May 21st, 2016

krazy koati

I before e except after c; let's see

We had figured to eat a light dinner at the expo center, which was a fine idea except that the food stand closed too early for us. We got the simplest possible dinner at a Taco Bell nearby, and noticed a 24-hour doughnut shop was right by that. We made note of that, particularly since it was the place that boxes of doughnuts for the people running the tournament got stuff from. We'd go there in the morning to get a doughnut each, and find those were doughnuts large enough to leave even me not hungry, if you can imagine.

MJS, the guy with the pole barn and forty or so pinball machines, was having an open-house party Friday night. We had figured to attend. But between sticking around to watch MWS finish his tiebreaker matches and how early we'd need to get up to be at the expo center when the show opened Saturday we realized we couldn't spend enough time to be there and be satisfied. Or more accurately, we'd get there and never leave, and get nowhere near enough sleep for Saturday. He planned a Saturday night open house too, so we figured to go to that instead.

So Saturday started with MWS and fifteen other folks, some of whom we knew, going onto the Classic old machines and playing the finals for that. (I estimate we're friends with at least eleven of the folks in that set, actually.) Despite what he felt was inadequate sleep MWS got through the first round, and while he'd get whomped by the games in the second round he ended up in 7th place for the Classics tournament. ADM, another friend, would end up in 5th place, and RLM in eighth. ... I know this makes it sound like being friends with us is a partial jinx but there's guys we like who made it into the finals. One, TG, even plays sometimes in the Lansing league and I felt humiliated when as scorekeeper I had to ask his name. At least now I'll never forget it to my dying day, even after I've forgotten my own and bunny_hugger's names. (In my defense, he usually plays the Lansing league games as makeups, because he's an actual grownup and can't always make regular Tuesday evening starting times.)

There were twelve machines in the Main tournament bank. Qualification was based on your six best scores on the various machines. So remember I said the challenge was not necessarily to replay everything, but to play the games you'd be most likely to improve your points on? Add to that the complicating factor that you might be able to pick a game that didn't contribute to your points total but which, if you did well on, could propel you back into the top-24 for the A Division, or the next-8 for the B Division. You see the importance of having good intelligence on what to play. Also that while the tournament organizers had a screen with rotating information displays available, the rotation of information made it hard to make the best possible choice right away. bunny_hugger complained that pinball tournaments had better not be the thing that forces us to buy smart phones. But it's hard to see what else would.

I put up at least one game on each machine, and then figured I'd keep going back and trying to improve the game on which I scored lowest. Foiling me in this: everybody needed to get on every machine because these were the last hours to qualify. While I was able to put scores on each table, there wouldn't be nearly enough time to re-play everything. I'd have to prioritize.

Some of the games were familiar ones, like Meteor, a great 1980 solid state table based on the Robert McCall-designed poster for the movie of the same name. (The movie is reviewed in Roger Ebert's I Hated Hated Hated This Movie; I don't know his thoughts about the pinball.) I've gotten close to rolling it in the past. At qualifying here, the game came pretty close to rolling me. I just could not get anything together on this game. bunny_hugger couldn't either. My best score on this, in two days of playing, was ranked 43rd out of the 61 playing. If I could have doubled my score --- which I ordinarily should have --- I'd have leapt up to 32nd place. And that would have landed me safely in the B Division. I couldn't do it.

World Cup Soccer is another nice, comfortable, familiar game and I put up a bunch of garbage on that. The last time I played it, I did a bit better and logged the 37th best score on the machine (out of 71 putting up any scores; not everyone played every table). But more important: I hit the little-loved, never-used Magna Save button. This activated the table's magnet, freezing the ball into place. I got control of the pinball and shot it to start multiball, which in the 22-year history of the game nobody has ever done before. I feel that I won the tournament on the strength of doing that. bunny_hugger heard me clapping at my triumph there.'s score sheets record an almost baseball-worthy level of playing detail. Among other things it lets me now see what games I played, in what order, and whether I improved my standing on them or not. As far as that goes, the last two hours of qualifying play were done extremely well: I had, for example, a ten-game, ninety-minute streak of only improving my standings on tables. Some of them weren't to very good levels, like, to 60th place on Shrek, but it was all progress. And I had some great moments, like reaching 10th place on the solid-state game Blackout and 9th place on this very weird mid-80s game called Tag Team, an oddball wrestling-themed machine.

When qualifying ended ... well, bunny_hugger, having a worse closing hour than I was, would finish in 43rd place among all 158 entrants. (Many of those only put up one or two games, free entries for being at the tournament, but each adding their presence to the tournament's value.) I would come in 35th place. With the top 24 going into the A Division finals and the next 8 going into B Division ... well, at least we had friends who were going on to finals.

Trivia: Nicknames given to Chicago's National League team through the 19th century include the White Stockings, the Orphans, the Remnants, the Rainmakers, the Cowboys, the Colts, the Recruits, the Zephyrs, the Panamas (after several players' hats caught one sports writer's fancy) and (for a while when they held spring training in New Mexico) the Desert Rangers. The nickname Cubs seems to have originated around 1902 and adhered to the team after that. Source: Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, Cait Murphy.

Currently Reading: The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang, Jonathon Green.

Why Stuff Can Orbit, Part 1: Laying Some Groundwork for some mathematical physics, like verybody has fun with!