Oh, yeah, something that I think must have happened Friday night. We somehow got roped into a group going to a restaurant very near the convention center for a near-midnight meal. Near enough that the server warned us the kitchen was going to be closing soon and we ordered the simplest thing possible. But also complicating things: it was raining. Not quite destroy-an-electric-light-parade heavy, but pretty close. We were able to run to the restaurant without becoming ambulatory puddles fair enough. Getting back to the hotel would be impossible, though, and bunny_hugger cursed the lack of foresight that led her to not bring umbrellas and carry them around for 14 hours on the chance it rained at night. MWS went crazy figuring how to install the Uber app on his cell phone and hire a ride back to the hotel, while I pointed out, ineffectively, that he could just call a taxi too, every time the process had some extra weird complication and also even back in July we knew Uber was pretty evil. Anyway we got back to the hotel, dripped dry, and got to bed soon enough.
Because Saturday we had to wake up early again. bunny_hugger and MWS and I were all in the finals. bunny_hugger had a first-round bye, and I had first- and second-round byes. MWS had nothing, but he was in a higher division than us. But we all had to be there at something like 9:30 for check-in, and (for us) the thirty seconds to test out and get the feel of all the games we'd be playing. Then we wished MWS luck and went back to the Westin hotel to find something to eat. There's a coffee shop on the first floor, the Pittsburgh-local version of Biggby, and we got a bagel and coffee or tea, depending on whether you're bunny_hugger or me. Also we saw the candy shop there had a nice whiteboard welcoming the ReplayFX convention with a pinball playfield drawn on it. Nice.
We got back to learn MWS was knocked out, ruined especially by ... uh ... I think it was Alien Star. We'd go back to play it later and he would keep playing it until he had a good game, consolation for a terrible game when it counted. bunny_hugger went in to her round, and got knocked out despite games of Mars Trek and Stars that would have won my groups. Each of these rounds took something more than an hour, since, you know, four games with four-player groups, all of them playing pretty carefully and really skillfully.
And then came to my turn, the third round of finals and the start of my stunning-to-me march to a second-place finish. Again, I've given the details in crushing piles of words before. It took a long time. It was something like 7 pm by the time we were all done. I believe the B and the C Division finals were done before all my rounds were finished and the tournament director got to mispronounce my name. The top, A Division, was still going on and it would for a while, but we'd go back to our hotel room to rest and recuperate and maybe get something to eat instead of watch.
There was noise. A lot of noise. On the penthouse patio of a tall building some distance away there was a party going on. Not sure what kind. It gave me wedding-reception vibes but it could really have been anything that gets men dressed in suits on a Saturday evening. And though it was several city blocks away and maybe a dozen storeys below our level we could hear the music stunningly clearly. bunny_hugger worried about how we'd get to sleep that night. I felt sure that the party would break up sometime in the next five hours. She pointed out there's no reason parties can't go on all night.
We returned, emotionally refreshed, and with my medal put safely away (and I won a medal!), to the convention center because also going on at the ReplayFX convention now that the pinball tournaments were done? Was a pinball tournament.
This was the Intergalactic Pinball Championship. In format, a side tournament to the Pinburgh Finals. You pay your money (and get your choice which of five charities it's to go to), and put in ten games on a bank of something like 12 pinball machines. You get points for how you do on that machine relative to everyone else who played it. Your five hightest-scoring results count. And the top point-gatherers go on to a Sunday morning finals. We weren't that sure we wanted to have another early day of pinball tournament play, but, what the heck.
bunny_hugger put in her money and got entries. I decided, after six hours of the most nerve-wracking pinball I had ever played and the most astoundingly good result I could have realistically hoped for, that I had done enough competitive play and I'd just be at the rest of the convention for fun.
Also, the side tournament drew a lot of players. Something like 280 people signed up and put in their minimum five games, all playing on Saturday. More going in as the day went on. There were queues eight or ten people deep on every machine. Fortunately you could download an app and sign in to the queues that way, and they would warn you when you were likely to be due up soon. Unfortunately the app would not install on bunny_hugger's ancient iPod Touch. It would install on mine, at least, and this made it the better that I wasn't competing. The app was distinctly home-brewed and the programmer clearly never imagined that two people might be using the same instance.
The Intergalactic Pinball Tournament banks are hard. They're tables drawn from the Pinburgh finals, for one. And there's no chance to play the machines and get a feel for any of them, unless you were lucky enough to draw one in your qualifying play Thursday or Friday. Even if you do have some experience, a lot of the A Division players are putting in their games too, so good luck getting anywhere. We do a good bit of wandering around the convention center, playing arcade and pinball games as they catch our eye, and my checking my iPod every three minutes to make sure bunny_hugger hasn't somehow jumped from 7th in the queue to ``if you don't show up in fifteen seconds we're going on to the next player waiting''. We never come close to missing her spot.
And she never came close to qualifying for finals, which was honestly rather a relief. She finished somewhere in the low 200s, which for a tournament with 300 Pinburgh players in --- and on tables that give basically one or two chances to ever touch --- is not a bad outcome. And she's in there trying as long as the machines are open.
When we get back to the hotel, near 2 am, we find the party has broken up and all is as quiet as we could want.
Trivia: 19th century paper-bag-machinery pioneer Margaret E Knight was noted as a child for preferring ``a jack-knife, a gimler, and peices of wood'' to dolls, making playthings for her brothers, and was ``famous for her kites'' and sleds that were the envy of the neighborhood. Source: Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design, Henry Petroski.
Currently Reading: The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders, Peter Heather.
PS: A little more of Crossroads Village last year.
General store-turned-gift shop at Crossroads Village. Note the cabinet for the National Biscuit Company; there's a lot of National Biscuit Company signs and display cases in the shop. No biscuits.
The Crossroads Village carousel building, framed by their lights.
I told you the Crossroads Village carousel runs at high speed. Fun and games with tracking shots.