March 19th, 2016

krazy koati

Sitting in the stand of the sports arena

So now I'd like to do something a little different and talk about a pinball event. This would be called Bill's Basement Tournament. Bill is one of the folks in several of our pinball leagues. He's got a good dozen or so pinball machines in his house. He opened it up to two dozen people. bunny_hugger bought tickets to it before asking if I wanted to go; she feared the tickets being sold out. I was interested though, sure.

We brought some food. The meals were going to be a bit potluck, which implies people who're vegetarian need to take steps. We got some spaghetti salad and potato salad from Westlund's Apple Market, and some artichoke salad from Horrock's, and were nearly the only people to eat them. Maybe people were suspicious of unfamiliar-looking foods. Maybe they were just wrong. Let them be.

His house was a nice, good-sized suburban thing that could probably fit ours in its garage. He's got a furnished basement, which somehow some people can manage in Michigan despite the nearly 900 percent humidity in below-ground rooms. And he couldn't fit quite all his pinball machines downstairs. Two were exiled to a guest room up top --- Mars, God of War, a late 70s machine which happened to have a broken audio chip so it sounded like an angry demon; Black Knight, the early 80s classic, but too broken to play --- and one to the garage, Jurassic Park. That mid-90s game would be out of bounds for the tournament for reasons I never quite got straight.

As often with this sort of thing there'd be a main and a side tournament. The main tournament you'd qualify for by playing in randomly picked groups of four on randomly picked machines. For each win you'd get 4 points, a second-place finish 2 points, a third-place finish 1 point, and a last-place finish 0 points. Get to 15 points and you qualify for finals.

The side tournament was on Hi-Score Pool, a really weird-looking game. Its playfield is almost totally obscured from the flippers. You shoot out into the dark, hitting concealed targets that represent pool balls. Hit the full set of pool balls and you get a nice big score, but, the flippers are small and far apart, and the tilt on the game touchy. Also it's a game almost nobody knew how to play. This would be challenging.

Trivia: 1877 was the first year that baseball rules required the home team to have a second ball on hand, and limited the search for lost balls to five minutes. Source: Level Playing Fields: How the Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris.

Currently Reading: Deep-Space Probes, Gregory Matloff. Which surprisingly has a number of exercises to work out, as if it's a textbook for a very special topics class.

PS: A Leap Day 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Isomorphism, another thousand words into abstract algebra for people who need that.