December 7th, 2013

krazy koati

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossanova

Anyway, to pinball league, the debut: our debut, anyway, since we missed the first couple sessions by not having heard of it. bunny_hugger would have to join the games already in progress, since she had work to get home from, but that's all right. The league rankings are based on how you do against everyone else who played the same game the same night, so it doesn't matter when during the night you play the games. Unfortunately I got through my league-sanction games before she arrived, so she didn't get to see me play, but since I had several really mediocre games that's probably for the better.

The group had four people its first meeting and six for its second. When I got there it had got to ten people, and it was somewhere around fourteen or fifteen over the course of the night. There were three or four women, but the men ... well. It looked like an open casting call for the part of ``me'', all kind of sort-of academic-looking types who probably look about the same from age 30 to age 60 who probably spend a lot of time coding. They all had beards. Some of them were serious, hardcare pinball players, people with nationwide rankings and no shame about sliding a machine a foot sideways if it'll help their ball. I play a much more tame version, sometimes barely tapping the machine if I can't help it, which is part of why I'm not someone who could have a national ranking.

All was fun and lighthearted, with more trash-talking than bunny_hugger had been expecting. For example, at one point one of the guys was trying to explain strategy for one of the games, probably Johnny Mnemonic, and outlining what he tries to shoot for and what he lets wait and all that. bunny_hugger said, ``My strategy is to try to not lose the ball''. He laughed and said, ``Well, that's my underlying strategy'' and his friend popped in with ``That's your only strategy.'' (In fairness, ``don't lose the ball'' really and truly is the most important thing to work on as you're learning any game.) Now multiply that by sixty or so possible pairwise interactions between people and a couple hours of hanging out and you have a sense of the tone of the night.

The ball scoop on one target for Medieval Madness stopped working for a while, spoiling one of the expert player's games because it's really essential for a bunch of stuff. This also encouraged a lot of talk about how Pinball Pete's, whose machines these are, doesn't really keep them in good order despite how often he calls to report malfunctions. Some of the games do have serious problems, and I know from painful experience how bad it is when the machines aren't being repaired, although I tend to not go for the ``frequent detailed complaint'' strategy of getting pinball machines fixed. He'd joked that he started the pinball league to have more pull with Pete's. I am sure Pete's enjoys having a dozen or so people coming in regularly to play in the league --- they did advertise it in Ann Arbor, to the delighted surprise of our organizers --- but I don't know that's going to make them particularly care about tracking down a (presumably) difficult-to-fix bug in the Johnny Mnemonic magnetic glove.

There's a lot of people with college affiliations, grad school or faculty or the like, so the league is going to skip the winter break and pick up when the semester resumes. It also produced a couple awkward moments of cross-department small talk, as when an economist admitted to bunny_hugger that she'd found philosophy so hard, and, before learning of my wife's specialization, mentioned she especially hated Kant. Erf.

After the league games --- including someone who beat the wizard mode on Lord of the Rings; defeating wizard modes are always spectacular and everyone stopped what they were doing to watch, although it makes continuing with the ball an anticlimax --- we hung around a bit more, playing off some of the built-up credits and naturally doing better than we did during the sanctioned play. Even the broken scoop on Medieval Madness fixed itself. That's natural enough.

Trivia: Following the Japanese military invasion of China in 1937 Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro was unable to get the military to even give him a general idea of in what area the military action might stop; he was forced to ask the Emperor to give him information he absolutely needed to have for future planning. Source: The Pacific War, 1931 - 1945, Saburo Ienaga.

Currently Reading: Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II, Ronald Takaki.