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February 2019

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We have new neighbors. The house just south of ours, that had been owned by an absentee landlord and went on sale last fall, and that prompted us to finally build that fence we'd been thinking to do for ages, sold. It sold maybe in October, but nobody was there. There was some cleaning-out, and in December I even saw someone raking the dead leaves off the lawn, but there weren't signs of people. The last few weeks, there've been people.

We haven't met them yet. Ours is, admittedly, not a very social neighborhood. But also the weather has fought against it. There's not much reason to just hang out in the cold, the snow, or the snowing cold. We've had a bunch of snowstorms, but many of them have been, like, an inch or less. When you can go out and literally use the push broom to sweep the snow up, you're done in ten minutes and can miss your neighbors altogether. The neighbors have not been as good as I have about cleaning the full sidewalk off to dryness, but almost nobody on the block is. There's, at least, a reasonable clear path if you don't have mobility issues, which is better than the previous neighbors had done.

This is not to say we're thoroughly happy with the new neighbors. They don't seem to have been told about stuff like the trash collection and recycling schedule. Trash is picked up here Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, depending on which trash company you've contracted with (it's Tuesday if you go with the city trash). Recycling is alternate Tuesdays. I fully understand people not understanding this if they haven't had it explained in print. I don't blame them hauling bins out to the curb and hoping for the best.

Vastly more annoying to [profile] bunny_hugger has been their parking on the wrong side of the street. At least I think it's them; the cars are new ones to the neighborhood, so it seems a reasonable inference. But a car on the wrong side of the street --- our house's side of the street --- annoys [profile] bunny_hugger with a passion I admit I don't share or quite fully understand. Except that we got a substantial snow, and the car sat there, in front of our house, ready to block the snow plow in case they did plow our street. (Ours is a tertiary road, meaning we get plowed the third day after the third storm of the third year after the last time our street got plowed.)

So at the risk of seeming like a passive-aggressive noodge I wrote a note. By hand, in the hopes of seeming less bad. I tried to make it nice, welcoming them and saying I'd wanted to let them know it's not actually legal to park this side of the street. And that it's easy to not know that; the no-parking sign that had been nearest to the house was lost when the street lamp next door got knocked over by an errant car last year. And that parking on the wrong side, while not likely to get ticketed, will mess up snow clearing just in case it happens. And that if a car's left that side of the street it makes life harder for the garbage collectors, and might keep someone's trash from being picked up at all. I swept the snow off the car, so as to do them a legitimate good deed, and left the note in a plastic bag under their windshield. The car didn't move for another two days, but it did disappear after that and I haven't seen anything parked on the wrong side near us since then.

I also added a PS about when the next recycling pickup would be, and explaining it was alternate Tuesdays after that.

Still haven't met them, but I'm hoping we can be on good terms.

Trivia: The first large land grant to a railroad in the United States was in 1851, Illinois offering 2,595,000 acres to the Illinois Grand Central Railroad if its charter terms were met. Source: The Story of American Railroads, Stewart H Holbrook.

Currently Reading: Safely To Earth: The Men and Women Who Brought the Astronauts Home, Jack Clemons.

PS: Reading the Comics, February 16, 2019: The Rest And The Rejects, another handful of comic strips to discuss.

PPS: Natural beauty at miniature golf.


Curious atmospheric phenomenon that we've seen there several times: a little chunk of rainbow in the clouds. This, I think, reflects ice in the atmosphere. It's particularly likely to happen (around here) in September afternoons and we've seen it several times now.


There wasn't much of this rainbow arc. This bigger view of the sky gives some idea how little there was but how neat it was to see and how much life it brought to the sky.


Waterfall attraction at one of the miniature golf holes. This was the thing I was paying attention to when we noticed the rainbow chip in the sky.


[profile] bunny_hugger's parents were organized enough to set their birthdays on successive days, just before Valentine's Day. Makes it hard to forget to send a card to one and not the other. It also makes for a good reason to visit mid-February. Especially now that the state pinball championship isn't on that weekend. We took this past Saturday to see them. This did make us miss a pinball event, one in Bay City. We were sad to miss it, since it was being held in part as a birthday party to some people who've been to some of our pinball tournaments. But we can't go to everything. And it turns out the event got dramatic and stressful in ways that wouldn't have been fun to watch, exciting as they are to hear about from afar.

[profile] bunny_hugger's father wanted to go to the Olive Garden and we were happy to go along with that. It's not our choices of restaurant but, after all, it's not our birthdays. We're not sure whether her mother was happy with that choice or just went along with it. Anyway it's a decent enough restaurant, frantically busy when we arrived. And it's got more vegetarian dinners than we realized, bearing in mind we've eaten there like twice.

[profile] bunny_hugger's father insisted on picking up the check, for all that we protested. We've tried before to pay for dinner, especially at things like birthday or anniversary diners, and we can't get it to work. He's promised we can pick up the tab for their 50th anniversary dinner, in about three years. Mm. We at least were nearly able to bring a coupon for a free appetizer. At least [profile] bunny_hugger filled out the web site form to get one by e-mail. It arrived twelve hours too late for us to use, but maybe they'll visit again before the coupon expires.

Afterwards we went back to their house. Partly for dessert; her mother had made a banana cake that was great. And partly to hang out. Make their dog even more nervous than he always is. And we tried playing the first chapter in that Mice and Mystics expansion set again. Last time we thought we had made a mistake by, early on, using a game mechanic that let us skip fighting some easy villains early on. But that also foiled our chance to earn game mana (wedges of cheese) early on. We didn't make that mistake this time. We made different mistakes, particularly in trying to hard to manage a side achievement that we wasted game time, and let two characters get captured. Well, the experience was worthwhile, I think. After the game was obviously lost we went, at my encouragement, to a side quest. The point there, besides not giving up before we've actually officially lost, was to get some experience with the weird way that room set up the movement of the bad guys. I think we figured out a good approach; we just didn't have enough game time to make it work.

It's comforting to see them, and visit them, this way.

Trivia: In 1935 the Works Progress Administration had three geographic classifications for wages, reflecting the higher cost of living in states such as the industrial Northeast, the Midwest, and California, compared to the lower expenses of living in the South and more rural areas. Source: American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put The Nation To Work, Nick Taylor.

Currently Reading: Safely To Earth: The Men and Women Who Brought the Astronauts Home, Jack Clemons.

PS: Some more at Kokomo's.


Kokomo's has a great miniature golf course. This visit, I started taking a lot of weird, often low-angle, shots of the course. Here's one of the water hazards outside of bounds.


Told you I went for low-angle stuff. [profile] bunny_hugger gets ready for a good long putt.


So this is the sort of weird course they have. Odd enough to have to putt the ball over this arched bridge. Why the Mickey Mouse ears on top of the end of the course there? Hard to say. But on the upper ear there's a suspicious large rock sitting in the middle of the green. Underneath the rock is another hole. My best guess is the hole for this course used to be on that, upper, circle. And the middle- and lower-levels would be where your ball gets stuck if you aim at the hole badly, or over- or under-shoot. Then at some point they decided that was too much, and moved the hole to the bottommost disc, and covered up the upper circle. It leaves the upper disc pointless, and something foolish to even try shooting at. But there's a lot of holes like this, with evidence of changed and relocated holes and, thus, weird cul-de-sacs in the course.


Back in December we had the quite gentle catastrophe of the DVD player breaking. This messed up our plans to do things like watch A Charlie Brown Christmas at our leisure. Well, we carried on as bravely as possible and then dealt with it when we had time, which wasn't until a couple weeks ago. You know how it goes.

I mentioned getting the Blu-Ray player, and watching Watership Down to break it in. What came before that was a lot of fiddling around getting it set up. We got a nice, cheap Blu-Ray player, one without any separate audio port, just HDMI cables. And that's all right except we don't use the TV speakers. We have a separate, component stereo system. It's been doing good service for twenty(?) plus years now, so we weren't looking to replace that. But how to get audio from that? Any proper HDTV set has some audio output. But ours just had a single, mono-channel output. We don't really know why. Our suspicion is that this is because we have a former hotel TV, snagged by a friend when it had gotten replaced, and maybe hotel TVs are made to rinkier audio standards.

Things got worse with [profile] bunny_hugger finally buying a Nintendo Switch. The system looks good and it's already got a couple games she's eager to play. But it also has an HDMI output to the TV. And no separate sound output. Oh, also the TV has only two HDMI inputs, one of which would be for the DVR anyway. We could put up with switching cables around, but would rather not.

The answer to having more HDMI things than inputs would be getting a signal switcher, of course. And better: I found a switcher that also split audio signal off. So we could set up all of our new signal-producing stuff, and connect it to the component stereo. This has turned out to be pretty convenient. Since the satellite DVR, the Blu-Ray, and the Nintendo Switch all go to the same audio feed we don't have to deal with switching the sound inputs anymore. Which is great because I never had more than about a 20% chance of switching to the right sound input anytime, the way we'd had stuff set up before. The switcher also really wants to switch automatically to whichever device got turned on most recently, which is hard to beat.

We had two missteps along the way. One was my buying an redundant HDMI cable from Best Buy, when [profile] bunny_hugger had one coming in. Also since it turns out the HDMI switcher needs electric power we ran out of power plugs. We'd had to buy a new power strip. ... Which is probably all right; the one we had was .. some number of years old. And the new one is better laid out, too. We have fewer spots where a power brick or oversized plug interferes with the neighboring electric devices.

So, overall, everything is working at least as well as it did two months ago, and there's even been parts that are working better. It's a February miracle.

Trivia: In 1850 Manhattan had about sixty piers, wharves, docks, and slips on the East River south of 14th street, and around fifty more on the Hudson Rider. Source: Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Edwin G Burrows, Mike Wallace.

Currently Reading: Safely To Earth: The Men and Women Who Brought the Astronauts Home, Jack Clemons.

PS: Next in my photo roll? The late-September birthday visit to Kokomo's Family Fun Center.


Kokomo's family fun center has the nearest permanent roller coaster to us, The Serpent. (At least the nearest that isn't clearly a kiddie coaster, a Wacky Worm or its like.) Here, the sun eats one of its support structures.


Rider safety instructions for The Serpent, also showing off the toucan mascot of Kokomo's.


The Serpent is a fair bit away from the main building of the fun center. It looks much like they figured they'd expend to fill the space in-between. The structure here's a driving range that, the year before, had been inside a large (inflated?) dome which has since vanished.


This week my mathematics blog was built out of comic strips and triangles. Here's how. (If you want to read it on RSS, you can use this link, by the way.)

What about my story strip update? That one answers the questions What's Going On In Judge Parker? Did Marie kill her husband? December 2018 - February 2019 in review.

So, these pictures. They're from a day [profile] bunny_hugger and I spent letterboxing. There was, in this one park, a trail of five letterboxes with a connected theme and with clues that promised to tell a story. We were able to find most of the letterboxes. Here's some of what we saw and what the place looked like.


So this gorgeous spot is in Lansing, part of the entrance to the Scotts Woods park. We got there at clearly the exactly right time of day.


They don't put up warning signs about fallen tree parts for nothing, you know.


Every letterbox ever uses as landmark ``the fallen log'' or ``the log crossing another''.


What is probably the Sycamore Creek, which runs through the park.


Seriously though this place is like ten city blocks south of us, all the time.


Weirdly vivid leaves thanks to catching the light against some darker treebranches.


Yes, none of these spots are where any of the string of letterboxes were, since it's bad form to leave one in the water on purpose, but isn't it great to see?


Hollow log with a reat gaping hole in it, which probably would have spontaneously manifested a letterbox (I forget if it actually did) and was in any case a good spot to sit and stamp entries and all that.


A look through the hollow log because, deep down, I feel like cartoon animals should be running back and forth through it.


[profile] bunny_hugger tending the serious business of stamping log books and recording that we'd gotten one of the set of stamps. She's wearing a Late Night With Conan O'Brien T-shirt that I got when I attended the final episode of that show.


This string of letterboxes had a theme of ``gnomes and friends'' and so the box-planter set up a string of fairy doors and windows and such, to suggest we were going about to the different houses of gnomes and snails and caterpillars and the like.


Another of the fairy doors, although I'm not sure that this one wasn't knocked down from its intended position.

Trivia: By the end of the 1960s Otis Elevators had affiliates in 46 countries and sales representatives in 69; overseas sales made up about half its $536 million total. Source: Otis: Giving Rise to the Modern City, Jason Goodwin.

Currently Reading: Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History, Duncan Steel.

I want to make some of the upcoming photograph subjects line up better with the week. So I'm going to do another pictures dump today, that I can move on to another topic for photographs tomorrow and then a wholly other one come Monday.


Michigan's Adventure has, relative to Waldameer, pretty sparse scenery. But it does have some great spots, if you know where to look for them.


This, for example, is a flower basket at the loading station to Shivering Timbers, their mile-long wooden roller coaster. Here you can see the queue approaching it.


Shivering Timbers runs two trains and here you can see them, the green one returning as the blue reaches the lift hill.


Maker's plate for the Wolverine Wildcat roller coaster. I would assume that it took more than just the 12th of June to build, but I have to go by what Summers and Dinn say it took, so maybe they started like just after midnight and were working into the late evening.


Rocky Point Golf, one of the handful of special-charge attractions at Michigan's Adventure. It's a fun little course and we've played it a few times. In the far background is Thunderhawk, a head-banging roller coaster formerly at Geauga Lake in Ohio.


The main lagoon, built by Cedar Point in the early 2000s when it took over the park, and the swan-boat rie area in the upper left corner.


[profile] bunny_hugger examining the antlers on one of the Chance carousel mounts. Most of the animals are fiberglass. The ride operator tried to tell us about the antlers being from a real deer (likely, as real antlers are cheap, easy to get, and more durable than synthetics) from the days when Michigan's Adventure had deer (and while the park did have deer, in its first decades, it's improbable that anything from those deer survived to the time they were putting in this merry-go-round).


Michigan's Adventure hasn't got a strongly defined midway, but here's at least some of the attractions including the Corkscrew roller coaster as seen from the launch station for Zach's Zoomer, their junior wooden roller coaster and a good way to introduce kids to serious roller coasters.


Ride operator closing off the gate to Mad Mouse just after we had got in line! Last ride of the season, woo-hoo!


The Mad Mouse car that would carry us on the last (passenger) ride of the year.


People hanging out at the entrance to the parking lot, presumably to warn them off coming in now that the season was over. Also a testament to the quality of my camera's optical zoom, surely digitally assisted here, because the spot photographed had to be like a half-mile away.


The end of the 2017 season at Michigan's Adventure. Mad Mouse cars sitting idle, apart from test or staff runs, until the coming May.

Trivia: Something like one and a half million ethnic Czechs attended some 140 open-air mass rallies in Austria-Hungary between 1868 and 1871. Source: The Age of Capital, 1848 - 1875, Eric Hobsbawm.

Currently Reading: Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History, Duncan Steel.

Back to my and [profile] bunny_hugger's lives, and what we do with them. This past Sunday was once again the Lunar New Year celebration at the Meridian Mall, as organized by the area Chinese association. We've tried to get to this each year since we learned they were a thing. We missed last year for reasons I forget, and one year we had the wrong date, but otherwise it's a good chance to come out, hang around the mall a little, watch a very long variety show, and never win a raffle prize. This year, we made it, although by only a few minutes. I'd thought it started at 2 pm and was being slow to get the day started.

The parade, tromping around the mall, was small this year. There was the one Chinese dragon, maneuvered by kids. And there was a troupe of girls who, I think, did dance and a bit of gymnastics in the variety show. The other groups who'd been in past parades, like a karate class or particularly the lion dancers, weren't there. If it were explained it was not to us. Also rather than someone playing a drum, they had a large speaker wheeled around on a cart. Basic but functional.

The variety show was pretty much as we'd hope. The show has always had this curious mix. There's things that are clearly about Chinese culture, like musical pieces, fashion shows demonstrating traditional dress, or demonstrations of tai chi. We got an early look at the tai chi, too, as we were sitting on a bench eating cheese curds from A&W right next to where that group happened to be rehearsing. Then there were things that seemed to be just of interest to people affiliated with the organizers somehow, like the zumba session or the street dancers. The warmup act was, we thought, one they've had before too, singers who performed, for example, ``All Along The Watchtower''. The person who sings ``Edelweiss'' was not there this year, or maybe performed while we were off at A&W getting cheese curds.

The show raffled off prizes, as it has in previous years. This time around the prizes were wrapped in light paper, so there was no guessing whether one was winning a Dutch oven or a fabric steamer. ... Which were two of the prizes given away, it turns out. The very last of the raffle prizes was a television set, but the person who won that didn't open the package and just took the hosts at their word about what was inside. There was a great little moment where a kid who'd won a prize insisted on going for the bigger wrapped box underneath the one the hosts were insisting he take.

I was curious about and baffled by a tomato sitting on the floor, just outside the door of a clothing shop adjacent to the show. [profile] bunny_hugger investigated and informed me it was, in fact, a tangerine. Well, that makes more sense then. (It really does, but it's fun to pretend it doesn't.)

In past years we've always gone on to the little crafts section and done some little projects. This has given us great decorative dividends like hangable fans with wax-crayon illustrations of monkeys or dragons or the like, or cutout dog figures. We saw some people, mostly kids, trotting off with their paper-lantern pigs. But we waited for the variety show to be finished before going to the crafts, and there we discovered that everything was done. It was all wrapped up, put away, and gone. Only a couple people playing Chinese checkers were still hanging around. It was a bit disappointing to have nothing to show for our visit except the actual experience of having been there.

We'd had loose plans to go to a movie in the evening. But by the time the show was done and we looked outside, it was snowing rather heavily. Given the circumstance we decided it wasn't worth trudging through that, and instead we watched our first Blu-Ray on that new player. Watership Down, which I hadn't seen in decades. It turns out the movie reduced me to a big quivering, blubbery mass of flesh, and that was before even the title credits. The whole movie was even harder.

Trivia: The Anglo-Dutch Convention of 1901 specified the waters off Iceland, up to three miles from shore, would be open to the world for fishing. Source: Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky.

Currently Reading: Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History, Duncan Steel. Huh. So the number of times we can be certain someone observed one planet passing in front of another? One. (This doesn't happen very often. Even one planet grazing the limb of another is amazingly rare.)

PS: Proving That Disturbing Triangle Theorem That Isn't Morley's Somehow, in which you get to enjoy my expository powers.

PPS: a Michigan's Adventure photograph I didn't mean to take.


I wasn't trying to photograph the operator of the Flying Trapeze ride, but he spotted me and smiled for me and at that point it seemed a pity to waste his sociability so here you go, whoever you are.


What I was trying to photograph: [profile] bunny_hugger strutting her way after getting a picture in the safety-inspection mirror on the left of the frame there.


Broken-down and very old park benches in a little working area outside the publicly-accessible portions of the park. The wooden roller coaster in the background is Wolverine Wildcat, the near-twin to Knoebels' Phoenix roller coaster.

And what's been happening with my humor blog? If you didn't see it on your Reading Page, or on your RSS feed, you have your fresh chance here. I'd published:

Back to my photographs. Here's Michigan's Adventure, Closing Day, 2017.


The bunnies of Michigan's Adventure ponder and cast judgement on us all.


Looks like some bunny is feeling a little peckish.


Mmm. Great bunny! Delicious!


So next year when they want me to upload a photo to attach to my season pass Im' sending this in instead.


Oh yeah! Michigan's Adventure has rides, not just a petting zoo. I think we've been in its Ferris wheel once and this was not the time.


Not a petting zoo animal! The park has some lakes, naturally, and here a freelance duck enjoys the setting.


Duck paddling across the still waters of the Michigan's Adventure central lagoon.


Duck pecking the sun to little bitty pieces.


And there's a little bit more sun! Attack! Attack!


The sun having been vanquished, the duck goes on to scatter magic behind it.


The ponds and central lagoon are not very deep, but they can be very still waters. How many fish can you spot in this photograph?


And then back to the rides. I might photograph the Flying Trapeze swing ride every time we visit the park, but that's all right. Why not photograph it every time?

Trivia: The 1969 Ohio State Fair had a butter sculpture of Neil Armstrong. Source: First Man: The Life Of Neil A Armstrong, James R Hansen.

Currently Reading: Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History, Duncan Steel.

Happy valentine's day, my precious [profile] bunny_hugger.

My father has two sisters. They had a falling-out after their mother died, in the early 90s. The proximate cause was over how much money my father, executor, took for himself from the estate. It was less than what the law allowed him to take, but still, they felt it was too much. The real cause was decades old: my father was their mother's favorite and she never even tried to hide it. With the last reason they had to make peace now gone, they went their separate ways, and stopped communicating. (Except that my father did tell his sisters when his brain aneurysm was discovered, as it might have been hereditary and they ought to know.) This is why I have the aunts that I never talk about, as opposed to the aunts, the college friends of my mother's, that I would.

Some time ago, it turns out, my youngest brother sent a sample in to 23-and-me, or some other of those companies that amasses genetic information with no supervision or respect for privacy. I reserve the right to be annoyed by this further. But sometime last year, my father's middle sister sent her own sample in. And apparently the company pointed out two people with a lot of data in common and the same (rather rare) last name. She contacted my brother, asking if there were a chance they were related. And they started to talk.

It went further. After some conversation with my brother, she started to talk with my father, I believe on Facebook. And they're ... well, talking. This has extended to his other, even younger, sister too. From what I gather it isn't really warm, not after a quarter-century. But it is peaceful, with everything everyone was angry about now taken as ... well, not worth shutting family members out of their lives for, not anymore.

I'd ever had a personal reason to refuse to talk with them, but, y'know. We hadn't been close, which I realize in retrospect was probably a reflection of their issues with my father, and if they weren't interested in a nephew that was all right. They have their lives. The middle sister's had some rough times of it, but turns out to still be living at what had been her mother's house. And, it turns out, just had a birthday. I should be looking for a belated birthday card.

Each New Year's I set out the wish that the twelve months ahead will see the softening of hardened hearts. And this year it happened.

Trivia: In February 1946 some 25.6 percent of births in the Western occupation zones of German were recorded as illegitimate. Source: Germany 1945: From War to Peace, Richard Bessel. (Something like a third of them were from parents who subsequently married.)

Currently Reading: Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History, Duncan Steel.

PS: more of the close of Michigan's Adventure's 2017 season.


Michigan's Adventure turkey wanting quietly to know what, precisely, my deal is.


Michigan's Adventure emu wanting quietly to know what, precisely, my deal is.


``Hey! Hey, guys! Come on over, I found the way out! We're gonna make it out of here! We're gonna ... ... ... oh. ... ... ... ... Little help here?''

When Stern announced their follow-up pinball to The Beatles, [profile] bunny_hugger challenged me to name it. She thought the title was one that sounded like the joke you would make about pinball licenses, which have mostly alternated between bands and nerd media properties lately. (The last few games were The Beatles, Deadpool --- the comic book rather than the movies, remarkably --- and before that Iron Maiden and Star Wars.) I didn't get close to the answer, which was The Munsters. Which is kind of funny because one of the all-time great pinball games, at the lead of the Murderer's Row of all-time great games of the 90s, was The Addams Family. Here, thirty years later, was the title that sounded like What You Get If You Can't Get The Addams Family.

But the hipster bar up the street was getting one, and Pinball Pete's, which supplies games, leaned on [profile] bunny_hugger to hold a launch party, and she yielded. This would force some unpleasant compromises out of her. One is that the only day free to hold it was a Saturday. We'd held tournaments on weekdays in the past, so as not to conflict with shows or events. But Saturday was the least-bad alternative, if we started things the moment the bar opened at 3 pm. And if it ran late, we'd overlap with the show, the Valentine's Day Burlesque-a-Go-Go, one of the bar's biggest nights. I promised that we would get things done before the show started, but I couldn't promise that. [profile] bunny_hugger had data from previous launch parties to insist there was no way we could finish before the burlesque started.

And then we got some extra complications late in the process. [profile] bunny_hugger bought a license to use some tournament-running software for The Beatles launch party. It made this format, where each person puts up qualifying scores on a set of games and their highest relative scores qualify you for playoffs, easy to run. But in the months since the last launch party [profile] bunny_hugger had lost her password, and locked out her account making guesses at it, and it was not clear that this would get sorted out before the tournament started. I printed up paper scoresheets, so that we'd be able to work everything out manually. Not ideal, but at least functional. It was a bit stressful.

And when the venue opened the tournament account was still locked. We had to start out with the paper scoresheets, and switch over to the online scheme when that became available. Messy, yes, but at least the paper scoresheets meant [profile] bunny_hugger could enter the backlog of scores while I took down new ones.

The format was ``Herb-style qualifying''. Play at least three of the five monster-themed games --- The Munsters, The Addams Family, Monster Bash, Elvira's Scared Stiff, and Ghostbusters --- up to two times, with your highest score on each table going to your ranking. People had three and a half hours to put up scores, and then the top eight, or top half, would go to finals. (International Flipper Pinball Association rules strongly discourage more than half of the players going to finals.)

And through all this, somehow, [profile] bunny_hugger and I had to find time to play games, too. Last time we figured we would get to the venue before open qualifying began, and play our games first, and be free the rest of the day to administrate. But there wasn't time, not without running up against the burlesque show, so we had to take moments when we possibly could. I was still playing my last game as 6:30 arrived and the cutoff came. And I was having an absolute killer of a Monster Bash game, the highest I've ever played at our hipster bar and my second-highest-scoring game ever. That game launched me from just-below-the-cutoff to sixth place. And it knocked out a person who hadn't played before, but was delighted to learn he was safely in, and then less delighted to learn he was on the bubble (someone above him had left after finishing his qualifying play, but then came back, which he hadn't been necessarily figuring to do). But he was in unless I went and put up the highest score of the day on Monster Bash, which, oops. ... Oh, yikes; it's worse than that. I see from the results that half my score would still have been the best all day on that table. Well, double oops. ... Well, that put him in a tie for the last qualifying position, which was broken by a one-ball tiebreaker on which his opponent put up a lousy score, under 300,000. And he did worse, so he was done.

But the good news. I was in the playoffs! So was [profile] bunny_hugger! And even better, we weren't going to play each other first round! Each round, as usual, would be three games, with PAPA-style scoring where the first-place finisher on a table gets 4 points, second-place 2 points, third-place 1 point, fourth-place 0. Top two finishers each group go on to finals. My first round went fantastically. We started on The Munsters and I had one of those balls that just destroys other people's ability to even play: over 40 million points, on a table nobody had gotten above 38 million on all day. And I went on to have two more good balls, finishing with a grand championship and over 100 million points, which seems good.

The next game, Ghostbusters, I didn't dominate so much --- MWS came within a whisker of beating me --- but I still came in first. And we got to talking with a couple guys who happened to be hanging around, and didn't know about the tournament but did know their pinball. They got to talking with RED --- who maintains the tables for Pinball Pete's --- about Surf 'N' Safari, a water-park-themed game that I really like even though it's not actually that good a table. But boy, if we could get it in ... well, anyway. The last table was Scared Stiff, and after a shaky first two balls I had a breakaway third ball, coming out to just crush everyone again. I had that rarest of things, three first-place finishes for a perfect 12 points.

[profile] bunny_hugger did not have a perfect round, or even a first-place finish. She was the one person in her three-person group not to move on. But that did mean, at least, we wouldn't be playing each other in finals.

And how did finals go? Well, I had just put up a sequence of four awesome games, including some amazing play on The Munsters --- which the rules specified would be the final game played --- that seemed to herald a breakthrough in how to play the game. So on that hot streak I ... tumbled over and died. Repeatedly. I didn't just have one bad ball. Or one bad game. I had nine straight bad balls, coming in last place all three games and, particularly, finishing The Munsters at under one million, less than one percent of my previous game's score. Ouch.

Did we finish before the Burlesque-A-Go-Go started? Yes, we did. Not before the doors opened, before they started charging admission to the venue. And one of the doorkeepers did come over to ask if we were going to finish up before the show started. We were on the scheduled last game, although there was the possibility of having to do a tiebreaker game. We finished in just enough time that we snuck in one last, post-tournament, game of The Munsters, which is proving to be a good bit of fun (among other nice touches, the game has a laugh track that chuckles nervously if you shoot low-valued targets), before we cleared out.

It was still early enough in the night, for all that we were tired, that we wanted to eat. So we went with MWS and RED over to LeeLee's, that Coney Island I talked about just last Saturday (the day of the tournament). Had the veggie omelette this time and was again satisfied with that. Still, it all would have been much better if we'd had a couple more hours to put into the thing. Maybe it would have been a bit less stressful.

Trivia: In 1171, Reiner of Paderborn, dean of the cathedral at Paderborn (on the Lippe river in what is now western Germany) wrote a treatise which used Hindu-Arabic numerals to compute the date of Easter, and along the way proving that the accepted 19-year lunisolar cycle was misaligned with the true movements of the sun and moon, losing one day every 315 years. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle to Align the Clock with the Heavens --- And What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History, Duncan Steel.

PS: In Which I Am Disturbed By A Triangle Theorem That Isn't Morley's Somehow because you didn't think I could read a whole book about triangles and get nothing from it, did you?

PS: Michigan's Adventure bunnies!


[profile] bunny_hugger looking over the Flemish Giant at the Michigan's Adventure Funland Farm petting zoo. (The park used to be Deer Park Funland.)


Californian rabbit wondering when she's going to get some privacy around here, thank you.


Bunnies in the act of self-care.

So we had a bit of a week, the end of January. The Monday of it started with a snowstorm. A lot of snow; something like six to eight inches. It was so obviously bad enough that basically every school in the lower peninsula closed. Except the university where [profile] bunny_hugger teaches. They wouldn't do it, and they kept putting out notices on social media about safe driving in the winter. [profile] bunny_hugger was having none of it, and would not go in to classes Monday. They finally did cancel, but not until about 9 am, and their social media team had to spend the snow day being --- correctly --- ragged on for the needlessly delayed decision-making here. Anyway, for all that the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule has been bad for [profile] bunny_hugger, at least here, she'd gotten a rare snow day, and her second Monday in a row off.

Tuesday we dug out a bit, while I went and got a cold. It must have been from the concert; we just hadn't done anything else. And waited for something maybe really exciting. It was supposed to get really cold out. Like, below 0 Fahrenheit. Cold enough we left a faucet running at a slow drizzle and I kept worrying that this wouldn't be enough. All the schools around Lansing announced closures, some of them out through Thursday. [profile] bunny_hugger's school, maybe stung by the criticism, joined at a reasonable hour, cancelling the Wednesday classes. They'd cancel Thursday, too, in the middle of the day Wednesday. [profile] bunny_hugger basically never gets snow days, and here she got two in a week. The only real down side is we got another two inches of snow on Tuesday night, and it was too bitterly cold to go out Wednesday and shovel. Between the pinball championship weekend, when we were away for two days, and this we're starting to look like scofflaws. On Thursday, slightly less terribly cold, [profile] bunny_hugger went out and shoveled the sidewalk clear at least.

Friday, well, that wasn't going to bring any weather problems against us. It was chilly --- not above freezing --- but not unbearable, and with no fresh snow. But still no classes, because [profile] bunny_hugger had scheduled a doctor's appointment before realizing she was going to be on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule this term, and there wasn't any rescheduling available. So the happy result is a week of legitimately skipped and cancelled classes, although the cost was making a ruin of her syllabus. Potentially more ruin, when [profile] bunny_hugger caught my cold and had to fear missing the following Monday.

Saturday, it was like 50 degrees out, and over the warm weekend basically all the snow melted away. Also Special When Lit held its monthly tournament and neither of us remembered. But that's all right, because we could finally leave the house again, and didn't even need to.

The weather wasn't through throwing fiascos at us, though. This past Tuesday-to-Wednesday threw down freezing rain, to the point that [profile] bunny_hugger's school cancelled classes through to 11 am. Great except that her first class is at noon. She made the effort to get up there, but the roads got so bad at the county line that she had to stop and turn around. She could make it up for the later classes, when the roads were a little less bad, but still. That's four times that particular section got cancelled and it's barely a month into the semester. There have been spans of several years that she hasn't cancelled anything four times over. It's got me looking at the ten-day forecasts and worrying when I see ... oh, well, there. Friday's forecast, this morning, was for three-to-five inches of snow. Now it's dropped shifted to rain. This far out I'm not committing to anything, but ... goodness.

Trivia: Daniel Peters's ready-made milk chocolate drink, the first such in the world, he sold from 1875 under the name Chocolats au Lait Gala Peter. Source: Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers, Deborah Cadbury.

Currently Reading: Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History, Duncan Steel.

PS: The next weekend we visited Michigan's Adventure, because we love getting to closing day.


The last ride you pass as you approach Michigan's Adventure's entrance is the always-busy Mad Mouse. It's always good for a nice dramatic establishing shot.


Someone on Mad Mouse suffered a tragic loss of hat. Also sunglasses, it looks like. I hope there wasn't a scuffle while the car was in motion.


At the petting zoo, the bunnies have decided they have had enough season and are done, thank you.

It was not a week of nothing but comics posts on my mathematics blog. There was also my vanity post of the month! Here's what you were missing if you waited for today to see what's on it.

And then I check in on a story strip. What's Going On In Gil Thorp? Is Gil Thorp Going To Be Fired? November 2018 - February 2019 No, he is not.

And now, finally, the last of the Waldameer pictures as we left for the day.


The miniature train, in station, and locked up for the night.


And the last thing to look at while leaving the park: this old wooden table, not near anything particular, where I guess it isn't causing any trouble.

We drove back home the next day. We did stop in at Cedar Point as a good midway point, and a place to get something to eat (Cupzilla again), and to recharge our energies. We only spent a short while there, which is why I don't have a ridiculous load of photographs.


The Kiddie Kingdom carousel, one of the three carousels at Cedar Point and one with a dear connection to [profile] bunny_hugger's past. Can you spot the bunny mounts? (I don't think they're in frame, no.)


One of the Kiddie Kingdom carousel's horses, flanked by ostriches. This carousel is the one with a good number of ``menagerie'' figures.


The interior, less-decorated, inside of one of the Kiddie Kingdom carousel horses as seen in one of the central mirrors. Yes, the camera decided to focus on the mirror dirt, but that makes this picture an aesthetic decision, right?


The base of the Cedar Downs racing carousel, seen in motion. This ride gets up to about six rpm, the fastest carousel at Cedar Point, even if it's not so terrifyingly fast as its counterpart at Rye Playland.


More of the base of the racing carousel. The posts move forward and back within those troughs, by way of a mechanism of, legend has it, stunning complexity. (Rye Playland's was broken for years.)


So [profile] bunny_hugger wore her new purchase of Dragon Hat into Cedar Point, and drew some attention, and then she had a nice silly idea.


Racing Carousel 1 Horse thinks Dragon Hat looks good on him!

And that closed our Labor Day 2017 trip out to Waldameer and Conneaut Lake Park.

Trivia: The West Jersey Society, which held ownership and (for a time) governing power for half of the colony of New Jersey, remained incorporated in England until 1923. Source: New Jersey From Colony To State, 1609 - 1789, Richard P McCormick.

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey, Alfred S Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann.

Something for after the show that promised to be a nice capstone was that we could go to Stella's. The bar's just across the street from the Pyramid Scheme. It's got the nearest Funhouse pinball table to us, although it's currently in a place kind of lousy to actually play. It's got the Impossible Burger, and the last times we'd had one they were getting better at making them. It'd be a great place to go have dinner. The thing we had failed to think about: the concert was a Friday. Do you know what a downtown Grand Rapids bar is like at 11 pm on a Friday? They had also gone to ``seat yourself'' so there was no guessing how long we'd have to wait for a table. We trust there are other places to eat in Grand Rapids, but the two we know of are Two Beards, which closed at like 8 pm, and Menna's Joint, which may or may not have closed but is hard to feel much passion for either way. We figured to drive home and eat.

Driving home we saw that unsettling suddenly-appearing clot of traffic with flashing lights off in the distance, reflected in the snow and the clouds. I turned off the Interstate, figuring we could find Grand River Avenue, which roughly parallels I-96 for most of both roads' run. The off-ramp sent us south of I-96 and after a fair distance trying to follow the signs for Emergency I-96 I determined that Grand River was north of I-96. Eventually I found a place I could turn around, although it wasn't easy; while we were in the strip mall district, there was snow on most everything. And few signs of anything open except presumably the Taco Bells.

Back across the Interstate (there were still lights flashing, and I grumbled that this better be a major closure for how much time we'd invested in going around it) and to Grand River. (It's known as Cascade in that area, actually, but same road.) Grand River's a pretty substantial road in our part of Michigan and I guess I just assumed it would be here too. This was a much lesser road, though, and unplowed, and oh good, here's the car that figures there's no reason not to tailgate me at 40 mph on a narrow road when the snow keeps on heaving down and we're going up and down what hills mid-Michigan even has. Sheesh.

So all that added a fair bit of time to our drive home, which is all right since we were falling behind on listening to the Greatest Generation. (We used to get a lot of listening to it done while driving to and from Grand Rapids Pinball League, but we aren't in that league this season.)

We got back to Lansing, anyway, and while going to the gas station --- it was supposed to get close to 0 Fahrenheit overnight and over the next few days, and somewhere I got the idea it's dangerous to have too low a gas tank when it's that cold --- noticed the LeeLee's Coney Island was open. A Coney Island is the lower-Michigan variant on a diner. It was in the spot that was, until last spring, the Fish and Chips. They'd opened in September, but only recently have started having late nights, some nights. Friday was one of them. We went in. It was the first time we'd been to the place in its new incarnation.

They'd changed the decor, mostly by taking down the most datedly Arthur Treacher's leftover stuff, the pictures of whaling ships and the faintly-New-Englandy lanterns and so on. Some of the changes are good ones, like mirrors faking the windows. We were the only people sitting down for a meal, and the two people on staff were happy to see us and talk with us. This was friendly enough. Some people stopped in to pick up food, and I guess there was a drive-through pickup. It felt like a frightfully small crowd considering it was so near when the bars let out, though. Maybe the bitter cold was keeping people at home.

But we've been hoping that the place would succeed, for several counts. We want local stuff to thrive, for example. And since the loss of Theio's the Lansing Eastside has really needed a 24-hour diner. They close too early on Tuesday nights to be an after-pinball-league meal hangout. They've said they hope to open up later more weeknights. But based on this one sample on a particularly cold, snowy night, I can't blame them if they figure Tuesdays aren't worth the staffing. But maybe it was just a really bad night, and maybe as they build a reputation crowds will come. I was content with the cheese omelette, and raisin toast, and will say so to anyone interested.

Trivia: In 1467 Pope Paul II adopted as the official color of the robes of cardinals thescarlet produced by the use of imported kermes (insect dye) or galls (a growth on oak trees produced by certain insects). Source: Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance, Lisa Jardine.

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey, Alfred S Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann.

PS: More of putting away Waldameer! It's not done yet, remarkably. I'll remark on how next time.


Dodgems ride operator putting the bumper cars away.


The Scrambler with its very nice lights package. To the side is the Musik Express.


View of the Chance carousel, from the side entrance. The building to the side there is, I think, guest relations. To the right is, I think, a food stand.


When we first saw Walk The Moon we knew all the songs. Well, they were opening for other bands, then. But when they got big enough to headline, we knew their whole show. We'd listened to their album on the way there and at least I checked off each song as they played it. Those days are long gone; they've got enough albums there's no playing them all in one show. And we haven't listened to their newer ones, not so often, not so very much. On our drive to Grand Rapids we listened to the newest one, that's been out a while and that we just hadn't gotten to before. The new songs were nice. They felt like the Walk The Moon songs we knew. I didn't feel caught by any of them, not the way ``Anna Sun'' or ``Shut Up And Dance'' demand your attention. But only some music demands a place in your life right away. Some music finds the place in your life that it fits.

I did not keep obsessive track of the songs they played. The ones I recognized, certainly I appreciated recognizing. The new songs I tried to appreciate, of course, and liked. Part of me wondered which of their older sets they'd have dropped, though, and whether it would be any of the songs whose place has become important to us, such as ``Jenny''. That's the song I've been using as subject lines here and it became dear when [profile] bunny_hugger filked a few lines to be about our rabbit Stephen. (``St-st-st-stephen's got a body like a pillowcast/ He's eating some hay, eating some hay ... '')

Some of what I think of as old Walk The Moon stuff has faded away, particularly the audience painting their faces ahead of the show. But some hasn't. The whiff of references that might be furry or might just be that's what kids are like anymore. The band coming out on stage to the Circle of Life intro from The Lion King. The lead singer's meditational invitation to ball up all the things that have troubled you, and release it, to lead in to ``I Can Lift A Car''.

They played ``Shut Up And Dance'', of course, and much earlier in the show than I would have figured. They followed this with some patter about flying back from a tour date in South America and having a tiny window of time to record a single, and set up how they were going to play this, the first of their songs to be featured in a movie. Which startled me since I had thought ``Shut Up And Dance'' was. The song was featured as a recurring beat in the underachieving kids animated movie Norm of the North. (There, a song that is infectious joy made incarnate is used to just feel sluggish and sad and disappointing.) Well, live and learn, though, and there's a lot of movies out there. I clearly just hadn't heard of one before. It was their cover of the theme to Ghostbusters. OK, they got me. Ghostbusters seems to have taken the place of their old cover of ``Burning Down The House''.

Pretty near the whole audience stood up for ``Shut Up And Dance'', and fair enough. It's a song that encourages dancing or, if you're me, swaying in a rhythm that's pretty close to the beat, but of some other song. Afterwards a couple people tried sitting down, but it never really took. Which is fine; it was just a couple songs to the closing of the main performance and they were all ones you could reasonably be on your feet for, like, well, the theme to Ghostbusters.

Not standing up, even when the lead to ``I Can Lift A Car'' encouraged you to stand up and, at points in the song, wave your arms? The older couple sitting next to [profile] bunny_hugger. We're not quite sure what their deal was; they didn't seem to be enjoying the band, or the atmosphere. Don't know why they were there. Possibly they were with some group that did want to. (There was a quartet in front of us, for example, who were together and even asked me to take some pictures of them, not knowing they'd hit on one of the few people in the audience who would try to compose the shot well.) Possibly they just figure they'll try going to concerts even if they don't know anything about the band. [profile] bunny_hugger and I had discussed our feeling that we don't go to enough concerts and maybe we should just go to whatever's at a venue we like sometimes. Not our concern, really, what their deal was. But they did leave the moment the regular performance was over, and didn't stick around or sit down again for the encore.

The encore, yes, closed with them singing ``Anna Sun''. They haven't quite gotten to be so big or have a catalogue quite deep enough they could leave off the song they toured on for their first forty years. We know someday we will go to a concert and they'll have retired a song they probably compulsively play in their sleep. But the world is not quite that old, not yet.

Trivia: Wilhelm Leibniz had studied essentially no mathematics before he was 26 years old. One biographer has described his mathematics knowledge at that age as ``deplorable''. Source: The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World, Edward Dolnick. (Leibniz was rather stronger in philosophy and law.)

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey, Alfred S Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann.

PS: With fireworks going on, can the close of the day at Waldameer be far off?


And here, the Sky Ride-in-front-of-the-fireworks theory really proves itself.


And now some pictures of Waldameer closing up, or closed, for the night. Here, the famed Pizza Boat is in the harbor.


Midway games being put away for the night.

I had a lot of fun on my humor blog this week. Rex Morgan was a particular delight. Also good?

I'm getting near the end of my Waldameer pictures! You'll see the sun set between pictures here, even.


Ravine Flyer, back from the ravine!


Waldameer statue of a kid holding up a dog, at the North End near where the miniature railroad turns around.


Ravine Flyer II was designed by Gravity Group, so the roller coaster spends as much time as possible banked as steeply as possible. Here's one of its less steep curves, on the return leg of the coaster.


Sea Dragon, the swinging ship ride as at many parks. That little mast in the center of the boat often gets taken off these rides anymore, since it's something that can break but doesn't actually matter to the ride.


The Comet's launch station as seen by night.


Ravine Flyer II by night, too. I think I took this exact same picture but at the start of the day, too. Anyway, love those lights along the lift hill.


I tried to do a tracking shot of the Ravine Flyer II coaster coming back to the station! Did it work?


Sea Dragon rocking beautifully in front of the Ferris wheel. Look at those light streaks from the ride's mast.


Steel Dragon by night. The lighting gives the chance to enjoy some really quality darkness, too.


It was the next-to-last day of the park's season! They had fireworks and everything.


More fireworks as seen from the Comet station.


Yes, I could have found a spot that didn't have the Comet station blocking part of the sky, but I might not have found one that had the Sky Lift train running back and forth in front of the fireworks.

Trivia: A proposed 1931 merger of Sears and Montgomery Ward broke down when, ultimately, Sears insisted on offering one share of Sears for three of Ward, while Ward insisted on a two-for-one swap. Source: The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History of America's Great Department Stores, Robert Hendrickson. (It seems not to have gotten past informal talks anyway.)

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey, Alfred S Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann. Seriously read a theorem about triangles that read like spooky dark magic here.

PS: Reading the Comics, February 2, 2019: Not The February 1, 2019 Edition, wrapping up last week's comics.

We haven't played in the Grand Rapids Pinball League this season. Part of that is [profile] bunny_hugger's work schedule. She's teaching Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, and the league meets Wednesdays. She could technically probably rush right from her final class to league, and if there were no problems like, say, winter weather might even make it. But it is winter, and it gets only moreso as you get to Grand Rapids, closer to Lake Michigan.

One thing I mentioned to [profile] bunny_hugger's father, when we picked up Sunshine the day after state finals: ``We're going to go see Walk The Moon this Friday''. Not that we needed her parents to watch our rabbit. It's that he hadn't asked. We saw Walk The Moon was playing Grand Rapids, and bought tickets, months ago. Her father's asked when the concert was to be pretty much every time we saw them, since then. I'd wanted to let him know the long vigil was finally over.

They were playing in Grand Rapids, in a venue close to the Van Andel Arena, where the Grand Rapids Griffons play minor-league hockey and where event nights mean traffic is all blocked up and there's no place to park. I have a fragile knowledge of Grand Rapids's geography. I can get, from the Interstate, to the Pyramid Scheme bar where the pinball league meets, or to Stella's across the street, or to Two Beards sandwich shop down the block, and that's it. The venue, and Van Andel arena, are near to the Pyramid Scheme and the garage we use when there's an event there and we can't find street parking. But we had the satellite navigator and ... also ... snow. It has not been a snowy winter, but this day, the one we had to get into downtown Grand Rapids, we got enough snow to make the driving bothersome. I did the driving --- I'm more confident in city traffic --- but this didn't leave [profile] bunny_hugger feeling any better about it all. Especially when we got to the last few blocks, and traffic was jammed, and the parking garage next to the venue was full. I diverted back to the garage by the Pyramid Scheme and mostly hoped that we would be able to find our way there. And, maybe someday, back again.

Finding our way there wasn't hard: we walked in the general direction of the Van Andel Arena, unconsciously joining groups of other people going in the same direction, and what do you know but across the street there was the concert venue. The place, 20 Monroe Live (not on Monroe Avenue), opened in 2017 and it's got that Retro Art Deco styling to things. Also it's got $4 sodas ($9 for a ``bottomless'' soda) so we didn't get anything to drink after all. [profile] bunny_hugger had picked out seats in the balcony, just about center albeit in the uppermost rows, so we should get a good and unobstructed view of things.

We were not the oldest people in the audience, which we took to be a sign of how big the audience was. We were also not the youngest, and by a greater margin than usual. There seemed to be way more teens at this show than at any we could remember. But then we thought seriously. We'd seen Walk The Moon something like five other times since 2012. The only time they'd been in Michigan and we'd skipped was when they were opening for the Rolling Stones. And then they had to stop touring a while, as the lead singer's father was having medical problems that consumed his attention. Still, the other venues: weren't they all bars? Or places that restricted attendance to 18-and-over? We're not sure, but that feels right.

The opening act was Bear Hands, a group I didn't remember ever actually hearing before. They've been around a good while and [profile] bunny_hugger recognized some of their songs from the indie radio stations we listen to. Their music did sound familiar, but it might be that I've just gotten to know enough indie-rock/post-punk that things can sound familiar even if I haven't heard them before. They played a good 45 minutes, though. And had some nice stage patter too. Pointing out the coat check, for example, a service we hadn't used. (Wisely; the line after the concert was about 250,000 people long.) Or waving to the balcony where, they said, Walk the Moon's members were. At least, they said they were going to be here. Can't say these are deep jokes, but they're cozy ones, and delivered well. Good warm-up to the show.

Trivia: In 1947 the United States Post Office saving bank held about $3.4 billion in deposits. Source: Neither Snow Nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service, Devin Leonard.

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey, Alfred S Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann.

PS: and now for a moment of extreme Waldameer! At least one of its extremities.


North End is a relatively recent expansion on the park. Past it is the Ravine Flyer II track and then Lake Erie. It's got the swing ride as the major attraction and then some smaller stuff, tea cups and kiddie rides and such. The gates are to protect the miniature railway as that passes by.


Water fountain and several other sculptures, like of several kids playing, or several dogs playing, in the park over at the North End. That's Ravine Flyer II in the background.


More Waldameer garden statues. The park is not short on sculptures and floral arrangements. My Roller Coaster Tycoon parks always get much better-decorated after I've visited Waldameer.

So one thing I always like doing in early February is checking in on South Jersey. Specifically to the Cohanzick Zoo, where the 1st of February is Coati Day. In this suspiciously Groundhog Day-like observance, the zoo sets out plates of food marked Winter and Spring, and lets three of their coatis out to see what they get up to. This they've been doing for decades, ever since they noticed early February can be kind of a dull stretch for zoos even in South Jersey, and since they noticed they didn't have groundhogs but did have coatis.

Unfortunately, I can't find a newspaper or local-tv-news writeup of this year's Coati Day. All that I have been able to find is the video that the Cohanzick Zoo posted to their Facebook page. So I'm sorry to not be able to do much more than link to that and let you deal with things. For me, not having Facebook, that amounts to having invitations to log in covering at least one-third of the page and occasionally blockading the whole page.

Anyway, it was a cold and snowy day at the zoo. The zoo reported that the coatis did not want to go out, saying ``Carmela and Margarita refused to participate and demanded to be returned to their toasty warm hammock. Floriemel chose 6 more weeks of winter (we believe out of spite)''. Which is fine and funny as it goes. But their video shows, as Floriemel goes tromping up to get something eat, one of the other coatis prowling around the fence line. All right if that one didn't venture an opinion about the weather, but it is doing more than just demanding to be returned to warmth. Still, tells you something of the weather when you can't get a coati to eat.

Trivia: The 1986 Intelligence Authorization Act required, among other things, that the CIA investigate Panaman President Manuel Noriega for his involvement in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, and the murder of Dr Hugo Spadafora, who had done much to bring medicine to poor people. CIA Director William Casey was livid, protesting [ to Jessie Helms, one of the sponsors of the requirement in that act ] that this was ``destroying our policy. There are some things you don't know about, things Noriega is doing for the United States''. Source: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer.

Currently Reading: The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey, Alfred S Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann.

PS: Reading the Comics, January 30, 2019: Interlude Edition, discussing a meager three comic strips. Or four, sort of.

PPS: Some more at Waldameer!


The spinning, uncentered-pupil eyes of the Whacky Shack. There's bits of this which make more sense in animation, but the lines of the windows give you some idea the silly, weird tone of the thing.


Loading station of the Whacky Shack. Above it is a small hill that the cars drop down and back up again. (This would seem to qualify the Whacky Shack as a roller coaster, the way the Devil's Den at Conneaut Lake Park is, but it's not listed as such on Roller Coaster Database, possibly because nobody there thought about it.) The windows change appearance, the result of rotating or sliding things behind some kind of grate.


Pirate's Cove, mentioned before, is the other Bill Tracy-designed dark attraction. This one you walk through and can take at your own pace.


I was the first of our quartet awake Sunday morning. There wasn't much snow, yet. Just bitter cold. I went to the bathroom, washed my hands, and ... could not get any hot water. Cold water was fine, but no hot. Nor from the sink, nor the shower. I poked around, finding the hot water heater and realizing it was a good 67 gallons. The hot-water pipe had frozen. Not the cold, somehow. This is surely because it was three degrees Fahrenheit outside. I warned people as they woke, so nobody got a bitterly cold shower. [profile] bunny_hugger texted the homeowner, warning about the hazard. The homeowner was abashed and swore such a thing had never happened before. At least not when the thermostat was left on at least 55 degrees. Perhaps, but given that the place had no basement and was right on the lake and it was well below zero degrees ... well, it'd be surprising if this never happened before. It's not as though we were upset, except at ourselves, for not thinking to leave something dripping overnight.

We finished cleaning things up and getting them secured. [profile] bunny_hugger and I continued our discussion attempting to explain what Johnny Mnemonic should have explained and failed to. That we were still putting good brain effort into this movie startled and possibly offended BIL. But then he did ask [profile] bunny_hugger ``What are you doing?'', and she failed to recognize the cue as one from the pinball game, that so delighted us when we saw the movie the night before.

We did suggest everyone going somewhere for lunch. (The previous night AJH had suggested we could all go to the Blind Squirrel Tavern, put in some games, and let everyone hammered until 2 am when I could drive home. I don't actually abstain from drinking, but I've got such a reputation that people can't imagine that I don't.) But BIL needed to get home, and MWS felt like it too, possibly because he hadn't showered. He would go home, rest a while, and then go out to Trivia Night with his family.

We went to the convenience store for lunch again. This time, waiting long enough for a grilled sandwich for me, and for the person working the deli counter to learn how to make a grilled vegetarian hoagie. [profile] bunny_hugger didn't get a sandwich, favoring cheese curds instead, which turned out to be cheesey hash browns, which will be good to know for the future.

Our plan was to drive from Fremont straight to [profile] bunny_hugger's parents, who had been taking care of Sunshine since Thursday. We'd had the choice to drive through Lansing, which would be about fifteen minutes longer but would have let us stop at home and maybe shovel the sidewalk, or go directly and worry about the sidewalk later. We tried the direct way and that seemed to take about eight hundred hours to drive. It was, by the clock, only about a half-hour longer than the two-hour Fremont-to-Lansing drive we were used to, but it felt much worse.

We did our best to explain the tournament, and the side tournament, and all the twists of fate to her parents. Also to take a bit of time to shower there, while I tried not to worry about whether our pipes at home froze. Also trying not to worry about their backup hard drive, which suffered an unexplained failure and which we have not been able to get back to working. This is just the one that does Time Capsule logging, but still. You want to have some backups.

And the evening was our first chance to try playing the Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales set. This is an expansion of the Mice and Mystics game, with a bunch of new tiles and characters and enemies and a completely different set of objectives. I admit feeling intimidated by it; I'd just started to feel like I had some idea what the goals were of the original game and the first minor expansion. This first time through ... mm. Well, we started out in such good order, despite two completely new characters and this movement-in-the-trees mechanic that was new to us, that I got to feeling maybe too confident. Right after that point we entered a new room, and catastrophe overtook us, and I think the best we can say is we learned a little bit about how to manage the game. Again. We've been playing it several years now and are still figuring out what we should have been doing all along.

Also while we did not actually spend the whole evening doing this, we spent a little time getting [profile] bunny_hugger's father to look up movies in the Leonard Maltin movie guide which she got him as a present several years ago. The inciting incident was that the movie guide gave Pee-Wee's Big Adventure two and a half stars. Then I went listing movie after movie, surprisingly many of which turned out to get two and a half stars. Her father seemed to think we would be scandalized by Maltin's disapproving review of the Robert Altman Popeye, which we just weren't. This was hardly the whole of the evening; it's just a scene memorable for it.

We didn't have to hurry home early. [profile] bunny_hugger has Monday classes this term, but that next day was Martin Luther King Jr Day, the one holiday she expected to get through her current schedule. We did go home before it was too late, though, the better to get some decent rest after the whole busy weekend.

There was a pinball tournament Monday. The usual weekly one at Chesterfield, way off on the eastern end of Michigan. We normally can't make it, not during the semester, because it'd be impossible for [profile] bunny_hugger to get there after class. We decided, ultimately, not to go. Besides feeling fatigued, it was the finals of their season. We hadn't played any of the regular league nights, so we couldn't play anything but the B Division. And based on our past performances ... either of us could probably take the trophy for B Division, but that would seem needlessly obnoxious to the people who'd actually played the whole season, or some part of the season. There'll be other things we can play as we try to qualify for next year.

Trivia: At the end of his life the companies Thomas Edison still owned were valued at about $12 million. Source: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, Jill Jonnes.

Currently Reading: The Grand Tour: The British Abroad In The Eighteenth Century, Jeremy Black.

PS: Having some more fun with Waldameer Park!


[profile] bunny_hugger finds that Dragon Hat really lights up the day!


Here the sun was in just the right spot to highlight the outline of Dragon Hat (look at that mouth!) and [profile] bunny_hugger's face. She looks so good.


Detail picture of the Whacky Shack. The dog keeps rocking into and out of the dormer window.

So I ended up not writing much on my mathematics blog this past week. I blame the weather. We had a heavy snow Monday that cancelled [profile] bunny_hugger's classes. Then we got such bitter cold that they didn't just cancel [profile] bunny_hugger's classes but also closed down the lower peninsula through Thursday. I didn't leave the house, except for shoveling work, between Sunday and Friday. It's hard to get stuff done under such weird circumstances. Here's what I did manage to write that was mathematical:

Well, at least I had comic strip plot recaps going. What's Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Does the ham radio guy know what kind of plane this is? November 2018 - February 2019 in 777 words. And now for the amusement park! Waldameer, the day before Labor Day, 2017.


The carousel pavilion, as seen from the park side. It's just for picnics now but for some untold stretch of time housed the antique carousel.


Station for the Comet junior wooden roller coaster. It's a fun ride and the loading and unloading is done (as you've seen) on a curve, which irrationally delights me.


I do not know why I find this funny, but I do, so there.


[profile] bunny_hugger thought long and hard about buying Dragon Hat from Souvenir Shop 1. It turns out this was a great purchase, and she had a lot of fun with it the rest of the day. We even got into talking about it with a father-and-son outside the Whacky Shack and maybe sold them on Dragon Hat. Dragon Hat would go on to be an important part of her Halloween costume that year, of a dragon, and of the next year, a wyvern.


Show Tune Theatre presenting some kind of emoji-themed performance with Wendy and Wally Bear.


This is how I look when I dance.


This is how I look when I've noticed how I dance and have decided to go in and not embarrass anybody further with my awkward, poorly-controlled motions.


So part of the show was about calling out for words and sounds from the audience, which were put together on the smiley to compose ... some kind of narrative.


They did this Mad Libs thing twice and I could not tell you what the narrative composed was. But it did at least feature Steel Dragon, so that's something good.


Ali Baba, their swinging-pendulum gondola ride. One of the longest lines we waited for, too. It's tucked behind the theater and some of the midway game buildings, but it's got that nice water fountain and garden in front of it.


Looking back from the Ali Baba toward the Whacky Shack, as well as a pizza stand, a clock (not the one by the Disk'o, named the Mega Vortex by the way) and a drop tower. Afternoon light is great for amusement parks.


The Bill Tracy-designed Whacky Shack, a funhouse ride with a lot of fun stuff, including optical-illusion windows on the front there and props swinging in and out atop the roof line.

Trivia: Fighting broke out between American troops and Filipino freedom fighters on 4 February 1899. Within two days the Senate finally ratified the annexation of the Philippines, 61 to 29. Source: 1898: The Birth Of The American Century, David Traxel.

Currently Reading: The Grand Tour: The British Abroad In The Eighteenth Century, Jeremy Black.

While AJH walked in mid-air, over his win, there was stuff for the rest of us to do. Eating still, as the supply of junk food --- including some real homemade stuff, cookies and brownies and like --- held up yet. And the Sisyphean march to next time around. With the games no longer needed for the tournament, we could start playing games to qualify for the Special When Lit monthly-and-league tournaments, which should come to a head late February. Should be at the same venue. I'm hopeful that a couple people put in scores --- adding to the tournament's International Flipper Pinball Association value --- without planning to make the long drive to the west end of the lower peninsula in late February. We plan to. We could use those points.

[profile] bunny_hugger and I settled on a game of old friend Johnny Mnemonic, and it was friendlier then than it had ever been during the tournament weekend. My first ball I got several multiballs, including the Two-Ball Quick Multiball, going along with Spinner Millions. It was the same thing AJH had done for his game against CST. He did it much better, though. I scored about three billion points, my second-best-ever game. [profile] bunny_hugger did the same thing, only moreso, putting up six billion points, her best game by far. (This is another of those tables where her best game is better than my best game.)

Also PH and AJH went into the back room that we hadn't really noticed was there, to take out the game quite a few people had been joking about needing: Gilligan's Island. They got the table a few weeks ago and it's ... oh. You know, it's honestly not a good game. I played it a little in the early 90s, when I didn't know anything, and thought it was boring. Now that I'm a more experienced player I can say ... it's kind of boring. It's a modern-era game, but it plays like a slightly broken solid-state game; there's only one thing you can do to get any points, although if you are lucky-and-skilled you can get obscenely many points. Also the game has a thing where you can give everybody but you a million points. So it's not often used for tournaments, although this year, it made the final banks in Maryland and Washington, DC, and I was expecting it for Michigan too. I was seriously thinking to pick it against DAD, which might have been catastrophic, but the worst that would've happend is losing a game. Anyway, it's a boring game, but silly and has catchy, dumb music. So it was merry fun to have it back.

I think it was while playing dollar games on this that MWS mentioned how, given its very limited game strategy, it was a one-ball game, one where all you need is a single decent ball. [profile] bunny_hugger answered him, ``I heard that 4 Square is a one-ball game''. This did not actually obliterate MWS. His jaw did hit the floor and he said he needed aloe for that burn, though. But you can see how quickly the young like he (he's maybe five years younger than [profile] bunny_hugger) bounce back from things.

Anyway, we couldn't spend all the night there; if nothing else, we didn't want to wear out AJH and PH, and we would have to vacate our rented cottage by 11 am. Eventually, it all wound down, and we went our merry ways. [profile] bunny_hugger and I went to the only fast-food place that was open, Taco Bell, for food that could qualify as having ingredients. MWS and BIL went to the other only fast-food place that was open, Burger King, for similar reasons. And we met back up at the cottage, did a bit of cleaning up to save time the next morning, and then learned BIL had found something for us.

It was Johnny Mnemonic, the movie, on a streaming service. We'd never seen the film. Just what bits of it were represented in the pinball game. I got the DVD years ago, when legendary local video store Video To Go finally closed, but we kept not finding chances to watch. Now? What better time could there be? And so we had two hours of watching unfold a movie that is very Early Internet in its stylings, very mid-90s. It's that kind of bad movie where the characters are endlessly explaining stuff, but it's always the wrong stuff (``So you have data stuffed into your brain and it's going to kill you if you don't get it out?''), the stuff that wasn't confusing in the first place, so the movie never stops being baffling. It's a good movie for watching with friends while cracking jokes, and we had the extra delight of bursting out laughing whenever we recognized a thing.

And so this closed our tournament days. Come morning, we'd close things out, secure the house, and head for home. I'll talk some about how that went all weird too.

Trivia: The words legend, lector, lectern, and legible all trace back to the Latin verg legere, meaning ``to gather, collect''. Source: Webster's Dictionary of Word Origins, Editor Frederick C Mish.

Currently Reading: The Grand Tour: The British Abroad In The Eighteenth Century, Jeremy Black.

PS: some slightly less nerdy detail stuff at Waldameer!


The two trains at Comet, one returning and the orange one ready for dispatch. You can see the closed-up patches of wood where the brake levers were until a few years ago.


The return track for Comet, including a view of the braking areas before a train enters the station. Like many roller coasters the train comes back and turns around above the station; you can see that in the upper row of track.


Disk'o ride at Waldameer, and one of the park clocks. Also the turnaround of the sky car ride. We didn't know it was a closed-circuit sky car ride the one time I talked [profile] bunny_hugger into riding it. We thought it'd be a way to get to that end of the park.

After a couple glamor shots with our $38 we stowed our winnings away. What to do after that? Not play pinball, for one. There were games available, yes. But the chance of interrupting someone else's game was dire. I'd done that, in a moment of stupidity, at the Baby Food Festival over summer. And during the pin-golf tournament the night before someone reset a nearly-complete Jurassic Park game, costing [profile] bunny_hugger an all-but-sure win over PH and some other great players. She managed, but was not happy about it. But there's other reasons, too. Each game you play is a chance to break a game, and nobody wants to force PH and AJH --- who might well make finals --- to interrupt their play to deal with an unnecessary game malfunction. Or spoil someone's first pick for a game when there's hundreds of dollars on the line.

But there were things to do. Talking with other eliminated players, for example. Or with our friends who were still in the running. Telling people where we got the popcorn. (That convenience store we got lunch from was giving away bags of popcorn with each fountain soda purchase, part of National Popcorn Day.) Or eating a lot of, honestly, junk food, but it was free so who were we to even slow down inhaling bags of Fritos? We had also got a bag of Combos from the convenience store. I shall now explain why this is a correctly-formed joke and therefore funny: a string of major shots collected in rapid succession is known as a ``combo'' and in modern pinball games is usually quite valuable.

Another activity was watching TV: the Special When Lit venue got a flat-screen TV installed for the finals, and they were using it to show the streaming of high-level pinball tournaments of last year. One of the tournaments had an Eight Ball in it, twin to the SWL's machine, and that never stopped distracting me. Also distracting: that the players --- none of whom from Michigan --- had the same body language any of us do. There was reliable fun to be had talking about these far-better players, sometimes making the same dumb mistakes we mortals make.

The march of finalists. MWS defeats JEK, finally satisfying my family's honor. AJH --- who would have beaten me if I had made it through the first round --- beats past, two-time, state champion AJR. MJV, who stole first place in a Chesterfield pinball tournament from [profile] bunny_hugger by one lucky bounce of one extra ball, knocks out our tournament director PH. CST beats him out, though. All up the Cinderella competitors have been beaten now; the final four are CST and MWS, AJH and AJG, a quartet that makes sense.

AJG is another two-time state winner and if it seems to you that people with A- names have won Michigan a lot, yeah. In the modern era of the International Flipper Pinball Association, 2014-present, the winners have been AJR twice, AJG twice, and ADM. We have no explanation for this phenomenon. The sense I have is the room was pulling for AJH. AJG is an eastside player; more of who's left are westsiders. AJG has declared his retirement from competitive pinball many times over, and walked each one back. He had said last year he was out, then came back to a Beatles launch party on the grounds that he just wasn't doing serious tournaments. Then to BIL's Basement Tournament for reasons I never got. Now he's backed that off to ``no IFPA Circuit events''. And, [profile] bunny_hugger quipped about this, ``no sleeping in a bed with sheets''. It's a tough match. AJG has an almost supernatural ability to aim the ball exactly where he wants to go. And he has actually supernatural abilities to find rules exploits. He's found bizarre combinations of shots on many games, some of them so pronounced that pinball makers updated the rules to disallow them. (Maybe unfairly; if it takes you doing twenty skilled things to get at the exploit, is that really an exploit? You've put in a lot of work.) But this is AJH's home ground. It's his games.

AJH wins. I miss just when AJG leaves.

The other semifinals is CST versus MWS. We have split loyalties. MWS is such a good friend of ours. CST, though ... he's really good. We like him a lot. He's never won the state championship despite five years of coordinating IFPA events in the state, and being good enough for it. And, sometimes, under incredibly distracting conditions: this isn't the first time he's played at finals despite being on-call for veterinary work. It really feels like he deserves the first-place finish. I suppose we end up rooting for whoever's behind. With three losses MWS picks 4 Square, a game that's tormented him repeatedly every time he's played it. But he needs the leveling influence of the older games.

4 Square is of the older kind of single-player, five-ball electromechanical game. It hews to an old-fashioned rule about tilts. They do not disqualify a player --- tilting never does; nudging a machine is part of the strategy of pinball --- but they don't just end your ball. 4 Square awards no bonus, so there's no penalty in points if you do tilt. To deter players, then, it gives a harsher sanction. The tilt ends your game. There's still no reason not to nudge the machine wildly on ball five, since if you're about to lose the ball anyway it's not like you're going to lose game time or points. But on earlier balls?

MWS has barely started ball one when the game gets too near the outlane. He gives it a shove on the left-hand side. The tilt sensor is on the left-hand side, near the front of the machine. (This is why you can usually nudge a pinball table harder on the right-hand side than the left, and near the back rather than up front.) He doesn't think it's much. The game does. He tilts, ball one. He's ruined. To add to the humiliation, CST has to step up and play. He plunges the ball, and plays for the few seconds it takes to officially beat MWS's score. The finals will be CST versus AJH.

(MWS and AJG play off for third and fourth place. AJG takes third. He goes home, whenever it was he did vanish, with a $380 payout; MWS in fourth place takes a meager $228.)

Whoever wins, besides having first claim on representing Michigan in the North American championship, will take home $1,063.00. Whoever's in second, has dibs if the first-place finisher doesn't want to go to Las Vegas. And he takes home $608.00. CST and AJH agree to split the prize pool evenly, so they can just play without money spoiling anything.

CST's first pick: Congo. It's based on the mid-90s movie we've heard is too awful to watch for even ironic fun. The game's one of that ``pinflation'' era of games with Brobdingnagian scores. Both earn nearly a billion points; CST, just under, AJH just above. CST's second pick: Firepower. CST has a good game; AJH has my kind of game on it. They're 1-1. Their next game: Johnny Mnemonic. Another mid-90s-movie turned into a pinflated-score game. It's one [profile] bunny_hugger and I love; it was one of the five that the Lansing Pinball League started with, although the game's long been gone from there. (It's recently reappeared, at a bowling alley near where we buy vegetables, so we're looking forward to that old friend again.) We like it so, although Johnny hasn't liked [profile] bunny_hugger. In three rounds of pin-golf she didn't have a single decent game of it.

Johnny Mnemonic has a couple weaknesses as a game. You can start a mode named Spinner Millions, getting ten million points a shot. And get that awarded again in your bonus. And if you get the Bonus Hold award, you get that again next ball. Only moreso: a bug in the code doubles the Spinner Millions bonus your next ball, and possibly even after that. AJH has a killer first ball, getting Spinner Millions going and the Bonus Hold. And he has Spinner Millions going through several multiballs, and big chances to hit the spinner target. By the end of ball two, AJH has 22 billion points, a staggering total even for this game. CST has had two lousy balls, sitting at about 49 million, and declares ``I'm comin' for you!'' He's being absurd; there's not even much sense trying after that, although he does. AJH wins the game with 35 billion points.

They go to Shrek, and both put up normal, mortal games, ones that I've beaten that weekend alone. AJH has the better game, 20 million to 12.5 million. He's up three games to one. CST goes to 4 Square. There he has the kind of game I'm capable of, scoring 4,879. AJH has the kind of game I was putting up all day, scoring 2,595. It's two games to three. AJH picks Lethal Weapon 3, which seems funny, somehow.

Both have a tough time first ball. Both recover, though. CST puts up 69 million points, a score low but not catastrophically low. AJH puts up 167 million, high but not extraordinarily high. CST congratulates AJH.

Michigan's curious streak of A-named players winning the championship continues.

AJH is giddy with delight. CST doesn't look unhappy either. He won't be going to Las Vegas to represent Michigan, though, barring something catastrophic. AJH is so thrilled with the prospect he might just teleport to the North America championship.

It's just before 9 pm. After eight hours, the state championship is finally done.

Trivia: In the runup to the first space shuttle launch NASA engineers discussed putting together a repair kit which would allow astronauts to replace up to sixty of the Thermal Protection System tiles on orbit. They concluded that if they thought a repair kit were needed, then they should not launch. Source: A History of the Kennedy Space Center, Kenneth Lipartito, Orville R Butler.

Currently Reading: The Grand Tour: The British Abroad In The Eighteenth Century, Jeremy Black.

PS: more pictures of nerdy detail stuff at Waldameer!


Wonderful old-fashioned warning label on the restraint bar of Waldameer's Scrambler: a stern warning about how to ride while faceless.


Doggos! Waldameer is, as mentioned, a park you can just bring dogs to, and sometimes people do.


Oh, that's convenient, the gift shop carries AA's from the ... renowned ... battery manufacturer ... Polaroid? The heck?