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

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Sunday, May 20th, 2018
12:10 am
No escape from reality

Closing ceremonies came, as always, about two hours and three days before we felt like the con was finished. But there's not serious arguing with the clock, not over this. We gathered in the ballroom, and the convention board gathered on stage, for the traditional events. The talk of how many people were there, how long the fursuit parade was, how much money was raised for charity and how great everyone felt. The promise that they'd have a theme for next year's convention soon. The promise that this would all happen again. And then it was officially over.

It wasn't done, of course. We hung around the con suite some, watching people playing this partly-electronic card game in which you mixed together songs to play at being a party DJ. We didn't quite get into playing, but did get to see how it worked and I came away with no idea how this worked as a game. bunny_hugger showed off her marionette more. We got back to the dhaba place and got our last dinner from them for ages. And noted that, well, when we did return Penelope to the foster, as we figured to do in a couple weeks, we'd be passing right by here and could take the edge off our separation by getting lunch.

After some time walking the hotel, getting in on the groups of people holding on to each other as if they could make the convention not end, we got over to karaoke. This was run by the same guy as last year, the one with a great performer's attitude, hyping people as they came up for their songs and encouraging not just karaoke signers but also air guitarists and air drummers and whole air bands to come up. And, for some songs, for other people to come up and dance too. When someone performed the Mulan song about ``Making A Man Out Of You'' dozens of people came up to march in a circle around the singers. bunny_hugger joined them, marching her marionette dragon the closest to in step that it's possible to do with the figure. It closed, as I guess shall be traditional, with everyone come up to sing ``Bohemian Rhapsody''. It's a great song for puppets, too.

A last real chance to hang around the con suite and see Shouda and anyone else we'd missed. And then to the Dead Dog Dance, smaller and less energetic than Saturday night's had been. I think it was slated to run to midnight. We didn't last it. We left about 10:30, in order to get to the rabbit rescue before it was too late.

We collected Penelope from the rescue. The woman running it said how after just a couple weeks Penelope looked better. We had agreed to keep the grumbly Californian for another two weeks after this. And either then or shortly after the woman running the shelter told us that yes, it would have been all right for us to leave Penelope with bunny_hugger's parents for a short while. I think that a lot of her anxiety about how we'd care for the rabbit was based on feeling attached to her and having some doubts that we could tend her properly. Now, with a couple weeks' track record and the evidence that Penelope was healthy in our care, she could feel more confident. I think we had reached a new level of trust in our abilities as foster-rabbit keepers. Of course by then we were already close to ``failing'', thinking of how hard it would be to return the rabbit again only for keeps.

A bit over an hour later we were at our house again, and the rabbit was in her hutch, and eating, and we could feel that great sense of having done something fun but being back home.

Trivia: In one month tailors for the last Emperor of China, Pu Yi, are recorded as stitching for him eleven fur jackets, six fur inner gowns, six fur outer gowns, two fur waistcoats, thirty padded waistcoats and thirty trousers. The total cost has been lost, but a chit survives recording that 2,137 taels --- 106,850 grams --- of silver were spent on buttons, thread, and pockets. Source: The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade, Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott-Clark.

Currently Reading: Beetle Bailey: The First Years, 1950 - 1952, Mort Walker. Editor Alf Thorsjö. Yeah, the strip gets like two orders of magnitude better when it gets into the army.


PS: Fun and surprises at the Game Room, Keansburg Amusement Park.

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Inside the Game Room: a ... Popeye ... slot machine? ... Which is legal? ... And which somehow makes any kind of thematic sense? ... Because of the reasons?


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So the good news is, bunny_hugger found pinball, and the bad news is ...

Fun fact: No one has ever played the South Park pinball machine long enough to knock the generic default scores like 'JEK' there off its high-score table.


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And back outside to where one of those things with punching bags and tunnel slides and rocking suspension bridges and all gets a name and fairground art that totally doesn't want you to think of any bigger property at all!


Saturday, May 19th, 2018
12:10 am
Caught in a landslide

Friday evening, I believe it was, we had gathered for the Live Text Adventures panel only to find it cancelled. This has hit Text Adventures before and it's always disappointing. We've gotten quite into the round-robin attempts to work through some text-adventure-based scenario. But there was another scheduled for 11 am Sunday, and it was still on the schedule late Saturday. So we woke up early for this, and checked out of the Holiday Inn, and got to the panel late. Just a few minutes late, not bad considering. And the important thing is it was going on, just as we'd hoped.

The adventure, which I believe was composed just for Motor City Furry Con and its reputation as a drinking convention, was about getting your character the fortitude and heavenly blessings sufficient to beat a village's drinking contest. All right. After the first quick go-round that went wrong early and got the protagonist locked in jail we had a far better go-round. The comic high point of this was after the protagonist had snuck into a goblin cave, surrounded by the hung-over monsters, prowling up on the treasure chest. The turn came around to an attendee who, I believe, was someone else's mother not really sure what any of this was. She had the protagonist wave to the goblins and say, ``Hi!'', sending the plot far off any known or suspected rails. And into good directions, since we were then able to trade for the goblin treasure instead of stealing it or fighting the goblins for it or something. The host was also impressed that, for what he thought was the first time at one of these things, the party did not at any point try murdering the non-player-characters. We just succeeded, very neatly.

After lunch, and I forget what we did for lunch besides have it, we poked back in the game room. We got particularly to playing some game that the room's chaperones described as the friendship-wrecker. The theme of the game is that this endless stream of mice is pouring out of four wells; you have to set a couple of directional tiles to guide them into your rocket. But keep away menacing cats who come in and carry off your mice. And use your directional tiles to steal mice from other rockets. This was a fun game that moved about 10 percent too fast for me to keep up with. Our relationship survived. I'd be up for playing it again, but it's easy to say that without facing the reality of it.

Then we went to one of those panels that seemed crafted to my interests. This would be ``Furries In Space'', a panel all about why it's important people go to space. I had never been to one of these panels before but it was every one of these panels you ever see. You know what I mean. For example, it's important to have a person on Mars because then if something goes wrong he can fix it. And it's true that un-peopled space probes often have something break that could be easily fixed by a person there with a hammer. The Galileo probe to Jupiter, for example, had it been launched on a space shuttle as the pre-Challenger plan had it, would surely have had its stuck main antenna fixed before leaving Earth orbit. But to look at, say, any of the Mars rovers that go running for years and say this would have been better done by three astronauts spending a month on the planet surface? At ten times the expense? That's a hard sell to this astronaut skeptic.

But it went like that, explanations of how much good there was to come from people in space, those explanations themselves coming as if untouched by time from the founding of the L5 society in Like 1974. They seriously pulled out the explanation that you could grow incredibly perfect crystals in space, which are good for ... something. And that are so much better than the tolerably-perfect crystals you could grow on the ground, where it's a lot easier to build facilities and get workers and recover product. Who are all these people that Man In Space enthusiasts meet who want space-grown crystals? bunny_hugger described the experience as feeling like some kind of religious, millennialist attitude and I can't dispute that. I do think there's good stuff to be done by people in space. But the reasons to have them there need to be better than this.

After all this we went back downstairs to one of the game show events. There were a bunch of them at the convention and this was a great development. This panel was done as Super Password Plus, causing me to realize I'd somehow forgotten the finer points of how Super Password Plus is played. When bunny_hugger asked me, the game-show fan, about what clues were allowed and prohibited I had to stumble through and concentrate to get it all straight and I'm not sure I was right. Or possibly they were playing the rules a little loose too, since this was just a bunch of furries trying to get the others to name ``Monty Python''. Maybe not, though; in the postmortem of one round the host pointed out why one clue had to be this instead of that in order to avoid there being an alternate and legitimate solution. It was well-spotted. Also at one point Alkali, of course one of the celebrity panelists, was horrified to learn that something or other came from a Bud Light ad. People had been saying it around him all weekend. I have no idea what it was and I think I've even seen Bud Light ads since then. I'm just out of touch with ... everything, really.

Trivia: Middle C has a wavelength of 134 centimeters, roughly five feet long. Source: How The World Was One: Beyond the Global Village, Arthur C Clarke.

Currently Reading: Beetle Bailey: The First Years, 1950 - 1952, Mort Walker. Editor Alf Thorsjö. I'd never read more than the occasional early-era strip before. It's made me realize (a) there really aren't any syndicated newspaper comic strips set at a college (though many of the Luann knuckleheads are in college) and (b) oh yeah, maybe there aren't all that many good jokes just set at a college. Also a lot of the college humor is from back when the separate class years hazed each other in ways that now read as crazy and abusive and not at all fun, so, glad we've chased that off to just the fraternities.

PS: How's Keansburg Amusement Park looking?

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The Chance Carousel, which is inside one of the arcades. It did not run the day we were there. Despite this I can attest my certainty that it is not, as the park map says, a ``thrill ride''. If it were running at a decent six rpm, it would be, but I've never seen a Chance carousel running that fast.


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A ... squirrel ride that's ... 50 cents ... per ... play? One of several rides like this and done in that folksy airbrushed style.


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Exterior of the Game Room, showing off some of the artwork.


Friday, May 18th, 2018
12:10 am
The mist rolls off the beaches

My humor blog turned out to have one of its least comic weeks in a while, with at least three entries that can be fairly characterized as just reporting on things that might or might not be humorous. So what were they?

And now let's leap back to the fun at Keansburg Amusement Park!

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The kiddie carousel at Keansburg; it looks like the same model they have at Kennywood. Note the bored ride operator quietly glaring at the middle-aged man photographing a kiddie carousel.


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More of the Sea Serpent in action, and just a moment that makes it look like fun.


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And just over from the Sea Serpent ... the Looping Star, the relatively big and certainly head-banging steel roller coaster.


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Swinging ride and, in the background, the Pharaoh's Fury rocking-ship ride. Also the big dune and past that, the water.


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The Loop-O-Plane ride, as seen at rest. I've seen this way more often in Roller Coaster Tycoon than in reality.


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Control box for the Loop-O-Plane, and a box for the Log Flume for some reason.


Trivia: The United States' Communications Act of 1934 restricted radio broadcasting licenses to six months (the period had been three years before), and the Federal Communications Commission soon required stations to submit transcripts of all public-affairs programming for FCC review. Source: Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt's America, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, 1933 - 1939, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Currently Reading: Exploring Mercury: The Iron Planet, Robert G Strom, Ann L Sprague. I know it seems like I've been reading this forever but that's because we've had a bunch of lunches and dinners away from home, and lunches and dinners are when I get most of my reading done.

PS: Reading the Comics, May 12, 2018: New Nancy Artist Edition, so you see where I'm at in naming these comics editions these days.

Thursday, May 17th, 2018
12:10 am
If not we'll be unemployed

Eventually they did kick 80s/90s Trivia out of its room in favor of whatever the next event was. And what did I do with the time alone? Mostly wander around, really. Looking for Easter eggs; I think I found one beside a planter, and found a couple others that had been opened up and their contents taken. Running into Shouda and Pakrat. There was a good long while I ran into Twitchers and a friend of his and we just hung around outside the con suite talking about the convention and life and stuff.

I also went off to the video game room, which promised to be easy to hang out alone in and nearby the board game room so I could see how bunny_hugger was doing against the unspeakable horrors of the ancient ones or whatever they were doing. They had an Atari 7800, just like I remembered from the ads in the back of Compute! magazine but never saw in person. And a bunch of 7800 games, but also 2600 cartridges. I had to try out some of the ancient games, well-worn into my memory. I had to try Atari 2600 Pac-Man. After a couple false starts I learned, first, that the Atari 7800 joystick is an agonizingly painful creation of someone who hated people. Second, that what I have lost in reflexes in my old age has been made up for in strategy, as I could go on pretty well without limit in a way that ten-year-old me never could. Third, that oh yeah, Atari 2600 games let you select from a couple zillion modes, but they all seem to e the same mode. Fourth, that the Atari 7800 joystick is a creature of pure pain devoted to bringing agony into the world. A month later my thumb is still sore. I understand they had thirty fewer years of ergonomic design to draw on back then but didn't anyone test this thing out before it went into production? That's some Commodore-grade hatred of the customer there.

I also got to play a couple ancient Sega games, including what I'm going ahead and guessing was the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Back in the day I thought I was just awful at all these games. Today, with a better understanding of the logic of these games, I'm still awful at them. I suppose it's mostly inexperience. Left to my own devices I'll play grand strategy, simulation, or management games, and you just don't get Roller Coaster Tycoon on the Sega Whatever from 1991.

After reuniting bunny_hugger got dinner, at the place we'd been most looking forward to eating this trip. That's the Indian dhaba restaurant in the gas station across the way. They make really, really great food and the promise of several meals there is a high point of Motor City Furry Con. It's near Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum, too, and if they served later in the night we'd probably stop over there for dinner after league, but the kitchen isn't open long enough. But we got our meals, vegetable and paneer dishes, and brought them back to the con suite, and told all the many curious onlookers where this great-smelling food came from. It only seems like half of all the conversations we have with strangers at Motor City Furry Con is talking up this place. But we really want to talk up this place. ... Also, incredibly, the woman working the register there remembered us. Bear in mind, we go there two times each year, basically. How can you remember someone through that? Granted we help matters by coming basically the same weekend, and with the identifying tags of animal ears and tails, but that's still a very slight stimulus, it seems to me, to remember over a year.

There were't any panels in the evening to interest us. So after eating we could walk around, showing off bunny_hugger's marionette dragon and my guinea pig puppet. The dragon was the far more interesting puppet. And catching up with people, or hanging out in the con suite and sampling the beer and cider. And then, in our kigurumis, to the Saturday night dance, a pretty well-attended thing with a nice lively crowd. We stayed there to about 1:30 am, thinking very hard about whether to stick around to the closing hour of 2 am. We didn't, because of the sad fact that there was stuff early Sunday we wanted to get to also. So we yielded to delayed gratification and went back to the hotel.

Trivia: Benjamin Franklin sent a journeyman to Antigua in 1748 to open a print shop, which thrived for four years (until the man died of a tropical fever). Source: The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, H W Brands.

Currently Reading: Exploring Mercury: The Iron Planet, Robert G Strom, Ann L Sprague.

PS: how about something primal and shocking at Keansburg?

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A madeline: the kiddie train ride that first made me feel that I must have been there. My father confirmed later that I had, when I was small enough to fit in these seats. The Keansburg Coast Line N.J. ride has been there since the 30s. Possibly has always had those colors.


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Park map. I'm not sure that they had any to distribute in the park and if they did we missed the chance, but this at least preserves the layout and ride names as they existed in mid-2017. There's a healthy number of rides, though you can see how it's aimed more at kids, if the carousel and the bumper cars rate as 'thrill rides'.


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View of the Sea Serpent roller coaster with its riders in exactly the pose they'd have in a cartoon about a roller coaster.


Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
12:10 am
So stay tuned to this station

What to do at the con after eating? How about eating? One of the panel events was ``Canadian snack foods''. It surely wouldn't live up to the ideal, which would be buckets of Wonderbars tossed out to a grateful world. But what would it be? ... Well, the hosts showed off some Canadian-grade snacks, maple cookies and Caramilk bars and chicken-flavored potato chips and the like, and exotic-to-Detroit flavors of Crush soda and the like. Everyone got modest but reasonable samples. The attempt to talk about the candies kind of flopped because you really need a specialist vocabulary and grammar to say anything past ``that's chocolatey but on a wafer''. Also they brought in Oh! Henry bars as Canadian candy which, no. I'd have liked a little more discussion of how the Canadian snack industry differs from the United States. But as someone who's read up on candy history I know that it's very easy to learn about the United States candy industry, and it's easy to learn about the United Kingdom's candy industry. Everybody else is a couple casual mentions in the margins. Also, the Mars family be whacked. My Netflix prestige series is going to be a dramatization of their story as best as anyone can figure it out and it's going to make Game of Thrones seem tame.

After that: 80s/90s Trivia. And it wasn't a game show, although several panels were game show formatted. Instead the hosts tossed out questions about stuff they remembered from the 80s and 90s, and tossed candy back to people who had the answers. bunny_hugger was confident I'd rule on this, not suspecting how much I never watched or picked up anything at all about the NickToons. I recovered some as things moved over to Freakazoid!. I believe the pinnacle of this (get what I did there? DO YOU?) came when the question was, ``in the episode where Lord Bravery has to change his name to avoid a trademark complaint, what does the trademark office guy suggest he change it to?'' And I shouted back, ``I hate myself that I know this one.'' ``Ah, but what was it?''

I said, feebly, ``Smoked Meat and Fishes.'' As bunny_hugger looked at me with mild alarm that even I would say something like this, I fixed my answer. ``Lord Smoked Meat and Fishes.'' I got a mini Kit Kat or something. And to explain the Lord Bravery premise to bunny_hugger.

I felt less bad about myself for admitting that I had absolutely no idea their next question, about what doubly-registered name would ``be a lawsuit, there'' when it came up in the episode. See, in the story the trademark office guy comes across a nice-looking name, but then it's snapped right up, and then snapped up again, so, ``there'll be a lawsuit there''. The correct answer was ``Dreamworks'', and the reason this is a correctly formed joke is that when Dreamworks organized there was a lawsuit as besides the famous filmmakers there was some other company with the name. I'm tired writing that. Also a moment to feel less bad about: ``Which Freakazoid villain would come and carry you away if you said his name?'' I answered, ``We're not falling for that!'' ... Part of the episode is how people can't stop foolishly saying his name, to the point that the villain concedes he's going to need more rope to haul them all off. Gads why is this on my brain's high-priority circuits instead of, like, the Gibbs Free Energy?

Then bunny_hugger and I did something we almost never do at a convention: we went our separate ways. I mean, we're not one of those couples that thinks we have to do everything together. But we each find the other the most interesting person to have around, so, why would we not want to so stuff with them? But here was a special case. In the game room they were starting a round of Arkham Horror, a Cthulhu-mythos-based board game that has long fascinated bunny_hugger but that's complicated enough to intimidate someone learning it themselves. She's wanted for years to get into a convention's game room when they were playing it with that mix of experienced and new players. Usually these conflict with something we just have to get to. Not so much this time; they promised a three-hour game that didn't conflict with anything we found interesting on the schedule.

Why didn't I join in too? Well, the game's big and complicated, and there's only so many new players who can be initiated at one time. I figured someone more keenly interested than me should have the chance to play. I could learn a bit about the game from bunny_hugger and maybe play it properly at another convention or a local area game night, with her as a more-experienced person guiding me in.

She would have a great time, she reported, when the three-hour game ended after five hours and a sudden-death round where the gamemaster explained how things would resolve if everybody played perfectly from then on. This included bunny_hugger's character solving the big problem of badnasty jumpjumps ripping holes in space or something. She didn't feel confident in her understanding of the game's rules. But she fell back on generally good principles, running around and buffing up her character, getting some lucky rolls including beating a monster everyone thought way above her level, and by setting her character up to be not-too-specialized ended up with one that could handle what did happen.

Meantime I went back to 80s/90s Trivia, which was running long but had finally got to 1980s Nickelodeon, more confident territory and one bunny_hugger regretted missing. ``Which child star of You Can't Do That On Television would go on to worldwide renown as a pop star?'' ``How do we know any of them might not yet?,'' I offered, earning acclaim for an optimistic inspirational-poster message for the world.

Trivia: Brazil's primary agricultural exports are soybeans, beef, sugar, and coffee; none are species native to the Americas. Source: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charmes C Mann.

Currently Reading: Exploring Mercury: The Iron Planet, Robert G Strom, Ann L Sprague. So the light reflecting off the moon is cohered by lunar dust scattering, making the reflections grow brighter as the moon reaches full than you'd get from geometry alone. (a) this is neat, and (b) so how have I not heard this misinterpreted as ``lunar dust is a kind of natural laser''? Am I not reading enough Analog Science Fiction?

PS: Someone Else's Homework: A Probability Question, or, me providing content when I don't have anything to write.


PPS: We're almost into Keansburg! What's there?

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Scenic foreground as you enter Keansburg; this one's all about the gargoyles.


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bunny_hugger trying out one of the gargoyle faces.


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bunny_hugger in one of the other scenic foregrounds, this one all about ... well, monkeys of some kind or possibly lemurs. There's so many kinds of lemur who can tell, really?


Tuesday, May 15th, 2018
12:10 am
He's here to save the nation

The Fursuit Parade on Saturday was an hour earlier than usual. This would discombobulate us, as anything moving earlier in the day does. But we got organized, got across the street to the convention hotel, and bunny_hugger took her fursuit bag into the main ballroom where suiters were gathering for the parade. I went off to the hallway, to record the parade. I avoided my usual corner, since I figured I always took pictures from there, and went to a different corner that turned out to be colonized by people who didn't understand that my camera would not work through their heads. I try to hold my camera high anyway, so that I can stand in back of a crowd, but that is tiring. Also while waiting I noticed one of the plastic Easter eggs sitting out in plain sight and grabbed my first of the day.

The parade ran about eight minutes, and bunny_hugger was about seven minutes in, so her strategy of hanging around until nearly everyone had left worked well once more. There seemed to be more raccoons in the parade than in past years, also gratifying. Also someone had made this chain-mail dragon suit that was brilliant and dazzling and clanked with each step. It looked fantastic and like it must weigh 4,000 pounds and heat the wearer up to 200 degrees Celsius. But wow does it look great.

After the group photo outside and some milling around the common areas for smaller photographs we went back to the ballroom, to gather bunny_hugger's bag and clothes. The ballroom was closed, locked up as the con re-set the area. I knocked on the door. Nobody answered. I knocked again. With steady persistance. Not just for bunny_hugger; Twitchers had similarly figured he could stow his bag in there and recover it after the parade, and here it was locked off. Finally someone opened the door and we could run in for our stuff. Nobody said anything explicitly scolding. One of the tech guys did say ``that's why that's not a good idea'' when bunny_hugger bumped into a chair someone had just set in her path, but that (to me) is ambiguous about whether that meant stowing bags in the room was a bad idea or putting chairs in the path of fursuiters walking was a bad idea.

They were resetting the room for the Animal Magic show. This was the charity again this year. And, as two years ago, I don't know of anything specifically wrong with Animal Magic. I just don't feel comfortable with the group is all. So this year we would avoid their events, fun as showing off animals and hearing dubiously believable stories about living with them is. We didn't see anything except for one of the Animal Magic people getting stuck at an elevator jam, radioing people that the elevator had not stopped on that floor for 25 minutes and would not stop just as the elevator stopped. He then began radioing people that OK, the elevator would stop if someone inside had selected that floor but it wasn't responding to calls from the lobby. So, you know, furry convention elevators.

The Dealers Den had mostly the usual stuff, prints and fursuit accessories and kigurumis that are all too small for me. One unusual thing is that Mary Mouse's representatives had the Certified Coatimundi badge. That Certified! badge is new; one of the other coatis in the fandom --- and whom I've gotten to know slightly through our secret communications network --- commissioned it over the past year, beating out my thoughts of maybe commissioning one. I haven't gotten a new badge proper in years --- and was wearing the wintertime Austin badge, with snow-rabbit in the background, since April was a frigid month in Michigan --- but this was a nice bit of filler.

Lunch, I think, was Taco Bell again, this time staying in the dining room and learning that in fact they don't have any problem skipping the beef on any of their options. Or swapping beef out for beans or rice or something. Potent knowledge. Yes, every actual vegetarian has known this for years, but I'm always afraid of asking too much from the fast-food cashier, even if all I ask is that they change fries to onion rings and make that a diet soda instead. Good to have reassurance.

Trivia: At the 1884 International Meridian Conference, establishing Greenwich as the prime meridian, the nation of Colombia was represented by Commodore S R Franklin of the United States Navy. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: Exploring Mercury: The Iron Planet, Robert G Strom, Ann L Sprague. The book's written 2003 which makes its repeated defensive assertions that we're just rank fools to mistake Pluto for a planet stand out.

PS: And now to the second amusement park we went to that Bowcraft day!.

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Entry arch for Keansburg Amusement Park, or at least the parking lot. From the boring side you see as you exit. We'll come back to this.


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Best day ever? So claims the back of the coupons sheet. Coupons given out at the gate to Keansburg Amusement Park, on the Jersey Shore, on the edge of the Lower New York Bay.


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And the promise of fun! The Sea Serpent kiddie roller coaster going over a hill as seen from our rental car. Notice some more kiddie rides, like the balloons wheel, in the background.


Monday, May 14th, 2018
12:10 am
And all this peaceful living is driving me insane

I'm still shaking out of my mathematics-blog doldroms. Here's the past week's efforts.

And in the comics. What's Going On In Mary Worth? Muffins And Despair. February - May 2018. Wilbur has stuff happen to him!

And now let's close out Bowcraft.

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Mix of rides at the Bowcraft Amusement Park, including the Tilt-a-Whirl, the rocking ship, Crossbow roller coaster, and a kiddie ride whose name I can't find, but it's the submarine-themed thing on the left there.


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bunny_hugger posing for a picture with the big pig up front.


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bunny_hugger sharing her iced drink with the big pig.


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And a nice slow dance with the big pig.


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The arcade inside Bowcraft Amusement Park. No pinball, alas. A couple of slot machines that we didn't know were legal.


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Dragon Coaster as seen from the windows at the main building with the arcade.


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An ancient picture of Bowcraft Amusement Park that's on a shelf up top of the arcade and souvenir shop. Undated as far as I can tell. Certainly predates 2006 when the Crossbow roller coaster would be built, up at the center-top of the picture. There's a Ferris wheel in evidence in the picture that's not there. I'm not sure but I think in the far back of the picture, where the roller coaster now is, might be an archery range; the spot started out, decades ago, as an archery and ski equipment store, which is why it has that name.


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Stairs leading down from the arcade. The carpeting looks a bit 70s-old, and the wallpaper looks similarly dated and a bit worn. That the signs say Downstairs Closed and warning that the restrooms are in the park gave the place a certain Conneaut Lake Park vibe that also endeared the park to us.


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And peeking inside the Party Castle as we left for the day; there's plenty of picnic tables inside, some of them partially set up for an event, or not quite un-set from the last.


Trivia: When Congress returned to Washington City in October 1807 President Thomas Jefferson reported to it how he had made contracts to purchase gunpowder --- for the possibility of war with the United Kingdom --- without appropriations; but it was not clear that he had actually spent any money, rather than making pledges he was confident the Congress would authorize. (They did.) Source: Waging War: The Clash Between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS, David J Barron.

Currently Reading: Exploring Mercury: The Iron Planet, Robert G Strom, Ann L Sprague.

Sunday, May 13th, 2018
12:10 am
That's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do

We drove first to our hotel. We were staying again in the Holiday Inn Express that's across a dangerously busy street from the Motor City Furry Con hotel. It's enough cheaper that the hassle of driving back and forth across the road is worth it. But we were late enough in the day it made sense to check in and stow our things. The hotel was being renovated, with about half the rooms inaccessible, which is probably why the bookings seemed weird. We got a room that was a good bit bigger than we're used to, too, possibly a result of the hotel making do with fewer rooms. There were some hallways partitioned off with some generic but not precisely sensible motto about the renovations, and I don't remember what it was now. I'm sorry. It was one of those corporate things that teases you with the promise of content. They did have cookies to give away, though.

We were ready for a terrible wait for our badges at con pre-registration. We had to wait all of however long it took the person at the desk to look up. They had separated the giving of badges from the giving of the con booklet and souvenir mug and the T-shirt that sponsors collected, which probably moved things along well enough. We did get to the upstairs room for the mug and T-shirt just ahead of a mob of somewhere between six and 850,700 people came in, so, our timing was great.

In another sense our timing was terrible. We had both failed to submit any panel proposals to the programming committee. So there would be no Raccoons/Procyonids SIG, no Bunnies SIG --- for the first time in ages --- and nothing else that we might have done, like pinball or letterboxing or puppeteering. I felt like I'd failed to do my small part in improving the convention. We didn't make that mistake for AnthrOhio, at least.

But it did mean we could just go to the convention without responsibility. I didn't run the poll I would do about Raccoons (Trash Pandas: Yes or No, a question people want to spend a surprising amount of time parsing). But I did bring my guinea pig puppet. And bunny_hugger brought her newest puppet, a marionette she had got after Christmas. It's a fuzzy dragon. It's very simple, just one stick, and a head that she's learned how to make look at stuff on purpose. And how to make walk in a big, expressive, silly manner.

And this marionette was as big a hit as she had hoped. Everybody looked at it. Everybody wanted to stop and interact with it. Especially fursuiters. I would still attract a little attention for my guinea pig, since it's cute and the right size to fool people momentarily into thinking it's an actual animal. But this dragon was a star. The chicken purse of puppets, I would call it.

With our failure to submit SIGs the species-SIG track of the convention almsot completely collapsed. The only one that we could find was the Insects SIG, hosted by that ant fursuiter, Upstar. bunny_hugger's never had an insect character, and it's a bit awkward to mention the relationship between actual coatis and actual bugs in a situation like this, but we didn't want to miss the only species SIG of the panel. So that's one of the two programmed events that we attended on Friday, listening to people most of whom were not insects of any kind but listening to the people who were talk about what's so fun about the creatures. During the hourlong hangout an anteater, in suit, came in with a lunchbox full of candies with insects inside that this coati didn't join in on. Everybody made the expected jokes and hugged a good bit, as you might hope.

We poked into the video game room where they had some sweet-looking vintage consoles, including an Atari 7800 and some ancient games, going back to 2600 days. While talking with the people running the room bunny_hugger noticed a little plastic Easter egg. They assured her that it was hers to take: someone or other had been going around the con and hiding eggs around. Inside was a little pipe-cleaner-type creature, with a slip of paper describing what sort of critter it was. This added a nice bit of fun to the weekend: we'd spend some of the time looking for eggs. There must have been regular resupplies of eggs. Some of the ones we'd found were too obviously placed to have gone unnoticed long. Some, apparently, contained stuff tied to the convention's theme --- the Quest for the Holy Growler, and a reason for even more Monty Python jokes than normal for a gathering of furries --- although we'd never find one. We did spot an Easter egg on one of the game tables, in front of some people playing a Saturn(?) game. We couldn't tell whether any of them had claimed it, or whether they had just failed to notice it among convention table debris. And they were playing something longer than we were interested in waiting to see if they'd abandon it, so we left the egg to them. Next day I saw the same(?) egg, or its replacement, there and grabbed it for bunny_hugger.

We ducked out to Taco Bell to get a quick dinner that ended up slower than that as there was a huge line at the drive-through and it turned out the dining room was closed already. But this let us change and get ready for the dance, which we spent less time at than we figured. We sort of floated into con suite and spent time talking there, partly with a series of friends we mostly see at Motor City Furry Con. So we got in late. And we'd have to leave early, as the fursuit parade was at 11 rather than noon and we'd need an extra hour of sleep. Given the shaky status of dances at our furry cons lately we were hesitant to give up on this one before it was done. But it was probably the wiser course. And in any case it was what we did.

Trivia: One of the first medals struck by British coinmaker Matthew Boulton was in 1789, commemorating the recovery of King George III from his yearlong bout of madness. Source: The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future, Jenny Uglow.

Currently Reading: Exploring Mercury: The Iron Planet, Robert G Strom, Ann L Sprague. Not surprised there's a quick slagging on the Faster-Better-Cheaper era of NASA probes. You know, roughly one out of every three Faster-Better-Cheaper planetary probes failed, whereas previously planetary probes succeeded roughly two times out of three. (The book is from 2003, from before Messenger was launched and we got pictures of the missing 5/8ths of the surface and all that, but I figured this would still inform me of things I didn't already know about Mercury and Springer-Praxis books on space are nice easy comfort reads.)


PS: Last hours at Bowcraft.

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Ride operator for Bowcraft Amusement Park's Crossbow climbing up the lift station rather than going the long way around to get to the stairs. He recognized our Cedar Point shirt and hoped to get to that park sometime; we talked a bit during quiet stretches and it's always fun to chat with a roller coaster enthusiast.


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Looking down from the edge of the Crossbow launch station so you see how far up the guy climbed. The bar on the left is maybe six feet off the ground and he just climbed up to that to swing his way up to the station, something like twelve feet above ground level.


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Crossbow train full of kids returning to the station. You can see the mixture of faces, some kids having just had the best moment of their summer and some just horrified that life has come to this.


Saturday, May 12th, 2018
12:10 am
It's gonna take the lot to drag me away from you

We set out to Motor City Fur[ry] Con late. Not for the usual reason. Usually we're late setting out because somehow when we're going somewhere we want to go for fun we're always about 15 to 30 minutes late and realize we forgot something. Especially if, to get to Opening Ceremonies, we have to leave before noon.

No, this time we were late because of our rabbit. Or not our rabbit, as Penelope was up until this very afternoon. We figured to spend the weekend in Novi, at Motor City Furry Con. It's only an hour away, but saving two hours' driving each day of the convention seemed to promise a much better time there. Turned out one of our friends, having had his hotel plans fall through, was driving two hours each way to the convention, each day. I admire his stamina but, wow.

Since we were just fostering Penelope we weren't confident that we could leave her with bunny_hugger's parents, and we certainly couldn't leave the rabbit unattended for two and a half days. Overnight, yes; that long, no. Not that bunny_hugger's parents aren't capable of caring for a rabbit. But the rescue had been wary of our fostering Penelope to start with, with many questions about what seem like fiddly little details like whether the rabbit could likely fit through the hole to the second level of our rabbit hutch. To throw in approval for a new place after that seemed unlikely.

So it was about two weeks after we made the drive to the rescue --- quite nearby the convention's location, conveniently --- to pick up Penelope in the first place we were driving back to return her. A taste of the parting we expected to happen another couple weeks down the line, when our planned one-month fostering would end. But the woman running the rescue wasn't going to be available before about 3 pm, and there's just nothing to do with a rabbit at a furry convention for three hours or so. No, we would not bring the rabbit into the convention hotel. Even if the hotel allowed it, we couldn't inflict that on a rabbit whom we had no reason to think liked strangers, crowds, or lots of noises.

Penelope hopped back into her cage with an enthusiasm and apparent relief that we tried not to take personally. Well, we were fostering her for the rabbit's benefit, that she could have some nice weeks of normal living, and if she was happy to be back to familiar territory then good. We would use that leap to reassure ourselves that when we did give her back she wouldn't be miserable.

And we talked with the woman who runs the rescue, partly about Penelope, partly about the other rabbits, including the one with the condition so like poor Columbo's. And talked, more. We'd have less time in the afternoon of Motor City Furry Con to actually see the convention, but I don't think we made a poor choice here. There would still be enough convention left in the weekend.

Trivia: Oxford and Cambridge established five new colleges between 1496 and 1516. Source: A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, William Manchester.

Currently Reading: Timekeepers, Simon Garfield.


Someone Else's Homework: A Postscript, in case you worried about my friend with the questions.


PPS: Last hour at Bowcraft.

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The underside of Bowcraft Amusement Park's Crossbow roller coaster, with some of the braking mechanism and some of the power gear visible underneath. Also transfer track for the other roller coaster train.


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The big twisty path of Crossbow.


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The packs of kids from the Hasidic school were great for the park. But they had a problem of losing their yarmulkes while on the roller coaster. The ride operator had to stop things and go off to the infield to recover lost gear so many times in just two hours.


Friday, May 11th, 2018
12:10 am
And I'm gonna keep on rolling till my dying day

Let me change things up today and give you some pictures, then link to my humor blog's postings. Keeps you awake better.

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Uncle Sam's Pizza Palace, apparently the main food place at Bowcraft Amusement Park.


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Panoramic view of Bowcraft, looking west, with the entrance of the park on the left and Crossbow roller coaster on the right.


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Another panoramic view of Bowcraft, from the Party Castle on the left to the Pizza Palace on the right.


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The menu at Uncle Sam's Pizza Palace at Bowcraft Amusement Park. I don't know how this otherwise basic menu just screams New York City Metro Area to me.


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Slushies stand at Bowcraft. Also serving ice cream and other chilled stuff. ... An ice slushie from here lasted basically the whole drive to Keansburg Amusment Park later and felt really good that day. ... I don't know why that kid in the striped shirt looks so suspicious of me.


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The menu at the slushie stand. I'd had the lemon-and-lime, I think. bunny_hugger had one that it turns out you'll see soon; who knew?


Right, then, so the humor blog's features the past week:

Trivia: A British study in 1911 estimated that an attack on the Dardanelles would require the Royal Navy landing between 75,000 and 100,000 men to deal with shore defenses and to open the narrowest parts of the channel. Source: The First World War, Hew Strachan.

Currently Reading: Timekeepers, Simon Garfield.

Thursday, May 10th, 2018
12:10 am
For I have found my world in you

So how did the tournament go? Well, we started with some exasperation as we couldn't find a clear, good parking spot. The Avenue has a tiny parking lot behind, shared with a bunch of businesses, and the lines have all faded beyond recognition. People park randomly, and a bunch of the meters just don't work anymore. Trying to obey the rules in these circumstances is difficult. You lose a lot of spots you could, really, get away with using.

But. The upstairs games were all in good working order. People got in early and weren't expected to pay for the punk show. We had a good mix of people who're always at bunny_hugger's tournaments and people from the east or west side of the state who don't get to Lansing much and even a couple people who're just locals. And we were able to keep up on traffic management, the struggle of recording the scores of people, and whether they'd beaten the threshold to move on to the next game. Mostly, anyway. Also this time we were ready for the glitch on Fish Tales that can cause a leading digit of 8 to look like it's a 3. All was looking good.

And then the punk show started. We were prepared: bunny_hugger had a box of earplugs and kept offering them to people. We'd learn later there were people who didn't know what they were being offered, possibly because it was too loud to hear the question. But still, we did our best. The concert --- two warmup bands and the headliner --- probably saved us time in play, too. It can be hard to play without sound cues, so if that lowered the average quality of play then at least we got through sooner.

There was one game that it was a blessing to not hear, South Park. It's a very annoying game, made during the first or second year of the show's run (reasonable; the show was hot and who would have imagined we would never be done with that show about the obscene Colorforms). So it has very few sound clips to use, and a very limited set of jokes to build on, and it's mostly annoying. Also the rules are very primitive. We have evidence that our table has an early set of the game ROMs, too; for example, when you start the Kill Kenny mode, the screen helpfully provides the text 'KILL KENNY HURRY-UP INTRODUCTION SCREEN'. (The second row is a line of 'MMM-MMPHMMM-MPHMMMMMM', which is at least amusing.) As it happened this would be the last game of the race. To have its sounds blocked out by punk music would be a blessing.

Well, it came down --- for me --- to whether I could beat something like 12 million points. If you shoot for the Kill Kenny mode, you can get ten million points easily, and it's an easy mode to start. I couldn't get anywhere near Kill Kenny, or anything else, and I bombed out of the tournament, then went downstairs to wash the game off my hands.

Ah, but who was left in? bunny_hugger, as part of the four-player group who'd play head-to-head for the championship. (There has to be some direct head-to-head play for a tournament to get ratings points.) She, ADM, CST, and IAS --- ADM's a past state champion, and CST wins any tournament he puts his mind to (ten-time, never-defeated champion of the Lansing Pinball League) --- would play three games on randomly drawn tables, the cumulative winner to be the champion. And I would step up as the umpire for any ruling that directly involved bunny_hugger. (This isn't ideal, but the best person to make rulings about her would be CST and you see where that's a worse problem.)

bunny_hugger would by the way put up an astounding, fantastic game of Junkyard, one that's possibly her best ever on that table and that just creamed the competition. This, as mentioned, against ADM and CST who are both among the top 200 ranked players in the world. She wouldn't repeat that performance on the other tables, sad to say. And during the last game it looked possible that she would end up in a tie for second. I drew a random number to select the table.

It wasn't necessary. She ended up in third place, sparing her the agony of a tie-breaker game of Fish Tales against CST. (bunny_hugger hasn't had many happy experiences with tiebreakers. And while anything can happen in one game, in a contest with CST on Fish Tales I would bet on CST.)

We did hang around a bit after the tournament. But the show was still going on --- MWS, eliminated just before I was, even went downstairs to join the mosh pit and showed the bruises later when we caught up with him later in the week --- and we could only talk to one another by pressing our heads together and still talking loudly. So we made what goodbyes we could and cleaned things up and went back home, with bunny_hugger's newest trophy and, I think, the first one of her own that she's taken home from a competitive event.

Trivia: ``B.U.'' was a 1930s semi-jocular abbreviation for ``biological urge'', that is, lust. Source: American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny, Christopher Miller.

Currently Reading: Timekeepers, Simon Garfield.

PS: How about I photograph the boring stuff of an amusement park? If you're a true amusement park enthusiast, you'll be glad I did.

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Menu at the snack stand opposite the Party Castle and that was apparently long-closed when we visited Bowcraft Amusement Park in June 2017.


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Water fountain at the front of Bowcraft. The golf cart someone had come out of the main building --- like thirty feet to the left of this photo --- and drove out to that spot to park. I assume there's reasons for this. Note there's a hefty binder of something or other on the passenger's seat.


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Management building and arcade for Bowcraft; also, the gate that serves as entrance and exit. You can see a strip mall on the far right, across the street.


Wednesday, May 9th, 2018
12:10 am
No more will I go all around the world

The day after Easter bunny_hugger ran the March Hare Madness tournament. This is one of her quarterly pinball tournaments, and this is the one named for beloved lost rabbit Stephen, with the funds raised for it going to the rescue we got Stephen (and Penelope) from. The couple days before saw, as traditional, bunny_hugger feeling the stress that she didn't have time to make trophies as good as she wanted. Particularly a lovely hare statue she wanted to use for one of the trophies broke, and she was cursing herself out for days that she had dropped it and that a replacement was nowhere to be found. It was part of Michaels's Easter tchotchkes and there wasn't another to be had within sixty miles of Lansing; we checked with the store. We had to go to alternate statues that didn't match her vision.

Also she worried about the conditions of the tournament. It was to be an Amazing Race format. In this, everyone in the group plays a game. The lowest score of the group is eliminated. Everyone else moves on to the next game. It can be a fun format. It rewards people who just never play lousy. It does mean the person who's put up a lousy game --- and we all do it --- has to sit there watching everyone else, hoping they do even worse. Not for the first time we've thought that the right mascot for this format is a vulture. Also, more of the pinball games at the Lansing venue have become a dollar a play. That's fine enough for regular play. But the Amazing Race format means you don't have to play once you've beaten the elimination-threshold score. And for the sake of saving time people don't. If someone's put up a rotten score, then you might pay a dollar to play part of one ball of a game and then drain; that's less fun. Fortunately most of the games on the upper level of The Avenue are 50 cents, half the pain. And there were enough games there that it would be a tolerable ``racecourse'' by itself.

Then the week before March Hare Madness --- which, again, was happening the 2nd of April, but consider that so was the NCAA Men's basketball final game --- The Avenue blew up every plan we had. They were going to have a show Monday night. They never have a show Monday night; that's always karaoke night, when someone drifts up to the microphone about 10 pm to stumble through ``We Didn't Start The Fire'' and ``Piano Man''. We could have a fair, not-distracting, tournament through that. But a music show? ... The tournament would get started way before show doors opened, so players shouldn't have to pay the cover charge. But the stage pretty much faces the balcony level, where all the 50-cent games were.

Oh also it was going to be a punk band playing. Apparently one of local renown, based on the publicity, and one that hadn't performed for years and that the local punk music scene found exciting. But, you know, just in case there was hope that the show wouldn't obliterate all the sounds of a pinball tournament from the pinball players, there we go. We thought hard about whether to warn people that there was the show scheduled. If it would drive away players to know a punk show would start sometime during the night, they just had to know. Worse than knowing this distraction was coming would be not knowing the distraction was coming. We'd have to risk the hit to the turnout.

Trivia: France's King Louis XVI was a skilled watchmaker. Source: The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey That Transformed the World, Ken Alder.

Currently Reading: Timekeepers, Simon Garfield.

PS: Someone Else's Homework: Was It Hard? An Umbrella Search, thoughts about how to solve a problem.


PPS: Some fresh Bowcraft pictures.

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Operator's station for the Crossbow roller coaster at Bowcraft Amusement Park. N.J. Dept of Community Affairs tag number 6150.


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Low-angle view of the Tilt-a-Whirl.


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The bookbags and backpacks of the many, many kids who descended upon the park, all set at the tables off by the Party Castle. The normal-sized parking lot is in the back there.


Tuesday, May 8th, 2018
12:10 am
Baskets full of Easter joy

Getting closer to the present day: Easter! Usually we spend the whole Easter weekend at bunny_hugger's parents. We didn't this time. Part of this was logistics: there was a pinball-mining day on Saturday that we didn't want to miss. Changes in the International Flipper Pinball Association rules for how to qualify have made it harder to get into state finals the way we've been doing, playing competently at a lot of steady events. We needed to play. (It did us some good, although not enough yet.)

And our foster rabbit weighed us down, some. We were mostly but not completely sure that she'd be all right if left unattended overnight. She seems to eat at a nice regular pace so if we left her with two days' food she probably wouldn't stuff herself and then starve. But we weren't sure. We might move her but taking her to a second unfamiliar space in the span of a couple weeks seemed possibly bad. So between all those factors we chose to let her be. And so we'd go to bunny_hugger's parents for Easter day, but not more than that.

We took the time to dye Easter eggs, enough that bunny_hugger and I have still not quite finished them yet. We're getting there. Also for once we thought to take pictures of the Paas dye eggs before we dissolved them, so that we'll hopefully be better able to tell which tablets correspond to which colors. I'm figuring to put that up on one of my WordPress blogs, in fact, so that I have that as a reference for needy, confused people in the future, ourselves included.

And we had another round of the Mice and Mystics expansion. If I remember right we had a dismal failure the first time around, like, right away. And then figured to why not re-try and see just how far we got? And that turned out to work great. Thanks to a bunch of lucky rolls in short order we got through the next chapter. And got to enjoy one of those great tabletop-roleplaying-game moments where my thief scamp character uses his rapid speed to run into and right through the room with the rest of the party as some of the baddies chase. Spoiled by the baddies then having a bunch of lousy movement rolls, so they just puttered around so slow we started to wonder if we should go back for them and save us the waiting. We stuck to the plan, though, and managed a quite nice success.

Trivia: By 1826, more than 35 percent of Newark's white male labor force were master, journeymen, or apprentice shoemakers. Source: New Jersey: A History of the Garden State, Editors Maxine N Lurie, Richard Veit.

Currently Reading: Timekeepers, Simon Garfield.


PS: Let's go ride a roller coaster!

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Braking mechanism underneath Bowcraft Amusement Park's Crossbow roller coaster launch station.


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And from the launch station of Crossbow: an orchestra leader. ... All right, no; he's one of the chaperones for the group of Hasidic school children who came to the park for a mere two hours and made it thrillingly alive.


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Manufacturer's plate for the Crossbow roller coaster. Ride Serial Number 8 528001. Ride Name: Family Coaster Bowcraft. Ride model number 8 628 Family Roller Coaster. Date of Manufacture 03-2006. Ride Speed: max 36 mph. Direction of travel: forward. Passenger Capacity by Number: 2 trains total.


Monday, May 7th, 2018
12:10 am
But I live in a museum, so I'm okay

So the answer to how last month treated my mathematics blog? Pretty good, I'd say. I'm forming plans for it for the coming month, though.

And on the other side of things: What's Going On In Mark Trail? Why Is He Making So Many Nerd Movie Jokes? I explore February to May 2018 in a strange lot of references to things. And now let's get back to an amusement park in Scotch Plains.

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Plaque by the Bowcraft Amusement Park railroad station, declaring appreciation of Ted and Isabel Miller. Dated the 1st of July, 1955, and named for 35 years of their service.


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Kid running up to the Dragon Coaster, Bowcraft's other and modest little ride.


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Lift hill for the Dragon Coaster. You've seen this ride at many amusement parks, but here it is in this one. The building behind it is the arcade and what slight souvenir shop the park has.


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Queue sign for Bowcraft Amusement Park's Dragon Coaster. Notice where the minimum height's been increased from 32 to 36 inches.


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Close-up of Dragon Coaster ascending the lift hill. This is what happens when I'm feeling arty.


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Dragon Coaster ride operator injecting air into the nozzle of the dragon's shoulder. The air jet is used to unlock the seat belts of the train.


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Route 22 Bump-A-Rama: the sign for Bowcraft Amusement Parks' bumper cars ride. I realized I ought to take pictures of the ride signs. It's worth giving attention to parks that do their own work like this.


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Queue sign for the Drop Zone ride. The ride was temporarily closed the whole day we were there and something about the sign suggested that it had been temporarily closed for a good long while.


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Musik Express and the Crossbow roller coaster just past the top of the lift hill.


Trivia: The circular-blade saw was invented in the 1770s (although there are those who claim Dutch carpenters did this a century earlier). Source: A Splintered History of Wood: Belt-Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers, and Baseball Bats, Spike Carlsen.

Currently Reading: The Nemesis Affair: A Story of the Death of Dinosaurs and the Ways of Science, David M Raup.

Sunday, May 6th, 2018
12:10 am
Day after day I get up and I say I better do it again

Then in late March --- I started out writing this as late February, but realized I remembered the date wrong, and didn't want to waste the text already written about this --- we drove out to Grand Rapids in order that I could not play pinball. This was a slightly new thing for us. The pinball points mine we use in Fremont is trying out a different scheme, in which the scores of several venues come together for a larger and hopefully more rankings-lucrative league. Among the new venues is this cozy bar-restaurant in Grand Rapids. Not the one that the Grand Rapids Pinball League gathers in. A different one, cramped, with space for a mere four tables. Makes for a slightly different mix than Fremont offers, but at half the driving time.

This wasn't for that. KEC, bunny_hugger's onetime rival among women players, was organizing a Belles and Chimes League. You maybe guessed the gimmick here: it's a women's pinball league. The name isn't her own inspiration; it's a franchise of women's leagues hoping to draw more people into pinball. KEC had wanted to start one, and bunny_hugger was happy to support her. And I'm happy to support bunny_hugger, even if the extent of my support is to smile while I'm watching her and to agree that Monopoly totally cheated her that ball.

The event, first of a hopefully monthly series, was a four-strikes tournament. People play matches until they lose four games. There were around ten women there, making for a good-sized match. Working for bunny_hugger: her confidence with the games Pirates of the Caribbean and WWF Royal Rumble. Working against bunny_hugger: Monopoly and Stern's new Star Wars. Monopoly I was able to give some usable advice for, ultimately: shoot the bank and you eventually start this points-grab mode. Star Wars, well, that's a game for the hardcore pinball expert. It's got a complicated rule set and a distractingly difficult scheme by which you can make some of the key shots worth multiples of their basic value --- up to 40 times! --- and move that around for optimal play. By (a) knowing exactly what to do and (b) taking your hand off one of the flippers to move the multiplier shots around. Both of these are really hard and we've never got the hang of it.

After a disheartening start --- two losses --- bunny_hugger had a fantastic streak, and she was in the final four players. And thought she was up for a trophy, since the Belles and Chimes sent a trophy for first place and someone had brought in three smaller souvenirs. The souvenirs were meant for first through third place, though, so that the champion took home two pieces of hardware. And, with Star Wars smashing her, she ended up in fourth place and a disheartened mood. Still, the women's tournament went on successfully and good for that.

We wouldn't make it to the next Belles and Chimes session. The weather was too bad for us to set out, with the highways freezing over under icy rain. But May should be different and I'm looking forward to just watching bunny_hugger play. I hope they still have Royal Rumble; not really hoping they still have Star Wars.

Trivia: At the 1805 conclusion of the Tripolitan War (the first Barbary War), over the payment of tributes to avoid the capture of ships and capture of sailors, the United States paid the Tripoli government US$60,000 tribute for release of three hundred captured United States sailors. Source: America's Wars, Alan Axelrod.

Currently Reading: The Nemesis Affair: A Story of the Death of Dinosaurs and the Ways of Science, David M Raup.


PS: And now a special Bowcraft moment! Enjoy.

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Tag yourself from the art on back of Bowcraft Amusement Parks's Big Trucks ride. Here: warrior-princess wolf!


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Tag yourself from the art on back of Bowcraft Amusement Parks's Big Trucks ride. Here: loving expectant mother-bird!


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Tag yourself from the art on back of Bowcraft Amusement Parks's Big Trucks ride. Here: Basic Cable Noid!


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Tag yourself from the art on back of Bowcraft Amusement Parks's Big Trucks ride. Here: extrovert imp!


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Tag yourself from the art on back of Bowcraft Amusement Parks's Big Trucks ride. Here: fire-breathing dwaggon!


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And here's one last look at the Big Trucks characters in their context and on the small track of Bowcraft's kiddie ride. Oh yeah, there's that bird on the left.


Saturday, May 5th, 2018
12:10 am
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow

Oh, now, let's see what's next. Oh, the Chinese New Year festival at the mall, so you know how far behind I'm running now. I'm going to catch up; we had a lot of boring times in February and March that I can skip. This always opens with a parade, with lion and dragon dancers, through the mall and we always open this by getting there too late. At least we feared we were too late, and actually made it with something like five minutes to spare. Not enough, but still, something. They only had one lion this year, but they had a new, I think, dragon, one much longer and held up by more than a dozen kids.

As in past years they had a talent show that included some things that had definite Chinese cultural content, like a fashion show or excerpts from Chinese operas. There seemed to be fewer things that merely showcased someone who happened to be in the Chinese community, like the guy who sang Eidelweiss. Wasn't there this year, although the zumba dancers were. The show always runs longer than the schedule projects, and as it happened it ran long enough that bunny_hugger had to go off and miss the final bits of it. She had a haircutting appointment set for, we had believed, tolerably after the end of the scheduled events and it just wasn't.

Every few performances they called out some raffle numbers to give away prizes. We never figured out where they were selling raffle tickets, though. We did eventually figure out where the tables for the crafts projects --- origami, coloring pages, small crafts with that black wax you carve off of rainbow paper --- that were conspicuously absent from the back of the mall corridor where they normally were. Those had been put inside the area of a closed store next to the performance stage. (This makes me suspect the raffle tickets were sold somewhere in the store, although not by the time we found them.) As a use-of-space thing this was great; there was plenty of room for people without blocking the flow of traffic around that wing of the mall. Also there was enough room that some bored kids got on the wheeled carts for moving pallets around and went sledding where adults wouldn't bother them.

So while we felt slightly disorganized through it, and bunny_hugger missed the finale of the thing, we had a pretty good afternoon of it. And got to add to our collection of things to decorate the house in February. Plus bunny_hugger could show that she did, after a bit of thinking, remember how to fold an origami swan.

Trivia: In a 1793 address to the Bengal Asiatic Society, Sir William Jones laid out the argument that Sandrokottos, named in Plutarch as an Indian army leader whom Alexander the Great met, was the Chandragupta who led a revolution that took the Magadhan throne, the first figure well-known from both Greco-Roman histories and Indian resources. Source: India: A History, John Keay.

Currently Reading: The Nemesis Affair: A Story of the Death of Dinosaurs and the Ways of Science, David M Raup.

PS: Reading the Comics, April 28, 2018: Friday Is Pretty Late Edition but at least I wrapped up last week in time, right?


PPS: More photos of Bowcraft! I have something special slated for tomorrow, too.

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The band organ for Bowcraft Amusement Park's carousel. It's plugged in but I don't remember if it was functioning. ... Must admit it doesn't look good; see how faded the eagle-on-shield logo at the bottom is.


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Part of the main area of Bowcraft Amusement Park, showing off the carousel and some of the kiddie rides and, on the left, the scrambler. The roller coaster Crossbow is in the far left.


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bunny_hugger so distracted by the interesting attractions she doesn't notice she's going to run into a pig.


Friday, May 4th, 2018
12:10 am
All my friends are middle-class and grey

What's my humor blog been doing? Mostly stuff that isn't supposed to be funny, like, recapping the story strips and the like. If you didn't see it already or on your RSS feed, here's the goings-on.

Now let's have a bigger-than-usual bunch of pictures from the park, shall we?

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More animal figures lining the railroad ride at Bowcraft Amusement Park. If it seems odd there should be disembodied elephant or hippo heads consider: they're obviously the toppers for animal-themed trash bins, taken out and used as decoration instead, a touch that's ingenious and inexpensive and so endeared the park to us.


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The complex, twisty path of Bowcraft's main roller coaster, Crossbow.


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Crossbow train setting out. Very light crowd; almost nobody had got to the park yet.


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Bowcraft Amusement Park's big roller coaster, Crossbow, partway through the ride cycle.


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Crossbow's launch station, with the train at rest. As you can see the ride is not yet packed.


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The main lift hill for Crossbow. I wasn't recklessly close to the tracks; there's just some good spacing in the fence (you can see that to the left) and I have a pretty good optical zoom.


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Close up on the operator's booth for the Musik Express at Bowcraft Amusement Park. Check out that tag from the N.J. Dept. of Community Affairs: 6424.


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Bigger-picture view of the Musik Express, so you can appreciate the airbrush art and the mock car coming out the roof and all that.


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Back to Bowcraft's carousel, and a view of some of the horses they have. The inner and outer row horses do not have the same mould, and look close at the manes if you need to convince yourself of that.


Trivia: The Homes and Gardens Pavilion was the most-visited exhibition space at the 1951 Festival of Britain. Source: Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times, Lucy Lethbridge.

Currently Reading: The Nemesis Affair: A Story of the Death of Dinosaurs and the Ways of Science, David M Raup. Wait, there were never more than about fifty dinosaur species alive at the same time? This ... that ... that's going to take a lot to process. (At least, as science understood things in the mid-80s when this book was written. I don't know what people think now but still, that's like one-hundredth of what I would have bet on.)

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018
12:10 am
That was the end of my holiday, sweet and innocent holiday, end of my holiday romance

The last Sunday in January we put into action our search for a new rabbit. bunny_hugger's father told us there was this large rabbit, listed as a Flemish Giant, at the Huron Valley Humane Society near Ann Arbor. They named her Judy Boggs, he insisted, a baffling name considering. The Judy part is easy enough but surely they named her Judy Hopps, we said? No, he was confident the rabbit was Judy Boggs.


Well, this would let us visit the Rabbit and Small Animal rescue, the small and overworked (and, really, probably winding down) shelter from which bunny_hugger and her starter husband had gotten Stephen a decade before. It's nearby. We were at the door of the Humane Society when the woman running Rabbit and Small Animals asked us to come to her place first, lest we inadvertently bring fleas or ticks or anything from the shelter to her poor bunnies. This seemed excessively fussy to us, but we would comply.


The woman remembered Stephen, of course, because he was just that sort of superstar. And remembered bunny_hugger, partly from the original news and partly because she had gotten back in touch to report Stephen's long healthy life, and the sad end of that life, and to turn over donations from pinball charities in Stephen's name. Also because she had a rabbit with, she suspected, the same affliction that struck down Columbo, and she wanted to see what we thought. Our thought: her sick rabbit moved exactly like Columbo did. We shared what we could tell about our experience caring for Columbo and what we wished we'd known.


And rabbits they had up for adoption. One, Penelope, was taken from her spot in the big exercise playpen --- an area outside their cage that each rabbit takes turns sharing --- and nestled a bit on the couch with bunny_hugger. Then bit her leg. ``You just bit yourself out of a permanent home, Penelope!'' said the rescue woman. Not by that, of course; we know rabbits will bite just to nudge someone out of the way, and it's not their fault humans don't have thick enough fur to take it. Despite Penelope's outgoing nature, and the general niceness of other rabbits, there just wasn't anyone we felt that connection to, and we made our apologies and promised to keep these rabbits in mind.


Back to the Humane Society. We got there with less than a half-hour to closing. And they wanted us to fill out a form, about our home accommodations and what our setup was like and how much we thought a pet would cost and such before they'd even let us see the animals. By the time we were done with that there was fifteen minutes left and they told someone ahead of us that there were no more animal visits on the day. We pleaded our case: we were here from Lansing, an hour away, couldn't we get any time? They allowed us a few minutes with the rabbits.


Judy Hopps was this cute, medium-to-large blue-grey rabbit. Seemed nice, but we barely had time to see her, or this other rabbit also freshly admitted. We were able to talk with a volunteer cleaning the room about them, and what they were like. But we just didn't have the feeling that we knew the rabbits well enough to want to commit to them. We drove home, feeling like it was a long way for not having accomplished anything.


Penelope, you know, we took in a couple weeks ago as foster. This would relieve pressure on the rescue, which has more elderly and sick rabbits than they can care for. And relieve pressure on our own bunny-lack.


This week, we told the Rabbit and Small Animal rescue that we want to adopt her.


It's a bit more complicated than we had planned on, as Penelope and the new adoptee don't get along. But, gosh, we can hardly give her back now.


Trivia: At the naval Battle of Ushant (1778), the British Royal Navy's code-signalling book had no code by which a captain would report a failure to see or understand an instruction, nor any way for an admiral to indicate a change or orders or that a new signal superseded the first.
Source: The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution, Barbara W Tuchman.


Currently Reading: The Nemesis Affair: A Story of the Death of Dinosaurs and the Ways of Science, David M Raup.


PS: How April 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog, the easiest writing I do every month on the mathematics blog!




PPS: Let's soak in some of that lovely Bowcraft Amusement Park, shall we?


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Other figures along the path of the railroad at Bowcraft Amusement Park. I imagine they're vintage figures but couldn't guess when they were from; this is about as close as we could get to them.



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The entry sign for the Speedway USA antique-cars ride, in good shape despite the ride not being in service when we visited in June 2017.



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The entry queue and a gas pump for the Speedway USA antique-cars ride. The elephant and the cranes from earlier are off in the distance.


Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018
12:10 am
I'm the last of the good old renegades

Since we do have the good news that Bowcraft Amusement Park is open again --- even if apparently it's because the plans to demolish it and put up condos is dragging its feet, rather than that the park is in the hands of people who want to keep running a park --- let me do a photo dump. Also I've got a lot of Bowcraft pictures so if I don't do some stuff like this I might never finish.

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Entrance gate and the ticket/wristband purchase booth for Bowcraft. I'm not able to explain why the weird angle; I don't see any compelling reason for it in the composition.


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Fountain just past the Bowcraft entrance; in the far background you can see Crossbow, the major roller coaster. Just behind the fountain you can see a Pinocchio-esque statue.


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Station for the Train Xpress ride, which we never saw running the day we were there.


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The Party Castle, the big structure that comes up against the strip-mall parking lot area. Not in use the day we were there, although tables inside were set up with vinyl tablecloths and all.


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Coin-operated kiddie rides by the Party Castle and bathrooms and a food stand that was out of service but still had the menu board outside.


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Manufacturer's plate for the carousel, from Chance Manufacturing in Wichita, Kansas. Model number 280(and the rest faded out). Serial number illegible. Maximum Operating Speed Five & One Half RPM CCW, Maximum Load Capacity 38 Adults Or 72 Children. Electrical Load Requirements Motor (illegible) Lighting (illegible).


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The Chance carousel at Bowcraft. It's an antique. It's also a bit of a rough ride and I don't think it was at the 5 and one-half RPM that the manufacturing plate lists as its maximum.


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Low-angle shot of Bowcraft Amusement Park's Chance carousel, featuring a shot of the chariot particularly. Can't quite see all the way through the platform but I gave it a try.


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bunny_hugger pondering the Slushies place and the giant slide; she's looking in the general direction of the kiddie roller coaster, Dragon (not pictured).


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Speedway USA: an antique-cars ride that was out of operation. No signs of any of the cars and the queue looked as if they hadn't been running in a long while.


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Animal figures along the track of the disused antique-cars ride. There were a lot of figures along that and along the railroad, neither of which we would be able to ride.


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Cranes and elephant or along the antique-cars track at Bowcraft. Too far to go up to and investigate.


Trivia: The word ``immigrant'' dates to the late 18th century. The travel writer Edward Augustus Kendall wrote in 1809 that it was ``perhaps the only new word, of which the circumstances of the United States has in any degree demanded the addition to the English language''. Source: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: The Best of Simon and Kirby, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby. Book Editor Steve Saffel. Ooh, hey, some pinball machines from one of their humor comics, when they were spoofing 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018
12:10 am
You let me know everything's all right

First thing we could do back home again was, well, sleep. And recuperate. bunny_hugger had classes to pick up again. But come Friday there was an outgoing social activity we could actually get to and do. This would be the Guardians of the Galaxy launch party. That's for the Stern pinball machine, and based on the movie. Possibly also the sequel. I'm not sure. Haven't seen the second movie yet. This was something like six weeks after the pinball venues had gotten their machines in, but I so don't understand the logic of release parties.

This one was at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum, which is always great to visit. The routine of a launch party is pretty simple: everyone gets a certain time or number of chances to put up a score on the launched machine. The people producing the top four scores go to a playoff on the table to win whatever the prize is; I think it was a trophy provided by Stern. Maybe also a translite, the art that goes on the backing of the machine. The vagueness with which I describe this should tell you whether I won or not.

Mind, I had fun. I like the theme of the table. And I joke about giving the table the Secret Raccoon Handshake and all. But I've had pretty good games on it surprisingly often for how few chances I've had to play. MWS was disappointed by the game early on, pointing out how similar the playfield is to Metallica, which isn't by itself a problem except that MWS burned out on Metallica after it had been his favorite game. Well, I finished in 6th place, out of 20 players, which isn't bad considering the field and that, I think, I only took one entry rather than the two theoretically open to me.

The rest of the time I did other stuff. Going around the attractions at Marvin's, particularly, and trying out coin-op amusements. Many were working. Many I took movies of so that, if the worst happens, I'll have recorded images of not quite what I really wanted to see.

Also I got to playing Aerosmith. The game's the first of Stern's that uses a proper flat-screen TV instead of a dot-matrix display for the scoreboard. It's a hard table. It's fun, if the balls don't drain right away, but it's so hard to keep them from draining right away. I kept thinking if I went back to fundamentals, just practicing trapping the ball and aiming at a couple targets, I might get to avoiding disastrously bad games. I didn't manage it, though. And it would be moot: when we came back next week the table was gone, replaced with the new Houdini pinball. Marvin's was the last place I knew of that had one in. Aerosmith had been released in March of 2017; we first played it when we went to Dallas so bunny_hugger could compete in the Women's World Championship. And now it's not anywhere I know of. I suppose the table's just a little too hard, at least for public venues.

Trivia: The Imperial Chinese civil service had among its responsibilities the suppressing of counterfeit almanacs. Counterfeits might have counterproductive rituals listed. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: The Best of Simon and Kirby, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby. Book Editor Steve Saffel.


PS: So my photo roll has got up to our anniversary trip to New Jersey last year. First up, Bowcraft! This is going to have a lot of pictures since it was (probably) the last year for the amusement park and so I have a lot of proving-the-thing-existed photographs to share for future amusement park archaeologists.

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The very skinny front parking lot to Bowcraft Amusement Park, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. If it looks like it's in a strip mall that's because it kind of is; it sits off the edge of Route 22, a typically busy North Jersey divided highway and there's strip malls on either side of the place. There's a larger, normal, parking lot around back.


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Peeking in from the strip-mall-grade parking lot into Bowcraft; the building with the clock is the station for the train ride. Bowcraft, in Scotch Plains, is near but not actually in the New Jersey highlands. In the background, a high land. Not pictured: plains.


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And the somewhat faded front sign for Bowcraft. Roller Coaster Database says the place has been named ``Bowcraft Playland'' since 2007, but this is what the highway sign was saying in June 2017.


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