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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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Friday, May 31st, 2019
12:10 am
Remember me for I will soon be gone

This week I learned there's at least one person who follows my humor blog by way of RSS feed! Someday there might even be a second. Meanwhile, there's surely people who follow by way of my Dreamwidth/Livejournal links. For you, here's me:

And now I close out the Museo Frida Kahlo and get back to the hotel. Tomorrow I hope to start the story of Anthrohio 2019, and pictures of something else in Mexico City. You'll see.

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More of Kahlo's medically useful gear, including corsets and a prosthetic leg that I thought the sign said she designed herself.


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And some of her outfits, along with pictures showing her wearing them on the signs labelling them.


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Notes and a sketch, possibly a fashion sketch idea, based on Hieronymous Bosch


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Stationery, pen, and a rubber stamp, the message of which I failed to photograph. I feel a bit dumb about that now. Neat signature, though.


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Boot with Chinese dragons that she designed and wore around 1952.


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A dress based on Kahlo's style, rather than her own work, if I'm not getting my vague notes mixed up.


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These are a pair of corset-dresses designed to take after Kahlo's style, and I agree they're striking creations.


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Small pyramid that sits in the courtyard and that, while we're not allowed to climb, people were allowed to sit on and rest. Or at least they chose to sit on and rest, whether they were really allowed to or not.


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Oh, yes, a pair of clocks, representing (on the left) Kahlo and Rivera's separation in September 1939 and (on the right) their reunion in December 1940. They were kept in the kitchen, if I remember right.


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The taxi driver on the ride back pointed out we were going right past the Olympic Stadium; would I want to stop and take a picture? And, well, sure, why not take the advice of a taxi driver in a country where I don't know anybody and don't speak the language and don't have a phone to make a side trip? (It was, literally, just stopping at the side of the highway.)


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The Olympic Stadium's part of or adjacent to the National University campus, so, this is what there is to see looking away from the stadium. Somewhere on this campus, bunny_hugger was listening to panel sessions.


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And back to our hotel! Which, yes, may look like any hotel of high enough quality that you have to pay for the Internet by device per day. But I liked its style. We had missed whatever Christmas show La Familia de Diez was, but passed the theater in which it played often. There was a bank next to it which was a good place to get cash.


Trivia: The Lewis and Clark expedition named Floyd Bluffs, in what is now Sioux City, Iowa, for Charles Floyd, who died likely from appendicitis. Source: On The Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, Simon Garfield.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink. Finally finished! It's not a long book, mind, but I did no reading during the convention and also lost a couple of mealtime reading sessions for the sake of pinball league or going out to get bagels.

PS: Reading the Comics, May 25, 2019: Slighter Comics Edition as, hey, I publish a thing! This changes everything, a little bit.

Thursday, May 30th, 2019
12:10 am
Keep our love alive, I'll never fade away

I continue to work my way through the Museo Frida Kahlo.

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Peeking into Frida Kahlo's medicine chest, or possibly just more art supplies. I know what Sal Hepatica is for, although I'm not sure why a person would have purified walnut oil.


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Kahlo's bedroom, with dresser, cabinet, and wall motto that I just don't understand.


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Bedroom radio! Featuring a (hand-made?) wood carrying case. Notice the pencilled in labels for the volume and channel dials.


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And here Kahlo's daybed, with what I bet you all think is a mirror right above her pillow.


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Nope! It's a display of butterflies!


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Looking back at the gallery from the stairway leading from the daybed room to the courtyard.


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Snake sculpture on display underneath the stairs leading outside. There were some exhibitions from various non-Kahlo, non-Rivera artists there.


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Overhang with a continuous-loop documentary about Kahlo playing. It was in Spanish, naturally, although it had enough of the pacing and tone of an English-language documentary that between that and pictures of institutions I was following along with all the confidence of a white guy in a country where he doesn't speak the language.


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Courtyard picture of Diego Rivera holding a seal for the reasons.


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I didn't see anyone taking pictures of themselves with their heads in this photo stand-in of Kahlo and husband.


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An activity set up in the courtyard as part of the temporary exhibit, about Kahlo's fashion design: rotate the columns to mix and match various of Kahlo's outfits.


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And here's part of the temporary exhibit. This shows off braces, corsets, crutches, and other tools that Kahlo designed and used to keep herself functional.


Trivia: The county of Nice was not fully a part of France until 1860. Source: The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, Graham Robb.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019
12:10 am
If you close your eyes and let the music play

I continue to work my way through the Museo Frida Kahlo.

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Another look into the conversation pit, showing off more of the seating and the variety of seating, and giving a better look at the stone floor. Also ... wait. Computer, enhance.


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The jaguar-head figure sitting in the conversation pit. I could not get close enough to it to say whether it's a mask or a full head sculpture.


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Upstairs above the conversation pit, and off of the dining room, was Kahlo and Rivera's main studio. Here, a box of crayons and paints, as left at the end of her life.


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My grandparents had the same pencil sharpener and fastened into the same wood table!


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View from the studio out onto the courtyard.


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Wheelchair and easel from, my understanding was, one of her last projects.


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Bookshelves, of endless fascination to me. Many of these are Rivera's notes. Notice the thick volume, Protest Rockefeller Vandalism, regarding the fresco that John D Rockefeller Jr commissioned for 30 Rockefeller Center because, apparently, nobody told the Rockefellers anything about Rivera besides that sure, he'd love to do a piece on the theme ``capitalism versus communism''. (I'm being snide. The Rockefellers knew what they were buying, but also imagined that New York City society could take it.)


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Rivera's gas mask. I asked a docent why he had an Industrial Gas Mask, and conformed it was for the most likely reason: protection from paint fumes. I thought protection from tear gas a less likely but still plausible need. The docent wondered if I might be British, given my quietly approaching and saying, ``I beg your pardon'' before confirming she understood English and could answer my trivial question.


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Rivera's book collection and wait, he read Drew Pearson? Wow.


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More of Rivera's library and I'm intrigued by this book Art From The Mayans To Disney, by Jean Charlot. Aren't you, now? (It was published in 1939.)


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Getting back to that wheelchair and easel, showing off the unfinished painting.


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Trunk and chair in a part of the studio that's getting near the bedroom. Like many of us there's not a perfect division between working spaces and private spaces.


Trivia: In 1996 the typical Miami-area home sold for 3.3 times household incomes. Ten years later it sold for 7.2 times income. Source: How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities, John Cassidy.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019
12:10 am
Remember me

While AnthrOhio is sadly over I've still got pictures of the Frida Kahlo museum and I'll share those until I have time to start writing up my new experience. Thanks for watching.

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Dining room knickknacks. I don't know how many of these were carved by Kahlo or her husband, and what of them were just pieces that they got from somewhere. I like the bright yellow wood for the shelving, though.


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The glass-block windows of the dining room's sunlight. The blocks are marked with some cryptic serial numbers and I couldn't say whether these would have been all but invisible when the blocks were installed, that is, if the accumulation of city dust has made them impossible not to read.


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More of the animal knickknacks, including at least one bunny. I can't be sure whether these serve any non-decorative purpose.


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Guest bedroom that's located off the dining room. Also, this is the room and, the signs say, bed that Leon Trotsky used for a while before getting his own place a few blocks away.


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More of Leon Trotsky's bedroom, with the window looking out into the courtyard. I don't know how much of it looked like this when he actually used it.


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Looking back from Trotsky's bedroom at the dining room. The door on the left opens into the central courtyard.


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Stairs down into the conversation pit, just off the dining room and underneath the stairs leading up to the studio.


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The kitchen, another room with just gorgeous colors to my eyes.


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Fox(?)-headed pumpkin jug that's set out on the kitchen table.


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Kahlo and Rivera had their first names inset in the wall, using enormously many tiny colored teacups.


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Also made of many tiny teacups: doves holding a banner together, a show of just how happy they were being married, at least while they were happy being married.


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Close-up shot of the tiny cups. This is the ``knot'' and bow of the ribbon, above the big kitchen window. Each cup was about the size of a small espresso teacup and was itself well-decorated. I don't know whether by Kahlo and her husband or whether they just took the cups that matched their general idea for the kitchen decor.


Trivia: The first Bose-Einstein Condensate, formed 1995, was at a temperature of 170 billionths of a degree above zero Kelvin. It was not observed directly, as the laser probing it destroyed the super-cooled substance. Source: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

Monday, May 27th, 2019
12:10 am
Until you're in my arms again

I had a full week in which to write my mathematics blog! To get it some fresh and exciting content and not the low-effort, love-involvement work of Reading the Comics posts. What did I do with that opportunity? Eh. Look, I'm at Anthrohio, I don't have time to write.

Oh, but, you know what I didn't take a week off from writing? Story comics plot summaries! Consider What's Going On In Alley Oop? What happened to the time-travelling raccoons? March - May 2019

And now, finally, I get into the Frida Kahlo museum and take you along with me to see things.


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Bit of a queue outside the Museo Frida Kahlo. Part of why I'd gone to lunch first was thinking the line might shrink, but it did no such thing. So I yielded gracelessly to the inevitable and waited my turn through this.


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Interior courtyard of the Blue House, location of the museum. It was Kahlo's birthplace and she lived there as adult with her husband.


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Chimera statue and fireplace inside the first room, which I think was a living room when the house was being used as a home.


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My Family (unfinished), although I'm not sure whether ``unfinished'' was part of the title or whether it's just descriptive of the state the picture reached.


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More of Kahlo's portraits, set up in the Yellow Room. Also I genuinely loved how the floors were these intense and, to my upbringing, unusual colors for floors.


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Passage To New York, an unfinished oil work. I like it as it is, though.


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1936 telegram from Diego Rivera having something to do with Leon Trotsky, who stayed with Kahlo and Rivera for a while. Admission to the Museo Frida Kahlo also gave me admission to the museum in the somewhere-nearby house where Trotsky was murdered, although I didn't think I had one-tenth the Spanish-speaking skill or navigational skill needed to get there.


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Stage, and puppets, that Kahlo made for a purpose I don't remember ever knowing.


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A side view of the puppet stage that only makes it look a bit like one of the figures is being eaten by a dinosaur.


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Wall sketch that's good if you were needing ideas for your tattoo.


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Something about the composition of these women, two of them looking through the now-closed doorway just beside the puppet stage, caught my fancy.


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Some of the many shelves of knicknacks in the dining room. There were a lot of small teacups and plates and stuff like that.

Trivia: Otto von Bismarck insisted that the peace terms for the Franco-Prussian War be accepted, by the French, in a national assembly which he wanted to include representatives of Alsace and Lorraine. Source: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848 - 1918, A J P Taylor.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

Sunday, May 26th, 2019
12:10 am
Know that I'm with you the only way that I can be

And I am ... not quite caught up. The pin-golf tournament was last Saturday, and since then, we've gotten to Anthrohio. The convention weekend is still going on. I don't feel up to blogging the events the day they happened. So I'm going to take a couple days to do photo dumps and get to the story of this weekend afterwards. So here's stuff I found on the way to the Museo Frida Kahlo.

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I went for lunch just before entering the Museo Frida Kahlo and found it in this market that gave me wonderful warm nostalgic vibes of the Englishtown or the Collingwood Flea Market.


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I ended up eating at a quesadilla place, which seemed like somewhere I could eat vegetarian with a minimum of chaos. Encountered two guys from Dallas who said that yeah, they often flew down to Mexico City and, like, came to this place to eat. I understand going somewhere really mundane and normal --- I mean, I was there, right? --- but it can't just have been to this quesadilla stall.


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Kids costumes for sale; in frame is more of the storage room, but I loved this packed-stuff aesthetic.


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So it's always fascinating to travel somewhere strange and find a touch of home. Here, it's a stray bag of beans from Pigeon, Michigan, a municipality I hardly need introduce to you. It's a village of 1200 people, covering nearly five-sixths of a square mile, in the thumb area of the lower peninsula. Wikipedia says local attractions are its historical depot museum and ``a number of wind farms''.


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And the back of a food stand just had a bunch of commercial and mascot art, including the Trix rabbit moonlighting for Nestle.


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Entrance to the marketplace, which I took after I was done eating because I hadn't been sure I'd actually find something to eat here.


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And the street level entrance, with a storefront that gives a good sense of what every square foot of the place was like.


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Street leading from the market back to the Museo. On the right, guess someone's a Bob Marley fan.


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Fascinating former pay phone station for Telmex. I'd understand ripping out the mechanism, but then why's the receiver still there? I realize I should have picked up the phone to hear if anything were there.


Trivia: By 1800 about 40 percent of England's male labor force worked were farmers, compared to 65 to 80 percent in continental Europe. Source: An Edible History of Humanity, Tom Standage.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

Saturday, May 25th, 2019
12:10 am
Baby you can drive my car

We didn't want to have a garage sale last Saturday. Our experiences have been, at best, mildly unpleasant. We get up too early, it's too chilly, it's damp, we sell almost nothing, and we raise enough to buy the pizza that consoles ourselves, and that's it. bunny_hugger's father has the idea that garage sales are great and we love them and that we were putting off having one just because our schedule was too busy. We had one set, and then wanted to put it off because we hate having them and it turned out MJS, with the pole barn full of pinball machines (as seen in the New Year's Eve 2017-18 pictures yesterday) was having a tournament. He has one or two a year; this was an exceptional third. We asked if bunny_huggers father would agree to putting things off, and he didn't seem to even notice the question.

The days leading up to the sale, though, the weather forecast got worse. More overcast. Forecasts of rain. Chill. The day before they were looking at rain through to 9 am --- our slated start time --- and a small but nonzero chance after. Temperatures in the low 50s, feeling like mid-40s. Our rain day, Sunday, promised to be worse. I insisted on proposing we postpone for the weather. bunny_hugger's father, convinced either by the forecast or by my authority as a person he thinks well of, agreed. And this meant we could sleep in three more hours on Saturday and get to the pin-golf tournament, all without feeling guilty for cancelling the thing, too.

You can't do anything without feeling guilty. It certainly rained overnight. But it wasn't that wet by the time I got up about 10:30, and while it was overcast and cool it wasn't that dismal-looking. It might've been bad at 9:00 but surely not the whole day. As we drove to Kalamazoo the day got looking only better. By mid-afternoon, admittedly after the sale would have ended, and in Kalamazoo rather than Lansing, it was sunny and hot, gorgeous weather. Well, surely we'll not have reason to regret our choice come next weekend.

Ah, but the tournament. MJS was running a pin-golf tournament, in which you're scored not on game score but whether you meet some objective, and in how few plunged balls it takes. The event was Caddyshack themed, with quotes and pictures from the movie on all the 18 course tables, and the movie silently playing on continuous loop on one TV. (With closed captioning off, so if you haven't seen the movie all the way through, or haven't since the 80s, you had images but not actual quotes to remind you what was going on.) The objectives were, often, hard ones, or obscure ones, but MJS printed up great little booklets that described just how to make each hole, including tips of how to do it better.

bunny_hugger, MWS, and I formed one group and it was ... oh, challenging. Quite a few holes had objectives that restarted with each ball, so if you made some progress but didn't complete it your work was lost on the next ball. That's endemic to electromechanical games --- they weren't designed to save progress --- but frustrating on a modern table. And bunny_hugger, who's felt herself in a slump despite taking home hardware at Pinball At The Zoo and finishing above me in Marvin's and Lansing league in the past month, felt her mood crash as she missed objectives, either by slender margins or by missing goals that MWS or I got. Especially ones that I got.

There were some unfairnesses too. On No Good Gofers --- a mid-90s Williams game that was not actually a Caddyshack license by virtue of Williams remembering that they don't actually have to pay anyone to use the themes of ``golf'' and ``mischievous gophers'' --- the goal was reaching the fourth hole, in the course's theme. Random awards were turned on, including one that gave me a free hole without any extra effort. bunny_hugger didn't get that, and while she didn't kick me in the shin for that unfairness, I bet she was thinking about it. And it gave us a little question: technically the objective was ``putt out the fourth hole'', which I didn't do: putting out is making a particular shot after the game declares it's ready, and the game credited me for the fourth hole without giving me the chance to putt out. Did I satisfy the objective? We figured, yeah, the point was completing the fourth hole, not literally making this one particular shot in this particular circumstance.

bunny_hugger complained that she did so awful she'd be one of the bottom five finishers, of the 39 playing. She was not, but she did finish sixth from bottom. She also complained that I made finals, which I didn't think I would. But I did. My course score of 66 was one of quite a few people at the threshold score. I don't know how I made the top-16 cut. My guess is that ties were broken by number of holes-in-one or something like that, and I did have one or two of those. MWS was in, easily.

Finals were rounds of more pin-golf, five holes with even tougher objectives. And our scores these rounds would be added to our course rounds, so people who did well in the main course had an advantage in getting on to following rounds. I went in with the worst possible score of anyone making finals at all, so it would have been hard for me to move on in any case. And it didn't matter: I didn't make a single one of the five objectives of the first finals round. Mind, nobody in my quartet made any of the objectives on the first three holes either, but wow. Even the objectives that were simple I wasn't getting. At least I got close on the last two, Dirty Harry (collect a multiball jackpot) and FunHouse (complete the mystery mirror).

With all that done --- and my car jump-started, since we accidentally left the headlights on and this killed the battery in what seems like too little a time --- we hung around, watching some of the remaining rounds even after MWS got knocked out. Also watching the stunning number of tables suffer some mechanical failure. Balls will get stuck in tournament play, that's normal. But there were a bunch of flippers getting stuck, games resetting, drop targets spontaneously dropping and this on a game where knocking down drop targets was an objective. Some of this is the games getting a lot of play, and hard play. Pin-golf awards meeting goals, not scoring points, so there's no real risk to nudging the game very hard. If you save the ball, great; if you don't, you haven't lost anything. Some of this is that it was a lot of play, and that's hard on games. Some of this is that it was hot, quite hot inside the pole barn, which doesn't have air conditioning. MJS had both garage doors wide open and the rooms were still hot (partly as there was no cross-breeze). People noticed the incredible drop in heat just from three steps out from Time Machine, for example, even at the hottest part of the day.

Well, the tournament was great to attend, despite bunny_hugger's cursing herself out for not getting enough objectives, and despite my spectacular collapse in the first round of finals. And it's always great to get out there. But it was tampered by the guilt of thinking how we really could have done the garage sale, and gotten that chore out of our lives, and now it's just waiting for us the weekend after Anthrohio instead.

The day after the tournament, and after our would-be rain day that was itself rained out, I found in the mailbox a note from someone who saw our garage sale listing and hoped if we hadn't sold something from it that we'd contact them. So someone besides bunny_hugger's father wanted the garage sale to be there anyway.

Trivia: In 1830 the United States Board of Navy Commissioners allocated $330 per annum to establish a depot for storing marine chronometers and testing their accuracy, with funds for one employee. Source: The Long Space Age: The Economic Origins of Space Exploration from Colonial America to the Cold War, Alexander MacDonald.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.


PS: So now I've finally reached 2018, and the first big event then was our trip to Mexico City. Ready for some pictures of a hotel?

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Keyhole fountain in the back lot of our Mexico City hotel, which I trust moved here after being the center decoration for the conference room table on Star Trek: Voyager.


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Hallway space connecting the front of the hotel with the hallways to the room corridors. One path has a couple of steps, while the other is gentle ramps, and the artwork was heartening to see.


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Artwork lining the inset ceiling lighting. It's mirrored, so you can see me photographing back at you.

Friday, May 24th, 2019
12:10 am
I should have known better

You know what day it is: it's either Thursday or Friday depending on your point of view, if you're reading this the day it publishes. So let me list stuff from my humor blog this past week.


And the final three pictures of the Potter Park Zoo's Wonderland of Lights.

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Stepping back into the cold. In the distance is the snack stand. Up close, they're doing what they can with the trees.


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A bit closer on the snack stand. The writing on the window claims ``Tis the season for SOUP!'' although we didn't get any. We're hot-chocolate patrons here this time of year.


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And a last look at the zoo before we reached 8 pm and all the lights went off.



New Year's Eve 2017-18 we spent, as is now traditional, at MJS's pole barn where he set up a strikes tournament and party. For a brief time during the tournament I was the #1 player, with fewer strikes than anyone else, but that didn't last. I did finish in third place, though, which was a great way to see out the year.

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After the New Year's Eve strikes tournament bunny_hugger works out her frustrations with a revenge game against Avatar.


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Ten minutes to midnight and people are getting all dressed up in their giant plastic top hats!


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Minutes to go. bunny_hugger picks out her New Year's tiara.


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bunny_hugger can't decide whether the Times Square countdown or the row of electromechanical games is more interesting.


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They set off fireworks because that's a thing you can legally do in Michigan for some reason.


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This burst of fireworks is not the biggest but it is so strikingly in-focus I'm wondering what I did to get it that way.


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``When it's the grand finale you'll know.''


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And in the post-midnight dollar games what's got bunny_hugger so offended?


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So, I was player two here. I think bunny_hugger was offended that I didn't roll the game. (I was a little disappointed but, really, a fantastic game is its own reward.)


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I do not know that KEG was offended by my beating an amazing high score so quickly, but I'm assuming.


Trivia: Shortly before his election as president James Garfield told a delegation of 250 black men, ``You were not made free merely to be allowed to vote, but in order to enjoy an equality of opportunity in the race of life. Permit no man to praise you because you are black, nor wrong you because you are black.'' Source: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019
12:10 am
She's got a ticket to ride

Each fall bunny_hugger and I regret that we didn't get to Cedar Point or Michigan's Adventure enough. We resolve to go earlier in the season next year. Maybe even May. This year, we actually did. MWS and his partner K had planned to go to the park last Thursday, and asked if we wanted to come with. This seemed like a good idea to us. This would be the earliest in the season we've ever been to Cedar Point; it had opened just the week before. Michigan's Adventure still hasn't opened for the season.

We had small mishaps meeting up. We were late leaving our home, and a few minutes late getting to the rendezvous point as we failed to remember we'd be hitting Ann Arbor rush hour traffic. In transferring cars I missed bunny_hugger's sunglasses, so she had to buy a too-expensive replacement at an Ohio turnpike rest stop. We got to the park about a half-hour after opening, which was extremely early by my and bunny_hugger's standards. But we have season passes, so getting there at, like, 3 pm when the park closes at 8 (as it would) isn't too short a time. MWS and K have fewer chances to get to the park, and a need for more hours at it.

The advantage in going to a park early in the season is you're not going there late in the season. (Everyone follow me?) Late in the season everybody in the park's region realizes they haven't been there all season, so they rush the place and it's packed and there's huge lines. Early in the season, though? But this early you get a new risk: school groups. bunny_hugger disapproves of these, since they're field trips of dubious educational value. And they bring packs of schoolkids, who have a lot of energy and little impulse control or awareness that other people are trying to follow rules like 'don't jump the queues'. There were school groups at Cedar Point, but it was still a low-attendance day, and the groups weren't too raucous or oblivious. There were a couple of booths set up by agencies like the Michigan Science Center or the Toledo Zoo, giving demonstrations of things like how you can swing a bucket of water without spilling it, or that you could hold an antler. And the good thing about school groups is they leave in the early to mid-afternoon, so if you don't, the park suddenly becomes far less crowded.

MWS and K, it turns out, picked almost a perfect day for the park. It was clear and sunny, and in the low-to-mid-60s. It was breezy at times, but not uncomfortably so. No rain, not until we were driving home. None of the shows had started for the season, and a fair number of the concession stands weren't open. But none of the rides had impossibly great wait times. Even Steel Vengeance, the longest of the queues, came in in under 90 minutes our first ride, and under 40 minutes our second. Maverick, always a long wait, was down to about a half-hour. Millennium Force was only about ten minutes. There were roller coasters we didn't get on. Top Thrill Dragster was closed intermittently during the day. So was Magnum XL-200. Corkscrew we just never got near, for some reason. Rougarou and Wicked Twister we didn't get around to. But if we had tried just a touch harder? We probably could have done all the roller coasters (besides Wilderness Run, which unaccompanied adults aren't allowed on) in a day.

Some changes in the park from last year. The spot that had been the Witches Wheel has turned into a restaurant. A barbecue place, so that's dull, although it had an outdoor stage with the sign 'Elvis has left the building --- but will return May 25th'. Steel Vengeance has added a metal detector to the queue. Why? So that if you have a cell phone or camera or keys, they can stamp your hand with a big red X. You're supposed to tuck those into a small pouch underneath the seat, the better to keep them from flying loose while the ride's under way. The ride is very fast, and very twisty, and ... honestly, putting things in the pouch is not a bad idea, much as I worried that I'd forget and leave my camera in there. And it means that it's now safe to take your camera out in the queue and photograph the signs and decorations and such. Last year, after they adopted the no-cell-phones policy, being caught in line with the camera could in principle get you kicked off the ride.

The Mine Ride roller coaster has a new sign, one celebrating its 50th anniversary. And some new theming, too, sprucing up the launch station and the repair shed that the track rolls through. It's nice to see the ride getting some love, and tying it more closely to the world-building they're doing on the Frontiertown rides and attractions.

Gone in what is, in hindsight, not a surprise: the Midway Market. The buffet restaurant, traditionally the best dining value per pound of industrial-grade macaroni and cheese, was turned into ``Hugo's Italian Kitchen''. This offered pizzas and stromboli and calzone and it's all okay enough, although I did think the calzone a bit tough for the plastic silverware. And it's nice to have different vegetarian options, although I'd rather have the buffet place back. Also somehow the bathrooms weren't working yet in the renovated building?

Gone in what was a surprise because everyone had expected it for decades: the Cedars. These were some century-old buildings, originally built as a guest hotel, and used for decades as staff housing. They got torn down over the winter. What's there now? ... For this summer, at least, a monster truck ride, a muddy pit where you can get a ride in a full-size monster truck. There's a whole monster truck thing for this summer set up, although it hadn't yet opened. This doesn't seem like it's intended to be a permanent attraction, although they were building a queue and a path from the main body of the park across the road to the truck ride. This might be a transitional thing while they figure out what to do with the space. They studiously did not cut down all the trees that had been around the Cedars, suggesting that whatever they do plan on will have some shading.

Not changed, but still a disappointment: there's no pinball in the casino. The games taken out at the end of last season haven't been replaced; nor have the old mechanical coin-op attractions, like shooting galleries and test-your-strength gizmos and all. We did play a couple rounds of Skee-Ball. And MWS played a crane game and on the third try won a How To Train Your Dragon-themed plush doll. Not of Toothless, but of beloved other dragon (Red dragon with a fairly bulbous snout, whoever that is). It'd be a bit of a hassle carrying that around and we traded off whose pouch that would go in, at least until I discovered if I posed it just right it would fit in my cargo pants pocket.

One recurring surprise for the day: birds! There were a bunch of nesting birds at the park, some of them quite close to the action. There was a duck who'd set up a nest on the ground next to one of the Frontiertown restaurants. Kind-hearted people had set out a dish of water and a couple of grapes in easy range. Meanwhile over on Raptor a seagull had her nest, with a gorgeous speckled blue egg, just on the inside of a safety fence from the queue. There's always wildlife in the park. This is more nesting birds than I'm used to, and suggests we could see more like this if we just visited Cedar Point in May like we keep saying we should do.

A happy discovery: there's a place on the Frontier Trail that sells coffee now. The unhappy part: we discovered this only after we made the long trek to the front of the park and the longer wait through the queue at the Starbuck's that we thought was the only place to get coffee. Well, it's possible the Frontier Trail coffee place wasn't yet open for the season.

Also unsettling: bunny_hugger felt a bit motion-sick through much of the evening, even despite taking her motion-sickness pills. It seems to me likely this was from a mix of her being tired --- she hasn't had a good full night's sleep in ages --- and our extremely heavy roller-coaster-riding. We did get to all the intensest rides, and with very little waiting time, a probably more challenging ride load than she and I would do if we were on our own. We'd space things out with carousels and antique car rides and walking around the town museum and such. She'd also pick up a cough, soon, and maybe she was feeling a nauseous from whatever bug she was getting.

Still, in all, it was a really good day at the park. Well-timed, well-chosen, and for that matter, since the park closed at 8:00, we were able to get home at a not-absurdly-late hour. It'd be hard to top all that.

Trivia: The first Liverpool Packet, the James Monroe, left Pier 23, in New York City, the morning of the 5th of January, 1818; it was in the midst of a nor'easter. Source: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.


PS: The last of the Potter Park Zoo Wonderland of Lights? ... Not quite yet. But it's close. And some special stuff for c_eagle.

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Inside the bird house a blue-bellied roller (an African bird that lives around the southern end of the Sahara) does not like me one bit.


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Meanwhile, the blue-naped mousebird (another central-and-east African bird) is willing to give me the chance to make a fool of myself at least.


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A couple of green aracari --- the smallest of toucans --- want me to admire their beaks. Well, I do.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019
12:10 am
And I'll send all my loving

The 12th Lansing Pinball League season, and the third that bunny_hugger oversaw as head of the league, finished this past month. A week ago Tuesday were the finals. I had a pretty good season, coming in third in the standings for the regular season. Considering that we play with Herb-style scoring, where the standings each night are based on how well we do compared to everyone else playing the same table, and considering how good so many of the players are, that's outstanding. Lansing Pinball League might be the most collectively under-rated league in Michigan; many of our players don't play anywhere else, so they're ranked low. bunny_hugger finished the regular season in seventh place, earning her a coveted spot in the A Division.

But the regular season just sets our standings for finals. These, per tradition, are double-elimination, best-of-three match play. That is, you and an opponent play three games and the winner of two moves on. The loser goes into the Second Chance bracket where, if they lose another best-of-three match, they're out for the night.

My first match: I faced MAG, that old-time and returning player who's so very good. Since I knew I'd be facing him, I used actual data and looked up on what games over the course of the season I'd reliably beaten him on. This implied I go to South Park, a game that nobody likes but which I have finally found the hang of. I lost. Worst, I lost partly from my own fault. At the start of finals we held a vote about whether to continue the league tradition of playing one extra ball per game for tonight or whether to skip extra balls for the sake of getting finals, which always run long, done sooner. I voted to play the one extra ball per game. The margin was one vote; if I'd gone the other way, MAG wouldn't have had the ball that took him above my score. Well, I had the pick for a second game, and went with Tales of the Arabian Nights. I had a lousy game, and was put right into the Second Chance bracket.

And there I waited for my eventual opponent, which was, of course, bunny_hugger. She wasn't seriously upset at having been beaten her first round by DMC, since he's a really good player and started out on Deadpool, a game he's literally one of the ten highest-ranked players on the planet for. At that she came close to winning both games, so that was one of those defeats you can feel decent about.

So I took us to Beatles, a game both of us are strong on but that I'm more reliable on, and I lost. Then to Scared Stiff, another game both of us are strong on and that I'm more reliable on, and I lost. I was out, finishing a great regular season with a seventh-place finish. bunny_hugger would be knocked out her next round, finishing the season in fifth place and thinking how, if she had gotten just one more round, she'd have gotten an A Division trophy.

And part of me, really, was glad to be out of the competition. I could focus on paperwork instead, collecting the slips with match results, drawing up the new results, answering simple questions about, like, who picks which game. (The higher seed picks the first match, and whoever loses that picks the second game. If it goes to a third game, then whoever lost the second game picks the third.) A major part of me just likes keeping track of things, and any tournament goes more smoothly with such a person there.

In the end, MWS won, repeating his position as Lansing Pinball League champion. He had finished on top of the standings in the regular season, too. CST, hearing of this, said now he had to come back to Lansing for next season, to keep MWS from three-peating.

Finals took until about 1 am, and finished when MWS beat MAG --- who was in the Second Chance Bracket --- on an epic game of Game Of Thrones. Afterward, MWS, bunny_hugger, and I went to the Steak and Shake for cheese fries and a milkshake, to celebrate the end of the season. It was a heck of one.

Trivia: J P Morgan first went to work on Wall Street during the Panic year of 1857. Source: The Money Men: Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years' War over the American Dollar, H W Brands.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.


PS: Still not quite done with the Potter Park Zoo Wonderland of Lights, 2017 edition.

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Illuminated tunnel set up outside the (not pictured) enclosure that, in summer, has birds and butterflies you can worry you're going to accidentally let loose.


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One of the good things about a snowy December: lights that got covered with snow so you get these strange illuminated translucent blobby shapes.


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Peacock light fixture that I think I photograph every year and share here every year. It's at the front window to the bird house.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
12:10 am
It won't be long

So our first big event after Pinball At The Zoo was ... well, another pinball event. The VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Hall Of Fame annual show. Once again we got tickets for Friday evening, the 4-to-10-pm show. We might not be able to do that again: rumor is the guy who owns the place wants next year's to be Saturday and Sunday alone. Why cut back on the few days the place is (or even can be) open to the public, when it's always extremely popular, to the point that tickets reliably sell out? ... Nobody's really sure, although it's hard not to get the vibe that the guy who owns the collection doesn't really like having all these strangers in messing up his games. There was a tournament before the show started, but we didn't join that. For one, bunny_hugger still had classes in the early afternoon. For another, it was some ridiculously large entry fee that, as I understand it, was neither for charity nor paid out to winners. It's how you hold a tournament while not really wanting anyone there.

Still, the show draws a lot of attendees, including pinball vendors showing off their latest. There were three Black Knight: Sword of Rage tables, one of them the plain vanilla kind played at Pinball At The Zoo, and two the more deluxe models with an upper playfield. This was our chance to try the game again, before it comes to every pinball venue around us, and maybe even hear more than the bass of the music.

Also present: one of Jersey Jack's newest tables, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I'm not sure if the game rules are finalized (as far as game rules are ever final, anymore; it's now easy to patch the software in a pinball game, so it's easy to ship a partially complete game and trust you'll fix it after the fact). But it's bright and colorful just as you'd imagine the theme would be, and there's several lovely and weird shots to make, and already neat clips from the movie for various modes. Nobody got the Wonkavator multiball started but that looks like it should be great fun. We never did see anyone tilt a ball, but we've all got an idea what clip from the movie they've got to use when that event occurs.

We met up with MWS, of course, as well as some Lansing League regulars like RED and GCB and all. We led RED and GCB to Class Of 1812, to hear the multiball music, which goes into the 1812 Overture Done As Chicken Clucking, part of the game's weird-era Gottleib weirdness. RED opened the game's coinbox door --- something anyone can do, but which is against the rules and can get you kicked out --- to turn the volume up to ``earth-shattering'' so we, and everyone in the room, could hear it. Which was great, mind you, and which everyone liked. For a while. RED opened the box again to turn the sound down when one of the event staff came over. RED told them, ``I was turning the sound down'' without mentioning his part in turning the sound up, and was thanked for this good deed. Then he held up a pack of Mentos and smiled at the camera.

bunny_hugger and I would go looking largely for the older, weirder games. There were some wonderful new selections available. Particularly, there were a bunch of pure-mechanical games, pre-war pinball machines, from the era before there were flippers. There was just a shooter lane, a ball, and the fact you could tap on a machine to nudge it a little. Where the ball ended up guided your score. Some of them were great and I felt almost an instant expert, such as Bally's 1933 Airway, where there's ten airplanes labelled different cities, and a scoop for a ball to land in each one. In my best game I got balls in seven of the ten city-planes.

Others had me stumped, though. They had a 1934 Rube Gross and Company Torpedo, a naval-war-themed game. But the pins --- actual nails in the wood --- seem to close off all but two of the scoring holes. Even GRV, who knows every rule to every game ever, couldn't see how any of the rest even came into play. There are some dirigibles that hide the openings to tunnels, but he got a ball into one of them and it just returned to the shooter lane. So how does this game work? I don't know. Rube Gross and Company was active from September 1934 to sometime in 1935 and made three games, according to the Internet Pinball Database.

One little frustrating bit. I was having my best-ever game of Quicksilver, an early solid state game with a melty-character theme. My last ball, though, didn't kick into the plunger lane. This is a really simple fix --- open the coin box door and push the solenoid that kicks the ball out --- but, of course, non-staff opening the coin box door are subject to expulsion. I asked the first staffer who was nearby, an older man who was going around polishing table. He didn't seem to know what to do, or to follow what exactly the problem was, and in trying to fix it he lifted up the playfield, and reset the game, and eventually turned off the game. Well, two outstanding balls is still something.

The VFW has a Seawitch, too. This is an early-80s game with playfield adapted to be the new Beatles game. Beatles rapidly became one of my favorite pinball games, something I just have a complete understanding of the flow for and all the major shots and what to do. This was the first time I'd seen Seawitch since the Beatles came out, and I wanted to see how they compared. It turns out if you play Seawitch as though it were the Beatles table, you have a pretty good Seawitch game. In particular, the way the drop targets build your bonus multiplier, how the bonus multiplier carries over, and how you earn an extra ball are the same on Seawitch as on Beatles. So that's fun to know, in case it ever turns up.

We didn't really have enough time, but we never do at the VFW. Maybe next year, when --- if rumor pans out --- we'll probably get the Saturday ticket, 10-to-10. Saturdays are reportedly always packed, but there are a lot of games there, and twice as many hours wouldn't hurt.

Trivia: In 1755 --- before the declaration of what would be the Seven Years' War --- British sailors captured three hundred French merchantmen, taking something like $6 million in prizes. Source: The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution, Barbara W Tuchman.

Currently Reading: Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Oliver A Rink.

PS: A little more Potter Park Zoo Wonderland of Lights, 2017 edition.

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Light-lined sidewalk that's got the day's fresh snow on it. December 2017 was a snowy time in Lansing, which is great for night pictures and a little less great for walking around in.


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Nice long arc on the sidewalk with a bunch of Christmas trees. I like how the trees are lit from beneath and you can see the darkness of the sky.


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These were not animated reindeer lights, but I liked the way the picture came out anyway.

Monday, May 20th, 2019
12:10 am
It's a light-and-tumble journey from the East Side to the park

It took some doing but I did it, and published in my mathematics blog this past week. Here's what I did.

The story strip recap went halfway in rerun. What's Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? When might Spider-Man come out of reruns? February - May 2019 offers some explanation of what's been happening as well as my best guess about when it might stop.


Now let's get back to the Potter Park Zoo, where the 2017 Wonderland of Lights display turned out to be in the cold so we went inside one of the buildings to warm up.

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Spider monkey hanging out in the winter quarters. We'd duck into pretty much every enclosure to warm back up and then step outside for more lights.


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And some of the mandrills hanging out in winter quarters.


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Ringtailed lemurs hanging out under the heat lamp, keeping warm like French fries waiting to be served.


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Lemur shocked to see what I'm writing about them on the Internet!


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Lemurs huddling up for comfort under the heat lamp.


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The big cats also get brought inside for winter, and here, they just sleep some.


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Isn't that a lot of lion sleeping through the evening crowd?


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So you understand, each of these paws is about the size of a Honda Civic.


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I ... think he's annoyed with me?


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Lemur does not like my chances here.


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Tiger failing to sleep after remembering --- again --- that time in second grade she accidentally said something about going downstairs into the ``be-ice-ment'' in front of the whole class.


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Tiger posed in front of a matte painting from Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush (1925).


Trivia: In the two years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Federal Aid put over 20,000 miles of highway under construction. In 1942 it produced 1,869 miles. Source: The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers who Created the American Superhighways, Earl Swift.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

Sunday, May 19th, 2019
12:10 am
You for me and me for you

The drawback of competing in a tournament at something like Pinball at the Zoo --- and, more of doing well in it --- is that you lose the time to actually wander around the convention. I'd taken some time on Thursday when not competing, but not enough. Now that bunny_hugger had taken her prizes and stowed them safely in the car --- and gave to CST a can of turtle food that her parents had somehow been shipped by mistake --- we had a precious few hours to just hang around.

As we did, though, the convention was evaporating, people packing up their machines and moving them to their cars and trucks so as to get home at a reasonable hour. We were able to get to some exciting things. One was American Pinball's new table, Oktoberfest. American Pinball's a small company, in kind of that Jersey Jack zone where they're not a major maker (nobody but Stern is) but they're productive enough not to be a boutique maker anymore. Oktoberfest is themed to just what it says on the tin, and it startled us to realize we can't really think of the theme having been used before. ``Big, colorful party'' seems like a natural pinball theme, but then there's fewer amusement-park-themed games than you'd imagine too.

I'm not sure if the game is finished, but it felt pretty well-finished. Parts of the game represent different parts of a carnival, including a roller coaster shot. The jet bumpers are decorated as bumper cars, one of those things so inevitable you're amazed it hasn't been done before There's various modes started by going to the beer tent. There's a lot of peppy, silly music. The various modes include stuff like bumper cars, a Musik Express, and a Rotor ride. I'm a little cold to there being a ``chugging'' mode, since I'm just no fun about recreational alcohol poisoning. And the game's been controversial because the earlier art went way overboard with excited women being inadequately dressed, and when pinball players are complaining the art is gratuitously sexist you know it's bad.

But to give a sense of the level the game's working at, it has a feature you can activate when you start a game. This lets you play the entire game, flipping both flippers, using just the right flipper button. Why? So you can hold your beer in your left hand while you're playing. If that doesn't get at least a grin, the game's lost on you.

Our most wonderful discovery, though, was Gottleib's Big House, a crazypants late-solid-state pinball game from the company that invented crazypants late-solid-state pinball games. The theme is you're trying to break out of a slightly cartoony movie jail, with multiball being you make your big break and the jackpot from successfully escaping the warden. That's all strikingly linear for this era. The art has the prisoners represented by cartoony caricatures of old-time gangster or crime movie stars like Edward G Robinson or Peter Lorre. That's still doing well. Oh, half of the characters are animals for some reason. And that's where it gets baffling.

Making some characters literally rats or (presumably filthy) dogs or whatnot makes sense. Making minor characters (stool) pigeons makes sense. But then why stop halfway through? I'd understand if the backglass art were one way and the playfield another, or if the main playfield were one way and the art on the props were different. That could result from separate artists not understanding what the other was doing. But every element is mixed up like this. Like, the playfield has at bottom some realistic-cartoon thugs breaking out of jail. Above that are cops using search dogs that look like they're from a 1970s Scooby-Doo clone. And above that are pure cartoon rats-or-mice in cop helmets.

It was one of those wonderful, strange discoveries, the kind you make at a show like this where people want to show off the wonderful and strange games they have. Worth the day's admission at least.

We could get in a couple last games, but that was all. The show was ending. The question: do we go to the afterparty at MJS's pole barn? The reason this was a question: there was snow coming in. And, they forecast, a pretty major snow, something bringing a couple inches down. This in late April. You know, like people joke about happening in Michigan. I thought it worth trying to go, since how often do we get to the pole barn, but keep an eye on the weather and go home early if it seems to be getting bad. The saving grace here would be that while it was somehow cold enough to snow, the ground temperature was still warm, and it wasn't liable to make the roads that bad. I wound end up driving home at 50-to-60 mph, mind, this where the speed limit is 70. But that just let us get closer to caught up on our podcasts.

And of course we spent hours and hours at the party, pretty quickly forgetting our worries about the snow. It's always a nice place to visit and to hang out. MJS had added some decorations, too, a row of 70s-80s albums lining one room. If there is a theme to the art it's ``went to the record store and asked for 18 inches of records'', but it was an era of many wonderful and strange art covers. Also Rodney Dangerfield's rap album.

And we got to see more novelties. MJS has a Safecracker, a late-90s attempt by Bally to get operators more happy with pinball by making it more of a redemption game. It's got a break-into-the-bank pinball theme, with a small table and a time-limited mode meant to increase player turnover. One of its features is that it could shoot tokens out at the player. These tokens you'd then use to play a special alternate-rules version, called ``Assault on the Vault''. They had some, and we got to watch I want to say Derek Fugate (if I have this wrong, it doesn't matter) play this alternate, higher-tension, higher-energy version of the game. So that was worth brushing two inches of fat, wet snow off my car at the end of the night.

Trivia: William Bligh completed the mission of the Bounty --- the transplanting of breadfruit from Tahiti to Jamaica --- on the vessel HMS Providence. It was twice the size of the Bounty, and accompanied by the brig Assistant. Source: Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection, Leonard F Guttridge.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

PS: Reading the Comics, May 11, 2019: I Concede I Am Late Edition, but I finished up last week's comics in time for this week's, so there's that.


PPS: And now the last big event of 2017, our visit to the Potter Park Zoo and its Wonderland of Lights.

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Just inside the zoo's entrance, and a good sense of what the place looked like.


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Up front are a great number of Christmas trees decorated by local agencies. A striking number of them are dentist's offices, although as far as we know our dentists aren't among them. Local tech companies that do Internet ... things ... get a lot of trees too. The tooth decorations don't stand out so well when there's fresh snow.


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Elephant light fixture set up. Most of the animals for the zoo are in winter quarters, but their absence is made up for by lights like this which would not necessarily be out of place at Crossroads Village either.

Saturday, May 18th, 2019
12:10 am
Struggling along for years and years

Finals. bunny_hugger gets to pick again, and chooses the bank with Eight-Ball, Grand Prix, and Spider-Man. She doesn't care for Spider-Man, but the first two games, a solid-state and an electromechanical, play to her strengths. She's first player again, and puts up 114,730, a solid but beatable score. BP, one of those out-of-staters (he's from Columbus, Ohio, best I can figure) puts up 42,550. MJV, a friend we only get to actually see when we're at Chesterfield, basically, puts up 56,900. And BIL just puts up nothing, a 37,830 finish. bunny_hugger has a first-place finish. It's a great start. Takes a lot of pressure off. And the next game is Grand Prix, an electromechanical that she always likes even when she isn't having a good game.

She has a lousy game. Grand Prix, like most electromechanicals, gives five balls to play. It gives five balls because it's easy to have a house ball, one that just rockets out of play with no chance to do anything about it. (Modern games compensate for this, some with better design, some with ball saves that take the sting off.) She never gets anything going, and puts up 164,000 points, for last place. BP has 282,830, a third-place finish. MJV just squeaks him out, 286,490 points. BIL has a 370,100 point finish.

Going into the final game, bunny_hugger, MJV, and BIL are all tied, and BP still isn't out. It's literally possible for anyone to finish in any position. And the game is to be Spider-Man. Which is on the hard settings, and has the shorter-than-standard flippers, and which has been creaming everybody all weekend.

bunny_hugger avoids a disaster, though, putting up 10,172,640. It's a fair score, especially how it's been playing. BP then scores 12,076,640. MJV flops, taking a last-place 4,096,320.

BIL is guaranteed to take first place in the B Division now. If he wins this game, then bunny_hugger takes second place. If he finishes behind bunny_hugger's 10-million, then she ties for second with BP and goes to a tiebreaker match. If he finishes above bunny_hugger but behind BP, then she takes third place.

He built his score gradually, despite me and bunny_hugger hoping he drained fast. Then he got past that 10,172,640 and our attitudes switched. He was in what we regard as the danger zone, and we just wanted him to rocket through the two million more points he needed. He had a mode going, which was great, since a few shots could get him past that. And he did, although the mode was obscuring his score so we couldn't see it for a while. He finished at 15,754,320, taking another first-place finish on a table. BIL was first-place finisher at the B Division, Pinball at the Zoo.

bunny_hugger was second-place.

This is, by the way, as good a finish as I had ever done at Pinball At The Zoo, and that was years it wasn't a circuit event and so the competition level was much less intense.

MJV and BP ended up tied for third, and had to hold a tiebreaker. This was delayed some as MJV, I believe thinking he had finished last altogether, had wandered off somewhere. But they eventually got back together, for a game of Fish Tales where MJV put up 63,456,830 to BP's 67,242,060.

Besides taking home a trophy --- well, a plaque, with a nice big star on the center --- she got her pick of Stern pinball translites. These are the art on the backglass. These included a couple of Iron Maiden translites, which are in demand because the game is new and exciting still, and it is pretty stylish especially if you like the band. Plus, Keith Elwin, who designed the game, was there and would likely sign the thing. (Elwin, already a top-ranked player, designed the table for himself, to make his own game. People loved the feel of the the thing, and Stern hired him to turn this into a production run game, just like happens in your fantasies about having someone come up to you with a dump truck full of money to do the thing you have fun doing.)

But bunny_hugger followed her own muse, going for what she personally enjoyed more, and took a translite for Monopoly. This is a game Stern released in the early 2000s, when they were apparently picking licenses at random. But it's also a game that she finally came around to liking. She had to get familiar with its layout, and with the way it worked. The key was realizing it was designed by Pat Lawlor, who also designed FunHouse and many other tables, all of which enjoy certain commonalities of grammar. By this I mean a little upper flipper that feeds to a side ramp for the jackpot. So she picked out the translite for this relatively unloved game and called out ``Pat Lawlor FTW!'' and then worried that Keith Elwin might have overheard her and felt hurt by this. (I cannot imagine a serious pinball player not sympathizing with a pro-Pat-Lawlor comment, though. It'd be like ragging someone in a 60s music group for liking the Beach Boys.) I offer this paragraph if you need to understand bunny_hugger's character quickly.

Trivia: When the Rural Electrification Administration formed in 1935, about two farms in ten in the United States had electricity. In 1945 about eight in ten did. Source: An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.


PS: And here's a couple pictures of the Silver Balls in the City tournament from 2017. I didn't win.

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Why we play: the trophies bunny_hugger made, using Christmas decorations from Michael's and maybe the knick-nack sale at Crossroads Village, plus some sparkle-painted wood blocks and stuff. She these days prefers to make four trophies, since most of the tournaments she organizes end with four-player groups. But Silver Balls, as a head-to-head strikes tournament, had no reason to end in a four-player group, so she settled for the less taxing trophy-making project.


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What a pinball tournament looks like, administrative side: the trophies, the box into which we dropped off the results of matches, the official rule sheets in case bunny_hugger has to make a depressing ruling and wants the authority of the printed rules to back her up, score sheets, a clipboard, and miscellaneous other stuff.


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What a pinball tournament looks like, player side: a late-round match on Star Trek. At the time the Star Trek pinball game was next to the Star Wars game, but they've since been moved to different areas of the bar so that they don't fight.


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Bonus little picture since I tried taking action shots of pinball games: here's multiball. Do you see all three of the balls in motion here?


Friday, May 17th, 2019
12:10 am
Three French hens

I had a special week on my humor blog. I found excuses to write about the story comics three times, including one that I don't ordinarily cover because it's been in reruns for nearly a decade now. I cover stuff from decades before the reruns started. So here's the stuff you missed if you weren't reading it already:

Now to close out Crossroads Village. We got to the Christmas melodrama they put on, which (at least through 2017) was always this little thing set in the Vague 19th Century with a cute if sheepish young couple and a fun leering baddie who's usually trying to destroy Crossroads Village for his own profit, but who gets redeemed by love and whatnot.

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Our heroes: the female protagonist and her fiancee, clerk to the banker bad-guy.


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Well of course I was interested in the bookshelves. Who doesn't go studying the bookshelves of anyplace they find themselves?


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And in the center: our villain! Or at least the antagonist; this time around he was giving people a hard time but not actually trying to destroy the village, far as I remember.


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Close-up of the female protagonist and the villain, who's just not having anything with her sweetness and kindness and all that. She's fine enough, performing, but I think even from a still picture you can see how he dominates the show


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And the quartet. The new woman, on the right, represents some big New York money concern that's looking at whether our regular villain's worth doing business with. Also they used to be engaged and didn't get married and you know how awkward that was in the Vague 19th Century.


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A tense moment. Do you imagine their personal and business conflicts are at all resolvable?


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Well, the power of love came through and saved the village, although the clerk and his fiancee had to sneak back in to remind everyone they're in this story too.


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View of Crossroads Village from the opera-house balcony. The place was closing by the time the show let out.


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And a close-up view of the bedazzled Christmas tree. They leave the lights on this up all year, if our summer visit that one time is representative.


Trivia: The Atlas-Agena launch, meant to establish a rendezvous and docking target for Gemini VI, was from a pad about 6,000 feet away from Launch Complex 19, with Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford already in the Gemini capsule. (The Agena broke up on launch and the mission was scrubbed.) Source: Sigma 7: The Six Mercury Orbits of Walter M Schirra Jr, Colin Burgess.

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

Thursday, May 16th, 2019
12:10 am
Who better than me to set you on your way

There's two advantages being top-seeded in a pinball tournament gets you. One is a bye through a round. That wouldn't happen in B Division. The other advantage is getting to pick the games on which the group plays. But AJH and PH, wanting to keep the many groups --- six playing at one time, when A and B Divisions were accounted for, at least through semifinals --- from all waiting for the same table. And, as a pinball tournament gets bigger, it tends to want the winner to have to show prowess on a range of games. Pinburgh, for example, makes (roughly) every bank include a modern game, an electromechanical, an early-solid-state, and a late-solid-state game. The winner has to do all right on every kind of pinball game there is.

So AJH and PH set up a banks format. The top seed in any group got to pick a course of three games that they'd play. The banks would be played in a set order, and no group could pick a bank already being played. This would avoid any group having to wait. And while the banks weren't perfectly balanced --- there'd be some with two modern-era games, like Ghostbusters and Fish Tales, or two solid-state games like Whirlwind and Laser Cue --- it was a bit more spread out. So bunny_hugger could pick her favorite tables.

Except that the four groups of the A Division got to pick banks first. And EJO, being on-tiebreaker higher tan bunny_hugger got to pick first too. There were, I think, nine banks and she had to pick one of the four dregs. She chose the one with Black Knight: Swords of Rage, Laser Cue, and World Cup Soccer. World Cup Soccer is an old friend. Laser Cue was suddenly being a new friend. Black Knight nobody knew anything about, but she'd had nothing but decent games in qualifying. That could be plenty.

She put up a lousy game of Black Knight. Like, as bad as I had done. First time she flopped on that table. SCS, who we play with sometimes in Grand Rapids and in Fremont, did marginally better. CON, who I don't think we've met before, doubled either score. BIL put up an honestly decent game, coming in at just over 26 million. He had won when got ten million points, but was caught in one of those modes that hides other players' scores so he had no responsible choice but to keep playing until that ended and he could check he'd won. bunny_hugger had a last-place finish and was feeling miserable.

She felt worse after starting Laser Cue, having a lousy ball, and then remembering: this is BIL's table.. Not, like, he owns another of this table and so knows all the rules and best strategies. He owns specifically this literal machine, and brought it from his basement to the show two days before, and while it might be set up a little different from how he'd play it at home, he's played it all he could possibly want. She had another lousy ball and looked at a last-place finish again, which would knock her out of finals.

A lot of what I do at events like this is promise bunny_hugger that she's not a lousy player, that nobody thinks she's a lousy player, and that she's under-rating herself as a player. And that she can win this yet. All right, but how? First, I told her, go to the bathroom and wash her hands. Wash those lousy balls off her. And, mercifully, she took my instruction, making the long walk down the hall to the bathroom, and coming back with her head in a different space. I asked what she thought had gone wrong. She said she never had control of the ball. I aske what was something she could do this ball to prove she had control of it. She picked something and I told her, go do that.

At this point BIL had just under 400,000 points. bunny_hugger was at like 20,000, so catching that --- and beating whatever he might put up on his last ball --- seemed unlikely. But everyone else had mediocre scores too; she could take second place easily. And she found her I'm-in-control shot, and kept working it. finishing at 92,450.

SCS, player two, fumbled a little and lost the ball at 69,230. I hugged bunny_hugger and pointed out how she was not last, this game. CON started his game, from a tiny bit above where bunny_hugger had, and he didn't play great, but he played good enough to get very worrying. He drained maybe 20,000 points below bunny_hugger's score, but the bonus had yet to count up. It did. It ended.

At 91,990.

By a whisker --- basically one spinner hit --- bunny_hugger was still in the running. SCS, with a third and a last, was basically knocked out. BIL, with two firsts, was guaranteed to move on. If CON beat bunny_hugger he would move on. If bunny_hugger took first place, or beat CON by at least two positions --- she had second while he had fourth, or she had first while he had third --- she'd move on. If bunny_hugger did not, she wouldn't. The game was World Cup Soccer.

She had a lousy first ball and felt despair creeping in again. She wouldn't go wsh her hands again, but I did ask what simple shot she could be sure she made, to get back in control. And she did the important one, getting multiball going. Multiball in World Cup Soccer is this routine: shoot the goal target in the way back of the playfield, for a jackpot. Then shoot either ramp to relight the jackpot. Once per multiball, you can relight the jackpot by jabbing the 'Buy Extra Ball' button too. BIL looked over her playing and asked me if she remembered that. I was sure she had, and had already used her jackpot relight. bunny_hugger had not.

She finished at 433,874,130 points. A decent score, although one that anybody could beat with a good multiball. SCS finished with 137,522,120 points and took another last place. CON threatened to ruin my day, taking 372,840,200 points. If BIL won this game, which he certainly could, then CON would move on. If he didn't, then bunny_hugger would win. He scored 191,066,560, a third-place finish.

BIL and bunny_hugger were going to finals.

Trivia: The Encyclopedia Britannia was owned by Sears, Roebuck, briefly. Source: Know-It-All, A J Jacobs. (This was from 1920 through 1922.)

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.


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Close up of the band organ attached to the carousel. It's not ornate, but this model carousel --- designed to be mobile --- would have problems with too-ornate an organ.


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Getting back to the main village. Here are some of the 19th-century buildings in 21st-century illumination. In the far back is the tree that they go all out to light up.


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The opera house, the most prominent building in town and where the gift shops (left and right) are, as well as (center) the stairs up to the performing hall.


Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
12:10 am
And who better than me to teach you

The last day of Pinball At The Zoo qualifying started at 9 am. The debate: do we get there then? Because the sooner we get there the earlier we have to wake and set out. It's a bit over an hour from Lansing to the Kalamazoo Expo Center. After more debate than I realized we'd have we set out aiming to arrive at 9:30, trusting that we would use the extra half-hour of sleep productively.

bunny_hugger did, starting off with a Whirlwind that about doubled her score and gave her one of the top-thirty scores of the weekend on that game. This reinforces the superstition about playing cold. I did not. I tried Fish Tales, a game I know very well but had only had one mediocre game on, and had a worse game. And worse again. I tried alternating World Cup Soccer and Fish Tales, as the tables I could most probably improve my scores on. I'd already had a billion-point World Cup Soccer, but I've done two and a half billion in the past, at this very event. Not in its 2019 instance, though. I thought about giving Stars another try, since I was sure I could do better. But I checked the app I record my personal high scores on and discovered, to my vague insult, that I have never had a good game of Stars. Like, the best score I've got recorded for myself on it would be about 50th place in the tournament, of 90 entrants. So with actual knowledge I could give up on that and go where my skills might be appreciated. Such is the value of having actual data. This kind of thing is going to turn me into a pinball sabermetrics nerd yet.

So despite my scorekeeping break, and my genuinely feeling fresh, I wasn't having any luck with my scores. Nor, after that first game, was bunny_hugger. She kept trying Laser Cue, as the game she felt she could improve on, until giving up in frustration and moving to Stars. She did nothing but that for another hour, without improving her scores in the least.

My long, sad dry spell came to an end when I noticed Spider-Man free. This modern-era game was set up Hard --- the sign warned about that. With short ball save, too. And with lightning flippers, a valuable quarter-inch (or so) shorter than what the game was designed for. (The name comes from the jagged-lightning-bolt pattern decorating the flippers.) I'd had several dismal games on it Thursday, but, what did I have to lose? And this time, not a thing. Spider-Man, when you've got it working, lets you combine (``stack'') modes together easily, so that one shot counts for many accomplishments. This time I got things stacked, including multiball, and finished with just over 60 million points. That was one of the twenty best scores on the table that weekend. This may not sound like much, but, five top-twenty games is enough to make playoffs. It's plausible to make A Division. ... But it was under an hour left to play, and I had no entries left. I went to the desk and bought two more entries, saying, not to be stingy but what were the chances I'd get to a third table before qualifying time ran out?

So I went to The Walking Dead, on which I already had a fair score, but which I felt ... you know, I could do better than. I went back to basics: just hit the Prison door and the Well Walker, both of which start multiball if you do it enough. And I eventually got ... eh, a decent score. 65 million. A slight improvement on the 59 million I'd put up on Thursday, but still. It boosted my scores a little and, in this precious last half-hour of open qualifying, kept anybody else from putting up a better score. I gave The Walking Dead one more try and put up a slightly worse score. With the end of open qualifying I was three places out of making the bottom of B Division.

There were 32 finals slots. If this were not a Stern Pro Circuit event it would be thinkable that three people might not show up for finals. But ... people who had travelled here from Chicago? From Denver? From California? Never. At most maybe one person would have an emergency, but three? Not at all. I was out; I just had to wait for the official word.

bunny_hugger had used up all her entries but had about fifteen minutes left. She was sitting on the bubble, qualifying for the 8th spot in B Division. If all stood as it was, she was fine. Except ...

After the open qualifying finished there would be one more hour. In this, only scorekeepers would play, their compensation for giving up hours to scorekeep others. I know what you're thinking: oh, so I had a bonus hour. No; the scorekeeping hour was only for people who had put in three hours' work. They're wise to that trick. Anyway, for an hour a smaller set of people would be able to put in scores and those would most likely move us down.

But only most likely. There are some slight bonuses given the highest-scoring people on each game. This, and the best-six-of-twelve-scores-count format, mean it's possible for person A's game to move person B above person C, but you can't count on that.

So. She bought one more entry. And she picked one more game, going back to Laser Cue for one last time. At the last minute. The last game anyone would play in open qualifying on this. And she ...

She tore it up. She put up 538,330, more than halfway to rolling the table, and the 14th-best score altogether. And this after she'd already had top-eight games of Eight Ball and Stars. Add to that a 14th-best Fish Tales and she was going to finals.

She was, before the Scorekeepers' Hour, the top seed in B Division.

There was no chance of her making A --- she was about fifteen points out of that, and there's no way the Scorekeepers' Hour scoring could affect a change that big. And with no realistic chance of absentees she wouldn't be bumped up. But still. The Scorekeepers' Hour might shuffle her score a couple points, but not enough to change things. She was in.

She started the Scorekeepers' Hour one point ahead of EJO, who was himself a scorekeeper. Halfway through the hour, EJO had dropped to three points behind her. MWS used his hour to put up his best Black Knight: Swords of Rage, Fish Tales, Ghostbusters, Eight Ball, World Cup Soccer, Whirlwind, and Spider-Man.

This sounds like a great hour for him. But apart from Ghostbusters none of his scores were top-twenty, and some weren't even top-thirty. His Whirlwind was three-quarters bunny_hugger's score. His Fish Tales one-quarter hers. His Stars score was half of hers. He beat her on Eight-Ball and Grand Prix and World Cup Soccer, but with scores themselves weak enough that it didn't matter. He finished ... well, three spots ahead of me. But his world ranking was such that he was A-Division-restricted. He was allowed to play in either the A Division finals or not at all, and he finished eleven positions out of A Division.

The Scorekeepers' Hour ended with bunny_hugger and EJO tied for the top of B Division. The tiebreaker, for seeding, was who had the higher best-position-on-a-table, which EJO did. So she had, effectively, second seed. But that's all right. She had the enviable spot of ``driving the bus'': she would pick the tables on which they played the first round of finals.

Sort of.

Trivia: From 1707 to 1752 in the United Kingdom, the 1st-of-January-through-25th-of-March was reckoned as a different year in Scotland from what it was in England-and-Wales. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel. (Both areas were on the Julian calendar yet; they just, in that interval, counted the year as different. That is, a Scottish source would give the George Washington's birth as the 11th of February, 1732, while a Welsh would give it as the 11th of February, 1731, if they had any reason to mention the topic.)

Currently Reading: Oz Before The Rainbow: L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939, Mark Evan Swartz.

Are These Numbers A Thing? A question delivered me by chefmongoose.


PPS: Let's enjoy the Crossroads Village carousel.

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Haven't you always wondered what's underneath a carousel horse? Now you know, you perv.


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The chariot, carrying as often happens the carousel's only dragon ride.


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Also who doesn't love that body language of the dragon afraid of the tiny little serpent? That's a great dynamic.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019
12:10 am
Though you're weird, you can make it

Friday for Pinball At The Zoo we thought would be short, but not unbearably so. bunny_hugger had class, and didn't feel she could just cancel it, especially not after the many weather-induced cancellations earlier in the year. But she could cancel office hours, and get home by 2:30, 3:00, plenty of time to put in six hours at the show. She had forgotten something. This would be department meetings. She could have easily skipped that except this was the meeting to set teaching schedules. This is missed at considerable peril. She wouldn't get home until 6:00, and fuming, especially as it happened that she didn't have to fight to avoid an unbearable schedule. We decided, with some dissatisfaction at how little time we'd have, to go back to Kalamazoo anyway.

We would only have two and a half hours of play time, by the time we were on the road. But two and a half hours Friday was playing time we could not have on Saturday. Plus Black Knight: Swords of Rage was there, and taking scores. In our absence, the new players had driven our scores down out of A Division contention. We could use the time to shore ourselves up. Maybe get back into A Division. Certainly secure B Division placement for us.

Could is a load-bearing word. bunny_hugger got onto Black Knight: Swords of Rage and, not knowing anything about the game, put up 13 million points. This was somewhere in the top fifteen finishes anyone had made on the brand-new game. It would finish the weekend at like 32nd, but still, a good enough finish to matter for her standings. She'd also make some improvement on Whirlwind, although nothing she wouldn't better later on. She made a string of tries on early-solid-state Laser Cue, without getting anywhere.

Me, I stepped up to Black Knight and, feeling confident about the general ability of new games to clue you in to what to do, put up 3.6 million, a score that could be described as ``made all the basic skill shots''. I licked my wounds on Eight Ball and put up my best relative performance on any game, a score that would be 15th-best for the weekend on that pool-themed early solid state. I got back in the long queue for Black Knight and .... well, I almost doubled my score, but that still wasn't much better. Then I beat my head against World Cup Soccer and Stars, trusting I could put something together on a modern game I know extremely well and an electromechanical. I could not.

So I felt myself in a slump. Thing about slumps is they end, but not when you're obsessing on them ending. Slumping performance is a kind of a rut. You can break out of it by keeping on until you get lucky and something turns well and you feel it ended. Or you can break out of it by going and doing something else, not worrying about your slump, and coming back refreshed. There's a couple little things you can try. Walking out and coming back in. For me, going off and getting a couple Reese's Pieces has been a lovely if calorie-bearing method. That didn't work either. I needed to do something bigger to break the pattern.

So I asked the desk if they needed any scorekeepers. Pinball At The Zoo has so many players on so many games putting up so many scores that they need a flock of people to record scores and put people into queues. They're always a little short on these. But playing was more frustrating than anything else. This way I could do the event a favor. Build up some good karma.

Karma, of course, doesn't work like that. You don't do good things and build good karma. You do things, and if they're done for good intentions and with good results, it's good karma.

Nevertheless, it was putting my time there to a more constructive purpose than fuming over how I couldn't find any shots on Stars. And it helped at a critical time, too: they needed at least four scorekeepers for the 9-to-10 hour, and nobody had signed up in advance. People had come to volunteer, and I'd be the fourth of the minimum four needed. But it felt good to be doing something needed.

bunny_hugger would characterize this as my giving up on attempting scores. It's true that it knocked me out for the last hour of play for the night. But I think that it did me good in improving my mood, certainly. And, as it happens, I ended up putting up more attempts on games than she did over the weekend. And only a couple fewer games on Friday than she did. Mine just took much less time.

And it let me actually see some of the other players, especially the out-of-state ringers. Sunshine Bon, who's not actually the namesake of our rabbit, was there. So was someone listed on the roster as ``Trailer Tom''. He appears to be a guy out of Colorado, someone who'd been in pinball way back in the oldest days --- the International Flipper Pinball Association has him finishing 12th at Pinburgh C Division in 2002, of 72 players. He hasn't got much recent, although he did play at an event at the 1up arcade in Denver that we visited last year. And I had some fun encounters too. When calling up the next player --- Derek Fugate --- I realized I could think of at least two pronunciations of that name, and apologized to him that I didn't know which he preferred. He insisted I could pronounce his name however I wanted. Fine, but, as I said, it's his name. I don't have standing to say it any particular way.

We closed the place out --- bunny_hugger's final game of the night, an Eight Ball that didn't improve on her past results, came in just after the 10 pm closing hour --- and drove home, facing an uphill climb in the morning if we wanted to make it to playoffs.

Trivia: The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 required 40 percent of displaced persons accepted into the United States be from ``annexed areas'', that is, those taken by the Soviet Union after World War II. Source: The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War, Ben Shapiro.

Currently Reading: Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 - 1942, Perry H Merrill.


PS: Crossroads Village at Christmas 2017! What all is around the carousel?

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Outside the carousel building are some other small amusement-park rides. Kiddie rides, really, although the Venetian Swings is a good ride. They're closed, so far as we're aware, in the winter, apart from the Ferris wheel. The snow seems to support our analysis, as do the many footprints of people discovering ``no''.


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And the view back from the carousel building toward the main part of the village. The lighted archway marks a separation between the village which is mostly 19th-century building and the rides which are all of the 20th century. It also makes a great visual frame for your photograph of the carousel building.


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Finally one of our rides! The horses are covered in red and green blankets, likely to make them look more Christmas-y and maybe also to keep too much snow and slush and mud from being tracked onto them by the big winter crowds.

Monday, May 13th, 2019
12:10 am
Four calling birds

On my mathematics blog I finally followed up that decent question asked last month with a two-thousand-word answer, which, one commenter pointed out, was the same answer they'd given right away. Well, fair enough, but I assumed less familiarity with the concepts involved and laid out the concepts involved. So there's that. Here's what I've been writing, mathematically:

And for the story comics: What's Going On In Judge Parker? Why did Judge Parker help fake Norton's Death? A Special Report. about part of the backstory that's driving the current storyline despite having been, actually, quite unclearly presented at the time. The actual recapping of storyline I have scheduled to appear tomorrow.

Now let's get back to Crossroads Village for Christmas '017. We were still on the train ride as of yesterday. Today?

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More of the Twelve Days of Christmas lights. Here, six geese a-laying. There's displays all around this big loop, left and right side, and the train only takes the loop once so if you're on the wrong side good luck seeing things clearly.


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The ten lords-a-leaping, represented in lights with the one lord and quite a few crowns.


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Similarly only one figure, with a lot of pipes, stands in for the eleven pipers piping. Fortunately he has the leg length of eleven.


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And back near the start of the turnaround we pass again the lone partridge in a pear tree.


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By now the train windows were fogging up enough to obscure our pass near Automan's train, Autotrain.


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Yeah, why don't I just take a flash picture? That's going to help. I'm pretty sure this was an accident, but it came out all weird and interesting so I'm keeping it.


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And the back end of the train. Notice there's people posing for a photograph, someone else's, here.


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Our other goal for the visit was going to the C W Parker carousel, the century-old antique that runs at a healthy six rpm.


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And once again one of my favorite angles on the carousel, showing the gap underneath and how the whole ride is suspended from above and glides effortlessly above the floor.


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Around the carousel are various little knicknacks, mostly stuff donated and then sold in the hopes of raising money to support the Crossroads Village. Here, for example, a wonderful old plastic cup of Ziggy dreaming of the day someone gives him a basketball. You know, Ziggy, you can just buy basketballs. There are stores that would be happy to sell you one. You don't have to justify the buying of it or anything.


Trivia: 39 investors, mostly from Brooklyn and a few from New York City, met on the 13th of May, 1867, to organize the New York Bridge Company, which would ultimately get the Brooklyn Bridge built. Source: The Epic of New York City, Edward Robb Ellis.

Currently Reading: Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 - 1942, Perry H Merrill.

Sunday, May 12th, 2019
12:10 am
You're kind of cool, in a wonderful way

So we got to the Kalamazoo Expo Center mere minutes after Pinball At The Zoo started, 2 pm Thursday. There was already a crowd, a bunch of the people we know from Michigan Pinball. A lot of them were playing, or waiting for, the daily tournament games. The strategy MWS pointed out for reaping big points at a lower-intensity tournament was great. The trouble was everybody else knew it too. The plan was a good one. A first-place finish in the Thursday or Friday tournament would not be worth as much as the Main Tournament would, or even the Classics would. But it was worth about half as much, and could launch anyone into the state's top-ten.

I decided to let the daily tournament rest a while, and put in games on the twelve Main tables. Well, the eleven main tables. The newest pinball game, Stern's Black Knight: Sword of Rage, was so new they didn't even have one yet. It would arrive on Friday, and I'd have to play it on Saturday. And yes, it's a sequel to Williams's Black Knight (1980) and Black Knight 2000 (1989). We were excited to play it, obviously. And it's neat that Stern made a game that's ... well, it's not un-licensed, since they got the Black Knight rights from Williams Intellectual Property Licensing Corporation LLC GmbH Co Ltd. But it's a theme created by and for pinball games. We we had high hopes.

The main tournament, then. I took my usual strategy of put a game in on everything and hope for the best. Then build from whatever it seemed like I could build on. And, you know, there's the longstanding pinball superstition that playing cold, your first game in days or weeks or longer, will be fantastic. For me, my first game --- Eight Ball, an early solid state game I've played often at AJH and PH's games --- and had a ... mm. Mediocre game, but a fair one. Then on to Whirlwind, a late-solid-state game that's really challenging. And I put together a pretty solid game. Not my best-ever, but a rather good one, especially since I didn't get the multiballs going. I instead got in this groove where I hit the drop targets, for a half-million points a shot, and that was tolerably safe. Then on to the other games; a Fish Tales that started great and petered out. A mediocre Gilligan's Island, but that game is such a dice roll that that could plausibly be enough. Stars, an early solid-state, that I did nothing on. Laser Cue, another early solid state that came out pretty well. Mediocre World Cup Soccer. Lousy Spider-Man. Terrible Ghostbusters. Lousy Walking Dead. Pretty good Grand Prix. The result was after an hour of play, concentrating on the tournament games, I was officially listed as being in first place for the whole tournament! By virtue of almost nobody having put in games on all eleven available tables, but still. I kept screenshots of my temporarily very happy standing.

I made a round on the daily tables, and then another one, getting into a mediocre spot but one that maybe I could build on. Then went back to the main tournament, trying to get a Stars game that was any good. Incremental improvement on Spider-Man. Decent improvement on Eight Ball. I was no longer in first place, because people were actually competing, but I was still in the top ten.

We were undecided whether we'd make it to Classics. It would start on Friday and we might not want to make a third drive to Kalamazoo in a single weekend. But bunny_hugger had to play on it, as those were the tables for the side Women's tournament. Literally: the games women put on that would be used to seed the women's tournament. This was a good hack to save women the trouble of deciding whether to play in the main or the women's-only tournaments. But it would keep the women's tournament from counting for anything in the women's world rankings. Still, it meant bunny_hugger was playing the Classics tournament, and if she did well, she'd get to play the Classics finals. So I might as well put in some games. After all, I always have success in the Classics tournament at PatZ.

I do not always have success in the Classics tournament at PatZ. In fact, I have never had success in the PatZ Classics. But I believed myself to be charmed in the PatZ Classics and so I felt betrayed that, for example, I put up a lousy game on Alien Star. And worse, Alien Star then went down, and despite many attempts would never be reliably working the right of the day. The Classics tournament was best-four-of-five games. This limited us to best-four-of-all-four.

I made several new attempts on the Daily tournament games, with mixed success. I get the 12th-highest score on Surf Champ, and 17th-highest on Torch. That would be marginal, if I matched those performances on the other two games. But I didn't; I finished 23rd on Big Indian, and a miserable 38th on Time Fantasy --- fifth-lowest score on the day --- and finish the day in 23rd place. The top eight went to finals. bunny_hugger finished the daily tournament in 14th place --- the highest-placing woman, by the way --- but still, too low to get into the playoffs.

But the daily tournament, that didn't look too bad. I finished the day somewhere in the teens, overall. There would be many people entering scores Friday, many of them people who hadn't played at all yet. But with the top 24 making it ino the A Division --- and the next eight making it into the B Division --- it looked pretty sure that I'd somewhere in the finals. B Division would be great. I'd taken second place in B Division twice, although not in 2018. A Division would be magnificent.

bunny_hugger's position I remember less clearly. She was lower-ranked, but she had played fewer of the main tournament games. She had worked more on the Classics/Women's games, for one. And put in many more games for the Daily tournament, which is part of why she finished so far above me. We might or might not get back Friday. But with the morning of Saturday to shore up scores she had good reason to think she'd make the playoffs, although she refused to think so.

And an important side point: the people who bring all the exotic sodas to the convention were there, as always. So I was able to get some Moxie. (They didn't have diet.)

Trivia: A 1790 voting act in New Jersey specifically used the terms ``he'' and ``she'' in reference to voters in the state's southern counties. (This would be the half the state with a significant Quaker population, a community more accepting of women's rights than the norm.) Source: New Jersey: A History of the Garden State, Editors Maxine N Lurie, Richard Veit.

Currently Reading: Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933 - 1942, Perry H Merrill.


PS: The Crossroads Village train continues its job of running past light displays!

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Ooh, hey! My camera did very well focusing on these lights of candy-cane trees and your traditional Christmas ... rainbow.


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And another pretty good snap of Santa taking off. Notice the package falling out of his sleigh, part of the animation. You can maybe make out the lights that come on to make Santa wave.


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Part of the vast Twelve Days of Christmas loop: a funny interpretation of ``four calling birds'' that's as good as any because nobody actually has a clear idea what a ``calling bird'' is supposed to be.


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