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austin_dern

June 2017

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Our first real activity Friday, besides Opening Ceremonies and popping over to Panera's for lunch, was the Text Adventures panel, run by Draggor unless that changed between the schedule and the reality. This is done by going around the table, each person in the room giving one instruction in the hopes of guiding our protagonist through a Text Adventures/Interactive Fiction-style puzzle. [profile] bunny_hugger and I have been to a couple of these, and at the risk of bragging, we're getting pretty good because we've learned some pretty good skills at identifying nouns and spotting possible catastrophes early and not bossing around the other players so that silly stuff can unfold as it will. In the game played this time, based loosely on the murderer-at-a-campground theme of Friday the 13th movies, we had a couple slick moments. I know for a fact I saved the day twice, once by looking in the backseat of a car (had the protagonist not looked, the game's mechanic said the murderer would have been in there) and once by saving just as the gang was ready to go off into the woods (where we were instantly killed; my save meant we could restart with almost no loss of time). I suspect but don't know for sure that I also saved the group by putting the gunpowder in the waterproof sack, but it seems plausibly so. Anyway, I got feeling all like a master text adventure-player, which is pretty funny considering when actual text adventures were a thing, back in the day, I don't believe I ever once got out of the starting room, ever. Not to brag about all this, mind. Just I'm still giggling over how well it worked out.

Our next real activity was the Morphicon/AnthrOhio tradition of the cake-decorating contest. This was tucked off an an anteroom to the con suite, and next to the tables being set up to hold the pizza being provided free to all AnthrOhio guests that day. We've only ever missed the cake-decorating contest once, that time because the posted schedule had the hour of it wrong, and we weren't going to miss this without really good cause. This time they had one more cake than they had entrants; last year many people had to double up on a shared cake. We realized we'd failed to bring our icing tips, which is all right, as we learned last year that the frosting they get for these uses some custom nonstandardized tips because corporations are awful, awful things.

The convention theme this year was Furries of Tomorrow or something like that. We got the idea it was retro-future anyway. So we went with it. [profile] bunny_hugger took inspiration from her second-favorite pinball backglass artist, Gordon Morison, and drew best as she could in icing a bunny in space waving at a starship. I drew something loosely kind of like a pulp magazine cover, with a flying saucer zapping a kangaroo (because a kangaroo is easy to render in silhouette so it reads like a kangaroo), with an unidentifiable figure in the foreground watching. Other folks drew, like, a guy in a jetpack, a mecha-Godzilla, the aftermath of a meteor strike (done on a cake that had collapsed in the baking).

Mecha-Godzilla won. But my pulp-magazine cover took second place, and with it, a copy of Tomorrowland, a movie we always kind of meant to see, we guess, but never got around to and didn't even hear about on the bad-movie or flopped-movie podcasts. And [profile] bunny_hugger broke her recent shutout streak, taking third place and getting a plush version of those cube things from the Portal games, source of that comment about the truthfulness of cakes that everybody in geek circles makes whenever cakes are under discussion. Every. Single. Time.

The cakes, having been judged, were taken over to the main room of con suite where some were eaten instantly. Others went untouched. [profile] bunny_hugger's and mine, particularly, seemed to cast some spell that kept people shy about slicing into them. Later in the night we came back and saw they were still untouched, but then we looked away and back a few minutes later and [profile] bunny_hugger's was gone. Soon after, so was mine. Such to all glories.

Trivia: The Clyde Rivet Company, of Glasgow, provided the 4200 tons of rivets required to build the Firth of Forth Bridge. Source: Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: The Emerald City of Oz, L Frank Baum.

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My mathematics blog putters along as it ever does. Here's what you could've had on your Reading Page or your RSS feed if you weren't just waiting for me:

And for symmetry: What's Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? April - June 2017. A lot of low-level dating drama, turns out.

Now to close out my Kennywood photos, sad to say, since it means closing out the day at Kennywood. The good news: should be back at Kennywood in about a month! So you know how far behind I'm running here. Some week I should just do a bunch of pictures and try catching up instead.

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Yes, amusement parks always look better in the twilight glow, but you know what's better than that? The post-rain twilight glow, that's what.


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From one line to another: people lined up for Thunderbolt as seen from The Phantom's Revenge and you know, I bought this camera because it had a 21x optical zoom and could do up to ISO 3200 but deep down I hadn't believed it really could.


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Lasers! Kennywood does a half-hour laser show in the evenings, weather permitting, and it's everything you might have hoped for from 1985. Yes, they include Neil Diamond's ``America''.


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Jackrabbit after dark, with the full neon stars on display. Kennywood does a lot with neon and it's all magnificent.


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Selfie! View of the Kennywood Grand Carousel from one of its mirrors. On looking at it, I now think I took this photo just as [profile] bunny_hugger was taking a picture of herself in one of the interior mirrors.


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The lagoon by night picture that we're required to get every Kennywood visit. A tree's grown enough to obscure the Jackrabbit logo, but you can sort of make it out on the right.


Trivia: In a single week in the early 19th century London's fourteen largest gin houses served 270,000 guests. Source: Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Currently Reading: DC Showcase Presents: Superman, Volume 3 Editors Dan DiDio, Mort Weisinger. Not sure if it's more poetically beautiful or creeeeeepy beyond measure that Superman and Supergirl build a life-size duplicate of Krypton populated by robots. Also, the story where Supergirl gets revealed to the public after years of acclimation to Earth and being Superman's ``secret weapon''? Is twelve pages of not much happening except the world celebrating that there's a second Kryptonian superhero, and it's kind of neat that way. It makes the thing feel like a real event, and if it's a lot of things like Supergirl-inspired fashion shows and stuff? So what if it's small stakes? They're believable stakes too.

It's not that we expected catastrophe at this AnthrOhio. But we were on edge. For one, the convention had moved its weekend, from the start to the end of May. This was actually a good thing for us. It meant the convention would not be part of the end-of-term rush for [profile] bunny_hugger. It also meant that the Columbus Zoo would have its amusement park sideline open. They have an antique carousel and a wooden roller coaster we'd never been able to ride because it was too early in the year to run every previous trip.

But it's still a change in the weekend, the sort of thing that can mess up a convention's tone. And it came a year after the convention changed its name for reasons we are not really clear about, and change of some uncertain number of the core organizational people. Even some of the traditions that had been kept were mutated too; things like the Atomic Battle of Doom were renamed something less spectacularly fun, something like the Foam-Flinging Frenzy. That's probably as good a name to describe what it is, a bunch of people shooting Nerf darts at each other, but I know the name we encountered first. It's given the convention the last couple years this ominous sense of possibly imminent doom.

The official notice of doom came at opening ceremonies, and the revelation that this would be the last AnthrOhio at the Holiday Inn Worthington. They promised the new location would be great, all the better, but this would be the con's farewell to a hotel that's gotten very familiar. I've spent at least three weeks of my life at it. [profile] bunny_hugger's spent over a month of hers. It feels very much like home. The convention didn't officially announce why they were leaving, but the answer's in the newspapers. The hotel's being demolished, to be torn down and replaced with ... two hotels. And some shopping space. The new hotels won't have convention space, though, so AnthrOhio has to move on to a place that turns out to be like a mile south and east. It'll still be almost the same drive. We'll be able to go to the same burrito place, really. Just we'll drive past the spot that used to be this little bit of home.

And then there was a potentially truly awful situation. One of the guests of honor was a person we knew from online. And did not like, because the Guest of Honor had been consistently, quietly nasty toward my wife. I've had to deal with different grades of nastiness toward my wife, so I should say this was a low-key sort of nasty, the sort of person who conspicuously shuts you down when you want to talk about, you know, yourself in a circle that includes mutual friends. The person was mutual friends with the Big Name Furry Artist whom I called out on some of her bull a few years ago, at the loss of our mutual friends. There's much that makes me sad about this. One thing that does not is the loss of Guest of Honor from my online life. It's honestly been nice not to have to overlook Guest of Honor's little jabs at how my wife should stop wasting the group's time with her needs. (My needs never rated discussion in the group, by the way.)

Well, Guest of Honor has talents, I'd be lying to deny or minimize, and used those along with induced fame from the link to Big Name Furry Artist to get invited as one of the Guests of Honor to AnthrOhio, and deserves that as much as any one could. (Why do furry cons even have guest of honor, by the way? Really can't think of one that's ever made the difference in whether I'd attend one, and they seem to affect the programming and tone of the con even less than the con theme does. Maybe that's just a coincidence from every con I've ever been to.) Well, Guest of Honor didn't recognize us and probably had no idea we were there. And we had no reason to go speak to Guest of Honor. But, at the Opening Ceremonies, they did give Guest of Honor some attention and this was used to stand up and wave and absolutely shock me and [profile] bunny_hugger. The impression we got from a few seconds in person was that the person was exactly what we imagined from online. Some people are warmer, more pleasant in person than online; some are harder and less likeable; some are just weirder. Guest of Honor was exactly the person we imagined. It's uncanny. We were talking over it while reading over Guest of Honor's self-written con book bio and snickering at how much of it was ``Guest of Honor has this totally special special relationship with Big Name Furry Artist that Guest of Honor knows you're sooooo jealous over and gets to be the most special person in Big Name Furry Artist's life!''. Petty? So it's petty. Guest of Honor (and Big Name Furry Artist) chose to hurt us; we can snark in our rooms.

But all that set the broad parameters for the con: it would be our final tour of this hotel. Our last weekend with a place that'd given us so many memories. Also, somewhere, there was a table in the dealer's den whom we'd not stop to talk to because we had ample reason not to like the person running it. This is the setting. Now ... we go!

Trivia: The Milton Bradley Company's 1872 catalogue lists zoetrope strips for sale, explaining the ``simple figures printed on strips of paper become animated so that the movements of life are imitated in the most natural manner''. Source: Wondrous Contrivances: Technology at the Threshold, Merritt Ierley.

Currently Reading: DC Showcase Presents: Superman, Volume 3 Editors Dan DiDio, Mort Weisinger. You know, Lois Lane not working out that Clark Kent was Superman makes sense when you see some of the stunts Supes pulled that would demonstrate to any reasonable person that he and Clark Kent were separate people. It makes her out to be kind of a conspiracy theorist, really. ``How do I know that Clark Kent wasn't Superman wearing his shirt backwards and with a rubber mask concealing his face so that when I took a clipping of hair from the right side of his body it was really his left side, which I knew had lost its invulnerability due to exposure to red kryptonite? Huh?''

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When I got us lost in Ohio I imagined that it wouldn't be any great trouble to get back on course. It was entirely my fault. We were driving to AnthrOhio, at its traditional Holiday Inn in Worthington, just outside Columbus. Conceptually it is incredibly easy to get there. From [profile] bunny_hugger's parents' house take I-94 east to US 23 South. Follow US 23 south into Ohio, there to divert to I-75 south in order to save some time. Then when 23 South crosses I-75 again, get back on that. The Holiday Inn is a right off of 23, in Worthington. This is not a complicated drive and after making it something like five times I felt sure about my directions. I didn't even turn on the satellite navigator since, heck, what's to navigate?

The answer is that the turnoff from I-75 to US 23 South is pretty abrupt, actually, with less warnings and fewer turn lanes than I was expecting. And at a turnoff just a tiny bit more complicated than I imagined would be. I blasted right past it while wondering, should I be in that lane instead? And by the time I knew I should have been it was too late to do anything about it.

Off to the glove compartment to grab the thing. I imagined the embarrassing result would be to turn at the next exit and retrace our steps. There wasn't any next exit for a good while, maybe something like 17 miles. The satellite navigator's advice was keep going on I-75 and then cut onto a series of ever-smaller state and county roads instead. We were amazed such a small misstep could change our path so dramatically. But also amazing: it didn't really set us behind schedule. We had to go through a lot of small Ohio towns with speed limits dropping to 25. But that's all right. We saw a lot of small Ohio towns looking in far better shape than the whole universe of Funky Winkerbean, many of them with sidewalk theaters showing Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Also many of them with drive-through beer stores. And lots of parks that looked like natural habitations for letterboxes, if we had our letterboxing gear (we didn't) or any clues (none) or the time to stop (debatable).

So, for once, we approached Worthington and the Holiday Inn from the wrong direction. We wouldn't see the Creepiest House in Worthington on the way in, nor would we see the Other Creepiest House in Worthington. We'd come in ultimately from the west, on an Interstate we know only because of the traffic jam it produces just before the Holiday Inn. It was a weird, unsettling approach to a convention that had always been our favorite, and that had weird, ominous portents going in.

We checked in, with the concierge over-explaining how to get to our room --- number 299, at the far end of the main hall, past one of the fire doors and across the hallway from the elevator --- and after getting our badges went to the burrito place that's become our traditional conveniently easy place to find a meal. We get there once, maybe twice a year, when we're in Columbus for Morphicon/AnthrOhio. Somehow our loyalty card had enough reward points on it we got one or two dollars off.

And we came back to the hotel, put on our ears and tail, and went to see the karaoke night, the one real event scheduled for Thursday night. Karaoke's come and gone at the convention and we're so glad to have it. They didn't have a proper karaoke machine, just a laptop with a video projector running stuff off of YouTube, frustrating my literal-minded desire to have a catalogue of acceptable songs in the hopes of finding one that's within my singing range. I have no singing range. [profile] bunny_hugger does, and she represents the family. It's a good bunch, though, particularly with a large pair of guys capable of singing harmony and everything. I'm best off just sitting quietly and not being worried about missing the chance to perform.

We were at AnthrOhio.

Trivia: Czechoslovakia's first loans for rebuilding after World War I came from Germany. Source: A Low Dishonest Decade: The Great Powers, Eastern Europe, and the Economic Origins of World War II, 1930 - 1941, Paul N Hehn.

Currently Reading: DC Showcase Presents: Superman, Volume 3 Editors Dan DiDio, Mort Weisinger. Allow me to quote: ``Since I, too, as a CHAMELEON MAN from the thirtieth century, can disguise myself as anything human or non-human, I'll turn myself into a scraggly TREE!'' Where can I get this sort of wonderfully natural, unforcedly awkward dialogue in a modern comic book?

PS: Why Shouldn't We Talk About Mathematics In The Deli Line?, a popular social-media mystery solved!

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What's on my humor blog the past week? Stuff from your Reading page, and maybe from your RSS feed, if you didn't want to wait for this. If you did, here we go.

Let's get back to Kennywood, because that is always a correct thing to do.

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Jackrabbit, Kennywood's (barely) oldest wooden roller coaster, rolling across frame.


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Kennywood's cute little aliens. Thee's a bunch of these statues, along with some of similar aliens loading (or unloading) boxes of fun from their spaceship, and a couple just lying about, near the flying saucer-themed Disk'o ride.


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Caught a nice angle on The Phantom's Revenge here. Also some good skies that it turns out were getting ready to rain on us.


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View of Thunderbolt (and in the distance the Turtle and The Phantom's Revenge) from the altitude provided by Ghostwood Estates's launch station. This is after it had basically got done raining.


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[profile] bunny_hugger very backlit and trying to show off the Turtle ride's animated neon sign.


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So if the rain has closed your Noah's Ark ride there's probably something wrong.


Trivia: After the discovery of Neptune in roughly the location where his calculations forecast, John Couch Adams declined a knighthood. Source: In Search Of Planet Vulcan: The Ghost In Newton's Clockwork Universe, Richard Baum, William Sheehan.

Currently Reading: DC Showcase Presents: Superman, Volume 3 Editors Dan DiDio, Mort Weisinger. That's the loopy Silver Age writing I love, like when Supes and Lex Luthor reminisce about the time Luthor attacked Metropolis with a atomic-powered spinny top.

For being knocked out after six rounds of electromechanical and early solid state games it wasn't actually all that early, compared to the normal open hour for the VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Museum's open weekend. Thing to remember is the pace of rounds was set by whoever was the last group to finish any one round, and it's quite possible to play a long while even on the slow, unforgiving tables of that era. Especially when you have to start out with a search for the game since even with the map there were a lot of machines on hand. Still, it was early.

When we were here for the toy drive ahead of Christmas I used the chance to play all the electromechanical games on one long row of tables. This time I did a variant: I played every one of the woodrail games. These are electromechanical games, yes, mostly from the 1950s, with even more primitive gameplay and simpler rulesets and, really, deeper challenges. Many of them include vanished features like gobble holes, losing the rest of your ball in trade for a big pile of points. One, a baseball game, was even flipperless, with all the play being in good plunging and gentle nudging to send the ball down the lanes that scored hits or home runs, or at least avoiding those for strikes and outs.

And then there were other little tasks. MWS, once he was out of the tournament, wanted to play the Back To The Future pinball. Just long enough to get a multiball going. It's an early-90s Data East table. Those things are hard, with rules that are often bizarre and at least poorly playtested. It took him at least six games to lock three balls and get multiball started. MWS is a top-notch player, a credible choice to someday win the state championship. The game's a little off. The game didn't have rights to use Michael J Fox's face.

Another task I set myself: playing all the Zaccaria pinball tables. This was an Italian company, working in the late 70s and 80s. I've seen one of their games, Time Machine, at MJS's pole barn often enough. I've got a rather good pinball simulator app for my aged iPad that carries all(?) of the tables. But the actual machines? Almost impossible to find around here. And yet here they were. So we played all of them. One, playing with [profile] bunny_hugger, I even had a brilliant game on, once we got a stuck ball and flaky lock fixed. This game went so well that I actually rolled the seven-digit score counter, the first time I've ever done that on a game that had, like, LEDs. One of the few times I've ever done that. It turns out the Zaccaria tables have a brilliant way to handle a rollover like that. The last digit of a pinball game is nearly always zero, with 10 the minimum score. Once I rolled over, that last digit changed to a flashing 1. If we stick to the premise that 10 should be the smallest unit of scoring in a pinball game this is a brilliant way of getting an extra digit of score. I don't know what happens if you roll the score nine times. I couldn't live long enough to play a game that long.

They have a Tri Zone, much like we do, and I wanted to give it a try to see how badly I did on a different instance of the table I know so well. I did fine enough, but had a fluke event on the third ball when the game plunged two balls into the launch lane. Well, what to do? I plunged and did my best to keep them both going and later remembered: Tri Zone is not a multiball game. It shouldn't even have a second ball to put in the launch lane. The explanation: it turns out there's a mod available for Tri Zone that starts the third ball as a two-ball round, and the owner went for it. I didn't realize at the time why things were going odd in that way or I might have appreciated it more.

For all the time we did have, it wasn't enough time, and before we knew it we were among the last people there. [profile] bunny_hugger was in the last group playing anything, with GRV struggling mightily to teach her and MWS anything about Judge Dredd, whose baffling rules had crushed each of us in Pinball At The Zoo qualifying. They turned off the games and nearly all the lights around them. (I'd reached the final hour of 10 pm while playing Fathom or Seawitch or something, and quite well, thank you, so wasn't part of this pod.) And as we didn't get tickets for the other days (the shows sell out every time), that was it for us. Maybe for the year, maybe just until a charity event sometime later. Good day overall despite the contest disappointment.

Trivia: General Dwight Eisenhower sent a telegram of congratulations to Harry S Truman on his election in 1948, but did vote for Dewey. Source: Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World, William Lee Miller.

Currently Reading: Archie, Volume 1, Mark Wait, Fiona Staples.

PS: Great Stuff By David Hilbert That I'll Never Finish Reading, but that's still important stuff.

I lose my round against GRV. It's not an ``of course'', though. He's better than me, but he is beatable, especially if he gets rattled, which he can do just by having a bad ball. We play on an electromechanical, which makes bad balls more likely. I forget which one it was. There wasn't an instruction card, or at least not one with useful advice. But the play was straightforward. The plunged ball could drop into one of two lanes; the lucky one would drop into a scoop good for 200 points, the unlucky one for 50. Our match would become a lot of the two of us very carefully measuring our plunge to try to get the lucky lane (it changed over time) and cursing ourselves for getting it wrong. After that, there was a bank of ten (count 'em) drop targets, the bonus increasing with the number of them you hit. Or try to shoot up back to the scoops underneath the lanes.

GRV beats me the first game, although not by much, maybe one lucky scoop shot. I beat him in the second match, and pretty convincingly, a combination of his bad luck and my having one ball that knocks down nearly all the drop targets. I get to figuring I have a chance at beating GRV after all, and then we have a third game that's a race to the bottom, which he loses. So I have my first strike; he has none, but it is a close-run thing. GRV goes on to be the last player without any strikes, and indeed goes on to win the tournament. This was probably the moment he locked up an invite to the state championship. Even if he doesn't play anything the rest of the year he's going to be hard to knock out of the top sixteen.

On to more rounds. People play little extra games waiting for the results of all the matches to come in. The organizers get a microphone and speaker to address the crowd and it somehow makes them harder to hear. Representatives from Jersey Jack Pinball work on setting up The Hobbit and Dialed In in some of the precious little remaining empty space in the second building, the one where the organizers call out matches into a fuzzy microphone. I eventually get one ball of a game in before the next round starts being called, and then I never think to go back and play a whole game of this pretty sweet-seeming table.

I think won the next round, and lost the next, and won the one after that, almost the definition of treading water. (I seem to have lost track of the exactly play-by-play which, really, doesn't matter anyway.) [profile] bunny_hugger was knocked out while I was still on two strikes, so that turned the waiting-for-then-next-round into a period of my typically incompetent bit of consoling her. I'm no good at helping her feel better after a defeat, especially when there's anything unfair in the match. (And over the course of three lost best-of-three rounds there is inevitably something unfair.)

Sixth, maybe seventh round. I'm up against one of the guys who was somehow supplying Domino's Pizza and bringing a Domino's-themed pinball game that I never got to see because I stupidly didn't go to the building when it was set up. Our game: Bally's 1964 electromechanical Mad World, which the Internet Pinball Database says was ``likely'' inspired by Hollywood's 1963 It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I recommend looking at its art a good long while. There's a lot going on.

We start the first game and I notice the scoring reels don't clear all the way. My opponent has 4 points before I, the first player, go. We reset the machine, although I think of shrugging it off on the grounds that how are four points going to make a difference? Or that we could just remember and deduct it from his score. Restarting's costless, though. There's no instruction card on the table, but there are notes on the playfield. Particularly there's some way to release a second ball, good for two hundred points, quite plausibly a winning difference. I try working toward that. After three balls I'm a good two hundred or so points ahead. It's a five-ball game. I get the ball released, but my opponent just keeps hacking away at the bumpers. In the end, I have 641 points. He has 643.

Second game. Once again the score reels don't reset; the game starts with me as player two, up 2 points to 0. I say, hey, let's just ignore it; what are the odds a game is going to come down to two points? He doesn't hear me, but insists on knowing what I said. I have to murder my jest by the repetition. But he gets it then. I get the ball close to being released, but he finishes the job, putting him well ahead of me. It's still five balls, though. I can just keep hacking at it, maybe even try the ball capture and release again all on my own, and that will oh never mind there goes the last ball. My third lost match.

So, I'm out of the tournament, part of the ten-way tie for 27th place with everyone else knocked out in the sixth round. I step out to get something to drink and then join [profile] bunny_hugger, part of the twelve-way tie for 38th place in the fifth-round knockouts, inside the main building.

Trivia: At the height of the teddy bear craze of 1906-07 a Michigan Catholic priest warned the ``toy beast in the hands of little girls was destroying all instincts of motherhood''. Source: The Kid Of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements, Woody Register. (I don't see the priest named, although Register goes on to quote more of the piece, and provides a bundle of citations for the teddy bear moral panic.)

Currently Reading: Archie, Volume 1, Mark Wait, Fiona Staples. Collecting the reboot comics.

So if you all can take hearing about another pinball tournament, I've got a report about another pinball turnament to give you. This one was in the Ann Arbor Pinball Museum, which is in Brighton, which is not Ann Arbor. It's also the place called the VFW, because it was formerly a VFW hall, bought and converted by a guy who needed somewhere to house his enormous pinball collection. It's not really a museum; the deal he made with the zoning board allows it to open only a couple weekends a year. (It's the middle of nowhere; even a modestly popular attraction could overload the access road's capacity.)

As prelude to the open-house weekend, the guy who runs it was hosting an Electromechanical Games Tournament. This was a bit of a fib; it was electromechanicals and early solid state games. It would be a three-strikes knockout tournament, starting early in the day. The compensation for people knocked out early? They'd be able to go to the main building and play whatever games were there, extra hours of free play to a rarely-accessible hall full of well-maintained games.

And yeah, main building. The VFW Hall is no longer enough for the guy's collection, nor is the hall and the outbuilding he'd had put up last year, and it seems ready to overflow the second outbuilding that was new to us this year. There's still a little space left, but, it's tight. The buildings are packed. To guide competitors --- there were about sixty people who signed up, all told --- to the games they gave out little index cards with maps to the approximate game locations. This stroke of organizational brilliance was undercut by their putting the wrong names on the buildings in the map. (Or, if you prefer, putting the wrong names in the signs on the buildings, since apparently the names were put on just for the tournament.)

My first match took me and someone whose name I have completely forgotten to Gottlieb's 1980 Buck Rogers, there to play a best-of-three games set. PinTips was unavailable, since the VFW hall had no Wi-Fi and we didn't go through the magic of our Mifi device. Ah, but the table had the card instructions, and it was an early solid state game anyway. The thing to guess would be ``banks of drop targets''. Also hit the thing called a vari-target, which is this sort of paddle on a hinge that goes farther back, for more points, the harder you hit it. Two simple things to go for: I could do this. My first ball, first game, is ... garbage. My second ball, first game, is crushing, and my opponent says now he knows he's lost. Well, he has; I don't even have to play the last ball of the first game, and I get to feeling pretty confident about my chances for the whole tournament. The second game --- I go first this time --- is closer, but still not a nailbiter.

[profile] bunny_hugger and I regather, sharing tales of what we did the first round. I think she had a loss she felt stupid about. MWS won. So did GRV, another regular friend of ours who, after a couple years slacking off, seems to be making a serious run for the state championship this year. He could take it, too, if he doesn't lose his composure. He knows every rule of every game ever, and he's got the precise shot control of the true first-rate player.

They start calling people for the next rounds. I'm called pretty early. I say, jokingly, GRV's name as my opponent. They call his name. Of course.

Trivia: In the election of 1800 Aaron Burr pioneered ``bundle'' voters, groups of voters who would be named joint owners of a single piece of property to meet New York state property-ownership requirements. Source: Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Edwin G Burrows, Mike Wallace.

Currently Reading: Storm In A Teacup: The Physics Of Everyday Life, Helen Czerski.

Won't fib, I'm excited by my mathematics blog this week since I got into perturbation theory and talked about it, I think, coherently and even logically. RSS feed mention and all that but here's the week's items:

Also, What's Going On In Mary Worth? March - June 2017 if you missed any good cruise ship action. Now let's check back in on Kennywood, back in August, when everybody was happy and Pokemon Go was a thing and all that.

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Mascot! I spotted the Kennywood Arrow being waked into place while we were on the Grand Carousel, but this is the best photograph I could get of the mascot. We didn't see Kenny Kangaroo walking around this time either.


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Statue of George Washington in his French And Indian War livery, along with a marker pointing out that while some of the key action in the war happened kind of near the park nobody's actually sure that anything happened quite here. But it could have and anyway a bit of history makes an amusement park more wholesome.


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Stuff no longer in operation at Kennywood's main arcade. Among the nickelodeon movies: Johnny Comes Marching Home, Little Old New York, Movie Queen, and Whipping The Huns.


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More stuff no longer in operation at the main arcade: miniature carousel horses, a vibrating chair, another nickelodeon, and an 1877 ``Indian Head'' penny mysteriously gigantified and recovered from the Batcave.


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Kennywood's train ride includes a visit past billboards showing off the park's history. Sad to say this isn't a vintage photo of the exact spot you're riding past on the train at this point. I think the building on the left of the billboard photo is currently a Johnny Rocket's, if I'm making out the geography right. I might not be.


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Another fascinating old billboard: they had an Alice In Wonderland On Parade week in 1950? And that's a year early for the Disney animated movie, although I suppose Alice In Wonderland is a perennial for whimsical places like amusement parks.


Trivia: An English East India Company clerk, in the 1680s, could expect a basic annual salary of £5, not much more than a domestic servant in England received. Source: Empire: The Rise And Demise Of The British World Order And The Lessons For Global Power, Niall Ferguson. (One lesson: a salary of £5 pa encourages your clerks to take on side projects of imaginary legality.)

Currently Reading: Storm In A Teacup: The Physics Of Everyday Life, Helen Czerski.

And then there's mysteries in the neighborhood. One of them is our next-door neighbors. Not the ones who've gotten a dog and left it on ``yap''. The ones on the other side. It was a guy and his mother, who'd moved back to Michigan so he could take better care of her. We were on decent albeit not warm terms with them, with no real points of contention once they got to taking their dogs in after a reasonable time of barking at nothing in the yard, mornings and evenings.

As the tenses involved suggest, they're not our neighbors anymore. They just vanished one day. We weren't even sure when, although in hindsight we realize that what had looked like a massive proper spring cleaning, including throwing out an old mattress, was the leaving-the-house cleanout. But that didn't stand out at the time. We only realized on noticing something was wrong, and realizing that it was the absence of the very slight chain-link fence they'd put up to keep the dogs in the yard.

So we're mostly regretful about this. They'd been pretty decent neighbors, with the only hassle being that they didn't do anything about the poison ivy growing in the stretch of the backyard they'd let go feral. Also they had connected their fence to a somewhat shabby wooden fence of ours that we'd meant to take down, and that we couldn't without coordinating some dog control with them. We've got the chance to remove our needing-replacement fence now and should as soon as we have a cool enough day for it. And we can get access to parts of their yard that'll make it easier to clean stuff in ours, including perhaps a fresh poison ivy removal expedition. This stuff should be the neighbor's landlord's responsibility, but ``should'' and ``are'' are different things, especially if we want the poison ivy contained.

And besides losing people we got along with well enough to smile and wave on seeing them, there's the dread: what if someone worse moves in? Since I married into the state there've been basically good neighbors in that house, but before that time there was a horrible neighbor who'd been no end of crises for [profile] bunny_hugger and, far enough back, her starter husband.

When they moved out they left all their trash and recycling bins on the extension. It wasn't a recycling night. We moved the (emptied) trash bin in back of their house, and moved the recycling bin back until the proper week, then tucked the emptied bin in back of the house again. No reason to be unfriendly to whoever the next tenants are, whenever they are.

Trivia: In the Moroccan crisis of 1911 the German gunboat Panther was despatched to the port of Agadir to rescue any endangered Germans. Also the nearest German to Agadir, a man in Mogador, was found and ordered by his government to get to Agadir so he might be rescued. He spotted the Panther the 4th of July, 1911, and was recovered by it the 5th. Source: The Struggle For Mastery In Europe, 1848 - 1918, A J P Taylor.

Currently Reading: Storm In A Teacup: The Physics Of Everyday Life, Helen Czerski.

And then a bit of household repair stuff, even postdating the basement steps. We broke one of the windows in our bedroom, an accident. Who knew a pane of glass could break that easily? Nobody was hurt, although we couldn't clean it up completely since the window was one of many painted shut in the house. And it was embarrassing as we had to post a bit of cardboard over the window while waiting to get it fixed.

We got quotes from two window-repair companies in the area, both scheduled to come in the same afternoon ... er ... window, and worried a little bit about whether it would be awkward if they both came at the same time. That would be a freak chance, but the world is a bunch of freak chances. It didn't happen, anyway. One of the company guys doing quotes didn't actually go up to the bedroom window to measure the pane that needed replacing; he used our first-floor windows as the guide, trusting that they wouldn't be terribly different. I believe he was right, but have to say, it didn't inspire confidence in me. We went with the other company, more on the grounds they were willing to also repair the attic window, which has been broken since time immemorial, for almost no further cost.

They couldn't save the mullions, the little wooden slats subdividing the window, for the attic window, which is a shame. But we also weren't really planning to hang the glass window as we understand now the attic should be well-ventilated and hanging the glass would just block all that off. The glass in there will serve us well in case, I'm not sure, I guess there's a hurricane and we need to batten the windows down for that case.

And the window folks replaced the pane in our bedroom window, as contracted. The easiest way to do this involved taking apart the windowsill and reassembling it, so that along the way the stuck window has become un-stuck. It's increased the count of house windows that are actually openable, and this is maybe the best one: it'll open and stay about where you set it, without (so far as we know) spontaneously dropping. That'll be more useful come autumn when the outside is cool enough to just go with ambient air; right now, we're on the room air conditioner. But it's so very nice having the option.

Trivia: In the mid-70s the average American airplane passenger walked an average 650 feet from parking lot to check-in and 950 feet from check-in to plane, for about 1,600 feet on average. It could be worse; O'Hare in-transit passengers could walk as much as a mile and a half. Source: Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure, Alastair Gordon.

Currently Reading: Storm In A Teacup: The Physics Of Everyday Life, Helen Czerski.

PS: Why Stuff Can Orbit, Part 9: How The Spring In The Cosmos Behaves, 2700 words on mathematical physics that Hemingway App somehow tells me is about a third-grade reading difficulty. Also featuring banner art by [personal profile] thomaskdye!

You could be reading my humor blog as part of your Reading Page or Friends Page if you liked, or by whatever method of RSS you use. Or maybe you just like these posts because it simulates archive-binging once a week. Your business. Here's the most recent stuff:

Enough old stuff. Here's Kennywood pictures!

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The pizza stand in Lost Kennywood is decorated with these miniature wagons that, an information plaque explains, were used in the 1930s to showcase squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons as part of the park's free menagerie. It's up to you whether it says more about the park that they used to show off caged squirrels for Great Depression-era entertainment or that they kept the cages for decades just in case.


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The Turtle ride, one of only two Tumble Bugs known to still exist. In the distance: the Phantom's Revenge roller coaster (blue, left), and the Thunderbolt roller coaster (white, right), and across the river, industry and commerce.


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Statue of Kenny Kangaroo in the kiddieland area, near the SS Kenny miniature swinging ship ride. Yes, his nose looks weird compared to the way everybody draws kangaroos but you know, it's their thing.


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Detail of the entrance to the Racer Moebius-strip roller coaster. I was just caught by the sign: 'George wants you to scan the QR Code to learn about his role in the French And Indian War events while enjoying your day here at Kennywood'. There were a couple of these QR Code historical markers there, posted by someone unaware that nobody has ever scanned a QR Code.


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Kennywood's historic carousel, taken from a low angle because I discovered how good that can make carousels look.


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[profile] bunny_hugger enjoying the Kennywood Grand Carousel and adjusting well to her right foot becoming a lion's paw.


Trivia: As British Secretary of State for War in 1914 Herbert Kitchener suggested that Britain delay its major war effort until 1917, by which time the Continental Armies would have exhausted one another in a standstill and the British Army would be fully trained and equipped. Source: The First World War, Hew Strachan. (Events outran this, mostly in how desperately Russia needed help to avoid collapse. It does seem to me like this is basically how the United States fought World War II in Europe, though.)

Currently Reading: Storm In A Teacup: The Physics Of Everyday Life, Helen Czerski.

So what was left at Pinball At The Zoo after our respective tournaments? A surprising lack of time, all told. Maybe we should have gotten there earlier Friday. Maybe we should have gone on Thursday also. Maybe not; we'd probably have taken the extra time to put up more scores, yes, but we'd probably not have been sure of our standings so it would've just been more time spent qualifying.

Still, there were the pinball machines (and some video games) that people had brought to show off. Many of them were still there, too, but as early as 3 pm people were packing up their games. You can understand that, since it takes time to disassemble a game and cushion it for transport and many of these game owners had been there for three days and wanted to go home. But it does leave the end of the convention feeling pretty vacant, with big swaths of empty floor or games being turned off.

I missed the chance to play a second game of Dialed In, sad to say. I was able to get on Alien, a licensed game from boutique pinball manufacture Heighway Pinball. Heighway managed the feat of making a licensed game that actually got completed and didn't have any major catastrophic problems with intellectual property rights. Unfortunately they've had cashflow problems, and while the company is still alive, its founder's been forced out of active management. Nobody's too sure that the game will have the adequate stock of replacement parts, either, so while the game might ship to all its customers, it's likely not going to be set up on location for ordinary people to play. The game seems quite fun, although that might be colored by my having a quite good game the one time I played it. You can pick the modes to be cued to either Alien or Aliens, both movies that I haven't actually got around to seeing, apart from the fact that I've heard of pop culture so can't figure I'm missing too much.

So, the convention evaporated around us. We stayed on, trying to watch the resolution of the Main Tournament, A Division, although that kept going on and on. [profile] bunny_hugger had brought work in the car, exams that she'd needed to grade, and kept pondering whether she could run out and get some more to get ahead of her schedule or whether she'd be stopped trying to get back in the convention hall. Probably she could've gotten away with it.

Eventually we wore out our ability to wait, and drove to MJS's famous pole barn, there to enjoy the major afterparty and hang out and talk over the pinball event with the people we always see at these. I think it was our first time back there since the state championships (of course it's not like we're close enough, physically or emotionally, to just drop in), and it was lovely to see the place again. [profile] bunny_hugger tried to work off her contest disappointment with FunHouse, and I learned that the Vector she'd been beaten on was indeed the same table which had been there two months prior. I got to deploy my joke about taking permanent possession of second-place B-Division to more people who hadn't yet expressed their mild amusement at how nearly clever it was, and it gave the weekend its natural, satisfying close.

Trivia: The 1900 United States Census used 311 Hollerith tabulating machines, 20 automatic sorters, and 1,021 punches, for which he was paid $428,239, including cards. Source: Before The Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand and the Industry They Created, 1865 - 1956, James W Cortada.

Currently Reading: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

[profile] bunny_hugger's first advantage in the Pinball At The Zoo Women's Tournament was that she's a rather solid player who happens to be a woman who could get to Kalamazoo. Yes, much of the point of having a women's tournament is to encourage women who've had reason to feel excluded from competitive pinball --- and who're therefore less practiced, less able --- to play more. But she's already confident she belongs in the pinball community, and so was going in from a position of relative strength. After all, she was one of Michigan's two representatives to the Women's World Championship in March.

Her second advantage was that she didn't qualify for the Main Tournament, A or B Division. I think B had wrapped up by the time the Women's Tournament began, but A certainly had not. And her obligations to the main tournament took SMB, an even better player than SMS and [profile] bunny_hugger, out of the Women's Tournament. SMB --- who tied for third in the Women's World Championship --- would go on to take fourth place in the A Division. Not saying [profile] bunny_hugger wouldn't have traded her eventual finish in the Women's Tournament for a place in the A Division, but, she didn't have to play SMB, neither directly nor indirectly.

Her third advantage was that as the Women's Tournament went on while the A Division was still going on, the Main Tournament games were unavailable. It would have to be on the games from the Classics Tournament and the Daily Tournament. These are all older games, electromechanicals and early solid-state games. This is very good for her. They can be infuriatingly hard, yes, and they level the difference between amateur and skilled players, making upsets more likely. But they tend not to be games you can do well on just by beginner's luck, just by hitting the ball until something happens. If you're in tune with the slower play and more deliberate aiming of the classic game you're likely to do well. [profile] bunny_hugger is. She's not a specialist in classics games, but she's got an edge that only SMS, who ran the tournament and whose family owns many classic games, can match.

It's a three-strikes tournament. Players will be called up in randomly-drawn pairs, there to compete until each loses a third game. One player gets to pick the game, the other position. And thanks to our Mi-Fi device working, at least through to the last rounds, we can even consult PinTips for advice on the games. They're all basically the same advice, though. Hit banks of drop targets to light the spinner, then shoot the spinner. (Not all. Genie has funny rules about the spinner, and Prospector has two kinds of bonuses to build up.) There's no guarantee how long the tournament will run; with the best of luck it might go three times the log base two of the number of players rounds. Sometimes someone might get a bye round, if an odd number of players are left and she gets lucky. [profile] bunny_hugger gets one of these byes, good for boosting morale after one of those games where she loses to a person who's playing worse, a thing that can't be avoided.

And in the end it comes to [profile] bunny_hugger and SMS, by rankings the two strongest women in the state. SMS goes into their first match with one strike, [profile] bunny_hugger with two. It's [profile] bunny_hugger's pick and she chooses Gottlieb's 1971 electromechanical 4 Square. SMS groans at the pick. It's got a simple layout, a bunch of targets marked numbers 1 through 4, with ever-increasing score for completing sets. It's a single-player game; [profile] bunny_hugger has to play her complete game first and then wait for SMS to play.

[profile] bunny_hugger has a great game, the sort that makes her angry she didn't do that in qualifying for the Classics tournament. (It wouldn't have got her into the Classics finals, although it might've launched her above my finish.) She beats five thousand points, which for a game with maximum score 9,999 is great. SMS tries, but doesn't get half her score. They'll go to one last round, to decide the Women's Champion.

The next game is SMS's pick. She chooses Bally's 1981 Vector, an early solid state that her family had for a couple months. [profile] bunny_hugger hasn't played many games on it, and the advice I offer --- not that I have much, as I haven't cracked the game's logic --- before the match starts isn't helpful. SMS beats her, not even needing to play her last ball.

So [profile] bunny_hugger takes home second place. There's not a trophy, which is a pity, but it was a small tournament. Maybe next year will be better, and she'll take first in that.

Trivia: When 18th-century Chinese Emperor Qianlong conquered Siankiang the territories provided the emperor eight thousand jin, something over four thousand kilograms, of raw jade every spring and autumn, transported to Beijing on camel trains. Source: The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade, Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott-Clark

Currently Reading: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

PS: My Mathematics Reading For The 13th of June, a low-impact post that'll probably be my most popular of the month.

B Division Finals. Though I scored the most points of anyone in the two groups playing the first round, I'm still the lowest seed and so won't have any chance to pick a game in the three-game set. I stick to my superstitious play-second post. The first game is AC/DC, which had crushed me the little bit I'd tried playing in qualifying. The only place near us that had one was Grand Rapids and they replaced the table several months ago, and since then I've gradually forgotten everything I knew about how to start a good-scoring mode. I start to remember; shooting a bank of anything is good, shooting the ramps repeatedly starts a multiball eventually and oh there goes my ball. I come close to but don't meet first-player DAD's score. But I'm well ahead of the other finalists, DAW and SDP and while SDP doesn't get anything together, DAW has a breakthrough last ball. I'm in third place with one PAPA point.

Next game: Bally's 1979 Viking. Early solid state game. Good territory for me; it's an era I do well in. It was one of my three best games in qualifying. It's even better --- well, slightly better --- now. I take first place. DAW's still got the edge with six PAPA points, but I'm in second at five. DAD has only two and SDP one. It's not anyone's match yet --- SDP can't take first place --- but it's close. And thanks to the logic of the scoring, if I can beat DAW then I am at least tied for first place.

Our game: Genesis. The one that keeps crushing me. I've learned some new little bits about it, including how to stack various score multiplying-gimmicks, which is what's needed to have a real breakaway score. What I fail to do is actually use any of them. DAD, going first, puts in a score of over two million points, enough to win under normal circumstances. I put up 385,360, enough to beat someone who doesn't know what they're doing and has a round of bad luck. SDP, going third, crushes it with over four million points, enough that I believe he's overtaken me in the PAPA scoring. And then DAW finishes with an anemic game but one plenty to beat me: 634,650. He finishes with seven PAPA points, good for first place.

I had thought SDP had beaten me. Not so; we were tied for second, and were to play a one-ball tiebreaker. Somehow it ends up on Aerosmith, which I've come to like but is not a game that lends itself to quick dirty point grabs for one-ball play. I forget what he puts up on his one ball, but it's several millions and close to the best I had done on that table in qualifying. Best I can figure to do: smash the toybox and try to get multiball going. ... Which, what do you know, but happens; and in the big action of three-ball multiball (the game lets you build it up to six balls) I smash well past his score.

And so I have second place, in the B Division! Just as last year, which prompts me to make the joke that if I win second place in the B Division in 2018 I'll take permanent possession of the spot, and they'll just have to go from 1st to 3rd ever after. Also to keep making the joke in the hope of finding someone who's amused by it. (Spoiler: the person amused by it is me, and only me. I am fine with this.) It's a small addition to the mantle of pinball trophies, but it's there, and fairly won.

A postscript. Later in the day, after the women's tournament (more on this to come) ADM talks with [profile] bunny_hugger about the play. He's startled that I took second place in the B Division, saying, ``He's not a B Division player.'' When I wander back over with a fresh-bought Moxie he asks what I'm doing playing B Division.

ADM is the Michigan state champion for this year. I'm flattered that he thinks I'm slumming when I play B Division. I think he's judging me by my best moments, and overlooking my streakiness. Possibly he's completely unaware of it. But I have slumps deeper and longer than his, and while I can have flashes of fantastic play I'm also terrible at having that pull-yourself-together third-ball rally that the true A Division players regularly have.

I've seen the top tier players. There's something qualitatively different about the way they play, even when they're playing lousy. The most modern Stern games, especially, just stratify the different kinds of players; there is a level of scoring on, say, Game of Thrones that I just can't even think to play. I'm solidly in the second tier of playing, with freak games that bring me to the upper limits of that. But the top tier, the ADM-level of players? I'm not there, and that's all there is to it. For now, I'm a good B-level player, at least in a group as big as comes to Pinball At The Zoo.

(I should say: [profile] bunny_hugger is in the same band of players as me. Lower in the band perhaps, but she beats me too often to be plausibly in the next band of players.)

Trivia: The asteroid Mr Spock is named for the discoverer, Jim Gibson's, ginger short-haired tabby cat. The cat was named after the Star Trek character. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest To Invent The Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

You know what I've noticed in my mathematics blog? That a serious post like one in my Why Stuff Can Orbit series eats up my writing energies for other stuff. Run the past week was just this:

But I think it's some good stuff anyway, especially the post about second derivatives. Thanks for reading, if you read it.

Also, since you wondered, What's Going On In Mark Trail? March 2017 - June 2017. You're welcome.

Kennywood's big feature attraction for 2016 was the newly renovated and restored Noah's Ark ride. It's a kind of ride that used to be all over the place, and this seems to be the last of its kind left. So here's some pictures of it.

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Noah's Ark, renovated and restored for 2016. Also set up with a couple of dumb jokes for kids to like while in line.


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Noah, Ark, and giraffe (right). I love how the shingles are ``broken'' by the giraffe.


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[profile] bunny_hugger entering the whale's mouth that leads into the Noah's Ark, a feature that makes sense because that's just how these rides work? Not sure.


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The back of the whale's mouth, leading into the Ark and a storeroom.


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In the storeroom, a bunch of glow-painted boxes containing things like Apples and Corn and Crickets and, well, there you are. If I remember right you can get near this box and it'll blow a spray of warm air at you.


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One of the few animatronic scenes I photographed after I remembered oh yeah, I have a new camera that's much better at dark scenes. Yes, it's one of the few with bunnies. I don't remember that this one had any punch lines or surprises, just like, mild motion.


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One of the other animatronic scenes in the Noah's Ark that I could photograph: owls. I was helped by the lighting here. I forget what was in the other cage within the cage.


Trivia: In 1658 the Province of Massachusetts ordered the death by hanging of any Quaker who entered the colony a third time after being twice put out. Source: Rhode Island: A History, William G McLoughlin.

Currently Reading: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

B Division Finals: the top eight people after the top sixteen people plus anyone too good to be placed in the B Division. I earned the lowest seed spot, but I get 7th because someone, somewhere, above me didn't make it to the finals. This is maybe marginally better. I'm in a group with the #2, 3, and 6 seeds, instead of the #1, 4, and 5 seeds. But the seeding was arbitrary enough it probably doesn't make much difference.

In any case I'm the low seed in our group. We have three rounds of games, so everyone else will get the chance to pick a game to play. All I can pick is order. I've picked up the superstition of going second; tradition is, if you can pick order, to go last. I don't know. It works for me, and while it rarely throws anyone off, if it does, it throws them way off.

Our first game: Iron Man. I know its rules from Lansing League, but I've only touched the table at this venue once and it whomped me hard. It likes me better now, and it whomps on my competitors. I end up running away with a 31 million point game, a good score even for high-level players. I'm none too confident, since I was only the second player, and the fourth-place person makes a good run at some high-value shots. But he gets a bad bounce, finishing at about 12 million. I have a first-place finish, getting four PAPA points. Now I'm relaxed; even if I bomb the next two games, I can hold my head up.

Next game: Bally's 1975 Knockout, an electromechanical. I've worked out the one thing to do: there's this little trough in the upper playfield to shoot for. You can get it with the skill shot and with a not-quite-hard-enough shot from either flipper. I put together my best game on this ever (of, like, six times I've been on the table). It's ... not quite good enough. BMP beats me by about ten thousand points (of about 75,000). But I hold on to second place, earning me two more PAPA points.

Last game of the first round is Genesis that whomped me so many times. I have confidence going in, though. If I can avoid coming in last then I'm guaranteed to move on to the second round. Even if I do come in last there are two outcomes where I'd go to a playoff for the next round. I can relax and just play, and I have a game that's not bad for me on Genesis, especially for not really getting the multiball together. I earn second place on the table, and two more PAPA points. Of our quartet I have the highest score, and DAD, father of that father-son pair, second-highest. Might yet take first place, B Division!

Trivia: In his New York Vaudeville Debut Senor Wences was billed as ``The Wences'', which as Variety noted, made him sound like a dance team. Source: The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, Anthony Slide.

Currently Reading: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

The main tournament had something like eleven games. Some were modern ones, including the most-modern available, Aerosmith. Some were solid-state games, like Flash Gordon and Volcano. Some were tables I knew tolerably well, like AC/DC and Iron Man. Some were perpetually baffling mysteries, like Genesis. Some I had no hint what to do about, like Judge Dredd. And all I really needed was to be decent enough on five of them.

So like, on Aerosmith, I put up the 63rd-highest score of the 89 people who tried the table. To get the sort of score that would put me in range of qualifying I'd have had to have done about twelve times better. I put Aerosmith to the side, trusting I could do better on other games. The advantage of this five-best-out-of-eleven qualification scheme is you can give up some games as just bad lots. I had similarly lousy luck on AC/DC and Iron Man and figured, you know what, focus on the older tables. I like them better anyway. But it's still rough going.

I have some help. All the games have tips available on PinTips.Net. And we, for a wonder, have Internet! Not through the convention center's Wi-Fi, which is locked up and private. But [profile] bunny_hugger dug out her Mi-Fi device, and put money on it, and we had 24 hours of service in our own little bubble. This also let us use an app to queue up for tables, and to check our standings so that we could pick the games we're most likely to improve our standings on.

Still, it's pretty much a slog. I can put together fair games on Flash Gordon and Viking, although their standing erodes over Friday night and Saturday morning. Genesis everybody but me has some secret understanding of; if I doubled my score it would still be somewhere around 25th place. I keep hacking away and put up a 27th-best score on Congo. And in the last hour of qualifying Wednesday I had a breakthrough, finally having a legitimately good game of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I got a little better on Knockout and Genesis too, but it wasn't anything big.

But it was enough. It brought me up to 393 total points, enough to reach into the B Division of the Main Tournament. The A Division was the top 16 players. The B Division was the next eight after that, except for people who were restricted by their high rankings on the International Flipper Pinball Association to playing in A or Nothing. I would be in the finals, junior division.

[profile] bunny_hugger had a rougher time all around. She beat me on a couple of the tables, but not by much, and she doesn't qualify even for B Division finals. She'll have the Women's Tournament to play, but neither the Classics nor the Main Finals.

Trivia: Sears was strictly a mail-order company through the second decade of the 20th century, with no physical stores. Source: The Great A&P And The Struggle For Small Business In America, Marc Levinson.

Currently Reading: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

PS: Reading the Comics, June 3, 2017: Feast Week Conclusion Edition, a little late, but before the week is out anyway.

I want to let people know about my humor blog, available on your Friends/Reading page, or in your RSS reader, and can't think of any fresh ways to do it. So here's the stuff that was posted there the last week:

And now let's return to the day at Kennywood!

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Lost Kennywood: one of the few themed areas, the park is themed to ... what amusement parks used to be. Behind it is The Phantom's Revenge, its taller steel roller coaster and the one with an entry queue that begins way over the other side of the park, like when a Roller Coaster Tycoon player realizes they forgot to account for the entrance.


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Our lone disappointment for the day: The Exterminator, the ride that always has the longest queues, was also the only closed roller coaster. We'd try a couple times and there was just no going there, alas.


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Wedding party! I was fast enough to get a glimpse of the bride and groom being shuttled around for what I suppose were photos for the wedding party.


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The general packed-ness of Kennywood. From the queue for The Phantom's Revenge here's the track of that roller coaster (green), the Turtle ride, the Thunderbolt wooden roller coaster, and just barely a glimpse of the Ghostwood Estates dark ride, plus, the Potato Patch French-fries stand. I got some pictures that also show off the valley, but the trees in the foreground are so much more interesting.


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Rides atop rides: the green track is all The Phantom's Revenge. The wooden roller coaster on the right is Thunderbolt, and you can see how the ground slopes down and how there's the far side and the industry on the far side of the river there.


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View of The Black Widow, the big spinning swing ride, from the spider-cavern entry queue. Not to brag but boy was I there at the right moment to view the support tower there.


Trivia: A pilot in the X-15 could not see any part of the plane except the cockpit and window. The plane's nose and wings were obscured. Source: At The Edge Of Space: The X-15 Flight Program, Milton O Thompson.

Currently Reading: Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, Simon Winchester.

Friday was a day for qualifying. There were two major tournaments, the Classics on a quartet of electromechanical and early solid-state games; and the Main tournament, a selection of games old and new. Qualification is done by putting in games on as many of the machines you want. You get points based on how many of your competitors you beat, with the top four scores (for Classics) or five scores (for main) counted for your position. The top twelve people would go to the Classics finals. The top 24 (roughly) people would go on to Main finals, in either the A or B division. Classics qualifying ended Friday night. Main tournament would have three more hours of qualification Saturday morning.

So the order of priority was to put up a game on all the tables, for Main and Classics, and then see where I stood. Also on the two games set aside for the daily tournament, on which I put up nothing noteworthy and didn't qualify. Neither did [profile] bunny_hugger. Would've been nice for the bragging rights, but, eh. I only put one try on each of those two games.

The Classics tournament had a game I'd had some wonderful experiences on, 1977's Prospector. It's an electromechanical with a loosely gold-and-silver-prospector theme and for no clear reason the figures of Laurel and Hardy on it. I put up a fantastic first game, a good omen for the day; the score would be something like 35th in the pack. I would give it another try, doing about ten percent better and getting me to 32nd place. There was also Gottleib's 1971 Four Square, a pretty nice simple table with beautifully easy rules, hit sets of the targets 1, 2, 3, and 4. It had a four-digit score reel, so that 9,990 would be the score game designers figured couldn't be beat. I got as high as 5,270, which was good for 26th place.

I had better luck, eventually, with Genie and Firepower, both early solid state games and available in simulation on Pinball Arcade. Eventually got up to eighth on Genie and ninth place in Firepower, good for ... not really anything much. With this sort of qualification format you can get in, securely, with a broad mediocrity. Prospector and Four Square scores sank me, though.

I ended up in 16th place, about twenty points away from qualifying. [profile] bunny_hugger would have a worse time, finishing even behind me, and inspiring a lot of grumbling that, you know, we do well in Classics. We're in tune with the slower pace and gentler moves of electromechanical and early solid-state games. It's not fair.

Trivia: One of the first software products IBM sold, in July 1969, was the Customer Information Control System, offered for about $600 per month. Source: A History of Modern Computing, Paul E Ceruzzi.

Currently Reading: The Mighty Music Box: The Golden Age Of Musical Radio, Thomas A DeLong.

PS: What Second Derivatives Are And What They Can Do For You, another supplement for Why Stuff Can Orbit.