austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Coming up for air

The floors in the bar are wood slats. They're not perfectly level, as nothing is. One of the feet of the pinball machine happened to be at the edge of one of the slats. The other slat was a tiny bit higher.

When WVL nudged the machine, the foot got caught on this gap. His impulse could not move the machine. It could shake the coin door.

The coin door in a pinball machine is sensitive to particular shakes. Short, sharp spikes are correlated with people doing nasty things to machines, trying to get undeserved credits or launch back into play balls that have already drained or other things that would cost the operator money. So if the coin door registers something suspicious, it signals a Slam Tilt, and doesn't merely end the ball but ends the whole game. Junk Yard is, for unknowable reasons, particularly sensitive. It slam tilts easily --- something WVL knew well, as it had happened several times (not to him) in league play in the past --- but it had not slam tilted all that night.

WVL's perfectly fair nudge slam tilted the machine.

The rules for the tournament --- and for nearly all competitive pinball --- hold that a slam tilt is an automatic loss for the tilter. Slam tilts normally represent someone going outside the generally accepted bounds of fair play. They smack of someone working mischief on the machine. No one suspected this of WVL, who even though behind had another ball to make up a supremely overcomeable gap. Had the game started out a quarter-inch to either side he'd have had a fair nudge; at worst he'd have tilted, quite within the bounds of play. But it wasn't, and he didn't, and he lost.

And so --- shortly before the ringing of the bell for last call (but well before they started kicking people out; in fact I'm not sure we've ever seen them kicking people out) --- bunny_hugger presented the #2 trophy to WVL, and the #1 trophy to AJG.

Then, in a really good and slightly tipsy mood, WVL started to drop his trophy. What he could only describe later as long-ingrained hackey-sack instincts kicked in, and he gave it a kick, sending it into the wall. The snowman figure on top fell off, as well as a decorative star. He took it in good spirits and started a tale of how the envious AJG tried wrestling the trophy out of his hands, leading to the spill. So we ended the night on a comic-tragic moment after the comic-tragic conclusion. (bunny_hugger gathered up the trophy parts and reassembled them, and presented the trophy to WVL again the next time we saw him.)

The long-term effects of all this? Well, the Capital Area Humane Society got $260. bunny_hugger got considerable applause for a well-managed, well-organized tournament, with people pointing out there's folks who've done a half-dozen of these who weren't nearly so on the ball as she was on her first. She's also got the commission to make trophies for the state finals side tournament.

I would drop in the state rankings from 12th to 13th place, as GRV --- another friend, though one who doesn't play in the Lansing league anymore as the machines don't meet his exacting standards --- took fourth place and quite a few points. WVL did not quite earn more worldwide ranking points for this than he did for everything else he's done, but it was close. About forty percent of all his tournament points for his competitive career came from the one main tournament. (He did worse than I did even in the side tournament.) Several other Lansing league people who don't play many other things got nice point rewards, which will help us again next year. Playing people who already have a lot of points earns you more points.

But for the real challenge, of securing the 16th and last guaranteed invite to the state finals?

That failed. bunny_hugger was a little behind MJS in the main tournament, and a tiny bit ahead of him in the side tournament. She suffered a net loss of position relative to him. As it turned out she would have had to do considerably better, better than she's done at any four-strikes tournament, and better than I had ever done at one to that point, to knock MJS out of 16th; or he'd have had to come in at the bottom of both main and side tournament.

But there would be a chance for a rematch ...

Trivia: The Verdun Gorges, a grad canyon about thirteen miles long carved through the limestone of the Pré-alpes de Castellane, was unknown to the French government, or anyone but the few local inhabitants, and unexplored by scientists or cartographers until 1905. The Gorges are about sixty miles northeast of Marseille, the second-largest city in France. Source: The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, Graham Robb.

Currently Reading: The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, and Self, Editor Scott A Lukas.

PS: Some More Mathematics Stuff To Read, if you haven't got enough. You might like.

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