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austin_dern

July 2017

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Cedar Point, like Michigan's Adventure, has a petting zoo. It's larger than the Michigan cousin, understandably, as Cedar Point's quite larger than Michigan's Adventure is. They're provided for by the same animal caretakers, though, and so there were some similarities in the animals there. The Cedar Point zoo is part of the Frontier Trail and purports itself to show something about what the farms of historic northwestern Ohio farming families might have had. It's the sort of light-educational self-promotion that amusement parks have always liked to use and it's a fine idea as long as you don't ask how many mid-19th century Ohio family farms kept emus. But this sort of touch of life is reliably nice, and you can't argue that goats and sheep and chickens and rabbits aren't credible farm animals, even if you can wonder about the particular breeds. The rabbit pen had a couple bunnies who'd worked out where they could flop out so they were near the bottles of cold water (it had been a hot day before the rains came) and be just out of reach for most of the smaller kids. Also where they could pile on each other.

We stopped in at the glasswares shop, and joined the audience for one of the glass-blowing demonstrations just as it started. They were making a glass goldfish, which is one of those things neat to see and done in exactly the right spot that all 90 pictures I took of it are obscured by a column. So it goes. We did also learn that the fearsomely expensive, elaborate glass sea serpent, with multiple arcs of back emerging from the glassy 'water' surface, was still on sale but was now locked in a display case where some well-meaning idiot like me couldn't accidentally break it. No; if we break it, it'll be with deliberate effort now.

As we got farther in back of the park we poked into the other arcade, a small untended one. We knew there wouldn't be pinball there, but what would it hurt to check? There wasn't pinball there, but we did see a redemption-ticket counting machine flashing on its LED screen the mysterious and alarming message, 'tEror'. So, you know, we have that going for us.

The back of the park gave us the chance to see how close we might get to the former Mean Streak, and to see what if anything we could work out about what it's being turned into. Cedar Point still hasn't announced what Vicious Streak will be, although right around our visit they did drop a teaser ad that made an ambiguous suggestion that it might be something plural. This is baffling, but there is probably enough support length in Mean Streak to produce two steel-tracked roller coasters. Converted roller coasters don't tend to be as long as the original wooden ones for reasons that [profile] bunny_hugger knows and I don't.

Anyway there wasn't much specific that could be made out from the accessible areas. We could see what looked like spiral twists added to the taller hills. It's conceivable that some of this might even be a full helix, turning the ride over, but it's so hard to tell what a thin track at that distance is doing, especially with all the visual noise of the wooden supports in the way. I did spot that the ride photo booth still has the Mean Streak logo on it, which probably reflects the ride photo booth somehow not being a top priority for the reconstruction work.

When we had explored this, and gotten a ride on Maverick --- still a top-draw roller coaster, and with a reasonable queue thanks surely to the rain --- we had the choice to walk back the way we'd come or to complete the loop around the point. I chose the loop around the point and this is why we were too late to ride Iron Dragon.

It did let us get on Gemini, though, and the racing coaster's always good fun. We also hoped to get on the blue train, the rarer of the rides lately, but we got there just as they were taking the train out of service. Because for some reason they'd rather run two trains on a single track instead of a single train on two tracks of the racing coaster. It cuts the number of ride operators needed, but is otherwise a dumb choice, especially for light-crowd days. It did mean we got to ``race'' an empty Blue train, a fun novelty that raises the question of why in previous Halloweekend nights we've been stopped just before the station, waiting for enough people to get on the other train because they couldn't send that out empty?

But this let us continue in a nice little arc, in the back of Cedar Point, to the Monster ride where once again we failed to get a really good spin going. We also got to ride Magnum XL-200, right up front because I forgot what that can do to your knees. This gave us the chance to see the big renovation done to the hotel gate, the entrance we use second-most, and changed beyond recognition by the park's ongoing rebuilding of the water park and building of a new tower for the Hotel Breakers where they'd torn down a tower of the Hotel Breakers like two years ago. We had guessed rightly that this entrance would be renovated in our final visit to the park last year. It looks sharp, as anyone would have expected. It also obliterated Magnum's old ride photo station. The replacement's all right, but lacks the obvious period-dating of the new station.

Still, it does mean that now three of Cedar Point's four entrances are 2010s-era Art Deco Revival style, with roller coasters that arch above them. This would raise questions about what they're going to do with the last entrance, the Oceana Gate, last renovated ... sometime after 1870 and quite possibly remembered to exist at some point. I haven't got any ideas. We've never used the gate ourselves.

Trivia: After landing on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin needed about an hour and a half of reconfiguring switches and setting systems so that in case of emergency the Lunar Module could manage a quick, orderly takeoff from the surface. Source: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of NASA's Lunar Explorations, William David Compton. NASA SP-4214

Currently Reading: Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle, Steven Vogel.

Our first trip to Cedar Point for the season began with the snooze alarm. We agreed we were just too tired to get up as early as we had figured, and traded an hour of time at the park for being better-rested while there. That was probably a wise decision. What makes it not clearly a wise decision is what happened as we got there: rain. We had wanted to get to either Michigan's Adventure or to Cedar Point, and the weather forecast for Michigan's Adventure put it at a higher chance of rain for more of the day. So we got to Cedar Point just as a downpour started.

This wasn't all bad news. We have been to Cedar Point often enough, and expect to return again enough, that there's little we feel we must ride there, and after the soaking cold horror of Roller Coaster Appreciation Night, when almost nothing was open, a rainy day in June can't look bad. We got cheeses on a stick and some soda --- using our new free-soda-when-we-want privileges on our season passes for the first (and so far, only) time --- and sat in the Casino, hoping to wait out the storm, or at least to find some pinball machines in decently working condition. The state of things was pretty dire. Travel Time, which spent all last year broken as far as we could tell, was till out. Abracadabra was also down. The giant yet boring Hercules tables were both working and taking slightly delighted looks from people and quashing them, at least. We also tried some of the older shooting-gallery or mechanical contraptions, such as this strength-testing machine, and found they were in similarly scattershot shape. It's great that these machines are there, and a testament to how well they were built that after decades of wear they're as usable as they are. But it's hard not to think that they could be better still, especially given how much effort the park has put into balancing their attractions and making for a better-rounded experience lately.

As the rain gradually let up and the rides started to turn again we got to the Kiddie Kingdom carousel for our first ride of the year if you forget the Six Flags Over Texas trip back in March. Which is easy to do since it was so early and so weird a thing to do it hardly seems real. Sparrows seemed to have made homes for themselves among the carousel's top. I'm hoping they get through the season without undue harm coming to them or to the ride. Then we could start to walk through the park and take in lots of scenes of crews squeegee-ing dry the amusement park.

Our first and lasting disappointment for the day is that Iron Dragon, the suspended roller coaster, wasn't running. It's an old favorite, the first really grown-up roller coaster that [profile] bunny_hugger was able to ride. And it's being subject to a Virtual Reality ride makeover this season. We were curious, certainly, and wanted to try the experience. But the ride was closed when we first approached, and then we learned it would close for an hour in the very early evening to switch over to Virtual Reality operations. We moved on and by the time we got back, it was near the end of the night and the ride was closed because the nearby Luminosity open-air performance show needs the roller coaster to close for some reason. While we'll get back to the park --- I pointed out we could, literally, drive back the next day if we wanted --- it's frustrating to miss the thing we wanted to see, especially since it was my pretty much arbitrary choice at one point about which path to go down that set us on course to miss Iron Dragon altogether.

So our first roller coaster of the year at Cedar Point would be Rougarou, surely the least-loved of the park's attractions. It used to be Mantis, a stand-up roller coaster, and was converted to a normal sitting-style ride a couple years ago in the hopes of drawing more people to it. There was a surprisingly long line for it, possibly caused by most other attractions being down. It's a fair ride, pretty gentle considering all the looping and banking it does. That's surely a reflection of its old status as a standing coaster: if people are standing in harness for the ride it can't jump about too drastically. But it's still not a completely pleasant ride, because the over-the-shoulder restraints have these hard plastic shells around the head. The latter half of the ride is best spent leaning far forward and anticipating curves, lest your ears get boxed repeatedly. It's disappointing they fixed one nasty flaw of the ride and let the other stand.

Trivia: The National League granted the Brooklyn Dodgers permission to move to Los Angeles in 1957, on the proviso that Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley convince the Horace Stoneham to relocate the New York Giants also. The Giants would eventually announce their relocation first. Source: Bottom Of The Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself, Michael Shapiro.

Currently Reading: Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle, Steven Vogel.

So the roller coaster was closed. Not ideal. Infuriating, in fact. All we could think to do was, well, what if we go to the carousel and ride that and maybe get back and maybe something would have changed? [profile] bunny_hugger was skeptical that we'd have enough time for that. I was optimistic because I always am about contingency plans and somehow never really believe that we're going to be late for anything.

The carousel, a Mangels-Ilions from 1914, had been at Wyandot Lake from 1938 until 2000 when it got transferred to the zoo. (This is before the zoo bought out the park so I don't know why the park, then owned by Six Flags, was willing to sell.) We saw and were immediately disappointed by the sign saying the band organ would play between certain hours, I think 3 to 4 pm, which we would not see. But the band organ was playing, so perhaps the sign was just a promise that it would be going those hours and didn't mean to imply anything about the rest of the day? Hard to guess. It's a beautiful carousel, although run at a lethargic three rotations per minute as I remember it. The carousel had small radial slots for the horses' poles, so that they would naturally swing outward as the ride got up to speed. Those were fixed in place, with no chance of the ride getting up to speed.

The carousel also had two of the smallest chariots we'd ever seen, ones carved as chessboard knights. These, [profile] bunny_hugger deduced, were not the ride's original chariots, based on the (filled-in) slots ahead of them. So it goes.

After our fill of the carousel we stopped off for coffee and tea and walked back to the amusement park area. Along the way we passed several flamingos in an informal-looking display and were awestruck and delighted by the way they stood. Not with one leg tucked up against their body and the other extended, like we expected from pictures and cartoons and all. The leg they weren't standing on was just raised and let to dangle down, hanging loose but not touching anything. We did ask why they did that and I forget the exact reason, but I think it amounted to something like ``they just like it that way sometimes'', which is as good a reason as could be reasonably demanded.

And we found the roller coaster closed. We fumed about this some and walked around to see what else we could that might be fun, but, there was the pressing thought that we were going to have to leave soon lest we miss our visit to Coon's Candy. In our last moments we took one last check, and told some people asking about the ride that yeah, it looked closed, but --- oh, are those zoo employees coming up the path?

Indeed. At really just past the last practical minute they reopened the ride. And the front seat was no longer taped off. We could get our front-seat ride in ... if it weren't for the guys we had been talking to, who were just a little closer to the ride entry when it got reopened. We got a backseat ride, and then went around to rejoin the short queue and missed the front seat again. And then figured we just had to get going. Maybe we'll have the front seat next year.

As we walked out the skies darkened appreciably and it started raining enough to worry we'd spoil the park map. Didn't. And then we drove, following the satellite navigator's guidance, which took us nowhere near US 23 north, so that we missed a lot of the familiar sights north of Columbus. Worse, the description of the route made it sound like we wouldn't rejoin US 23 for an hour or so and we might miss Coon's Candy altogether. Not so; the alternate path merged into US 23 after maybe ten minutes and the course proceeded as normal from there. It was only a little different around Worthington is all.

Coon's Candy was closed. Presumably for Memorial Day, in which case this will be a problem in future convention visits. We may have to set out earlier and to bring a cooler to keep candy safe on the drive back north.

Trivia: At one Royal Navy victualing yard in 1850, some 111,108 pounds of canned meat were condemned as unfit for human consumption. The manufacturer's switch to larger, 9-to-14-pound cans required more sterilizing cooking time than the older, 2-to-6-pound cans. Source: Food in History, Reay Tannahill.

Currently Reading: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

With the most important ride ridden, and confident we'd have time for the antique carousel at the Columbus Zoo --- which had been at the former Wyandot Lake amusement park and was now tucked somewhere deep in the main zoo grounds --- we turned to what else we might look at. Oddly, we didn't go right back to re-ride the roller coaster although that would have made sense: we hadn't gotten a front-seat ride, nor a back-seat ride, and it's not like we could expect the lines to be shorter than what we had already experienced. Indeed, when we checked back in a few hours the ride was closed, underscoring the importance if you make a trip to a place for a specific ride to get on the ride as soon as possible.

But, other rides. There was a Music Express, one of those flat rides that puts you in a car and spins around, climbing and descending a hill while music plays really loud. This one had a vaguely African Safari Or Something theme, one we don't remember seeing on another Music Express. Well, they're mostly decorated in Airbrush Art Of 70s/80s Rockers. Something with Airbrush Art of Zebras Considering a Jeep is novel.

Our most interesting discovery was the bumper cars ride. Or what we figured was bumper cars. They're more a ring, though, a seat sitting on a cylindrical disc, with an inflated tire serving as protective bumper. The driver has two sticks, one for the left motor and one for the right. Push both together and you go forward. Push just one forward, or one forward and one back, and you turn pretty fast. Push both backward and you reverse at the same speed you could go forward. In describing this later on [profile] bunny_hugger and her brother worked out the hypothetical meeting at which this invention was proposed: ``what if we had bumper boats, but on land?'' And someone starts to say something, but falls silent. Fair enough. It seems like a silly change.

Thing is, it's a great ride. The levers mean you can stop on a dime, and change direction instantly, and yoink into reverse without a pause. This changes the dynamic of bumper cars dramatically. The ability to evade your pursuer is greatly enhanced, and there's something really delightful in seeing someone coming at you head-on, throwing it into reverse, and just sailing backwards out of their reach. At a similar ride we'd find in Freehold, New Jersey, we'd learn there's a spot which, if hit, makes the hit car lose control and go spinning for a couple seconds, which is an even greater variation. We have no idea whether the ones at the Columbus Zoo do that. Now that we know to test we might find out next year, all going well.

The ride you'd least expect to see us on we took: it's the log flume. We're really not log flume riders, what with how soaking wet they try to leave riders. But given the incredible heat and still air, getting a bit soaked a few hours before we would have to set out seemed like not such a bad idea after all. Hard to say, after it happened: we did get quite wet, just in time for the wind to pick up and a heavy cloud to move over, spoiling what should have been good evaporative fun. But we kept drying and were less insufferably hot after all.

On to the Flying Scooters, a ride that in the past decade has gone from near-extinct to maybe overpopulated. It's a fun one. You sit in a scooter seat, with a giant metal sail in front that you can turn left to right. The tower lifts you up and swings you around and you can guide where it is you're pointing and some of your rotation and make yourself sick if you work hard at it. That part's in your control. Good ride.

We went back to the Sea Dragon, hoping to get a front-seat ride this time, to find that it was closed.

Trivia: In May 1945 the British Military Government evacuated a five-kilometer strip between Westphalia and Holland, displacing hundreds of families including the entire village of Suderwick. In October the strip was reduced to 500 meters and local farmers allowed to return. Source: Germany 1945: From War To Peace, Richard Bessel.

Currently Reading: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

When I say there was a line at the Columbus Zoo I am understating matters. There was a lot of line. More line than that. If I say there were three lines lined up after one another, would you accept it? I'd be exaggerating some. Only a little. But even before then, when we got to the parking lot, [profile] bunny_hugger dreaded whether we could get to the attractions we wanted to see before we'd have to leave to get to Coon's Candy. The line was fearsome, and moving slowly, if at all. [profile] bunny_hugger challenged me to estimate how long a wait it would be. I undershot, as ever I do, which didn't reassure her, as ever it does not.

But there were signs of good line management. As people waited, Zoo employees came out with little dry-erase boards so that people could figure out what tickets they meant to purchase, and how many of them, and write that down. So people could get all their fussing and dithering done long before they reached the counter. Just pay and get going. Great idea, and I gave them high marks for organization.

The trouble: by the time people got up to the counter they saw the admission ticket options were more numerous and complicated than they realized far back in line with just a guide to ask for advice, orally. So they would re-debate their choices and dither anyway. Well, it saved time for people who didn't want to renegotiate their admissions, at least. We were among them. We should have renegotiated, though. We'd bought park admission, and supposed that we would buy ride tickets a la carte because given the queue there was no way we'd get more than maybe one ride on the roller coaster and carousel.

Not so. The amusement park area turned out to be sparsely populated, so we'd have plenty of time to ride and even re-ride things, and to ride things of maybe marginal interest. Fortunately we could get wristbands at a booth inside which had nobody waiting at it until we went up to buy wristbands, at which point a mob of roughly 800 ditherers converged just ahead of us. Also, it was incredibly hot and sunny, much hotter and sunnier than we expected it to be, and I don't think we had sunscreen with us because the weather forecasts all weekend had been for cloudy and overcast and thunderstormy. (It had thunderstormed one night, too, supporting the believability of the overall forecast.) Not a hint of cloud now. It was bright enough that if we had a couple of mirrors we could have reflected it back and set the sun on fire.

Most of the former amusement park area is separate from the zoo, but the animals do encroach on the rides area. We stopped over by one enclosure where some keepers were putting on a little show and I recognized the animal before anyone said: they had binturongs. Some of the most active binturongs I've seen, too, at least compared to the ones in the Singapore Zoo that were housed with the otters and always looked like they had been out too late for the previous fourteen nights straight. Might be they were putting on a show. Also, that thing about them smelling like buttered popcorn? Absolutely true. We got a really strong whiff of it in the breeze and the zookeeper admitted, yeah, sometimes they do a little marking and then you really get the popcorn scent.

To rides! Our highest priority, the thing that had always had us wanting to go to the zoo, was the Sea Dragon roller coaster. This was the first year we could ride it after Morphicon/AnthrOhio as previous years the convention was too early in the season for the roller coaster to be open. This was a good year to meet the ride, too: it's the 60th anniversary of the ride's opening. The roller coaster itself is set back and rolls over top of the water park's lazy river ride, which didn't have anyone on it when we first approached. It'd get people floating off in inflated doughnuts soon enough, drinks in hand. Or some people just walking down the lazy river which seems like missing the point. Also on the banks of the river was a nesting duck that, apparently, is unnoticed enough that it doesn't feel hassled by people riding the lazy river.

Sea Dragon is your classic small wooden roller coaster, a mere 35 feet high and looping back and forth repeatedly. It's got a curved station for loading and unloading, one of those little bits of personality I always like. The ride's also dispatched and braked by classic long wooden levers. The front seat of the train was taped off, a disappointment. The restraining bars were stuck closed. (If the restraints on a roller coaster break they almost always get stuck closed.) We could ride in the second car, at least. Quite a good ride, although aren't all wooden roller coasters pretty good rides?

Trivia: Henry Ford was shocked when his gift of a Model T to neighbor Rabbi Leo Franklin was returned in protest. Ford phoned to ask, ``What's wrong, Dr Franklin? Has anything come between us?'' Source: Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire, Richard Bak.

Currently Reading: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

PS: How June 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog, reviewing the statistics of stuff.

Monday morning after Morphicon/AnthrOhio we traditionally sit a little in our room, moping about the end of the convention and the long drive home which will be tempered only by getting lunch somewhere (we never do the burrito place on the way home, oddly) and stopping at Coon's Candy about an hour north of Columbus. It's a fine spot, lots of homemade candy, and just far enough away that organizing a side trip at the convention would be ludicrous. We varied that after we got our room cleared out and checked and re-checked.

This was, as you'd figure, to walk around the hotel and take our last photographs of it in the daylight. I thought there were more people at the con for the day-after stuff than usual but that might be a false impression. We wouldn't usually go up to the front desk to turn in our keys, just leaving them in the hotel room instead. But who wouldn't expect the day after to have more lingering people photographing stuff than usual?

The extra time treated us well. The previous day [profile] bunny_hugger had mentioned she didn't know what PunkCat looked like out of his raccoon fursuit. I said I'd point him out to her when we loaded the car, since it seems like I always run into him when loading the car. And I hadn't seen him when loading up the car this time. But with the time we spent prowling the hotel taking farewell photographs we were in the right place and time to run into him again. As expected, she did know the guy from appearances, she just hadn't connected him with the suit. I hope the tradition of running into him at checking-out transfers to the new hotel. We need our certainties in life.

We didn't go somewhere to eat. We had a new prospect open. There used to be a small amusement park, Wyandot Lake, adjacent to the Columbus Zoo. In 2006 the Zoo bought the then-110-year-old park and divided it into a water park with separate admission and an amusement area dubbed Jungle Jack's Landing. We had wanted to get there since, besides the remnants of the old park, they had a wooden roller coaster named the Sea Dragon. It had always been something that opened in mid-May, too late for Morphicon/AnthrOhio in its traditional weekend. But now that it's moved to Memorial Day weekend we could go! The amusement park area would be open and the roller coaster running. We could try that out, and could also see their antique carousel.

It was a bright, sunny Memorial Day. We figured we'd only have a couple hours there, as we needed to get to [profile] bunny_hugger's parents at a reasonable evening hour. But that should be enough for a short visit to a couple of rides. And it might be crowded; we had no way to guess what the zoo and amusement park crowd would be like this early in the summer season, on a weekday, but a holiday weekday. We had heard we could buy admission tickets from the AAA, or possibly from the Kroger. We decided not to, though, trusting that while the tickets would be a little more expensive we'd be better off not taking the time to divert away from the Columbus Zoo.

This was as completely wrong a decision as we could possibly have made.

Trivia: Nicaragua's 1902 postage stamps, including the one depicting the Momotombo volcano which would help sway the United States away from a Nicaraguan and to a Panamanian canal location, were printed by the American Bank Note Company of New York City. Source: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer.

Currently Reading: Sky Island, L Frank Baum.

Oh yeah, the Pink Thing. Let me delay getting back from Dallas to talk about that some.

I think we first noticed Six Flags Over Texas had something called a Pink Thing from a trivia question one of the ride queue signs displayed. It'd asked about where else you could get a Pink Thing. No explanation what it was, past that it was something you could eat. So we got to looking.

The Pink Thing, turns out, was one of those odd little local things that grew up when the park was new. There was a vendor that made something called the Pink Buried Treasure, a tall, pink ice cream-based treat with a figurine inside. The original vendor left in the late 60s and Six Flags Over Texas went on making them, renaming the product Pink Thing because that's what everybody called it anyway. Neat.

The park's 50th year, 2011, opened with a ominous absence of Pink Things. Six Flags did finally start selling a Pink Thing. But instead of some ``inverted cone-shaped, neon pink, ambiguously-flavored treat'' (see the pictures in the article I liked to above) with a figure on the stick inside, it was a cotton-candy-flavored push-up pop. The park said the problem was previous maker Blue Bell had discontinued the product (a tutti-fruitti, apparently, ``Buried Treasure Bar'') and this was the substitute. Fans were unhappy.

We didn't know any of this and wouldn't learn it until after we were home. What we saw were a lot of signs and mentions of the Pink Thing but not any particular stands we could find that were selling it. Finally toward the end of the night we found where we could buy a Pink Thing. It was a Dippin Dots stand. The clerk warned us that it wasn't on a stick. We had at that point no expectations of a stick. (This may have been a supply thing. Advertisements from 2016 have the push-up pop version, certainly a thing on a stick.)

And it was ... all right. We didn't really get it. I suppose part of it is the Dippin Dots technology is about feeling the ice cream melting, not so much tasting anything. While we were there it was just a bewilderingly touted yet not all that accessible thing. Now it's more something ... clung to out of sentiment, but warped all out of shape from what built the sentiment. It's a strange thing to have found.

Trivia: New York City coroner Charles Norris estimated that in 1925 some 618 people in the city died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, 388 from carbon monoxide-assisted suicide, and three from carbon monoxide-based homicide. Source: The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, Deborah Blum.

Currently Reading: The Boulanger Affair Reconsidered: Royalism, Boulangism, and the Origins of the Radial Right in France, William D Irvine.

After the Shock Wave fiasco we were into the saddest and most beautiful part of the night, twilight. And that brought us to the last of their many roller coasters that we could ride: Runaway Mountain. It's built into a rockface facade, so I expected something akin to Great Adventure's Skull Mountain. It's more interesting than that. It's a small indoor ride done completely in the dark. There's no predicting its path and this adds a lot of thrill to it. Plus, you get onto the train on a curved part of the path, a rare choice. Good heavens I've reached the point in roller coaster appreciation that I look for unusual choices in loading platform layout.

Also, now I realize, it was after this ride that I quipped ``Welcome to Alaska''. Not La Vibora. Its ride in total darkness makes it closer to the long-closed Disaster Transport than just being a bobsled coaster does.

With that, though, we'd gotten to riding every major ride. Titan stayed closed as far as we could tell. Wile E Coyote's Grand Canyon Blaster is a roller coaster admitting kids only, saving us the question of whether we'd ride it for the fun of that or just for the credit. We'd gotten on the antique carousel, and on El Sombrero, and we'd made the deliberate choice to pass on the log flume El Aserradero. (Although I wonder if the queue wouldn't have been so bad now that it was dark. Ah, but who wants to dry off from a log flume in the dark?)

So while we only had a little time left, we could also relax and just enjoy being where we were. We went in for a night ride on the carousel before the evening concert shut it. It still ran slower than if they just had the ride operator push.

On the approach to Gotham City is their Hall of Justice, which hosts an interactive dark ride. We'd passed on it earlier in the day when the queue spilled out of the building, but it didn't do that now. And the Hall of Justice had the proper, classic 70s cartoon look to it. So we gave that a try. Inside was an animatronic Cyborg, if that's not redundant, trash-talking Lex Luthor and the Joker on the monitor. [profile] bunny_hugger was nagged by the idea that their Joker looked strangely familiar --- but not placed from any of the DC Animated Universe designs --- and finally recognized him as the same animation as Count Ghostly or whatever from the Ghostly Estates at Kennywood's interactive dark ride.

The video went a good, long time. Its role was informational, teaching people what the interactive element was and what the story was. (Something about Joker and Luthor using some freeze ray or whatever and you have to help Cyborg un-freeze them.) Thing is they did not cheat on the animation; it went on long enough that even a huge line would not see the whole video more than maybe twice. If you have to watch something just forever, it's best if you see as few repeats of it as possible.

Unfortunately as we were in danger of seeing the video repeat, the line came to a complete stop. The ride operator eventually said that the ride was down, and while it might come back before the end of the night they couldn't promise it. We decided not to risk it.

Instead we went back to Judge Roy Scream, taking a night ride on the wooden roller coaster we'd started the day on. At least one of the ride operators was the same one from the morning, so, heck of a shift. We went back for a re-ride and closed out the night on this fine one.

We went to the gift shop just past the park's entrance, looking for something that advertised Judge Roy Scream, preferably on a T-shirt. There wasn't anything --- even the cashier didn't know of anything --- so [profile] bunny_hugger got a Six Flags Over Texas shirt instead, saying she'd probably wear it to the next pinball league night and never again. She's worn it a bit more than that, and I think will again. It's in purple, and she looks good in that. Oh, there was a sign in a (different) shop window proclaiming ``Best Day Ever'', which is the current slogan for Cedar Point's social-media marketing stuff. We're interested in the Twitter war partisans must surely get into over this.

And this closed our day at Six Flags, and our last full day in Texas.

Trivia: Astronaut Walt Cunningham claims to have been the 14th astronaut selected for the 1963 class of astronauts because Manned Spacecraft Center Director of Engineering and Development Maxime Faget objected to having an unlucky thirteen people in the group. Chief Astronaut Deke Slayton was unwilling to drop the 13th candidate, and so invited the next in line, Cunningham. Source: Moon Bound: Choosing and Preparing NASA's Lunar Astronauts, Colin Burgess. Cunningham claims to have found the story in 1977, after learning of his ranking from Chief of Public Affairs Paul Haney.

Currently Reading: Rust: The Longest War, Jonathan Waldman.

The New Texas Giant roller coaster opened in 2011. You might correctly infer a previous Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas. The earlier was a wooden roller coaster that had been in the same spot for nineteen years. Then Six Flags gave it the Rocky Mountain Construction makeover, the sort of conversion from wood to steel track, and changing of layouts, that Kentucky Kingdom's Storm Chaser would later get, and that Cedar Point's Mean Streak is undergoing. It would also be the first ride with an inexplicably slow queue.

Well, the proximate cause was obvious: there was a long stretch, at least a half-hour, when they weren't sending any trains out. We just stood there, occasionally moving up because of people who gave up on the queue, mostly underneath cover. The problem was never clear. I think there was a rumor of some medical problem, presumably worse than just someone vomiting on the ride, circulating to our corner. It seemed to take forever, but we stuck it out, I suppose out of a sense that who knew if it would ever be any less bad? Having only one day to visit a park is a series of bets about what's worth queueing time.

Anyway, it is a fun ride. I felt like I could make out the former wooden coaster's tracks, and it had a lot of satisfying little hops. The trains are styled to your classic late-50s high-finned cars, complete with bull horns on the front car. The station's done to look like Your 60s Garage. Overblown? Sure, but you know? Do too much of something and it starts working again.

Now on to the real operational fiasco of the day. Six Flags Over Texas has Shock Wave, a late-70s coaster whose main gimmick is two loops, which were big things in the late 70s. To freshen it up, they've added a virtual reality component. You can choose to wear goggles that present a movie. This has made the ride, at least for now, extremely popular. We're curious about that and thought, well, why not if the lines allow ride it both ways?

The answer is that the lines don't allow. We first tried to get there and were warned we'd need to get an appointment. We got a paper good for admission to the queue between, I think it was, 6:00 and 6:45, and we found other stuff to amuse us until after 6:00. Part of this was searching for a place that served coffee, which we never found. And then the line ... oooooh, the line. Such a line.

Apparently the virtual reality part is making the ride popular. Apparently. Because whatever else it might do, the virtual reality scheme, goggles that people have to wear, is an operational disaster. We timed it at about seven minutes between unloading one train and dispatching the next. This for a ride that itself lasts two minutes. If it took more than a minute to unload and reload before the virtual reality side I will eat my goggles.

Some of this is the technology's newness. People kept returning goggles because they weren't working. Or they had to have strapping them on explained over and over. This can be reduced as the population gets experienced with the stuff. Some of this is probably inherent to the concept, though. The helmets add another thing that ride operators have to check before sending a train out. You can't just put any pair of goggles in any seat, either; each car needs its own view, lest the video and the train movements not make any sense together. Each pair of goggles has to be taken away and cleaned between uses, so it's not like one durable pair can be left hooked into the cars. (I'm not sure they really need this cleaning, but I'm not going to try arguing against wiping down something that's touched other people's hair.)

We decided to ride virtual reality-free, at least for the first ride. And here's a piece that really galls: we had to wait just as long as if we were getting on the virtual reality ride. There are a couple of train cars reserved for real-reality riders, and a lot of trains went out without them occupied. If there were a separate queue for people willing to forego the movie then great, that capacity could be used and the total queue made at least a bit less awful. But there's not, and so we waited about an hour, gradually lowering our estimate of Six Flags Over Texas's operations skills, and wondering what kind of fiasco the virtual reality component of Cedar Point's Iron Dragon is going to be.

We were able to jump over the last couple of ride cycles, thanks to the ride ops calling people from near the platform who weren't interested in virtual reality up. And the ride itself was nice, pretty good, and with a stretch that runs excitingly close to the ground. That's something that makes any ride feel faster and more trilling. Worth riding? Sure. Worth an hour-plus wait? Absolutely not.

Given the circumstances we didn't go back for a virtual reality ride. Maybe if we're ever brought to Dallas again, on a day that isn't nearly so busy, or if we can do it first thing before the queues have filled up. We'll see.

Trivia: Russia's economy grew at an average 8.8 percent between 1908 and 1914. In the last year it grew 14 percent. Source: The First World War, Hew Strachan.

Currently Reading: Rust: The Longest War, Jonathan Waldman.

While there was much we didn't research about the history of Six Flags Over Texas before we visited --- I failed to check the credits of The Banana Splits and Liddsville to see if there were any sites we might recognize --- there were some things we couldn't help knowing. One was that their carousel is historic. The Silver Star Carousel, now located just past the entrance of the park, was the last carousel built by the renowned William Dentzel.

It's a handsome carousel of course, and it's got two dragon-bearing chariots. Despite its prominent and elevated location it's hard to see. The park has set up a performance stage in front of the carousel, for one. There were shows going on several times through the day, and the ride would close early for the evening concert. But the backdrop for it covers the front of the ride.

As for the ride, well, you know the part where a carousel's accelerated to some speed and it turns around a while? They don't do that so much. It's horribly slow. I didn't time it since I didn't realize it had got up to full speed; I'd estimate it's running something like two rotation per minute. Certainly not more than three. How's somebody supposed to like carousels when they're made disappointing?

The first substantial line we were on was in the Mexico section, on a trabant --- one of those spinning disc type rides --- called El Sombrero. Yes, just like you'd name if you were writing a middling Simpsons episode about a Mexico-themed amusement park. The cars and the center structure of the ride are made up so it looks like a sombrero. Yes, just like you'd do if you were writing the solid joke in a middling Simpson episode about a Mexico-themed amusement park. The ride, it turns out, dates to 1965 and apparently it's a beloved local piece. We get that. A trabant's a good ride anyway, and the theming is delightfully goofy.

The second substantial line we were on was also in the Mexico section. I think. Mexico and Spain blend together in the park, much as they do in white-American-pop-culture imaginations. At least in mine. Anyway, it was a roller coaster, the bobsled coaster La Vibora. That it's a bobsled coaster made us think of Cedar Point's defunct Disaster Transport, and when the ride ended I did quip, ``Welcome to Alaska'' like that ride was supposed to do. It also made me think of Great Adventure's Sarajevo Bobsled and Wikipedia tells me that La Vibora used to be the Sarajevo Bobsled at Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Great Adventure's Sarajevo Bobsled has since moved to Six Flags's unbranded Great Escape, in upstate New York.) As for why the name, well, bobsleds were big in the mid-80s and everybody was wowed by the 1984 Winter Olympics.

La Vibora is very stylishly painted in black, yellow, and red. The half-pipes of the ride give it a very plausible serpentine look. It was the first ride we noticed, as it was just over the fence from our parking lot. And, as I say, the line was long and took it felt like forever to get through, but we couldn't fault operations on this particularly. Bobsled coasters don't have much capacity; their trains can't be too long and can't carry all that many people at once.

Not ridden by us: El Aserradero. It's of historic import, as the first log flume in the world. But it was a busy day at the park, and it was a bright, sunny, hot day, certainly in the mid-80s. The queue for it could not have been anything but impossibly long, and we're not that enthusiastic about log flume rides.

Also not ridden, and a genuine disappointment, in the Texas section: Titan. It's their hypercoaster, 245 feet tall and looking, from photos, like a slightly taller, slightly crazier version of Cedar Point's Magnum XL-200. Apparently it's a particularly crazy ride: its Wikipedia entry says people complain about greyouts or blackouts during the ride, and the ride now heavily brakes at mid-course in order to reduce the helix's extremeness. Sounds wild, doesn't it?

Well, the ride wasn't easy to find. The only path to it, as best we could work out, was a narrow lane behind some food stands, and then down a path through the picnic pavilion. There were sawhorses put across the path and a couple park workers standing guard, turning people away. They didn't explain why Titan was closed, which is normal enough. (I think the only reason park workers will ever tell you why a ride is down is ``someone threw up and they have to clean it''.) They also didn't volunteer when the ride might be running again, which is again normal.

So why was it closed? No idea. Maybe maintenance. Maybe they didn't have enough staff this early in the season to run it, at least not at the volume they'd need for the crowd. Maybe something was going on with the picnic pavilions that needed to be fenced off and that left the roller coaster out.

While wandering around looking for access to this ride we saw a karaoke stage. They had the show slated for just about all day. I haven't seen that at parks before, but I love the idea. Good work on their parts.

We were about to get into some of the really huge waits.

Trivia: In the mid-19th century about 2.2 percent of the French population was Protestant. Four-fifths of them were concentrated in Alsace (Lutherans), in Nîmes and western Provence, and in a narrow crescent from Montpellier to La Rochelle and Poitou (Calvinists). Source: The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, Graham Robb.

Currently Reading: Shipping Container, Craig Martin.

PS: What Do I Need To Get A B This Semester? (May 2017 Edition), my regular nagging of people to not try to do it all in one test for crying out loud.

With the milestone --- we believed --- done the rest of the day was one of just enjoying a new amusement park. We hadn't done much research about the park, as we're more interested in being surprised and delighted these days. But we knew some of the basics: the first Six Flags park, originally with sections themed to the six (Western) nations that claimed sovereignty over Texas soil, if you count France as somehow having a claim and if you count the Confederacy as anything but the slaveholding traitors they were. Those themes, those sections, are still present, but they haven't really grown with the park. The French section, for example, looks to be just a theater and restaurant and some history-of-the-park plaques hung in the smoking section. Meanwhile as with all Six Flags park a mock Gotham City is threatening to take over the world. Such happens. The park did feel more strongly themed than Great Adventure; not that there aren't definite areas to Great Adventure, but there are fewer of them (Western, Bicentennial Americana, Gotham City, and No-Longer-Drive-Through Safari).

Six Flags parks have a reputation for lousy operations, for running rides as little and as slowly as possible. The conspiratorial amusement park enthusiast says that's so they can boost sales of line-cutting passes. While it's not unheard-of for big companies to go in for making the customer's experience not-quite-intolerable --- that's what makes airlines so beloved --- I don't believe it in this case. I think it's just the normal modern-capitalist state in which nobody ever has quite the resources they need to do a job right.

Anyway, our early impressions of the park were that operations were pretty good. Even at the start of the day, for example, Judge Roy Scream was already running two trains, staying ahead of ride demand, and loading and unloading without any major wait on the dispatched train. On our next roller coaster, the extremely busy spinning wild mouse Pandemonium ride operators were piping people into and out of cars just as fast as the passengers could move. There was a wait, but it was a steadily moving one, and it's hard to see how they could have done better except to have fewer people in the park.

Things went similarly well on Mister Freeze Reverse Blast. We'd gone into the Gotham City area to ride Six Flags Over Texas's newest roller coaster, Joker, only to learn that it was so new it was still under construction; it's slated to open around the 19th of May. Mister Freeze Reverse Blast caught my interest because of the scenery: there were these old-looking buildings that looked like soft-serve ice cream, reminding me of the older buildings at Great Adventure. We investigated and found, first, that the Gotham City area was well-built; stuff had that mix of styles which real cities enjoy. Second, the old-looking building were made to represent an abandoned Gotham City ice cream factory, one that hosted a shuttle coaster inside. It was attractively built. The indoor ride queue included graffitied walls and I pondered the making of that graffiti. Also whether this was an area of the park where people adding their own graffiti was, at least morally, just fine.

Also the ride queue had a bunch of monitors, mostly showing Looney Tunes cartoons. We couldn't hear them, but that's all right; it turns out I have the soundtrack for pretty much everything they did, 1938 - 1959, memorized.

Mister Freeze Reverse Blast is a shuttle coaster, so that it goes out and back without quite completing a circuit. It also, as the keyword ``revere'' suggests, goes backwards its first half. This is uncommon and unsettling and rather frightfully exciting. And it gave us an approximation to what a rollback on Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster must be like.

Then, after a pause for some soda --- Dallas is hot --- and cheese fries we went to the Runaway Mine Train. It turns out it's of historic import, as the first of the popular Mine Train style roller coaster. It was the backup choice for roller coaster 200, in case Judge Roy Scream were down. It would serve as thematic dual to the Cedar Creek Mine Ride at Cedar Point. It's a good ride; it particularly passes through a western-themed house, slowing down so we can take in the diorama. I don't know if it ever had moving figures, but it would have made sense to. It was attractive and delightful, especially in a patch running close to lake level.

And it was my 175th roller coaster.

According to my best counts, with all the qualifications about how difficult it is to count something like that. It's a lesser milestone than [profile] bunny_hugger's, and I don't figure to submit it to the American Coaster Enthusiasts, but it is still something to note.

Trivia: The first stereoscopic photographs in the United States were made in 1859 by E Anthony of New York. Source: Wondrous Contrivances: Technology at the Threshold, Merritt Ierley.

Currently Reading: Shipping Container, Craig Martin.

I grew up in the shadow of Great Adventure. We barely went to any other amusement parks and certainly never another Six Flags park. But in the Dallas area is a Six Flags park, and indeed, the Six Flags park: Six Flags Over Texas, the one that started the chain. When debating whether to do the daft thing of going to the Women's World Pinball Championship, the fact that we could fit in a trip to a park we'd otherwise never see was potent. With us safely dodging the PinMasters finals we had Sunday free to spend the day at my second-ever, and [profile] bunny_hugger's third-ever, Six Flags park.

A technicality: Six Flags Over Texas is now, debatably, a Six Flags park. While it gave birth to the Six Flags chain and obviously still has the name, it is merely operated by the Six Flags corporation. The park is owned by Texas Flags, Limited, one of those finance companies that does nothing, but which is headed by the guy that owned the park before Time-Warner and later Premier Parks bought Six Flags. To complicate matters, according to Wikipedia, Six Flags Entertainment Corporation owns 53 percent of Texas Flags, Limited. So the point is that it's a Six Flags park, but also slightly not.

We had no idea what to expect for park conditions; this is two months before we'd ever even think of an amusement park. The park's season runs from March to December, inviting the question of whether they actually have an off-season. But: would it be crowded? Or would we have an easy day of riding stuff? The answer seemed to be doom as the entry path had signs warning of high attendance. We were there the last day of the Spring Break Out. Which boded ill for getting to ride lots of stuff, but when else could we possibly have gone?

Our first --- indeed, our only --- objective was the park's wooden roller coaster, Judge Roy Scream. The ride's way off on the far end of the park, through a pedestrian subway underneath the approach road, and opposite a narrow lagoon from the rest of the park. But this does give it street visibility: you can see the ride while driving just near the park, and as we drove home that night it was the last thing we saw, after leaving the parking lot. The queue? Barely there at all. Perhaps it was the ride's distant location. Perhaps the fears of a packed day were overblown.

We got up front --- no wait! --- and just before getting in the car [profile] bunny_hugger took out a sheet of paper. On it, in the biggest available typeface, was the number 200.

Because [profile] bunny_hugger had started tracking the number of different roller coasters she's ridden, and per the statistics gathered at coaster-count.com, she had finished the 2016 season with 199 ridden roller coasters. This would be a milestone. We'd been thinking what to make the 200th ride. There's a little coaster in a family fun center about 80 miles from our home. There's a new wooden roller coaster opening in Kings Island this year. There's whatever Cedar Point's Mean Streak will be rebuilt as. There's the Sea Dragon at the Columbus Zoo, which we might have picked up on the side at AnthrOhio. And in the end, while it's not a roller coaster we expect to be able to visit --- what a story! To start the roller coaster season in a brand-new park, on a wooden roller coaster, and that after competing in a world's championship pinball tournament? Fantastic!

Also a ride we liked a good bit too. Judge Roy Scream is a simple enough ride, an out-and-back, about seventy feet tell. It feels a good bit like Cedar Point's Blue Streak. But we like Blue Streak. And we like Judge Roy Scream, too; it's a good, exciting ride, with a fine setting. We liked the ride operators, too, who were curious about the 200 sign --- surely they've had other people ride this as a milestone coaster? --- and congratulatory about it.

So it was a great choice for [profile] bunny_hugger's 200th roller coaster.

The next day, when we were back home, she went to log all the new rides and discovered something terrible. She had failed to log two of the rides at Rye Playland which she had been on. This was not her 200th coaster. It was at minimum her 202nd. Her milestone coaster was the Thunderbird, at Holiday World, that we rode in May of last year. It was during the visit that met us up with my sister and her family, and coincidentally saw the health crash of our pet rabbit that was the first of his final year's health crises.

She was deflated.

It set off a lively debate in our house about the meaning of a milestone. To take measuring something seriously is to learn there is an essential futility in measuring it. There is an unavoidable imprecision that creeps in to even our best and most honest efforts. What is it to ride 200 different roller coasters? How many roller coasters did [profile] bunny_hugger or I ride as children, having the experience but not remembering it afterwards? There's an age past which she can be sure she didn't ride roller coasters, but what about before that? There's roller coasters she can deduce she rode or did not ride, based on records of what was available at parks she could visit at what times, but is that the same as remembering riding them? Is a roller coaster changed by its being moved? Is it changed by retracking Is it changed by an important element being removed or added? By conversion from a stand-up to a seated coaster?

The milestone coaster would always have been 200 from some arbitrarily selected starting point, with a certain error in counting each ride. How does that change the meaning of the accomplishment? Does it? How would the dispiriting aspect of it change if the mistake were found a month later instead, or a year later, or a decade later?

A friend shared a consoling anecdote. She, a Barenaked Ladies fan, made an event of her 100th concert, even getting a shout-out from the band for it. And then learned she had miscounted and was somewhere over 100 Barenaked Ladies concerts when that happened. What does that do to change the meaning of the observance?

After debate, [profile] bunny_hugger sent the picture of her milestone ride in to the American Coaster Enthusiasts, for (hopefully) inclusion in their newsletter's milestone-rides photographs section. They don't print stories alongside it, a shame, as I think it's a good one.

And there is this consolation: her 200th coaster, we now know or believe we know, is at Holiday World. She'd not have picked a steel coaster if she knew --- not that any coaster is bad, but that we like wood --- but it is at a park we can visit anytime we want to make a weekend trip, and a park we love to visit. Somehow Thunderbird is changed too, and by a wholly unrelated trip to Rye Playland. Why does that happen?

Trivia: The German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaptoth discovered zirconium and uranium in the same year. Source: Molecules At An Exhibition: The Science of Everyday Life, John Emsley.

Currently Reading: Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen, Philip Ball.

I had one of those four-post weeks on my mathematics blog, which you might have seen on your RSS reader or just your friends page or from following the PS: tags every couple days here. If you didn't, too bad. Here's your next chance to catch up on all this:

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Tuscora Park's carousel and some of the open space as seen from atop of the Superior Wheel.


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The swinging chair ride as seen from the Superior Wheel. The seats are solid moulded plastic and so there's no slack for fitting in and they're honestly not that comfortable to sit in.


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The train station again as seen from the Superior Wheel.


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The junior roller coaster and the train tracks over by the lake, and its little lighthouse figure.


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The Superior Wheel as seen from a better angle.


Trivia: Among the founding investors in the R E Olds Company was William H Porter, founder of the Lansing Spoke Company. Source: R E Olds: Auto Industry Pioneer, George S May.

Currently Reading: Ozma of Oz, L Frank Baum.

My humor blog's kept up its daily postings this week, too, and it passed its 1500th post without my remembering to say anything about that. Um. Sorry. RSS feed included here. That's something, right? Anyway, here's what was happening there:

Our journey to Pinburgh began with a stop at a small municipal park which had absorbed the contents of a small amusement park. What happened in our nearly twelve minutes wandering around there? This.

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Inflatable figure set up outside Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia, Ohio, for ... well, I don't know. So visiting Michigan fans have something to punch? I don't know, you all are weird.


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[livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger enjoying the antique carousel that Tuscora Park has had since 1940. It's a Herschell-Spillman from around 1925; the National Carousel Association doesn't know who owned it before Tuscora Park.


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Music scrolls for the carousel's Wurlitzer 153 band organ. I love getting photographs of their inventory like this.


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The Spillman carousel at full speed and from that nice low angle that makes for such exciting pictures.


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The C W Parker Superior Wheel, finally (finally!) working. We'd ridden its sibling, and the only other survivor of the breed, at Crossroads Village in Flint often.


Trivia: Insurance payments for the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in 1906 alone depleted about 14 percent of Britain's stock of gold, the largest outflow of gold from Britain between 1900 and 1913. Source: The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market's Perfect Storm, Robert F Bruner, Sean D Carr.

Currently Reading: Waging War: The Clash Between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS, David J Barron.

PS: Reading the Comics, March 11, 2017: Accountants Edition, wrapping up last week's comics in time for this week's, almost.

Halloweekends Friday Evenings see only select rides open at Cedar Point. One of the important ones for us was Top Thrill Dragster. We hadn't got onto it this season, since it's normally too busy. And we had missed it the year before, since every time we had tried to ride it then the ride was down, mostly for weather. It's not like Cedar Point is likely to want to get rid of the coaster --- it's their tallest and fastest ride, and still draws huge crowds --- but you never know when chance or mishap will take something away. And there was a comfortably short queue during the early admission hour, so we got our season's ride in. No rollback, so MWS doesn't have to envy us for that.

We also used the extra hour to get to Valravn. Once again somehow we couldn't figure out how to get a front-seat ride. Not that middle or back seats are bad, mind you. It's just it really seems like we're missing something being held at the top of a vertical drop if here's someone in our way.

What we didn't expect would be open, or so compelling to us, was the petting zoo. Cedar Point has a little farm as part of the Frontier Town trail. It's part of the educational block of buildings and shows they put in back in the 70s, when that sort of thing was important to amusement parks. Given it was the last weekend of October I'd assumed they would have brought the animals somewhere warm for the winter. They hadn't yet. We paused a moment to admire a turkey, who was quite happy to be admired, and we figured we might stop by later.

We also made visits, before the crowd got in, to Maverick and to Iron Dragon. Maverick is always hugely popular, moreso since the new restraint system doesn't go banging people's heads in. Iron Dragon is less popular and we've started to worry about its fate. The park experimented for a couple weeks with an ``augmented reality'' headset, making the ride into one about a dragon carrying the train out of some kind of danger. We missed that experiment and I don't know if the park is going to bring it back next year. But it does suggest they'd rather do some mild tinkering with the ride to make it more exciting rather than tear it down. Of course, what park doesn't figure that?

We happened to be near the Luminosity stage, where a great gymnastics-and-dance show takes place nightly, at a quarter to eight. This was when the performers for the various haunted house shows move from staging areas to the performance venues. What we didn't know they did was they moved in a parade, groups of performers each holding (flameless?) candles, moving underneath banners for the relevant sections. Moving in a great, quiet mass to the Luminosity stage, there for some opening words about the haunts and thrills they would give, and then moving onward. I think this is a new affair for the 2016 season, part of Cedar Point's program of making each day more of a spectacle. It's a good spectacle. More credit to them for it.

With Top Thrill Dragster and Iron Dragon we'd gotten in the last of the must-visit-each-year attractions and we could poke around the right of the night just, you know, having fun. Doing stuff like seeing what pinball machines in the arcade were still working. Most of them were, although not Travel Time. That's a game with a limit based on ball time rather than ball count. That's always unusual, and add to it a Christian Marche backglass, and you can see why it's a favorite and a shame that, I believe, we didn't get any chances to play it in 2016.

We'd close the night out on the Kiddieland Carousel, which I think we had to ourselves. I think we startled the ride operator by coming up to ride it, which will happen in the late hours on the last Friday of the season. You know how it is. And then we went to Millennium Force for an after-dark ride on this extremel popular, extremely smooth roller coaster.

That all didn't actually take us to midnight and the park's close. We told ourselves that there was no need for us to squeeze in every possible moment at the park, and that we could go to our room even before the park closed if it meant we had a bit more rest and a better day tomorrow. And so we did, according to my camera. I have clear pictures of the Resort Entrance, as we exited, at 11:56 pm.

I did notice there that the park had relocated Mean Streak's performance ribbons and the sign for Mean Streak Henry to that entrance's office. It noted that as of the end of Mean Streak, Henry had ridden 16,174 times. That's a good, arbitrary number of no clear importance.

Trivia: From May 1932 through October 1933 Walt Spose drew The Wonderland Of Oz, a comic strip based on five of the L Frank Baum novels: The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and Tik-Tok of Oz. (It had no Alice in Wonderland connection.) Source: A Brief Guide To Oz, Paul Simpson.

Currently Reading: American Slavery, 1619 - 1877, Peter Kolchin.

PS: 48 Altered States, featuring a neat alternate map of the United States and about which I kind of mention something mathematical in passing sort of.

We set out for the far west of Michigan the second Sunday of September. We had two goals. The first was to stop in on the Blind Squirrel tavern and put some scores in for September's monthly tournament. This is the part of their International Flipper Pinball Association ratings-points generator that's more like a selfie league. You play as many games as you like of their tables there, and your best two scores on each table give you positions for the September monthly tournament. We only spent an hour or so there, as intended; I think we got maybe a round of one game each on the six tables there. Something like that, anyway.

Because what we really meant to do was get to Michigan's Adventure. It was the last day of the park's season and we don't want to miss that. It wouldn't be another crazily busy day, since it was the last day of the park's season. The water park wouldn't be open that weekend, and that helps reduce the craziness of the crowds. And the park doesn't have any Halloween season, so the park wouldn't have that drawing people out. And we weren't surprised. It was the sort of low-key, relaxed day we like the park for. There was a fair crowd, enough to be fun to be in. But no reason to think we'd miss any roller coasters or spend endless time waiting in line for things.

The coffee stand was still not open. We think we saw it serving someone once, one time, when we weren't able to stop, but we weren't sure. If it was ever open for real normal business the whole season we didn't see it. I could take or leave coffee, but it'd do [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger well if she could get a cup at the park. Maybe next season.

What was there, and in good shape, was the petting zoo. With the time and unhurried sense we could enjoy hanging out with the sheep and goats and silkie chickens. The chickens and ducks have a real natural sense of comic timing in how they waddle just out of range of any kids following them. And the bunnies, of course. They were huddled together, mostly, underneath the little table meant to shelter them from sun and kids. And grooming each other, which was delightful. Their Flemish giant brought us to thinking of our pet rabbit, naturally, and some vague ideas about whether we could set him up on a date with another pet rabbit for company or mutual grooming at least. I'm not sure that we could do it.

Even while we were there, in the early afternoon, the zoo was being closed up. They were taking out toys and bringing some animals into a trailer for, I suppose, the home farm for all these animals. Such is the closing day of an amusement park's season.

Trivia: British phosphorus production rose from 1,000 tons in 1914 to 2,500 tons in 1918. Source: The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus, John Emsley.

Currently Reading: The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore. Considering how much I read about comic books you'd think I would actually read comic books some. It's like I'm a fan of the fandom but don't care about what is actually going on.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Osculating circle, the steamier side of mathematics.

So let's see. After BIL's basement tournament. We had some time to relax, get back to normal. Spend some low-energy time. Do the things we normally do.

Then we did something we never do. Not in August, anyway, not on a Saturday. We went to Michigan's Adventure.

It's not that going to an amusement park is a bad idea. It's just that a Saturday, in August, is a bad idea, because everybody in the state has the same idea. Michigan's Adventure has an enormous parking lot, far more than the gentle, low-key, low-energy place could ever need. It was ... well, no, not full. But it was two-thirds full, which is about eight times as full as we see it the days we normally go. It was busier even than that day last year when [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's brother and his girlfriend wanted to see the park and we were almost crushed under the population.

There's never a serious wait for rides at the park. This time there were. We scrapped basically all plans to ride stuff. Well, we're season pass holders and we've been to the park many times, and they add rides slowly. It's all right to just take in the mad atmosphere.

Also the farm. The big attraction for the year, Michigan's Adventure's 60th since it started as a petting zoo, was a petting zoo. I think it was the same set of animals they'd had earlier in the year, although this time the rabbits had a little table under which they could hide. They may be Chill Bunnies but they still need somewhere to not be batted by hyperactive kids.

We did get some rides in. One on the Yo-yo swings ride. A turn on the Chance Carousel. And we braved the horribly long line for Shivering Timbers, the big wooden roller coaster. We'd never gone to Michigan's Adventure and not ridden at least one roller coaster. Normally we ride all of them that aren't closed for maintenance. It wasn't as awful as we feared; the roller coaster has a lot of capacity. Maybe it was a 25-minute wait. But that's still 20 minutes more than the normal wait, the sort of day we normally go.

So it was a bit breathtaking, the sort of park visit more enjoyable as a spectacle than as an experience proper. We had made a planning mistake in going to the park first on the day. But it was something we'd needed to learn.

Trivia: The lunar rovers were powered by two 36-volt silver-zinc batteries, with enough power for a range of 65 kilometers at speeds up to 17 kilometers per hour. Source: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of NASA's Apollo Lunar Expeditions, William David Compton.

Currently Reading: Michigan: A History, Bruce Catton.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Kernel, which is pronounced like ``of corn'' and is one of those things that brings me boundless delight.

[livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger got the shocking news by Facebook, before she got out of bed and while I was showering. It was about Cedar Point. Their larger wooden roller coaster, the Mean Streak, had been subject of rumors for years that it was to be torn down. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger had a feeling this might be its last season. And that early August day Cedar Point made the announcement official. Mean Streak was to close in about six weeks, and would be replaced by --- well, they didn't say. They still haven't. We have some good guesses, must be said. She told me of this as I showered, and when I saw MWS and K getting packed up and ready to drive home I told them. She'd gotten the news from them, which is just how news gets passed around anymore.

[livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger and I had planned to stop in at Cedar Point on the way back. It's a pretty good halfway point between Pittsburgh and Lansing. MWS and K weren't going to be able to; I forget what drew them home sooner than we could. We'd just figured we would poke around, see what maybe might be easy to get to. Now we'd have a specific objective. We hugged MWS and K and spoke of how we'd meet up with them later. MWS at pinball events; K, who knows?

We don't make trips to Cedar Point in August, ordinarily, because the park is packed that time of year. I think the only August visits we've made to it have been on the way to or from Pennsylvania parks. It was a Tuesday and one of a stretch of pretty nice days but the park was still fairly busy. We stopped in for a bit of pinball, first, in the Casino Arcade since why skip that if we don't have to? I think that both Hercules machines, the oversized-yet-disappointing pinballs, were working, a bit of a novelty.

While walking back to Mean Streak --- it's at the far end of the point from the main parking lot --- we happened to go into a gift shop we normally ignore. It's the one opposite the Top Thrill Dragster, the 400-foot-tall roller coaster that's just a rapid climb and no-slower drop. It's fun but not a favorite of ours. So we jus didn't pay attention to the gift shop opposite it since we figured, what would be there but Top Thrill Dragster merchandise?

And the answer is: a lot of ride T-shirts. One for all of the roller coasters, in fact. Also patches, of the kind you can sew onto vests or the like. Also keychains. We would buy stuff for some of our favorite rides, including Mean Streak. We did note that sure, Cedar Point declares the end of one of our favorite rides there but at least they got us to give them a bucket of money for it. They had shirts for all the roller coasters, I believe, even the minor ones like the Woodstock Express kiddie coaster. Who could imagine? I got a Mean Streak and one for Corkscrew, which we've gotten to appreciate so much more in the last few years.

Despite the announcement Mean Streak didn't have a huge line. Possibly the news hadn't got out very far. Maybe six weeks out is too far for people to think of their last chances on a ride. The ride operator did share the news with people when we got to the station, surprising quite a few people. I noticed for the first time I remember this sign at the control booth. It was for Mean Streak Henry, one of those specific-ride enthusiasts, who'd had 15,000 rides on it between the ride's open in 1991 and the 27th of September, 2015. We did have to wonder what would happen to Henry, and to the other bits of decoration for the ride.

Mean Streak officially has (had) a ride photo, but we've never seen the photo booth open. It wasn't open that day either. We found Mean Streak merchandise in all the shops we poked into. It would all be gone by the next time we visited the park.

We'd figured to spend maybe an hour or two in the park. Amazingly, the little bit of stuff we'd done --- one or two pinball games, some gift shop browsing, and walking to the far end of Cedar Point and then back again --- too up the two hours we had to spare. So tempting as it was to get in another ride or two we didn't; we got back to the highway.

We had reasons. We wanted to get back to [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's parents, so we could pick our pet rabbit up. And we couldn't keep them waiting to all hours of the night, not decently. They were in good shape, and seemed fascinated by all our talk about Pinburgh and what the experience was and how much everything we did. And our pet rabbit was in good shape.

We got home, and wondered at how intense the past week had been, and how we were supposed to go on to an ordinary old average Wednesday after that.

Trivia: The first ``flow director'', the single manager overseeing an entire space shuttle between landing of one mission and launch of another, was Bob Sieck, overseeing the April 1983 launch of Challenger, the sixth space shuttle launch. Source: A History of the Kennedy Space Center, Kenneth Lipartito, Orville R Butler.

Currently Reading: Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, William B Jones Jr.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Hat, in which my attempt to write something quick and little and easy takes 1400 words somehow.

So what was on my Humor Blog the past week, if you didn't add it to your Friends page? Or if you didn't have an RSS reader set up for it? This stuff:

I'm trying out the last Indiana Beach pictures a little narrower than usual. [livejournal.com profile] c_eagle pointed out sometimes my default width forces a horizontal scroll and that's perfectly awful. This should fix that problem and I hope it hasn't been bothering anyone too much. If you open the image in a new tab you should be able to get the nice, fullest possible view of each image.

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Steel Hawg in the twilight, as clouds that would, I believe, bring rain in the evening. Also the Indiana Beach main parking lot.


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Tig'rr Coaster, including its queue and the Roller Coaster Tycoon-esque elevating pathway, as seen in twilight from the Cornball Express. No cars were stopped on the tracks in an inappropriate place as far as I know. Also, I love photos of challenging plays of light and isn't this a magnificent one?


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Hoosier Hurricane's loading platform as seen from the pedestrian overpass for getting onto the ride. For some reason the front row seats were unavailable and I guess that'll just happen some.


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The park, going to bed: our last glance at the Hoosier Hurricane and the Log Flume (which we hadn't ridden) as wel as the Horse Around kiddie, metal carousel.


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The park, bedded down. View of the Hoosier Hurricane after all the park rides were shut down for the night, as seen from outside the gift shop, which wasn't done for the day quite yet.


Trivia: The Angel of Mons, a spirit guarding over the British retreat from Mons in August of 1914, began as a romantic, openly fictional short story by Arthur Machen which appeared on the 29th of September, 1914, in the Evening News. In the original short story there was no angel; it was ghosts of English bowmen dead at Agincourt joining the battle and slaying Germans with ghost arrows. The legend had mutated to an angel's guardianship within a week of publication. Source: The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell.

Currently Reading: Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, William B Jones Jr.

With The Exterminator down there was only one more roller coaster to ride. The line was still unpromising but we didn't really have any better time for it. So we went to the front of the park, and Sky Rocket. The path took us past a couple Kennywood attractions, like the windmill that used to be the center of its lagoon, and a statue of George Washington. Kennywood has a bunch of historical plaques and monuments to the French and Indian War, the world war which George Washington started ... somewhere near here. The plaques admit that as best we can figure none of the skirmishes he was in were actually on what are not park grounds, but they'd be fools not to bring up the historic connections.

Sky Rocket --- if my photographs' time stamps are an indicator, a 20-to-25-minute queue --- is the park's newest roller coaster. It's a steel one, near the front of the park and running largely parallel to the highway outside the park. It's also a launched coaster, accelerating by electromagnetic thrust. It's a small, fast one, with a very comfortable stomach-hugging restraint that leaves your arms and head free while it loops upside-down. I suspect MWS liked this best of all the roller coasters. It's a respectable choice, though I'm fonder of wooden roller coaster generally.

So we had all our must-ride experiences done, and at only about a quarter past six. We could enjoy the four hours slated remaining without having to worry about getting stuff done. So we could ride something like the bumper cars, fun but essentially the same experience at every park. And we could share the fun of noticing a Kennywood Arrow at the bumper car ride at Lake Compounce; the bumper car ride at Kennywood hasn't got an arrow pointing to the park itself. I suppose there would be the problem of where to point it. The bumper car ride isn't one of those with a divided center and one-way traffic so arrows wouldn't be incidentally useful.

We spent a little time in a gift shop, the one that's vaguely UFO-shaped, figuring what we would want to take home. But we didn't buy anything, figuring we didn't want to carry that around for four hours and not wanting to waste time walking to the car and back. This might have been a mistake; I'd almost coaxed myself into getting a Noah's Ark T-shirt and as it turned out the gift shops closed before I could buy one. Such happens.

We did go back to Lost Kennywood and to the Black Widow, per K's request. And this time, thanks in part to [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger, I do know what happened. We were on line for it when it began to sprinkle. And then the ride shut down for the weather. And then the weather really hit, a pretty solid rain. It reminded me of being turned out of Kennywood our first visit and I wondered a bit if they were going to close early after all.

But they didn't make any announcement of this, and we ran in-between raindrops to the Ghostwood Estate. That's their Interactive Dark Ride, but on the idea that you're shooting ghosts with a Ghost Blaster as you putter around the rooms of Lord Kenneth Ghostwood's old manor house. It's one of those that keeps score as you shoot targets. I'm pretty sure K won our ride. In the event, it was a worthwhile ride getting on because while the line was long, the queue was also sheltered and we could stay dry while the storm carried on its unwelcome program.

That didn't quite outlast the storm, although between that and some lingering in other gift shops and waiting for K to get dog tags made (and there's a joke somewhere in there as he was wearing a retro-style Pound Puppies T-shirt) we were able to get to the far end of the rain, and find that the park wasn't closing early after all.

So we got to show MWS and K the wonders of Kennywood in twilight. Any amusement park looks better as the sun sets, and afterwards. But Kennywood looks really good. And add to that the many complicated reflections from a fresh rain! There's a reason movies shooting night scenes will soak the streets. The animated neon sign of the Turtle ride would be fantastic in any case. Add to it the maze of reflections and refracted light and the darkening sky and you have magic.

We would get a couple of night rides in. Sad to say Noah's Ark was closed and apparently stayed closed. Lost Kennywood, with its 1920s-style grand fountain and lights underneath and White City-inspired buildings trimmed with bulbs, was spectacular. And we could get a night ride on The Phantom's Revenge, which includes the highest vantage point for the park and the chance to, quickly, see the whole jewel in the Pittsburgh night.

We made it back to the main lagoon enough to see the laser light show, which didn't seem to have changed from the last time [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger and I were there. Also to get one last ride on Jack Rabbit for the night, one for which (I believe) we were lucky enough to get back-seat rides. (Not every roller coaster is best in the back seat, but Jack Rabbit is a probably one of them.)

We had time to run to one last ride, if we were lucky. Kennywood closes ride queues early so that everything shuts down pretty near the night's designated closing hour. Could we get back to Thunderbolt? ... Sky Rocket? ... no, we went for something safe, the Carousel. Which would be the right decision. We got there --- not too far from Jack Rabbit --- in time for the last ride of the night. They do hold the queue open longer than normal for the last ride of the night, mind. And it gave us an extra-full carousel ride for the close of the evening and the Kennywood Closing Theme.

We didn't hurry out right away. We lingered, especially on the bridge over the central lagoon, watching the lights and taking our own versions of the photo of the Racer and Jack Rabbit roller coasters over the water. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger has one of these photos framed in the hallway. She re-takes it every visit, although it's impossible to quite duplicate anymore. A tree has grown up to the point that Jack Rabbit's neon logo is now obscured. Such is time.

And finally we left, at the back but not the very end of the mass of people. I was able to leap up to tap the Kennywood ``Goodbye'' heart, over the tunnel under the highway. Also we discovered there's apparently at least some people who holler all the way through the tunnel. Maybe it's a new thing. Hopefully it's not a lasting thing. Of park fan heritage I'd rather they pick up slapping the other riders on the racing coaster.

We made our way back to the car, and back to the hotel room, and none of us expected the news that would be there in the morning.

Trivia: As King of England, James I had his mother's body reinterred in Westminster Abbey, in a chapel opposite to the one holding Queen Elizabeth I's body. Source: The Life Of Elizabeth I, Alison Weir.

Currently Reading: Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, William B Jones Jr.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: General Covariance, one of those entries about which I don't feel satisfied but which I did have to stop writing.