe two go-arounds, but also understand not wanting to do something that seems too complicated to be fun.) This time around the Betrayal had one of the party determined to declare himself Pope by winning the hearts of seven electors. Yes, I complained that you're not declared Pope by the vote of seven electors. The game designers were thinking of the Holy Roman Emperor. The game was unmoved by my historical correctness. bunny_hugger, who had the luck to be the betrayer, won handily, in good part by my making some bad rolls shortly after the Betrayal.

It wasn't yet late. But bunny_hugger's brother had his flight home in the morning, and she was going to drive him. So he felt he should sleep early. So we packed up things, and made for an early bed.

Trivia: The first motion picture copyrighted in the United States was the five-second-long 1894 ``Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze''. Source: American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny, Christopher Miller.

Currently Reading: The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, S Max Edelson.

PS: From Early September 2017 when we drove to northwestern Pennsylvania for a last amusement park visit. We stopped in a nice central spot for lunch.

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Since we have season passes to Cedar Point there's no reason, if we're nearby, not to stop in and appreciate things like how GateKeeper looks against the evening sun.


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One of the walk-through attractions for Halloweekends has a high school theme. This school bus and the bear atop it were set up for Halloweekends already, but the haunted houses weren't going.


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One thing that was going on: an 'Ohio versus Michigan' grease truck contest. So all along the midway were a bunch of vendors that added a lot of great options, many of them vegetarian, to the Cedar Point fair. We ended up going to Cupzilla there, and liking it so much we went back to it on Monday and again when they were in for 2018.

Monday, January 7th, 2019
12:10 am
So near yet so far, on a carousel, on a carousel

Technically, I had four posts over the past week. Let me give you a fresh chance to read them. I'm expecting a similar writing load for this coming week, for what that's worth.

Meanwhile in the story comics. What's Going On In Gasoline Alley? What happened for the Gasoline Alley centennial? October 2018 - January 2019 for my first plot recap of the new year, mostly about stuff that happened in the old year, much of it about stuff that happened before 1946.

Remember anything from the summer of 2017? Yeah, it's hard. But I have photographs to help me out. Here, stuff from two different days. The first, just an ordinary August day.

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So bunny_hugger had been admiring how well our tomato plants were doing, and then was shocked that a day later they were denuded. With some examination she found the problem: one of these boys on the plant. Also two more. They're surprisingly hard to see, considering they're the size of a medicine ball.


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bunny_hugger not sure just how delighted she is to pick up one of these tomato-eaters. I mean, it's kind of cute in its way. Looks like something you'd see in a children's book about a hungry caterpillar, except that it's big enough to eat a truck.


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So we relocated them to the backyard, along with the tomato vines they'd already been eating. Here, the new home of one, against the fence. We never saw them again, but they were probably ready for their metamorphosis so we wouldn't recognize them.


And now, pictures from another August day in 2017 and one where we had reason to think about, y'know, the sun and the moon and that we could see them together, which is neat.

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Here --- on another afternoon --- was the thrill of August 2017, the partial eclipse. You can see how cloudy it was, because of course it would be, but there was still the chance to see some fun stuff.


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So, here's my album cover.


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And here a cloud dragon grabs and makes off with the Sun.


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Our fish pond. I didn't get any good pictures showing the eclipse in reflection --- I should have taken the netting off, really, but didn't think of it until later --- and while there are photos that better show the shoals of goldfish, they don't have the great circles of light around lily pads like this picture has.


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And proof that we know how to look at an eclipse wisely: the results of our pinhole paper-plate camera.


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And our pinhole paper-camera applied to the hostas out back.


Trivia: The first ticket for Jenny Lind's first concert, in Boston, sold at auction for $625. Source: The Age of Paradox: A Biography of England, 1841 - 1851, John W Dodds.

Currently Reading: The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, S Max Edelson.

Sunday, January 6th, 2019
12:10 am
Busy doing, wrapping things for everyone we know

We set out Christmas Eve day, later than we hoped to, as always seems to happen. We got to bunny_hugger's parents' in time for the start of dinner preparations, handled by her brother and mother, who figured it wouldn't be so long as to need snacks be set out. This was optimistic; it'd be something like two hours. Dinner was earlier than last year's, when an overly-complicated menu took until like 9 pm to make, but we still probably should have got the chips and our dip out.

After dinner we set up Mice and Mystics: The Heart of Glorm. We've been playing this basic game with bunny_hugger's parents, and the expansion set for a bit over a year now. Her brother was able to sit in as we tried to play the final chapter again. Somehow he was with us when we were trying to finish the original set too, in Omena back in 2017. Surely coincidence. We'd been trying this last chapter, the grand battle against the evil glowworm Glorm and his army of crystal-energized undead rats and roaches and such, several times over going back to September, I think, without getting it. And then this time we set up and ... got knocked out quickly. We re-set and tried again.

This next time we got much lucker with our dice rolls, particularly with ones that moved the time marker back. And with dice rolls and card draws that gave us mana, which in this game is slices of cheese. Particularly, my character --- Colin, the Prince --- was able to get enough cheese to finally, after like a year, gain a new Special Ability. And I --- me --- was able to gain the ability to use my special abilities well. Colin has (now) two particularly good abilities. One gives him the chance to spend mana to give another player an order, which, deployed correctly, gives us an extra move each turn. The other, the new one, lets him spend mana to get another player to re-roll dice, giving a chance at saving what would otherwise be a dire situation.

And between some better rolls, and Colin's new abilities and my better using those abilities ... we ... finally did it. We overcame Glorm, bringing what was an honestly grim scenario to a happy, even comical, resolution. Great family moment for Christmas Eve. bunny_hugger got the other, full, expansion set for Mice and Mystics last year as a Christmas present. But, not really expecting that we'd beat it this time, she didn't bring it. And hadn't even opened it, so none of the pieces would be set up or ready to go, anyway.

This did take us to late enough in the night it seemed unwise to start something new, though. I think we did watch Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, but before starting the game. (If I'm wrong, then we watched Emmet Otter the next day, that is, Christmas night.) And it was a chance to marvel again at the many things done just right in that special.

So, and after a bit of late-night Internet activity, we went to bed. ... With a pause. bunny_hugger had a gift for me. She's had a Stitch kigurumi for a couple years now, and loves it. I had said how I regretted they don't make an Angel kigurumi, not in my size. But she found one. At least a grey-market one; it seems to be an enlarged version of the legitimate Angel kigurumis out there. It promised to fit men up to six foot two inches, which is a little smaller than me still, but the defining feature of kigurumis is that they're loose fits. Why not give it a try?

She gave it to me privately, Christmas Eve, for fear that I would be embarrassed to dress in this bright pink outfit, or that I might not truly have meant it'd be great to dress as Stitch's TV-series girlfriend. Not so, though. I'm delighted to have it, and I did wear it Christmas day through until dinnertime. It's a bit tight for a kigurumi, but, like, regular-costume tight rather than ``I need to let this out'' or ``I need to lose twenty pounds and two inches''. It's great.

Trivia: The first small-format map of Paris, designed to help tourists and businessmen navigate, was published in 1694. Source: The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, Joan DeJean.

Currently Reading: The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, S Max Edelson.

PS: And my last photos from the Calhoun County Fair of '017:

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The Calhoun County Fair carousel runs at a good five rpm, making it an exciting if bumpy ride. Here, I get a decent shot of one of the horses going to hyperspeed.


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View past one of the inner-row horses to the boxes of replacement light bulbs.


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And a shot of the Wipeout ride, elevated and spinning. This ride would go on for just about ever, speeding and slowing and rising and falling, with the axis raising the thing also rotating. So if you need to ride something to about fifteen seconds before it's going to leave you too sick to continue riding, this is a good choice.


Saturday, January 5th, 2019
12:10 am
Christmas is a carousel and round and round we go

Getting back to journaling my life: bunny_hugger's father got the idea, apparently at this year's Calhoun County Fair, that it would be great to make his own French fries. So his wish list consisted of some fry-making equipment. bunny_hugger suggested that she and I could split it up, she buying some of it and me the rest. And this is where I first screwed up Christmas: I got the idea that she had bought all the things on his wish list, and then I'd pay her back the rest. It wasn't until the weekend before Christmas that I realized I had no idea where she'd put the package she'd gotten from Amazon. So I finally asked her where all this was.

She, of course, hadn't bought everything expecting to be repaid. She got the most-expensive thing on his list and left the rest (about the same cost) to me. But I'd never looked, so I hadn't realized. So we had this catastrophe: I didn't have anything to give a man who, I knew, was going to be giving me honestly too many books and videos and such. I could order something to be delivered late, but that's no fun. Worse, the actual fryer he wanted was no longer in stock. Worse, there was no promise it would ever be back in stock. And worse yet, he had nagged bunny_hugger to the point she was fed up back in November, when he first put this on his wish list, on the grounds that the fryer might go out of production, and we'd pshawed that possibility. So we had some anxious times calling him to give the bad news, and to ask if there were another fryer that might be decent. (Unguided, I'd have just bought the next-bigger model of fryer, but this would have been unwise: it would probably have drawn too much power for their kitchen outlet to be reliable.) I at least put the receipt for this, folded, into a Christmas card and wrapped the card so he could open something. Later I realized it was another of the same card I'd sent them for Christmas anyway. (I had used two packs of cards to send to people.) Well, he said he didn't mind, and that he wasn't figuring to fry anything in the next couple days anyway. It's a kind attitude, but I admit I do worry he isn't actually that interested in frying anyway and just made it his item because he felt the need to request something.

He also insisted that when bunny_hugger called to report bad news, he was afraid that the news was she wouldn't be able to drive her brother back to the airport. He's afraid of navigating Detroit airport himself. bunny_hugger isn't fond of it herself, but can brave it.

So that was my big Christmas screw-up, leading up to our gathering bunny, bunny toys, presents, and a couple of days' changes of clothes to go to bunny_hugger's parents and celebrate the holiday. Also going along with us: some chips and dip. When we went to Omena, in the Traverse Bay area, in 2017 we got a couple of spice packets that we never found an occasion to mix into a dip. bunny_hugger's parents always have several huge bags of potato chips and dips to snack on while we're there, so this would make a perfect occasion to use it. She mixed the recipe together, while hoping that the spices hadn't aged into blandness, and we brought this to offer. Which was still quite good, yes, and was eaten ... not as much as we had assumed. They had more dips and snacks, including a grand spinach dip, that kept taking priority. We've still got some left, but also have plans to finish off chips and pita with dip over the next couple of lunches.

And that's what we would bring to Christmas 2018.

Footnote: they lasted one lunch once we really tried.

Trivia: In 1860 Samuel A King and James Wallace Black used balloons to photograph Boston from an altitude of 1,200 feet. Source: Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society, Norman J W Thrower.

Currently Reading: The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, S Max Edelson.

PS: How December 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog, my routine self-examination.


PPS: A couple more photos from the end of the Calhoun County Fair back in '017:

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View from the platform of a Geee Wizz, a portable Moby Dick-style ride. Note the row of seats swinging up and to the right there.


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The tower of often lit bulbs on the swinging chair ride. I caught it at a bad moment; there's other shots that have enough bulbs lit that the outline gets washed out in generic white light.


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And here's some of the fairgrounds as seen from the ground.


Friday, January 4th, 2019
12:10 am
Horses chasing 'cause they're racing

My first humor blog roundup for the year. Did I manage a something every day, after all? Yes. The proof:

Getting back now to the fairgrounds, where we're done with animals but still have rides.

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View of the Calhoun County fairgrounds from, it looks to me, about halfway up the Ferris Wheel's height.


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And that's a photo from closer to the top of the ride. I'm startled that it came out this well.


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Another surprisingly good picture of the fairgrounds from atop the Ferris Wheel. It underscores how much of photography is just having something that looks interesting to point your camera at.


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View of the fairgrounds, along with a quick glimpse of other cars on the Ferris Wheel on the left there.


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So I reached my camera out and pointed it straight down to see what would happen. The ride operator did not yell at me. Yes, I had the camera strap around my wrist.


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And more ride photos of the Ferris Wheel, as long as we were sitting up near the top for such a while.


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And a good moment taken while we rested at the top of the Ferris Wheel.


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Here we get a little more down to earth.


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Super Twister. This ride --- as the Super Round-Up --- was always my favorite as a kid and I'm always glad when an ancient unit is still operating at some fair or amusement park. Now if we could just see Rotors make a comeback.


Trivia: In 1967 the French National Railway charged a flat 572 francs to carry a loaded 40-foot container from Bremen (in North Germany) to Basel, Switzerland. Source: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, Marc Levinson.

Currently Reading: The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, S Max Edelson.

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019
12:10 am
Riding along on a carousel, will I catch up to you

And a little more of the Calhoun County Fair from back in August 2017.

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Couple of small cows who figure they've said as much as they can to one another and are looking for other conversational partners.


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Any questions? Mysterious label left on the ground between two of the barns.


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Gate watcher catches me looking at the mysterious warning that this gate would not be available at the county fair for the next year.


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I'm not sure if it was 2016 when there were no birds at the fair, owing to a bird flu scare. But they were back in force in 2017 certainly.


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The duck pond, in one of those shots that makes it look as if I could control what my camera's focusing on.


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Two-headed turkey considering whether it's worth coming over and pecking my camera to pieces. It decided it wasn't.


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The lone, so far as we could find, guinea pig exhibited at the fair. If it didn't take home some ribbons then there's no justice in the world.


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California grey on exhibit, showing off the breed's traditional pose of wanting you to come over a little closer so they can smack you right in the nose. ... It's not Penelope, of course, but now the picture makes me think of her.


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Flemish Giant (I think?) showing some fine leg sprawl.


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``Now how did I lay an egg up there?''


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Chicken who's just got no time for me or, for that matter, feather-unruffling.


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And now on to the rides! Ride operator looking close at the progress of the Ferris wheel. The rare shot where I have one person in good focus and someone else in motion blur.


Trivia: During the digging of the Culebra Cut, in Panama, midday temperatures at the base of the dig were rarely less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and often were between 120 to 130 degrees. Source: The Path Between The Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870 - 1914, David McCullough.

Currently Reading: Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem, Robert Kaplan, Ellen Kaplan.

PS: Reading the Comics, December 28, 2018: More Christmas Break Edition, those comics I should have got to back on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019
12:10 am
Riding along on a carousel, trying to catch up to you

I figure to resume the narrative of my life Friday. I'm taking a bit of a holiday yet. Meanwhile, here's pictures from the Calhoun County Fair as we visited in 2017.

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Approaching the Calhoun County Fair, 2017. We set out crazy late, like at rush hour, and all our normal parking lots were filled. The only one we could find was on the east end of the lot, which we didn't know was there, but it did mean we approached it seeing the sky snuggling towards its sunset, so there's that.


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Also we could get some nice dramatic shows of light and cloud here. That's a Zipper ride on the right.


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Young goat among the first animals we looked at. This one seems to be in his pajamas and ready for bed.


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Oh, hi! You didn't need to get up for us. Thanks, though.


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bunny_hugger communing with the goats. They seem to like her, which shows off their good judgement.


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``Hello, Ladieeeeeeeeeesssss.''


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And a couple of these fellows poking around, looking to see if they can swipe any hay from the next cage over, because that's always the better kind.


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Cows being made presentable.


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Presented: a bouquet of cows.


Trivia: The word ``rosary'' first appears in English around 1440 as meaning ``a piece of ground for cultivating roses; a rose bed''. Its meaning would turn to a set of prayers by 1547. Source: Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning, Sol Steinmetz. (The link seems to be thinking of the rosary as representing a garden of prayers.)

Currently Reading: Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem, Robert Kaplan, Ellen Kaplan.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
12:10 am
All you need is love

Happy new year, dear bunny_hugger. May it be one that sees us bundled soundly together.


So since people were asking about our Christmas trees let me jump ahead in time and show pictures of them. I didn't take my camera to the Christmas tree lot, so I haven't any pictures of their original context or of our tree-cutting experiences. This is just what we did with them once they were felled.

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Our center-post tree stand in its traditional out-of-season occupation of being Pioneer 11.


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The downstairs tree as bundled up at the tree farm and not quite set free.


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The upstairs tree, set free (I didn't get a good picture of it bundled), in its spot beside the books and the supernova outside.


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The downstairs tree in its full decorated livery. Well, somewhat full; bunny_hugger was adding to it through to a couple days before Christmas.


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Better view of our downstairs tree, looking up so it seems all the bigger.


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Close-up on the tree of a couple of important ornaments. In the upper right is a clay mould of Stephen's footprint made in 2009, in an incident that he hated but that bunny_hugger's mother judged to be something he could live with. There are a couple strands of his fur embedded in it. Beside it is a Bronner's ornament made for Columbo, that we didn't get to hang before his too-soon death. The Stephen ornament bunny_hugger's parents gave us just before he died.


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And bunny_hugger's parents' tree, along with their very nervous basset hound who would very much like me to stop ... existing there all suspiciously like that.


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Looking up at bunny_hugger's parents' tree, with a great number of nice icicle ornaments and a good number that include old photographs of their kids.


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bunny_hugger on Christmas Day getting a great action shot of the tree.


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And our upstairs tree as seen glowing in the night. It's the Carousel-themed tree so all the ornaments are carousel animals or ones that tribute a carousel we've been on.


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Looking down from above our upstairs tree, because I thought this would be a fun angle.


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I ... really would have sworn I had more good lit-by-itself-at-night photographs of the downstairs tree, but, all right. Notice the Cedar Point GateKeeper plush doll on top of the bookshelf there. They don't sell those at Cedar Point anymore, but its twins do appear as redemption prizes at midway games all over the place these days.


Trivia: In Athens of about the fifth century BCE the name of the first month of the year was Hecatombaion. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards. Don't think that ``Heca'' there isn't making me nervous.

Currently Reading: Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem, Robert Kaplan, Ellen Kaplan.

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