September 4th, 2019

krazy koati

Well the truth may need some re-arranging

For lunch MWS went back to the hotel room. bunny_hugger and I met up with JTK and CVK for lunch. JTK, after missing the first round of the day, went 7-5 and 6-6, putting his record at 43-57 and his seed at 169th in the C Division. CVK, in the bottommost division, has gone 6-6, 5-7, and 7-5, and is hanging around 114th seed. It's not looking like any of us will make finals.

We don't go to the taco place yet again. JTK and CVK have found a hipster pierogie bar about ten minutes' walk away, and pierogies are the thing we most missed from Knoebels. It's a nice enough walk along the riverfront. It also goes past the in-ground waterfall underneath the convention center that's now turned off. I was able to explain why that was, thanks to following Anthrocon tweets earlier in the month. (Roof reconstruction required equipment be put in places that water would otherwise go.) The pierogies were, oh, fair enough, even if they seemed overpriced, which seems to be the standard for downtown Pittsburgh stuff. You hate to go to a different city and just go to Burger King, but sometimes that seems like the easiest thing to do.

On the way back we passed a lone dirty sock in the middle of the sidewalk, which wasn't all that peculiar until we passed another lone sock nearly a block away. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

We got back in time for the Pinburgh Group Photograph at 6 pm, as many people as could crowding around in front of the stage and photographing back the two people on an elevated cart. And then the Pinburgh Women's group picture, a much smaller set of players going up on stage to see how many of them were wearing Belles and Chimes league T-shirts. (Belles and Chimes is not quite a franchise, but it is a common name given to semi-affiliated women's leagues. There's one in Grand Rapids which will never compete with the big ones, in places like Portland and Seattle.) bunny_hugger was wearing her black, original-issue Lansing Pinball League shirt.

On to the last two rounds, the ones that say who'll make playoffs. I need two good rounds. A perfect round would be really really helpful right now, but you can always say that. I'm on bank 40, Zosterops. The first game is the modern one, Stern's 2011 Rolling Stones. Oh, if it strikes you that I started on the modern game a lot today? That's deliberate. Modern games tend to play long, so Pinburgh tries to put the A Division players where they'll finish on the modern game. Then B should play so the modern game is their next-longest. The lowest division plays the longest game first, trusting that they'll finish before anyone waits for them. This doesn't always work out, but you have to have some system.

So the modern game. Rolling Stones. I've never played it before. But CST has said the most satisfying shot in pinball is clobbering Mick Jagger. He's represented with this standing target that rolls back and forth along a track, stopping at six spots that correspond to the letters S-T-O-N-E-S. Hit him once at each letter and you get a multiball. I do this, and have a crushingly good first ball, starting several different multiballs as if I knew what I was doing. One of the other players comes near but doesn't top my 13.9 million.

They do, though, take the score sheet away from the pinball games. This annoys me. I like to double-check that I am actually playing the correct turn every ball. Playing out of turn is an automatic disqualification and I don't need any unforced losses, after all. Also, I've learned to record the player 1, 2, and 3 scores at the start of player 4's last ball. This is because there was an era in the late 80s and early 90s where all the scores would flash, briefly, and then never come up again. More modern games bring the scores back by hitting the flippers, but the easiest way to be sure you have them is to write down as many scores as you can before the game actually ends. One of my co-players is annoyed that I'm occupying space at the table instead of getting out of the way, and doesn't want to hear why I'm doing this. All right then.

Our electromechanical is Bally's 1968 Mini-Zag, themed to a band performing on local TV. It's the first zipper flipper game this tournament where I actually zip the flippers. What I don't do is ... if you plunge just right, you can drop the ball down a lane that's good for 300 points. If you're lucky, it bounces off a bumper and goes back up and down this lane again. I am not lucky, and finish with 1,555 points. This is about a thousand points below first place. But it's also five hundred points ahead of last place.

The late solid state is again an early modern game, Williams's 1991 Hurricane, third of their Roller Coaster games. We play a low-scoring game. The game shouldn't be. The skill shot alone is a half-million points; it's just hard to get, or to keep the ball in play after. It is like a late solid state game in that if you can repeat the center ramp you'll get obscene numbers of points. I don't quite manage that. I do well enough to get second place, by a whisker, but someone else gets a ball locked for multiball, and creams us with 6.7 million points. This is not an impressive score either, though.

The early solid state game is Williams's 1981 Solar Fire, which looks like the other draft of a Flash Gordon table. I house ball the first ball, and my recollection is I put up almost nothing on the second ball, which more annoys me than anything else. So I am determined to make something of the third ball, keeping it slow, trapping it endlessly and aiming at finishing drop target sets, usually the right thing this game. I struggle my way up to second place and everyone agrees, that's some great play that just finished too short.

My round is pretty good: eight wins, four losses, for the second round in a row. It brings my record to 52-56. I jump from 117th seed to 89th. And it's my second round today to have no last-place finishes. Still not in the playoffs, but another 8-4 round would get me close and maybe tiebreakers would go my way. A 9-3 round, and I might be in on my own right. A 10-2 round and I would be in. At any rate, an 8-4 round would let me finish 60-60 for the whole two days, which would be great.

bunny_hugger, on bank 41, Uttermost, has been having a good round. Her modern game is Attack From Mars, which everybody who'd be at Pinburgh knows inside-out. It's on mostly hard settings, except for the saucer shot which is, for some reason, set easier. You can win the game just by shooting the saucer over and over. bunny_hugger needs points faster than that, though, and on her last ball realizes that she is very close to Total Annihilation, a potentially enormous points grab. She has to line up a couple of shots carefully, either not missing or recovering the ball when she does miss. And ... she does. And she tears it up. And then that doesn't stop. She also gets Strobe Multiball going. This is a multiball, with a strobe light flashing, in which you're challenged to keep hitting the flying saucer in its most dangerous, drain-prone configuration. She hits it, not just a couple times, not just the ten times that ordinarily would earn an extra ball, but over twenty times. She doesn't just win; she wins so convincingly that the other players applaud her performance. From a couple tables over my group watches and claps too.

The other games are Captain Fantastic (not the same specific table that I'd played) and Guns N Roses (which she's never played but she makes some good guesses about what to do) and Scorpion (with a sea-serpent or hydra theme). She gets eight wins and four losses this round too, bringing her record to 53½-54½. She only rises to being 146th seed. Making playoffs would require a perfect round and for dozens of other players to have weak final rounds. Not impossible, not really plausible. Still, she's also in good shape to finish above the .500 mark for Pinburgh. MWS, on bank 61, ``Yokemating'' and don't try telling me that's a word, has gone a disappointing 5-7 on tables he mostly should know: Medieval Madness, Liberty Bell, Pinbot, and Evel Kneivel. Later on I play Liberty Bell and discover I really like this electromechanical's style. His record's dropped to 54-54, and he's now 103rd seed in C. He could still make playoffs, if he gets 11 wins in the final round. 12 would be better.

Round 10. I am on bank 8, Yunnanese, because they've run out of words. The first game is --- oh! It's the early solid state, for once. Bally's 1980 Nitro Ground Shaker, a racing themed game. I feel confident about my 65,680 point score, which looks like a decent second-place finish until the fourth player just blasts past it. I have a third place.

Ah, but the modern game, at last, is Stern's 2003 Simpsons Pinball Party. It's a game from my dubious two-player perfect round last year. It's also the game I put up 44 million points on, a score that would win basically any group, ever. There are two skill shot targets; one, Apu's Kwik-e-Mart; the other, Comic Book Guy's Hurry Up. The first player shoots the Kwik-e-Mart and then the ball drains. The second player shoots Comic Book Guy and then the ball drains. I, player three, say, ``Well, I have to not shoot either then.'' I don't hit either skill shot, and the ball drains. The fourth player has a similarly lousy ball. I forget who makes the obligatory joke about okay, now we play the actual game, but someone does.

And I just have nothing. Almost nobody else has anything either. But Simpsons has one nice easy reliable strategy: get the ball on the left flipper. Shoot the garage. Each hit on the garage spells out a letter of S-I-M-P-S-O-N-S. When finished, this starts a frenzy, each switch on the playfield good for a bunch of points. I keep trying to start this, and keep somehow missing the garage. I finish the game with 1,044,700 points. Third place has 1,752,270. Second place 3,043,510. None of these are scores I shouldn't be able to beat. The winner got this frenzy going, and Itchy and Scratchy Multiball, putting up 21,488,530 points even after we told him --- the last person to play --- that he'd won.

I know now that my playoff chances, always slight, were now gone. Pfaugh.

Still, there's two games yet to play. The electromechanical is Williams's 1975 game Little Chief, with a Native American Indians theme, reminding us you could just draw people and paint them red in the mid-70s. Thing is, the game's kind to me. I keep hitting the ball back up top, where it can do the most good, and I finish with a first-place win. That's nice to have.

Our last game, the end of my Pinburgh tournament play, is the late solid state game. It's another old friend. It's Williams's 1986 Pin-Bot, one everybody knows and sort of loves. I'm the first player up, the result of everybody else getting to pick order before me. And I have one of those strange games that just keeps working. I don't try to get multiball going; it's just not worth that much on this game. But I do keep hitting the Solar Ramp, good for points and for bonus multipliers, or to collect planets, good for bonus. I don't quite ice everyone out on the first ball. But between that and, later on, getting multiball going and even getting the Solar Value, finish with 580,150 points, a great score. The third player puts up a good run, but loses the ball at 509.290. The fourth player comes from nowhere to ... well, 399,180, but that's still a great run. And I finish Pinburgh with two solid wins.

It's a good round, seven wins and five losses. It brings my record to 59-61, just short of the .500 that's really always my true goal. It's not good enough for playoffs. I'm part of the eleven-way tie for 68th in the division. I would have needed at least 61 wins overall to make playoffs, so, if I had beaten three million points on that Simpsons ... ah well. And, considering how low in D Division I started the day --- I was in it because of my world ranking, not because I played well enough to place in it --- this is doing nicely enough.

bunny_hugger has played bank 86, one of the three that are up on the stage up front, ready to be the A Division finals on Saturday. She plays Black Knight: Sword of Rage, and Star Pool, and Radical, and Elektra. Elektra she realizes is a game about getting to play this small, inset, lower playfield, and her last ball she focuses entirely on qualifying for that. This she does, and it makes her game very good indeed. She has seven wins, five losses this round, bringing her final record to 60½-59½ and she gets to gloat about beating me not just by virtue of her division but also by raw score. She's nowhere near finals; she would have needed six and a half more wins. She finishes 135th in B Division, tied with nobody thanks to that ½ a point. This puts her in sole possession of 335th place in all of Pinburgh. Just out of the top third, but still. She's beaten a lot of fantastic pinball players.

MWS, playing on bank 78, Deneb, has had a good round. He plays CSI, Argosy (called Arrrrrg-osy by everyone except bunny_hugger, who's done well every time at Pinburgh on it), Banzai Run, and Mystic (which plays completely differently from the one we play in Fremont). He gets eight wins, four losses, making his overall record 62-58. He doesn't make playoffs either; he would have needed three more wins. He's part of the ten-way tie for 62nd in C Division.

Well, so, that's that then. We wait around to meet up with other Michigan Pinball people. JTK has gone 7-5 and 7-5, making his record 57-63. He's part of the tie for 138th in C Division. CTK has gone 5-7 and 7-5, making her record for the day a perfect 30-30. In her, E, division, only the Friday scores count. She doesn't make playoffs either. She'd have needed at least four more wins. She's in a tie for 94th in the division. Her last round she played up on the main stage too, becoming the only one of us to play the Willie Wonka game in tournament play.

Afterwards there's a fair-size mob of Michigan Pinball people (including JDO, whom we thank again for our hotel room) going to Condado Tacos again. We join them, but are still stuffed enough from the late pierogie lunch that we can't get anything. We just get some pop and share stories of totally unfair pinball events that happened.

At least we'll all get to sleep in late, unlike some other pinball players we know.

Trivia: Kellogg's paid Hanna-Barbera about $50,000 for each new episode of Huckleberry Hound and Quickdraw McGrow, with four showings guaranteed over two years. Source: The Moose that Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel, and a Talking Moose, Keith Scott.

Currently Reading: Pogo Volume 5: Out Of This World At Home, Walt Kelly. Editors Mark Evanier, Eric Reynolds.

My 2019 Mathematics A To Z: Abacus, first of the new series of concepts being explored! I hoped this would be a short series and this one ended up at 2500 words anyway. Also my blog entry for today was 2800 words so I'm doing great at not burning myself out typing stuff up. Just great.

PPS: More of meeting Penelope, whom we didn't know long enough.


Penelope took a quick charge right at me, and the camera.


And she quickly decides she needs some height to figure out my deal. Look at those sweet little hindpaws.


She had this piece of coroplast to take her meals and some hay on, and used that to get this quick sniff of me.