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

July 2017

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A bit over a year ago a new thing emerged in Grand Rapids: the pinball selfie league. The idea was you play qualifying games anytime during the month-long open time, taking pictures of your score (self not actually required) to prove in case there's some doubt. Then in the finals the score's used to seed your position for some kind of playoff. It's a lie to call this a league, really; it's more of a tournament with a long, open qualifying period. For a while these were popping up everywhere, quick ways to get International Flipper Pinball Association points, and we feared they'd drive out the real proper pinball leagues that meet at set times and put together groups of people to play one another.

Probably our fear was overblown: the one attempt at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum faded after a single month. The Grand Rapids one hung around a little while, although in ever-declining health. The owner of the bar where it ran was wary of letting it advertise, particularly, even though a poster on the six games of the month would probably have got at least some casual players in. [profile] bunny_hugger and I played a couple times, then withdrew lest we encourage selfie leagues at the cost of actual leagues. When that threat passed we started to play again, at least to put in scores, although it was iffy whether we'd attend the finals. Hurting here might be that the finals would be the first Monday of the month, nearly always two days before the first Wednesday of the month and the regular league's meeting, and it's a hassle getting out to Grand Rapids twice in a week.

So when the final Grand Rapids selfie league got announced we were kind of surprised, since we didn't realize that league runner ADM was so ready to give up on it, but also not surprised, since we'd passed the end of the month and heard nothing about what the new games would be. Finally he set the last Selfie Finals, for a Sunday. Counting ADM, five people showed up.

He recused himself, allowing us to make the tournament a five-game series of four players: me, [profile] bunny_hugger, MWS, and KEC. And somehow I was top seed in this: I'd get to pick two games for the set. I figured to try one that was treating me well in practice --- not always a wise procedure --- and put up a Creature from the Black Lagoon that beat everyone. Not crushed them: MWS had a decent rally going and I expected he was going to restart his multiball and beat me. But no, I got lucky.

MWS picked the second game, I think The Shadow, also turned out surprisingly well. That's a rough game, one prone to disastrous or outstanding scores, and this time I had that rare outstanding score.

The Pyramid Scheme, the bar where the Grand Rapids Pinball League takes place and the Selfie League took place, is across the street from another hipster bar named Stella's, and that place has two pinball games. One of them is FunHouse, always tantalizingly close but off-limits for league play. ADM gave [profile] bunny_hugger permission to step outside the Pyramid Scheme for her pick of the night. And so we did. Considering that FunHouse is a game that every competitive pinball player knows inside-out, and that three of the state's top 16 players were in this group of four, you would think at least one of us would have a blowout game. Not so. We all had mediocre games; I won by getting one jackpot in multiball and getting to eight million points, which ordinarily MWS could have crushed and [profile] bunny_hugger could fairly reliably beat. I was having an amazingly lucky string.

KEC's pick. She's got some favorite games, as do we all. Hers was The Walking Dead, a game [profile] bunny_hugger can always put up a decent twenty million points on. Not this day. Nobody has a really good game, but I have the best of the lot. Four wins out of five is better than I remember ever doing and [profile] bunny_hugger tells me that I've locked up first place for the tournament.

So we came around to my second pick and the last game and I chose something that's just fun, Batman 66. And I'm playing with that incredible ease that comes from knowing I don't have to do anything but enjoy it. I still crush it, though, getting one more first-place finish and completing my first-ever perfect night of anything, anywhere. I finish the last Grand Rapids Selfie League with a first-place finish, and only the second time I've finished anything in first place.

We searched out for dinner afterwards --- our sandwich place closes early Sundays --- and went to a different hipster bar than usual with ADM. The main point I remember discussing besides various bits of gossip is the bit of courtesy that says a man walks on the street-side of a sidewalk, sheltering the woman he's with, a bit of behavior [profile] bunny_hugger had never noticed I compulsively do. This has helped her understand why when we turn corners I will so often vanish behind her a bit to reappear out of her blind spot.

And so did this Grand Rapids Selfie League close its history.

Trivia: The English East India Company director's letter to its governors in India for October 1718 contains the note ``Enclosed we send you 2 declarations of war with Spain'' at the top of the 44th paragraph. This comes after a lengthy protest of the drinks bill for the public table at Fort St George. (``If you must have liquors at such prices [ 9 Pagodas, about 30 rupees, a dozen for Burton ale ], pray gratify your pallats at your own, not our, expence''. Source: The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company, John Keay. Not answered in the text: two declarations of war? I'm not sure if they just mean two copies of the declaration?

Currently Reading: Introvert Doodles, Maureen 'Marzi' Wilson. So, anyone else tired of Introvert Pride as an Internet talking-point?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome

Jun. 2nd, 2017 12:10 am
austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (Default)

I'd spent the weekend at AnthrOhio while stuff about Motor City Fur[ry] Con went along here, so that's part of why my humor blog had a low-key week. If it's not on your friends feed or on your RSS feed then this is what you've missed:

And now ... something I thought might never happen. This is the last of my Pinburgh picture selection. I hope you enjoy this little farewell tour and stick around for the next stuff.

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My final game: Spanish pinball company Recel's 1978 Poker Plus, which finally gives us a card-themed game featuring a woman cosplaying as a wasp-themed superhero.


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After the end of everything: one of the rows of games --- the front three part of a bank I had done pretty well in tournament play --- powered down for the end of the event.


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Outside the convention hall was this setup, ReplayFX's 1980s Living Room. Besides the wood-grained sets and Nintendo system there's all sorts of classic old-time fun, including vintage issues of TV Guide and ohter magazines. Notice on top of the TV is a storage box for audio cassettes, too. No idea what if anything was in there.


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Convention put to bed. All emptied except for staff, who're getting ready to move the very many games back where they ought to be. Except those two people in the bottom right playing games. Did you spot the FunHouse in the scene before [profile] bunny_hugger did?


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Post-convention photo of the game floor. The bank of pinball games on the right, between the dividers, were the games for the Intergalactic Pinball Championship, which we tried to finish on Saturday night and for which we didn't place. Did you spot the FunHouse in the scene before [profile] bunny_hugger did?


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Striking the main stage. This was where the A Division had its finals --- you can see there's still some confetti on the left side of the stage --- and where I had put in a quick game afterwards when the place was free.


Trivia: The term ``cash flow'', one of the key measures of a commercial project's prospects, was coined only in 1954. Source: An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: The History of the Calculus and its Conceptual Development, Carl B Boyer.

And, what the heck. Here's the LiveJournal feed for my mathematics blog, and here's the Dreamwidth feed, and here's the RSS feed, and if that's not your fill, here's what I posted there the past week:

And what the heck, for symmetry. This week's humor blog Sunday story strips low-daisy review:

What's Going On In Gasoline Alley? February - May 2017

And now let us make the final venture into the Pinburgh convention floor for a little more view of the novelties on display.

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Searching for Kennywood. No sign of it yet but there's at least three bridges in view looking opposite the ball park.


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Merch table. First of all, Pinball Breakaway, eh? Second of all: boy, remember the days when you'd try to rip off the Atari 2600? Trust me, kids, there were days when people did that.


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Some of the many, many, many old game cartridges available. Catching my eye: so, wait, a WarGames game? If you can actually play it I think you've missed the point of the license.


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Some last-minute games. Here, Bally's Minizag, and go ahead, guess if the game is from 1968. Not a Christiaan Marche game, incredibly! Now go ahead and ponder what the main playfield might look like.


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So, as you might expect, the main playfield for Bally's 1968 Minizag is indeed groovy.


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Middle playfield of Stern's 1979 solid-state game Magic which I include just because, man, whatever you want in game art, it's there, somewhere.


Trivia: The morning of the day President James Garfield was shot he had roused his teenage children from bed, lifting Harry and Jim, one under each arm, while singing ``I Mixed Those Babies Up'' from Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. (Jim later said his father swung them around ``as if we were in fact two babies''.) Source: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard.

Currently Reading: The History of the Calculus and its Conceptual Development, Carl B Boyer.

Despite catastrophe my humor blog kept on going, as you might have seen on your Dreamwidth friends page or on your RSS reader, or for that matter on your LiveJournal friends page if you still have one. And if you're just like normal and watch stuff from here, there's my normal weekly review.

And as we draw to the end of the last day of Pinburgh we go upstairs and look out from the bridge over the main floor. There we see:

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Panoramic photo of [profile] bunny_hugger taking a photo of the convention floor. From the pedestrian bridge over the center of the main floor.


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The main pinball floor as seen from the bridge, on the last day, when all the activity was over. Did you spot the FunHouse before [profile] bunny_hugger did?


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Video games and some more of the pinball games, from the opposite side of the bridge. In the lower left you can see the Attack From The Back modded pinball game, at least a bit; it's behind that big posterboard.


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Just people having fun. It may not be much of a scene but I like the composition. At the top right is the Black Knight 2000 with the frosted glass obstructing the playfield's view.


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Last hours of playing video games and some pinball.


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Quick view of the baseball park and one of the bridges as seen from the patio outside the convention center.


Trivia: The Bowery Theater, opened in Manhattan in 1825, burned down four times between 1828 and 1845. After that it survived another eighty years. Source: Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, David S Reynolds.

Currently Reading: The History of the Calculus and its Conceptual Development, Carl B Boyer.

PS: Getting Into Shapes, some convex-polygon center-finding stuff. Practical!

Be one of us

May. 15th, 2017 12:10 am
austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (Default)

Had another average week on my mathematics blog, despite my plans for one piece getting interrupted by the power outage, so if you didn't see it on your RSS feed here's your second chance:

We didn't just spend all Sunday at Pinburgh looking at odd pinball games and weird performances. We also looked at old arcade and console games. For example:

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Ancient console system playing what I guess is Pong maybe? I love how 1978 it all looks.


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This is what every modern game console looks like to me. Well, they're having fun.


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For the era that's an impressive shot of Generic Stadium. Also but heck that's a disheartening score for the ATLs. I mean, that's the kind of score you don't see since the Tripartite Agreement.


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Person with a rather good costume chatting with an Imperial Stormtrooper. You would totally believe she's a little girl!


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View of one of Pittsburgh's many bridges outside the side windows. I saw this a bunch of times because there was a vending machine with cheaper Diet Pepsi in it, most of the time, than any of the in-venue dealers offered.


Trivia: In 730 the Venerable Bede set out to prove the spring equinox did not, as commonly supposed, happen the 25th of March. Though a year of observation with his sundial he found the spring equinox of 731 did not happen on the same day as the year before, indicating the estimate of the year of 365 and a quarter days was not quite right. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle to Align the Clock and the Heavens --- and What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: Heat And Thermodynamics: A Historical Perspective, Christopher J T Lewis.

Didn't miss a day on my humor blog again, despite temptations. If it's not on your Dreamwidth Friends Page, or your RSS feed, then here's what you could see now:

Here's some more puttering around Anthrocon In The Off Season:

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The experience of everyone playing Nascar: play Nascar or just sit impassively waiting for the thing to finish? I'm being too hard on it; there's some fun stuff on the game. We just always played savagely hard tables. In front of it, the Gottlieb mid-80s game Car Hop that's entirely based on roller skates and short skirts.


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The classic arcade video game section was overseen by Car Dealership Santa.


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So when I saw this Journey arcade I thought it was a refitted thing where some obscure early-80s game got the faces of the band imposed on whatever the original sprites were. Not so: the original game included digitized pictures of the band, with the objective being to reunite them with their instruments. Well, would you think that was legit if you encountered it in the field today? Especially with the digitized heads of the band on sprite-cartoon bodies?


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Game console section, seen from a low angle so all the laser lights on the ceiling show. Also I show off my love for weird shadow and light play.


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Small UFO serving the game consoles.


Trivia: Jay Ward's last TV pilot was a show, Fang, the Wonder (?) Dog, conceptually a Lassie spoof. Source: The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel, and a Talking Moose, Keith Scott.

Currently Reading: Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, William R Trotter.

PS: Excuses, But Classed Up Some instead of another Why Stuff Can Orbit post.

And one more stray bit of business from March Hare Madness. One of [profile] bunny_hugger's friends from the bookstore, who'd had a job at the local cinema, donated to the cause of door prizes. This was a bunch of promotional movie posters. Most were in pretty good shape. Some looked appealing at first but then we realized they were for the Independence Day sequel. It added a nice bonus to what could be given away.

One of the posters was the advertising card for La La Land, and when he heard about this ADM declared he had to have it. This didn't strike us as the kind of movie he cared much about. That's what happens when you know a guy so much from one context you forget he has others. The movie is his girlfriend's favorite, and their first (or one of their first) dates was going to it.

The La La Land poster was among a couple of the largest, heaviest-stock prizes, so were going to be given out to the finalists, champion taking first pick, #2 second pick and so on. ADM figured he was a lock to be one of the finalists, surely, but to be safe asked the other likely-finalists to leave the poster for him. Easy enough to arrange. He wasn't one of the finalists, to everyone's surprise, his included. But he went on to deal-making anyway, offering to trade for it. He had a Game Of Thrones pinball backglass, for example, that he could offer. (He wouldn't accept assurances that we'd be happy to just give him the poster as a gesture of friendship.)

So, when we finally had the tournament done, CST came in first and didn't want or need another pinball backglass. So he picked some other poster. That left me picking, pro forma, the La La Land poster and discovering that it wasn't on the table downstairs where we'd left it. We panicked that the one door prize that someone specifically wanted had been stolen. A text to ADM confirmed he had taken it home, so, that was settled. The next time we saw ADM he had the backglass, rolled up in a poster tube, for us.

He had, we understand, framed the poster with the movie tickets from their date, and gave it to her on one of those new-relationship small anniversaries. Must say, that's well-done.

Trivia: An 1848 estimate counted some 233 boiler explosions in American river steamboats between 1816 and 1848, resulting in 2,563 deaths. 1838 alone witnessed 14 explosions causing 496 deaths. Source: The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Currently Reading: Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, William R Trotter.

Oh, yes, right, the side tournament. I didn't have space to fit it in with the main discussion. The goal was a trio of closest-to-the-pin scores. We chose to do three closest-to-the-pin games, after the success of using Medieval Madness in such a format last year.

We picked three tables. Attack From Mars, which is basically the same game as Medieval Madness. Indiana Jones. Tales of the Arabian Nights. We thought they were the strongest picks for a game where there's skill in not letting your score run away. Attack From Mars has one strategy that builds scores rapidly, shooting the flying saucer. It's easy to go way past the score, though. Indiana Jones and Tales of the Arabian Nights are bonus-heavy games; you can easily score half your points on the bonus alone. The rules prohibit tilting your game (even by accident; that voids the attempt), but dropping your ball is fine ... if you've got a good sense of when your score plus your bonus will carry you close to but below the threshold.

Many people tried putting a couple scores up. I meant to, but never had the chance: I was staying alive in the main tournament. GRV, one of the state's all-time greats and a surprise early exit from the contest, put up solid scores on each of the games, coming shockingly close to the target score. I worried that people would give up, sure they wouldn't be able to match. But MWS, somehow finding the time, kept at it, and he and GRV began trading off the best scores.

And then MWS pulled it out: he got closest to the pin on all three games, thanks in part to a decision to go upstairs, to Tales of the Arabian Nights, and make one last attempt to get it in. So, he claimed all three of the prizes. That would be two coupons to the Klassic Arcade in Gobles, which is a tiny town in the outskirts of Kalamazoo, in the southwestern part of the lower peninsula, and a gift card to Schuler's, a bookstore with outlets in Lansing in the center of the lower peninsula, Grand Rapids on the west side, and Ann Arbor, in the lower east side. MWS is from Flint, in the center-northeast. Well, he gets to Lansing and to Grand Rapids often enough, and Ann Arbor sometimes. Kalamazoo, he was in last month. That's something.

So when we went to the Fleetwood diner, we weren't just celebrating my second-place finish. We were also celebrating his triple win in the closest-to-the-pin contests.

Trivia: The smallest plot of land buyable from the public domain in the (Old) Northwest was a half-section, 320 acres, in 1800. In 1804 this was reduced to a quarter-section, 160 acres, and in 1820 to a half-quarter section, 80 acres, at $1.25 per acre. Source: Measuring America: How the United States was Shaped by the Greatest Land Sale In History, Andro Linklater.

Currently Reading: Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, William R Trotter.

PS: How April 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog, as I could hardly forget to talk about myself, could I?

Starting off March Hare Madness with [profile] bunny_hugger the first person knocked out was awful. It's demoralizing for her, of course, and it's none too good for me. I couldn't even offer much comfort: I was still in the running, and had to play games. Some of the games would be easy enough, relatively, to beat the minimum score, but I play worse when distressed and I got scared I was headed for elimination too. I floated just past it, though, several games in a row.

Her being knocked out right away had some good side. The main benefit is Amazing Race tournaments really need traffic control, and now she had nothing to do but tell people where they should go, and what scores they had to beat. I could step in and help and log scores and the like, of course, as could CST and MWS. But she didn't have anything to pull her away from tournament management.

There'd be surprises. GRV, who's been one of the state's top players for just ever, and who's already all but sewn up an invite to state finals for next year, was the fourth person eliminated. WVL, organizer of the Lansing Pinball League, would be knocked out on Medieval Madness, a game he has trouble not breaking fifty million points on. I was worried about that game myself; nobody had put up a particularly low score on it. The game lends itself to arbitrarily huge scores, if you keep control: just shoot the castle, in the far middle section of the table. Just catch the ball as it's returned to you, aim, and shoot. Sounds simple? It is, if you don't get to thinking about how if you bobble things the ball might go anywhere and you're gonna lose it. I'm able to keep my cool, though, and get past the unexpectedly tight gateway there.

The biggest surprise: after Iron Man, the last game on the lower level, there are four players left. The last four players go on to head-to-head play, for the finals. (The International Flipper Pinball Association requires some head-to-head play for a contest to earn rating points.) It's a rare finals appearance for me. It's possible I'll take back home one of the trophies [profile] bunny_hugger made.

The finals are three rounds of four-player games, scored by the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association rules. (Each match, the top scorer earns four points; second earns two; third earns three; last earns nothing.) The quartet: me, CST, MWS, and a Lansing league regulars, DC. The randomly-drawn first game: Lord of the Rings, upstairs where nobody's touched it since game testing.

Sometimes, in this sort of thing, you have a good ball. Sometimes it's a great ball. Sometimes it's an oppressively good ball. I put up an astounding performance, starting up all four of the game's normal multiballs and even starting the ``Destroy The Ring'' wizard mode. I don't finish it, but who cares? I've got a first-place finish and that against two people who can routinely clean my clock.

I forget what the second game was. It was similarly good for me, though. I go into the third and final game in an ideal position, sure to get a trophy. And the random number generator is most kind: it picks Austin Powers. CST and I are the only people in Lansing league who ever play it voluntarily; we've learned its important shots. We're all but certain to finish first and second, and given the way things go. As it is, the only possible way I won't get second is if MWS finishes first and I finish last.

So MWS finishes first and I finish last. I could not get anything together, which is a problem, since there's one really good shot in the game (the left ramp, for Fat Bastard Multiball) and one mediocre shot (up the center, for the Time Machine Multiball), and MWS has them and I don't. I'm not knocked into third place, though. We're tied, and so go to a one-game playoff that, to my amazement, I win. I get second place.

CST, taking home first place, offers to trade trophies with me. Why? Because the first-place trophy is the only one that has a picture of our lost Stephen on it. But [profile] bunny_hugger's goal in putting the picture of Stephen on it was to share his appearance with other people. And I'd feel dishonest about the record in ways I don't like to swap trophies this way. (I do like minor fibs in the record --- it's why I'll sign the wrong date if I have the chance --- but not this.) No; this was a gift of the view of our rabbit for CST. He remarked that now he had multiple souvenirs of other people's dead pets. I forget what the other was.

Afterwards [profile] bunny_hugger, MWS, and I went to eat at the Fleetwood diner in Lansing. It's the place that she and I, with her parents and brother, went that awful last full day of Stephen's life, after we got home from the airport. It had been a lousy meal, occupied with thoughts of whether our rabbit would be alive in a day. This was a much better meal, and after the memorial tournament to him. It resonated, closing the misery of that day. At the least, the Fleetwood in Lansing was no longer ruined for us.

Trivia: A mistaken report of the German surrender set off wild jubilation in New York City the 27th of April, 1945. Source: 1945: The War That Never Ended, Gregor Dallas.

Currently Reading: Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, William R Trotter.

We waddled in, with boxes of trophies and door prizes and cards and everything, to our hipster bar and found, mercifully, no disasters at the venue. I think there was just MWS puttering around testing the games again to see what was working. We'd gone through every game a few days before listed every serious play problem any game had. He asked what we had done to the games before understanding this was a serious pre-tournament inspection. On our inspection tour --- during a show, it happened, as that was when we were able to make it --- we also posted flyers for the event on every vertical surface in the bar.

There were a few machine glitches. Ghostbusters had a weird one: the left flipper would drop a tiny bit slow, compared to the right, when you get go of the button. We had enough games in the venue --- 24 of them! --- to do without. But to live is to live ironically: the lockdown bar had not been closed last time it was serviced. So we would be able to slide the glass cover off and free a stuck ball, something we can never do there. If we were going to play it. The lockdown bar would remain un-locked for a couple of weeks. I forgot to check last time were there to see if it was still merely a suggestion. It was still dropping the left flipper slower than the right.

We would start the course as we had last year, with Junk Yard, a mid-90s Williams table. And we'd make the course order, simple as before: move to the next table on the left. The venue's got so many tables now that they're split up, into four separate areas, and we had to set rules for which area was next. So we went posting index cards saying where to move when out of games in one area, and when to go upstairs. It turned out we didn't need to go upstairs, which says something amazing about how many games there are in just half the venue. Although we did our best to take the cards down after the tournament was over, we missed one of the ones upstairs which said where to go downstairs for the next game if needed. Last week it was still there and I'm curious if it'll ever be found by responsible parties. Or if anyone even notices it; it's on the Austin Powers backglass and that's already a visually busy, jumbled thing. It's easy to lose a game in it.

[profile] bunny_hugger worried about how many people would show up, given that it was a weekday tournament not in the comfortable hammock between Christmas and New Year's. And given the worry that the Amazing Race format would turn people off. And that some people did say they couldn't come, while many others never did more than commit to ``Interested'' on Facebook. Despite all these fears, people did turn out. 13 altogether, as many as we could have before the first round would eliminate the two lowest scorers. (Eliminating multiple people allows the tournament to finish faster; our hope was to get the main event done within three hours, and we just about hit it.)

The start! Junk Yard. Fun game with a classically 90s weird theme where you're building inventions to ... escape a junkyard ... and chase the owner down in space ... and you're guided by an angel and a devil and ... I don't know. It's fun, I promise. Everyone who's a Lansing League regular has played it and knows the basics and can expect around five million points or so, most days. Ten million points on a good day. Ten million points on a single ball on a really good day. [profile] bunny_hugger surprises herself, and me, by not quite cracking two million points, a terrible performance that puts her in the bottom, to be eliminated.

But. The loser of the first match is allowed to buy a second chance. She puts another five into the funds, and just has to beat the second-lowest score to carry on as if that didn't happen. (The second-lowest person would continue too.) We realize we haven't been keeping close track of every score: people who'd beat the lowest score went on without necessarily waiting for a tournament official to lot their score. But, if you break two million on this game, you can break 2.5 million, surely close enough.

Except she doesn't.

She has an even worse Junk Yard score, knocking her out as the first loser, and first eliminated, in her own tournament, held in honor of her own heart-rabbit.

Trivia: In the 15th century Bordeaux moved the earliest date foreign merchants could ship the year's wine from 11th of November to the 25th of December. French King Louis XI switched it to the 30th of November. Source: Gold and Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages, Jean Favier.

Currently Reading: The Container Principle: How A Box Changes The Way We Think, Alexander Klose. Translator Charles Marcrum II.

Two weeks after the Women's World Championship and the PinMasters tournament was ... another tournament. One of our own: [profile] bunny_hugger's second March Hare Madness. The stars aligned nicely for this one, as March had a fifth Wednesday --- meaning a week when neither Grand Rapids nor Lansing pinball leagues would be playing, giving us a slightly hungrier player pool --- and her school had off Thursday and Friday for no really clear reason. This used to be a two-day break at the end of term, and they moved it to the end of March, three weeks after Spring Break, for reasons that I suppose they have.

It would have new meaning this year. Our pet rabbit died the week before the last tournament, Silver Balls. This time we could be prepared. The poster would feature his gorgeous body, and the proceeds would go, rather than to the Capital Area Human Society, instead to the Rabbit and Small Animal Rescue of Westland. They're the agency from which [profile] bunny_hugger got Stephen.

Last year's March Hare Madness was done as an Amazing Race format and this raised planning questions, specifically: do it the same way, or try a different format? In favor of doing things the same way is that this is how you build traditions. In favor of a different format was some concern that people don't like the Amazing Race format. The basic Amazing Race format is, everyone plays a table. The person with the lowest score is knocked out. Everyone else goes on to the next table. What's good about it is that it's easy to pick up. It means everybody sticks around in groups near the current wave of tables, so they can hang out and socialize. It means once you've beaten the threshold score you can walk off the rest of the game, and walking-off a game is the best feeling in pinball.

What's bad about it is, first, if you have the lowest score so far you're stuck on a table watching for someone else to bomb worse than you did. It's a vulture-y sort of gameplay. Second, it really needs someone to traffic-manage because. Someone impatient will chance that their score will beat someone and then start playing ``provisional'' games on the next couple tables, games that count only if they turn out not to be knocked out. Someone else has to track that indeterminate state of the games. You can pay for a whole game --- a dollar on some of the new tables --- and play only part of your first ball. Emotionally fine if you have to beat a challenging enough score, but a waste if it turns out the threshold is something you can get by plunging without being unlucky. And, someone comes to the tournament, pays their money, and gets knocked out first round.

Despite suggestion/warnings that maybe a different format would be more popular, [profile] bunny_hugger chose the Amazing Race and I think it was wise to. I like having varied tournament formats and this is one of the few that isn't head-to-head play.

Also up for debate: the side tournament and how to run it. This would be a triple closest-to-the-pin contest: get as close as possible to a target score on several games, without going over. By making it three tables we could have up to three winners, and hopefully treble the side-contest entry fees. This meant we had to get prizes for all three tables. We had thought we had, in previous events, won or gotten three day passes to the Klassic Arcade in Gobles, in western Michigan. It's a fine spot with a good number of tables and the closest provider of Moxie Cola I know of; we just haven't had the chance to get there and use them. And it's cheap, so the prizes would be attractive but not too much for the side tournament's junior status. But we could only find two of them, so made up the difference with a gift card for Schuler's. Schuler's is a small local bookstore chain, with outlets in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor, at least one of which would be near whoever won it. It was won by the guy from Flint, which is an hour away from the nearest of those. Well, you act on your estimate of what's most likely to happen.

And there'd be more. Several friends planned on bringing door prizes. [profile] bunny_hugger refitted several of GRV's donated old trophies to fit the theme, including hare figures got from Michael's and, for the first place, a head shot of Stephen. It looked just fine.

Trivia: At least one cameraman waiting for the arrival of the Hindenburg that 6th of May, 1937, grew tired of waiting for the ship and left early. Source: The American Newsreel 1911-1967, Raymond Fielding. (I concede this sounds like an urban legend cameramen would share about missing the big one.)

Currently Reading: The Container Principle: How A Box Changes The Way We Think, Alexander Klose. Translator Charles Marcrum II.

Happy actual doctorversary, love, since I got it wrong two days ago.


Another week without missing a day on my humor blog! It's there as a Dreamwidth feed, if you want to follow that, and also on RSS. Run in the past week have been:

Back to Pinburgh, and Sunday, a chance for a lot of wandering around and not doing anything particular.

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Backglass for Gottlieb's 1966 Mayfair, an electromechanical game that hoped to piggyback on how the kids could not get enough of My Fair Lady. The game was also released in a version that gave extra balls instead of replays, named Hyde Park.


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Merch tables! Besides admiring the pinball and video game machines you could buy stuff for your pinball and video game machines. Or other nerd-culture stuff. I don't know that these folks were actually selling their Hi-C stock or if that was just so they had something to keep them going.


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Backglass for Gottlieb's 1967 Super Score, the pinball-themed game that avoids being an infinite recursion. But you know they were thinking about it. Mostly I admire the cleverness of the score reels. The four-player version loses that, in favor of another level of recursion.


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``How am I supposed to let people know we're making this game in 1978?'' Williams's Disco Fever is one of two released games made with these curved ``banana'' flippers, which hold and fling the ball kind of like jai alai paddles. The flipper feeling is weird, but I think a good weird, and I think it's a shame more games haven't tried them. You get a different kind of control to the shooting.


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Attack From The Back! [profile] bunny_hugger delights in one of the modded pinball games, an Attack From Mars played with flippers hooked up to the top. She's still irked that she had a slightly better-than-average game on it. The strangest thing about playing the game this way: trying to nudge the machine even though when you'd want to the ball is hopelessly far away from you, closer to the fulcrum of your nudge, so your efforts are inherently futile.


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Mortal Kombat ripoff named Tattoo Assassins that caught my eye with its wonderfully goofy character biographies. The game, based on a concept about magic living tattoo ink (from the screenwriter for Back To The Future), never went into production and it's not clear how many of the prototypes still exist. The Professional and Amateur Pinball Association is believed to have two of them, so this might be legit. Anyway. Read everything you can about it, because it's one of those fiascos that just keeps giving. Not sure? The game has a Nancy Kerrigan expy. Also Hanna, who was ``a world class strip club dancer until a deranged killer'' and I'm sorry but what is the precise skill which differentiates a world-class strip club dancer from the merely very good strip club dancer? Plus they seem to have invented animalities and actually done nudalities. And that's not even counting the 90s Cyber stuff and the stuff that would be racist if it weren't so goofy and probably really is racist in that ``what, were we supposed to think?'' 80s-movie style.


Trivia: The word ``stamina'' is first recorded in a letter Jonathan Swift wrote to Irish dramatist Richard B Sheridan: ``I indeed think her stamina could not last much longer, when I saw she could take no nourishment''. Source: Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning, Sol Steinmetz.

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

PS: Why Stuff Can Orbit, Part 8: Introducing Stability, getting back into the swing of this series.

Good news, everyone! I think the Dreamwidth feed for my mathematics blog works. The RSS feed definitely does. Did you skip them? Then here's the past week's writing:

Now the start of the last day of Pinburgh, and our last day at the Westin, and a day with no pinball events going on that we'd be any part of because we didn't make finals.

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People having fun! I assume. They're on that thing that was I assume an upcharge attraction, this inflatable structure where you hurl a big ball at your opponent and have the fun of getting hit with stuff. We never got on it.


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There's always little problems along the way at a convention like this. When we first looked at the sign we read ``Tastes like Man River'' which is an evocative yet hard-to-parse concept. I suppose they mean Mon[ongahela] River. Still.


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[profile] bunny_hugger doing very well playing Super Pac-Man, getting her Pac gigantified and able to pass partially through maze walls as long as his center of mass doesn't go through the solid lines.


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Arcade cabinet for LadyBug, along with the rig set up for the arcade video game championships that were going on in parallel to the pinball stuff.


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Expert Donkey Kong player Billy Mitchell, hosting the arcade video game championships, has had enough of my high school geometry teacher and hurls him off stage. (Trick of the moment; Mitchell was just patting his shoulder while he walked.)


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The side of the Mouse Trap cabinet, because I don't remember before seeing it. While a Mouse Trap was in the Brighton Arcade it was packed alongside many other games so that art of the art went concealed from me.


Trivia: The Latin zodiac sign Leo, the Lion, was in Sanskrit `Simha', and in the Babylonian scheme `Lion'. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

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

What have you seen on my humor blog if it's part of your RSS existence or if you have its LiveJournal or now Dreamwidth feeds on your Friends page? This stuff:

And now let me close up Pinburgh Saturday with mostly backglass art.

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Lower playfield of Williams's 1981 Barracora, the body-horror game that will haunt your dreams. The story is that the game was to be called Barracuda but the President of Williams didn't like that association. Note the drop targets match up, as tradition, one target per letter of the name Barracora, except for the 'RR' target on the left side. The story there is that when the Gordian knot of how to match the game title with the number of drop targets was finally settled this way designers said if they'd known they could double up letters like that it would have solved so many problems. (In that time the table layout and the theme were developed often with little cross-talk or planning.)


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Yeah, so here's that picture you wanted of the G I Joe team's Lady Jaye riding a bucking pink robot space horse. And the company that'll bring it to you is Gottleib in 1979.


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Yeah, so here's that picture you wanted of the the cheery, dopey, plotless days before renewing yourself in the fires of Carousel. And the company that'll bring it to you is Williams in 1979.


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Meanwhile from our friends Recel, in Spain: 1977's Space Race. Fine cheery scene that makes you ask: that guy in the center, behind the fallen woman. Is he wearing flesh-colored pants or does he have a long pouch adhering to his naked thigh? Before you say this is obvious remember that it was the 70s and this is a science fiction theme.


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Williams's 1979 Stellar Wars reminds us all that we don't have to have an official license to have a good time.


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Yeah, so here's that picture you wanted of a shiny silver-mirrory winged centauress mooning the Hal 9000. And the backglass that'll bring it to you? Stern's 1978 Lectronamo.


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Another attempted panoramic shot of the banner on the convention center's underpass for the ReplayFX Arcade and Gaming Festival. On the far right is one of the Attack From Mars aliens, just past the big old-fashioned style pop bumper.


Trivia: When the Cincinnati American Association team (we'd call them the Red Sox) moved to their new field in 1882 (and where they'd stay to 1870) a local sportswriter admitted the new location had flooded that spring, but prior to that, not since 1852. It flooded again the following February. Source: Level Playing Fields: How The Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris.

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

PS: Reading the Comics, April 22, 2017: Thought There'd Be Some More Last Week Edition but hey, Thursdays, why not one of these?

Next game for me is Aerosmith. Between yesterday and the time spent at Nickelrama I have a fair idea how to reach its 30 million point target. Not that it's subtle strategy: hit the toybox to light locks, lock as many balls as possible and keep the multiball going. I'd even hit the 30 million on the Nickelrama table, and in only three balls, on admittedly an easier table. Still, now I've got a more solid idea of what to --- wait, the ball just drained. All right, well, try again and --- oh good grief, did I even hit a switch? (Even if a game has ball save turned off, the way high-level tournaments will, it will often give the ball back if no switches are hit.) And again. My strategy shifts: instead of trying to hit the 30 million I just want to get past the 6 million needed not to bottom out, and I manage. Then to get to the 12 million threshold which --- oh good grief. Second game and another nine-stroke table. It's not impossible that I should do as well Saturday as I had Friday, but it's looking much less likely. I'll need some favors from the electromechanical tables.

I don't get it. Not really. I put up dismal scores, getting eight-stroke games, on tables like Gorgar that I'd birdied on the day before or Playboy that everyone else in my group does fairly well on. I finally, finally meet an objective at all, getting the target 2,500 points on our old friend Flip-A-Card in three strokes. And I do it in style too, getting many of the cards collected and then shooting the 500-point Ace target. I get credit for it twice: the ball rolls up the lane that scores me those points, and then rolls back down that lane, for a thousand points total.

I could start to believe in a rally when I have a similarly good Monte Carlo --- another electromechanical game --- and then wrestle myself to another three-stroke hole on The Flintstones. I'm obviously nowhere near finals, but I never expected to be at finals. But if I can keep this going on CSI and Whirlwind then I should at least finish mid-pack. And hey, CSI I did well on in Pinburgh, and met --- in five strokes --- the previous day. All I have to do is pick any of the eighty different multiballs and shoot for it.

And that doesn't work. I never find any of the important shots and I soon shift to just avoiding bottoming out. Nine strokes on the game. Whirlwind, the last game, to get par I'll have to beat the highest score I've ever gotten on the table. But they've fiddled with the game overnight, balancing the thing so the spinning plates on the playfield are a little less cruel and making it possible --- I see other people in my group doing this --- to do an extremely hard plunge that sends the ball through the left ramp and either advance the lock (hard on this game) or score a jackpot (a million points, to start, and more millions as you go on).

Other people can do that. I can't. I can't get the ball launched hard enough to reach the ramp and so lose not just the ``super'' skill shot here, but the regular skill shot that could be worth a half-million (but has a huge risk of center-draining the ball). I do have some good play in catching and controlling the ball and shooting the cellar for awards, but none of them are worth very much. I end up matching the previous day's seven strokes.

I finish the day 23 strokes above par, worse than the performance [profile] bunny_hugger was punishing herself for Friday. It leaves me at +33 for the tournament, and down in the bottom eight of the 64 competitors. And was I ever on camera? I don't know; I couldn't tell from the commentators. There was a point one of them said ``Lansing, Michigan'' which [profile] bunny_hugger thinks was them talking about me. I don't know. I haven't watched the recorded and not-yet-lost stream to check.

Meanwhile [profile] bunny_hugger's had an even worse night than Friday, and even worse than me. She finished the night 24 strokes above par, and +45 for the whole tournament. Even more inconsolable.

We have a little time to wander around before quite everybody finishes, and I drown my sorrows in a couple more games in the showroom. I even put my name on the high score table on the Star Wars Episode 1 pinball machine. It's got very easy settings and probably was reset just before the tournament, but still, a high score credit means so much as consolation.

Finally we're all done, including ADM's friend, and the place is closing up and I'm struck with that strange sentiment from knowing you're at a place for probably the last time ever. Oh, [profile] bunny_hugger may well be at the Women's World Championship again. She hopes to, after all, and there's even rumors of a women's league in Michigan that would help propel her into the top sixteen in her own right. But would it ever be held in Dallas again? In previous years it was Las Vegas, and the rumor is the International Flipper Pinball Association moved it to Dallas mostly to show they were serious in some contract talks about venue pricing. Now that their seriousness is shown, might it move back? Would we ever be in Dallas again, and if so, for what reasons? What a strange thing to have to think about.

The tournament's given me a Texas rating. I'm --- at this writing --- the 259th-highest placed player in Texas, so it's technically possible I could be invited to that state's finals next February. [profile] bunny_hugger is ranked 315th --- at this writing --- in Texas. She's played more events, but as a restricted event the Women's World Championship doesn't count in the normal rankings. It just gives her something for the Women's Rankings.

We hear that ADM is in the finals. So he is; he finished the qualifying at 10 strokes under. (It turns out everyone who beat par makes it to the finals.) We actually know at least three of the people who make the finals, though ADM's friend is not among them. That'll be Sunday, a day we don't go to the Fun! Billiard and Gameroom Superstore. We have plans.

Trivia: In the summer of 1864 Alabama Governor Thoma Watts managed to get 30,000 cards of cotton imported through the blockade to Wilmington, North Carolina, but could not get them delivered by the railroads. Source: Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America, William C Davis.

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

So. I'm finally ready to start on the second day of the PinMasters tournament. It's pin-golf again, with the same score objectives on the same tables that I'd done all right on the day before. If I do slightly better, I'm assured by ADM's friend, I might be in range of the finals, low seed but still, wow. If I do only as well, I'll probably be mid-pack in a very competitive group. I groaned at ADM's friend for jinxing me when he said this, but that's just superstition.

We're in new groups, roughly matching where we finished the day before. But since we're playing against the score objectives the skills of other players doesn't matter much. My first game: Road Kings, a late solid state game. It's from, to me, the hardest era: you have to make a lot of very precise shots to get the best scores and there aren't many alternatives. The day before I'd met the objective, albeit on the last ball, by getting the multiball started and collecting the jackpot. Now I know what to do --- light locks, lock two balls, and then re-lock both balls. Should be easy.

It's not. I keep missing the lock lights. When I finally get a ball locked I can't lock the second. I do some flailing around. And then, worse and worse: someone else gets the jackpot. As is common in solid state games, the jackpot builds, ball to ball, player to player, and when anyone scores it goes back to a smallest value. The jackpot had been enough to meet the objective at once. Now it's way too low. I'll have to get a multiball going and keep it going a long while, which I don't. I end up with a pitiful score, good for nine strokes. That's two worse than even my worst balls the night before, and it's one stroke short of the worst possible. A bad start.

I'll get back to my playing shortly, but want to share [profile] bunny_hugger's experience on the table. She, in another group, was also being streamed on Twitch while she played. She knew this for sure when the game did a really indecent bit. One of the shots you're supposed to take sends the ball on a ramp to the left outlane, where the kickback sends the ball back into play. Only this time the kickback tossed the ball to the other side of the table and down the right outlane and out of play. Moments later her phone rang, a text from MWS asking whether the game really just cheated her like that. It had.

I realize now I'm not sure that didn't happen on Friday. But on Saturday, the second day, she was certainly playing Road Kings while being streamed again. And I know this because she got multiball going and was fishing around for the jackpot. She locked one ball, but didn't know that to get the jackpot she should lock the second. She made some reasonable guesses, including shooting a ramp shot that, were this a modern game, would totally have been the jackpot. And she overheard the commentators saying, ``She doesn't know! She doesn't know! She doesn't know what the jackpot shot is!''

So it was. But she didn't lose the ball either, and the ramp shot in multiball is rewarding anyway. (It might even be a better value than a freshly-reset jackpot.) She keeps the ball going long enough to reach the target score, and on the fourth ball, par. A commentator says she got her par ``the hard way''. One of the Twitch chat room followers says she got her par ``like a boss''. It's a satisfying moment.

There won't be enough of those.

Trivia: In a cabinet meeting on the 22nd of April, 1927, President Coolidge named Herbert Hoover chair of a special committee to handle the Mississippi flooding emergency. Hoover would spend sixty of the next 71 days in the flood territory. Source: Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 And Hw It Changed America, John M Barry.

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

PS: In Which I Offer Excuses Instead Of Mathematics, but at least it's something to read and to look at.

After the embarrassment Friday of arriving late enough there was talk of just plunging our balls I absolutely did not want to be late for Saturday's half of the tournament. So here's how I was late for Saturday's half of the tournament.

Not traffic. We set out from the hotel only a little earlier than we had Friday, but trusted that it wasn't rush hour. And it wasn't. But there was some kind of accident or something creating a jam just about where we'd got into trouble on Friday. So we took a detour, using ADM's friend's cell phone as guidance around the way. This took us on a baffling weaving tour of the roads right around the expressway and we ultimately came to the Fun! Billiard and Gameroom Superstore from the opposite direction, which was not at all easier parking. We were there with maybe a half-hour or so to spare.

So everyone was kind of milling around. There were, I think, a few folks from the 1:00 tee time not yet done, and the groups for the 6:00 tee time hadn't been announced so far as I knew. If they were posted online we couldn't tell, since, no Wi-Fi. What did I have to do? I went to one of the other rooms and played the games that were turned on. They had, for example, Stern's Spider-Man Vault Edition. The Spider-Man game, based on the 2000's movies, is a rather popular one. This was a new table, more based on the comics, with the playfield changed a little and the rules changed a lot. I'd heard about the game but not seen one before getting here, and wanted to play. I like the game, although something about it feels small to me. The rule set doesn't seem quite as deep, which might reflect the game being marketed to newcomers and venues that don't have hardcore pinball players. Pinball rules have been getting a bit baffling lately. The Game of Thrones table, for example, requires you start out making a decision about what House you're playing, which you have no way of judging unless you're already experienced on the table, and it takes a lot of non-obvious play to get any of the good modes started. Pinball needs games you can play without a tip sheet.

Also in the back room: Nine Ball. It's an early solid state game, with a ``wizards in space playing cards'' theme. I've played it in other venues and liked it, and I realize given how easy the settings on the other non-tournament games are, this might be the most generous Nine Ball I'll ever have the chance to play. It is. All the valuable shots are right where I'd hope they were, and while I get some lucky bounces I'm also doing very well hitting the valuable drop targets. And it's even on five balls. I worry a little about coming close to the start of the tournament but trust that I'll hear something, if nothing else from the handful of other people in the showroom moving in.

So, I don't, and when I finally end the game the tournament director's been yelling my name and wondering where I am, with people speculating that I'm in the bathroom and nobody checking the other room in the building. I'm not saying I'm humiliated. But, jeez, my first national-scale tournament and I'm late both days. I don't want my national reputation to be ``guy who's five minutes late''. I want my state reputation of Zen Master to transfer over. Rough start. I should've set my iPod where I could check the time more easily. But everyone in my group understood. If you're chasing a personal high on a machine you don't want to leave the table. Still so embarrassing.

Trivia: Princeton University appears to be the first college to use ``campus'' to refer to its grounds; President John Witherspoon took the word, meaning an open field, to refer to the college's site. Source: How The Scots Invented The Modern World, Arthur Herman.

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