austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (Default)

September 2017

      1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 252627282930

Custom Text

My mathematics blog is getting ready to launch its new A To Z project. Are you? Meanwhile, here's what it's run the past week.

Were you wondering what's going on in The Phantom? In its weekday edition? I've got your back. Here, enjoy! And now to the closing day of Michigan's Adventure, just under eleven months ago. I need to do more all-photo weeks and catch up.


You know it's late in the season when people are just giving up on their socks near the Tilt-a-Whirl.


Pumpkins! For at least the second year running they were growing pumpkins just off of Shivering Timbers. Why? Hard to guess. Michigan's Adventure does nothing for Halloween. Other Cedar Fair parks do, but surely they could grow their own pumpkins or get from local providers if they need fresh pumpkins for something or other.


Sea Dragon, the swinging ship ride, put to bed for the season: the crowds are gone and there's just the crew securing it for a long winter's nap.


Main midway of Michigan's Adventure, put to bed for the season: the Corkscrew, its first roller coaster, is on the left, and the Lakeside Gliders, the flying turns ride that replaced a go-cart upcharge attraction (!) a couple years ago is in the center of the picture.


Cedar Fair has the Peanuts license and that's fine. The core problem is that the Peanuts characters don't really have anything to do with amusement parks. I'm aware of only, like, one time they even mentioned going to anything with rides, which is kind of a surprising thing for the gang never to have done. Anyway, this results in some weird contorted efforts to drag the characters into something salable. Peppermint Patty's Candy Shop at least passes the ``Yeah, I guess Peppermint Patty likes candy'' test. But as it was the end of season, discipline had clearly broken down as the shop in this photo mostly has silly hats.

Trivia: In October 1772 the Royal Navy performed an experiment for Benjamin Franklin, pouring oil on the water from a longboat at Portsmouth. Observers agreed this did appear to diminish the waves around the vessel. Source: The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, H W Brands.

Currently Reading: Sabrina The Teenage Witch: Complete Collection, Volume 1, Editor Victor Gorelick.

I'll poke back in to Michigan's Adventure right after pointing out what you've overlooked from my humor blog the past week. RSS feed mention et cetera.


Outer bunny worried she'll come out looking silly when I finally caption this.


Panoramic image of the main bulk of Michigan's Adventure as seen from the station of the Zach's Zoomer roller coaster, one of the park's three wooden coasters.


Space tearing open and letting untold terrors break through and fall into the lagoon at Michigan's Adventure.


Panoramic view of Michigan's Adventure around the lagoon, which Cedar Fair built for the park. The roller coaster on the left, Thunderhawk, was moved from Geauga Lake outside Cleveland when Cedar Fair closed that. The wooden coaster to its right is Wolverine Wildcat, a near-clone of Knoebel's Phoenix, which is one of the all-time greatest roller coasters. (Wolverine Wildcat is braked a little too much to be all-time great.)


View of marshy lands and, in the distance, Shivering Timbers, the main (mile-long) wooden roller coaster. This is as seen from the train ride that's the only way to get along the west side of the lagoon; the park is otherwise arranged as a big C shape, and you can't walk a loop around the rides

Trivia: Railroad charters in 19th Century Maine commonly included the explicit purpose of being ``for the protection of the Northeastern frontier''. Source: The Story Of American Railroads, Stuart H Holbrook.

Currently Reading: Sabrina The Teenage Witch: Complete Collection, Volume 1, Editor Victor Gorelick. I'm not actually sure this is the best person to credit the compilation for, but there's a lot of credit given on the early pages and I'm not sure who actually masterminded the project.

PS: Why Stuff Can Orbit, Part 13: To Close A Loop, another piece of my orbital-mechanics puzzle.

My mathematics blog had what counts as a sleepy week, because I am getting ready for a new A To Z project (featuring art by [personal profile] thomaskdye, who's open for commissions) and I need to gather my strength for it. But freshly published there anyway the past week have been:

Also, you know what's going on in Alley Oop? Would you believe it still involves the mind-control ray gun? Now you do. With that content aggregated let's get back to Michigan's Adventure and closing day of last year.


A barrel of fun at Michigan's Adventure's petting zoo!


That llama posing for the cover to his acoustic album.


Talks between [profile] bunny_hugger and a pen full of ducks and fluffy chickens continued into the night.


Actually, [profile] bunny_hugger and the goat parted on good terms and would be happy to help each other with projects should some deserving cause present itself.


Bunny sinking beneath the waves of bunniness in a pile of bunnies in bunny bunny bun rabbit bunny floof twitch nosewiggle.

Trivia: Joel Schumaker wrote the screenplay adapting The Wiz to the movies. Source: A Brief Guide To Oz: 75 Years Going Over The Rainbow, Paul Simpson.

Currently Reading: The Story Of Story Book Land Tina Skinner.

What's there to show for another week of progress humor blogging and comic-strip explaining? The chance to tell you all about this:

Next, finally: my pictures from the closing day of Michigan Adventure's season last year, in early September, which is how far behind I'm running. Maybe I should pick up the pace some.


Michigan Adventure's Mad Mouse roller coaster on a much more normal day, although at a pretty nice angle that makes it look as though it has a steep drop off the lift hill. (The ride is nearly horizontal at that point. The fun of a Mad Mouse ride is lots of sharp turns.)


The front entrance of Michigan's Adventure as seen on its closing day for 2016. Cedar Point's front entrance got a major --- and fantastic --- renovation a few years ago when the GateKeeper roller coaster was put in, and we got to wondering if and when Michigan's Adventure would get a similar modification.


And this is why an update to the entrance seemed likely: detail of the Snoopy figure on the Michigan's Adventure sign. That, must say, doesn't really look good. We somehow haven't been to the park yet this season so can't say if it's been replaced or repainted.


And then to reinforce the thought of maybe new signs being a good idea: detail of the sign showing the same sort of wear and minor rust damage.


The eternal frustration. Michigan's Adventure had put in a coffee stand, but we never saw it open all 2016. Peeking inside we could see the evidence of a stand maybe being in working order, but it was never a spot we could get coffee or any other hot drinks.

Trivia: When James A Pollack, of the Viking 1 imaging team, told a press conference on the 21st of July, 1976, that the Martian sky was pink and the wrongly-color-corrected images of the previous day were misleading, he got (friendly) boos and hisses. Source: On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet 1958 - 1978, Edward Clinton Ezell, Linda Neuman Ezell. NASA SP-4212.

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

PS: Why Stuff Can Orbit, Part 12: How Fast Is An Orbit? and a scary bit of mathematics we dub approximations.

Meanwhile how's my mathematics blog doing? If you don't have it on your Reading page? It's been busy with stuff like this:

And for the sake of symmetry: What's Going On In Gil Thorp? April - July 2017. Curiously, it's not that much, but it's complicated to summarize. Now some more of the incredibly busy day at Michigan's Adventure. Warning: bunnies!


The Funland Farm petting zoo bunnies want you to know they're under the table because they have had enough pettings for right now, thank you. When we first saw the animals early in the year we worried about how their rabbits didn't have somewhere to get away from people and sun, but they'd improved things some. The Flemish Giant on the right made us think of our Stephen, of course, and how poorly he was getting around and how maybe he'd be better off with fellow rabbits as companions.


``Can I help you?'' Goat at Funland Farm in Michigan's Adventure sizing me up to see if I have any food. I did not.


Operational mishap on a busy day. Stuff from the Chance (fiberglass) carousel at Michigan's Adventure, with something having gone and spilled an operations report sheet and booklet and somebody's pop.


So yeah, this is how busy it was: the ride queue for Shivering Timbers spilled out into the main walkway. The line was not that long in duration, as the various switchbacks inside the queue area weren't set up to hold people, and in fact the wait time was something like twenty minutes. But still, I'd never imagined the park could get that crowded. And yet here we were.


Further signs of how crowded it was: the queue for Sea Dragon, the swinging ship ride. I mean, wow.

Trivia: In 1971 TRW estimated that the use of data buses, instead of conventional avionic wire bundles with a separate wire for each signal or function, for the space shuttle orbiter would save 2500 pounds of weight and 500 watts of power requirement. Source: Development of the Space Shuttle 1972 - 1981, T A Heppenheimer.

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

What's kept my humor blog going the past week, besides some recycled material and a string of silly apologies for not posting my monthly statistics roundup? Pretty much that. Here's what you've been missing out on:

Last summer during the slow periods, and it's amazing to think we had slow periods, we popped over to the Blind Squirrel tavern to put in some game scores. To make the trip less obviously a ploy for pinball ratings points, we also stopped in at Michigan's Adventure on what proved to be the busiest day we had ever seen there, ever. Let's watch.


An not-at-Michigan's-Adventure picture and one from my iPod Touch since I had that on me: the former location of Emil's and a bunch of other buildings dating back to the 1920s, cleared out and obliterated and levelled to the sidewalk. They've since put up most of the replacement building here; this is what it looked like when it looked like after you hit 'bulldoze' on SimCity.


The most crowded and busy day at Michigan's Adventure that we had ever seen. In the center top you can see a little yellow angular thing; that's the Mad Mouse ride, and that was historically as far back as [profile] bunny_hugger ever needed to park. The entrance to the park isn't even visible from here, which is wild.


Shivering Timbers, Michigan's Adventure's big wooden roller coaster --- more than a mile long --- well out along its path, about where we had parked. The surrounding areas are strikingly unurbanized and, you see, marshy.


Michigan's Adventure began life in 1956 as Deer Park, a petting zoo. The petting zoo side fell away over the decades as rides came in, and the name turned to Deer Park Funland before being finally abolished in the 1980s. For the park's 60th year they put in a new petting zoo, named Funland Farm. People can come up and see animals and braid their hair and put adorable little booties on their hooves.


``Can I help you?'' From the Funland Farm petting zoo in Michigan's Adventure and if this picture doesn't make you fall in love I don't know what will.

Trivia: ENIAC cost $650 per hour in electricity when it was not running. Source: Eniac, Scott McCartney.

Currently Reading: Sky Island, L Frank Baum.

Michigan's Adventure just barely qualifies as a theme park. It has one themed section, a couple of rides and food stands and shops that have a Western motif going. We would get a quick little something to tide us over at the Wagon Wheel stand. As you would expect from that name and its being in the Western-themed section of the park, it's a pizza place. We assume there's a history there. It was late in the day, the last day of the season. The pizza slices were hardened, solid pizza-inspired lumps of matter. The breadsticks held up better. They closed the stand shortly after we went to it, so we closed out the Wagon Wheel pizza shop. We would have been better off getting a bag of kettle corn while that was open, but it closed for business before we expected.

We did not quite close out Shivering Timbers. We were the penultimate train ride of the season, though. It's a great ride, my favorite at the park, a classing long out-and-back ride with wonderful long drops. It's often our last ride of a day, and has been our last ride of the season several times. If we should ride anything after the park's close it's this.

Since the park closed early, maybe 7 pm, we figured to stop in at the Blind Squirrel tavern again and get in a few more games. And here something strange happened. The satellite navigator got weird. This happens sometimes, where the gadget thinks we're in the next very-closeby street over, or thinks we're a few feet off road. But this was really bad. The more I drove, trying my best to retract the path through very small, minor roads in remote-to-us Michigan, which we had seen maybe two times before, the worse it got. The satellite navigator's map turned into almost total gibberish, suggesting that we were going through the middle of a lake that wasn't even adjacent to the street we were on.

I got frightened. Not so much about getting lost, since I figured I couldn't get too lost. Drive far enough in any direction and I'd hit a Great Lake or Ohio, and I'd know what to do from there. Well, I'd hit one of a couple Interstates or US Routes anyway.

What got me was this: we don't have smart phones. While Michigan's Adventure might have Wi-Fi somewhere we didn't bring our iPods in. We knew nothing of what might be going on in the world. And the second Sunday of September was the 11th. What if something major and catastrophic had gone on, something that compelled the downgrading of GPS data while it was sorted out? This was a ridiculous fear, yes. But what information did I have to refute it? A momentary glitch ought to clear up, in time. Why was this not clearing up?

I turned the thing off and on again. This didn't help. I turned it off and let it sit off a while, and then turned on again. And this time it fiddled around a while and then, finally, snapped into place. We got to the Blind Squirrel tavern without any further problem and, of course, nothing was going on in the world that needed our attention.

So we got a little more playing time in. And more than that. The bar had 8:00 as its scheduled closing time, but nobody seemed interested in kicking anyone out when the time came. I suspect 8:00 is the nominal closing Sunday hour but they actually stay open until after whatever football games are on have wrapped up. That seems to make more sense for a bar to me anyway. We put in a couple further games and drove home well before the game ended, whatever that was.

Trivia: Yu-Hai's encyclopedia, published in China in 1748, had 240 volumes. Source: Know-It-All, A J Jacobs.

Currently Reading: The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Principal, not the financial-mathematics meaning.

The inevitable thing last visit to any amusement park for the season is to wonder what's not going to be here next season? What's going to be ripped out in favor of the new? And on looking over Michigan's Adventure that final time ... we're not really sure what. There don't seem to be any rides being allowed to decline into that senescence of neglect that signals removal plans. There is an obvious avenue for the park to expand; it's laid out in a C shape around the central lagoon, just a little short of being a complete loop around. But it's been like that forever, and as sensible as it would be to complete the loop the park doesn't show any interest in doing so. Given that the park's attendance seems to be rising still, and people don't seem to be getting bored with it, it seems like management can safely wait another year without a major capital investment.

There might be minor ones, though. We looked, really looked, at the park's entrance gate and signs. Snoopy and the park's logo are getting a bit faded and pretty rusty. We never paid attention in previous seasons, though, so don't have reason to guess whether that's just the way it's always been or whether they might be renovating the early-2000s main gate.

We'd aim to get to all the roller coasters, naturally. Love them all. Well, apart from Thunderhawk. That's the Vekoma big loopy coaster, near twin to the one at Kentucky Kingdom. It's a fair enough ride, although it's got a severely head-bangy restraint system. And when we did venture over to it --- it's at the far end of the park, with only a few other non-water-park rides, a perfect nucleus for later development that hasn't been needed yet --- we found it was closed. This wasn't the first time this season that Thunderhawk was closed either. I would think we must have ridden it at some point this summer but I know it wasn't the first day we went (it was inexplicably closed) nor the last day we went. There were just little packs of people coming up and chatting with the park employee standing guard over the 'This Ride Is Currently Closed' sign.

We did take a ride on the miniature railroad, the one that goes from one tip of the C to the other, and that wanders deep in the marshy, swampy lands the park hasn't yet built anything on. It's a nice and scenic view. And it gave us a good view of the pumpkin patch. Just as last year, they've got this region near Shivering Timbers --- the big, mile-long wooden roller coaster --- that's growing pumpkins. Why? We don't know. Michigan's Adventure does nothing for Halloween; the park isn't even open. Its sister parks are hundreds of miles away, and you'd think they could get maybe a couple hundred pumpkins from somewhere closer at hand. Or grow them on site, for that matter. Why does Cedar Fair need a twenty-by-twenty grove of pumpkins? For a second year in a row? A mystery. I almost dread learning the answer.

Trivia: Mercator's 1538 map gave the prefixes ``North'' and ``South'' to what had been just the large continent of America. Source: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore.

PS: How November 2016 Treated My Mathematics Blog, which is, it ignored the blog more than I quite wanted.

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 [ 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.

We went back to Fremont the weekend or so after that. This was for the finals, both of the monthly tournament and for the league. It wasn't a big crowd, maybe ten people there, but that still crowded the Blind Squirrel League's alcove for this stuff. Showing up were mostly the higher-seeded people, [ profile] bunny_hugger and I included, and people with real or plausible bids for the state finals. It turns out this was more than just the large number of casual people who play a game but aren't really interested in playing not turning out. AJH sets up an 'A' and a 'B' division, with separate playoff nights, to avoid overcrowding. I also imagine it avoids interlopers like me, who wouldn't show up for league nights but would swoop in for finals, getting stabbed in the kidneys by someone bumped down to ninth place merely because I poked in and put in a game on Taxi that nobody else saw.

There were two rounds of finals to do, with not precisely the same people in them. AJH, organizing this all with his curious genius, set things up so any pair or group of people who were free to play a meaningful game did. This would save considerable time, at the cost of my having no idea who I might play next or what I was playing for. I got to feeling like I was in some strange existentialist joke. Why am I there? What am I doing? Why? I don't know, someone just tells me to play a game of Road Show and I do. Is it fun? I'll know when I'm done.

The joke would get better for the September and October tournaments when I looked at the numbers and realized that I was sure to get into the state finals. This doesn't mean I stopped playing, or stopped trying to play my best, and I'll still be going out to Fremont sometime in December for monthly and league games at least. But all I could do by the next round of playoffs is affect whether in the first round of state finals I lose to CST, to SMS, or to RLM. I don't have a preference there.

Well, I'd put in mediocre performances for August anyway, getting 6th in the monthly and 7th in the league finals. [ profile] bunny_hugger would take 3rd in the monthly and 5th in the league finals, netting her an awesome fourteen-plus points for state rankings. She'd officially leapt into the running for the top 16 in the state.

Somehow everything got wrapped up by a reasonable hour, maybe 5 pm or so. With not much else to do we drove west, to Michigan's Adventure. This time we could better appreciate the scenery in a really remote area. It let us find, for example, a Boy Scout campground that was a century-plus old. And a summer camp [ profile] bunny_hugger's brother had attended as a teen.

Though it was a Sunday in August Michigan's Adventure was this time not insanely packed. This is because it was also getting on to evening. While the park would stay open another several hours, families were getting out of the water park and going home instead of joining lines. We got to enjoy the small but cozy park and to ride pretty much anything we wanted. We missed the petting zoo, which closed earlier than anything else at the park, but otherwise, it was just what we might hope for. A solid amusement park that might as well have been waiting on us, apart from the coffee stand somehow still not being open.

Well, now we had a new understanding of how to arrange Blind Squirrel events. Take a summer day, go put in pinball scores, and then enjoy the evening at the amusement park. Get home in time to feed our pet rabbit. Good scheme, isn't it all?

Trivia: Through the Revolutionary War the Board of Proprietors of East New Jersey --- owners of what would otherwise have been public land --- could not meet as all their property records were kept in British-occupied New York City. (Many of its members were, too.) Source: New Jersey From Colony To State, 1609 - 1789, Richard P McCormick.

Currently Reading: Michigan: A History, Bruce Catton.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Local, one of those handy words to have around.

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 [ 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.

It's been an exciting week on my humor blog, with posts mostly based on actual stuff I really saw or did. Plus I introduced a daily index, which is sure to be popular. Everyone likes daily indices. You can have this appear on your Friends Page, if you like, or your RSS feed, if you rather. Meanwhile here's what's run over there the past week:

Now that it's more than a week after closing weekend of Michigan's Adventure amusement park, how about some pictures from the opening weekend of Michigan's Adventure amusement park? Here's a set of photos of their major new shop and attraction for 2016.


New stand at Michigan's Adventure this year: Coffee Corner! The spot to get coffee, tea, cappuccino, hot chocolate, a muffin, a fruit cup ... all in theory. In four visits we never caught the place actually open and with an employee there, although we'd see the curtain off sometimes. And once, once as we were heading out, we saw what looked like a guy buying coffee there. There's an explanation for this and we don't know what it is.


The new major attraction at Michigan's Adventure this year was the petting zoo. The park started, sixty years ago, as a petting zoo and they brought it back to a small section near the wild mouse. Here, a silky chicken is not being licked by a tiny goat.


Aw, an alpaca wearing a lovely woolen sweater made of her own wool! Well, I suppose it's just fresh-sheared, but it looked grand anyway.


``Yes? Have you been helped?''


One of the set of Chill Bunnies at the center of the petting zoo area. Opening weekend they didn't have a table to hide from kids under, which left them a bit less Chill. Also this one had some weird protuberance on the nose which didn't seem to bother it. It just had a little extra nose.


Chill Flemish Giant from the petting zoo. Though she resembles our pet rabbit she's much larger, something like fourteen pounds (ours was never more than twelve pounds while healthy or thirteen pounds while fat), and she moved with ease that reminded us how long it'd been since our pet rabbit moved that easily. Here, she's licking.


Not a petting zoo animal! But we officially have another entry in the ``Amusement Parks With Chipmunk Sightings''. It was near the petting zoo, possibly trying to figure out what all this was about.

Trivia: Milton Hershey never attempted to produce cocoa instead of buying it through suppliers. (He got, or tried to get, control over all the other key components to milk chocolate.) Source: Hershey: Milton S Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Michael D'Antonio.

Currently Reading: Big Dish: Building America's Deep Space Connection To the Planets, Douglas J Mudgway.

Since Michigan's Adventure was so un-packed we could use time going to stuff we never visit. The Loggers Run toboggan ride, for example. This is an old-style, 1980s-vintage log flume ride, the sort that's about bringing you up to a height of like fifty feet and then dropping you. It's a peaceful ride --- it's surprising how peaceful you can be, considering the flume is in the middle of the park and Michigan's Adventure hasn't got the tall or dense network of trees that would make the place more silent. (The park was hit by the May 1998 tornado-and-derecho, and the trees still haven't fully recovered.) The ride dates back to before Michigan's Adventure needed line queues. One's been retrofitted against the fencing, but it still looks like a hack. In midsummer, the queue is needed. Labor Day, it was wildly unnecessary.

We also went to the miniature golf course. Every time [ profile] bunny_hugger and I have visited the park since 2009 we've remarked how we should play there sometime. Why not this time? We had the course to ourselves, the first time we can remember that ever happening anywhere we'd been playing. And again, even though the miniature golf course is just a tiny bit removed from the main path of the park, it was surprisingly quiet. We could see much of the park from novel angles. Also we could play surprisingly lousy miniature golf. I had to wonder if we've gotten over-trained to the course at Kokomo's in Saginaw, and were just no good at other layouts.

The miniature golf course is on the edge of the lagoon. Once long ago, a then-friend of [ profile] bunny_hugger's (not her starter husband) actually pitched his ball into the lagoon, but recovered it. They've put up fencing since then that makes that little problem impossible. It's sad to lose the possibility, though.

Prowling around let us find some surprises, such as a signup sheet for a trip to Cedar Point. It'd be a long one, too, leaving Michigan's Adventure at 6:30 am, spending the day at Cedar Point, and then leaving Cedar Point at 11 pm to return to their home park at 5 am the next day. It's hard to imagine what that would feel like although not having to drive would seem sweet. On the other hand they'd be leaving an hour before the park closes.

We also got a good view of the Daily Operational Report being filled out for the Chance Carousel. It records more or less what you'd expect: ridership, alternate access, Fast Lane access, cycles, that sort of thing. The carousel was logged with from 50 to 90 people per hour the whole day. No alternate-access or Fast Lane access. (Well, there's not a Fast Lane entrance to the carousel. And the alternate access to the carousel platform is the same as regular access, although maybe slower.)

We had a fine surprise on Zach's Zoomer, the wooden junior roller coaster. Because it's a junior wooden roller coaster it's just too small for two adults my and [ profile] bunny_hugger's size to fit in. But park management has an instinctive aversion to rides you can slide left-to-right in. (That's not a quirk unique to Cedar Fair management --- you'll see warnings about ``no single riders'' in many parks, especially on older rides --- but they have got a heavy case of it.) Earlier this summer they'd put in a vertical loop and required not just that riders put on a seat belt, but that the seat belt go under the vertical loop. Besides making the ride less fun, this also made loading people onto the ride incredibly slower. Seat belts are already slow things because they're surprisingly hard to find and to snap tight. But a seat belt that has to go over the rider and under a loop? That's powerfully slow even before you remember that most of the time kids are supposed to do this.

But in defiance of the expectation that stuff is just getting worse, stuff got better. The vertical loops were removed this time, with no sign they'd ever been around. The ride loaded rather quicker and yes, it is more fun when you slide a little bit side-to-side. So there's some good stuff developing yet. The steel looping roller coaster, Thunderhawk, also seemed to be less head-banging than usual this time.

We'd take our last ride from Michigan's Adventure on a traditional one for us, Shivering Timbers. This is their big wooden roller coaster, the one that's over a mile long and that parallels the entrance and the parking lot. We just missed the final ride of the night, but had a good, back-seat ride to enjoy.

Trivia: In 1971, ahead of the containerized cargo port's open, the Port of Singapore Authority estimated that it would handle 190,000 containers in 1982. In fact it handled over a million boxes, and was the world's sixth-largest container port. Source: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, Marc Levinson.

Currently Reading: The Laser in America, 1950 - 1970, Joan Lisa Bromberg.

Our previous visit to Michigan's Adventure had been packed, the result of going on a hot late-July day with [ profile] bunny_hugger's brother and his girlfriend on one of the summer's few really hot, water-park-worthy days. This was different. This was Labor Day, and I believe the day after the water park closed for the season. The remaining amusement park is a fine spot, mind you, but is also perhaps the biggest low-key park you could get.

We spent some time thinking of a common morbid late-season amusement park thing: is there anything we really should get a photograph of because it's going to be gone next season? We'd heard no hints of any projects, major or minor, coming to Michigan's Adventure. The park is still absorbing the steel roller coaster it got from the now-closed Geauga Lake park nearly a decade ago. Still, next year is the park's 60th.

It's had some small changes, like opening a beer garden, and taking out the adult-sized go-kart track, in the past couple years but nothing big. We just didn't spot anything that had that already-been-doomed air. We did take some pictures of some of the children's rides, little airplane rides or the drummer-boy spinning-cup ride. They don't seem to be obviously in peril, but they are the sorts of things nobody pays attention to until you realize they are gone. Also some of those rides are probably among the park's oldest, although it's hard to be sure.

The park was already winding up for the summer. There'd be one more operating weekend, which we would have to miss. They were already out of the season's special souvenir cups, which we never buy anyway. They also had none of the Boardwalk Fries shops open, as far as we could tell. We would go to the Coasters restaurant, the only indoors restaurant and a place that clearly used to be a Johnny Rockets, for milkshakes that took surprisingly long to get. This did reveal to us they had vegetarian burgers there now. Could be useful information.

It would've been useful that day: we had figured on driving back we could eat in Grand Rapids, at the restaurant that has a couple pinball machines there. They were closed. The bar where the Grand Rapids pinball league runs was open, but they don't serve food. We tried finding somewhere nearby but a surprising amount of Grand Rapids was closed for Labor Day. I suggested we take the first Denny's we saw, driving home, since we had missed going to any on amusement park tours all summer. We didn't see one. ([ profile] bunny_hugger saw a Bob Evans, which would have been at least as good, but she mistook me as determined to eat at Denny's and didn't mention.) We ended up getting sandwiches at a Meijer's halfway between Grand Rapids and home and being irritated by the food problems.

If we'd had reason to suspect any of that, we'd have eaten there. But there wasn't anything to give us reason to suspect that. We enjoyed the day instead, observing things like how the pumpkin patch near the Shivering Timbers roller coaster had grown and wondering what they were doing with those.

Also we ran into another American Coaster Enthusiast member. He didn't explicitly introduce himself as such. But he was wearing a fanny pack and a T-shirt from a water park nowhere near Michigan, so, he was explicitly introducing himself as such. We passed him a couple of times and actually chatted with him near the end of the night, on line for Shivering Timbers. We'd announced ourselves as coaster enthusiasts to him by my wearing, I believe, the Leap The Dips T-shirt from Lakemont Park (the oldest roller coaster still running) and Roar-o-Saurus from Story Book Land. We didn't actually start out speaking to him; instead, he was talking about some ride or other to another group of people, and we melted into that conversation somehow. We were all generally in favor of amusement parks.

Trivia: Magician Horace Goldin (1867 - 1939) popularized the illusion of sawing a woman in half. By 1921 he operated a half a dozen road companies specializing in the act. He would develop a version in which the woman's torso was visible to the audience, and the cutting done by a buzz saw. He would have an ambulance parked outside the theater with the sign, ``In Case The Saw Slips''. Source: The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, Anthony Slide.

Currently Reading: The Laser in America, 1950 - 1970, Joan Lisa Bromberg.

PS: Why Was Someone Upset With Ramsey Theory In 1979?, me wondering about an old and faint childhood memory that recent reading brought back up.

That's enough time spent talking about things that are suddenly gone. Let me get back to the heart of my Livejournal: amusement park trips. As August wound down we reflected on the horrible fact we hadn't been to Cedar Point yet at all this summer. We had figured to, in July, but that was diverted to Michigan's Adventure by the arrival of [ profile] bunny_hugger's brother and his girlfriend, who wanted to go there instead. And now school was starting, eating up weekdays that are so good for park-visiting. And weekends are a mess. But there was Labor Day, probably the best day available before the end of the season.

Except then we discovered that Cedar Point was holding a ``Roller Coaster Appreciation Night''. This would be a Friday night, a scrap of time left over before a weekend the park was bought out for some private affair (!), where nothing but their roller coasters would be running, and where they'd unveil stuff about the roller coaster they're building next year. Could we do day trips to Sandusky on Monday and Friday in one week? ... Maybe. But that is getting to be a lot of driving.

Also, then, when would we make our last trip to Michican's Adventure for the year? We'd had a tradition of going their closing day, which would be two days after Roller Coaster Appreciation Night. But that day we'd have to miss anyway. We had plans to go to a concert with [ profile] bunny_hugger's parents that day. And if we hadn't had those plans, or if we were cads enough to cancel, there was a pinball tournament in Ann Arbor that we might have gone to, and made a little more secure our state rankings.

So that's the chain of reasoning that took us to Michigan's Adventure for Labor Day. And to look forward to our season's first visit to Cedar Point being an early-September day. We figured Michigan's Adventure would be soothingly low-key, and give us a chance to stop off for some pinball afterwards. We figured Cedar Point to be a novel day. We were not exactly wrong in any of this.

Trivia: It is not known when New Jersey's Richard Stockton --- the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to recant his signing --- affixed his name to it. Source: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence, Denise Kiernan, Joseph D'Agnese.

Currently Reading: The Laser in America, 1950 - 1970, Joan Lisa Bromberg.

[ profile] bunny_hugger's brother and his girlfriend hoped to see Michigan's Adventure. She hadn't ever been to the amusement park; he hadn't been in years. We were up for going to any park with them, naturally, although it happens this did preempt a visit we'd been planning to make to Cedar Point. (Somewhat frustratingly we haven't got to Cedar Point yet this season and don't think that isn't causing us all kinds of anxiety.) Since they were coming from [ profile] bunny_hugger's parents' place we took separate cars, trusting that we could coordinate meeting at some reasonable hour, and we didn't. We ran a little late; they ran very late.

Michigan's Adventure was busy. Busier, literally, than I have ever seen it. It was in the top-five busiest days that [ profile] bunny_hugger had ever seen there. I had no idea there could be so many people in the park. And they weren't all in the water park, the part that I had figured would save us when we saw the parking lot was nearly ... well, nearly one-third full. They have way more parking than they need. Still, there were waits of over a half-hour for their roller coasters and I've never imagined that for them. Thus did that gift shop manager's comments, at the end of June, come back to my mind. It would also serve as an evil portent for the future, since we had scheduled a New England Amusement Parks tour scheduled, necessarily, for early August. This is traditionally the busiest time for parks and while I'd been trying to hold up my chin and say that it won't be that bad, it's hard to insist on that when there's mobs waiting for the Corkscrew, a roller coaster Michigan's Adventure put in during the Carter administration. Nothing to do but bear it and hope, though.

[ profile] bunny_hugger's brother and his girlfriend mostly wanted to go to the water park, WildWater Adventure. This would be my first time at the Michigan's Adventure water park; we don't tend to go to parks to soak. There's some quite nice stuff in the water park, though. There's several wave pools so we could go to one slightly less packed. We also rode a couple of the diving raft rides, the ones that make you roll a circular inflatable raft up a lot of hill.

Most fun, I think, was the lazy river, though. The lazy river used to support a shortcut, too, a rapids; that's closed now, though. But the ordinary path is nice and long and drifty and I was able a couple times to catch [ profile] bunny_hugger's toes with my own. Apparently I have more dextrous toes than the average. Coati thing, you know how it is. All the while along the lazy river path are speakers playing songs that are kind of summer- or beach-themed, mostly, although there are fewer of those suitable for the purpose than you might imagine. I realized along the way that the man people hired as lifeguards have to come away from their job hating the Beach Boys. That seems like a lot to lose for a summer job, even if it's one you basically like.

The water park closed at 7 pm and we weren't sure if that meant the lockers would be closed off at that hour and leave us trapped in bathing suits. So we hauled stuff into our bags to go to the Grand Rapids ride, a whitewater rafting ride in the normal part of the park that we never go on because it's way too wet. The ride took us a bit past 7 pm, and we learned that the water park lockers would've been available anyway. Useful to know for future reference, anyway.

So, dry and dressed again, we went to a couple of the other rides. [ profile] bunny_hugger's brother and girlfriend weren't interested in going on Shivering Timbers, the mile-long wooden roller coaster, their loss. We got on the next-to-the-last run of that for the night, always a privilege. And saw the pumpkin patch there was still growing respectably.

After the park closed we drove back to Grand Rapids, which is along the way. This gave us the chance to eat at Stella's, the hipster bar with a mere four pinball machines, one of them FunHouse. While [ profile] bunny_hugger put up a great game of that, it was not while her brother was watching. He and his girlfriend ducked out to get back home. We were in a bit less of a hurry.

Trivia: After the suicide of Florida confederate overnor John Milton (either the evening of the 31st of March or the morning of the 1st of April, 1865) friends spread the story he had died of a stroke; rumors spread the had hidden in a railroad car marked ``meat'' sent north to find Jefferson Davis and the remains of the confederate government. Source: Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America, William C Davis.

Currently Reading: Austerity Britain, 1945 - 1951, David Kynaston.


Michigan's Adventure is built around an (artificial) lake. The lake's got swan boats, naturally. It also has swans, one of whom was hanging around for the food people were tossing in. And fish, too, who were hanging around for the same reason. And on top of that was a swift, darting back and forth, apparently coincidental to all the swan/fish food. Here I manage to get a shot of it. It's in the spotlight.


Pumpkins, seen from the miniature railroad. Why is an amusement park that closes for the season at Labor Day growing pumpkins? For sister parks that have Halloween events? But how could growing a couple pumpkins in Muskegon and shipping them to Sandusky, Ohio, or to Cincinnati possibly be easier than buying a couple at Meijer's?


We wandered into an area of the park we don't often visit, behind the Thunderhawk roller coaster and towards some access roads. Among the discoveries was this named bench which we don't remember having seen before.


The park is basically built as a C shape around the artificial lake. Everyone who visits the park wonders when the gap between one end and the other will be filled in. But then this is a view from one of the railroad stations, looking across the undeveloped marshes at the Shivering Timbers roller coaster. Put this way, it's hard to want the gap filled in.

And now my mathematics blog roundup for the past week! If you've added it to your friends page you've seen this, if you read your friends page, if you can find your friends page anymore. Or maybe you put it on your RSS feed if you have an RSS reader anymore. If not, then, the past week has included:

Trivia: Philip K Sweet, a circa-1900 private detective at 1133 Broadway, New York City, made a specialty of tracking down writing-machine thieves. Source: Source: The Wonderful Writing Machine, Bruce Bliven Jr. And why isn't ``Philip K Sweet, typewriter detective'' a pulp series?

Currently Reading: Discord: The Story Of Noise, Mike Goldsmith.

Friday morning! Here's pictures from the Muskegon lighthouse and then one from Michigan's Adventure for completeness. P1300675

The Muskegon Pier Lighthouse, viewed from the approach and the Coast Guard station that replaced the lighthouse keeper's house. In the background, the Muskegon Breakwater Lighthouse.


Us, at the top of the Pier Lighthouse. I manage for a change to open my eyes enough not to look like I'm asleep, which is why I look like a madman instead. Sorry


Panoramic view back to the Muskegon shoreline from the top of the Pier Lighthouse. (Looking out onto the Great Lakes was just water, and since it was near noon there wasn't any interesting sunlight. Sorry.)


At Michigan's Adventure [ profile] bunny_hugger pals around with Snoopy. She'd explained that she preferred Snoopy because Lucy is ``too mean''.

And then let's look over my humor blog from the past week, in case you haven't read it already. Run since last Friday have been:

Trivia: Erasmus Darwin estimated his income for 1757 (when he was 26) at £192; for 1758, £305; for 1759, £460; and for 1760, £544. Source: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made The Future, Jenny Uglow.

Currently Reading: Out Of The Shadow: The Story of Charles Edison, A Biography, John D Venable.

And some pictures of Michigan's Adventure, from its last day on the 2014 season. After this, I'll go back to not posting more than maybe two pictures in a year, so you're all safe again.


Michigan's Adventure as seen from the large (artificial) lake at its center. Two of its wooden coasters blend together on the left side of the far shore; Corkscrew, its first coaster, is on the right shore.


From the station for Thunderhawk, a view of Wolverine Wildcat (mid-distance) and Shivering Timbers (far distance). This is, remarkably, the undeveloped region of the park.


Shivering Timbers staff putting the roller coaster to bed after its last run of the season, which we were on.

Now, it's been a while since I did a roundup of mathematics posts. And I've been doing a three-a-week mathematics A-To-Z thing alongside comics-readings and other stuff. The result is that if you haven't been reading mathematics entries on your friends page or on your RSS feed or as they come in each day you've missed an enormous pile of mathematics content. Among the essays:

I told you so.

Trivia: The use of the word ``engineer'' to mean ``a person who operates an engine'' dates to about a century after it came to mean ``a person who designs or invents''. Source: To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: Where The Evil Dwells, Clifford Simak.

We didn't get to Michigan's Adventure much this season, even though it's just two hours away and so the closest amusement park. We got there for opening weekend, and again for its closing day. The park's closing day came a weekend after the water park closed, so that crowds were extremely light, the kind [ profile] bunny_hugger remembers of the park when she started visiting in the early 2000s. The park is always kind of laid-back with short ride queues and the like, but without the water park population it was even moreso. Never mind there not being substantial waits for any of the roller coasters, even the Mad Mouse (we were able to be among the first group of riders after it was closed for something or other), there weren't even slight waits for anything but the flying scooters.

We did take the time to do a few things we never get around to, such as a swan boat tour of the central lake. This doesn't get us quite as close to Thunderhawk, a waterfront roller coaster, as I'd imaged. I think the roller coaster despite the way it looks when you're on it doesn't actually get above water. We also spotted a couple actual swans looking off vaguely annoyed at people imitating them. The conversation between the ride operator and her replacement also confirmed the park was hoping very much to get everybody out by about ten minutes after 6:00, the closing hour, which would be reasonable for the light crowd.

(Michigan's Adventure lacks midway lights, which is why it closes early and doesn't have any Halloween events even though Halloween events are money mills and the park is really very well-designed for families. If we'd gone a week earlier we might have caught a twilight ride, when the park closed at 8:00 or so, but for closing day they closed extra early.)

Though the park hasn't really got an organized ``old west'' area it has got an old-time photograph studio, and we went for the Old West desperados style picture. They've also got Civil War, Victorian Parlor, and Roaring Twenties outfits but the Old West felt most traditional for theme parks. And I got to wondering why they don't have backdrops where you can dress up to look like somebody at Coney Island or whatnot from the 1920s. I think there's untapped market potential there. Anyway, the guy dressed us up and handed me a rifle and [ profile] bunny_hugger a pistol and we took a couple shots in front of the bar backdrop. It might just be that I was ready for a haircut and beard-trimming but it turns out if I'm dressed right and stare at the camera I can look pretty impressively scary-criminal. I think that's a good thing, right?

Naturally we got in rides on all the roller coasters, including the ongoing study of why Wolverine Wildcat is a somewhat disappointing ride when it's nearly a clone of Knoebels's Phoenix. I think the greater restraints on Wolverine Wildcat are important but now I also suspect that it runs slower than Phoenix. It's certainly a combination of things. [ profile] bunny_hugger and I also took for not much good reason a ride on the kiddie powered-coaster Big Dipper, which is about twelve feet long and sized for children half the size of a toy poodle, and which the park hides behind a complex of redemption games and past an angered minotaur. But, you know, we were there, it was a nice day, why not take in an extra ride?

For our last ride of the day we waited for a front-seat ride on Shivering Timbers, the park's big and really very good wooden roller coaster, a mile-plus long in total. Our timing was excellent: we got not just the front-seat ride but the front seat on the last train they were sending out for the day and thus, except for maintenance rides and whatever fun the park employees might have for one another, the last ride of it for the year.

Trivia: In 1934 IBM offered punched card stock for sale at the cost of $1.25 per ten thousand cards, provided the customer was willing to take delivery of at least one million cards within a year. Source: Before The Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand, and the Industry They Created, 1865 - 1956, James W Cortada.

Currently Reading: The Crying Of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon.

PS: How Richard Feynman Got From The Square Root of 2 to e, because I couldn't think of a way to get from there to there on my own. Fourth of these since the last roundup.