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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in austin_dern's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, August 29th, 2019
12:10 am
Passion burning

The Drury is so close to the convention center, where Anthrocon and Pinburgh are held, that we had time for breakfast. The hotel used to be the local branch of the Federal Reserve, dating back to when bank architecture tried to convey grandeur and antiquity to communicate reliability. So that's a beautiful setting with some nice murals of Industrious Pittsburgh wherein to eat a great whomping load of eggs. Also to try finding forks, which it turns out were set out, we just didn't know where at first.

At Pinburgh we enjoyed the traditional Michigan Pinball Group Photo Fiasco. Fiasco overstates it. But every year the Michigan Pinball contingent plans to get together for a group photo and every year an appreciable number of people aren't there in time or are there but in the wrong place. The right place seems to be with bunny_hugger and me. Right after the photo a bunch of people came in, annoyed that the photo wasn't at the convention hall entrance where apparently the Facebook group had agreed it should be.

Pinburgh in past years has opened with an introductory speech by Bowen Kerins, who as I write this is one of the top-ten players in four states (three in New England, one of them New York). Also it looks like he just went tearing through the Queensland scene. His talk was probably inspirational and instructive but I could never hear it. This time around they showed a video, a spoof of The A Team opening, showing some of the people who organize and run Pinburgh putting together the convention. This was also inaudible, although they had closed captioning turned on the screens so what dialogue there was could be read. By me, because I'm tall. Not by bunny_hugger who couldn't see over the nine hundred people between her and the TV screens up front. Instructions about how to play Pinburgh were posted in cute animated videos ahead of time, so that in theory everyone should have known what to do, or been in a group with people who did know what to do. And with that we were off.

Pinburgh play is five rounds on each of two days. The first day to figure out which division, from the top-tier A through the bottom-tier E, you belong in. Because of my world ranking I'm restricted to division D or higher. Which is not necessarily a good thing: making finals in D or above is based on your record over both days, so if I play lousy the first day, I'll have that much harder a time the second day making playoffs. MWS is similarly restricted, to C and above. Each round is four games, played in a group of typically four people. (Three is possible.) The games are meant to cover the spread of all pinball games: a pure electromechanical game, an early solid state game, a late solid state game, and a modern game. The banks don't always catch this spread perfectly, but that's what they go for. Your score is the total number of wins and losses: if you finish in first place on one game, you have three wins and zero losses for that game. Second place? Two wins, you beat two people, and one loss, you lost to one person. Third place? One win, two losses. Last place? Four losses. (In a three-player group, second place counts as 1.5 wins and 1.5 losses; third place, zero wins and three losses. In a two-player group, if that impossibility came to pass, first place is three wins and second place three losses.) And we're off!

My first bank is number 64, named Wuchereria. After last year's whimsical bank names this year the banks are all constellations or weird vocabulary words from the end of the alphabet. My first game is Super Orbit, an early solid state with cool outer-space theme. We all have pretty good games; I finish second, not by much. It's a good start. The next game is Wheel Of Fortune, a modern Stern game from the era they were getting licenses at random. It's a weird game, with a dangerously large gap between flippers but center posts that let you save the ball if you stay cool. I know the game from a yearlong stretch it was at Fremont. Simply getting a multiball started will be enough to win, and one player gets it. I'm not that one. My experience is useless and I take last place, by a whisker. That's disappointing. I make up for it on the electromechanical, Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy, a 1976 game themed to the Pinball Wizard sequence in the movie version of Tommy. I have a pretty solid game, not a runaway but good for first place. This sets me up well in the standings, but also makes me the first player for Black Belt, our late-solid-state game. After the first game, in which order is assigned by the Pinburgh computers, order is based on the last round, with the last-place finisher having the first pick of whether to be player one, two, three, or four the next game. People typically pick to go as late as possible, which is how I got stuck as player one. This gets me in trouble. While I've played Black Belt before and remember liking it, I've forgotten: this karate-theme game has a set of upper flippers. If you don't use them fast when you launch the ball, you're going to drain the ball. Everyone else learns from my sad experience. I come in last, by far, and while I probably couldn't have gotten first place, I could have gotten third, if I'd had my first ball to play.

So for the first round I have five wins, seven losses. Weak start, but if I can manage about as many wins as losses the first day I'll be in B Division, the best I could plausibly hope to compete in. Right now I'm 636th of the thousand players. bunny_hugger, on bank 67, Zephyrean, has played 24 (licensed from the show and a game she's never touched or even clearly heard of before), Wizard (an old electromechanical friend), Party Zone (a late solid-state friend), and Gorgar, to get eight wins and four losses. She's 277th of the thousand. MWS, on bank 63, Achernar, has had to play Pirates of the Caribbean; he's been worrying the past week about having to play the Jersey Jack Pirates of the Caribbean game. He doesn't; he's playing the Stern pinball game. He's also played 2001, an electromechanical game; and Party Zone (not the one bunny_hugger played) and Cyclopes, a fantastically ugly game. He's had an ugly round, getting three wins and nine losses. He's 839th of the thousand.

Round two. I'm on bank 52, Triangulum. The modern game is Jersey Jack's Wizard of Oz, which I've always loved. It's set up hard, of course. But I've figured how to get the Emerald City Multiball going, and cruise to an easy first-place win. Our electromechanical is Williams's 1974 Star Pool, a game about hitting a little spinning disc in the center of the playfield. I love its feel but take last place. Next is The Shadow, a modern game serving as the late solid state. Bizarrely, everyone playing does really well at starting modes, which you do by shooting this scoop that on every other Shadow I have ever played on is so hard to shoot everybody ignores it. All right. Other people even get Khan Multiball started; this is lucrative but very hard to shoot on purpose. So I put up 235 million, a respectable score considering this is a Pinburgh-tournament-settings game, but it's only good for third place. Last game, the early solid state, is Gottleib's 1981 Volcano, which will always hold a place for me as one of the games of my perfect-failure, 0-12, round from Pinburgh 2016. This time around, I just ... have everything working right, including one ball in which I get the multiball started repeatedly. Another player makes a good charge at my 677,010 score, but he finishes at only 549,040.

My round is seven wins, five losses, bringing my record to 12-12. This is exactly the pace I want for the day. It brings me to 457th in the field. bunny_hugger was playing Zootherium, bank 34: the modern KISS which she hates, Time Zone, Addams Family which she likes, and Solar Ride. She's gone 3-9, bringing her record to 11-13, which I'd still take. She's at 579th now. MWS has played bank 67, Zephyrean, so can commiserate with bunny_hugger. He goes 4-8, dropping his record to 7-17 and putting himself in 917th place. And, y'know, this is someone who's (as I write this) 296th-ranked in the world.

Round three. The last before lunch. I'm on bank 42, Youngster. We start on the early solid state, Bally's 1981 Flash (Ah-Ahhh) Gordon. I know it from many Classics tournaments in Fremont. This knowledge does not communicate well to this table, which gives me two near-house-balls (I got to hit the ball a couple times). But I do get within striking range of second place anyway. Next is the modern game, Sega's 1996 Goldeneye, which I also kind of know from Fremont games. The game has a special conditions sign: the Satellite Ramp is disabled. The Satellite ramp is used to start the easiest multiball; does this mean that that multiball's disabled or does it mean we'll get the multiball started by making some alternate shot? Nobody's willing to quite risk trying either way. I have game that's just a mess, but I hold on to take another third-place finish. Pfaugh, but at least I can finish strong.

The electromechanical game is Williams's 1971 Doodle Bug, a semi-ironic Pinburgh favorite since it was an A Division Finals game a couple years ago. The gimmick of the game is the Doodle Bug, a captive ball which you can set bouncing infinitely between two targets, which will score points each bounce. The catch is a lot of switches on the playfield turn this off, spoiling the fun. Also that the score starts out petty so it's a lot of noise and motion to little end. Also the game has a gap between the kickers and the flippers, so that if you obey pinball player reflex and hold the flipper up to trap the ball, you'll drain the ball, and it'll be your fault. I avoid doing this, although the game does rocket the ball into the gap between flipper and kicker some, and I have a last-place finish. By 400 points, too.

Well. The last game, the late-solid-state, is Williams's 1988 Taxi, I know and remember well. This is a game that if you can make the skill shot three times you're likely going to win. Nobody's quite good at the skill shot, but, you know? I put together 1.4 million points, not bad for failing to do anything with multiball. The only disappointing part is everybody else did better, including one person who collected the jackpot.

I finish with two wins, ten losses. This is not my worst finish in a Pinburgh round, but it's bad. My record is now 14-22 and while I'm not sunk, yet, I am in a hole. That round dropped me to 797th. bunny_hugger, on bank 45, Youthlikeness, has played Stern's NBA (remembered as part of my perfect round from 2017), Hokus Pokus, Freddy: Nightmare on Elm Street (everyone hates this game as it's confusing and sluggish and weird), and Xenon. She went 8-4, bringing her record to a respectable 19-17 and bouncing her up to 426th place in the tournament. MWS, on bank 71, Yieldance (see what I mean about vocabulary words?), has played Medieval Madness (everybody's good at this game), Space Race, The Shadow (not the same physical table that I played), and Power Play. He's gone 7-5, bringing him to the same 14-22 that I had, although he's now seeded 785th. (There's 65 of us tied at 14-22, and so far as I'm aware the seeding within that was arbitrarily assigned.)

MWS and I had to get out of there. bunny_hugger was willing to go eat, too.

Trivia: Between 1801 and 1811 Glasgow, Scotland's population grew about 30 percent each year. Source: How The Scots Invented The Modern World, Arthur Herman.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: Now finally we get to February 2018! The Meridian Mall always has a Chinese New Year festival, with a parade and a talent show, and we try to get to it every year. Please enjoy pictures of this through to about ... oh ... looks like Sunday.

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The Chinese Dragon performers gathering ahead of the parade.


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Dragon and Lion performers gathering to hear their instructions.


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And they load the drum up for the parade.


Wednesday, August 28th, 2019
12:10 am
Her roses are fading now; she keeps her pride somehow

I'm sorry to put the Pinburgh report off a day but folks need to know how everything else is going. Lately, that's been: terrible. This has been the worst week since November 2016.

Thursday in a meeting at work bunny_hugger dropped her pen, and the cap disappeared to wherever it is lost objects go. It's a pen of sentimental import, one given by the university to honor five years of service. They don't give out that pen anymore; they give out a cheaper model instead. Naturally.

Friday a local fiber-Internet company called, cancelling our weekend appointment to get better Internet installed. They had finally checked and found out that, actually, they don't serve our neighborhood and they don't know why they e-mailed bunny_hugger to say they served our neighborhood now. Sorry.

You may have noticed I never updated about our wounded goldfish to announce when he returned to the pond. This is because he hasn't. His wound, we assume caused by scraping against the rocks which had trapped him, doesn't seem to have changed very much and we've had to keep him in quarantine. He's in slightly better shape, since bunny_hugger thought to float a piece of styrofoam on the quarantine tank and now he has a hiding spot. This is important given that he's in quite shallow water. But we can't tell that he's actually recovering any and that's upsetting.

You may recall our pet rabbit Sunshine, recently cleared of the sneezing that may be from pasteurella. She's been sneezing again. We have a vet's appointment for tomorrow. It's possible that she has chronic pasteurella and we'll just have to periodically give her injections to tamp it back under control. It's hard to say whether Sunshine more dislikes the injections in her back or the extra drops in her eyes. She is definitely not going to like me for this, even if all I have to do is bring her to the vet's. I'm the dedicated bad guy, but if last time is indicative, she'll lose her trust in bunny_hugger over the course of treatment too.

Through a summer that's seen a lot of animals destroying plants for weirdly petty reasons --- just last week bunny_hugger watched a squirrel get into one of the potted plants to roll around in the dirt --- one bright spot has been the cardinal flower. This has been a gorgeous spot of red in our goldfish pond, a spot so shaded that it can't support bright colors. And as the flower has been blooming, more and more, it's lifted her spirits ... until sometime Monday morning when an animal, probably a raccoon who's supposed to have been scared off by our raccoon-scarer, snapped the flower. And snapped the plant stem in another spot, for good measure.

And bunny_hugger's computer, a Late 2012 model MacBook Pro that she's had five years, had been acting up. The trackpad going crazy, spawning random window movements and the creation of new desktop windows, spontaneously. Then the keyboard started to malfunction, with useful letters like 'd' not registering at all or registering multiple times. We planned Wednesday to go to Michigan's Adventure amusement park (and did), so brought her computer to the local Apple shop up the street. They took it and gave a receipt and then said they'd be able to look at it Friday. The statement was so odd we couldn't ask ... well ... could we take the computer back, then, and bring it in on Friday? It never occurred to me they'd need more than one or two days to work on it.

But no, so, bunny_hugger tried to carry on with her previous computer, a 2007 MacBook, as substitute. This is not a computer up to moden computing challenges like ``reading e-mail''. Although the keyboard is great, and the computer makes a satisfying clunk sound to lock closed, it's not a productive machine. Still, come Friday, we got from the shop the news ... uh ... nothing, actually. bunny_hugger carried on trying to prep class in-between cursing herself out for bringing the computer in to the shop. Still, Monday would be a new day and the worst that could happen ...

... all right, was what happened Monday.

So the shop had a break-in early in the morning. The thieves got the computers in the workroom --- bunny_hugger's and another person's --- plus a couple from the display floor that were easy to grab before running off. One of the display ones was a circa 2002 iMac that was still around because ??? ?? ? ????. But you can imagine how happy bunny_hugger was to know that her computer was now ... something the insurance company was going to deal with.

The shop wrote a check for the approximate value of the laptop, of course, and had it ready in a couple hours. bunny_hugger needs to shop for an get her new computer, and hopefully soon. She can use my computer for the stuff that the 2007 MacBook absolutely will not do, but it's inconvenient having to go to that bother.

Anyway thank you all for your kind words but if you really want to make things better please message me for enemies you could smite for us. Thank you.

Trivia: Owing to Rhode Island still using its 1663 charter as late as 1840 the city of Newport was entitled to six seats in the General Assembly, while Providence had four. In 1840 Newport had 9,000 residents; Providence, 23,000. Source: Rhode Island: A History, William G McLoughlin.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

PS: Reading the Comics, August 23, 2019: Basics of Logic Edition, the usual thing you expect to see here on a Sunday.


PPS: Oh, huh. It's my last Mexico City photos. Shame to post them on such a downer of a day but that's going to happen as long as I do photographs and journaling together.

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The dance floor at the end-of-conference reception. Also you can see a chair, letting you know that I was more 'sitting' than 'dancing', to everyone's relief.


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The hotel lobby, at checkout. The lobby had these caged pillars of flame that were just always running and added a nice bit of warmth to the lobby.


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Peering up in the lobby through a piece of abstract sculpture and the zig-zag mesh of escalators which lead to event space. The rooms were in a separate tower of the building and so far as I know inaccessible except through the first floor.


Tuesday, August 27th, 2019
12:10 am
Keep feeling fascination

We got to Pittsburgh by about 9:30, delayed some by construction at the very end that forced us to abandon the satellite navigator and make some hopeful guesses about how to navigate the city streets. Check-in for Pinburgh was at the same bar as last year, a spot it was hard enough to find parking for (really we had to be patient for a spot to open up). This year admission to ReplayFX, the convention, would be granted by an elastic wristband, a great improvement on last year's daily paper wrist straps. Admission to Pinburgh, the pinball tournament within the convention, was by a large badge on a lanyard. Really good design; we liked it.

And then we went to check in. We had, long ago, planned to room with JTK and CVK. JTK had reserved two Embassy Suite rooms at the wonderfully low employee rate, when he worked for another hotel in the chain. Last fall he lost his job with the hotel, but he thought this shouldn't affect his reservation, already made. A few months ago he admitted that he happened to check and found something strange, that instead of two rooms there was just the one reserved. This threatened trouble: MWS is, by every account, a world-class snorer. The sort of person whose snores sound like three trains crashing together. And the trains need CPAP machines. We could not sleep in the same room as he did, and he agreed with that.

Well, but. We'd been at this Embassy Suites before. The rooms are very large. There's, like it says, a suite of rooms. If we had the bedroom and MWS slept in the other end of the living room, several miles away, it might not be too bad. JTK and CVK could sleep on the fold-out bed. We might make this work and oh, two weeks before Pinburgh JTK mentioned that he had a friend who was coming along. And that was just our limit. It was hard enough to figure how we'd manage the morning bathroom situation with five people; with six? Even if that sixth was not going to the tournament and so could try to sleep through five people showering and dressing? No.

We had already reserved our own hotel room, fearing that JTK's reservation would be refused by Embassy Suites on the grounds that he was not actually an employee and hadn't been one for nearly a year now. Or, my suspicion, that he had never made one and was confabulating excuses in the hopes something would turn up. We also had the fear that while rooms in the Embassy Suites are supposed to all be suites, there were rumors of some that were just the bedroom and bathroom, and that JTK might have got one of those instead.

JTK was as good as his word, though: there was the suite, and MWS was able to stay in it as planned, although he had waited until the day-of to cancel his backup hotel room. Conceivably the whole thing might have worked, and our bank accounts would have been larger, had we trusted more in JTK but I just had no confidence at all.

Our hotel room was in the Drury, a reservation which originally belonged to JDO and transferred to us in the last-minute flurry of Pinburgh hotel room exchanges. The clerk at check-in pointed out that we could eat at Condado Tacos, right outside the back door and not half a block north of us. This was tempting and we would get to the tacos-built-to-order place several times over the weekend. But I thought that would be too long a wait since every time we'd visited it the place was packed. I thought we could just go to a 7-Eleven and get something small and simple and fast. The catch is the only 7-Eleven I knew in the area was attached to the Doubletree Inn where we'd stayed last year. I knew the way to navigate there. I did not know that the sidewalk to there was closed for reconstruction. I was not at all confident in my ability to navigate around this. If this seems petty to you remember that we haven't got smart phones so we would have to guess at the downtown Pittsburgh street layout at night and hurry before the 7-Eleven's closing time. (Don't laugh; this one had a closing hour last year. Not so this year.)

So without a better idea we went to the Burger King, which didn't even have a Coke Freestyle machine, but which offered us the chance to get onion rings (me) and fries (bunny_hugger). And have another encounter with MWS, JTK, CVK, and Other Person, who similarly wanted to get something to eat and had no better ideas themselves. It was, at least, something to eat and something to drink and we could get ready for bed, and for Pinburgh, before it was too late.

We had pinball to play in the morning.

Trivia: John Bates's 1836 Directory of Stage Coach Services lists 342 scheduled daily departures from London. 275 of them were run by three enterprises. Source: The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: More picture from that Wednesday, our last full day in Mexico City:

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Talk being given inside that mock courtroom classroom. The presentation, as you can see, was about the rabbits of Okunoshima, the famous Rabbit Island of all those viral videos of rabbits swarming people. We had thought the Rabbit Island rabbits, honestly, sad things because they've far overpopulated the available food and will chase down people --- who're feeding unhealthy things like carrots (too sugary) --- because they're starving. But the evidence suggests that the rabbits don't seem necessarily worse off than those in actual balanced ecosystems, except it's hard to be sure because it's hard to do the rigorous science in the face of political complications. It's all complicated and a little messy.


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The end of the day, and the conference: we were shepherded back to the bus stop, here, to return to the hotel.


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And here's the reception, back at the hotel, congratulating everyone still there for the end of the conference. There's a DJ playing 80s (American) music videos in the background somewhere.

Monday, August 26th, 2019
12:10 am
Miss the start, miss the end

It was another week where my mathematics blog didn't do comics on the Sunday! Also, it was a week with the biggest event of my mathematics-blogging year.

So, um, I guess that reveals what the big event is. All right, then.

In the story comics, I revealed What's Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Did The Phantom Save Kadia's Mother?. A plot recap for June through August 2019 of that strip.

And now back to Mexico City --- we're in the last week of my pictures of the place! --- and photographs of what a university looks like when it's in Mexico City.

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Inspirational, we inferred, sign posted in the (much smaller, more mundane) classroom where bunny_hugger's talk would be. The School of Law donated many classrooms and facility space to the Minding Animals conference, a generous donation that made us wonder ... like ... didn't they need the classrooms? The semester had started, right? Didn't they have classes too? Anyway, I love ``privilegio'' since it looks exactly like what you'd make up as the Spanish word for privilege if you were caught off guard and desperately bluffing your way through.


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And a look at the classroom, as bunny_hugger prepares to talk, and people running the conference try to get her slides to appear on the computer.


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Scene from the campus quad. The tree's pillar certainly seems like it should host a plaque but as best I remember it doesn't have anything there now.


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Picture of one of the classroom buildings. The hallways are open to the outdoors; while they're covered, there's not really an 'indoors', a style of building I knew well from Singapore.


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More of the campus, including a nice open brick pavilion noticed while we walked around during a break in the day.


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Spot of art put onto the roof of a bike shelter.


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And looking out form the shelter towards some greens where a healthy number of people were enjoying the afternoon.


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Some more context of where the bike shelter and all that was.


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Campus cafeteria that we didn't visit because the conference provided snacks. I did notice the barbed wire coils on the roof which at one point I sort of knew the story about. I think they were put up in the aftermath of some rather dramatic student protests.


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Just more of what campus looks like; this is a nicely shaped tree between the cafeteria of the previous picture and some adjacent buildings.


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Regular old campus bulletin board. The TOEFL prep flyer seemed weirdly out of place for all that logic tells me, of course there'd be the need for this stuff in Mexico City.


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Returning to the conference, which had most of its coffee breaks and such outside. The sloping building in back was another one used for conference panels. It was made up to look like a rather respectable-looking courtroom and we supposed it was used for mock trials and such.


Trivia: Amelia Simmons's American Cookery, published in 1796, was the first (known) American-penned cookbook, marking the first print appearance of recipes for national dishes like slapjack, Indian pudding, and jonnycake. Source: Food In History, Reay Tannahill.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

Sunday, August 25th, 2019
12:10 am
And many fantasies were learned on that day

When we last visited Altoona, Pennsylvania, it was to visit two area parks. Tipton, yes. But in the actual heart of Altoona? Lakemont Park, an even older amusement park, one with Leap The Dips, the world's oldest standing roller coaster. The last remaining side-friction coaster, the kind of coaster that predates the 1920 invention of upstop wheels that make it impossible for a car to fly off the tracks. (The side-friction is channels which return a car quickly to the tracks if it leaps off on a dip.) It'd be absurd to visit DelGrosso's and not visit this park, twenty minutes closer to Pittsburgh, with such a noteworthy roller coaster.

When we last visited Lakemont, the park was sleepy, small but puttering on all right Four roller coasters, one of them a kiddie coaster, and maybe a dozen and a half flat rides. The bumper cars was where bunny_hugger and I had our first, and to date only, emergency-stopped ride (a child began crying, to the point of panic). A pleasant day, especially given the $5 pay-one-price admission.

The park did not open in 2017. Nor in 2018. We weren't sure it would open in 2019. Arguably it hasn't. Where DelGrosso's has had a grand decade of growth and expansion, Lakemont has had a crushing one. The park has had an extinction event, management selling off nearly all the adult rides --- three of the roller coasters and an antique car ride survive --- and replacing much of the landscape with miniature golf courses and basketball courts and the like. They've shifted to being more a family entertainment center, with only a handful of rides and none of the other stuff that makes an amusement park.

It's a sad state, by our lights. It's hard to argue that Lakemont Park isn't just gone, the way Tuscorah Park in New Philadelphia, Ohio, is simply a city park with some rides. The land is owned by Altoona, and there's a covenant that it has to serve public amusement, but covenants are flexible things right up to the point they can be broken. Leap the Dips seems likely to stay reasonably safe --- it's on the historic-landmark registry --- but that, too, could become a museum piece instead of a real amusement.

But what's left? That would interest us? Well, the antique-car ride. Skyliner, a wooden roller coaster relocated from Roseland Park, in Canandaigua, New York, back when Boyer Candy briefly owned Lakemont in the 1980s. (Canandaigua, in the Finger Lakes, is near Seabreeze and Darien Lake and other parks we visited in June.) Leap the Dips. Maybe the miniature golf. We'd want to see these at least. MWS would want to get his roller coaster credits. Skyliner could be his 99th and --- oh, well. MWS doubts he'll ever have another roller coaster milestone, a 150th or 200th or 250th ride; he just can't travel like we do. To have his lone milestone coaster be on the oldest roller coaster in the world? That would be sweet.

It also couldn't be. While Lakemont has opened, if you call it open, Leap the Dips still has not. The park keeps insisting they're working on getting it open, but it wasn't and there was nothing to do about that. We did tell the ticket-takers, you know, if you just let us we'd push the train car up to the top of the hill, and they chuckled, as if every roller coaster fanatic hasn't told them the same joke dozens of times this summer.

The Leap the Dips station was out there, in the open, not roped off or anything. There was just the ladder leaning against its tallest level, with the wood structure partly painted. We could go up to the track and even touch it, or touch either of the cars set beside the track. We refrained from actually sitting in them, since we don't want to make life that hard for the staff. But, you know, we looked and we thought about it.

And that was our looking, longing, at things that might be. We did some looking at things that used to be --- pointing out, for example, the building that used to be the arcade where we found a Star Trek: The Next Generation and an Iron Man pinball game. Or roughly the locations where, before there were tennis courts and miniature golf, there had been a Toboggan roller coaster (sold, possibly scrapped). We bought tickets, for a couple of Skyliner rides and a miniature golf round.

Skyliner was also diminished from what it had been. This was not the fault of the park's extinction-level event. It was instead the fault of an accident at Idlewild Park, in Ligonier, about an hour east of Pittsburgh. On Rollo Coaster, a 1937-built roller coaster, an adult rode on the inside, with the kid on the outside, and the kid fell out of the train on one of its turns. This prompted an inquiry into park safety and nearly every Pennsylvania park has added seat belts to its rides. Rollo Coaster had no seat belts, nor even a restraining bar to lock down; just a bar to grab on. The ride is not so violent that this should be dangerous, if someone who's too big to slide out of the one open door slot isn't seated right next to it. But to explain that a seat belt really isn't needed for most wooden roller coasters? Especially classic older ones? Knoebels is confident in this and willing to maintain the point. Other parks? Not so much.

So Skyliner had new seat belts, which the ride operators seemed resigned to making us wear. MWS and bunny_hugger sat in the front row. I sat in the second and only as the train left the station realized I could have taken the back seat. It's as well that I didn't. As we left the station I spotted a wild cottontail rabbit, grazing by the fence between the park and the Altoona Curves' minor-league baseball stadium, and could bring their attention to a rabbit who'd gone off hiding by the time our ride was finished. Also the ride was a bit rough and it might have been too much in the back seat, which is typically the roughest ride on a train. Skyliner is a great ride for air time, and the seat belts cut some of that down ... but, they can't defeat the ride, especially since my sense is the ride operators don't take them seriously. It is a wonderful roller coaster and if it's running rough, well, it's amazing Lakemont can make it run at all, these days. And so MWS logged his 99th roller coaster.

We didn't go on the Antique Cars ride; we like these kinds of rides but it's just not that important to us. We did look at the Little Leaper, a standard-model Allan Herschell Little Dipper kiddie coaster. It'd be a silly 100th for MWS, but he did look over at a group of people just leaving the ride. He thought they might have been adults. At least teenagers. After a while we was convinced they were kids. He did eventually ask the ticket-taker, just to be sure, that this was for kids only. bunny_hugger doesn't remember for certain whether they told him there was a weight limit or a height limit.

The park has got, now, two miniature golf courses. One of them occupies the space that used to be a half-dozen rides. We had our choice and went for what's clearly the more juvenile of them. The more mature and probably challenging course just looked standard. The other course --- well, it's named Rabbit Hole Mini Golf. Each hole has a name, something like ``Raccoon in the Corn''. The holes have obstacles made up to look like Pennsylvania fauna and flora, and each hole comes with a plaque explaining some aspect of Pennsylvania wildlife. How could we resist? Most of the holes are pretty fun, too. The plaques may be debated --- it's nice to hear ``the Eastern raccoon is one of our most intelligent wildlife species'', but after all, there's no meaningful way to compare intelligence between species.

Many of the holes are great fun. There was one wild moment, a fishing-theme hole, on which MWS hit his ball not hard enough to get up the steep ramp (to the boat). His second try, his ball went missing and he supposed it got stuck in the ramp mechanism. I peeked into the hole, to find the ball had landed there in a belated hole-in-one, and accused MWS of humblebragging. He swears he had no idea. Later, bunny_hugger, who had a lousy round, did get her ball stuck in the ramp mechanism.

Some of the props were simple plywood boards clamped to stand vertically. This seemed like an invitation to vandalism. Already the fisherman's pole had been broken off, and this for an attraction that just opened earlier this summer. Another hole, the catfish hole, had one fin on the catfish broken off, turning what would be the intended and very hard shot --- through the fish's mouth --- into a mere choice and the one you should avoid taking. So the plywood stuff seems like a curious design choice. Maybe it's economical, or more easily repaired than something more solid would be.

We played the last few holes quickly. It was getting on 7 pm, which we figured was when we would have to finish, take our last ride on Skyliner, and head for Pittsburgh. It's hard for me and bunny_hugger to play swiftly, but we did. The last hole --- the 18th, rather than a 19th --- had one of those holes that's supposed to always drain no matter what you hit, and MWS's ball failed to drain. He had to reach through the fence and nudge it.

I rode in the front seat for our second and final Skyliner ride, no less wonderful even if we didn't see any rabbits around. And, while MWS was in the bathroom, I dashed over to get some more snaps of Leap the Dips from the other side. We would leave too soon to photograph it in the best twilight light, but we were there at all, and that's something.

Trivia: Cyrus W Field's 1882 Washington Building, at 1 Broadway, was the first twelve-story building in New York City. Source: The Epic of New York City, Edward Robb Ellis.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace. I know it seems like I've been reading this forever, and I have, but it's like 1100 pages and I'm finally more than halfway through!


PS: So now the final full day, one that I spent mostly at the UNAM campus with bunny_hugger, whose talk --- the reason we were in Mexico City at all --- was that day.

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Lecture hall getting ready for the keystone address (not bunny_hugger's) that day. You can see how academia in Latin America looks completely different to what you get in the United States.


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Quick glimpse back; people were still getting organized and filing into the lecture hall.


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One speaker had to address the crowd over the Internet and so we had the traditional several minutes of people trying to get the tech to work.


Saturday, August 24th, 2019
12:10 am
Until the sun went down

Check-out at the Red Roof Inn was noon or so. We had to be in Pittsburgh to check in for Pinburgh by 10 pm Wednesday. We got some food at the gas station near our hotel and then got on the road. Knoebels is not near Pittsburgh, but it's only a roughly four-hour drive, and ... there was something to break up the trip. Two somethings. Two somethings with two roller coasters each.

The first, as we journeyed, was DelGrosso's Amusement Park, in Tipton, a town just outside Altoona. Just as featured repeatedly in Bill Bettwy's Take It From The Tinkersons, one of those comic strips it seems like I have to somehow be making up. It's another Pennsylvania free-admission park, where you can buy a wristband for unlimited rides or buy tickets per ride. Also pay nothing for parking. This was bunny_hugger's and my first time there since our 2013 Pennsylvania Parks Tour. This was also our first time since a 2015(?) renovation expanded the water park and changed the layout of the entrance, across the road from the main part of the park, which made us worse than useless in offering parking advice. Well, the lot was free anyway.

We'd barely got there when we had a dilemma: the park's Starlite admission, pay-one-price at a lower rate, started at 4 pm, barely 90 minutes from then. We did have something else we might do ... but it would involve putting in some backtracking to our trip. We debated a while whether this would make sense anyway and finally concluded that we'd have to ride a lot of things to make even the Starlite admission make sense. And given when we would have to leave in order to make it to Pittsburg before 10 pm? Ideally, before 9 pm so we weren't crushed? This would be unlikely. So we walked the pedestrian footbridge, over the vast water park, and bought tickets for the rides we figured we would take.

Which were two kinds of things. The roller coasters, of course. The antique carousel. DelGrosso's has a 1924 Spillman carousel. And --- this might be unique, and it's so wondrous you'd think it something about Knoebels --- they were the first owners. This is one of the few, possibly only, antique carousels still at its first home.

It's not that the park hasn't got more rides. bunny_hugger and I could certainly make a half-day of it. Possibly a full day. But we were stopping in to see the place on the way between other things.

So our first ride was their small roller coaster, a Wacky Worm, a small, knee-banging roller coaster much like the Max's Doggy Dog Coaster at Fantasy Island, which we'd ridden a month and a half earlier. There's also one at Gillian's Wonderland Pier, which we'd visited in 2017. You get two loops on it and that's, you know? That's enough. MWS got his 97th roller coaster credit here.

Then on to their bigger roller coaster, the Crazy Mouse. This is a spinning wild mouse coaster, the same ride as the Raton Loco at La Feria, and the Crazy Mouse at Fantasy Island. Also the same ride as the Exterminator at Kennywood, a thing that MWS could not believe. The Exterminator is indoors, and interacts with the functioning subset of the ride animatronics and special effects, which makes it seem different. We started over there and ... oh. The ride was stopped. There were cars --- a wild mouse roller coaster has individual cars, not trains --- at several points on the track just sitting there. There were mechanic-type people walking around looking at things. The queue was dispersing. We had to just hope the ride would resume.

So we went to the carousel instead, and got a ride on that. It's a nice modest one, three rows of horses, with the scenery panels depicting wildlife and sure looking like some of them are about fairy tales. They don't have the brass ring game. They do have a ``circa 1924'' Wurlitzer 146B band organ, though.

After our ride the Crazy Mouse was running again, so we hurried over before anything went wrong. Despite the comic strip's rendition, the car doesn't spin as you go up the lift hill. Different instances of this ride start the spinning at different points; the one at DelGrosso's waits for about the last third of the ride to release the mechanism that makes this spin. The roller coaster also gives us the best view of the DelGrosso's factory, which makes spaghetti sauce and other foods, and which family owns the amusement park. (They've owned it since 1947, but for unknown reasons kept the original name --- Bland's, for the family that first owned the place --- until this century.) With this, MWS logged his 98th roller coaster. And we had a nice brief chat with some of the operators about the park.

This covered the most important things we went to the park for. We did want to do a bit more, to enjoy some of the park's local flavor. We got a ride on the Tipton Creek Railroad, their miniature train, which putters around mostly in the woods but does go back behind the Crazy Mouse too. I also noticed the historical marker, the Original Site of Logan Valley Presbyterian Church, 1845 AD, which space is now a Dippin' Dots ice cream and the Crazy Mouse. We thought about riding their Trabant, which has a roulette-wheel-themed design, but we never saw an operator at the ride. I speculated they were sharing an operator with the Super Round Up next to it.

We took a second ride on the carousel, and then the three of us went to the bumper cars. Better, there was a nearly full set of riders, so that we could have an exciting time of it. Yes, bunny_hugger slammed against me a couple times, but I was doing pretty well with my objective of cruising with enough sudden changes of speed and direction to confuse everyone. And then bunny_hugger and I rode the Crazy Mouse again. MWS refrained, and I'm not sure why, except that perhaps he'd felt the ride too nauseating (he gets motion sick) for the fun it is.

Besides some snacks when we set out we hadn't eaten, which will make one more prone to motion sickness. (The stereotype about throwing up on a ride after you've eaten is, in our experience, completely backwards. At least if we're talking about normal meals.) Happily, DelGrosso's is a really good food park. If you visit, get the potato salad. We went to one stand to get a pound of potato salad, splitting between me and bunny_hugger, and her worries that this was too much for us melted in the face of our actually eating the whole thing. We also got some pizza, yes, just like in that comic strip. And then we went back to the water park area, as MWS had gone there to get, I think it was, a cheesesteak. Here bunny_hugger started to curse herself because we hadn't gone to the rides park's gift shop to see if they had anything good, particularly Christmas ornaments. The water park gift shop, on that side, had stuff, but no good ornaments or, for me, T-shirts. They also had spaghetti sauce that I thought seriously about getting as DelGrosso's sauces don't make it to mid-Michigan.

But bunny_hugger didn't think we had time to go back across the road again, to the rides park gift shop. Really we needed to get back on the road. So we waved goodbye to an Altoona-area amusement park that's had a very good decade, and drove in the direction of Pittsburgh.

Trivia: Edison's ``Improvement in the Automatic Telegraph'', patent number 213,554, allowed the recording and repeating of telegraph messages at speeds of two hundred words per minute. Source: Edison, A Biography, Matthew Josephson.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: And I leave the Bosque Tlalpan and its museum. Close of the Monday in Mexico City.

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Sign outside the museum explaining its origin and purpose.


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Some kind of maintenance work being done just behind the front door to the museum.


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Movie poster for yet another animated film we saw advertised there, and which we didn't know anything about. But I like the dragon-y phoenix-ish creatures on the outsides there. And I'm curious about the floating women, although not quite curious enough to go looking the movie up.


Friday, August 23rd, 2019
12:10 am
The woods are just trees, the trees are just wood

It's Thursday, so you know what that means. It means I disappoint bunny_hugger by interrupting the narrative of our lives together to recount the stuff posted to my humor blog the past week. For example there was all this:

I did eventually turn around, in the Bosque Tlalpan, and start walking back down the trail. I'm not sure just when in my pictures I did. But the stuff here is from that return leg.

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Some building deep in the woods with a purpose I could not discern. It's apparently not being closely watched most of the time.


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And a nice spot in the forest. I never would find the extent of the trail up the hill, but now you've got a good idea what it all looked like.


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Local squirrel as seen from down below, close to the start of the trail.


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It's possible that one of the Mexican grey squirrels has noticed me. Look at the twist on those feet.


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Black squirrel also noticing me and none too happy about it.


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I belive this is a different black squirrel but you can see how popular the area is. I wonder what it is attracting so many to a spot near the food stalls where people converge?


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Woman disregarding the signs ordering people not to play dice with the squirrels.


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Another squirrel having some fun with a peanut.


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Strrrrrrretch.


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One of a bank of food stalls at the entrance of the park.


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Near the entrance of the park was that museum; it's devoted to local culture. Here's the stage, which I caught in-between shows.


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Looking back from the stage --- see the rows of audience seating --- and looking to the paintings and pictures on both floors. I quite like the style of balconies here.


Trivia: In organizing its Arizona Territory the Confederate Congress made no provision for the territory residents to organize their own constitution; it could only frame one on applying for statehood. Source: Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America, William C Davis.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

PS: The Fall 2019 Mathematics A To Z Is Looking Good so I'll be ready to take subject nominations soon.

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
12:10 am
And so the conversation turned

The first thing we did after Black Diamond was another ride on Phoenix, no less wonderful. We waited for the back seat this time, not long, considering how sunny and hot it was. After that ... you know, Knoebels has a log flume ride, the Giant Flume. It's your classic 80s style, including two drops and a fair bit of puttering around in the woods. bunny_hugger examined how wet people on the ride got, and decided this was acceptable. She and I went on it. MWS, less fond of log flumes than we are --- even despite his missing the one chance he'd have to ride Kennywood's Log Jammer --- stayed behind, only to drop a coin in the water cannon as we came around the viewing area. bunny_hugger got soaked. I didn't get too badly wet.

But as we left the ride we noticed they were not sending out new boats. MWS pointed out how he had spotted one tree branch knocked over by the wind, ready to fall, terribly close to the channel. He pointed that out to ... someone ... and trusted they'd act on that. But the ride closure was because there was a storm front moving in. The weather had forecast a high chance of afternoon showers, but only for about two hours. We had stowed rain gear in the car which was, yes, on the opposite side of the park. But if the rain wasn't too bad we could just go to indoor attractions.

Such as the Cosmotron II, an indoor Himalaya ride whose name seems independent of their mascot Kosmo. The II refers to how the ride had originally been an indoor Caterpillar. It was converted from the near-extinct ride to the common-style one in a 1998 renovation. The ride came from West View Park, in Pittsburgh, the amusement park finally knocked out of business when Kennywood put together a major expansion in the mid-70s. The centerpiece of that expansion was the Log Jammer. You see how much of everything Knoebels is.

When we got out of this ride the light rain had become a heavy rain. We huddled for a brief while under some trees. Then joined a small crowd hiding from the intense rains under the overhang of a nearby building. bunny_hugger bravely went around the edge to see if there were anywhere to run there. There was not. We would brave it, running through the monsoon to a food stand, and on their advice, over to a games stand with much more overhang space. I checked the map and figured our best route to the Fascination parlor.

MWS played Fascination all the time until Cedar Point removed their parlor in the early 2000s. bunny_hugger and I discovered the game on our first-anniversary trip to Wildwood in 2013, and discovered it at Knoebels in 2014. I'm confident some of MWS's interest in the park was the chance to play Fascination again. Which, thanks in part to the rain, had a good dozen and a half people playing. We would spend something like a half hour and at least ten bucks each at fifty cents a throw, bunny_hugger winning five tickets and MWS four, three of which he would trade in for a little bag of vending-machine cookies and one that he kept as souvenir.

This all gave the rain time to lessen, to a mere steady drizzle. We went to a drinks stand and found the white birch beer soda, as hoped for, and stayed under cover while the rain finally petered out.

Then we visited the Haunted Mansion, the ride-through dark ride and the only ride not part of the pay-one-price wristband plan. (This kind of attraction tends to insist on paid admission so as to deter bored people riding enough to know what they can vandalize and how.) This was great and MWS admitted at least one stunt took him by surprise for all that he knew logically it must be coming and soon.

Now it was my turn to take out the increasingly soggy and sad-looking park map to find the Stein and Goldstein carousel. This is the older, and smaller, of Knoebels's carousels. It's been at Knoebels less long, but more times: the National Carousel Association census says the park had it from 1948 to 1950, and then it spent a quarter-century at other Pennsylvania parks before returning in 1976. The carousel has only an inner and an outer row of horses, and no brass ring game. It has got its own band organ, though, and scenery panels depicting the local settings. The Grand Carousel has panels showing off comic scenes with witty titles like a man being spanked under the title 'Collecting His Rent', a nervous-looking man sheepishly entering his apartment at five minutes to four while an angry woman looks on, titled 'Good Morning', or a panel showing a woman playing baseball labelled 'In The Future'. I take it these are carefully restored from a distant past origin.

Incidentally that origin-story for Dexter Raccoon has him part of the team that repaired and repainted the Stein and Goldstein carousel after the 2011 flood, although you can't really tell what parts a raccoon painted.

Next to this carousel is, as the sign says, the Frick Steam Tractor, and a panel about the Knoebel Sawmill. This is all marked 'Retired', though, although there's still the remains of a wood shop there and it's not like long-abandoned remains or anything.

Here we went to the Carousel Shop, which includes a museum to the carousels, and things like the bill of sale for the Grand Carousel. It also has the remnants of Knoebels' first carousel, which they'd acquired in 1926 when the campground started getting rides. They sold it in 1941, and the carousel itself was destroyed by Hurricane Diane in 1955. Two horses survived and they display one of them in the museum. As I say, it's a legitimate if small museum.

Here's where we did our main souvenir-shopping, too, taking a quick trip after this back to the car now that our rain gear wouldn't be useful. Along our way out we took a ride on the Roto-Jet, one of the uncovered rides coming back into operation finally. This is an old ride, one that's fading away from parks. You the rider get to control whether you fly high, or low, or in-between on its posts and a dive is great; it just takes a car a long while to rise again on its pneumatic arms.

We didn't take our rain gear from the car. That was hardly needed. We might have gotten slightly warmer clothes, if we'd brought them though. The storm had blown away the intense heat and now it was ... just a little chilly. And muggy, in that way. This did not make the park any more crowded, though. Maybe the great heat kept the afternoon crowds from being too big. Maybe the storm and the sudden cool kept the evening crowds from being too big. We had the park experience you hope for, when you only have the one day to allocate to a park, one without many or long lines.

We had about two hours left in the park day. So we went for what we most wanted to do again, particularly another turn on the Grand Carousel, with bunny_hugger riding the lead horse, the well-armored one that you see on, like, carousel jigsaw puzzles. A stop for an Old Mill Sundae, having possibly more ice cream than was wise, which we sat down next to the old-mill-mechanism that makes rotate the roofs of several picnic pavilions. Another ride on the Black Diamond, which MWS liked better this time. And ...

MWS had looked at the Super Round-Up with that eye of a person who's worried this would make him motion sick. He'd taken meclazine, as had bunny_hugger, but still. The Super Round-Up was my one most favorite ride of all time, as a kid, at Great Adventure, but I could accept my companions not wanting to ride it. MWS asked several questions about what its ride motion was like, though, and just how bad it might be. The Super Round-Up just spins, and you feel yourself pressed into the gym-mat-style backing. Then the spinning platform rises up so that it's spinning at maybe a 45 degree incline to the ground. Then it slowly lowers and comes to a stop. MWS decided to risk it, and I was delighted for the chance. And that's how we got a twilight ride on the Super Round-Up and MWS found it pretty enjoyable.

And then on to more night rides on roller coasters: Phoenix with its beautiful atom-symbol crown on the top of the first hill and Twister and then a stop at a shooting gallery. Flying Turns again, which had a shorter line than the morning, and which we knew and accepted we'd have to ride in separate cars. And, to close the night, Impulse, getting to finally see the ride without the vertical lift hill making us stare into the sun. .... And, since the queue had not quite closed, a re-ride on Impulse, taking one more chance to appreciate the color-shifting-LEDs imitating neon lights of the station. And ... ooh. It had passed 10 pm, but they hadn't closed the queue yet. Knoebels does a soft closing, each ride taking its last passengers when some spirit moves them. We could get another ride in ... but, no, that seemed like a bit too much for us all. Impulse is a fun ride, but it's a bit of an intense one and without any wait time to speak of between rides? That's a bit much.

We did a last little bit of shopping; I kept thinking I might see a T-shirt that I liked. For as much as I like Knoebels (and Kennywood) I haven't got a ride shirt from either. I did get Cosmo and Dexter miniature plushes, though, and they've joined the mass of amusement park plush overflowing the display table in our dining room.

We never did get a real proper dinner at Knoebels; we went for Sundaes instead of, say, pierogies. So we stopped at the Taco Bell near our hotel and got just enough to not feel like we hadn't had any actual food, and went to our respective hotel rooms to sleep surprisingly early and soundly.

Trivia: The computer guidance system of the Minuteman missile system used fifteen thousand discrete circuits. That of Minuteman II used four thousand discrete and two thousand integrated circuits . Source: A History of Modern Computing, Paul E Ceruzzi.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: I reveal what it was I saw in that picnic area at the Bosque Tlalpan.

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Ah, there we are. Look dead center and then down about one-fourth of the way, on top of the wall. There's a little vertical streak in the rocks underneath it. It's a local reptile of some kind. I'm going to say a skink because that name sounds right. It hung around a while before deciding whatever my deal was, it didn't need it, and it vanished somewhere into the wall.


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A small channel running beside the wall. I interpreted this as something to carry rainwater away, although it's given enough twists and turns and varied levels to make it interesting and I wonder if it's an imitation of a creek path or something that locals would recognize.


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And an exit from the picnic area back to the main pathways.


Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
12:10 am
The forming of a new connection to study or to play

It was hot at Knoebels. Really hot. Low 90s at least, maybe mid-90s. We had to get something to eat, and drink, and before the heat and surprise intensity of Tumbling Timbers got us sick. Happy to say, Knoebels has food. Lots of food. Lots of quite good food; they routinely win awards for park food. As the park is free parking and admission, it's not absurd to just drive to the park to eat lunch. We'd figured to eat here anyway; this was a good moment for it. MWS stopped at one of the stands offering some barbecue-based lunch. bunny_hugger got some pasta dish, I think, and regretted not getting the burritos or vice-versa. I got a hoagie from the Dexter's Deli stand.

Dexter Raccoon is one of the two sidekick mascots the park's picked up this decade, accompanying Kozmo Chipmunk. They even have a charming little book in the gift store, expansion of a story that used to be on their web site, about how Kozmo discovered the injured and lost Dexter after the 2011 Flood and found a place where he could be. The story's so odd that I wonder if they did find an injured young raccoon after that flood. Why, if they were just making up characters, not just make him female and get, you know, a girl mascot? ... And by the way, they got a girl mascot the past year or two, a fox whose name I could not remember. It's Piper. Kozmo and Dexter wear their names on their shirts. Piper doesn't get such consideration. They also have a mascot for their Halloween event, Hall-o-Fun. This is a ghost with a jack-o-lantern head, and that character's named Creeper. ... Anyway, no, I didn't go to Dexter's Deli out of an interest in raccoon solidarity. I figured a hoagie would be a good lunch and was right for me.

After lunch we got back to the serious roller coaster riding, resuming with Twister. This is another Knoebels moment, the (mirror-image) reconstruction of Mister Twister, from the Old Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver, closed in 1994. Think of the attitude of a park that serves the Wilkes-Barre population basin, reconstructing a beloved roller coaster from Denver. Twister opened in 1999, a fact we didn't think of until seeing the 'Fabulous & 20' birthday banner hanging from the launch station. There wasn't any line, either. bunny_hugger and MWS took the front seat and I went in the second row, thinking belatedly, I should have tried the back seat.

We were circumnavigating most of the park. We went past one of the many creeks, this one with swans worth looking over. And past the Crystal Pool, the great swimming pool which opened in 1926, and is probably why Knoebels is anything rather than just a campground area today. This was certainly drawing in a lot of the crowd and keeping them from the line ahead of us.

To the front. One of the food stands is The Loaf, and it's basically your corrugated-steel building except that the roof and sides are shaped and cladded to look like a great loaf of bread. I mention this because we spent time trying to work out whether the name 'LOAF' on it was rendered in fast-twinkling light bulbs or whether it was just reflectorized discs swaying in the sun. It took us a long while to come to consensus and even then we weren't perfectly sure until sunset, which proved it was reflectors.

We got to the front of the park for Impulse. This is Knoebels's newest roller coaster, their major steel one. And it's ... you know, it's not a bad roller coaster. It just lacks that odd quirkiness that seems distinctly Knoebels. It's a vertical-lift ride very like Hydrus at Casino Pier, or Untamed at Canobie Lake Park, or Tantrum at Darien Lake. Not the same model as these, but the similar kind of ride, with the great lift directly into the sun and then a great many twists and turns and loops over a tight footprint. It's a brand-new ride, the kind of thing you could just go to the manufacturer (Zierer, Josef-Wallner-Straße 5 Deggendorf, Bavaria) and buy. It doesn't have lore, which is its only flaw, and that only a flaw for something at Knoebels where we want everything to need a docent. My ride photo came out looking pretty good. bunny_hugger's face was hidden behind someone's hand. We didn't buy one.

Our next ride was Kozmo's Kurves, which is their kiddie coaster that they allow grown-ups on. It's a little thing, with one real loop and a ride cycle of three circuits on the train. It replaced the loved High Speed Thrill Coaster, which had served this role for 53 years. Kozmo's Kurves runs over the canal for a boat ride, and we saw a good number of boats going past that. And though a small ride it can still surprise people with its intensity and ability to bash knees in. We saw by one of the support legs an adult's baseball cap, lost for the rest of the day. Also the high-water mark for the 2011 flood.

Did I mention it was hot? It was hot. We stopped for some frozen lemonade and while drinking that saw Kozmo, the mascot in suit, being driven somewhere. He wasn't near us; he was just strapped in to the back of a golf cart-like scooter. We don't know if that was just to get him across the park to a scheduled show or whether when it's in the mid-90s and sunny they have the mascots do as little standing and walking as possible. We wouldn't see Dexter or Piper or Creeper.

One thing we knew about Knoebels and looked forward to was pinball. In the main arcade they had the Stern Star Wars, Game Of Thrones, a Theater of Magic that might well be the one we'd played our last visit, and the remake of Monster Bash; in a bar/secondary arcade they had a Twilight Zone. MWS noticed the Game of Thrones still had the default scores on its high score table, so suggested playing that. Now, Game of Thrones, the pinball, has been out a couple years. But it had just about two weeks before gotten a major new code update, one that completely changed the strategies and made the game as fresh and exciting as when it was new. Knoebels had the new code. So consider that: they don't just have pinball. They don't just keep their pinball in good shape. They were right on top of software patches that, objectively speaking, they could install at their leisure. When we got to Pinburgh I would play a Game of Thrones that pointedly did not have the new code installed. That's the kind of attention to even the boring little maintenance stuff that Knoebels will offer.

Would you call it a good omen for Pinburgh, the biggest pinball tournament in the world, starting in two days from this, that on his first game on this table in a location he'd never visited before, MWS became the grand champion, winning a bunch of credits? How about that on her second game, bunny_hugger became the grand champion? Or that on his third game, MWS became grand champion again? Would you call it a bad omen that my first game was ... pretty good, but nothing spectacular, nor high-score-table-worthy, and every game after that worse than my start? Well, who believes in omens anyway? By the end of the day the high score table was entirely bunny_hugger and MWS (more MWS than she) and the two dollars we'd put in to start had turned into very many games, with a bunch left to onlookers to play.

We did check in on the other pinball location, and played a ball-rolling game some, with just a short pause while one of bunny_hugger's balls somehow leapt above the plastic cover. We still have no idea how that happened. Didn't play Twilight Zone, though. We didn't think we should spend the whole day playing games that, after all, we could play back home too.

Beside the main arcade is the Grand Carousel, one of the park's centerpiece rides and the one that still has the Brass Ring game. MWS agreed that it was foolish to hurry past that in the rush for the last roller coaster at the park. Also he didn't know what we were talking about with the Brass Ring Game. I know that actually grabbing for the brass ring has almost vanished from amusement parks. People blame insurance companies. I suspect insurance companies are a convenient minor villain; the brass ring, after all, demands another ride operator and a steady expense in replacing lost rings, and with most parks having gone to pay-one-price models the expense hardly makes sense. But I thought the game, the thing being referenced in talk about grabbing for the brass ring, was still current.

So the ring game, as we explained to MWS. During the ride a wooden mechanical arm will reach out and dangle rings just within arm's reach of the riders of the outer row of horses, the ones that don't rise and fall. You get one chance every rotation of the machine to grab a ring. Grab the one brass ring and you win a free ride. Grab one of the many steel rings and you get a steel ring to return at the end of the ride. Knoebels, which still offers rides a la carte, gives you the $1.75 in tickets that a new ride would cost. MWS took to this game right away, and his first ride got, I think, eight of the ten rings he possibly could have. I started out great, collecting rings up until the next-to-the-last go-round. bunny_hugger had a similarly great record. None of us got the brass ring, nor would we all day. Which was a small disappointment. In each of our past visits bunny_hugger had gotten the brass ring at least once. This time around she only got one from the souvenir Carousel Shop.

The Grand Carousel still has the sign out front, beside one of its four, count 'em, four band organs, which says it used to be at a park in Rahway, New Jersey. At the legitimately interesting museum within Carousel Shop, they have the bill of sale, from Riverside Park in Piscataway, New Jersey, a completely different central Jersey city. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

But on to the last of the roller coasters, if you call it one. The Roller Coaster Database changed its mind and a couple years ago started listing it as one. This is the Black Diamond, a dark ride, the car puttering around a mining-theme ride. It goes through several levels, past daft coal miners and an explosion down into a surreal netherworld and the collapsed remains of Centralia, the famously abandoned town that's near enough to Knoebels. The abundant scenery, some of it animated with the train's movement, makes it feel more like a haunted-house ride. But if you just looked at the track you'd agree this is a roller coaster, even if it's not a very big or fast one. The ride used to be in Wildwood, where it was a gold-mine-themed area, since somehow every amusement park can do Old West stuff. At Knoebels it's been localized. bunny_hugger and I love it. MWS seemed to find it okay, possibly because it hasn't got a patch on the sorts of dark rides of a Disney park. He was cool to riding it again later on, but acquiesced, and said that he enjoyed it a good bit more the second time around, maybe now that he knew what kind of ride to expect.

It was about 4 pm now, and we had been at the park just over five hours, and we had gotten to all the roller coasters plus one of the two carousels. We had something like six hours left in the day, with all that any of us hoped to do yet being to ride the other, Stein-and-Goldstein, carousel; to play Fascination; to get some birch beer soda pop; and maybe pierogies or a sundae or something. Not that the only point to an amusement park is checking off objectives, but when you do have a place you can't get to often --- for MWS, possibly not get to again at all --- having the highest-priority things done is this great relief. You don't need to worry any longer that you're using your time badly. You can just let things happen.

Trivia: In 1269 England's King Henry III gave to Queen Eleanor the sole custody of London Bridge, for her personal use. Source: Old London Bridge: The Story of the Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe, Patricia Pierce.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

PS: Reading the Comics, August 16, 2019: The Comments Drive Me Crazy Edition, mostly about the Gregorian calendar, which is extremely me.


PPS: More of the playground area within the Bosque Tlalpan.

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And here's an actual hopscotch board (and the long chain is there in the background still) along with ... uh ... a touch-tone dial? (No.) I don't know what kids do anymore, sorry.


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The retaining wall and path into the playground area, as seen from below.


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And, oh, now, what's this? (Look dead-center. You can't possibly make it out but trust me.)

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
12:10 am
Just looking for a new direction in an old familiar way

bunny_hugger and I had been to Knoebels a couple times before, always on or near the weekend. This, a Tuesday, was our first midweek visit. We knew we'd want to be there at park open, to have the fullest chance to see the park. We also figured we'd have to fight a mob of traffic the last mile to Knoebels. So we set out early, and skipped getting breakfast, trusting we could eat at the park. The plan went well but the traffic was not there. We did, following MWS's satellite navigator, end up at the campground entrance and having to turn around at the southwest corner of the amusement park, at about the only posted signed intersection within the park. But we didn't encounter real traffic. Which, given this is a major park, and it was a gorgeous hot sunny day, was amazing.

It would turn out not to be a busy day, not for how lovely a day it was. Maybe going midweek makes that much of a difference. Or maybe it was hot enough that the locals figured they could go another day. The afternoon was above 90 degrees and while Knoebels is in the woods, pretty well-shaded, it's not that shaded. Certainly I was thirsty much of the day.

Well, we went to the park, buying wristbands and getting our hands stamped. I'd forgotten about the ink stamp (our word for the day was 'HAPPY') as part of the pay-one-price wristband stuff. MWS said he would keep track of the cost of the rides we went on, to see if it did pay out or if we'd have been financially better off buying tickets per ride instead. We did pay out, and by something like ten dollars, thanks in part to a lot of re-riding the last hours of the day. Something we did forget was that the ink would need time to dry, which we each realized as we went to the bathroom right after.

Not knowing that it wouldn't actually be a heavy park day we thought the thing to do was go to Flying Turns. This has to be the most Knoebels ride they have: the re-creation of an obscure kind of roller coaster which nobody had built in eighty years, and the last one of which had been torn down in the 60s. It's a kind of wooden bobsled coaster. Knoebels spent nearly a decade slowly building the thing and getting it to work; it opened about two months after our first visit to the park, in 2013, and we made a trip to the park in 2014 just to ride that. It's now five years old, and there's another, even newer, roller coaster in the park. But it's a roller coaster not so large or intimidating that people would shy away from it. And it has an extremely small capacity: each train can carry between three and six people. Our bet was if anything got a massive line, this would, so better to ride it before too many people were in the park. Our wait was something like twenty minutes, not at all bad, and it would be about the longest we'd wait for anything all day.

The ride carried with it a moment of dread. Any one car, of the three making up the train, can seat up to two people. It cannot carry more than 400 pounds in one car. In 2014, bunny_hugger and I fit in one car. Since then, I've gained weight. She has too, although less of it. But we've noticed it in things like older clothes fitting less well, and for me, how nice one pants size larger feels. The ride operator, taking people in, asked whether we'd fit together. ``We did last time,'' we said, truthfully. And when was that? ``... 2015,'' I said, getting the year wrong in a way that didn't matter. The ride operator looked skeptical and said they'd see.

The Flying Turns station does not do anything as gauche as show your weight. The loading station has a loose airport-gate theme, and little monitors say whether your flight is on time or not. You step onto pads that weigh you and if the total is more than 400 pounds, the ``flight on time'' screen switches to a ``please see gate agent'' message and you have to split into separate cars. bunny_hugger and I hoped, and took our cameras and iPods out of our pockets, stowing them on the side to save, what, a pound? Two? And ...

We did not make it.

So we would have to ride in separate cars, and this forced us to take a different train from MWS, and to renew our resolve to diet after Pinburgh. At the least, to have more bagged salad dinner than to have things we can put too much mayonnaise on. We'll see maybe next year if this makes a difference.

MWS professed to like the ride and it's easy to believe him. Flying Turns is not a very large or fast roller coaster, but for most of the course you are rolling free, in a tube but not on a track. And you are often going onto, or nearly onto, your side, so that it has this intensity from moving in strange ways close to the ground. Still, we were always worried that MWS was finding Knoebels disappointing. bunny_hugger and I love it, certainly, but it is nothing like, say, Walt Disney World, which MWS visits every year or two, or even Cedar Point, which hasn't got a Disney level of thoughtful planning but does have massiveness and newness to it. Knoebels is not small, not really, but it has age and quirkiness and many little bits to it. If you're charmed by the thought of the Looper, a ride in which you and a partner can push a lever together to roll your cage upside-down, you're charmed by Knoebels, which has what might be the last of this model ride in the world. Anyway, he's said, a lot, how much he enjoyed the park and I still worry that he's just being considerate of our feelings.

After Flying Turns we figured to ride the other roller coasters as the highest priority, particularly as MWS hoped to get to his 100th coaster. Phoenix was the next ride. It's another signature Knoebels ride: it used to be at Playland Park in San Antonio, Texas, where it was known as Rocket. It's common enough to move a steel roller coaster. But Rocket/Phoenix is a wooden coaster, and those are almost never moved. It speaks to Knoebels's interest in respecting and preserving amusement park history. ... Who else in northeastern Pennsylvania would care about the roller coaster from a small park in San Antonio?

Also, it's a fantastic ride. One of the rides that's always on or near the top of best-wooden-roller-coaster polls, inclding winning Amusement Today magazine's Golden Ticket award for best wooden roller coaster in 2018. When you consider how survey-based polls like this always weight new rides more, and Phoenix opened at Knoebels since 1985, you know how good this should be. And it is, and MWS was enthusiastic about this we didn't worry he was being considerate of our feelings. It's a great roller coaster, one that other roller coasters try very consciously to imitate. Wolverine Wildcat, at Michigan's Adventure, is nearly a clone of this. None so good, though, and it's still mysterious just why. Wolverine Wildcat seems to run a little slower, and that makes more difference than you would think. Phoenix also runs without seatbelts, just a lap bar, so that you don't just get air time, you can feel it.

After the ride I tried to joke that this had more airtime than Ryan Seacrest has, but at a critical moment couldn't think of the name ``Ryan Seacrest'' and the joke died miserable in the late-July heat. No matter. It's a gorgeous ride and a great one.

We stopped before getting to the next roller coaster, Twister. It was at Knoebels's marquee attraction for 2019, the newest ride, Tumbling Timbers. It's a small flat ride, something obviously kid-friendly. The cars for it are done to look like wooden barrels ripped open. The ride operator was game for letting a couple adults ride it and warned that it gets going really fast, forward and backwards. The motion itself is like a Calypso or Tiki-Twirl or even a Scrambler, seats spinning on an axis that itself spins around another one. But it is on a smaller radius than these other rides, and so it's more intense. Intense enough that all of us were feeling a bit woozy after the ride, possibly from the ride, possibly from the direct sun --- no shade on this new ride --- and heat. The ride operator agreed, it was a scorcher and he at least had shade from his booth. We were going to have to do something.

Trivia: Between 1969 and 1978 there were more than 400 international hijackings, involving over 75,000 passengers. Source: Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure, Alastair Gordon.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: At the playground I found in the Bosque Tlalpan.

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The start of what I trust is the world's longest yet boringest hopscotch board. Note the alternate color for number 13 there.


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Further along. Sure, the hopping may be dull, but at least there's a lot of it.


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OK, they skipped treads a little between 59 and 60 and between 68 and 69 but still, it's going on a fair while. You get your money's worth from this, is what I'm saying.

Monday, August 19th, 2019
12:10 am
Into the woods and through the trees, to where I am expected ma'am

Somehow my mathematics blog has moved Reading the Comics posts out of Sundays lately. What's gone there instead? Miscellaneous stuff. Here's the past week's writing:

And my story comics update? You'd surely like to know What's Going On In Alley Oop? What's With The Alternate-Universe Alley Oop? May - August 2019. in plot.

With that taken care of, let's follow me back into the Bosque Tlalpan.

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Well, hi there! Local bright red bird nestled in the trees.


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Moving back along here's a partial wall of posts, some of which have fallen, and protecting ... I don't know what.


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You knew I had to get around to a panorama shot soon. Here's an attempted view uphill, to a summit I would approach but never reach.


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And now a mysterious blue-wrapped box high up in one of the trees. I have the impression it was some kind of scientific instrument, maybe measuring the bugs in the area, but I can't say where I got that impression from now.


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Chalk writing on the ground. It photographed poorly. My recollection is that it had some kinds of instructions about a running race held over this course that I hope was going downhill.


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And now the Zona de Comida, the funniest part of the course! One of the handful of locations I was certain could be reached, based on my review of the park maps.


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Looking back at the slightly ragged intersection of trails by the picnic area and bathrooms.


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And here's a look at one of the walls, and the steep drop to ground beneath, and the trees that grew to match that.


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The wall and path here leads to this picnic and playground area.


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A swings ride at the playground area which has the looks of a giant holding out their arms. It reminds me of one at Tuscorah Park in Ohio.


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Children's maze within the play area.


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I don't know what this is but enough of the names are foods that ... I have no idea what's going on here.


Trivia: NBC ensemble singers (there were about a hundred of them) of the early 1940s would typically earn about %0 for each broadcast, including $24 for rehearsal, $18 for the show, and $9 for the West Coast repeat. Source: The Mighty Music Box, Thomas A Delong.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

Sunday, August 18th, 2019
12:10 am
The good advice of friends unheeded, the best of plans mislaid

The day before Pinburgh, before even our fish trouble began, we went around town taking care of minor chores. Among these was a stop in Pinball Pete's East Lansing. They've got a Jersey Jack Hobbit, which I've always loved. (I've liked all the Jersey Jack games.) I had a great game on it, in the first two balls blowing it up enough to get on the high score table while bunny_hugger grumbled that she'd never be as good as me. On her third ball, with a bit of strategy advice and more of me reading off the instructions from the (big, overcomplicated) screen, she blew up the game, beating a million points for her first time ever and getting to be the Grand Champion. And knocking my just-made high score #2 down to high score #3. A good omen for Pinburgh, the biggest competitive pinball tournament in the world. But then see the high score I'd put up on The Hobbit just before Pinball At The Zoo, in April, when I didn't have much of a finish at all.

Our Pinburgh trip was to also be an amusement park trip. We had done this, carpooling with MWS, in 2017. Then, we had gone to Kings Island. This park, in Cincinatti, is not actually convenient to Pinburgh, in Pittsburgh. But it was the only chance he would have for any kind of amusement park trip that year and the only chance he could see to ride their new Mystic Timbers roller coaster. Last year all our plans evaporated as everybody's life ganged up on them, including the death of Penelope, our Californian rabbit. This year? We would carpool with MWS again. And we would have the time for an amusement park trip before, maybe also after. And with JTK and his wife CVK, too. Not that we'd carpool with them --- no car's big enough for that --- but at least get to some amusement parks.

Or we would if it were possible to plan something with them. JTK and CVK proved fascinatingly difficult to get to commit to a plan. bunny_hugger proposed a day trip to Waldameer, in Erie, as the best side trip we could make: it was only two hours from Pittsburgh, it's not too far from the path we'd need to take anyway, it has four roller coasters, it's open both Wednesdays and Mondays (Conneaut Lake Park is only open Thursday through Sunday, the exact days of Pinburgh this year), and it's not expensive. JTK put forth vague ideas about Kings Island, which was as much as he'd commit to. bunny_hugger likes to have plans made. I can take more improvisation in trip plans, but I too insist on having, like, a destination in mind. At least a set of possible destinations. Finally we gave up on JTK and CVK and figured we'd just do something with MWS. Who had his own, very strong idea: Knoebels Amusment Park, in Elysburg, Pennsylvania.

Which ... is ... a bold choice. Not that Knoebels isn't one of our favorite places on Earth. Just that it's in eastern Pennsylvania, crazy far out of the way of Pittsburgh. It's worth a trip, but ... it promises a lot of driving. Which MWS pledged to do. He was extremely eager to get to Knoebels. And, despite our promotion of Waldameer and for that matter Idlewild, parks sensibly close to Pittsburgh, MWS wanted Knoebels and to go there before Pinburgh rather than (our preference) after, and we chose to yield on this. At some point you have to yield to someone's inexplicably strong preference.

And so this was our plan: Monday we drove to MWS's house, there to leave my car and my car keys with his roommate (recovering from a hernia operation) and his dogs (one happy to see any people, one unhappy to know even that other people exist). Then we drove, south to the Ohio Turnpike and then ever-eastward, across most of Ohio and most of Pennsylvania. This did carry with it several nice sidelines, particularly stopping at one rest area in western Pennsylvania. There we saw this totem-pole-like wood sculpture. We knew the artist: he had, back in the 70s, donated one like it to Lansing's Potter Park Zoo, before disappearing, as was his habit. In the 90s he reappeared to do some restoration work on it, and then vanished again. The Potter Park Zoo had to take their down as too badly eroded by the elements to keep around a few years ago. The sculpture here, though, was in good shape. And the rest area had a bunch of other interesting things, including a plaque commemorating this as the Keystone Shortway. Also flyers for amusement parks, including Conneaut Lake Park. Considering the dire shape the park had been in when we first saw it, to have a Conneaut Lake Park tourism flyer at all was fantastic, and it was no less fantastic that the flyer was dated 2017.

We talked nearly all the way, and got to our traditional Red Roof Inn in ... not Elysburg, because that town has about four buildings in it. But the one bunny_hugger and I have stayed in for past Knoebels visits. MWS found what looked like a great local bar to eat at --- decent variety of bar food and several pinball machines, including weird ones not often seen on location --- but they were closed Mondays, because of course. We settled for eating at the Friendly's next to the hotel, as we'd forgotten the options Friendly's has for vegetarians are mostly just ice cream.

But we had everything important done, and we were ready to go to Knoebels in the morning, and we were tired enough to sleep ahead of it.

Trivia: The first Korean War cease-fire talks began the 10th of July, 1951. They did not agree on an agenda until the 26th of July. Source: America's Wars, Alan Axelrod.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: And walking into the Bosque Tlalpan.

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Back on the walking trail, Commander Sisko asks if it was something he said.


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Looking back down from this newer height I'd reached.


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... Well, hello there. What's this?


Saturday, August 17th, 2019
12:10 am
Climb aboard before it moves on and you'll thank your lucky stars you did

Oh, something I should have gotten to before starting on Pinburgh, so I'll fit it here. We went to the circus. We learned there was a circus when we saw coupons for kids attending beside the cash register at the Asian grocery. (We get ramen and a surprising number of vegetarian snacks there.) It promised a water circus and, we learned, one with no animal acts. It'd be at the county fairgrounds. Not in a permanent fairground building, either, but in a tent they set up, in your classic circus style.

To our disappointment, they asked no photographs or movies be taken, so you won't be seeing slightly blurry, weirdly-lit snapshots here in a year and a half. But on the other hand, we weren't distracted by glowing rectangles held in our way watching the show. We got the cheap seats, which weren't very, far in the back, right underneath an air-conditioning vent that would be much nicer if it were about ten degrees warmer. It was blowing fast enough that some people behind us lost some of their popcorn to the zephyrs. Not for long, though. And none of the seats were bad: the stands were set up nearly all around the circular stage, with good viewing lines from nearly everywhere. Also we could spot a handful of people in the audience who, like bunny_hugger, wore shirts reactive to the black lights on stage, which made them these great sparkling bits of orange in the background.

The show was the sort of wonderful spectacle we hoped for. A pair of clowns served as the emcees and anchors, mostly with comic sketches, and with a couple burlesques of the stunts. And the stunts were great, mixtures of contortion and strength and some that just seem foolhardy, such as walking on the top of a 15-foot-wide wheel that's itself held at the end of a 25-foot axis, rotating up and down.

What makes it a water circus is the stage, which opens up the platforms to reveal that it's above a water tank. The outermost ring of the platform rises up and can drizzle a curtain of water. Which itself has those high-frequency pulsing LEDs which can create patterns in the water so that, for example, a performance might be surrounded by the illusion of fish moving around.

As promised the show has no animals, but --- it has got an elephant. And a tyrannosaurus rex. These are performed by puppets, the same sort of quite large wireframe sculptures with operators out in the open, where they won't be noticed, as we saw in the stage presentation of War Horse. It was great and I'm surprised they only brought these out for the one sketch, just before the intermission. During intermission they also sold chances to come up and pose with the 'animals' and if we weren't hurrying to the bathroom we might have considered it.

It was only in town three days, and packed up and left, leaving behind only a piece on the local news with footage from the circus's own promotional video. No cameras, you know.

Trivia: Hershey set up a Home Guard to protect against German sabotage during the First World War. The guards, factory workers, were not allowed to carry arms. Source: Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between The World's Great Chocolate Makers, Deboarah Cadbury.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: Exploring more of the Bosque Tlalpan.

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Another view of the path I'd go walking up. Much of it loked basically like this, a path with rock wall on one side carved through trees.


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A side path, possibly a social trail, through some wispy evergreen-type trees.


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An intersection within the paths. I like the play of light and shadow here, especially that the darker patch is up close.

Friday, August 16th, 2019
12:10 am
Into the woods, it's time and so I must begin my journey

I didn't review any cartoons or old-time-radio shows or anything like that on my humor blog this week. How did I fill that content hole instead? Thusly:

And now? Into the domesticated woods!

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Bosque Tlalpan squirrel with some human-provided dice in its mouth!


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A look at some of the flower arrangements up front, and the start of one of the heavily used walking trails.


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Statue commemorating Walter Lenz H, with a plaque the gist of which I understood even without my iPod's translation dictionary.


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Pedestal commemorating Don Carlos Ponce Vargas that ... I don't know. I assume it's being renovated or restored after perhaps some mishap?


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Oh, yeah, the snack I'd gotten, a pleasant little thing somewhere in the KitKat family of snacks.


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Now let's get into the woods. The start of the trail I walked.


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And a moment of public drinking water that wasn't quite open to the public just then.


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More trees with wonderful dots of purple along the path.


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A turning point promises that the trail is 350 meters, although to what point I was never clear.


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The remains of a disassembled shelter along the trail.


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A rocky structure that I think was the foundation for the disassembled shelter.


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A look back downhill from near that disassembled shelter.


Trivia: Bill Irwin, hired to pitch for Cincinnati in 1886, had only one eye. Source: The Beer and Whisky League: The Illustrated History of the American Association --- Baseball's Renegade Major League, David Nemec.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace. So, this book, covering twenty years of New York City history, came out twenty years after Wallace and Edwin Burrows's Gotham: A History of New York City, which covered everything up through 1898, which implies Wallace is only barely keeping up with things the past two decades. Which, to be fair, is true of many of us.

PS: Reading the Comics, August 10, 2019: In Security Edition as I talk about more than just one comic strip, but it must be admitted, not a lot more than just the one.

Thursday, August 15th, 2019
12:10 am
If it seems a little time is needed decisions to be made

The last week of July and first weekend of August saw us go to several amusement parks and Pinburgh, so you know what's coming in these pages for the next like eight weeks. The run-up to all this was our usual sort of preparing-for-a-major-trip excitement and stress and hollering about whether anything was going to be ready. The evening before our departure, as she was watering plants, bunny_hugger stood at our goldfish pond, watching and looking for the ones we recognized.

One was missing.

It was one of our two biggest fish --- we've chosen Magnum as the name for this one; the other is Gemini --- and one of the few survivors from the original thirteen we got in 2013. Though our pond isn't very deep there is space for a goldfish to hide, especially in the dim light of evening, but ... his body's like eight inches long, and bright orange. He's not that hard to spot. But the pond was netted, and the net hadn't fallen in or anything. Predators, particularly raccoons, could get at the pond, yes, but how could they get at a goldfish and put the net back?

Finally we saw among the rocks at the edge of the pond a terrible little spot of orange. A goldfish trapped, buried under a rock somehow. We both watched it, thinking first of what could have happened --- did a rock somehow fall off the edge of the pond when Magnum was nearby, and crush it? How did the rock come to a stop, though? --- and then of how bad it might look underneath. We hadn't definitely spotted Magnum in a few days. His corpse could be torn open, worm-eaten, moldy ... all kinds of horrors.

And then I noticed the flash of orange still visible was his mouth, and it was fluctuating. He was still breathing water.

Now we got to emergency mode. We got a five-gallon bucket and filled it partway with pond water. And gingerly lifted the rock, revealing that Magnum was ... stunned, barely mobile. And had this terrible nasty gash on his dorsal area. His fins seemed to be intact, but he'd clearly scraped something terrible, we infer in the panicked thrashing about a goldfish will do if caught between several rocks.

We rushed Magnum to the Preuss, the pet store in town. They specialize in fish. They have a fish specialist on staff. They've housed fish before, that one with the golf ball size bulge in her abdomen. They'd be able to say how dire things were. While waiting for their fish experts Magnum seemed to be rousing, as if now that he was free he was already getting his strength back.

Their verdict was that Magnum was badly scraped, but not seriously injured. He didn't seem to have an infection, so if we could put him in quarantine for a week or two, maybe with some antibiotics, he should be in good shape. And, you know, any other week we'd be very able to keep a fish in quarantine. But we were getting ready to be out of town for eight days. That's all right: they were able to keep him in a quarantine tank, with antibiotics, and house him until we were ready to pick him up again.

They estimated the fish kenneling would cost about $10 a day, plus a bit on top for the medicine. The people in the aquarium section said we could pay when we liked, right then or when we picked the fish up. At the register, they said we should pay when we picked up Magnum. This ended up fiscally wise: when we did pick up Magnum, they seemed unsure about just what to charge. Rick Preuss, the owner, happened to be there and prescribed $3 a day for the ten days, plus $10 for the medicine. We have no idea how an estimated $100+ turned into $40. I have the hypothesis that they have a nominal price, but they give us a break because we are being so diligent about caring for our fish. Remember that they gave an extra week of care, gratis, for the fish with the ovarian cyst. (That visit we had prepaid for, come to think of it.)

And as for Magnum, who did not die?

After Pinburgh, when we returned to the store and saw Magnum again, they thought ... mm. Well, that another week or so in quarantine wouldn't hurt. His abraded scales were healing, but that takes time. If we could set up a tank and give him some Melafix he should recover enough to return to the pond safely. Really they figured he could be put in the pond and given Melafix, which is mildly antibiotic and doesn't harm healthy fish. But our pond is about 1300 gallons and there's no buying enough Melafix for that.

So we set up one of the stock tanks we use for the winter as a quarantine tank. We only filled it to about 25 or 30 gallons, using several buckets of pond water to provide any kind of bacterial base. We had not had a water filter put in the pond, to soak up the bacterial culture. This is something we're going to have to correct, since there's no guessing when we'll next have a fish emergency. We were risking a serious case of New Tank Syndrome, that sudden explosion and crash of microorganisms in a newly-set-up tank. We didn't, though, thanks to the pond, which was able to give five or ten gallons of water to change out every day as needed.

Melafix, by the way, smells like one of those soaps that's a little too nice and vaguely scary to actually use so you just set it out in the guest bathroom and hope. I like it.

So after a week of this? Magnum seems to be recovering. Even to have scales growing back, or at least starting to. He has seemed noticeably bored, possibly because we didn't go capture another goldfish to be a companion in quarantine. But we seem to have come through the emergency tolerably well. And now we aren't going to have trouble telling Magnum and Gemini apart, at least not for months.

We are very lucky bunny_hugger insisted on so closely inspecting the goldfish before we set out for Pinburgh, though.

Trivia: The astronomer Christopher Clavius wrote six treatises explaining the reasons behind and supporting the logic of the Gregorian calendar. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle to Align the Clock with the Heavens --- And What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: The park's vast, and downhill. I finally got there.

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Entrance proper to the Bosque Tlalpan, with the CDMX logo that identifies stuff of the Mexico City government.


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Warning sign at the park: do not play dice with the squirrels.


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Furthermore, do not trade guitar picks with the squirrels. Also I didn't notice at the time, but do now: above that, the warning to not hook up an elastic band to a tree and use it as one of those hilarious comical weight-loss gadgets you saw in old cartoons and sitcoms where someone gets shaken up a lot and that's supposed to make them thin somehow? You would have thought that one went without saying.


Wednesday, August 14th, 2019
12:10 am
When the birds dance too, and the poets will all join in

So in mid-July we had a very hot spell. Hot enough we started freezing two-liter bottles of water, and setting them beside Sunshine. And, amazingly, Sunshine liked this. We'd never known a rabbit to use ice bottles to stay cool before. But since that was working we were going to keep doing it ... until I noticed one day that the bottle had not frozen. The refrigerator started working again, after I unplugged and replugged it, but that's not the sort of thing we can put up with.

Thus we went shopping. This included some fun bits where we were trying to figure out the volume of our existing fridge. I wasn't sure what the right measure for the depth of our freezer was. It seemed like every fridge we might get was of smaller volume than what we had, especially from the freezer. This turns out to be true. Our old fridge, dating to we estimated the mid-90s, was from an era of giant freezer space that has since passed.

We found some fridges on display at Best Buy and at Lowe's, none quite what we wanted, which was ``EnergyStar certified'', ``not Smart'', and ``not, like, big enough to store my car in''. This turned out to be very few models. Indeed, the only one we found that met all our needs and would definitely fit through our doors was a Sears Kenmore. Our old fridge, something like a quarter-century old, was a Kenmore, which is a good recommendation for Sears of 1995. But today's? Would Sears last long enough to honor a warranty?

Ultimately, Sears made their fridge very attractive. It didn't cost much to start with, and it was on sale as part of an appliances sale. And there was a further sale for freezer-top fridges. Plus Sears offered bunny_hugger something like a hundred dollars in store credit (for future purchases). Add to that the rebates the Board of Water and Light offered for our replacing an old appliance with new, and for buying an EnergyStar appliance, and I'm pretty sure we made money on the deal.

By carefully not buying groceries we were able to eat the fridge contents down to where, the day the new one was to come, we were able to fit most everything into our cooler space. The only stuff that had to sit out on the counter was things that don't really need refrigeration, like bottles of pop, or that can survive in room temperatures for an hour, like catsup. They delivered the fridge using that belt harness thing that I've seen pictures of but didn't know anybody in the real world actually used. It all went very smoothly and none of my measurements of the door sizes were wrong. They took the old fridge out to the garage, to wait for pickup by the Board of Water and Light. Here it sat for two weeks, one of which we were at Pinburgh for a trip that's going to fill the rest of this month and likely a good chunk of September. This also let me discover the production date on the back of the fridge, 03-14-1995. Good bit of work there.

The Board of Water and Light had people come by two weeks later, the first time their schedules and ours aligned. bunny_hugger wondered if it was odd I took pictures of the old fridge going away. I doubt it. We're sentimental people, but this isn't so weirdly sentimental as to stand out.

Meanwhile our new fridge? That's ... some adjustments, in part because we have less freezer space and everything fits a little differently. It makes clicking noises some, which reviews warned about, but since we don't have to live in the kitchen they're not much bother. And we've got several tubes of meat already in the freezer.

This because of our curious neighbors. They had done a massive grocery shopping expedition and that was nice to see as we've been worried about them. Then one knocked on the door. They had too much stuff for their freezer, so, did we want any tubes of meat? These are tubes of ground beef, wrapped tight in plastic and looking like giant liverwurst tubes. I thanked him but told him we're vegetarians and he started apologizing so deeply you'd think he had said something bad. But I did say, we'd be glad to hold them until they had some space in the freezer. As I write this they haven't asked for their tubes of meat back, but you never know. Especially with them. We've gotten word that they're moving out in a year and we hope the report is wrong, since they've been fine, fun neighbors to have.

Trivia: At the end of 1949 the British Post Office allowed Reuters to employ its own operators for high-frequency radio-teletype service between London and New York City. Source: The Power of News: The History of Reuters, Donald Read.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

PS: Reading the Comics, August 9, 2019: Venn Diagrams Edition, four comic strips you might want to read.


PPS: The start of my journey into the woods in Mexico City.

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A small art museum at the entrance to the Bosque Tlalpan, the big Central Park-like nature reserve inside that area of the city.


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A rousing statue outside the art museum whose purpose I don't seem to have recorded.


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That street in the center is the path back to the hotel. Off to the left you can see the food carts and vendors that I got a snack from.

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019
12:10 am
Not looking at the city

Baby Food Festival, 2019. Once I was knocked out of the Classics tournament I could return to putting my own scores up for Main. In not a single case did I improve any of the scores I'd done the Saturday or the Thursday before. But I could at least warm up and get a feel for how the games were playing that day.

My doing this came to a stop when the Women's Finals began. bunny_hugger had figured this division her best chance at bringing a medal home. It's a good calculation. Only four people would compete in the three-game finals, but she had spent almost the entire tournament as the top-ranked woman playing. She was squeaked out in the last hour by MKS, who put up a runaway game of Aerosmith, but still. bunny_hugger just had to not finish last.

The first game: Breakshot, one of the few games from Capcom Pinball. The game was a mid-90s attempt to make a game with an electromechanical-style layout --- no ramps or subways or anything --- with modern game elements, like multiball, an animated dot-matrix display, audio instructions to the players, and distractingly gratuitous sexism. Does the backglass need to feature ice dropping out of a woman's glass into her breasts? Does the screen need to sometimes show this scene, animated, complete with the woman shaking after this? It's a curious choice for the Women's Division, given nonsense like this, although the indefatigable KEC, who heads the Grand Rapids Belles and Chimes league, specifically asked for it. If you can ignore the breasts it's a decent game.

bunny_hugger has a lousy first ball and was in a foul mood. What could I do? I advised her: this game is, basically, an electromechnical. Play it as if it were. An electromechanical game has two important things: first, send the ball up to the top of the playfield. Second: let the ball do its business. You shouldn't be messing with it. bunny_hugger starts doing this. It works. She has a great game, taking first place with twice the score of MKS, three times the score of KEC, and four times the score of ZJH.

The second game is Whirlwind. It's a very hard late-solid-state game. It should be easy, if it were possible to make either ramp shot, but it's not, so it isn't. bunny_hugger has overcome her hatred for this through experience, learning some of how to manage this touchy game. Also from realizing the playfield is very close to what you'd get if you flipped that of Funhouse, her favorite game, horizontally. It's not a runaway game here: the lowest score is ZJH's 1,156,010. The highest is 1,814,850. bunny_hugger has it.

At this point bunny_hugger is assured a medal. She's guaranteed to get at least second place, and that only if she comes in last while MKS also comes in first. The game is Aerosmith, on which MKS put up the best score in qualifying. This is a game that should be fun, but isn't, because so many of its shots are instant death. But bunny_hugger has had a good weekend with this too. I haven't told her what she has to do to win the gold medal, lest that add to the pressure on her. Nobody has a great game: ZJS, the first player, puts up 4,373,190. KEC, playing second, rallies to 28,004,560. bunny_hugger scores 11,705,730 and I am relieved because this means MKS's finish is irrelevant. MKS puts up 8,863,090; it doesn't matter.

bunny_hugger takes home the gold medal, in the Women's tournament, adding to her pile of hardware from the Baby Food Festival/Meijer State Games. KEC finishes just ahead of MKS; MKS had more second-place finishes, but a first-place finish is worth that much. ZJH finishes in fourth place, after coming in fourth all three games. It's rough, but she takes it well.

So back to qualifying, and the wait for Main Finals to start. And here they are! And ... oh, that's a power flicker. There's a heavy rainstorm coming through. The power never goes out, but we do make jokes about it. And think about the poor Baby Food Festival, since the torrential rain has to be destroying the big event. And this is not the first time rain has smashed the Baby Food Festival since we started attending its pinball events. The Special When Lit facility is too far from Main Street for us to see things, or to pop over and hang out at them. But we can see that it's impossible to see the cars in the parking lot through the rain, and we can deduce what's happening.

Well. Main Qualifying ends, and to my slight surprise I rate the Pro Division, the top sixteen players. To her greater surprise bunny_hugger does too. Either of us making the final four would secure our positions in the state championship this year. Making it past the quarterfinals would put us in good shape.

My quartet: AJH, running the tournament; JB, recently come from Lansing to play altogether too well; myself; and JH, a woman I don't know. It's easy to suppose a person you don't know is lousy at pinball, but that's never wise to do. After all, she made the top sixteen.

Our first game: Aerosmith. It's still a tough game, but I've been playing it pretty consistently well at the SWL facility this past month. I have my first inconsistently bad game, and come in last. All right. The next game: Spider-Man. I'm less reliable on this game, but I've worked out the essentials. There's two multiballs that it's easy enough to start, even with the game on its advertised Hard Settings and with the slightly-shorter-than-design-spec Lightning Flippers. (The flippers have this lightning-bolt pattern on their top side.) And if you hit the Sandman target, right in the tempting center of the playfield, you get a mode started and a mode plus a multiball is usually a good day. I ... have an okay day, putting up 35 million points. JB puts up 51 million. AJH, 52.8 million. AJH is already sure to move on to semifinals. JB is the safe bet. But I can move on if I win the last game while JB finishes either third or last. AJH takes first place, and JB second, which is almost the opposite of what I wanted. They'll move on. I'm out of the tournament, tied with JH for 13th place. AJH goes on to win the tournament; JB, to take third place.

Ah, but bunny_hugger? She's in a four-player group with BIL, MSS, and MKS again. The first game, Time Fantasy, one that everybody but me knows how to play. bunny_hugger has her first outright lousy game of that in a while, putting up a score I could beat, and comes in last. The next game is Congo, a high-scoring game on which bunny_hugger can confidently put up a billion points, a score which would have won this round. If she were playing confidently, which she is not. She puts up 247.5 million, just barely squeaking out MKS at 246.9 million. BIL wins, assuring his advance to the semifinals. bunny_hugger could still advance --- she's in literally the same position I was after two games. She would have to finish in first on the third game, Surf Champ, while MSS had to finish in third or fourth place.

bunny_hugger plays this old and irritating electromechanical first. She finishes with 56,150 points. MKS is player two, and finishes with 62,700, finishing bunny_hugger. BIL has a lousy game, 34,270. MSS finishes at 43,000, the third place that bunny_hugger needed him to take. Had bunny_hugger had a very slightly better ball, at any point in this game, she'd be moving on. And instead, we're both out of the Baby Food Festival/Meijer State Games main tournament.

MWS has a lousy first round also, three third-place finishes that leave him tied for 11th with bunny_hugger. KEC has a one-game playoff against SAL, missing the chance to advance and taking 9th place. BIL gets to the semifinals, but can't advance, finishing in 5th. MKS makes it to semifinals too, but gets a third and two last-place finishes, leaving her in 7th place.

Now things get nasty. bunny_hugger was in a foul mood after losing this chance to get back in the state championship race. Had we been on main street she could have gone to the fair and remembered that there's other things in the world. But we're out of walking range and, in any case, nothing would be open until the rain was passed (which it was getting to doing). Me, I went around playing games to enter the next Fremont Monthly Tournament, figuring the best I could do was improve my chances for a tournament that wouldn't be worth as much as this, but would still be something. But it's hard not noticing how much that's just consolation.

And we had an alternative plan. After all, Fremont is just like a 20-30 minute drive from Michigan's Adventure. We, with MWS, had talked about going to that park and riding roller coasters if we got knocked out early. We had done this two years ago. But we checked the park's operating hours and discovered it was closed, presumably after the rain blew through. And JB was counting on us for his ride back to Lansing, so there wasn't anything to do but hang around the site of our failures until he was done. He made the final four.

Trivia: In the French Occupation Zone of Germany during 1945 the total harvest of bread grain was less than half what it was in that area in 1938; of potatoes, about 56.6 percent the prewar harvest. Source: Germany 1945: From War to Peace, Richard Bessel.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

PS: Oh, yeah, I'd promised to let you know What's Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Is Spider-Man ever coming out of reruns? May - August 2019 plot recap here for you.


PPS: Our Monday in Mexico City bunny_hugger was back at the conference. I went walking. Come with me, won't you?

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Curious elevated cross structure that was beside the bank adjacent to our hotel (in the background). It was just attractive enough I wanted to remember it.


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And peering from the road leading to the hotel, and bank, back in the hotel's direction.


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Reverse angle. There was a lot of traffic, including a fair number of officially licensed taxis, and it felt fairly anxious to be walking around all these cars moving to a pattern I didn't understand. This doesn't come across at all in a still photo.

Monday, August 12th, 2019
12:10 am
Take me to the fair

For the second Sunday in a row I didn't have a Reading the Comics post on my mathematics blog. Not that I didn't publish stuff there, just that it wasn't comics on Sunday for a change. What was there instead?

No story comic summary today. Between Pinburgh, pinball events, and the family emergency I didn't have time to write. Also work needed me to do stuff too, and during working hours, the rotters. So back to Mexico City pictures. I had told you I took fewer pictures of the Cuicuilco Pyramid when I returned there with bunny_hugger, didn't I? Let me wrap the day up.

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Aloe vera(?) plant that's become the victim of graffiti, with mostly names carved into the leaves.


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More vandalized plants. The plants seem to be carrying on despite the battery but I'm still startled anyone would choose to hurt the plans like this.


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Here, just some wonderful-looking flowers with great shapes and play of colors.


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One more defaced cactus, which at least then hadn't attracted other graffiti.


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Looking off the nature trail into a nice grassy scene, with of course corporate-looking buildings in the far background because we were still solidly in the city.


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Pretty sure I remember this tree from any time Walt Kelly's Pogo had a wide panel, maybe for a Sunday strip.


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And ... oh, what's this here?


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Why, it's a black cat sticking its tongue out at us! That's friendly.


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We went back to that shopping mall and roamed around a little more. Nothing very much but here's a picture of that cramped bookstore, which also had (you can see on the right) a cafe. Up front has to have been the table of English-language books.


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And returning from the mall and eventually dinner we got this picture of the highway as cars went into warp speed.


Trivia: In 1965 Otis Elevator bought Reflectone, a company which made electronics for military training equipment, from the Universal Match Company of Stamford, Connecticut. Source: Otis: Giving Rise to the Modern City, Jason Goodwin.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

Sunday, August 11th, 2019
12:10 am
To be looking at the board

Saturday of the Baby Food Festival bunny_hugger and MWS and I drove out to Fremont again. We got there as the day opened for the last couple hours of open qualifying. The Classics finals were to start just after noon; Main, just after 3. At some point in the day would be the Women's tournament, which worried bunny_hugger who didn't want to choose between competing in that and competing in one of the other, open tournaments. The women's tournament offered the best chance for her to win a medal; the open tournament, the best chance for rating points that could get her into the state championship.

I went to the Classics games. I had several strategic reasons for this. I was still rated, barely, for those playoffs. So I wanted to know how the games were playing. Also, I hoped to better my standing; other people would arrive in the last three hours of play and they could knock me down. Also, by being on a machine, I could keep other people from playing a game that knocked me down. bunny_hugger, ranked above me in Classics, played Main games, trying to make sure she made it in.

Well, we both did, in Classics and in Main. She went in to Classics as the #10 seed, and me at #11. For the first round this put us in a pairing we wholeheartedly dread: playing against each other in a four-player group in the quarterfinals. Best of three games. Our opponents: PH, who's Michigan's state representative for the International Flipper Pinball Association and who'll decide where the championship will be; and SAL, a regular to Fremont tournaments who's in the finals quite often. The top two finishers will go on to the semifinals.

Our first game: Time Fantasy. This is one that reliably stumps me and that I only finally got one good game on that Saturday. It's themed to the shroomer art that guy in high school was always drawing. If you can shoot this Time Tube shot, you'll win. If you can't, you won't. Everyone else has known all weekend where the shot is; I haven't. Well, SAL finds that shot. This game, the rest of us don't. I manage second place with one-ninth SAL's score. bunny_hugger has one-tenth his score, for third place. PH comes within three thousand points of bunny_hugger's score but doesn't beat it.

The next game is Eight Ball. This is another pool game, with a noticeably non-licensed Fonzie on the backglass. It's a game we all love. There's fifteen targets corresponding to you know what. These set the base bonus. Then there's a 'candycane', a little U-shaped feature with a long leg, which builds the bonus. The strategy of this game is to shoot the candycane. Or just not lose the ball, which is a challenge. Except for SAL, who puts up 335,880, the eighth-highest score anybody recorded on that game the whole tournament so far. PH takes second place, and bunny_hugger third. I have a lousy game, my first lousy game on this table all tournament, I think.

At this point SAL is mathematically guaranteed to move on. PH, bunny_hugger, and I are all tied. Whichever of us beats the other two moves on. The game: Mystic. This is a crazy bonus-heavy game; if you can knock down a lot of drop targets in the first ball, you'll win. But the ball launches into the pop bumpers, and they launch it out of the pop bumpers to a drain about 150% of the time. I've spend a lot of the tournament testing it out and figuring how to avoid those sorts of instant drains. I'm sure everyone else has too. We do not show this knowledge. If you avoid instant drains you can expect a score of 200,000 to 500,000 on Mystic. SAL finishes last, with 37,420. PH just barely squeaks him out, at 37,900. bunny_hugger has a better but still mediocre game at 68,850. I have a better but still mediocre game of 75,420. I'm the other person going to semifinals, and bunny_hugger is free to go back to putting in qualifying scores for the Women's and the Main tournaments and complaining that I always do better than her, which I do not.

Quarterfinals. I'm in a group with MWS and JB, who had first-round byes, and MSS, who along with BIL advanced from the other quarterfinals group. Our first game: Mystic. Where, oh goodness but we do not have good first balls. I have been happy the last several Fremont events that I haven't had the ball ping out the bumpers to an instant drain. I have that happen two balls now. MSS is having a good game, but everyone else is playing lousy. MWS only has 40,240, which I could certainly beat on one ball if the ball weren't heading out the right outlane. I shake the machine, trying to get it under control, and it tilts, wiping out a bonus of maybe a couple thousand points.

JB also has a lousy game, beating me by a couple thousand points. I don't know just what my bonus was when I tilted, but it's possible had I not tried to save the ball, I'd have beaten him on this game. But who would expect him to not be able to save his last ball either?

Game two. Surf Champ, an electromechanical which was not one of the qualifying games but was allowed into finals. It's got exactly the theme you'd think from the name. The game is hard; you want to drop the ball into a scoop that just has no good angles. You have to shoot the ball up in that rough area and hope. MWS knocks the game out of the park, putting up 124,800 points. I have always struggled with this game and after a couple house balls that I couldn't touch manage to get 45,840. A weak score but maybe okay if oh well, there goes MSS, edging me out, 52,370. Well, if JB doesn't have any kind of good oh, he put up 81,970.

At this point I'm eliminated; there's nothing I can do to move on. JB is all but eliminated; he would have to win the last game to move on. Our finalgame, then, is Knockout. This is another electromechanical. It's a boxing-themed game. It's a simple game: get the ball on either flipper and shoot it up the orbit to the top of the game, and repeat this forever. It's so simple you'd think I'd be any good at it. My usual game finishes about 50,000 points. A couple times I have ever reached 100,000. Everyone else has put up games above 150,000 at one time or other and I don't know how. MWS has a terrible game to start, putting up 21,190, something even I can beat. Me? With nothing to play for? And all I could possibly do being spoiling JB's chances of moving on, or forcing a tie to move on? I have maybe my second-best game ever, putting up 102,480. MWS is chagrinned, but he can take it. When MSS puts up his 99,380, he and MWS are assured to move on. JB has a 40,760, my usual score. MWS and MSS go on to finals; JB and I tie for 6th place in the Classics tournament. Had I not tilted away my bonus on Mystic, and everything else been the same, I'd have tied for 5th place instead. Had I not tilted away Mystic, and had I kept Surf Champ going a little longer, I'd have forced a three-way tie for the two finals spots.

Finals are on Surf Champ, then Mystic, then Knockout again. AJH wins the first game and takes second in the other two, giving him first place for the tournament. MWS has a third-place, a first-place, and a third-place finish. This gives him second for the tournament. MSS has two last-place and then a first-place finish, which gives him third place for the tournament. RLM, the last of the competitors, has a second-place, a third-place, and a last-place finish, putting him in fourth place for the Classics tournament.

None of this was consolation to bunny_hugger. But there was still the Women's tournament, as well as the most valuable one, the Main tournament. It's also disappointing to me, but then this was my best finish in a Classics tournament since 2016. Which is odd; I have the mental impression that Classics is my terrain, and the record just says no, it is not. It turns out I just like playing them.

Trivia: In February 1667 the Navy Board reported (to the Duke of York) that it could no longer contract supplies, as they had paid out only £1,315 out of the £150,000 already due. They also owed sailors £ 930,000, of which they had paid £ 140,000. Source: A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game, Jenny Uglow.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.


PS: More of what bunny_hugger and I saw at the Cuicuilco Pyramid together.

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Honking great plant of some kind I'm not sure that's growing in the ``moat'' around the pyramid.


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Cactuses and other plants growing near the ``moat'' around the pyramid.


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And here's a look at the pyramid from the side that lets you see how deep the ``moat'' around it does get.


Saturday, August 10th, 2019
12:10 am
I asked my dog what he thought the best in man

I have to break out of the orderly procession for breaking family news from last night.

It was just before midnight when the phone rang and bunny_hugger and I asked who could possibly be calling at that hour. We let it go to the machine as we always do. It was bunny_hugger's father, asking if she was there, please pick up. Then he hung up before she could stand up and walk across the room to the phone. Cursing that this better be an emergency she called their house and got their machine. She called again and got their machine again. We tried to think why he would call, say to pick up, not actually wait long enough for us to pick up, and then not answer when we called back. And realized he must be on the cell phone, and not at home, and there's not a lot of good reasons for that.

So her mother was in the emergency room. He'd taken her to the emergency hospital not in their small town, and not in the larger town ten minutes from them, but to the emergency room in the fairly big town they used to live in. He said he was confident this emergency room would actually be able to see her quicker, even allowing for the extra drive time. All right. The thing is, they'd been there since the evening, and their dogs needed to be walked. Could we do it?

While bunny_hugger was getting the story and asking why they didn't go to the emergency rooms actually near them and promising that yes, she had keys to their house, I took care of Sunshine's evening needs and got ready to drive. It's about 45 to 50 minutes to their place, and it was already past midnight, but, mm. The dogs needed.

So we were maybe ten minutes from arriving when bunny_hugger realized she had not taken their house's key. She'd forgotten it, an understandable mistake given how we never need it when we go visit them. I'd forgotten to ask about it, a mistake I hope understandable. I voted that we continue to their house and hope that her father had made a mistake and not locked the door in the rush of emergency. Of course he had locked the door.

What was there to do but drive back, check that there were no further updates, and then drive the whole long way back to their house again? All the while bunny_hugger cursing herself for the mistake, and for having an extra hour and a half of driving on top of the several hours she'd already spent in the car, thanks to an appointment in Ann Arbor.

Her poisonous, self-punishing mood evaporated when we arrived and let out from her crate Peewee, the smaller dog. Peewee bounced around as if made of flubber and the dog's infectious joy at literally anything happening made everything temporarily better for bunny_hugger. Well, Peewee had peed in her crate, as had the other dog, possibly because of the extra 100-to-120 minutes taken for us to get there. But still. Deliriously happy dog; what could be bad about that?

As her father directed I took Peewee out first and walked back and forth several times in their side yard until she finally peed, and peed again, and again, and good. I took Peewee back inside to her crate, and took out Pookie, their basset hound who does not like or trust must of anything except bunny_hugger's father.

Oh, she also likes Boots, this street cat, who had come around possibly to see what all the fuss was about. Boots also likes Pookie. They spent a good long time brushing against each other, rather than, like, going out to have a pee. While I waited for dog and cat to be friends bunny_hugger let Peewee back out of her crate. She didn't want the dog to have so little free run time in such extreme circumstances. Especially since while Pookie did eventually have her pee, she didn't want to go back in the house, possibly because she didn't see bunny_hugger's trusted father, just suspicious interlopers like me.

What was there to do? I picked Pookie up under the shoulders and carried her up the steps into the house. And, when she wouldn't go to her crate or even close to her crate, picked her up again. bunny_hugger found this adorable. Pookie is not a small dog, which is probably why she was basically okay with this treatment. Big dogs are more interested in the novelty of being hauled like luggage than they are in the affront to their dignity.

And yet ... good grief but the dogs had pooped. Some, a couple little drops, in the dining room or such. One was a big old turd right on the front doorstep. We don't know who did it, but suspect Pookie. We also don't know when or how, unless it was in protest while I was carrying her. bunny_hugger found this by stepping into it and then couldn't get her sneaker adequately cleaned. She also didn't think she was getting the doorstep adequately cleaned either. And she hated the evidence of how abruptly they must have left; there were even rinsed tomatoes left in the sink, and some leftover chick'n strips on the counter.

While we were arguing what to do, and what there was to do, at her parents' home, at 3:45 am ... the door opened.

It was her father, of course; who else could it be? bunny_hugger told about the mistake we had made and why we were there two hours later than we ought to have been. Meanwhile the freshly-crated dogs began howling with joy that the one person in the world they truly liked was back and they could leave the crates again. He was apologetic that we'd had to go through all that, and didn't mind at all the dog messes we weren't able to finish cleaning up. Oh, yes, and his wife and the emergency room visit?

After being rushed to the emergency room three towns over, bunny_hugger's mother had an infuriating wait, the nurses refusing to give her painkillers until a doctor had examined her. There's reasons for this --- not wanting to accidentally mask any symptoms --- and as a nurse she would probably appreciate that intellectually. She would not appreciate the nurse who'd called her ``Sweetie''. She might appreciate the nurse who told bunny_hugger's father --- who had waited a half-hour (he says) and asked a different nurse for painkiller --- that she and he had already had this discussion about painkillers.

bunny_hugger's mother, it turneed out, had a bowel blockage, one bad enough to need surgery. So they got a team together and operated, taking out eight inches of lower intestine. She came through all right, despite the worries of anaesthesic on a senior citizen who's been smoking since back in the 60s when smoking was mandatory. And, so far as I know, when I write this, she's all right, expecting to be released from hospital anytime between ``today'' and ``a week from now''. It'll depend how she recovers.

We got home about 5 am.

Trivia: About 940 people, many in their late teens or early 20s, worked in the Orbiter Processing Facility in early 1980 on densifying and reinstalling the thermal protection system tiles for the orbiter Columbia. Source: Development of the Space Shuttle 1972 - 1981, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace. (Not that Mike Wallace.)


PS: bunny_hugger and I went to the Cuicuilco Pyramid together and I took fewer pictures this second time around.

SAM_4893.jpg

Back atop the Cuicuilco Pyramid. Also there's a pile of rocks which look as if they'd fallen down from this part of the altar inset, except that there doesn't seem to be a logical place they'd have fallen from. Yes, that's Six Flags Mexico in the far background again.


SAM_4897.jpg

bunny_hugger overseeing the tunnels that lead to Structure E-1.


SAM_4900.jpg

See? There's the tunnels, as well as the ``moat'' surrounding the pyramid.

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