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September 2017

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It's the last full week of letters on my mathematics blog and its Summer 2017 A To Z project. Did you miss them? Did you miss the chance to put them on your RSS reader? Then here, please, read these now:

And in story strip news? Want to know What's Going On In Gil Thorp? Sure you do. There, that's what.

This pictures-every-day policy is kind of working out. I'm already up to the Saturday of Holloweekends last year! Let's revisit Cedar Point.


Cedar Point's Resorts Gate, which I keep calling the Hotel Gate. It's been obliterated since this photo was taken, replaced with a new and less dated entrance. We had a sense that it might get radically changed last year, which is why we got pictures of what it looked like and mysterious things like how it sure looks like you can just go around it? Not sure what that was all about.


The other side of the Resorts Gate, featuring the sign for Splash Zone, the now-replaced designation for the water park. It's become Cedar Point Cedar Shores.


Glimpse of the Magnum XL200 roller coaster (the red track, up front) and the Gemini racing coaster (the wooden-support circular track in the background), as viewed from the start of the underpass. The road leading to the Hotel Breakers ran over the pedestrian tunnel; the Resorts Gate itself was on the hotel side of the underpass, so you enter --- as at Kennywood, Festyland, DelGrosso's, and Holiday World --- under a highway.


Looking into the light. The Gemini roller coaster queue, with a modest number of people in for early in the Saturday day.


So a thing they'll do with Gemini. It's a racing coaster, designed to send out a red train (left) and a blue train (right) at the same time. The train carrying the heavier load of passengers will, normally, get back to the station first (by a few seconds). But on a light day, they'll only run one side of the racing coaster. But they'll run two trains on that side, loading one while the other is going around the track. Because this way they get the same capacity to give people rides, while spoiling the whole point of a racing coaster. (And, admittedly, doing so with half the ride staff, which is surely why they do it.)


Secrets of the Gemini roller coaster: weights! Without passengers the roller coaster doesn't have enough momentum to surely get through the whole course, so, weights have to be put on for testing. I notice that the ride crews from 1998 and 2016 seems to have signed the interior of the locker, but can't make out other groups.

Trivia: Pope Julius II established a ``college'' of 101 secretaries, each of whom was to pay him 7,400 florins for the honor. Source: A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, William Manchester.

Currently Reading: Binary Fusion and the Millennium Bug, Beth Bridgman.

So what we absolutely expected to see at Story Book Land were little houses for the Three Bears, with or without Goldilocks. Beehive mailboxes outside that. Pack of squealing kids running up to them before we could get in. Good, spirited stuff. And they had animatronics. The bears would look around, forever discovering their porridge bowls empty and their chairs tampered with. These were in good shape, too. The bears might have looked a little like they were off from the Chuck E Cheese line, but they looked like they were fresh off that. I don't know how recently Story Book Land's had renovations, or whether they just keep stuff in rather good shape all the time. They were looking in great shape, though.

They also had a building that was nothing but model trains. It put me in mind of Roadside America, which as a kid I thought was the most fantastic place to be ever, and which I'm still surprised I haven't taken [profile] bunny_hugger to. Maybe when we get to Hershey Park and Dutch Wonderland next, since as Stuff In Eastern-ish Pennsylvania they're surely all close together, right? Anyway, this was several tables, at different heights, filling up what used to be a post office it looks like. And there were so many buttons to press, to make some part of a loop or a shuttle track start running. If I were ever taken here as a seven-year-old I would never have left.

Not a surprise: they have a Santa's Home, with elf statues out front and a house all decorated for Christmas. This was maybe the most Holiday World moment of the park. More of a surprise: they didn't have a Santa there. They only have Santa when the park is open for the Christmas season (something they've been doing since the late 70s) and for one Christmas-in-July event. I understand not having him around all the time, but one busy month and then one extra day seems like under-using the character. They do have some other buildings, not adjacent to Santa's Home. One is a reindeer stall with again button-activated reindeer animatronics. Another is the Workshop, featuring elves assembling toys and a reindeer animatronic that's trying to work the old-fashioned adding machine or write a letter with a pen. I guess good on Santa for not letting physical limitations keep people from jobs they like, but they don't seem like the workspace otherwise accommodates that, like, pens are gonna slip out of hooves.

Surprising, although in that way that afterwards yeah, this does seem like the sort of place that would happen: they had a chapel. It was, says the plaque and the book about the park's history that I bought, a private chapel built in the area and moved to the park in the Like 70s. They've had at least one wedding performed there. It was someone who'd had a career with the park. Whether they'd be open to letting anyone rent the park for a wedding ceremony is, to me, a mystery.

Of neutral surprise content: they've got a garage with a bunch of vintage cars and even old fire trucks, used for parades and other publicity events. Yes, they've got statues of Dalmatian fire fighters

Near all this is a fine little building, a cylindrical tower in the middle of a pond, named Goosey Gander's Castle. And there are a couple geese penned into it. This is, according to that book I got, a return to form. For years they had kept ducks there. I have no explanation for the duck interregnum. But this did serve as a warning that the park keeps live animals. That isn't by itself a bad thing; many parks do, especially ones that aim for appeal to kids. But the park did have some larger enclosures, near the back of the park, and as we approached those we would start to worry that they might keep something way beyond the ability of a small family-owned amusement park to keep well.

Utterly baffling: one of the non-animatronic statues up front is Moby Dick. He's been there for decades and is beloved by longtime parkgoers, says the history book, none of whom seem concerned by how Moby Dick isn't a fairy tale and is really nothing fairy-tale-like, in fact. I would've thought they'd at least have used the Whale From Pinocchio. It's got the air of an idiosyncratic choice that, by long exposure, has become impossible to even question. So be it. What's the point of a park like this that hasn't got odd choices in it?

Trivia: The British government declared the Continental Navy's privateers were pirates and criminals in the Pirate Act of 1777. Source: Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America, Peter Andreas.

Currently Reading: Binary Fusion and the Millennium Bug, Beth Bridgman. This is one of the more genially dopey science fiction novels I've read in a long, long while.

PS: Halloweekends Friday after Cedar Point closed!


View from the Hotel Breakers of the park by night. The Power Tower is at the center; to the right, Corkscrew, and to the left, ValRavn.


Old stained-glass window that's been set up in the Hotel Breakers, near the new entrance and somewhere that it can attract appreciation.


Main lobby of the Hotel Breakers, decorated with skeletons and decrepit-looking fake horses, some of which shudder when approached. We don't know what the hotel looks like during the summer when it isn't trying to be spooky.

It is always dangerous to try going to two amusement parks in a day. It's too easy to shortchange one for the other. We'd made that mistake during the New England Parks Tour a couple years ago, but we didn't know what else to do. We had gotten away with it earlier on our Fifth Anniversary Trip; the hours of Bowcraft and Keansburg meshed well. Saturday, we were planning to try this stunt again. It would get even weirder than that.

Driving south, the hour or so to Atlantic City, we passed signs warning that the state parks were all closed. I had somehow picked up enough local news to know this was likely coming; [profile] bunny_hugger hadn't. It was part of the budget standoff between the Legislature and Chris Christie. If you can remember as far back as July you might remember the late night talk shows mocking Chris Christie for lounging on a beach closed to the public, part of the disgraced governor's efforts to establish himself as so toxic and petty and universally hated he could become a Republican health care plan. The shutdown would not hurt us directly, except that it did foreclose some Sunday options. New Jersey has a healthy number of lighthouses, but I'm not sure any are in Federally-owned parklands so they couldn't be added to [profile] bunny_hugger's lighthouse count this trip. But we had forgotten to bring her lighthouse passport book. So while we could claim credit for seeing lighthouses we would have had to get stamps on loose sheets of paper and bind them into her passport. Doable, but not ideal. We must, next trip, make sure not to repeat the oversight.

We came up to Story Book Land, established 1955, and were immediately delighted. It was, like Bowcraft, a park that looked like it was just dropped off in a strip mall, although this in a much less densely populated part of the state. (Indeed, across the street from the parking lot is an Office Concepts store and a tattoo parlor.) It started out as one of the kid's fairy-tale-lands, the way many parks in the 50s did. We've been to its spiritual counterparts at Idlewild in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and to Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire. This one is unlike Idlewild and Story Land in that it's still owned by the originating family. And, apparently, doing pretty well for itself. It's a small park, and one only open to 5 pm the early-summer Saturday we were visiting, which is what made attempting two parks seem like a plausible idea. We also figured the place would be swarmed with packs of kids running out ahead of an exhausted parent shouting at Brandon to get back here. But we trusted we could handle that.

Its entrance is a white castle, flanked by nutcracker guards. Also temporary red traffic barriers so people walking in from the parking lot have something like safety from cars driving in off the street. The entrance is a narrow hallway by the cashier's booth, with a gate featuring some of the birds and mice from Cinderella on signs that warn to only push the gate open when the music plays. The music is ``Hail to the Chief''. We don't know what exactly the link is between Story Book Land and Disney, but they've got a bunch of Disney Depictions of characters in the park. There must be some arrangement there or else an extremely bad day once someone at Disney Master Command hears about the place.

Just past the entrance is a large circular flower 'fountain', and a signboard with a clown welcoming you to Story Book Land. To the left is a 30-foot state of Mother Goose, goose beside her, and a couple of fake books to sit on for photographs. Apparently the Mother Goose had (has?) a loudspeaker and a camera inside, for a staffer to look out on and talk to nearby kids. To the left of that is a three-layer birthday-cake-shaped pavilion, which would make [profile] bunny_hugger long to have her own birthday party at an amusement park. The cake had a sign commemorating the park's 62 years of operation. The cake used to be only a single layer; the kids of the park's owners had it expanded on their parents' anniversary. Across the path from Mother Goose is the main snack bar, the Gingerbread House, which has a couple of figures from the A & W restaurant chain on the roof for some reason. Also, off to the side of Mother Goose, they have a Big Boy state, checkered overalls and everything. This goes unexplained.

So after about ten minutes at the park we were having a great day.

Trivia: The British Military Government allowed the formation of political parties in its zone of Germany on the 15th of September, 1945, about a month after the United States allowed district-level parties in its zone, and three months before the French military government did. Source: Germany 195: From War To Peace, Richard Bessel.

Currently Reading: The Global Transformation of Time, 1870 - 1950, Vanessa Ogle.

PS: Halloweekends Friday some more!


Performers for some of the haunted houses and walkthrough attractions rallied around symbols of the various venues.


The Kiddie Carousel, sparkling as a jewel in the night.


Glimpse of the Millenium Force roller coaster past the exit of the loading station. You can also see, through the door, the illuminated tower of the roller coaster's lift hill.

PPS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: X, perhaps the last possible 'X' glossary term.

Making my humor blog's big weekly pieces be a bunch of how-to articles this month has strangely relieved me of my deepest problem: thinking of what to write. Have you seen what I've written recently? Try this if you haven't.

Let's get back to Cedar Point Halloweekends. That's a fun time and place to be.


Mean Streak, several weeks after its closure, and partly torn up for its renovation. The roller coaster train underneath is from Maverick.


Old West-themed building near Maverick, which itself is at the end of the Frontier Trail. The 'White Water Coal Co' suggests to me the White Water Landing log flume ride, itself taken out a decade-plus ago to make room for Maverick. There's several bits of park decoration that have increasingly faded White Water Landing logos or references but since they're all in the Old West part of the park that just makes them fit the theme better.


Entrance to the Frontier Trail at night on Halloweekends. For the Halloween season the trail is dressed up to this steampunk walk-through attraction and making the trees look like that is part of the show.


Entrance gate of the Steampunk thingy on the Frontier Trail at Halloweekends. It hasn't got started quite yet, which you can tell because there's not lasers shooting out of the eyes.


Brass-plated (well, painted) swan on the Frontier Trail as part of the cyberpunk thing. The swan had been part of the Swan Boats ride; others of the swans were sent to Michigan's Adventure. This one went into seasonal performances instead.


Rally of the haunted-house/haunted-walkthrough-area performers at the Luminosity stage. This was new this year, with all the performers gathering for a good send-off just before the witching hour of 8 pm.


One of the performers on the Luminosity stage, set up outside the Iron Dragon roller coaster, in a show that we were a little too far away to hear quite clearly what was going on.

Trivia: In the early 1940s Orlando Scott offered lie-detector screenings of potential employees to high-volume clients at $15 per interviewee. He pledged to test for ``integrity, intentions, loyalty, competency, intuitiveness, stability, alertness, efficiency, ambition, vocational stability, sabotage, etc''. Source: The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession, Ken Alder.

Currently Reading: The Global Transformation of Time, 1870 - 1950, Vanessa Ogle.

There's a lot of parking lots in Seaside Heights. Just, you know, a plot of land such as you might put a house on, only it's gravel or dirt and there's a guy out front offering to let you leave the car there until 2 am for five or ten or twenty bucks, depending on how busy it was. We saw one, a block north and west of the Casino Pier main building. He was standing in front of a metal music stand and playing the saxophone in-between (rare) customer visits. No bucket for tips or anything, and he wasn't playing any particular song. Just practicing his music while overseeing a Jersey Shore parking lot.

This lovely vignette is something we watched from the miniature golf course. Not the one atop the buildings on Casino Pier. We were tempted by that, but went instead to play the new miniature golf course that's adjacent to the water park, opposite the shore from the Casino. It's got a Privateer theme, much like the miniature golf course [profile] bunny_hugger and I went to with my father back in January. This one had some of the things you'd expect, props of buried treasure and all that. It also put up a bunch of signs about the pirate-or-privateers and their action around Toms River during the Revolutionary War. The pirate-or-privateer action along the Jersey Shore doesn't get a lot of attention, even in New Jersey histories because, you know, we've got the Battles of Trenton and Princeton and Monmouth Junction and the horrible winters at Morristown to talk about. But they were present and vicious in the sort of thing that horrified people about pre-20th-century warfare. So it was fun and I guess educational, if you pretend the signs knew the difference between it's and its.

We went back around the pier, and the Casino, and looking over merchandise and toys and looking for amusing sidelines. I spotted at an employee's door the printout of the benefits Casino Pier employees could claim, such as discount tickets to Great Adventure or to Legoland. We also stopped in another candy shop, not Berkeley's, where there was a bounty of old-time candies like liquorice pipes and Necco wafers and all. I forget if we picked up something to eat there.

We did return to Berkeley Candy, as promised, and brought that back to the car where we found we were no longer alone in the parking lot. There was one other car, parked next to ours, in the enormity of the municipal parking lot.

Candy safely stowed in the back we went back to the pier, admiring the beauty of the pier at night finally. And we bought a night ride on Hydrus, even more gorgeous in color-shifting light against the night sky, as well as the carousel again. Just magnificent.

After a lot of pondering we figured what we wanted for dinner: pizza on the shore. One of the pizza places had ricotta cheese pizza. I don't think I've had that before, because if I did, I would never have been able to eat anything else. I'm still licking my lips hoping to get a few molecules of that back again. Just magnificent.

We saw out the close of the pier, with all the lights turning off and the rides shutting down, and even the boardwalk games shuttered themselves. The day was over, and we said our goodbyes to Seaside Heights, to go back to our temporary Toms River home.

In the municipal parking lot there were two other cars.

Trivia: By the end of 1866 Dr S S Law's Gold Indicator Company had fifty subscribers to telegraphic reports of market prices in the New York Gold Exchange. Source: The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's Oline Pioneers, Tom Standage. (Standage doesn't say when the Company started, but from context it was apparently after the Civil War concluded.)

Currently Reading: The Global Transformation of Time, 1870 - 1950, Vanessa Ogle.

PS: What's looking good at Cedar Point?


Evening light making Raptor (the green roller coaster) and the Casino in the distance look really, really good. Taken from the ValRavn queue.


More of Raptor and the Casino looking so very good in the evening, autumn light. GateKeeper is the tiny blue pair of arches on the far right, above the horizon line.


Turkeys who are very busy with their projects in the petting zoo and do not have time for your issues, thank you.

PPS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Well-Ordering Principle, which lets me do about my favorite thing in the world: start with a joke and use it to prove all numbers have prime factorizations. So I guess I understand why everyone treated me like that in middle school.

So we went for power-riding. First, Hydrus, the new roller coaster. It's good-sized and beautiful and looks like the sort of thing to expect at Dorney Park. Dorney Park was in mind because they have a roller coster named Hydra: The Revenge, a subtitle that seems baffling until you learn that over there, Hydra replaced a roller coaster named Hercules. We were also amused that they went with a less-feminine-sounding name for the Hydra, but, well, Hydrus is a creature from medieval bestiaries, as well as a constellation (which Wikipedia says is the thing being referred to here), so I guess why not? The hydrus of bestiaries was a Nile River creature that's some kind of water snake, although it's also been given the properties of otters, birds, dragons, and mongooses so good luck pinning that down. The ride sign uses a dragon head for its icon.

The ride warned to leave in the lockers stuff like cell phones and cameras, and I fell for that the first time around. Later times I just stuffed my camera in my cargo-pants pocket the next time and that was fine. Not sure what they're afraid of except maybe people taking selfies on the ride. The ride starts with a vertical ascent, riders on their back, going up a good seventy feet before tipping over and dropping straight down. And then there's a bunch of loops and twists and rolls, a short, beautiful, and fast ride. If it's got a flaw --- and I'm not sure it is --- it's that it's difficult to get a good view of the pier from altitude when on it; you're high up and moving slowly for only brief glimpses. It's quite good, and that it was on a pier that still smelled of lots of new wood freshly nailed down only helped the feeling. We'd ride it several times, sometimes among groups of people who didn't seem to quite know how many were in the party and so were slow about getting into the eight-person car.

We also got to the Pirate's Hideaway. It was the only roller coaster we'd ridden on our original, first date that was still there. (Hot Tamales was there, but we hadn't ridden it our first date, and anyway it wasn't running on our anniversary.) It's changed since the storm, in that the roof had been taken off a formerly-indoors ride. It's not made a difference in how the ride moves, of course, although it means the lack of scenery stands out. In the mostly dark you have the extra excitement from, well, not seeing where you're going. In the light, well, I'm not going to protest a roller coaster, even that's a small one.

And then a couple other things on the pier. The Moby Dick, with the seats swinging side to side in that wonderful dizzying way. I didn't appreciate until [profile] bunny_hugger pointed out how regional these seem to be. There had been a Moby Dick at Casino Pier going back to time immemorial, or at least 2008, but I don't know if the current machine they have is the same one they had before the storm.

And the carousel. Of course we went to the carousel. We went first to the pair of mounts we'd ridden that first date, the ones with our middle names on them. I forget if we had the ride to ourselves or not. I do know we were disappointed that the band organ wasn't playing, and we worried that something had broken and not been repaired, or worse, to it. Well, the band organ mechanism was certainly there. Maybe it was just off, albeit for a Friday right before a holiday that seems strange. On the other hand the crowd seemed light to me; maybe we just weren't there on a busy enough day.

We only had two hours on the unlimited-rides wristband, although that did turn out to be enough for all the rides we really wanted to get on. The pendulum-claw and dubiously-tastefully-named ride Super Storm we've been on before and it's not a kind that [profile] bunny_hugger cares for anyway; similarly with the Disk'O. There's a giant Ferris wheel but, again, that's not the sort of thing [profile] bunny_hugger cares for. The reverse bungee? Not likely, although watch this space.

We did rush for the carousel at the time our wristbands were set to expire and were of course caught behind a bizarrely slow group trying to get on without success. This let us in on a secret of the two-hour limit on the wristbands: they actually encoded two hours fifteen minutes, enough margin to avoid anyone complaining about normal disagreements about the hour. We were able to use this to get a last-minute ride on the carousel and an overtime ride on Hydrus.

And eventually even our overtime ended, and we just had to be where we were.

Trivia: George Washington granted Margaret Arnold safe passage from West Point to Philadelphia after her husband Benedict's treason was discovered. Source: The Uncertain Revolution: Washington and the Continental Army at Morristown, John T Cunningham. (The extent of Margaret Arnold's involvement in her husband's treason is unclear.)

Currently Reading: The Global Transformation of Time, 1870 - 1950, Vanessa Ogle.

PS: Roller coasters! And stuff.


Launch station for Top Thrill Dragster, the tallest and briefest roller coaster at the park. We don't go on it much since the ride is too brief and one-trick for the usual wait. But if the ride is almost a walk-on? Yeah, that's worth it.


Water tower watch: the new water tower (left) had finished being painted by our Halloweekends visit, and we expected the century-old water tower (right) to be demolished by our next visit. It wasn't.


Afternoon clouds behind the ValRavn roller coaster, and a heavily renovated part of the midway.

We explored some of the arcades along Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. Mostly we were looking for pinball, which we didn't find. I had a faint recollection of some Seaside Heights location being on the Pinside map, but was dumb and didn't write down where, so we instead had to spend time wandering around amusing places without any particular goal in mind looking at what was interesting. Don't know how we were supposed to survive that. One thing we did discover and like was this ``Grand Piano Keys'' game, which we thought was a piano-themed rhythm game. It's actually just hitting the right sequence of lit keys in order, with rhythm irrelevant, and once we realized that our scores went way up. Still, twice was about enough times to play that.

We also located the new Berkeley Sweet Shop. Or Berkeley Candy, as it's named now. We're not sure what connection it has to the older shop. It's a much smaller storefront, without the taffy-making machinery on display. And with far fewer candies overall. We figured to get a box for ourselves, and another for [profile] bunny_hugger's parents as gift for watching Columbo. But we also realized it was barely into the afternoon, and salt water taffy would melt into an unpleasant goo left in the car. We left, promising to come back, and the clerks nodded, probably suspecting we were lying. We did come back, in the cool of evening, before leaving for home and got what we hoped for. We were eating taffy from the box we got as recently as this week.

We prowled around the pier, looking for rides we had been on, or decorations we knew. The Mighty Mouse figure that had been next to our Wild Mouse coaster was there again, standing next to the Pirate's Hideaway roller coaster. The Yogi Bear statue was there too, as were some other, less-copyright-infringey statues like the giant chicken holding a can of Coke. They had a bench with a clown statue sitting on it, and I got some pictures of [profile] bunny_hugger beside that. This would help further an ongoing joke with some of our friends, who've taken our furriness to be a cover story for our being Juggalos. (See, [profile] bunny_hugger had let slip how the soft drink of Further Connection North/Motor City Furry Con was Faygo, and MWS combined that and the whole dressing-up and acting-strangely aspects of our behavior to draw the obvious conclusion.)

And we circled the Floyd Moreland Carousel, which we'd so feared we would never see again, and later supposed we would never see again in that spot. It barely seemed different; the only real change has been that the pier switched from tickets and tokens for rides over to swipe cards.

And the roller coaster. Hydrus. Brand-new. Beautiful, really, with bright green track and blue supports and a three-dimensional dragon head peering over the sign. A vertical lift hill and first drop, too, reminiscent of the Untamed roller coaster at Canobie Lake Park. It had only been open a few weeks. [profile] bunny_hugger and I would enjoy, briefly, tenure on the front page of's ``Rare Coasters'' riders for being on it. More people have had in on the fun since then, so it's not nearly as rare anymore.

One disappointment, and something we couldn't resolve without giving up on our anniversary as the day for our trip there. They had pay-one-price rides for other days of the week. For evenings, some days of the week. Not for our day, Friday. They did have a wristband to purchase, but for only two hours' unlimited riding time. After that it'd have to be buying a new wristband, or buying a swipe card for a la carte rides. Best deal we could find was to get the wristband, and two hours' of power-riding in, and then see what made sense afterwards.

Sunday, I think, we would notice coupons at the Wawa for discounts on Casino Pier ride wristbands. Nothing that would make them, like, all-evening or even four-hour wristbands, but things that would have made them a bit cheaper. We should've thought to check. All I can say is I was out of practice for this sort of attraction.

Trivia: Technicians at the University of North Carolina's Morehead Planetarium constructed a wooden mockup of the Gemini spacecraft, mounted on a barber's chair, to train astronauts in star-sighting techniques in 1964. Source: Moon Bound: Choosing and Preparing NASA's Lunar Astronauts, Colin Burgess.

Currently Reading: Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, Josh Lauer.

PS: Let's step up the photo-clearing backlog with stuff from Cedar Point at the end of last year.


Halloweekends! The parking lot of the Breakers Hotel, at Cedar Point, with the Top Thrill Dragster the only prominent roller coaster. Almost washed out in the afternoon sun on the left there is Magnum XL-200, which from the name you'd never have guessed opened in the early May of 1989.


Cleared grounds! This used to be a miniature golf course that we always figured we'd play sometime when we had a couple free hours during a Cedar Point visit. But they were expanding the Breakers hotel --- a couple years after demolishing a wing they had renovated two years before --- and this was one of the casualties.


Also obliterated over winter last season: this version of the hotel entrance, convenient for Breakers guests to get into the back of the park. The line is caused by the x-ray scanners operated by teams from what they named ``Tenable Security Systems'', just as if a hipster novelist was trying a little too hard to give them a name that sounded off.

PPS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Volume Forms, an interesting dynamical systems thing.

We got out of the show to the last few hours of Cedar Point's season. We took the train to the back of the park. We got, if my pictures are reliable notes, the Judy K, which I think is the engine that used to work for some Lansing company. The train's a decent way to get to the back of the park, and better, it's a good way to get views of the park from weird angles. It gave us some of our better views of what's left of Mean Streak. The ride had been under renovation for several weeks, ever since the closing ceremony. Already big chunks of its lift hill were gone, just, removed, although most of the wooden lattice support structure was in place. There wasn't any getting close to the ride, much less making out just what they're doing with it, but a roller coaster partially deconstructed is a heck of a thing to see.

We got in some rides in the back of the park, and more sightseeing, since it's just a great place to be and to wander around. I'm not sure if we got another ride on the Mine Ride, but it's plausible we would've. It's rarely a ride with a long wait to it, and it's a satisfying ride.

We had dinner at the Midway Market, the buffet restaurant that for some reason my head can't understand is closed Halloweekend Fridays. We often get there one night per Halloweekends weekend since it is both warm and a pretty good deal, and we'd missed it on Saturday. Got garlic fries instead, using the park's new and very annoying electronic ordering system that's converted the mess of people just ordering fries at a cash register to people staring uncomprehending at a computer screen and then not knowing if they paid or not because the credit card system doesn't work very well. Sunday, the restaurant, that was easier to understand. We paid, then went inside, then ate.

Thing we didn't realize until we got into the market: this was the last day of the season. All their food, basically, had to go now or never. So the place was stuffed full. It might not always be very good, but on the other hand, we'd never seen so many desserts there. Lots and lots and lots there. Also I snapped some pictures of the market, as I realized we never had got any pictures and who knew if they'd be renovated or something? We have no reason to think they will be anytime soon, but that's the thing. A place like that changes all over and you never see it coming.

We did something we hadn't done before. We rode the Witches' Wheel. That's an Enterprise ride. It's got free-swinging cars on a spinning axle that rises to nearly vertical. It's the sort of ride that, again, you never pay attention to. But it's there and who knows when it might not be anymore? It's the sort of thing I can ride easily. [ profile] bunny_hugger gets nauseous more easily at this kind of motion but was feeling good, and these sorts of rides are usually easier on a full stomach. It was kind to her this time and, well, what a nice change of pace. We also got a good ride in on the Monster, which is not a rare ride. Just a slow one; it takes forever to load and unload.

A couple of last rides, for the final hours. Mostly roller coasters. Raptor, Iron Dragon, Blue Streak. Some time watching the glorious depths of clouds rolling in after sunset as lit by the park's lights (and, secondarily, Sandusky's lights). We got on the Midway Carousel for the last ride of the season, a rare one with the merry-go-round nearly full.

We had looked at the sweets shop before our last rides, but there was a line and we figured we could get Chicago-style popcorn for the drive home afterwards. By the time we got there after the carousel ride they'd closed for the night, and season. I blame myself; I'd stopped for some pictures of the rides graveyard and the like and while it maybe only cost us a minute, we might've missed the last admittances by a minute.

So we set off for home with that disappointment. Always some mean little anticlimax. But we got to see out the season. And as we left about as the park closed we were able to get home, to our familiar bed, not long after midnight.

Still no official word, as far as I've heard, about what Mean Streak is turning into. It's going to be something called Vicious Streak, I'm sure. They ought to make something called Winning Streak, but they won't.

Trivia: On 26 January 1929 architect William Van Allen sent Walter Chrysler plans for the 51st through 67th floors of his building. Source: Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City, Neal Bascomb. (The 28th through 50th floors would follow later.)

Currently Reading: P T Barnum: The Legend And The Man, A H Saxon.

We drove back to Cedar Point from the Merry-Go-Round Museum as the drizzly rain mostly let up. It was cool and damp and that didn't leave the crowds quite as small as we'd expected. After a little dithering on my part we parked up front, instead of around back by the hotel entrance (we weren't sure we'd be let in, since the hotel had closed for the week, and the season, at noon) or the Marina entrance, where it'd be convenient to go if we wanted to eat at the Bay Harbor restaurant after the park closed.

We'd eaten at that restaurant after the park's closing in several past years, as a way to take the edge off the end of the weekend's fun. But the restaurant was also becoming less fun. Because of the lateness of the hour and the season we'd be eating alone, or nearly alone, often and that felt awkward. And they're a seafood restaurant anyway, with not much for people trying to eat vegetarian. So among other things we let slip away in 2016 was the restaurant.

Not slipping away: seeing the magic show! We got back moments before one of the performances was to begin. This is the one at the Jack Aldrich theater, a bunch of magic performances with dance interludes, that I got up on stage for a couple years back. They still had that magic trick, although this year kids were called up to hold the banner and swap places with the clown-magician in the stocks. Seeing the same show a couple years in a row has let us in on one of its secrets, which is that they don't do the show the same each year. They swap out maybe one dance and one magic trick each year, of the five or six each, so that I guess things don't ever get stale but they also don't feel completely altered.

I also realized, belatedly as ever, that I had a new camera this year. A camera that's much better at taking fast, low-light pictures than I've ever had before. The stage lights and the dark make for the sort of brilliant spectacle that I love but that I'd learned from past experience were impossible to photograph. But now? Why not try with my new camera? I had happy results from this. The low, weird-light pictures --- including some with black-lighted props and costumes --- came out as well as I could have hoped. This could change everything, at least in the very specific field of what kinds of stage shows I could hope to photograph. You'll see pictures of that some Thursday or Sunday night, I suppose, around these parts.

Trivia: The human body has no specific mechanism for removing excess iron other than menstrual bleeding and the shedding of gut-lining cells. Source: Oxygen: The Molecule That Made The World, Nick Lane.

Currently Reading: P T Barnum: The Legend And The Man, A H Saxon. So until Saxon brought it up I had never pondered the question. One of Barnum's big early show successes was the humbug of ``Joice Heth'', supposedly a 161-year-old slave who'd nursed George Washington. The question: did Barnum buy her to show her off? The answer appears to be no; his contracts were clear that all he was buying was her performances and the right to exhibit her. But he bought those from the slave's master. Ah, America: there's nothing our racism can't make that little extra bit worse. (And it appears, although there's just barely the room to deny it, that he bought at least one slave for a southern tour in the 1830s. He did turn abolitionist around the time of Bleeding Kansas.)

The first new thing I noticed at the Merry-Go-Round Museum was Mighty Mouse. In one of the windows up front they had a carousel mount, kiddie-sized, that looked like the inexplicably lovable superhero. The museum had heaps of new stuff for 2016. The place looked fuller than it had previously. This may be transient. I may have this a bit wrong, but [ profile] bunny_hugger will be able to fix any glitches in my recollection. But a lot of the Merry-Go-Round Museum's pieces are on loan from collectors or the estates of collectors. At least one of the big loaners has been talking about wanting pieces back home, at least for a while. If I remember rightly the heirs to one of their donors wanted some pieces back to appreciate themselves. It's hard to fault them for that, but it's also hard not to hope that they'll decide after a while that a horse or band organ or other feature like that is better put in a museum where many can see the art and craftsmanship involved.

And they did, at least for now, have a lot of new stuff on display, or new arrangements of what they did have. Most prominent is they had several pieces of an M C Ilions-carved scenic wall. They had only two panels of it up in the main room, with another half-dozen or so panels in storage because the museum didn't have room to show them all. The museum is a former Post Office, a rare circular-plan one, and it's a place big enough to, well, fit a carousel in it and probably a second if they didn't mind putting them off-center. So you get some idea of how big this must be that only a quarter of it can fit on display.

There were smaller things too. Mighty Mouse. A circa 1925 Allan Herschell white elephant, that stands rather than going up and down and that kids could ride in. Reindeer and broad scenery panels and banners pointing out how many things were from the Charlotte Dinger collection. Dinger's one of the people who in the 70s and 80s brought carousels to the attention of the art world. This had the dual effect of making them appreciated, while also making them valuable enough that dying parks might sell off their carousels, breaking them up and losing them to private collectors. Nothing's ever simple.

Delightful as all that is we got faintly uneasy feelings from the museum. Murmurings about losing chunks of the collection are never an easy thing for a museum. There were also very few visitors; for long stretches of our visit we were the only patrons. The museum's often quiet while we're there, and we don't have experience with being there on a Sunday, and a rainy, cool Sunday at that. But it's uneasy to be alone quite so long like that. The gift shop seemed a little barren too, underpopulated in that way one gets when the underlying property is having a lean year. I picked up a couple of the carousel magazines I always get there. I get a thrill seeing [ profile] rapidtrabbit's column in actual print.

Worse, though. Absolutely catastrophic: the museum didn't have a 2017 Carousels calendar. [ profile] bunny_hugger always gets one for her office. We used to get it at the carousel shop in Seaside Heights, until that closed; then she shifted to getting it at the Merry-Go-Round Museum. The clerk/docent/nearly-only-person-we-saw-at-the-museum told us the sad story. The carousel calendar was always a small-print-run thing that barely sold enough to cover its costs. After a few years of not covering costs they gave up, at least for this year. There's rumblings about maybe finding something to do for 2018 but no promises.

I'm stunned that there aren't any mass-marketed carousel calendars because ... well, sheesh, doesn't it seem like they should be inevitable? Carousel animals are incredibly photogenic things, whether they're photographed against a black backdrop (as many of the calendar pictures were) or in their normal installed setting. They're genuine Americana, many of them a century or so old. The new ones are carved to have some specific meaning to the commissioner, usually a zoo or public park, that bought them. How are calendar shops not lousy with carousel art?

I can understand some of the production problems. Every carousel animal is owned, after all, and many are owned by collectors or estates of collectors who might get tetchy about reproduction rights. Many of the other owners are amusement park chains, again, companies I can imagine being hard to deal with. It still seems like a Carousels Of America line of calendars ought to be an easy thing to sell. Something's awry here.

[ profile] bunny_hugger would handle 2017 by making her own calendar, using carousel pictures she had taken in 2016. It was a challenge; she hadn't thought to photograph old familiar rides like those at Michigan's Adventure or at Cedar Point before Halloweekends (for which the rides are dressed up some). But she made it herself and that'll cover 2017 at least. Hopefully 2018 will be better, but haven't we all been saying that about the year?

Trivia: On 24 January 1776 Colonel Henry Knox arrived in Boston from Ticonderoga with 43 cannon and sixteen mortars. Source: Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes, Christopher Hibbert.

Currently Reading: P T Barnum: The Legend And The Man, A H Saxon.

Back to Cedar Point. We were in the Frontier Town area, with many of the shops that offer handmade attractions, some of them in shows. So we poked around the glass gallery and its terrifyingly expensive beautiful glass. And the wax candle shop with less-terrifyingly-expensive candles that are at least as amazing when you look at how many colors get packed into things. And we stopped in at the wood-carving shop to see what's changed. Some things were still there, gryphon and dragon heads, half-scale models of the Schwabinchen lady that was the decorative fixture in the middle of the ride, that sort of thing. I believe the carver who's the son of the guy that carves at the Merry-Go-Round museum was there. We would miss the carver at the Merry-Go-Round museum, though, since we went there Sunday instead of Saturday.

Walking back towards the Corkscrew roller coaster we discovered something wonderful. Near the ride is a Rock-and-Roll Graveyard, with gravestones for a great many music legends. And there was a statue there which we hadn't noticed before. It had an electric guitar strapped to it, but it looked to be one of the vintage, circa-1900 statues that the park used to have around. Cedar Point's been losing those parks gradually over the years; the last one we'd known of, Mercury besides a fountain, had been at the Marina Entrance until it was renovated for the Valravn ride. The vanishing of the old statues has been the one major thing unsatisfying thing about current Cedar Point management, which I suppose shows how well [ profile] bunny_hugger and I think they're doing about making a well-balanced park. That there's --- we think --- one of these statues come out of hiding, even if just for Halloweekends, is a great sign. The park has too little of its 147-year history on display and every little bit more helps.

We got to Corkscrew because we figured that was the best vantage point to see the Halloweekends parade. And we believed this to be our only chance to se the Halloweekends parade, since the park signs seemed (to me, anyway) ambiguous about whether Halloweekends stuff would go on the Sunday. Sundays at the end of the season in previous years were a loose, unattached day, with workers taking down props while they were on staff. It happened they also ran the show on Sunday, but there wasn't any telling that ahead of time.

This was the 20th Halloweekends for Cedar Point and they promised a whole-new parade experience. They seemed ready to make good on that promise too, since the parade route was back to its full course running the length of the park; the previous few years it had been just a short loop around the front of Cedar Point. We were sad to think that the old Halloweekends song might be replaced, but that would mean there was some new and potentially exciting song coming. After waiting long enough that we tarted worrying we'd got the wrong place somehow we finally saw the parade coming and we listened to hear the new parade music and heard: nothing.

We tried, mind you. We could hear some faint, unidentifiable music from the park's speakers, but nothing from the parade itself. What seems to have happened is they had the parade music play by the park speakers, rather than by any of the parade floats, and we happened to be in a spot just far enough from any speakers that we couldn't hear it.

The parade wasn't entirely new; it was a mix of the floats and marching bands and dancers and all that just like you would expect. Some of the floats we recognized from previous years. A good number were new. Some floats had been retired and their animatronics shifted over to standing park attractions, part of the scenery enhancements we like. It's changed but not unrecognizably so.

We took a break, back in the hotel room. And after resting and warming up we went back in, where we found just how long the line to be searched by Tenable Security could be. Also how arbitrary their rules about what were bags subject to search were. The evening would be some rides and some regrets. We'd missed the last performance of the magic-and-dance show, most importantly, a show we just never miss (and the one I got called up on stage for one year). Would they have a Sunday show? We had no idea, but hoped.

We did get a night ride on Rougarou, the converted Mantis. It's still a ride that's got a pretty good layout and needlessly head-bangy restraints. We got some other rides in too. Calypso, now moved and renamed the Tiki Twirl. Blue Streak, the classic-styled wooden roller coaster. The bumper cars. I forget if we rode Wicked Twister, but I think we did, for the sake of making sure we didn't go the season without a ride on it. The carousels, including Cedar Downs. The good, fun stuff.

And noticed Mean Streak's grave marker, and ride sign, at that graveyard. It had one of the trains posed at the open grave, as though poping out, with light and smoke generators underneath. You know, in case we didn't realize the ride was going to get re-made as something. They haven't announced what, just yet.

Our last ride for the night was Corkscrew, one of our old friends for the close of nights by now. As midnight passed the park was settling in to a misty fog, which the park lights made all the more rich and more wonderful to walk around, and eventually to sleep in.

Trivia: In portions of British-controlled India in 1823 the price of a half a maund of salt (about 41 pounds, roughly what a family of two adults and three children would need for a year) rose to six rupees, about half a year's wages. Source: The Great Hedge of India: The Search for the Living Barrier That Divided A People, Roy Moxham.

Currently Reading: Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos.

We have some traditions for Halloweekends weekends. An important one of them is that on Saturdays we don't go to the park right away, but instead visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum in downtown Sandusky. We didn't do that this time. We were looking at the ambiguous, confused signals of the weather forecast. The trouble was Saturday was forecast to be warm and sunny, which for a Halloweekends Saturday is also an invitation for the park to be impossibly crowded. Sunday was forecast to be cool and rainy through mid-afternoon, which is an invitation for the park to be a walk-on for everything. But it's also less pleasant for the people there. We chose to take a full day in the park for Saturday, and to use the shelter of the Merry-Go-Round Museum for early Sunday afternoon.

Probably we made the right pick anyway. While it would be a busy Saturday compared to closing weekend of 2015, closing weekend 2015 was bitterly cold and overcast and we got stuck on some rides because they didn't have enough riders to send a train out. No such luck this time around. We had a bit of a wait for Gemini, which was running two trains on a single track instead of one train each on the two tracks such as makes sense for their racing coaster. Goodness knows why they do that. In the queue we saw some kids playing some app-based party game. It was something like Password. The person held her phone to her forehead, where she couldn't see. Others called out things to help her guess what the word was. Looked pretty fun, really, and a non-obnoxious use of cell phones for waiting in ride queues. Some of the clues seemed dubious or flat-out wrong, even if they got the guesser to the right answer. But what are you going to do, report them to the Commissioner of In-Ride-Queue Party-Game Apps? We filed our protest when we got back to the hotel room.

We did venture in to one of the (several) kids sections of the park, some of that to see the evening walkthrough haunted area in full daylight. Some of that to ride the kiddie Wilderness Run roller coaster. That was more for completeness sake than anything else. As with a lot of kiddie coasters, it's a knee-banger. But, you know, there were kids on it having their first thrill ride, or the thrill ride they could take, and that's a good environment. Also, it's in a really nice setting, on the shore of the interior lagoon and surrounded by trees that were at a height of autumn settling.

The Mine Ride we realized had got some renovation done on its queue. It had, as a Western-themed area might, wooden slat fencing for the queue. It still has, but now the fencing goes up much higher, to maybe eight feet off the ground. Why did they figure the approach to the ride had to be through a valley of wood? No idea. I can understand Cedar Point being wary about any fences that people could hop over, in the wake of that person who got killed when he jumped the Raptor fence, but this one seemed weird. I don't believe the Mine Ride even gets near enough the ground to be hazardous if someone does get on the grounds.

We went back to the Frontier Trail and the petting zoo. The informational panels explained how the place showed off the kinds of animals you'd see on a real 19th-century historic Ohio area farm. You know, animals like turkeys, one of whom was completely uninterested in [ profile] bunny_hugger's attempts to pet him. Or bunnies, most of whom were in a cage off to the side, and which included one extremely chill Flemish Giant that put us in mind of our lost rabbit's better days. There was also, it turned out, one small black rabbit who'd got herself over in a chicken enclosure and wasn't interested in coming out or dealing with anybody. We don't know her story. And there were more traditional farm animals like goats and ducks and ... turtles ... and ... Patagonian cavies and at some point you wonder if the ``historic educational'' side of the program has just got completely lost. No, not perfectly. Patagonian cavies are really cute when they stand up, which they do, for food.

Trivia: Oral-B's late-90s ``Squish Grip'' line of children's toothbrushes were designed by IDEO, the firm which also designed the first Apple Mouse. Source: Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design, Henry Petroski.

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

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.

Our lost pet rabbit's next and, it transpired, last weekend with [ profile] bunny_hugger's parents would be two weeks after that, the last weekend of October. This was so we could go to Cedar Point and its Halloweekends. [ profile] bunny_hugger hasn't missed Halloweekends since possibly the autumn her starter marriage collapsed; I haven't missed it since I don't know. Possibly 2010, when I first started going to the park and visiting [ profile] bunny_hugger in October regularly. We didn't feel right counting our visit Halloweekends' opening day, the closing of Mean Streak, as that was too anomalous to feel right. We were ready, if need presented, to bail out of Cedar Point and rush home if our pet rabbit crashed. It wasn't necessary, though. In October and November he was doing very well, apparently recuperating in strength and energy and interest. We had forebodings at the time this might be the renowned ``final rally'' that people identify after the fact but, if it was, what could we do about that?

We thought we'd gotten a room in a part of the Hotel Breakers that we'd never been in before, and that until renovations a few years ago was impossible to get rooms in: the central octagonal tower. Not so. We were in a wing we rarely even think of, but its only interesting feature was that it was like four zillion steps away from the ladder or elevator or anything. Maybe we'll get the tower next year.

A couple years ago Cedar Point renovated the Hotel Breakers, demolishing an old wing that had itself been renovated just a couple years earlier. We'd wondered what they were going to replace the capacity with and it turned to be ``higher rates on the remaining rooms''. But apparently the cycle has turned again, and they're rebuilding a new wing, along with a lot of other renovations. Besides whatever unannounced thing is happening to the former Mean Streak roller coaster they're doing a massive renovation and renaming of the water park, and I think they're even getting rid of the upcharge-attraction Challenge Park. So that whole section of the Point was a lot of construction zones.

This scrambled my guesses about What Won't Be There Next Season. I'd imagined that the Oceana Entrance, the entrance so little-thought-of that [ profile] bunny_hugger can't specifically remember having ever used it even for the fun of doing something different, would be the next to get renovated. With the whole Resort Entrance surrounded by construction fences, though, it's hard not to suppose that's going to be completely different next time we see it.

We had time to take last photographs. As at the retirement for Mean Streak, and at last year's Halloweekends, they had security screening at the entrances. X-rays and people poking into your bags, a concept they didn't seem to have any clear definition about. Sometimes my camera bag counted, sometimes it didn't. And, we'd find, the screening isn't done early enough in the day. It's almost a system designed to needlessly slow down everything and to offend [ profile] bunny_hugger's sense of procedural integrity. And the company is even named Tenable Security, as if we needed to doubt it that little extra bit more.

Trivia: Gene Cernan's initial assignment as Gemini astronaut was to spacecraft propulsion and the Agena docking target. Source: Gemini: Steps To The Moon, David J Shayler.

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

The rest of the night had a weird sense. Maybe anticlimax since we were there after the big busy event which had brought us there. Maybe just because all our normal park routines were broken up by this; we weren't going to be having a routine September night at Cedar Point no matter what we did. We ate. And we spent time hanging around the Casino arcade, looking over some of the crane games --- [ profile] bunny_hugger's father used to route them, and she still defends the honor of the trade --- and the pinball machines. They were in rough shape. They always are. The games are from the 70s and have not gotten the sort of thoroughgoing complete cleaning and repair job they really need. [ profile] bunny_hugger's favorite of the ancient machines, Travel Time, wasn't working, and it wouldn't be working when we made our October visit either.

Still, pleasant night, not too huge a crowd. We did some riding. We got our second ValRavn ride of the season, our first night ride on the drop coaster. It's a fine ride, even if it feels short. The spot in the middle of the ride in which it comes to a near-complete stop so we can appreciate a second drop also chops up its momentum. The ride feels like a short one. Also we have no idea how to get a ride in the front row of seats. It's understandable that's the most popular seat, since it gives the best few straight down at the drop moments. But somehow we get assigned to the second or third row and we don't know how to join the extra-wait queue for the front.

And we rode some old friends. Raptor, for example, which I think may have been down or too busy or something when we visited in June. It's hard to believe we didn't get a ride on Blue Streak, given the circumstances, although if we did I didn't snap a photograph from the ride or its environs. But I might have been thinking I didn't need to photograph every single thing we did; it's just an easy way to take notes.

We had set out with the promise to ourselves that we didn't need to stay until midnight and the park's closing. We came close anyway, though. We decided we had spent enough time and we were ready to get home before it was too absurdly late at about 11:30. But we did feel like the night had reached a sensible end and that we didn't want to spoil our fun by demanding we have more of it.

So we took our ride on the Midway Carousel and made our way home, with the plan to return for a proper Halloweekends visit.

Trivia: The porphyry column, known as the Pietra del Bando, in the Piazza San Marco, was the traditional spot for the promulgation of Venetian laws. In 1902 it also protected the corner of the Basilica from a collapsing campanile. Source: A History of Venice, John Julius Norwich.

Currently Reading: After Apollo? Richard Nixon and the American Space Program, John M Logsdon. Goodness but it's comforting to read about how the Nixon administration started out a disorganized and inept bunch of Washington-hating outsiders. That worked out well for so many people.

We got off our last Mean Streak ride. It was a ride in the front seat; we waited the several extra ride cycles for that chance. After all it isn't like we could do that again. And there weren't any fresh souvenirs for us waiting. There was a mob, though.

Someone or other was dressed as a zombie or other kind of undead creature standing on the podium giving Mean Streak's eulogy. The whole plaza in front of the Mean Streak entrance was packed with people. And the ride was still going on, rolling its busy way over the entrance and drowning out whatever was being said. We shuffled our way around and we could get closer to the platform and hear a couple things here and there. But not much. I could hear a little more since, being taller, I was a little above more people in the crowd. It still wasn't easy. We could make out the park officials dressed this way talking about Mean Streak's legendarily rough treatment of riders. It was rougher in legend than in reality. [ profile] bunny_hugger speculated that Cedar Point fans have no idea what a truly rough roller coaster is like. It is like Lake Compounce's Wildcat.

The idea of a eulogy for the ride was a good one. But that everyone who'd been in line at the closing hour was allowed to get their ride in --- normal Cedar Point practice for rides and ordinary closing hours --- meant the ride was still going even a half-hour into the ``funeral''. It's hard to talk about the last rides of the roller coaster when you're drowned out by two trains running every four minutes each.

Finally, though, came the end of the ceremony and a funeral procession. Workers went up to the entrance's Mean Streak sign, but before they could do anything the Cedar Point officials and performers started walking the long, long way to the front of the park. We took some last photographs of the area as it was, and of the trains as they went past. And we joined the gigantic amoebic mob of people trudging their way past Gemini and Magnum and up to the front of the park.

Because it's at the front of the park they have the Rides Graveyard. They've got a couple of roller coaster markers too, something that would've been unthinkable before 2012 when the first of their roller coasters in ages went out of commission. They've got a gravestone for Mantis, even though that ride is arguably still in existence. The same track is running as Rougarou; the train has changed from a stand-up to a seated coaster. There's no end of good questions of identity that roller coasters give us examples for.

At Mean Streak's open grave the park people gathered around and said ... something. I assume. I couldn't hear it either. They took turns tossing some relics of the ride into the grave, though, so the intent was all pretty clear.

Some commotion. Some racket. People clearing out of the way behind us. I looked back and saw what was going on and cried out something like ``Oh! Oh my'' and grabbed my camera for pictures. The workers had got the Mean Streak sign off of the queue and were walking it at a fast clip to the front of the park. It would be put at the open grave, over top of the thing. Some more words that I couldn't hear and then people started dispersing. We got our first chance to actually see the grave site, although whatever was put inside would remain a mystery. It was about 8:30, and the ride was now done.

Cedar Point hasn't announced what they're doing with the ride yet, somehow. But on our subsequent Halloweekends visit we did see they had one of the Mean Streak trains posed in the open grave, as though crawling out. You know, in case anyone had any doubts it was getting converted into some wood-structure steel-tracked roller coaster that I bet is going to be named Vicious Streak. We'll see.

Trivia: Gutenberg was his mother's maiden name. His full birth name was Johannes Gutenberg Gensfleisch. Source: A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, William Machester.

Currently Reading: The Diploids, Katherine MacLean. ``The Snowball Effect'' seems shorter here than I remember. Almost nothing from the sewing club circle meeting.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Tree, which starts and ends with doodle-ready mathematics.

We followed my possible hallucination of a train running on Mean Streak before the appointed 6:00 hour. And for a wonder I wasn't wrong; the ride was going, early. Maybe we misunderstood when they were going to start. Maybe they figured they needed to get people their last rides in.

They had a little stage set up outside the ride entrance. It had a podium and the logo for the U R Daid undertakers, a name common to Halloweekends of the past. And there were memorial wreaths and flowers with cards, some of them quite clever. The grounds crew saying how they were going to miss not having to tend the ride's infield. The merchandise crew saying how they were going to miss how well its licensed stuff was selling. The Beast, at sister park Kings Island, sending regrets at another wooden roller coaster's demise. (The last particularly tickled us.) Despite this being the ride's last day, its last 90 minutes, the ride's queue sign said there was a 15-minute wait. Mean Streak never did get its respect.

15 minutes was probably a fair estimate. It was a fair crowd for Mean Streak. People were pointing out stuff like concrete piles with mysterious dots of red paint on them. Or talking about rumors of what would happen to the ride. It's getting some kind of conversion by Rocky Mountain Construction. There's just no telling exactly what. Their Mean Streak work isn't even listed on their Wikipedia page. It's a strange radio silence Cedar Point has settled on here.

Anyway, it was wonderful being around a bunch of people eager to ride Mean Streak and talking about their love of the ride. The Group Consensus on Mean Streak was always that it was a rough, hard, unpopular ride. There'd be less of that this day. We got there to see one of the ride's greatest boosters: Mean Streak Henry. According to the sign at the station he'd ridden the roller coaster something like 16,000 times since it opened. He was there getting in last rides, hopping in to the other seat whenever a single rider needed one. People were waving him over, begging him to be their ride partner. He took one with a kid who was two or three rows behind us.

There were people waiting for a front-seat ride. Or a last-seat ride. We chose to not be so greedy, special as these rides can be. We were looking at the time, and figured that if we didn't wait for a special ride we might get back in the queue and get another ride in. What you would do in this situation probably tells you something important about your values.

It's hard to do something for what you know is, or will likely be, the last time. You spend so much time taking it all in you forget to have the experience. I tried to pay attention on the long lift hill to the magnificence of the structure --- there's a turn that the lift hill goes through, underneath the path of the track --- and on the Cedar Point lighthouse you could glimpse out the left side. And the view, to the right, of the whole park laid before you. It wasn't yet twilight, but it was getting there, and the park was taking on that curious wonderful glow.

Cedar Point had promised souvenirs to people who rode Mean Streak its last day. We didn't know what to expect. Or where it might be; there were people hanging around the exit path that didn't seem to have anything to do there. They weren't the ones giving stuff away. What they had instead was a table set up just outside the ride, at its photo booth. I don't believe I ever saw Mean Streak's photo booth working. They were giving away pins for The Last Ride, showing off the ride's logo and the date and all that. We put them on, technically speaking doing some damage to our Mean Streak t-shirts. They also gave everyone a Mean Streak keychain. I'd bought one when we got our Mean Streak t-shirts the month before.

It was before 7:00, so we figured to go back and try getting a second ride in. And now there was a line for Mean Streak. A huge one, one that spilled out past the queue entry and down beyond the railroad track one has to cross (twice!) to get to the ride. The queue's length was inflated by the fact the ride's proper queues never had their switchbacks opened. But still, it might be an hour plus to ride. It would certainly be after 7:00. We would take that. If they weren't turning people away then we'd take our chances. Even if they did shut the ride before the line was through, we didn't want to miss the ceremony after the ride's closing.

And so we got in our last Mean Streak ride, after the longest wait we'd had for it in ages. Mean Streak has great ride capacity, but it was running only two of the tree trains. And it had abnormally high demand. Abnormally happy demand, too. People were talking about how they liked it. People were wearing their own homemade fan t-shirts, some of them good enough we thought they might be legitimate merchandise. It had the air of a party, a last getting-together of people who have this wonderful thing to share.

After our last ride, another desperate attempt to capture everything about the experience weighed own by wondering what would remain afterwards, we shuffled off. I wondered if we'd get a second round of the buttons and keychains; there didn't seem any reason to take a second. They were out of buttons by the time we got to the photo booth, though. They still had keychains. I considered taking one for MWS, who wasn't able to get to Cedar Point before Mean Streak closed (or at all this season, it turned out), but didn't quite have the nerve to take another.

And besides there was an enormous crowd to step into.

Trivia: In 1697 Captain William Kidd raised several small ships in the Arabian Sea. In 1698 he seized the Quedah Merchant, with a cargo valued at £30,000. Source: The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company, John Keay.

Currently Reading: Furthest, Suzette Haden Elgin.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Smooth, the functions with a great name to them.

When Cedar Point announced they'd be closing Mean Streak they said it wouldn't be closing at the end of the season. There would be a closing and retirement ceremony in September. We got to drop in on Cedar Point the day of the announcement. But it was nearly certain we'd go back to the park for the last day of the ride. So we did. We made a day trip of it. The closing day would be a Friday in September, when the park normally is open only from 5 pm to midnight. We could make that, especially if we left the park before closing.

The park properly opened at 6 pm, but season passholders could get in at 5, and who wouldn't get there at 5 for a last ride on a roller coaster, even if it was a much-maligned roller coaster? ... That would be people who read the announcements and knew that Mean Streak would run only from 6 pm to 7 pm. Well, any chance to get to the park. We parked up front, none too far from the front gate, and set off towards Mean Streak at the far back of the park. During walking we realized we'd probably have been better off going to the hotel or water park parking lots and entering by the hotel gate. Just because we go to a lot of amusement parks doesn't mean we don't make little mistakes.

But walking from the front entrance did let us see the gravestone readied for Mean Streak. Cedar Point's had a tradition of putting up markers and memorials for its ``deceased'' rides, as part of the Halloweekends theming. They had some space set aside for Mean Streak, and a quite suggestive one at that. Everyone figures Mean Streak's superstructure is being refitted into a new roller coaster, although it hasn't yet been announced what. Incredibly, even still. (It's going to be something named Vicious Streak, I figure, but it ought to be named Winning Streak instead.)

And we discovered something new along the way. Something new just since our visit the previous month. Outside the Casino arcade they had a Laffin Sal. Just like at Kennywood. It's a life-sized mannequin-style figure of a woman that just ... shakes, and laughs. The amount of shaking and the intensity of the laughing keep changing, but it keeps going on. Cedar Point used to have a Laffin Sal, back when they had dark rides and funhouses and the like. They don't anymore, though, and the question is: is this their old Laffin Sal? Or did they buy one from another park? Or is somebody making new old-style Laffin Sals? There's no indication on the actual item. Could be any of these possibilities. There's no need for the Laffin Sal, mind you, but it fits Cedar Point's current effort to fill the park with more little amusements. Things that aren't big thrill rides but that are fun to run across. And an endlessly laughing human-shaped figure in a glass box is one of those things now.

Since Mean Streak wasn't to start running until 6:00 we went to Maverick, which is nearby it and which we hadn't gotten to this season. It's a ride that always gets a huge queue. Early-admission Friday during the Halloweekends season would probably be our best chance to get on it and so it was. Beautiful, clear, warm day, not too long a line, and I could swear I saw Mean Streak running before its appointed hour. But I have a mental block about that; I always think I see Mean Streak running on Halloweekend Fridays, even though it was never open Fridays. Only select rides were open for those and Mean Streak never made the cut. I suppose I won't have this precise same problem next year.

Trivia: The Space Shuttle Main Engines for the first launch of Columbia were serial numbers 2007 (for engine 1), 2006 (for engine 2), and 2005 (for engine 3). Engine 1 fired for 519.42 seconds; engine 2 for 519.56; engine 3 for 519.68 seconds. Source: Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System: The First 100 Missions, Dennis R Jenkins.

Currently Reading: Groovy Science, Editor David Kaiser, W Patrick McCray.

PS: Reading the Comics, December 10, 2016: E = mc^2 Edition, for the comics-reader among you.

It's been another busy week on my mathematics blog. These A-To-Z projects really boost your post count. Among the stuff that's run there since last Sunday:

And now we say farewell to Cedar Point's Halloweekends with pictures from the last bits of Sunday:


From Cedar Point's Town Hall Museum, here's some of the carousel animals which used to be on the Frontier Carousel. The Frontier Carousel was sent to Dorney Park back in the 90s, when their antique carousel burned down, but Cedar Point kept some of the most prized animals on it. Can you spot the cursed horse which can't be photographed clearly?


One of the two remaining antique-car rides, as photographed from the pedestrian bridge leading to it. We almost never ride this one but after the shocking loss of one of the rides to ValRavn construction we didn't want to miss it.


Pretty sure that the Millennium Force roller coaster isn't on fire but should we maybe send someone to check?


Return station of Millennium Force in the evening glow. The launch station is a bit farther on to the right. And off-screen to the right would be animatronic dinosaurs.


Panorama of Cedar Point as seen from the Marina-side restaurant we went to after the park closed. Blue Streak's the blue-white arch over the building in front. Top Thrill Dragster is the pointy spike on the far left. The Ferris Wheel is the loop on the right behind Blue Streak.

Trivia: The commissariat which the Soviet Union set up for Church affairs during the Second World War was popularly nicknamed ``Narkombog'', the People's Commissar for God. Source: Why The Allies Won, Richard Overy. (Which is funny, although what else are you going to name it?)

Currently Reading: The Big Oyster: History of the Half Shell, Mark Kurlansky.

As it's Thursday night or Friday morning it's time to go over my humor blog entries from the past week. These are they.

And now to putter around Cedar Point Halloweekends just a tiny bit more. We're almost done.


[ profile] bunny_hugger sitting upon the ValRaven throne. We'd also sat on this at Roller Coaster Appreciation Night, but that night was dark and rainy and the chair was terribly wet. We trust this throne is going to be part of the new roller coaster's theming. It's still a nice prop to have in advertising the coaster. Also: cool logo.


Wooden gryphon, and the carver we expect carved it. This is in Frontier Town, at the wood-carver's shop.


This is not an antique carousel animal. We learned that from talking with the head carver the year before. It's a modern Philippine replica. The Snoopy doll is contemporary too.


Some of the wood carvings at the shop, done for I don't know what purpose. Also mysterious: the thing in back labelled ``Baldwin Wallace University''. Is somebody swiping stuff from small Cleveland-area schools?


Oh yeah, they have a petting zoo in Cedar Point. And they had animals and everything out that day. See how happy the bunnies were at being on display in the October chill.


Oh yeah, I had that guinea pig when I was in high school.

Trivia: By the 1960s General Electric had 190 separate departments, each with its own budget, and 43 strategic business units. Source: The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge.

Currently Reading: The Big Oyster: History of the Half Shell, Mark Kurlansky.

PS: Reading the Comics, March 9, 2016: Mathematics Recreation Edition, because the comics let me talk about sudoku and Mixed Martial Arts triangles and stuff.