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

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Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
12:10 am
It won't be long

So our first big event after Pinball At The Zoo was ... well, another pinball event. The VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Hall Of Fame annual show. Once again we got tickets for Friday evening, the 4-to-10-pm show. We might not be able to do that again: rumor is the guy who owns the place wants next year's to be Saturday and Sunday alone. Why cut back on the few days the place is (or even can be) open to the public, when it's always extremely popular, to the point that tickets reliably sell out? ... Nobody's really sure, although it's hard not to get the vibe that the guy who owns the collection doesn't really like having all these strangers in messing up his games. There was a tournament before the show started, but we didn't join that. For one, bunny_hugger still had classes in the early afternoon. For another, it was some ridiculously large entry fee that, as I understand it, was neither for charity nor paid out to winners. It's how you hold a tournament while not really wanting anyone there.

Still, the show draws a lot of attendees, including pinball vendors showing off their latest. There were three Black Knight: Sword of Rage tables, one of them the plain vanilla kind played at Pinball At The Zoo, and two the more deluxe models with an upper playfield. This was our chance to try the game again, before it comes to every pinball venue around us, and maybe even hear more than the bass of the music.

Also present: one of Jersey Jack's newest tables, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I'm not sure if the game rules are finalized (as far as game rules are ever final, anymore; it's now easy to patch the software in a pinball game, so it's easy to ship a partially complete game and trust you'll fix it after the fact). But it's bright and colorful just as you'd imagine the theme would be, and there's several lovely and weird shots to make, and already neat clips from the movie for various modes. Nobody got the Wonkavator multiball started but that looks like it should be great fun. We never did see anyone tilt a ball, but we've all got an idea what clip from the movie they've got to use when that event occurs.

We met up with MWS, of course, as well as some Lansing League regulars like RED and GCB and all. We led RED and GCB to Class Of 1812, to hear the multiball music, which goes into the 1812 Overture Done As Chicken Clucking, part of the game's weird-era Gottleib weirdness. RED opened the game's coinbox door --- something anyone can do, but which is against the rules and can get you kicked out --- to turn the volume up to ``earth-shattering'' so we, and everyone in the room, could hear it. Which was great, mind you, and which everyone liked. For a while. RED opened the box again to turn the sound down when one of the event staff came over. RED told them, ``I was turning the sound down'' without mentioning his part in turning the sound up, and was thanked for this good deed. Then he held up a pack of Mentos and smiled at the camera.

bunny_hugger and I would go looking largely for the older, weirder games. There were some wonderful new selections available. Particularly, there were a bunch of pure-mechanical games, pre-war pinball machines, from the era before there were flippers. There was just a shooter lane, a ball, and the fact you could tap on a machine to nudge it a little. Where the ball ended up guided your score. Some of them were great and I felt almost an instant expert, such as Bally's 1933 Airway, where there's ten airplanes labelled different cities, and a scoop for a ball to land in each one. In my best game I got balls in seven of the ten city-planes.

Others had me stumped, though. They had a 1934 Rube Gross and Company Torpedo, a naval-war-themed game. But the pins --- actual nails in the wood --- seem to close off all but two of the scoring holes. Even GRV, who knows every rule to every game ever, couldn't see how any of the rest even came into play. There are some dirigibles that hide the openings to tunnels, but he got a ball into one of them and it just returned to the shooter lane. So how does this game work? I don't know. Rube Gross and Company was active from September 1934 to sometime in 1935 and made three games, according to the Internet Pinball Database.

One little frustrating bit. I was having my best-ever game of Quicksilver, an early solid state game with a melty-character theme. My last ball, though, didn't kick into the plunger lane. This is a really simple fix --- open the coin box door and push the solenoid that kicks the ball out --- but, of course, non-staff opening the coin box door are subject to expulsion. I asked the first staffer who was nearby, an older man who was going around polishing table. He didn't seem to know what to do, or to follow what exactly the problem was, and in trying to fix it he lifted up the playfield, and reset the game, and eventually turned off the game. Well, two outstanding balls is still something.

The VFW has a Seawitch, too. This is an early-80s game with playfield adapted to be the new Beatles game. Beatles rapidly became one of my favorite pinball games, something I just have a complete understanding of the flow for and all the major shots and what to do. This was the first time I'd seen Seawitch since the Beatles came out, and I wanted to see how they compared. It turns out if you play Seawitch as though it were the Beatles table, you have a pretty good Seawitch game. In particular, the way the drop targets build your bonus multiplier, how the bonus multiplier carries over, and how you earn an extra ball are the same on Seawitch as on Beatles. So that's fun to know, in case it ever turns up.

We didn't really have enough time, but we never do at the VFW. Maybe next year, when --- if rumor pans out --- we'll probably get the Saturday ticket, 10-to-10. Saturdays are reportedly always packed, but there are a lot of games there, and twice as many hours wouldn't hurt.

Trivia: In 1755 --- before the declaration of what would be the Seven Years' War --- British sailors captured three hundred French merchantmen, taking something like $6 million in prizes. Source: The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution, Barbara W Tuchman.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

PS: A little more Potter Park Zoo Wonderland of Lights, 2017 edition.


Light-lined sidewalk that's got the day's fresh snow on it. December 2017 was a snowy time in Lansing, which is great for night pictures and a little less great for walking around in.


Nice long arc on the sidewalk with a bunch of Christmas trees. I like how the trees are lit from beneath and you can see the darkness of the sky.


These were not animated reindeer lights, but I liked the way the picture came out anyway.

Monday, May 20th, 2019
12:10 am
It's a light-and-tumble journey from the East Side to the park

It took some doing but I did it, and published in my mathematics blog this past week. Here's what I did.

The story strip recap went halfway in rerun. What's Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? When might Spider-Man come out of reruns? February - May 2019 offers some explanation of what's been happening as well as my best guess about when it might stop.

Now let's get back to the Potter Park Zoo, where the 2017 Wonderland of Lights display turned out to be in the cold so we went inside one of the buildings to warm up.


Spider monkey hanging out in the winter quarters. We'd duck into pretty much every enclosure to warm back up and then step outside for more lights.


And some of the mandrills hanging out in winter quarters.


Ringtailed lemurs hanging out under the heat lamp, keeping warm like French fries waiting to be served.


Lemur shocked to see what I'm writing about them on the Internet!


Lemurs huddling up for comfort under the heat lamp.


The big cats also get brought inside for winter, and here, they just sleep some.


Isn't that a lot of lion sleeping through the evening crowd?


So you understand, each of these paws is about the size of a Honda Civic.


I ... think he's annoyed with me?


Lemur does not like my chances here.


Tiger failing to sleep after remembering --- again --- that time in second grade she accidentally said something about going downstairs into the ``be-ice-ment'' in front of the whole class.


Tiger posed in front of a matte painting from Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush (1925).

Trivia: In the two years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Federal Aid put over 20,000 miles of highway under construction. In 1942 it produced 1,869 miles. Source: The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers who Created the American Superhighways, Earl Swift.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

Sunday, May 19th, 2019
12:10 am
You for me and me for you

The drawback of competing in a tournament at something like Pinball at the Zoo --- and, more of doing well in it --- is that you lose the time to actually wander around the convention. I'd taken some time on Thursday when not competing, but not enough. Now that bunny_hugger had taken her prizes and stowed them safely in the car --- and gave to CST a can of turtle food that her parents had somehow been shipped by mistake --- we had a precious few hours to just hang around.

As we did, though, the convention was evaporating, people packing up their machines and moving them to their cars and trucks so as to get home at a reasonable hour. We were able to get to some exciting things. One was American Pinball's new table, Oktoberfest. American Pinball's a small company, in kind of that Jersey Jack zone where they're not a major maker (nobody but Stern is) but they're productive enough not to be a boutique maker anymore. Oktoberfest is themed to just what it says on the tin, and it startled us to realize we can't really think of the theme having been used before. ``Big, colorful party'' seems like a natural pinball theme, but then there's fewer amusement-park-themed games than you'd imagine too.

I'm not sure if the game is finished, but it felt pretty well-finished. Parts of the game represent different parts of a carnival, including a roller coaster shot. The jet bumpers are decorated as bumper cars, one of those things so inevitable you're amazed it hasn't been done before There's various modes started by going to the beer tent. There's a lot of peppy, silly music. The various modes include stuff like bumper cars, a Musik Express, and a Rotor ride. I'm a little cold to there being a ``chugging'' mode, since I'm just no fun about recreational alcohol poisoning. And the game's been controversial because the earlier art went way overboard with excited women being inadequately dressed, and when pinball players are complaining the art is gratuitously sexist you know it's bad.

But to give a sense of the level the game's working at, it has a feature you can activate when you start a game. This lets you play the entire game, flipping both flippers, using just the right flipper button. Why? So you can hold your beer in your left hand while you're playing. If that doesn't get at least a grin, the game's lost on you.

Our most wonderful discovery, though, was Gottleib's Big House, a crazypants late-solid-state pinball game from the company that invented crazypants late-solid-state pinball games. The theme is you're trying to break out of a slightly cartoony movie jail, with multiball being you make your big break and the jackpot from successfully escaping the warden. That's all strikingly linear for this era. The art has the prisoners represented by cartoony caricatures of old-time gangster or crime movie stars like Edward G Robinson or Peter Lorre. That's still doing well. Oh, half of the characters are animals for some reason. And that's where it gets baffling.

Making some characters literally rats or (presumably filthy) dogs or whatnot makes sense. Making minor characters (stool) pigeons makes sense. But then why stop halfway through? I'd understand if the backglass art were one way and the playfield another, or if the main playfield were one way and the art on the props were different. That could result from separate artists not understanding what the other was doing. But every element is mixed up like this. Like, the playfield has at bottom some realistic-cartoon thugs breaking out of jail. Above that are cops using search dogs that look like they're from a 1970s Scooby-Doo clone. And above that are pure cartoon rats-or-mice in cop helmets.

It was one of those wonderful, strange discoveries, the kind you make at a show like this where people want to show off the wonderful and strange games they have. Worth the day's admission at least.

We could get in a couple last games, but that was all. The show was ending. The question: do we go to the afterparty at MJS's pole barn? The reason this was a question: there was snow coming in. And, they forecast, a pretty major snow, something bringing a couple inches down. This in late April. You know, like people joke about happening in Michigan. I thought it worth trying to go, since how often do we get to the pole barn, but keep an eye on the weather and go home early if it seems to be getting bad. The saving grace here would be that while it was somehow cold enough to snow, the ground temperature was still warm, and it wasn't liable to make the roads that bad. I wound end up driving home at 50-to-60 mph, mind, this where the speed limit is 70. But that just let us get closer to caught up on our podcasts.

And of course we spent hours and hours at the party, pretty quickly forgetting our worries about the snow. It's always a nice place to visit and to hang out. MJS had added some decorations, too, a row of 70s-80s albums lining one room. If there is a theme to the art it's ``went to the record store and asked for 18 inches of records'', but it was an era of many wonderful and strange art covers. Also Rodney Dangerfield's rap album.

And we got to see more novelties. MJS has a Safecracker, a late-90s attempt by Bally to get operators more happy with pinball by making it more of a redemption game. It's got a break-into-the-bank pinball theme, with a small table and a time-limited mode meant to increase player turnover. One of its features is that it could shoot tokens out at the player. These tokens you'd then use to play a special alternate-rules version, called ``Assault on the Vault''. They had some, and we got to watch I want to say Derek Fugate (if I have this wrong, it doesn't matter) play this alternate, higher-tension, higher-energy version of the game. So that was worth brushing two inches of fat, wet snow off my car at the end of the night.

Trivia: William Bligh completed the mission of the Bounty --- the transplanting of breadfruit from Tahiti to Jamaica --- on the vessel HMS Providence. It was twice the size of the Bounty, and accompanied by the brig Assistant. Source: Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection, Leonard F Guttridge.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

PS: Reading the Comics, May 11, 2019: I Concede I Am Late Edition, but I finished up last week's comics in time for this week's, so there's that.

PPS: And now the last big event of 2017, our visit to the Potter Park Zoo and its Wonderland of Lights.


Just inside the zoo's entrance, and a good sense of what the place looked like.


Up front are a great number of Christmas trees decorated by local agencies. A striking number of them are dentist's offices, although as far as we know our dentists aren't among them. Local tech companies that do Internet ... things ... get a lot of trees too. The tooth decorations don't stand out so well when there's fresh snow.


Elephant light fixture set up. Most of the animals for the zoo are in winter quarters, but their absence is made up for by lights like this which would not necessarily be out of place at Crossroads Village either.

Saturday, May 18th, 2019
12:10 am
Struggling along for years and years

Finals. bunny_hugger gets to pick again, and chooses the bank with Eight-Ball, Grand Prix, and Spider-Man. She doesn't care for Spider-Man, but the first two games, a solid-state and an electromechanical, play to her strengths. She's first player again, and puts up 114,730, a solid but beatable score. BP, one of those out-of-staters (he's from Columbus, Ohio, best I can figure) puts up 42,550. MJV, a friend we only get to actually see when we're at Chesterfield, basically, puts up 56,900. And BIL just puts up nothing, a 37,830 finish. bunny_hugger has a first-place finish. It's a great start. Takes a lot of pressure off. And the next game is Grand Prix, an electromechanical that she always likes even when she isn't having a good game.

She has a lousy game. Grand Prix, like most electromechanicals, gives five balls to play. It gives five balls because it's easy to have a house ball, one that just rockets out of play with no chance to do anything about it. (Modern games compensate for this, some with better design, some with ball saves that take the sting off.) She never gets anything going, and puts up 164,000 points, for last place. BP has 282,830, a third-place finish. MJV just squeaks him out, 286,490 points. BIL has a 370,100 point finish.

Going into the final game, bunny_hugger, MJV, and BIL are all tied, and BP still isn't out. It's literally possible for anyone to finish in any position. And the game is to be Spider-Man. Which is on the hard settings, and has the shorter-than-standard flippers, and which has been creaming everybody all weekend.

bunny_hugger avoids a disaster, though, putting up 10,172,640. It's a fair score, especially how it's been playing. BP then scores 12,076,640. MJV flops, taking a last-place 4,096,320.

BIL is guaranteed to take first place in the B Division now. If he wins this game, then bunny_hugger takes second place. If he finishes behind bunny_hugger's 10-million, then she ties for second with BP and goes to a tiebreaker match. If he finishes above bunny_hugger but behind BP, then she takes third place.

He built his score gradually, despite me and bunny_hugger hoping he drained fast. Then he got past that 10,172,640 and our attitudes switched. He was in what we regard as the danger zone, and we just wanted him to rocket through the two million more points he needed. He had a mode going, which was great, since a few shots could get him past that. And he did, although the mode was obscuring his score so we couldn't see it for a while. He finished at 15,754,320, taking another first-place finish on a table. BIL was first-place finisher at the B Division, Pinball at the Zoo.

bunny_hugger was second-place.

This is, by the way, as good a finish as I had ever done at Pinball At The Zoo, and that was years it wasn't a circuit event and so the competition level was much less intense.

MJV and BP ended up tied for third, and had to hold a tiebreaker. This was delayed some as MJV, I believe thinking he had finished last altogether, had wandered off somewhere. But they eventually got back together, for a game of Fish Tales where MJV put up 63,456,830 to BP's 67,242,060.

Besides taking home a trophy --- well, a plaque, with a nice big star on the center --- she got her pick of Stern pinball translites. These are the art on the backglass. These included a couple of Iron Maiden translites, which are in demand because the game is new and exciting still, and it is pretty stylish especially if you like the band. Plus, Keith Elwin, who designed the game, was there and would likely sign the thing. (Elwin, already a top-ranked player, designed the table for himself, to make his own game. People loved the feel of the the thing, and Stern hired him to turn this into a production run game, just like happens in your fantasies about having someone come up to you with a dump truck full of money to do the thing you have fun doing.)

But bunny_hugger followed her own muse, going for what she personally enjoyed more, and took a translite for Monopoly. This is a game Stern released in the early 2000s, when they were apparently picking licenses at random. But it's also a game that she finally came around to liking. She had to get familiar with its layout, and with the way it worked. The key was realizing it was designed by Pat Lawlor, who also designed FunHouse and many other tables, all of which enjoy certain commonalities of grammar. By this I mean a little upper flipper that feeds to a side ramp for the jackpot. So she picked out the translite for this relatively unloved game and called out ``Pat Lawlor FTW!'' and then worried that Keith Elwin might have overheard her and felt hurt by this. (I cannot imagine a serious pinball player not sympathizing with a pro-Pat-Lawlor comment, though. It'd be like ragging someone in a 60s music group for liking the Beach Boys.) I offer this paragraph if you need to understand bunny_hugger's character quickly.

Trivia: When the Rural Electrification Administration formed in 1935, about two farms in ten in the United States had electricity. In 1945 about eight in ten did. Source: An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

PS: And here's a couple pictures of the Silver Balls in the City tournament from 2017. I didn't win.


Why we play: the trophies bunny_hugger made, using Christmas decorations from Michael's and maybe the knick-nack sale at Crossroads Village, plus some sparkle-painted wood blocks and stuff. She these days prefers to make four trophies, since most of the tournaments she organizes end with four-player groups. But Silver Balls, as a head-to-head strikes tournament, had no reason to end in a four-player group, so she settled for the less taxing trophy-making project.


What a pinball tournament looks like, administrative side: the trophies, the box into which we dropped off the results of matches, the official rule sheets in case bunny_hugger has to make a depressing ruling and wants the authority of the printed rules to back her up, score sheets, a clipboard, and miscellaneous other stuff.


What a pinball tournament looks like, player side: a late-round match on Star Trek. At the time the Star Trek pinball game was next to the Star Wars game, but they've since been moved to different areas of the bar so that they don't fight.


Bonus little picture since I tried taking action shots of pinball games: here's multiball. Do you see all three of the balls in motion here?

Friday, May 17th, 2019
12:10 am
Three French hens

I had a special week on my humor blog. I found excuses to write about the story comics three times, including one that I don't ordinarily cover because it's been in reruns for nearly a decade now. I cover stuff from decades before the reruns started. So here's the stuff you missed if you weren't reading it already:

Now to close out Crossroads Village. We got to the Christmas melodrama they put on, which (at least through 2017) was always this little thing set in the Vague 19th Century with a cute if sheepish young couple and a fun leering baddie who's usually trying to destroy Crossroads Village for his own profit, but who gets redeemed by love and whatnot.


Our heroes: the female protagonist and her fiancee, clerk to the banker bad-guy.


Well of course I was interested in the bookshelves. Who doesn't go studying the bookshelves of anyplace they find themselves?


And in the center: our villain! Or at least the antagonist; this time around he was giving people a hard time but not actually trying to destroy the village, far as I remember.


Close-up of the female protagonist and the villain, who's just not having anything with her sweetness and kindness and all that. She's fine enough, performing, but I think even from a still picture you can see how he dominates the show


And the quartet. The new woman, on the right, represents some big New York money concern that's looking at whether our regular villain's worth doing business with. Also they used to be engaged and didn't get married and you know how awkward that was in the Vague 19th Century.


A tense moment. Do you imagine their personal and business conflicts are at all resolvable?


Well, the power of love came through and saved the village, although the clerk and his fiancee had to sneak back in to remind everyone they're in this story too.


View of Crossroads Village from the opera-house balcony. The place was closing by the time the show let out.


And a close-up view of the bedazzled Christmas tree. They leave the lights on this up all year, if our summer visit that one time is representative.

Trivia: The Atlas-Agena launch, meant to establish a rendezvous and docking target for Gemini VI, was from a pad about 6,000 feet away from Launch Complex 19, with Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford already in the Gemini capsule. (The Agena broke up on launch and the mission was scrubbed.) Source: Sigma 7: The Six Mercury Orbits of Walter M Schirra Jr, Colin Burgess.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

Thursday, May 16th, 2019
12:10 am
Who better than me to set you on your way

There's two advantages being top-seeded in a pinball tournament gets you. One is a bye through a round. That wouldn't happen in B Division. The other advantage is getting to pick the games on which the group plays. But AJH and PH, wanting to keep the many groups --- six playing at one time, when A and B Divisions were accounted for, at least through semifinals --- from all waiting for the same table. And, as a pinball tournament gets bigger, it tends to want the winner to have to show prowess on a range of games. Pinburgh, for example, makes (roughly) every bank include a modern game, an electromechanical, an early-solid-state, and a late-solid-state game. The winner has to do all right on every kind of pinball game there is.

So AJH and PH set up a banks format. The top seed in any group got to pick a course of three games that they'd play. The banks would be played in a set order, and no group could pick a bank already being played. This would avoid any group having to wait. And while the banks weren't perfectly balanced --- there'd be some with two modern-era games, like Ghostbusters and Fish Tales, or two solid-state games like Whirlwind and Laser Cue --- it was a bit more spread out. So bunny_hugger could pick her favorite tables.

Except that the four groups of the A Division got to pick banks first. And EJO, being on-tiebreaker higher tan bunny_hugger got to pick first too. There were, I think, nine banks and she had to pick one of the four dregs. She chose the one with Black Knight: Swords of Rage, Laser Cue, and World Cup Soccer. World Cup Soccer is an old friend. Laser Cue was suddenly being a new friend. Black Knight nobody knew anything about, but she'd had nothing but decent games in qualifying. That could be plenty.

She put up a lousy game of Black Knight. Like, as bad as I had done. First time she flopped on that table. SCS, who we play with sometimes in Grand Rapids and in Fremont, did marginally better. CON, who I don't think we've met before, doubled either score. BIL put up an honestly decent game, coming in at just over 26 million. He had won when got ten million points, but was caught in one of those modes that hides other players' scores so he had no responsible choice but to keep playing until that ended and he could check he'd won. bunny_hugger had a last-place finish and was feeling miserable.

She felt worse after starting Laser Cue, having a lousy ball, and then remembering: this is BIL's table.. Not, like, he owns another of this table and so knows all the rules and best strategies. He owns specifically this literal machine, and brought it from his basement to the show two days before, and while it might be set up a little different from how he'd play it at home, he's played it all he could possibly want. She had another lousy ball and looked at a last-place finish again, which would knock her out of finals.

A lot of what I do at events like this is promise bunny_hugger that she's not a lousy player, that nobody thinks she's a lousy player, and that she's under-rating herself as a player. And that she can win this yet. All right, but how? First, I told her, go to the bathroom and wash her hands. Wash those lousy balls off her. And, mercifully, she took my instruction, making the long walk down the hall to the bathroom, and coming back with her head in a different space. I asked what she thought had gone wrong. She said she never had control of the ball. I aske what was something she could do this ball to prove she had control of it. She picked something and I told her, go do that.

At this point BIL had just under 400,000 points. bunny_hugger was at like 20,000, so catching that --- and beating whatever he might put up on his last ball --- seemed unlikely. But everyone else had mediocre scores too; she could take second place easily. And she found her I'm-in-control shot, and kept working it. finishing at 92,450.

SCS, player two, fumbled a little and lost the ball at 69,230. I hugged bunny_hugger and pointed out how she was not last, this game. CON started his game, from a tiny bit above where bunny_hugger had, and he didn't play great, but he played good enough to get very worrying. He drained maybe 20,000 points below bunny_hugger's score, but the bonus had yet to count up. It did. It ended.

At 91,990.

By a whisker --- basically one spinner hit --- bunny_hugger was still in the running. SCS, with a third and a last, was basically knocked out. BIL, with two firsts, was guaranteed to move on. If CON beat bunny_hugger he would move on. If bunny_hugger took first place, or beat CON by at least two positions --- she had second while he had fourth, or she had first while he had third --- she'd move on. If bunny_hugger did not, she wouldn't. The game was World Cup Soccer.

She had a lousy first ball and felt despair creeping in again. She wouldn't go wsh her hands again, but I did ask what simple shot she could be sure she made, to get back in control. And she did the important one, getting multiball going. Multiball in World Cup Soccer is this routine: shoot the goal target in the way back of the playfield, for a jackpot. Then shoot either ramp to relight the jackpot. Once per multiball, you can relight the jackpot by jabbing the 'Buy Extra Ball' button too. BIL looked over her playing and asked me if she remembered that. I was sure she had, and had already used her jackpot relight. bunny_hugger had not.

She finished at 433,874,130 points. A decent score, although one that anybody could beat with a good multiball. SCS finished with 137,522,120 points and took another last place. CON threatened to ruin my day, taking 372,840,200 points. If BIL won this game, which he certainly could, then CON would move on. If he didn't, then bunny_hugger would win. He scored 191,066,560, a third-place finish.

BIL and bunny_hugger were going to finals.

Trivia: The Encyclopedia Britannia was owned by Sears, Roebuck, briefly. Source: Know-It-All, A J Jacobs. (This was from 1920 through 1922.)

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.


Close up of the band organ attached to the carousel. It's not ornate, but this model carousel --- designed to be mobile --- would have problems with too-ornate an organ.


Getting back to the main village. Here are some of the 19th-century buildings in 21st-century illumination. In the far back is the tree that they go all out to light up.


The opera house, the most prominent building in town and where the gift shops (left and right) are, as well as (center) the stairs up to the performing hall.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
12:10 am
And who better than me to teach you

The last day of Pinball At The Zoo qualifying started at 9 am. The debate: do we get there then? Because the sooner we get there the earlier we have to wake and set out. It's a bit over an hour from Lansing to the Kalamazoo Expo Center. After more debate than I realized we'd have we set out aiming to arrive at 9:30, trusting that we would use the extra half-hour of sleep productively.

bunny_hugger did, starting off with a Whirlwind that about doubled her score and gave her one of the top-thirty scores of the weekend on that game. This reinforces the superstition about playing cold. I did not. I tried Fish Tales, a game I know very well but had only had one mediocre game on, and had a worse game. And worse again. I tried alternating World Cup Soccer and Fish Tales, as the tables I could most probably improve my scores on. I'd already had a billion-point World Cup Soccer, but I've done two and a half billion in the past, at this very event. Not in its 2019 instance, though. I thought about giving Stars another try, since I was sure I could do better. But I checked the app I record my personal high scores on and discovered, to my vague insult, that I have never had a good game of Stars. Like, the best score I've got recorded for myself on it would be about 50th place in the tournament, of 90 entrants. So with actual knowledge I could give up on that and go where my skills might be appreciated. Such is the value of having actual data. This kind of thing is going to turn me into a pinball sabermetrics nerd yet.

So despite my scorekeeping break, and my genuinely feeling fresh, I wasn't having any luck with my scores. Nor, after that first game, was bunny_hugger. She kept trying Laser Cue, as the game she felt she could improve on, until giving up in frustration and moving to Stars. She did nothing but that for another hour, without improving her scores in the least.

My long, sad dry spell came to an end when I noticed Spider-Man free. This modern-era game was set up Hard --- the sign warned about that. With short ball save, too. And with lightning flippers, a valuable quarter-inch (or so) shorter than what the game was designed for. (The name comes from the jagged-lightning-bolt pattern decorating the flippers.) I'd had several dismal games on it Thursday, but, what did I have to lose? And this time, not a thing. Spider-Man, when you've got it working, lets you combine (``stack'') modes together easily, so that one shot counts for many accomplishments. This time I got things stacked, including multiball, and finished with just over 60 million points. That was one of the twenty best scores on the table that weekend. This may not sound like much, but, five top-twenty games is enough to make playoffs. It's plausible to make A Division. ... But it was under an hour left to play, and I had no entries left. I went to the desk and bought two more entries, saying, not to be stingy but what were the chances I'd get to a third table before qualifying time ran out?

So I went to The Walking Dead, on which I already had a fair score, but which I felt ... you know, I could do better than. I went back to basics: just hit the Prison door and the Well Walker, both of which start multiball if you do it enough. And I eventually got ... eh, a decent score. 65 million. A slight improvement on the 59 million I'd put up on Thursday, but still. It boosted my scores a little and, in this precious last half-hour of open qualifying, kept anybody else from putting up a better score. I gave The Walking Dead one more try and put up a slightly worse score. With the end of open qualifying I was three places out of making the bottom of B Division.

There were 32 finals slots. If this were not a Stern Pro Circuit event it would be thinkable that three people might not show up for finals. But ... people who had travelled here from Chicago? From Denver? From California? Never. At most maybe one person would have an emergency, but three? Not at all. I was out; I just had to wait for the official word.

bunny_hugger had used up all her entries but had about fifteen minutes left. She was sitting on the bubble, qualifying for the 8th spot in B Division. If all stood as it was, she was fine. Except ...

After the open qualifying finished there would be one more hour. In this, only scorekeepers would play, their compensation for giving up hours to scorekeep others. I know what you're thinking: oh, so I had a bonus hour. No; the scorekeeping hour was only for people who had put in three hours' work. They're wise to that trick. Anyway, for an hour a smaller set of people would be able to put in scores and those would most likely move us down.

But only most likely. There are some slight bonuses given the highest-scoring people on each game. This, and the best-six-of-twelve-scores-count format, mean it's possible for person A's game to move person B above person C, but you can't count on that.

So. She bought one more entry. And she picked one more game, going back to Laser Cue for one last time. At the last minute. The last game anyone would play in open qualifying on this. And she ...

She tore it up. She put up 538,330, more than halfway to rolling the table, and the 14th-best score altogether. And this after she'd already had top-eight games of Eight Ball and Stars. Add to that a 14th-best Fish Tales and she was going to finals.

She was, before the Scorekeepers' Hour, the top seed in B Division.

There was no chance of her making A --- she was about fifteen points out of that, and there's no way the Scorekeepers' Hour scoring could affect a change that big. And with no realistic chance of absentees she wouldn't be bumped up. But still. The Scorekeepers' Hour might shuffle her score a couple points, but not enough to change things. She was in.

She started the Scorekeepers' Hour one point ahead of EJO, who was himself a scorekeeper. Halfway through the hour, EJO had dropped to three points behind her. MWS used his hour to put up his best Black Knight: Swords of Rage, Fish Tales, Ghostbusters, Eight Ball, World Cup Soccer, Whirlwind, and Spider-Man.

This sounds like a great hour for him. But apart from Ghostbusters none of his scores were top-twenty, and some weren't even top-thirty. His Whirlwind was three-quarters bunny_hugger's score. His Fish Tales one-quarter hers. His Stars score was half of hers. He beat her on Eight-Ball and Grand Prix and World Cup Soccer, but with scores themselves weak enough that it didn't matter. He finished ... well, three spots ahead of me. But his world ranking was such that he was A-Division-restricted. He was allowed to play in either the A Division finals or not at all, and he finished eleven positions out of A Division.

The Scorekeepers' Hour ended with bunny_hugger and EJO tied for the top of B Division. The tiebreaker, for seeding, was who had the higher best-position-on-a-table, which EJO did. So she had, effectively, second seed. But that's all right. She had the enviable spot of ``driving the bus'': she would pick the tables on which they played the first round of finals.

Sort of.

Trivia: From 1707 to 1752 in the United Kingdom, the 1st-of-January-through-25th-of-March was reckoned as a different year in Scotland from what it was in England-and-Wales. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel. (Both areas were on the Julian calendar yet; they just, in that interval, counted the year as different. That is, a Scottish source would give the George Washington's birth as the 11th of February, 1732, while a Welsh would give it as the 11th of February, 1731, if they had any reason to mention the topic.)

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

Are These Numbers A Thing? A question delivered me by chefmongoose.

PPS: Let's enjoy the Crossroads Village carousel.


Haven't you always wondered what's underneath a carousel horse? Now you know, you perv.


The chariot, carrying as often happens the carousel's only dragon ride.


Also who doesn't love that body language of the dragon afraid of the tiny little serpent? That's a great dynamic.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019
12:10 am
Though you're weird, you can make it

Friday for Pinball At The Zoo we thought would be short, but not unbearably so. bunny_hugger had class, and didn't feel she could just cancel it, especially not after the many weather-induced cancellations earlier in the year. But she could cancel office hours, and get home by 2:30, 3:00, plenty of time to put in six hours at the show. She had forgotten something. This would be department meetings. She could have easily skipped that except this was the meeting to set teaching schedules. This is missed at considerable peril. She wouldn't get home until 6:00, and fuming, especially as it happened that she didn't have to fight to avoid an unbearable schedule. We decided, with some dissatisfaction at how little time we'd have, to go back to Kalamazoo anyway.

We would only have two and a half hours of play time, by the time we were on the road. But two and a half hours Friday was playing time we could not have on Saturday. Plus Black Knight: Swords of Rage was there, and taking scores. In our absence, the new players had driven our scores down out of A Division contention. We could use the time to shore ourselves up. Maybe get back into A Division. Certainly secure B Division placement for us.

Could is a load-bearing word. bunny_hugger got onto Black Knight: Swords of Rage and, not knowing anything about the game, put up 13 million points. This was somewhere in the top fifteen finishes anyone had made on the brand-new game. It would finish the weekend at like 32nd, but still, a good enough finish to matter for her standings. She'd also make some improvement on Whirlwind, although nothing she wouldn't better later on. She made a string of tries on early-solid-state Laser Cue, without getting anywhere.

Me, I stepped up to Black Knight and, feeling confident about the general ability of new games to clue you in to what to do, put up 3.6 million, a score that could be described as ``made all the basic skill shots''. I licked my wounds on Eight Ball and put up my best relative performance on any game, a score that would be 15th-best for the weekend on that pool-themed early solid state. I got back in the long queue for Black Knight and .... well, I almost doubled my score, but that still wasn't much better. Then I beat my head against World Cup Soccer and Stars, trusting I could put something together on a modern game I know extremely well and an electromechanical. I could not.

So I felt myself in a slump. Thing about slumps is they end, but not when you're obsessing on them ending. Slumping performance is a kind of a rut. You can break out of it by keeping on until you get lucky and something turns well and you feel it ended. Or you can break out of it by going and doing something else, not worrying about your slump, and coming back refreshed. There's a couple little things you can try. Walking out and coming back in. For me, going off and getting a couple Reese's Pieces has been a lovely if calorie-bearing method. That didn't work either. I needed to do something bigger to break the pattern.

So I asked the desk if they needed any scorekeepers. Pinball At The Zoo has so many players on so many games putting up so many scores that they need a flock of people to record scores and put people into queues. They're always a little short on these. But playing was more frustrating than anything else. This way I could do the event a favor. Build up some good karma.

Karma, of course, doesn't work like that. You don't do good things and build good karma. You do things, and if they're done for good intentions and with good results, it's good karma.

Nevertheless, it was putting my time there to a more constructive purpose than fuming over how I couldn't find any shots on Stars. And it helped at a critical time, too: they needed at least four scorekeepers for the 9-to-10 hour, and nobody had signed up in advance. People had come to volunteer, and I'd be the fourth of the minimum four needed. But it felt good to be doing something needed.

bunny_hugger would characterize this as my giving up on attempting scores. It's true that it knocked me out for the last hour of play for the night. But I think that it did me good in improving my mood, certainly. And, as it happens, I ended up putting up more attempts on games than she did over the weekend. And only a couple fewer games on Friday than she did. Mine just took much less time.

And it let me actually see some of the other players, especially the out-of-state ringers. Sunshine Bon, who's not actually the namesake of our rabbit, was there. So was someone listed on the roster as ``Trailer Tom''. He appears to be a guy out of Colorado, someone who'd been in pinball way back in the oldest days --- the International Flipper Pinball Association has him finishing 12th at Pinburgh C Division in 2002, of 72 players. He hasn't got much recent, although he did play at an event at the 1up arcade in Denver that we visited last year. And I had some fun encounters too. When calling up the next player --- Derek Fugate --- I realized I could think of at least two pronunciations of that name, and apologized to him that I didn't know which he preferred. He insisted I could pronounce his name however I wanted. Fine, but, as I said, it's his name. I don't have standing to say it any particular way.

We closed the place out --- bunny_hugger's final game of the night, an Eight Ball that didn't improve on her past results, came in just after the 10 pm closing hour --- and drove home, facing an uphill climb in the morning if we wanted to make it to playoffs.

Trivia: The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 required 40 percent of displaced persons accepted into the United States be from ``annexed areas'', that is, those taken by the Soviet Union after World War II. Source: The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War, Ben Shapiro.

Currently Reading: Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 - 1942, Perry H Merrill.

PS: Crossroads Village at Christmas 2017! What all is around the carousel?


Outside the carousel building are some other small amusement-park rides. Kiddie rides, really, although the Venetian Swings is a good ride. They're closed, so far as we're aware, in the winter, apart from the Ferris wheel. The snow seems to support our analysis, as do the many footprints of people discovering ``no''.


And the view back from the carousel building toward the main part of the village. The lighted archway marks a separation between the village which is mostly 19th-century building and the rides which are all of the 20th century. It also makes a great visual frame for your photograph of the carousel building.


Finally one of our rides! The horses are covered in red and green blankets, likely to make them look more Christmas-y and maybe also to keep too much snow and slush and mud from being tracked onto them by the big winter crowds.

Monday, May 13th, 2019
12:10 am
Four calling birds

On my mathematics blog I finally followed up that decent question asked last month with a two-thousand-word answer, which, one commenter pointed out, was the same answer they'd given right away. Well, fair enough, but I assumed less familiarity with the concepts involved and laid out the concepts involved. So there's that. Here's what I've been writing, mathematically:

And for the story comics: What's Going On In Judge Parker? Why did Judge Parker help fake Norton's Death? A Special Report. about part of the backstory that's driving the current storyline despite having been, actually, quite unclearly presented at the time. The actual recapping of storyline I have scheduled to appear tomorrow.

Now let's get back to Crossroads Village for Christmas '017. We were still on the train ride as of yesterday. Today?


More of the Twelve Days of Christmas lights. Here, six geese a-laying. There's displays all around this big loop, left and right side, and the train only takes the loop once so if you're on the wrong side good luck seeing things clearly.


The ten lords-a-leaping, represented in lights with the one lord and quite a few crowns.


Similarly only one figure, with a lot of pipes, stands in for the eleven pipers piping. Fortunately he has the leg length of eleven.


And back near the start of the turnaround we pass again the lone partridge in a pear tree.


By now the train windows were fogging up enough to obscure our pass near Automan's train, Autotrain.


Yeah, why don't I just take a flash picture? That's going to help. I'm pretty sure this was an accident, but it came out all weird and interesting so I'm keeping it.


And the back end of the train. Notice there's people posing for a photograph, someone else's, here.


Our other goal for the visit was going to the C W Parker carousel, the century-old antique that runs at a healthy six rpm.


And once again one of my favorite angles on the carousel, showing the gap underneath and how the whole ride is suspended from above and glides effortlessly above the floor.


Around the carousel are various little knicknacks, mostly stuff donated and then sold in the hopes of raising money to support the Crossroads Village. Here, for example, a wonderful old plastic cup of Ziggy dreaming of the day someone gives him a basketball. You know, Ziggy, you can just buy basketballs. There are stores that would be happy to sell you one. You don't have to justify the buying of it or anything.

Trivia: 39 investors, mostly from Brooklyn and a few from New York City, met on the 13th of May, 1867, to organize the New York Bridge Company, which would ultimately get the Brooklyn Bridge built. Source: The Epic of New York City, Edward Robb Ellis.

Currently Reading: Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 - 1942, Perry H Merrill.

Sunday, May 12th, 2019
12:10 am
You're kind of cool, in a wonderful way

So we got to the Kalamazoo Expo Center mere minutes after Pinball At The Zoo started, 2 pm Thursday. There was already a crowd, a bunch of the people we know from Michigan Pinball. A lot of them were playing, or waiting for, the daily tournament games. The strategy MWS pointed out for reaping big points at a lower-intensity tournament was great. The trouble was everybody else knew it too. The plan was a good one. A first-place finish in the Thursday or Friday tournament would not be worth as much as the Main Tournament would, or even the Classics would. But it was worth about half as much, and could launch anyone into the state's top-ten.

I decided to let the daily tournament rest a while, and put in games on the twelve Main tables. Well, the eleven main tables. The newest pinball game, Stern's Black Knight: Sword of Rage, was so new they didn't even have one yet. It would arrive on Friday, and I'd have to play it on Saturday. And yes, it's a sequel to Williams's Black Knight (1980) and Black Knight 2000 (1989). We were excited to play it, obviously. And it's neat that Stern made a game that's ... well, it's not un-licensed, since they got the Black Knight rights from Williams Intellectual Property Licensing Corporation LLC GmbH Co Ltd. But it's a theme created by and for pinball games. We we had high hopes.

The main tournament, then. I took my usual strategy of put a game in on everything and hope for the best. Then build from whatever it seemed like I could build on. And, you know, there's the longstanding pinball superstition that playing cold, your first game in days or weeks or longer, will be fantastic. For me, my first game --- Eight Ball, an early solid state game I've played often at AJH and PH's games --- and had a ... mm. Mediocre game, but a fair one. Then on to Whirlwind, a late-solid-state game that's really challenging. And I put together a pretty solid game. Not my best-ever, but a rather good one, especially since I didn't get the multiballs going. I instead got in this groove where I hit the drop targets, for a half-million points a shot, and that was tolerably safe. Then on to the other games; a Fish Tales that started great and petered out. A mediocre Gilligan's Island, but that game is such a dice roll that that could plausibly be enough. Stars, an early solid-state, that I did nothing on. Laser Cue, another early solid state that came out pretty well. Mediocre World Cup Soccer. Lousy Spider-Man. Terrible Ghostbusters. Lousy Walking Dead. Pretty good Grand Prix. The result was after an hour of play, concentrating on the tournament games, I was officially listed as being in first place for the whole tournament! By virtue of almost nobody having put in games on all eleven available tables, but still. I kept screenshots of my temporarily very happy standing.

I made a round on the daily tables, and then another one, getting into a mediocre spot but one that maybe I could build on. Then went back to the main tournament, trying to get a Stars game that was any good. Incremental improvement on Spider-Man. Decent improvement on Eight Ball. I was no longer in first place, because people were actually competing, but I was still in the top ten.

We were undecided whether we'd make it to Classics. It would start on Friday and we might not want to make a third drive to Kalamazoo in a single weekend. But bunny_hugger had to play on it, as those were the tables for the side Women's tournament. Literally: the games women put on that would be used to seed the women's tournament. This was a good hack to save women the trouble of deciding whether to play in the main or the women's-only tournaments. But it would keep the women's tournament from counting for anything in the women's world rankings. Still, it meant bunny_hugger was playing the Classics tournament, and if she did well, she'd get to play the Classics finals. So I might as well put in some games. After all, I always have success in the Classics tournament at PatZ.

I do not always have success in the Classics tournament at PatZ. In fact, I have never had success in the PatZ Classics. But I believed myself to be charmed in the PatZ Classics and so I felt betrayed that, for example, I put up a lousy game on Alien Star. And worse, Alien Star then went down, and despite many attempts would never be reliably working the right of the day. The Classics tournament was best-four-of-five games. This limited us to best-four-of-all-four.

I made several new attempts on the Daily tournament games, with mixed success. I get the 12th-highest score on Surf Champ, and 17th-highest on Torch. That would be marginal, if I matched those performances on the other two games. But I didn't; I finished 23rd on Big Indian, and a miserable 38th on Time Fantasy --- fifth-lowest score on the day --- and finish the day in 23rd place. The top eight went to finals. bunny_hugger finished the daily tournament in 14th place --- the highest-placing woman, by the way --- but still, too low to get into the playoffs.

But the daily tournament, that didn't look too bad. I finished the day somewhere in the teens, overall. There would be many people entering scores Friday, many of them people who hadn't played at all yet. But with the top 24 making it ino the A Division --- and the next eight making it into the B Division --- it looked pretty sure that I'd somewhere in the finals. B Division would be great. I'd taken second place in B Division twice, although not in 2018. A Division would be magnificent.

bunny_hugger's position I remember less clearly. She was lower-ranked, but she had played fewer of the main tournament games. She had worked more on the Classics/Women's games, for one. And put in many more games for the Daily tournament, which is part of why she finished so far above me. We might or might not get back Friday. But with the morning of Saturday to shore up scores she had good reason to think she'd make the playoffs, although she refused to think so.

And an important side point: the people who bring all the exotic sodas to the convention were there, as always. So I was able to get some Moxie. (They didn't have diet.)

Trivia: A 1790 voting act in New Jersey specifically used the terms ``he'' and ``she'' in reference to voters in the state's southern counties. (This would be the half the state with a significant Quaker population, a community more accepting of women's rights than the norm.) Source: New Jersey: A History of the Garden State, Editors Maxine N Lurie, Richard Veit.

Currently Reading: Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 - 1942, Perry H Merrill.

PS: The Crossroads Village train continues its job of running past light displays!


Ooh, hey! My camera did very well focusing on these lights of candy-cane trees and your traditional Christmas ... rainbow.


And another pretty good snap of Santa taking off. Notice the package falling out of his sleigh, part of the animation. You can maybe make out the lights that come on to make Santa wave.


Part of the vast Twelve Days of Christmas loop: a funny interpretation of ``four calling birds'' that's as good as any because nobody actually has a clear idea what a ``calling bird'' is supposed to be.

Saturday, May 11th, 2019
12:10 am
You're one of a kind, I can't explain it

The last weekend in April saw Michigan's biggest pinball tournament. Maybe in size. Certainly in importance. Pinball At The Zoo --- having its 20th year --- this year was back on the Stern Pro Circuit, formerly the PAPA circuit. (PAPA here being the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, one of the two big pinball organizing bodies, and the one which organizes Pinburgh.) And by the way, think what that means: the convention started in 2000, when the last of the big pinball makers --- Bally/Williams and Sega (formerly Data East) --- had closed, and the lone new one --- Stern --- had yet to release a table. And kept at it through the wilderness years of the 2000s, and survived the environmental shifts of a growing, vibrant pinball market the past decade.

It speaks well for the convention --- which is, after all, a pinball show, dozens of people bringing and trading their machines and parts and all --- and for the tournament organizers --- AJH and PH, of our Fremont pinball points mine. With it comes visibility. And trouble. Specifically, it brings some of the best pinball players of the continent to the tournament. People with names you'd hear of if you ever heard of a pinball player, like, Keith Elwin, who won Pinburgh last year and is one of the people acclaimed as ``maybe the greatest pinball player of all time''. Or Steve Bowden, currently the 8th-highest-ranked player in the world. (Elwin is 4th.) Trent Augenstein, 6th-highest ranked. Derek Fugate, 95th-highest-ranked. They'd be playing. They'd be playing us.

The Pinball At The Zoo tournaments were Herb-style. That is, for a time, you put in scores on a set of tables. 12, in the main tournament; five, in classics. Four, in the daily tournaments. Your best score on each table is ranked against everyone else's. The best (six, for the main tournament; four, for classics, all four, for the daily) rankings are added together for your overall rank. At the end of the qualifying period, some set of players are put into finals. Pinball At The Zoo has symbolic significance to me; it was the first real major tournament to which bunny_hugger and I went. I've managed to take second place in the B Division. I had always harbored the fantasy that I did well in the Classics division, pinball games from no later than the early 80s, but the record disagrees. bunny_hugger went into the weekend fuming about how she never does as well as me, and how the out-of-state ringers would sink her slim chances.

But we had hopes too. For one, we would be able to go on Thursday this year. The day of the three-day tournament we always missed because of bunny_hugger's work schedule would be open to us this year. Time is a weird semi-limited quantity in Herb-style tournaments. Only one person can play one table at one time, and the more chances there are to put in scores, the better your chance of the really good score that lifts you into playoffs. And Thursday, always the slowest day of the tournament, should offer the most chances to play. Still, the main tournament would be so tough. Even classics would be hard; you don't win Pinburgh if you stink on the electromechanical and early-solid-state tables that make up a classics bank.

But we had an alternative plan. The daily tournaments run by the same rules. But they're free to enter, which encourages everyone at the convention to put a try or two. The tournament games you have to pay to enter. So a great many people bring their International Flipper Pinball Association value to the tournament. And with one good game you can make playoffs. The tables are all electromechanicals or early solid states, so, everybody has a fair chance at the one really good game they need. But, as MWS pointed out, most serious players would dedicate their energy on the main tournament. We could focus on that and --- if you look at past years, get IFPA rating points pretty comparable to what you might realistically hope for in the main tournament. It promised to be a great opening.

The last thing to decide, in our plan for the weekend: do we stay in Kalamazoo? The advantage of staying in town would be that we wouldn't need the hourlong drive to and from the city each day we went. We would have to bring Sunshine back to bunny_hugger's parents. But they'd take her happily. But ... bunny_hugger's schedule had her teaching a class Friday. She'd have to miss at least a couple hours of the tournament Friday anyway. And more, it turned out: there was a department meeting she didn't feel she could skip. Any time she'd save Saturday morning not driving to Kalamazoo would be more than wiped out by how much longer her commute Friday would be.

And we had our Mi-Fi device. It had gone missing, by the devious trick of being exactly in my glove compartment where I had left it last August at the end of our Keweenaw Peninsula visit. We needed it, though. The tournament used the NeverDrains.com web site's virtual-queue system. It's invaluable for keeping track of where you are, and what you might best improve on. The Kalamazoo Expo Center doesn't have public wi-fi, and AJH and PH have been warned against letting the dealers' wi-fi passwords out to the public. So we needed some Internet of our own. You can ask scorekeepers to look up results and put you in queues, mind you, but that eats up time and especially on the last day it can make a difference. But I found the device, and loaded it with 3 Gigabytes of data for use over thirty days.

So we had our plan. We'd go to Kalamzoo on Thursday and Saturday. Maybe Friday, if it turned out either of us qualified for the Classics tournament, the first round of which was Friday night. But our real goal would be spamming the Daily tournament. And we would have to be brave: our standing at the end of Thursday would do nothing but erode as other people entered scores Friday. We might shore it up in the last few hours of Saturday morning, or on Friday if bunny_hugger got home from work soon enough. But it would be tough.

Trivia: The Ferris Wheel of the 1893 Columbian Exposition was moved to Saint Louis and, on the 11th of May, 1906, dynamited, for scrap. Source: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson.

Currently Reading: Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 - 1942, Perry H Merrill.

PS: Why I'll Say 1/x Is A Continuous Function And Why I'll Say It Isn't and yet I feel like I've answered the question fairly.

PPS: We did not have the Crossroads Village train car to ourselves; we just got on early is all. Here's the ride.


The train rumbling into action; in the far distance there, the Crossroads Village and its light fixtures huddle up against the setting sun.


Santa's Workshop, featuring a real live Santa who waves both times the train passes, even if it's cold. I forget what the train conductor's spiel is about why Santa's doing practice runs like this the week after Christmas; maybe it's as simple as, well, there's always next year he has to be ready for.


And an animated light representing the Genesee Bell river boat that putters along the lake in the summertime.

Friday, May 10th, 2019
12:10 am
Five golden rings

Before I launch into the saga of Pinball At The Zoo 2019, let me recap my humor blog for the past week. You already saw this if you put it in your RSS feed reader. But, who does that? Seriously, does anyone besides me?

So let's finish up the Christmas walk around bunny_hugger's parents house ...


The snowy streets of bunny_hugger's parents' neighborhood. Also, by the way, it was really really cold.


One of the parents' neighborhood houses, decorated, with a nativity angel who maybe made a little too merry over the holidays and faceplanted.


bunny_hugger pausing to photograph a house's decorations.


The flash brought out that it was still snowing, part of why all these pictures were a little blurry.


bunny_hugger blazing a trail through the snow and providing the art for my album of Kraftwerk covers.


When the morning comes! Well, the next evening, anyway, as the sun tries to set in the most gorgeous way possible.

And with Christmas Day and Boxing Day done, what else is there to do? ... Other Christmas stuff. Please enjoy it today, in the middle of May.


Right after Christmas we made our trip to Crossroads Village, just outside Flint, to see whether I can make my camera take low-light pictures this year!


And here's the train ride, which goes past a long display of light, some of them animated. Let's hop on!


What fantastic luck, here's a train car we can have all to ourselves!

Trivia: Northrup's proposal, submitted the 10th of June, 1963, for six Project Ranger spacecraft estimated the total cost to be $72.4 million, with a fee of 6.8 percent for the company. Source: Lunar Impact: The NASA History of Project Ranger, R Cargill Hall.

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M Principe.

Thursday, May 9th, 2019
12:10 am
When you get hip to this kindly tip

So not two days after the vet visit I destroyed Sunshine's last bit of trust in me, by picking her up, to a growl, and putting her in the pet carrier again. This time to go back to bunny_hugger's parents' house, there to spend the night before Easter. bunny_hugger and I were going to stay over with her, to spend the holiday weekend with them.

Our objectives for the weekend were easy. We'd decorate eggs, which we did on Sunday. My WordPress blog post about which Paas color tablet produced the pink dye promised to be useful except that they changed the instructions. Pink had been the exception to the rule about adding vinegar to make the dye, and now, there aren't any exceptions. You can treat all the dyes the same. And we ended up arguing about whether the suspected pink really was, too. Plus one of the shrink-wrap covers for the eggs tore, and turned into a crumpled bit of plastic instead of a tight-wrapped egg. Hm.

Our other objective was to make another try at the Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales expansion. We've been trying the first chapter repeatedly, ever since Christmas, I think. bunny_hugger set it up after dinner Saturday night and we ventured forth and almost immediately lost. But we lost fast enough that it was worth the time to re-set and re-try. We've been very slowly learning better strategy for the game, including the ever-important lesson not to hoard precious items like spells which solve a problem. Which you have to re-learn in every RPG, but, so be it.

I thought we were doomed when we reached a point that we had to cross a river and found, thanks to an environment rule on the card, that the river was impassable. Then we understood this was why there was an alternate path, that forced us to backtrack some, but avoided the problem. Still, we got to the final room with very little margin. I was emotionally prepared for the night to end in failure, and treated the battle as one for experience. And then, well, there we went and succeeded, in a dice roll lucky enough that bunny_hugger's father didn't understand what happened. Feels great to make a breakthrough like that.

Easter weekend had been when we'd check up on the letterbox planted in Victory Park, across the river from her parents' house. But the box was destroyed last year --- we found a bit of plastic from it --- and we haven't replaced it. Still, bunny_hugger and I took a walk to the park, and walked across its whole length, something we'd not done before. This let us discover some things we'd never seen. One was a historical marker noting where the river used to fork, which seems like it's just where the river still forks. We might be missing something here. Another is a ``beach'': an actual bit of sandy beach set up by a pool big enough to swim in, and set up by a building that looks like it should have a concession stand, but which had boards nailed across the doors facing the pond. The doors opposite the pond were unobstructed. Turns out they put the beach in just a couple years ago, and we hadn't had reason to walk that far down into the park. You'd think this would inspire us to find new spots for a replanted letterbox, but one of these newly-discovered places are good for hiding one.

As a bit of pastime, and to help her exercise more, bunny_hugger has signed up for a ``virtual race'' along Route 66. This works by she walks a course, and the distance she walks, and time she takes, gets mapped onto a (segment of) Route 66. Part of why she did this walk through Victory Park was to add a mile and a half to her progress through this chunk of California. In slightly over a half-hour, slowed down by my photograph-taking and our trying to understand the concessions(?) building, her virtual-race icon moved from one vast, empty, featureless patch of southern California desert to another vast, empty, featureless patch of southern California desert. But she's making quite good time on this project.

Trivia: In July 1863 the Richmond and Petersburg railraod was able to carry 2,283 bushels of corn to the Confederate capital. By January 1864 it carried under five hundred. Source: The Railroads of the Confederacy, Richard C Black III.

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M Principe. It's pretty cool that he apparently went through and tried to actually do alchemical recipes, as best he could make them out, and I do like a historian who's so sympathetic to how people back then thought something we now find foolish had good reasons, because it matched what they could see happening around them.

PS: Reading the Comics, May 4, 2019: Wednesday Looks A Lot Like Tuesday Edition, because I published this later than I really wanted.

PPS: Keeping Christmas with you, as we went for a walk around town.


The colors of winter: a cardinal perches amongst the bare, snow-covered tree branches. Also the art for my album of Harry Nilsson covers.


Looking back at bunny_hugger's parents' Christmas tree, and sun room. You can also see the chimney of the new fireplace.


The river, which runs opposite the street from their house, blurrily visible in the night. In eight months I discovered my camera has a low-light mode.

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019
12:10 am
Grey hair and a dash and a flair give your doctor an air

Two days after driving Sunshine back to our home, I shattered her trust in me. I was the one to lift her from her pen --- she growled, just a little huff but a definite one --- to stuff into the pet carrier again. It was in a good cause.

Because we have had Sunshine for just over a year now! The anniversary of our meeting, and adopting, her was the Sunday of Motor City Fur[ry] Con, and we were a bit sad we couldn't observe it with her. But we've taken that date to serve as her unknowable birthday. It hasn't quite been a year since the first time we took her to the vet's --- we basically waited a few weeks to confirm that we were adopting poor snakebitten Penelope --- but this would be good enough. We'd originally planned to take her earlier in the month and had to bump it back because we were just too busy; after the convention seemed more reasonable a time.

The waiting room now has signs warning to not let your pets off their leash or out of their carrier and, honestly, it probably always should have. We'd have liked to let Sunshine hop around, but, like, an enthusiastic dog and a fearless rabbit could lead to some really unhappy days. As could someone opening the lone door to the outside. Stephen and Columbo were too slow to get away from us, at least eventually. Sunshine is not, if she tried.

We let her out, as allowed, in the examining room. And Sunshine was, this time, eager and confident to explore. In her previous visits --- her first checkup, and the time she wrenched her ankle --- she had been shy. But now she was happy to get around the room and find some nice corners. She was more of her outgoing, charming self, too, so the vet tech who did the initial weigh-in and all that, and the vet who actually examined her, got to see more of her natural personality.

And she looks to be in good shape, too. We dithered about whether to have blood work done, but it turned out we had gotten the full spectrum done last year. She doesn't seem old enough to need bloodwork done more than every other year. But her weight's exactly what it was last time she was checked out. She hasn't got any apparent problems, and her ankle is fine. With luck we won't need to bring her back to the vet's until next year. (Well, I suppose if we decide to take her somewhere she's likely to be outside a good while, such as to the Traverse Bay area, we might get her a shot of Revolution and ward off fly-strike. But we aren't likely to do that this summer anyway.)

She does have an outstanding issue, and that's the cataracts in her eyes. Our appointment for that is later this week. When, you know, Sunshine will just barely have started to trust that I enter her pen area for some reason other than to hoist her into the pet carrier.

Trivia: Historian Michael Sherry calculated that overall about 27% of American air crews in the German theater of World War II completed the 25 raids which would earn a Distinguished Flying Cross and return to the States. Source: The World Within War: America's Combat Experience in World War II, Gerald F Linderman.

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M Principe. So you know the author is working on my wavelength when he writes about how for centuries people used ``alchemy'' and ``chemistry'' to mean roughly the same thing with roughly the same connotations, and that to use either word when writing about someone working in that time imposes an anachronistic meaning. And then asks the reader, would you have bought this book if it were titled The Secrets of Chemistry? ... Which, well, yeah, I might have, actually. Even though this one I picked up from the library. But I would have expected a different book.

PS: Back to the holidays of 2017.


Back to bunny_hugger's parents, and an extreme-perspective view of their Christmas tree.


bunny_hugger as Stitch, delighted by the Christmas morning and showing off an ornament from childhood, which shows off her as a child.


Their dog, not at all happy that all these people are here, but especially not at all happy that I'm around and doing things and existing and everything.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019
12:10 am
I knew how sweet a kiss could be

I got back to bunny_hugger; the line hadn't yet moved, and explained the fiasco. They finally opened the hospitality doors, letting people in for ice cream and dinner. The ice cream was set up before the dinner trays. It was two small scoops of ice cream a person, and they only had jelly as a topping, but one person did say, there were French toast sticks left over from breakfast, maybe there was maple syrup over by that? We were there for ice cream, but for some reason got some dinner food too, including, for me, from French toast sticks. I think mostly we wanted to show how we liked the vegetarian food being so well-stocked.

The convention activities were shrinking. We went upstairs, to the video game room, which bunny_hugger hadn't really seen. I showed off the Atari 2600 Video Pinball, and also talked about one of the odd little beats of the night before, when someone was describing in great loving detail just how true to life so much of Ready Player One was. I think the movie, but I wasn't sure. bunny_hugger beat me, two games to one, on video pinball before even that closed. We checked back in on the board game room --- we'd played some card games the night before, before the dance --- and headed out.

We did stop at the bathrooms, on the second floor. One was closed for cleaning. But they were both signed ``gender-neutral bathrooms'', something I didn't know they were doing this year. The first-floor bathrooms were still divided male and female. So we went in together, and that seemed all normal enough. ... You know, in like thirty years it's going to be so hard to explain why separate male and female bathrooms seemed like such a big deal back in the day. Kids are going to look at it like we look at how there used to be rules about who you took your hat off to and when.

Outside the bathroom was a TV screen scrolling hotel events and weather and news headlines. But it must have been the raw feed for AP or something. The headlines lacked useful context, like, what part of the ... country? State? Region? ... was having flash floods. Others were clearly the titles for editorial columns, so they came off as snarky quippy commentary on goodness-knows-what.

All that was still open for the con were hospitality and main events, getting ready for the dance. There was no karaoke this year, a shame, as Firr has been such a fantastic karaoke host the past couple years. But the dance started on time, and we joined that for a half-hour before setting out for bunny_hugger to put her fursuit on. Then we walked around, giving her the chance to wave and greet people, all eager to see bunnies, before returning to the dance.

With, like, ten minutes left. The dance ended at 10 pm, not the expected midnight. She was barely started dancing in fursuit when the music stopped and they thanked everyone nad the lights came up. It hardly seems fair.

But there wasn't any disputing it either. So we did a couple further circuits of what was left of the convention --- hospitality and corridors --- including bunny_hugger trying to draw on the paper table covers in hospitality. Then she went back to the empty Headless Lounge, to change out of suit and back into normal gear, while I noticed another abandoned plastic egg sitting out on a table somewhere. We walked around again, looking for people to say goodbye to, and then drove for home. Our listening: the end of the I Don't Even Own A Television bonus episode in which they review some issues of Archie Comics. We'd been listening to five- and ten-minute chunks of it while driving all weekend. Now do you understand the last bunch of subject lines? It's a thin thread but I had to go with something.

In a normal semester the Monday after the con we'd go to bunny_hugger's parents and pick up our rabbit. But bunny_hugger was working Monday. I volunteered to go by myself, but her mother had an eye doctor's appointment Monday afternoon and she didn't want me to wait for that to be done. And if bunny_hugger got ahead enough on coursework she'd be able to come on Tuesday. She didn't get ahead enough on coursework, and I went alone to pick up Sunshine anyway. And with that --- apart from the still-unsolved question of where her small camera has gone --- we closed out Motor City Fur[ry] Con.

Trivia: George Reed, representing Delaware, voted against the Declaration of Independence on the 2nd of July, 1776; he signed it, though, and is one of only six people to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Source: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence, Denise Kiernan, Joseph D'Agnese.

Currently Reading: Placemakers: A Brief History of Real Estate Development, Herb Auerbach, Ira Nadel.

PS: Well, we're up to Christmas of 2017. I might yet get to within 18 months of current!


bunny_hugger's parents' Christmas tree, set up in the sun room now that there's a fireplace in the living room where it used to be. And it's not a bad spot for it, given how now you can walk around and decorate the whole thing. Some year we'll get to the Tannenbaum Farms early enough that her parents haven't already arrived and her father bought the first tree that he saw.


And then back home, our living room Christmas tree, plus the archway leading to the dining room. This was the first year we put both colored and white LED lights on the tree and the effect really worked out for us.


And the entrance and stairs, as illuminated. The Kennywood arrow doesn't point directly to Pittsburgh but rather, as it ought, to the highway you would use to start your Kennywood journey.

Monday, May 6th, 2019
12:10 am
Let's dance this last dance tonight

I avoided having a complete sleepwalk of a week, on my mathematics blog! Here's my content, new and reused.

And my story strip update: What's Going On In Gil Thorp? What's With The Hats, Hippo, and Secret Volleyball? February – May 2019. There is no secret volleyball. You just think there is because you weren't reading carefully enough. I fix that.

And now let me close out our Ann Arbor visit. From the Dawn Treader to ... not quite the State Theatre. Not anymore. Not exactly.


Hey, science fiction fans! Captain Picard is creeping on you!


On the shelves was an early-90s directory of everything a science fiction fan would need, including stuff like locations of known used bookstores of North America. So here's the page that contains the listing for the Dawn Treader, as well as the other Dawn Treader location that used to be on South University too? We only knew of this one, at 525 East Liberty.


And the front window of the Dawn Treader, seen just past closing time.


In the late 70s the State Theater was cut in half: the first floor was taken out and renovated into, now, an Urban Outfitters. The second floor, formerly the balcony alone, still shows pictures. The Urban Outfitters still shows the decades-old evidence of having been a theater, though, and here's a view


The ceiling line of the Urban Outfitters, making it obvious where the balcony rows were.


The back wall of the Urban Outfitters, where you can see the proscenium that used to house the main screen, when it was a good bit larger than what's there now.


One of the columns of the old screen proscenium; it's hidden behind modern store stuff and doesn't draw much attention anymore.


Floor tiling at the front of the Urban Outfitters in what clearly used to be the lobby of the State Theater.


And the roof light from the former lobby of the theater.


Back across the University's Diag: China Gate, a really good Chinese restaurant. Chef Jan, photographed in the windows, used to be a neighbor of bunny_hugger's family. It's not clear when he last worked actively at China Gate, but the food is still really top-notch. Worth a visit if you're in Ann Arbor, a place that admittedly is not short of restaurants, as it's in the stage of gentrification where everything is being replaced with a hipster restaurant or a bar with a concept.


Walking down into Pinball Pete's Ann Arbor, their larger but not-first location. And I liked the warning bumper sticker that just reassures us how the pinball machines have some bling from this parts supplier.

Trivia: Clarence Saunders refused to explain the name of his Piggly Wiggly supermarket beyond the fact that it made people ask why he named it that. Source: Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, Michael Ruhlman.

Currently Reading: Placemakers: A Brief History of Real Estate Development, Herb Auerbach, Ira Nadel. OK, look. Uhm.

In 1837, the first commuter [ railroad ] line was installed from Le Pecq, some 11 miles (18 km) west of Paris, and on the way stopped at the edge of the forest of Le Vésinet. This forest had been previously identified by Napoleon III as an ideal location for a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers and public works employees injured in the building of Haussmann's Paris, if linked to Paris by the railroad.

Really. Had Napoleon III even ever set foot in Paris by 1837? In France? And on the next page they write ``following the Napoleonic Wars, when Napoleon III was active in reshaping Paris with his planner, Baron Haussmann'' and ... like ... all right, yes, the Haussmannization era did follow the Napoleonic Wars, but, like, so did the Vichy Republic and the Battle of Algiers, nobody calls that ``following the Napoleonic Wars''.

Sunday, May 5th, 2019
12:10 am
I just can't believe the wonder of this feeling too

Happy Doctorversary, dear bunny_hugger.

It was getting near the last hours of Sunday and somehow we still hadn't been to the Dealers Den. So we started that hike. The Dealers Den, and Artists Alley, were in the ``Executive Meeting Center''. It's this little corner of several conference rooms, themselves in another corner. It seems like a great spot in terms of access control; both the rooms and the whole area is securable, and there's a good bit of space. Several rooms for each of these purposes. But it's also well off from the main part of the hotel, into some ... other ... part of the hotel, and up the stairs, and past the indoor arboretum that's great to look at and that we were warned to not even THINK about going in. The Dealers Den seemed to be not very crowded, when we visited, but that's likely the result of the late hour. We got there, literally, in the last hour the Dealers Den would be open. We never even got to the Artists Alley, any of the three rooms.

But we stowed what we did get --- including our con swag, T-shirts and drinking mugs, from the con store which was on the far end of the hotel from the Executive Meeting Center --- in the car. And then, well, bunny_hugger was feeling the fatigue of the previous week, and the short, uncomfortable sleep of the weekend, and all that. We found a chair in the lounge where not too much freezing air blasted in too often, and she napped while I caught up on comic strips on my iPod.

And then it was time for Closing Ceremonies to start, so we went to the main events hall, where Closing Ceremonies weren't ready to start. Whatever was happening ran slow, so, they continued the previous event. Some kind of bomb-defusing video game. One person would describe what they saw, another peson would look up clues about what needed to be done. Seems like a good gimmick. The last round was played with the whole gathered audience as the experts, looking up the game's clues on their phones. The audience succeeded, too.

Closing ceremonies offered the common subjects. The con committee being exhausted, hoping everyone had fun, hoping everyone enjoyed the false fire alarm. The total was about sixteen thousand dollars raised for the New Beginnings Animal Rescue. There were 1610 attendees, a couple hundred more than last year, but not so dramatically more as bunny_hugger had estimated. She thought there were two thousand people at the con. They didn't have a fursuit-parade count on hand; later, they reported 269. bunny_hugger's visible front and on the right, i her green Michigan State shirt, in pictures like this one. And closing ceremonies ended with a toss of streamers from the audience out at the stage, arranged by Firr who I guess was Guest of Honor.

Cleaning up the streamers wasn't the end of con events. They'd scheduled an ice cream social for 6:00, which wasn't ready to start anywhere near 6:00. A great long line was instead. It turned out they were also setting up the hot dinner. bunny_hugger's energy was flagging, so I went to get coffee from the hotel Starbuck's. The hotel Starbuck's, it turns out, was not open weekends, though we would have sworn we'd seen it open Saturday. All right.

I went to the hotel desk to ask where I could get coffee and they recommended the hotel bar/restaurant. I went there. As this would be a simple, easy transaction that involved me, of course it turned into a fiasco. bunny_hugger would be so extraordinarily glad she wasn't there. She would have died.

I went in. Nobody was behind the bar. Nobody was at the host's station. A couple people were at the bar, not paying much attention to anything. I walked around looking for ... anything? Anyone? Someone else came in. A host come in, asked if I needed anything, then walked past me to the other customer, leading her to a table. The host came back and asked what I needed. I asked for a medium coffee with cream and Splenda, to go. She left without a word. All right. I stood and waited in case of further developments.

Eventually I drifted to the bar. The host came back and asked what I would like. I repeated, well, the coffee with cream and --- and she said, oh, right, the thing the other person had gone for. Apparently there were two people on-duty. And I know this makes me sound bad. I'm terrible at remembering faces, and almost as bad with names. But here I think I'm on not-awful grounds. I saw the two staffers together, later, and they did look quite similar, the restaurant uniform not helping. They looked to me like sisters.

But then she left and all I had was the supposition that this meant someone was working on coffee somewhere, somehow. More people came to the bar. Some got seated. Me, I waited. I thought about, you know, I could just leave. I had my car keys. There's surely a McDonald's in the area I could get through the drive-in at faster than I could wait for this.

One of the hosts brought a little tray of sugar packets, and set it on the bar, far enough behind the bar that I couldn't reach it.

Finally, finally, one of the hosts came out with coffee in a cardboard cup; I had feared I'd get it in a ceramic cup and have to consider stealing it. She left again. There was no cream. The sugar was inaccessible. I thought about just giving up on this, but when the other host came around to take the order of someone new to the bar, she asked if there were anything else I needed. Yes, cream. She disappeared to the closed Starbuck's next door. The other host came around and asked me if I needed anything and all I could think was, an ejector seat?

But finally a host came around with a little plate of creamer packets, and I was able to call out saying why I couldn't reach the sugar that was four feet behind the bar. And the host said not to bother paying, which, I'll admit, was something I wondered since I had nowhere seen any hint of what this all would cost.

I left a dollar as tip, but wasn't feeling it. If there'd ever been a word about what someone was doing, that would've been different, but as it was ... urg.

Trivia: Coca-Cola promised, after the 1911 federal prosecution for its caffeine content under the Pure Food and Drugs Act, to not depict any children in its advertisements. It kept that policy until 1986. Source: A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage.

Currently Reading: Placemakers: A Brief History of Real Estate Development, Herb Auerbach, Ira Nadel. So, I love a good narrow-focus history and the history of real estate developers/promoters is as good a subject as any when you're just drifting around the library looking for nothing much. But it means you get stuff like this, in a photo caption:

Abraham, by purchasing a burial site for his wife Sarah at what became the Tombs of the Patriarchs, demonstrated the importance of fee simple ownership.

I mean, it may be literally true that ``Leviticus talks about title, ownership and foreclosure; Joshua teaches us how to subdivide land; the Book of Numbers addresses city-planning issues; Nehemiah deals with mortgages and collateral; Job mentions expropriation; and the Book of Daniel describes the real estate developer'', but writing that where anybody can see you is why everybody treated you like that in middle school.

PS: More hanging around Ann Arbor.


A look into Ann Arbor's famous Dawn Treader used bookstore! Also into every used bookstore! You can almost smell the decaying paper and inaccessibility-to-the-disabled.


The records and DVDs and comics/magazines section of the Dawn Treader, right in front of the comedy section.


Does this seem to you like an awful lot of Gil Thorp, by volume? It seems to me like an awful lot of Gil Thorp, by volume. I looked through the books but didn't find an explanation for the greatest of the strip's mystery: why the Milford teams compete to get into the ``playdowns'' rather than the ``playoffs'' like normal places.

Saturday, May 4th, 2019
12:10 am
I just can't believe it's true

Sunday at Motor City Fur[ry] Con started pretty lousy. Not for us, apart from the problem of having to wake up. For someone who was staying at the Candlewood Suites and as far as I know having nothing to do with the convention. His car's battery had died, and the hotel's portable charger was not charged. As I was moving luggage into my car, he asked if I had jumper cables, and I couldn't very well lie. But I thought this would take a couple minutes, not long enough to need to tell bunny_hugger what was going on. And the guy's battery wasn't just dead; it was incredibly dead. I had to run and keep running my car to get his car going. Adding to the time constraint is the only way I could get my car close enough that the cables would reach from my battery to his was to park so as to block his car door, and he had some kind of mobility issue. Well, it saved somebody from a truly lousy day.

And it was shaping up to be a lousy day. Friday and Saturday had been windy but at least tolerably warm. Sunday was cold, rainy, and windy. We wouldn't have a hotel room anymore, so we had to pack everything in the back of my hatchback. Oh, and ... it is possible that bunny_hugger left her small camera in the hotel. I haven't yet given up searching for it, but it's been conspicuously not present since the convention. But I never got back up to our hotel room to be an independent eye checking nothing was left behind. Her camera had run out of battery, even though it had been charging the days before, a mystery that will need resolving if it does turn up. But that's why we can't point to a specific moment at the con when she definitely had it and was using it on Sunday.

But there were some good bits. One was that we had finally learned the parking garage was free, so we parked somewhere that was not far from a hotel entrance, and was not being rained on, and was sheltered from the wind. And we were in time for the Dragons SIG. bunny_hugger's dragon marionette broke while she was showing it off, but, we were able to get to one of the two species panels (the other was Insects, which ... we'd like to support but don't find that interesting in itself). It was your standard hangout, although as will sometimes happen the loudest guy in the room took over from the actual event-runner. Loud guy even said, at the end, he didn't realize the other person was the actual event-runner, he'd just thought nobody was doing anything. But it did end up a pretty well-run panel, apart from a lot of complaining about stuff they changed in the Eragon movie from the books. And a different guy, one with a suit and a very large camera, took a group photograph that was slowed down by the remote-control trigger for the camera just not working.

Also a something that I shall definitely be stealing for future panels like this: we got to writing down our names and web site presence --- Twitter, FurAffinity account, Telegram handle, whatever --- all on a sheet of paper and everyone took turns photographing that, so people didn't have to try writing it down themselves. It's a great idea. I still haven't looked up any of the people in my copy of the sheet. I don't think anyone else has looked up me.

We needed lunch. I proposed we go to that Indian place in the gas station across from the old con hotel. bunny_hugger was skeptical, but I pointed out, it was only like fifteen minutes away. And so we went to the Dhaba place. We were glad to be there. And they were glad to see us again. They somehow remembered us, which is amazing considering we had been there one or two times, one weekend, for like three years running. And though we didn't get there in costume, and there hadn't been the usual crowd of people in costume all weekend. We gave them the sad news that the convention had moved, and only a few real die-hards like us would be getting over there. But I'm not sure how many people from the convention ever did go there. We always seemed to be the only people with their food, for all that we'd snag menus and talk them up in hospitality.

Also, at the Holiday Inn Express we used to use, at least one pair of nesting geese were back. The male was patrolling a different part of the parking lot but it was a reassuring bit of continuity with the past. We took lunch back to the convention hotel, to the con suite, and if people didn't envy our really good Indian lunch they must not have understood what was going on.

Trivia: By 1971 ARPANET had fifteen nodes connecting 23 host computers: nine PDP-10s, five IBM System/360s, one Illiac-IV, and assorted other minicomputers and mainframes. Source: A History of Modern Computing, Paul E Ceruzzi.

Currently Reading: Mike Fink: King of Mississippi Keelboatmen, Walter Blair, Franklin J Meine.

PS: And now to some of the handful of Ann Arbor things still open what with it being like 5:30 on a Saturday.


To other stuff in Ann Arbor. Here's a view of the State Theatre, then-under-renovation again, by twilight.


And peeking down the cross street where you can see the Michigan Theatre. Hardly seems fair that Ann Arbor has two old-fashioned sidewalk palace movie theaters and Lansing hasn't got any left.


People changing the signboard over the Michigan Theatre. They were having a discussion of Woody Allen movies and asked us to name some, because ... I don't quite know. We just happened to be nearby is all.

Friday, May 3rd, 2019
12:10 am
I need you by me, beside me, to guide me

Another full week on my humor blog. Parts of it have been getting easier as I've got, like, a Thing to do for Sundays, and for Tuesdays, and now I've got a weird little thread going for Wednesday too that promises to be short and simple and dumb little jokes I don't have to work hard at. Mind, the big Friday piece is still so hard to do. Anyway, here's what I'd done since last Friday:

And now a last look inside the Ruthven Museums Building.


More of the natural-history museum signs. I imagine the dioramas and taxidermy figures made it to the new home. I can't imagine an old sign like this, with its delightful not-quite-perfect kerning and letters floating around the baseline like there's been some CSS catastrophe, making it, though.


The stairways leading back down, and a view of the rotunda. We're getting near the end of the visit here.


The rotunda, showing where Object Lessons -- already closed --- was, as well as the doors leading out. Note the posters on the left, bottom floor, advertising the impending move and the events scheduled for the final day.


Goodness, they've already cleared Mister Ruthven's bust out! It's only been a couple minutes since we saw him last. (It's a different pedestal in this picture from the one before.)


The door to the temporary-exhibits building and showing off the obviously quite old label and stencil on the doors.

The door to the temporary-exhibits building and showing off the obviously quite old label and stencil on the doors.


And it's done! Lights out in the first room, the one with all the displays and fighting words for squirrels and all that.


A glance at the ceilings, and to the coat room, which we did use to stow our coats while we visited.


A look from inside the coat room back out, along with the old-fashioned dangling sign for the women's bathroom. I don't remember whether bunny_hugger told me of the bathroom having a sitting room inside, but I'd imagine there would be.


A cautionary word! Instructions for, I expect, staff.


bunny_hugger having left the Ruthven Museum Building for the final time.


And a glance back on what we'd left, including the wonderful detailing around the front door.


bunny_hugger posing with the puma sculpture. And also the evidence of weather.


The optimistic declaration above the Ruthven Museums Building's door. Remember when we believed in truth being able to do a thing?

Trivia: Until shortly before its opening in 1874 the Cavendish Laboratory was to be named the Devonshire, for the Duke (and Cambridge University chancellor) who bankrolled its construction. Source: Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field, Nancy Forbes, Basil Mahon. (The Duke's family name was Cavendish, and his great-uncle Henry Cavendish was a renowned scientist in his own right.)

Currently Reading: Mike Fink: King of Mississippi Keelboatmen, Walter Blair, Franklin J Meine.

PS: How April 2019 Treated My Mathematics Blog, which was, not good, but about what I deserved.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019
12:10 am
I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you

So, with the fragile mood crashed, what was there to do? What is there ever to do but pick up what spirits you have and move on? We gathered the food we didn't much need to start with --- I got the last piece of vegetarian lasagna and it was unpleasantly cold --- and we sat down. And ate, grumpily. And tried to talk about what we were fighting over, and what we were really fighting over instead. After a lot of small disappointments this was now a real low for the weekend, already racing near its end. bunny_hugger drew on the papers covering the tables, a picture of her bunny self crying. She labelled it ``I wish I could draw well'', but she already does, at least the things she draws often, like herself.

Thing about being at the bottom is you don't stay there, though. Just being away in time from the incident helps some. And bunny_hugger noticed one of the other sketches. It was of the rectangular box of a fire alarm pull, and a paw reaching for it, with the text, ``OwO *notices your alarm* what's this! UwU *pulls your alarm''. I explained that the main hotel had an early-morning (false) fire alarm, part of the worst new tradition of furry conventions. She hadn't known about it. She started laughing, and just kept laughing more at the scene. She left a note promising, she did literally LOL, and I can attest that she did.

But a good dopey laugh can change everything. And this was one of those things. From here the weekend picked up, and it never got disappointing again, except for the fact it ended and we'd have to go back home to normal days.

But the day was running out of fresh events. We could always hang around hospitality --- they had, as usual, different beers and ales and always just ran out of what bunny_hugger was most interested in trying. Criss-crossing the hotel looking for people we knew didn't find anyone, though. SO we went back to our hotel to change for the dance.

We had both brought two kigurumis. Friday night for the dance bunny_hugger went in her Stitch, and I went in my Angel. Saturday ... we decided to wear the same outfits again. There aren't many couples kigurumis and we do make a fantastic pair. A lot of people loved seeing us coupled like that. And, I think, me --- a tall, bearded, not-as-thin-as-he-used-to-be-but-still-not-fat man --- wearing a lot of pink exudes a really good, comforting energy.

And it was great to have bunny_hugger in Stitch kigurumi since other people wore the same outfit, and it's fun passing someone in the same costume. Or a modified one: at least one person was wearing the Stitch outfit but with a head-covering mask, a pretty good hack for a lower-budget body-flattering fursuit. At one point in the dance the three Stitch suiters were right next to another, and I tried to get a photo of this coincidental lineup. This challenged the limits of what my camera could do, even in low-light mode. The pictures didn't come out clearly, but they're nicely atmospheric anyway.

We didn't stay all the way to the end of the dance. The 2 am end time seemed appealing, but, we also would have to get up and check out of the Candlewood Suites early in the morning. Getting a full night's sleep seemed more important.

Trivia: By 1832 Rhode Island had 22 woolen mills, capitalized at $335,000, about six percent the capitalization of cotton mills. Source: Rhode Island: A History, William G McLoughlin.

Currently Reading: Mike Fink: King of Mississippi Keelboatmen, Walter Blair, Franklin J Meine. Irrationally offended now to learn that the cave with the river pirates in How The West Was Won really represented something that really happened for real in reality.

PS: My focus shifts at the Ruthven Museums Building.


I'd started taking pictures of the dioramas and then got more fascinated by the explanatory signs. Based on the typeface, and the talk about 'our most useful animals', I think the sign has to be early-60s. Skunks aren't considered part of the weasels anymore, a realignment that I think taxonomists came to agree on in like the 80s or early 90s.


More old-fashioned information about ducks, this one making no judgement about how useful the birbs are.


Barn owls, similarly, get their life history explained without any comment about who's doing what for the hew-mons.

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