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October 2017

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Tuesday we again started the day late, sleeping in long and rousing to the day slowly. Also at some point we watched the fiasco of [profile] bunny_hugger's brother trying to get his new iPhone set up. He goes through iPhones the way most of us go through ice cream sandwiches, with pieces getting lost or stolen or destroyed or, sometimes, just replaced. He had a new one that a friend of his had somehow gotten surplus and was letting go for $50. So now you know what kind of world he lives in.

He was having trouble setting things up. He somehow needed Internet to complete setting up his new phone that he was breaking out for the first time in the far north of Michigan, a thousand miles from his home of Brooklyn, in a rented house with no Wi-Fi. [profile] bunny_hugger and I were sitting quietly trying to avoid directly lying about the availability of house Wi-Fi. We had brought a Mi-Fi device.

We had wanted to bring the somewhat cranky, balky thing we'd used in past years because, you know, we owned it and everything. But Virgin Mobile's web site would not let us log in to buy data on it, and we reflected on this sad truth: the Virgin Mobile Mi-Fi device was god-awful. It was always a bit flaky, it was always a pain to put money on, and it was always a little bit harder to get stuff to use it than it should have been. After a quick search online we had the week before bought a new Mi-Fi device. That one came only in the nick of time: we'd had it shipped to Best Buy and it arrived the morning we set out for Omena. I'd spent some of our precious last minutes at home before leaving on the phone, trying to get it set up despite the ambiguous instructions of the manual.

Still, once we had that set up, we had ... really quite nice service. The thing had a little screen so we could easily look up stuff like the network name and password. We could put five gigabytes of data on it and trust that would probably be enough for us for a week. (It wouldn't, and we'd have to add data to it, and I would develop a compulsion about watching the data reserves dropping as they would in seemingly random chunks.) But if [profile] bunny_hugger's brother could, he'd jump on our Wi-Fi and probably exhaust anything we could have inside of minutes, what with his being a smart-phone natural. The best we could do is own up to having the Mi-Fi device and talking vaguely about how if he needed it we'd set him up with the password later. I'd point out that, like, the Tamarack Gallery in town has open Wi-Fi, and they probably also had it at the Knot Just A Bar that used to be the Harbor Bar and that we'd surely eat at sometime soon. And that was in easy walking distance anyway.

We got through the week without giving up our password, and without my ever quite getting straight why he had this phone or the promise of as many more iPhone 7's as he might need.

[profile] bunny_hugger, her brother, and I went (separately) into town, specifically, Suttons Bay. We went to lunch at the Chinese-and-Thai place that she and I had quite liked when we visited the area in 2013, and that we'd missed in 2016. We had recommended it to her brother and his girlfriend, but they hadn't gone in owing to doubts about places that serve two kinds of ethnic food at once. He admitted we were right about the place, and lucky that was since who knows what happens to a restaurant when you don't stop in for four years?

Our big plan for the afternoon and evening was to sit on the beach, maybe swim, maybe fly a kite. [profile] bunny_hugger had brought her parrot kite and her newly-repaired dragon kite. The long, long tail of it had started to tear off, and she'd read up on suggestions of how to fix that. The answer: the tape that boat-owners use for patching sails. Very lightweight, very transparent, very strong, very much requiring a slow, patient hand to apply successfully. After the first attempt went a little bit off-level she removed the tape and re-did it, and achieved that rarity: a delicate home repair project that worked perfectly. The kite looks great again, and only with knowledge of the repair and a hint where it was could you see it.

And the kite could fly, too! In moves that caught the imagination of many onlookers, including a toddler whose understanding of reality was shattered by this giant translucent dragon-kite, [profile] bunny_hugger got to ... wrangle a lot with the question of whether the wind was right for it. It turns out you can tell whether the wind is too slow or too fast for a kite based on whether it falls out of the sky head- or tail-first. If it doesn't fall at all the wind speed is right. I forget which condition we had, but the kite wasn't doing its part in staying up without effort. Between the parrot and the dragon kites [profile] bunny_hugger spent maybe 45 minutes trying to ply the skies and there were some great moments in there. Some really gorgeous moments of colorful things against a gorgeous light-cloudy sky. And some great looks of admiration from people who thought her kite gorgeous.

I forget what we did for dinner. I think we might have gone to Knot Just A Bar, or at least all of us but [profile] bunny_hugger's mother did. We did go there at least once, bringing back a burger for her. We certainly afterward played Mice and Mystics, [profile] bunny_hugger's brother included, which I know since I took some pictures of what, from the expressions on people's faces suggest, a moment of reflection and irritation after we'd failed in an adventure. We would have some good, strikingly successful nights too.

Trivia: The 1976 plan for space shuttle turnaround times was: after the first flight, 29 weeks of inspection and servicing; after the second, 13 weeks; third, 11 weeks; fourth, 9 weeks; fifth, 34 days; sixth, 24 days. The first four were to be the test flights and the fifth on, operational flights. Source: Development of the Space Shuttle, 1972 - 1981, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution, Alex Storozynski.

PS: some last wandering around Cedar Point's Halloweekends last year.


The ValRavn roller coaster, and some fencing and, on the right, the Cedar Shakes employee dorms. But mostly, the heavy cloud layer made to glow by the park's own lighting.


Blurry, yes, but a still emotive picture of Raptor and a dippin' dots booth and one of the spotlights through the trees in the final night of Cedar Point's season last year.


And here I try being arty again: walking into the Raptor queue while holding the camera as steady as possible. Good idea? Bad idea? Who knows. It's just an idea is all.

Monday we started out without any particular plans or goals. That was a slightly odd necessity. We weren't sure how well [profile] bunny_hugger's mother would feel, and we hadn't known just when her brother would arrive at night and how long he'd need to sleep. Her mother still wasn't feeling well, and never really would feel up to doing anything. And this would be all right, really. It encouraged our week to be one of less activities, and smaller ones, and time spent just being around each other instead of running off to see things. In last year's visit we had done one day of trying to see Glen Arbor and the Point Betsy lighthouse and visit Joe's Friendly Tavern and all that in one packed day, great for memories but also a bit ragged a day. We wouldn't have anything nearly like that this trip and that's at least as good.

Indeed, if my camera's photo information doesn't mislead me we didn't even leave the house until after 3:00. We kept ourselves usefully occupied, of course, eating cereal and listening to [profile] bunny_hugger's brother playing guitar. And setting Columbo on his leash to take him outside. He again showed good form in handling and ambling around on the porch. He was even better on the huge lawn that Stephen had spent so much of the previous year eating. He did some patrolling, but only a little nibbling. As I've said, he's a suspicious, picky eater, and he wasn't much up for fresh grass or fallen leaves or the like. He did try to pull me over toward the dropoff where [profile] bunny_hugger spotted poison ivy, or at least possible poison ivy. (The trouble in telling is that it turns out poison ivy can take on the form of any plant at all, including vines, trees, grass, ripe bananas, durian, mangoes, and two-toed sloths.) He would warm up, over the course of the week, as he got time outside and got to trust that actually all this stuff was things he could eat if he chose.

When [profile] bunny_hugger and I did set out it was on foot, walking down the short path to Omena, the tiny town we were in. Also examining to try working out what parts of the former Omena Inn were still recognizable as a former hotel. We noticed one of the homeowners there had set out a doggie dish full of water as well as a plastic bin with dog biscuits inside, ``Please Take A Treat! Compliments of Kelli!'' Adorably friendly. We stopped by the beach, which back in the 80s when [profile] bunny_hugger's family visited was always empty. It had a good number of people there, as it would just about every time we passed by, including someone swimming in a mermaid-bikini bottom that I didn't know was a thing now. So it is.

We had already missed the open hours for the Omena Historical Museum, again. But the Tamarack Gallery was open and we could poke around looking at what they had on show. It all looked familiar, similar artists with similar styles and media and projects as in past years. I'm not sure that anything was exactly the same, apart from the closet that's the shrine to their lost dog Eugene. Which is still corny and overblown and delightful --- it has felt-cutout birds carrying a banner, ``No Accolade Does Justice To His Greatness'' --- but that doesn't make it less warm and delightful.

We walked back home, well before sunset because that far north (above the 45th parallel) and that far west in the time zone and that close to the summer equinox the sun doesn't set until about 4:15 pm the next day. If I remember right [profile] bunny_hugger's brother made shish kebabs, using the grill we had been so anxious about using the previous year, and we stayed on the porch and floating in and out of the house until late enough to consider playing Mice and Mystics on the dining room table. We did play that quite a few nights running, with [profile] bunny_hugger's brother taking up with surprising enthusiasm one of the characters that normally [profile] bunny_hugger has to play as alt. And we made a lot of progress in the campaign during this. But I don't remember whether we played it every single night and if so, whether we beat the scenario we were on that first night. It's the sort of thing we were doing, though.

Trivia: In 1860 the Kalamazoo, Michigan, city council granted permission for baseball players to use Bronson Park, though the village president would regularly stop in on games to warn, ``go on and have a good time, boys, but don't hurt the trees!'' When the players switched to the harder baseballs becoming available permission was revoked. Source: But Didn't We Have Fun? An Informal History of Baseball's Pioneer Era, 1843 - 1870, Peter Morris.

Currently Reading: The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution, Alex Storozynski.

PS: some last wandering around Cedar Point's Halloweekends last year.


A chilly ride on Gemini, which had only one of its two tracks running, but two trains on that track. Note Short Captain Janeway on the right side there, ready for the next car.


I'm like 40 percent sure this is just a repainting of the old Mantis sign holder. Also you see how many different faces they've got carved into pumpkins now that they blanket the park with jack-o-lanterns.


Night shot of Iron Dragon, with the Power Tower and the Rougarou (formerly Mantis roller coasters behind it. Also the wonderfully textured clouds lit by the park and the fading sun.

It was another week of recuperation on the mathematics blog, but there's always something going there. To wit:

And, do you know What's Going On In Alley Oop? Here's your July through October update. Meanwhile, last year at Cedar Point:


Me being arty: the ghost of the Mean Streak sign, as seen through the window of the Cedar Point and Lake Erie railroad station's window.


Well hi! One of the skeletal horses --- with a skeleton rider --- set up in the Frontier Town/Old West-themed area of the park for Halloweekends.


A furry! Or at least someone who got into the park wearing a cat costume. Cedar Point ordinarily doesn't allow costumes because, you know, you don't want that whole Scurry Brothers squirrel situation. But, you know, Halloween and some of those things are warm and I wonder if I could get away with my red panda kigurumi this year.


View from inside the Midway Market buffet, showing some of the many banners they have draped from the ceiling for some reason. I mean, the place is better for having them; I just don't know why they do. As this was the last day of the season, they had alllllll the desserts out on the buffet table barely visible behind the guy in the dark red shirt. I might be there, eating, still.


Gift-shop merchandise window that still lists Mean Streak on the backdrop. Included because I was keyed up to looking for remaining evidence of the Mean Streak. All the merchandise for the roller coaster was gone by this point.


Baby dinosaur made of pumpkins and kissing the Blue Fairy.

Trivia: In 18th century England coffee had a reputation as an antierotic drink, something that could dampen sexual energies to the point of impotence. A 1764 broadside was titled The Women's Petition against Cofee, Representing to Publick Consideration the Grand Inconveniences accruing to their SEX from the Excessive Use of that Drying, Enfeebling LIQUOR. Presented to the Right Honourable the Keepers of the Liberty of VENUS. Source: Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants, Wolfgang Schivelbusch. (Schivelbusch's text says 17th century but that doesn't make sense in context.)

Currently Reading: The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution, Alex Storozynski.

[profile] bunny_hugger's father met us at the door of the rented house. We'd taken longer getting up there than we wanted, and he'd been asking for the house's access code as much as three months before the weeklong trip was to start. He had bad news for us. The hot and cold water lines into the washing machine were reversed, so selecting 'cold' washes gave you hot and vice-versa. Just as had been the case last year, and just as he had insisted [profile] bunny_hugger warn the houseowner about, and just as she had warned the houseowner about last year. I confess I will get singularly-minded about odd stuff at times, but this seemed to me odd before-you-get-into-the-house news.

Also peculiar but lower enough priority that I didn't realize what was going on until the last day we were there: someone left a debit card behind. I had assumed it was the homeowner's, leaving it as an in-case-of-sudden-emergency thing to trusted houseguests. Also I couldn't imagine trusting houseguests like that. But, no, it was someone else's, a previous guest's, and dealing with that became one of those things to be dealt with.

First goal: set up Columbo's area. As before we figured to set up his enclosed pen in the kitchen, on the rougher wood floors, with a tarp and fleece underneath in case he had accidents. Minor obstacle this time: they'd put a table in the kitchen. That could be folded up and moved away, although it was one of those tables engineered so that every obvious attempt to fold it up was somehow wrong and would cause table leaves to go flying out at your toes. But we managed, eventually, and with toes intact to get Columbo set up and looking dubiously at this strange new room.

Some stuff in the house was changed, as would happen over a year. [profile] bunny_hugger and I went upstairs to claim the same bedroom we'd gotten last year, the one with the west-facing windows since, without curtains on anything, mornings could be unhappy. The little writing desk that had been a perfect spot to rest my laptop was gone, without replacement, and that was a bother since then everything would naturally plug into a heap of consumer electronics on the floor.

Other changed stuff: the speakers were gone! The living room was rearranged a little, so we could easily find the DVDs and all. But the TV was moved to a different wall, and the stereo was there, but the pretty good quality speakers weren't. Best we could figure was to put the sound through the flat-screen TV. This spoiled stuff like playing our iPods' music; it's not like the TV would give appreciably better sound than our iPods directly, especially given we would usually be in the dining room or on the porch. We had nasty fears that the speakers were stolen sometime in the year since we'd been there. (Also while we were fiddling around I saw the over-the-air TV got that digital substation that shows Mystery Science Theater 3000, but who had time to watch?)

[profile] bunny_hugger and I went to the Tom's supermarket in Northport, to get provisions for the week. The supermarket was of the opinion that they were closing at 8 pm, and they overruled the web site which held that 10 pm was the closing hour. Well, we got some reliable stuff, like pop and coffee and what would be plenty of half-and-half for us for the week but wouldn't last [profile] bunny_hugger's parents through Tuesday and all that. [profile] bunny_hugger felt rushed by the lateness of the hour. I didn't figure we were in any trouble for shopping, especially since we didn't dither around asking for help finding obscure items, although the store's offering help wheeling our groceries out to the car didn't help her sense that they wanted us out out OUT.

In putting groceries away we discovered a box of cans of Diet Squirt in a cabinet over the fridge. Left over from an earlier guest? Surely. Left over from us last year? ... We ... could not rule that out. The diet version of an eccentric choice like Squirt is definitely the sort of thing we would buy.

In the evening [profile] bunny_hugger, her mother, and I played a round of Mysterium. This is a card game [profile] bunny_hugger had recently gotten. The gamemaster --- [profile] bunny_hugger in this case --- is a ghost, sending visions to a team of psychics to solve her murder. The visions are these cards of surreal, dreamlike images. Ballet-dancing rats on a clockwork boat, a scythe cutting down Stonehenge pillars, a millwheel tethered to a hot-air-balloon basket floating above a field of carp. Stuff like that, although I'm just making up those examples. The challenge is to communicate through this. [profile] bunny_hugger's mother and I could talk about what we understood our visions to be, which gave [profile] bunny_hugger some help in tailoring future cards to see what kinds of things we would key in on. (I'm prone to seeing dominant colors or compositions of scenes as important, for example, and will miss stuff like ``maybe the field of javelines suggests the murder weapon was a needle?''.) Happy to say, we won, solving the murder and presumably, in-universe, causing some good benefit to result.

Sometime in the night afterwards, if I remember right, [profile] bunny_hugger's brother arrived, and we briefed him on everything that had got set up, and he noted what a large rabbit Columbo was. And we were all, at least, set up for the week.

Trivia: Moses B Cotsworth's early-20th-century perpetual calendar was known in the United States as the Eastman Calendar, as Kodak founder George Eastman was a great proponent and supporter of Cotsworth's reforms. Eastman insisted on giving credit to Cotsworth. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution, Alex Storozynski.

PS: poking around Cedar Point!


Mean Streak's lift hill, part removed, as seen from the Judy K train on the Cedar Point and Lake Erie railroad. Doesn't that look like a partly-completed Roller Coaster Tycoon scenario?


The cleaning log for the Cedar Point and Lake Erie railroad's Frontier Trail station, the other station. Clearly not a log that spends much of its time being sat upon.


Another close-up of the Mean Streak, with part of a hill just gone for the sake of conversion into Steel Vengeance. Again, this is such a Roller Coaster Tycoon scenario challenge: ``rebuild the missing pieces of this roller coaster to make an excitement level 6.0 or higher ride''.

We took Columbo out of his carrier at the Clare Rest Area. It was the same spot we'd taken Stephen out a year before, in his first --- really, only --- vacation, the last time that our lost rabbit was in really good form before his death. The trip up north to a rented house in Omena, about a half-hour north of Traverse City. Stephen, too arthritic to move fast, we could set out on the grass to stretch and eat and attract fawning admirers, as long as we watched to make sure no dogs were nearby. Columbo, younger and fleeter of foot, we'd need to do more with.

It's possible to put harnesses on rabbits, and Columbo, in our tests, didn't mind or even seem to notice having one on. It's also possible to leash rabbits, but many do not understand what's happening when they reach the end of the leash and feel themselves pulled back by an invisible predatory force and panic. Columbo ... does not. He's a bit of a lopey, slow bunny, admittedly, so with a long enough lead it's hard for him to outrun his range. But even at that, he seems to understand, or at least to accept it in what I hope isn't mere rabbit fatalism. But we'd learned in backyard tests that he was surprisingly good on a leash, and so could safely hop around the rest area.

He attracted some attention. Not as much as Stephen, but at least a couple people looked over at the surprisingly big bunny. He wasn't interested in eating the grass, or the berries, or the leaves. He's a picky eater. My glib comment was that he never wanted to try anything for the first time. I'm like that myself. He also didn't take the chance to pee, part of the point of taking him out of the carrier. He waited until he'd gotten onto some pavement for that. We joked he wanted to show the many dogs taken out for walks there who really owned the place.

So as this implies, we were on our way up north, to Omena and the Traverse Bay area for a weeklong getaway. [profile] bunny_hugger's father was so delighted with the week we all spent there last year he wanted us to rent the same house for another week again. [profile] bunny_hugger got a Sunday-to-Sunday rental, causing her father no end of anxiety because house rentals are always Saturday-to-Saturday and he just didn't feel comfortable that AirBnB allowed such a thing to happen. [profile] bunny_hugger's brother would drive in, too, in the car that was in such dubious shape just a week and a half earlier at Rye Playland. His girlfriend wouldn't be there; she was overseas, on a months-long work trip.

Thus it was already going to be a slightly lesser trip than last year's. And it got worse the week before it started. [profile] bunny_hugger's mother threw her back out, after which she wanted to throw her back out. She was barely able to move, and for that matter barely able to sit comfortably. It was severe enough she talked about staying home, which would have forced [profile] bunny_hugger's father to stay home too as she couldn't have kept herself safe without some attendant. And if things reached that point it might well have been worth cancelling the whole thing, which --- in the heat of unpacking from our 5th Anniversary Trip and turning things around to get ready for this --- wouldn't have necessarily been unwelcome.

But she thought she could cope with the four-plus-hour drive up, not without discomfort (she didn't even get out of the car at the rest areas), and figured she could at least sit up somewhere while the currently mobile among us did things. It would just be a constraint. And, I want to emphasize, not an unwelcome or a burdensome one. We'd just felt bad that she was stuck at home-away-from-home and, worse, was in pain.

She's still in pain. Her back wasn't merely thrown out in the way that recovers over a week, or a couple weeks. She's been in agony almost steadily since then, and she and her husband have had to make all sorts of little adjustments in their house to accommodate her trouble moving. Earlier this week she had surgery that's hoped to make things a bit better. She isn't optimistic. She never is, admittedly, but after the summer she had it's hard to say she's wrong.

Trivia: A late 1780s estimate held that three-quarters of the holders of North Carolina paper money was held by few enough people they could gather in a single room. Source: Measuring America: How the United States was Shaped by the Greatest Land Sale in History, Andro Linklater.

Currently Reading: The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution, Alex Storozynski. And I don't know how perfect it is that apparently George Washington couldn't spell Kosciuszko's name right, or necessarily even consistently on successive occasions.

PS: riding around Cedar Point!


A gift for my English readership: the Cedar Point and Lake Erie railroad trains identified. They have these signs by both stations on the railroad. And I've heard that apparently there are trainspotters who go to the park and watch to see what's running. Some of the engines are always running, or at least seem to. There are some that seem never to be on the track.


And our conveyance for the day was the Judy K, one of the popular trains and also the one that used to work in Lansing for some unknown task, as see the above information panel.


Millennium Force train barreling into one of the tunnels, as seen from the Cedar Point and Lake Erie train ride. Which, as often happens, lets you see park rides from the back or from otherwise unusual angles.

Humor blog continued apace, at a thing a day. Not on your RSS feed? Try reading these:

After the Merry-Go-Round Museum we got back to Cedar Point and found that we had not, in fact, missed the Halloweekends performances. There was only one we really wanted to get to, and we were just in time to catch it.


Back to Cedar Point! A moment in the magic-and-music-and-dance show at the Jack Aldrich Theatre, in what turns out to have been the last day of the ten-or-so years the show's run. Here, the dancers are done up in baby doll costumes while a boxed-person stunt goes on.


Comic magician doing a card trick. The comic magician comes out between the major dance pieces, presumably to cover the costume changes and set redressings needed.


Fluorescent dance during the magic-and-music-and-dance show. Also right about here I realized that, oh yeah, my camera can go up to a simulated film speed of ISO 3200 so why shouldn't I be trying more low-light pictures like this?


Friday The 13th-inspired dance; the Freddie Krugers would push the guy into the box for the trick where they put sheet metal panels through the box.


The magic trick I'd been part of! A couple years ago I was the guy on the left, holding up the banner, and ending up locked into the stocks in the comic magician's place.


And one of the later dance bits, a metamorphosis-in-the-box trick. The comic magician gets on stage for some of the dances and this is one of them.

They're not doing this show this year, so we caught, if not the final performance of this after a decade or so, at least one of its final day's performances.

Trivia: Jack Donnelly, Jack Corliss, and Tjeerd van Andel's 1977 dive in the submersible Alvin that first witnessed life in deep-water lava vents was number 713. (An uncrewed diving probe had photographed clams and mussels in the spot the day before.) Source: Pacific, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution, Alex Storozynski. I was barely out of the prologue before I realized I've got a Christmas present for my father, who always yelled at the news radio when the traffic report mispronounced the Kosciuszko Bridge's name. (They said it like everyone in the New York City area says it, mind, it's just they say it wrong.)

PS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: What I Learned, my self-reflective piece at the end of a lot of work.

You know what? I've got the next trip report to start, and I've got just enough photos of the Merry-Go-Round Museum left that I'd have to jump subjects in the middle of the Thursday/Friday post. So rather than have widows in both my text and my photos I'm just going to show the rest of my Merry-Go-Round Museum photos here. Enjoy, I hope.


Some of the many, many boxes of band organ music. We usually visit in October, so we hear the Halloween recordings, including some that are on-point like requiems, some that are whimsical but appropriate like The Addams Family theme, and some that are just being goofy, like the Batman theme. Each of the scrolls is something like ten songs so probably better than a half-hour of music.


Another photo from the inside of the carousel, looking at the sea dragon family and some other, less scaled, creatures.


Glimpse down the stairs to what must have been the outside of a chariot at one point. Gryphons play(?) fighting.


Public art outside the Merry-Go-Round Museum. ``Magic Memories by Teddy Haas. Sponsored by: Ruth Parker''. I don't know either.


The Merry-Go-Round Museum's building. It's a former circular post office, one of surprisingly few. The miniature lighthouse on the right is part of the public art installation there. Can you spot [profile] bunny_hugger's head just poking over the sign?


US Geological Survey benchmark outside the Merry-Go-Round Museum building, which as mentioned used to be a post office.

Trivia: The French astronomer Pierre Lemonnier observed and recorded the planet Uranus eight times in under a month from December 1768 to January 1769, including four successive nights from the 20th to 23rd of January. But the planet was near its stationary point, not appreciably moving, ruining the only chance Lemonnier would have of noting the object was not another faint star. Source: In Search Of Planet Vulcan: The Ghost in Newton's Clockwork Universe, Richard Baum, William Sheehan. (Lemonnier had too small a telescope for the disc of Uranus to be visible.)

Currently Reading: Michigan History, September/October 2017. Editor Nancy Feldbush. Main cover article: ``This is a Class I Emergency: The Fermi 1 (nuclear power plant) Accident''. Secondary item, featured in the header: ``Celery in the U.P.''. It's like they made this one just for me.

We drove to [profile] bunny_hugger's parents' Tuesday, the 4th of July. We'd miss the Lansing city fireworks, and miss the Albion fireworks, and what can we say but thanks, Trenton-Mercer Airport, for never giving us an easy time flying home. But it was the chance to see them, and give them salt water taffy from Berkeley Candy. And to share some of our stories, particularly about Bowcraft and the discovery of Playland Castaway Cove.

[profile] bunny_hugger's father had fireworks, something I still deep down can't quite believe is normal and healthy and all. I kept my usual wary reserve, even from the harmless stuff like sparklers. But I was also rewarded for my reserve. A big box that was supposed to shoot off a dozen Roman candles or something like that misfired, just like in a Tom and Jerry cartoon or something. Some of the rockets just exploded at once. One shot off horizontally, skidding across the street and to the neighbor opposite's porch, where it rebounded and shot up. Another one shot off horizontally the other direction, like, towards [profile] bunny_hugger. Not right at her, mind, even before she ran, but being even ten feet away from an errant rocket is not at all comfortable.

So. Yes. I understand that was a freak event. My concern: the remnants of the box were smoldering. Were all the shells spent? Was all the gunpowder exploded? [profile] bunny_hugger's father tossed the box, as he had the other spent fireworks, off the driveway and onto the lawn. I pointed out it was still smoldering, and then more when the cardboard box caught on fire. He stamped it down with his foot. I grew up in a state that banned all fireworks in 1936 and had it burned into my memory early on that this was how you lose limbs. And at that it was smoldering. I wanted to soak the remnants; he didn't want to have to re-coil the hose. I have to interpret that as an excuse but can't imagine what the real issue was.

Anyway, I insisted, and promised to wind the hose back up. And soaked down the box, and the remanent fireworks, and the driveway with a ruthlessness that reminds you, I worked four summers in the quality control lab of a gunpowder plant. And maybe I was overreacting, but I really want explosives well-tamed and under close guard.

And again, this was the freak event. Most of the fireworks were just fine, and there was one similarly spectacular collection of Roman candles that went off perfectly, and that was such a good show that the neighbors on the other side of the house applauded. That's more normal stuff.

Trivia: Casey Stengel was a holdout in the spring of 1917 when Charlie Ebbets decided to cut his salary from $5,000 to $3,300 and then, after protest from Stengel, to $2,900 and then $2,700. Source: Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself, Michael Shapiro.

Currently Reading: Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach. Oh wow but the I Don't Even Own A Television podcast was so right about it.

PS: more Merry-Go-Round Museum fun.


The band organ, out front, with some of the figures that move when it's in motion. I think. We're usually in the main room, in back, when they give demonstrations of the organ and at that it's tooth-rattlingly loud. If we went out front to watch it might peel our skin off.


The working carousel as seen from inside, with a focus on their pig. It's named Wilbur. On the outside ear there's a little spider.


The Wurlitzer band organ for their carousel. Also a booklet of instructions for the thing.

PPS: Reading the Comics, October 7, 2017: Rerun Comics Edition, with 1931-vintage Popeye action.

We were in the long, skinny line for the lone screener at Trenton's tiny airport when I realized the disaster. I had left my iPod in the rental car. I'd got in the habit of leaving the iPod in the armrest cubbyhole, and there it went invisible, and we got our stuff out of the car and returned the keys and took the shuttle from the warehouse area of the outer airport grounds to the tiny terminal without my realizing. And now, with under an hour to takeoff, I had to get it back. I left the line, telling [profile] bunny_hugger to stay while I dealt with this, and she didn't.

After a few minutes of not seeing the rental shuttle I realized of course they wouldn't be sending the shuttle around; with no incoming flights there weren't any people who needed to go from the airport to the rental desk. [profile] bunny_hugger had the printout of our rental receipts, and that had the number, and I called and explained the situation. In a couple minutes the agency guy, who worked the counter and drove the shuttle and prepped the cars and everything, was driving up with the car we had used the past week, and handed me the iPod and cable. Crisis resolved.

So now we just had to get back in the line and ... oh, the security line was almost gone. OK. Through to the tiny waiting area which, thanks to airport renovations the last few years, now has bathrooms and even a little bar. We could watch the news, featuring the New Jersey budget standoff and how Chris Christie was caught lounging on a public beach closed to the public. So we were enjoying the Republican pettiness and thinking how nice it would to be to [profile] bunny_hugger's parents in a couple hours, to collect our rabbit and to see the fireworks in their town. And then suddenly everything went wrong.

What, I'm not sure I ever got straight. But our flight was going to be delayed. By six hours, they figured, so we might get out of there around 7:30 and get to Detroit around 9 pm. I think they had to get a plane up to Trenton from Miami or something like that.


First thing. There are airports where you can just kind of wander around aimlessly for six hours and at least be tolerably amused. Trenton's is not one of them. It's about the size of our dining room, and the rack of free magazines promoting Mercer County as a place to do business threatens to knock the place off balance. Of course, as public space, there aren't lockers, so there's no stowing your carry-on bags for a couple hours. And even if there were, it's in the middle of farmland-turned-into-McMansions; there's nowhere to go in walking distance to do stuff. Rent a car? For a couple hours? Maybe cheaper than taking a taxi there, but still, not great.

So we faced a right boring afternoon sitting in airport chairs and hoping the flight would come a little sooner. We thought we were stretching out what we had to do in pretty good form. For example, by holding out in the security-area waiting lounge until almost everyone else had left before collecting our meal vouchers. But that meant that everybody who was going to be on the flight was eating before us, and the bar/restaurant is not equipped to handle a plane's worth of people getting burgers. On the other hand, what did we have to rush for? We could sit and wait, watching like a hawk for signs that people were actually leaving their table. People were bad about this, although some of that might have been they didn't have the staff to clean tables promptly.

Mostly, the problems stem from the fact Trenton is a tiny airport, and that's all right normally. But if something goes wrong they don't have the reserves to handle that without it being a big mess. So we may be giving up on it, at least until they can do things like not have every attempt to fly out of it involve some crazy problem.

Well, there were tiny bits of good news. The six-hour delay shrank, a little bit at a time. Is it better to spend only five hours in a tiny airport with no services, not even public Wi-fi? Better than six hours, anyway.

Getting to [profile] bunny_hugger's parents house was ... well, we maybe could have got there in time for the city fireworks, since those have to be after dark and dark comes really late in Michigan in early summer. The state is really far west for the Eastern Time Zone. But we didn't think that wise; we'd have almost no time to spend with her parents. So instead we went home, and felt that great comfort of being back home, at least.

Trivia: There was one newspaper in New Jersey in 1777 (the Gazette); ten years later there were four. Source: New Jersey From Colony To State, 1609 - 1789, Richard P McCormick.

Currently Reading: The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang, Jonathon Green.

PS: The Merry-Go-Round Museum!


View from just inside the main room of the Merry-Go-Round Museum's working carousel and some of the exhibits on the far side. It's a nice big circular room, as the building's exterior implies should be.


A curiosity: the Cyber Coaster, formerly in a little nook in the far side of the above picture, would show a ride video from Cedar Point's Gemini roller coaster. It didn't shake side to side or anything, the way ride simulators in disused corners of shopping malls would. It just sat there. Now it sits somewhere else and the monitor showing the picture was gone.


More secondary figures: on the back of this tiger are a cherub head and an irritated-looking eagle. Why? I don't know, but file this image away for a later nightmare.

Another quiet week on my mathematics blog, with comics and self-examination the order of the day. Well, here.

And last, do you know What's Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? July - October 2017 are waiting for you to learn. I thought it was all a great time myself. Anyway, for photos, here's the Merry-Go-Round Museum some more.


Rooster from about 1895 in, the sign says, the original factory paint. One of the paradoxes of carousel carving appreciation is that non-horse figures --- ``menagerie figures'' --- were surprisingly rare in the day. It was mostly horses. But that makes non-horses really interesting and thus, collected and featured. You see this bias in my own photographs. So it can give a false impression about what kinds of animals were carved. But there were a fair number of roosters and some lions and tigers and stuff like that back in the day.


Secondary figures also on the mount were common enough. Here's a tiger with a rather griffon-y dragon as a secondary figure and also someone's high-concept character.


One of the two chariots on the Merry-Go-Round Museum's working antique carousel. I'm not sure if this is an antique chariot, although the styling, especially the nude woman atop the harp atop the world-weary lion, looks it to me.


The Merry-Go-Round Museum's other chariot on the antique carousel. I also don't know whether this is an antique chariot. I get the impression that it's newer but that might just be that it's got a brighter paint scheme. It's put on the opposite side of the carousel so the two chariots don't fight.


Some more miscellaneous carousel-themed merchandise including a Makit-and-bakit kit of the kind you'd think would be easier to find these days. We just found the Makit-and-bakit shelves at Meijer last week. If there's one at Michael's it has completely escaped us.


From the Hall of Dubiously Wise Inventions: a carousel barber chair so that kids can sit down to get their hair cut and I have to imagine start hopping up and down like they were on an actual horse or one of the non-outer-row horses on a carousel. I don't know. It's great and I'd have loved it, I just don't know how well it could serve the ``stop fidgeting while you're a kid and a stranger is waving cutting blades around your ear'' goal.

Trivia: In 1907 Gimbels advertised a ten-pound tub of butter for $2.98. (It was a loss-leader.) Source: Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class, Jan Whitaker.

Currently Reading: The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang, Jonathon Green.

A little south of the Freehold Raceway Mall is a spot called iPlay America. It's an indoor family entertainment center that opened a couple years back, back when I was still living in New Jersey. We'd never gone there for want of anything interesting to us in it. Over the last year, that changed: they got a roller coaster. So now we had good reason to divert into it, or try to, since it was farther back from the highway than we imagined and finding the way into the parking lot was surprisingly complicated.

The place, it turns out, has a bunch of rides and arcade games and redemption games and all that. The novelty is that its interior is built to look vaguely like the streets of a shore town or tourist stop. I haven't been to anything quite like it since back in Singapore days, when Bugis Village made an enclosed mall of a shopping street. Most of the ``buildings'' were facades, but the illusion of wandering around a cute little sanitary shore town wasn't bad. And I was disproportionately amused that they had storage lockers and bathrooms dressed up to look like a New York City subway, down to the signage.

It was more spacious than I imagined, at least. They even had an indoor go-karts crack. Not a large one, but still, one at all is amazing. Also a miniature bowling alley of the kind we've seen at Cedar Point and always thought would be interesting to try. Also a tiny carousel, only big enough for kids but still more substantial than those coin-op rides in the neglected sections of malls. Also a mechanized swing that seemed to bring people's feet dangerously near the ceiling. And, of course, what looked like maybe a salvaged Disneyland Br'er Fox animatronic tucked up far enough away and at an oblique enough angle you don't wonder if he was maybe caught in a tire fire on the way here.

The roller coaster was that same spinning-car figure-eight thing, maybe fifteen feet tall, that we had seen at Playland Castaway Cove. And it had, if anything, an even longer ride cycle than that one. We joke about the Roller Coaster Tycoon peeps who get to thinking ``I want to get off Spinny Coaster 1'' or something like that. But there is a point when you do start thinking you've maybe had enough ride. The roller coaster felt more exciting here, possibly because being enclosed and so close to the walls made the modest speeds feel much faster, or at least more dangerous.

Another ride we went on: the bumper cars. They had the same circular-base bumper cars that we'd ridden at the Columbus Zoo earlier in the summer, and that we had seen at Castaway Cove. Here we also got a clear explanation of one of their features. If another car bumps yours in the right spots --- and they're marked --- they make your car lose control, and go spinning for several seconds. I don't know why the other rides didn't advertise that; maybe they don't have that engaged. But it does add a great side to the bumper car experience since even better than jolting someone is making them go twirling. Also, with a bit more experience, I got to know just how flexible and responsive these cars, with separately controllable left and right driving wheels, can be. You can go from moving forward to moving backward on a dime, and make dramatically sharp turns. So if you work out the angles right, you can fake someone out to a crash and then recede, backwards, and giggling at them. I must repent my early thoughts that the spinning bumper cars were a silly reverse adaptation of bumper boats to dry land. They do add something novel and pretty great.

So the spot is pretty good, although it's clearly for smaller kids and for family groups instead of us. We like the concept, though, and don't see why faux shore towns shouldn't be a thing even in places like mid-Michigan. And then we got to the pinball.

They had the first two Jersey Jack games, The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit, both favorites of mine. The Wizard of Oz ... wouldn't take money. Well, it would take money, but it would give only one-quarter the credits you were supposed to get. (Well, not money, but swipes from your magnetic-stripe card, but still.) Got the attendants. They said, yeah, it just does that and they gave me a refund on my card. No suggestions of putting up a warning sign on the machine, though, so when they left I turned the game off.

The Hobbit, now ... I started a game and fiddling around with it and I had a killer first ball. And then, somehow, did not regress to the mean on my second. I had one of those mysterious occasional games in which I just could not lose the ball --- except occasionally, off to the right, hitting the sometimes-lit target that gives you the chance to earn your ball back. Which I kept doing. A good reliable Hobbit strategy is: shoot enough of the pop-up beasts to start that multiball. In that multiball, start one of the game modes. With Beast Multiball and the mode going, shoot the rollovers to lite locks and shoot the right ramp to lock balls. This starts Smaug Multiball. Then just keep playing because you will be making massive scores with everything you do. It's the way I always try playing, and this time, it wasn't just working, it was working fantastically. I was having the best game of The Hobbit I had ever had. And then, as multiball ended, I discovered that I had a stuck ball. One of the pinballs had gone airborne, as they will, and got wedged on some of the plastic outside one of the metal railing ramps.

This was dire. My game was interrupted, yes. And [profile] bunny_hugger was hurt by the prospect that I might not get to put my initials on the high score table. I got an attendant, who was helpless to do what the right thing was --- open the game and free the ball --- but who could shake the machine more, hoping to nudge it free. This scared us both since that could cause a slam tilt, ending the game and aborting even the chance to enter my initials. I would have recovered by now from the indignity of losing the chance to enter my initials, but that would have hurt still.

No good, though. There wasn't any way to free the ball except by turning the machine upside-down. Bah. Mercifully, I suppose, the game eventually gave up the ball search, ended my ball, and gave me ball three. And it was willing to carry on despite one of the multiple pinballs in the machine being missing. I could carry on, and did finally come out as the Grand Champion with by far my highest score on The Hobbit or any Jersey Jack game. (They're low-scoring games.)

[profile] bunny_hugger took the credits that I'd won (and I think the attendant gave us a free credit for the game interruption), and she herself had some solid games, getting two of the day's high scores on the table and I think a personal high score too.

While taking a last tour around the place one of the attendants, I think the one running the laser-gun room, came up to say hi. He had noticed our amusement park T-shirts --- [profile] bunny_hugger was wearing one I had made featuring the Wild Mouse formerly at Casino Pier --- and asked if we were here to get our riding credit. So we discovered this fellow roller coaster enthusiast, and got to talk a little about what the new Casino Pier was like, and also to talk up some of the other parks we'd visited over the past week, and ones we'd like to get to. It was such a sweet little dose of personal connection for the end of the night.

Also for the end of our vacation. Monday we were to fly home, and when has flying out of Trenton ever gone wrong for us, except for every time we have ever tried it?

Trivia: RCA did not move its experimental New York City broadcasting antenna to the top of the Empire State Building until CBS put its antenna higher up on the Chrysler Building. Source: Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television, Michael Ritchie. (The antenna had been lower on the Empire State Building.)

Currently Reading: The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang, Jonathon Green.

PS: some very specific details of a neat thing at the Merry-Go-Round Museum.


Detail from an enormous map for a projected ``Toy Town'' amusement park, sometime in the 1920s or early 30s. There just isn't much information about the thing, but gosh, doesn't it look wonderful?


Close-up detail on the Toy Town park, focusing on the Easter Bunny section, with a bit of Arabian Nights mixed in.


Among the many baffling details of the Toy Town planned park: the in-park transportation by way of fish car. I love it, I just don't understand it.

Sunday, our last full day in New Jersey for our anniversary trip, [profile] bunny_hugger wanted to drive again. This is when I clumsily dropped the astounding news that our rental car doors would unlock if you just pulled on the handle while you have the key fob in your pocket. She doesn't approve of what this does to the concept of ``car key''.

We wanted to go to a diner for lunch, and with our Regent Diner closed and even the Toms River Diner apparently gone we had a good candidate. Corner Post Diner, one of the several that we went to the first week she was in New Jersey. It was one of two places we'd eaten where someone stopped by to say [profile] bunny_hugger looked like their sister. (The other one was at a Lakewood Blue Claws minor-league ball game, a detail I think I forgot to mention in my report of the game that Bruce Springsteen Appreciation Night.) The diner looked ... weird. Rather more formal and dressed-up than we remembered. We spent a lot of lunch trying to work out whether the place had been renovated and upgraded considerably, or whether it's just that since our earlier table had been in this narrow corridor by the window we didn't know what the main dining room looked like.

The next stop on our old-places tour was the Book Garden, the used book shop that's five miles west of Great Adventure on Route 537. (I also thought for a bit we might go to Great Adventure after all, but we had more pressing old-places to revisit.) The most astounding thing there, as ever, was that the owner recognized me. I mean, yes, I used to visit the place a lot, but that meant once every couple weeks, more than five years ago. I grant I have a couple good distinguishing hooks to make me memorable, but there's so many other people in the world to remember.

I picked up a couple of books, of course, but [profile] bunny_hugger had the real find in the postcards. She found a bunch of Michigan-themed postcards. The only Lansing one was for one of the high schools, a reminder that for some reason you could just sell postcards of ordinary public buildings back in the day for some reason. The major find was a bunch of Detroit-area cards. They were written with the fascinating, compellingly boring material of that era's texting. Many, many reports of having arrived in Detroit, or having arrived in Detroit yesterday. And how it was not as hot as the day before, but hotter than it should be tomorrow. How it rained, or was expected to rain, or did not rain. But what we noticed: we had a bunch of cards written by the same person, apparently on the same trip. They were sent to different people, though, with different last names at different addresses. So how did they all end up sold to the same used book shop? What twists of fate shuttled them all to the same location?

My best guess was maybe someone in the neighborhood collected stamps, or postcards, and snagged them from everyone who was willing to turn them over. My father's guess, which is similar but I think more compelling, is that the postcards were just shared around to everybody in the extended family, or the neighborhood circle of friends, and they ended at whoever was the last to receive the cards that get moved around (or who was always slowest at sharing them with someone else). I mention all this so you can appreciate how we got to wondering about things and maybe use this as your creative writing prompt for the day.

Our next stop on the old-places tour was the Freehold Raceway Mall, and the double-decker carousel there, and that brought with it the discovery of many small changes at the place. The Radio Shack was gone, of course. So was the dollar store, and who knew dollar stores could go out of business? The Sears had retreated to just filling the lower level of its anchor store location, and we'd discover that it closed at the same time the main mall closed. Since we'd parked just outside it this meant we had to figure an alternate way to get to our car. (We could, but we had to walk along un-sidewalked areas along the mall's road belt.)

Also at the carousel we'd discover that we had forgot the loyalty card and had to start a new one. Ten rides is supposed to get us a free ride, and we've probably got that, but scattered over about fourteen cards that we have got to organize for the next time we're in New Jersey.

We had gotten to the mall fairly late, and only had the chance to poke around one store besides the carousel. This was the Disney Store, which I don't think we have a local edition of. There we learned they had more of the four-armed Stitch puppets I'd gotten [profile] bunny_hugger for Christmas, which, good. Also we discovered these little ... tube-like plush doll renditions of various classic Disney characters. The clerk tried to explain the appeal to us: they were a Japanese thing, and the dolls stacked well. And ... that's it, apparently? I really don't get it.

But by then we were being turned out of the mall, a side effect of how ridiculously early everything closes on Sunday, and the end of our visiting old places. We did have a new place to go, though.

Trivia: In 1981 Atari agreed to pay General Computer $50,000 per month for two years, with first right of refusal to any games they might make. Within three months General Computer offered Food Fight to Atari, which had not expected them to actually make anything. (The contract was to buy Atari's way out of a lawsuit.) Source: The Ultimate History of Video Games, Steven L Kent.

Currently Reading: The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang, Jonathon Green.

PS: More Merry-Go-Round Museum exhibitions!


M C Illions backdrop panel, of the sort that would give scenery to a carousel horse. This is only two panels; they had something like eight, far too many to show at once, at least as the museum's exhibit was currently arranged, but they hoped this would give some idea of what it might look like. No idea whose face that is as a cherub up top.


Each year the Merry-Go-Round Museum carves a new horse that gets raffled off. In Presidential Election years they're designed to have a Patriotic theme, and there's nothing symbolic in the 2016 Patriotic Horse being flopped on its side.


Past carvings by the museum: two of a family of sea horses/dragons. The Merry-Go-Round Museum has as its centerpiece an antique carousel, but only (``only'') the mechanism and platform and such. The mounts weren't available or affordable, so, they've replaced them with their own designs.

My humor blog: I have one. Here's what you could be enjoying there.


Me getting arty again: carousel horse display (``romance'') side and the less-ornate reverse side as seen in a mirror. With another horse photobombing the action.


M C Illions horse with some companions at the Merry-Go-Round Museum. Scenery panels above. I like that Illions's address is carved as ``C.I.'', as though Coney Island were an actual postal abbreviation. On the other hand, I've sent stuff to, like, 'Garden City LI' and that's gotten through. New York City is kind of a weird world.


Looking a carved horse in the mouth. It's not always pretty and might reflect where there could've been harnesses for the rider to hold. (I don't know that this ever did.)


Exhibit at the Merry-Go-Round museum that makes me wonder: what would the game be? And why does it use the Original Wheel of Fortune logo graphic design?


Photo of then-First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House Christmas event, showing off a carousel deer ... in front of that carousel deer. Remember when we had a First Lady and, for that matter, a President? Those were good times. Also I keep liking that Daniel Muller-carved butterfly lady in the upper right there; I don't remember if her lights were working in past visits.


Tools of the trade, I think from the Dentzel carving shop, along with a horse that's had its paint stripped to show what a fresh-carved horse would look like.

Trivia: While a candidate for the second round of NASA astronaut selections in June and July 1962, Neil Armstrong presented a (cowritten) paper, ``A Review Of In-Flight Simulation Pertinent To Piloted Space Vehicles'' (about how to build spaceflight simulators) to the Paris meeting of NATO's Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development, and received the Octave Chanute Award at a meeting of the Institute of Aerospace Sciences. He felt good about his chances for selection. Source: First Man: The Life of Neil A Armstrong, James R Hansen.

Currently Reading: The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang, Jonathon Green.

PS: Reading the Comics, September 29, 2017: Anthropomorphic Mathematics Edition, some comics accidentally posted late. Sorry.

So our first ride was the carousel. It probably would have been in any case, because it's the most historically interesting ride there. Also they had the brass-ring dispenser working, always worth the attention. [profile] bunny_hugger and I both got outer row horses, with a bit of luck, since the ride was packed. And it happened that they extended the brass ring's arm and started loading rings into the set just in time for me to make the first grab at a ring. With my experience at Knoebels, and what I knew about how to grab rings --- the secret is to reach out into the wooden arm and not mind that your fingers are going to hurt --- I went on to: do lousy. Missed altogether the first couple go-rounds, and only came up with two or three steel rings after all. [profile] bunny_hugger did much better, getting five or six steel rings, out of about seven chances to grab something.

The dark ride was a fine one, although maybe I'm just always partial to haunted house dark rides. My recollection is that this one was built recently, but by people who were serious fans of haunted-house-dark-ride master Bill Tracey and so they worked as many of the master's tricks in as they could. To give some idea how it's decorated, they have a full skeleton climbing across the roof of the 'house', where some kind of freakish bird is posed, mid-scream, at it.

The roller coasters were fine enough, though placing the Runaway Train Coaster right next to the Giant Ferris Wheel made the ride seem smaller. We also worried a little whether we'd be able to fit together in it. It's a small ride with narrow cars, but we didn't have to take it single-seated. Which was good for the crowd, since there was a fairly good crowd. Not packed like Playland Castaway Cove was, but enough that there was a reasonable line. The Wacky Worm, we did have to take each of us to one seat, but that had fewer people waiting anyway. And coming back from the Wacky Worm we discovered ... that water-shooting ``Pirate Blasta'' game, just as we had seen at Story Book Land earlier in the day. It's weird how stuff creeps up on us like that.

I wanted to ride the Monorail, which as an elevated ride seemed to offer the chance to get a great view of the park, and to see things from above. On the way up we discovered an animatronic band that looked kind of like it might be leftover Chuck E Cheese performers, possibly reskinned. I gave in to the temptation and saw what they played. There was some patter, and then they played John Denver's ``Take Me Home, Country Roads'', and there was some more patter. I forget if there was another song. [profile] bunny_hugger worried we would inspire hatred from the operators of the Monorail and whichever other attraction was up there.

The monorail had a sign proclaiming 'Southbound: Waterwonderland .2 miles; Ft Lauderdale 1163 Miles', inspiring me to joke that this seemed like a very Michigan city-distance sign. Apparently at the north end of US 23 in Michigan there's a sign reading, 'Miami 2310 Miles' or whatever the correct number is. Anyway, the ride was just as I'd hoped: a lot of great above-the-ride views of everything on the pier, inside and out, including views down onto the carousel. Any time you can get a view down onto a carousel it's worth it. The ride also gave us a good view of some of the upper-level rides that weren't running that day, even though it was a Saturday evening just before the 4th of July. No idea what the story there was.

We had a couple of tickets left, just enough for a ride on the Musik Express (always a reliable attraction for us), and then one last turn on the carousel. It was getting near the park's closing hour --- they had pulled some of the doors of the castle closed --- and we didn't quite get the last ride of the night in. But we were late enough they weren't running the brass ring anymore, probably to make do with fewer staff. Maybe to free staff up for something else.

(Here's an oddity, by the way. My pictures of the last ride and all that are timestamped 10:45. That's a weird hour for stuff to close. 10, sure. 11, sure. 10:30, maybe. 10:45? I have to guess the official closing was 10:30 and they'd run things for a reasonable while after as long as the crowds justified. Well, we walked out, enjoying the view of the pier nestled in for the night, and of the attractions and minigolf places and arcades as they closed up for the night.

Oh yeah, arcades. I peeked in one and saw: they had pinball. So that changed our let's-go-home plans. More, they had interesting pinballs. Well, some interesting pinballs. They also had Family Guy. But they had some we couldn't resist playing. The modern Stern Indiana Jones, for example, which we had heard of as a thing that existed but never seen. And the Data East Batman, the existence of which is reportedly responsible for the accidentally-Zootopia-themed Police Force.

Stern's Indiana Jones has a reputation of being a bit of a boring game, certainly compared to the all-time stone-cold classic of Williams's 90s table. But in this, my first experience of the game ... well, I have no complaints: I had an outstanding game. Beginner's luck, surely, but I had one of those games that just would not end, and kept turning up great stuff. I think there's four major multiball modes in it, and I got to all of them. I think I left my initials on the high score table, although at this remove, who could say, except by checking the pinball scores app I have on my iPod Touch that's literally ten feet away from me right now. I didn't have as record-setting a game of Data East's Batman, but [profile] bunny_hugger did.

We might have played longer, but it was late, and we'd been going a very long time, and three amusement parks in a day is a lot. And, well, we could play Simpsons Pinball Party anywhere, and Spider-Man near enough to home, and while the Data East Star Wars is rare in our parts it's also not that good a game. We were going to enjoy our triumphant games, enjoy the atmosphere, and go back to our hotel home.

Trivia: Gustav de Laval, pioneer of steam turbine design, was brought to that field in trying to solve the problems of producing high enough rotary speeds for his centrifugal cream separator. Source: A History of Mechanical Inventions, Abbott Payson Usher.

Currently Reading: The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang, Jonathon Green.

PS: More at the Merry-Go-Round Museum.


Wolf mount, with a mouse sneaking up on him, at the Merry-Go-Round Museum.


Close-up of the 'blanket' on a carved horse to show off the M C Illions signature on the lovely, bejewelled piece.


One of the horses on display beside the Euclid Beach Park ticket window and price sign. There's a lot of miscellaneous stuff like this at the Merry-Go-Round Museum, although rumor is that the next time we get there --- which should be this month --- there'll be some big changes in the exhibited pieces. Which is why I took so very many pictures of what they had right then. Don't worry. You'll see it all.

If I had any preconceived notions about Gillian's Wonderland Pier, it was that it was a pier. You know, some elevated structure reaching out into the water, or at least over sand that might be underwater at some point. In this I was mistaken. It maybe is elevated from the sand; given the mist, there wasn't any way to tell. But it was a cement base, and on the shore side of the boardwalk, so if it's anything like a pier it's not really obvious. I don't know.

It's also much more like a large warehouse than I had expected. The main building for the pier is an enormous room, decorated on the outside as a castle, with little octagonal projections and even, in one spot, a dragon peeking in on a princess, getting chin pets. It's a friendly facade. Looks great.

Also great: they have an antique carousel. Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel #75, built 1926 and moved to the pier, which opened in 1929, I do not know when. It's one of the few carousels to still have a brass ring mechanism. This was our third carousel to have a brass ring mechanism, and only the second one to have it working. (Knoebels has and uses the ring. Conneaut Lake Park has the brass ring machine, but if they ever run it, we've not seen that.) It's a lovely carousel, and when we first got there it looked to be the busiest ride in the park. It was packed, and when we'd go for a ride it would be a nearly full ride. Don't often see the carousels that packed, although come to think of it, when I have it's been at Knoebels. Maybe the brass ring is a really good idea.

If there's a pay-one-price admission we missed it. We did spent a fair bit of time looking over the rides that they had and figuring out what we'd want to do, and how many tickets this would take. The pier has a delightfully complicated structure, too, with a couple of elevated sections that's probably more fun for people like us who haven't got trouble going up stairs. Not sure what they do for people less mobile. Some of them weren't running, such as the Scrambler; we would see that, but not see it in operation. There's also, in another section, an elevated monorail that runs near the ceiling of the castle, and out over most of the pier. We had watched a good number of cars puttering along, shedding sparks at a couple of spots that we're sure are probably just fine. Those things never set antique carousels on fire, right? Ugh.

The pier's got two roller coasters, one of them a Wacky Worm of the kind you see everywhere and that we were still kind of cranky about not getting to ride at Keansburg. The other is the Runaway Train Coaster, a compact steel coaster with a couple steep, diving twists. It's got faintly Mine Train-esque cars, and the front car even has a mock Old West train engine. It runs right next to the giant Ferris wheel which, in hindsight, should indeed have been visible from far away, if not for the mist.

Also prominent and exciting: the Haunted House Dark Ride. We love dark rides, and any chance to go puttering around inside a bunch of little scary-themed haunted attractions is a great one. We had, now, a fair idea of what we'd want to ride, and we went to one of the ticket booths. Which were delightful, by the way, and decorated in back by folk art renditions of Wonder Bear and a female bear riding the park's attractions. We were set.

Trivia: The first appearance of ``chop suey'' in print was in an 1884 column that chef Wong Chin Foo wrote for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, about what Chinese cooking was like. In this appearance it was spelled ``chop soly''. Source: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Eisenhower and the Quest for Aerospace Security, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk.

PS: Hello, Halloweekends Sunday! ... Eventually. You'll see.


View, while driving, slowly, of the carcass of Mean Streak. We got a few glimpses of the ride under reconstruction since you can't drive to and from the Breakers Hotel without seeing the roller coaster's site. And you can see what the weather was like, which is why we picked Sunday to go out to the Merry-Go-Round museum.


In the Merry-Go-Round Museum, in Sandusky: a kiddie carousel mount made to look like Mighty Mouse for the reasons. I can't say that the teeth are helping Mighty look friendly in the way they want.


Elephant stander with a basket for riding at the Merry-Go-Round Museum. It's an amusing and interesting mount and it's nice to see stranger things like this around.

PPS: How September 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog, a brief report.

So the other, lesser roller coasters at Playland Castaway Cove in Ocean City, New Jersey. The most adjacent one that was open was the Whirlwind. It's a little figure eight, and that's all, one lift, one drop, with cars that spin. A lot. To make up for the short length --- 190 feet for a complete circuit --- and barely noticeable drop of the ride --- it's only 14 feet tall --- they run a bunch of circuits. Maybe eight. Maybe more. The ride is fun, but it does seem to reach near the point where your Roller Coaster Tycoon peeps would start thinking how they want to get off Whirlwind 1. I remember the ride starting off chugging very slowly, as though it might not get to the top of the hill given the load of people on it. It also braked a bit past the station, and had to again slowly winch its way down the track to where we could unload.

The other operating roller coaster is the Pirates Gold Rush, and yes, the lack of apostrophe disturbs me. It's another tiny roller coaster, one of many that makes me think of the kiddie coaster Little Thunder that used to be at Great Adventure. Tiny little oval track, tucked near the edge of the park, just over the wall from a Christmas shop we wouldn't have the chance to visit. It's got a train with cars that made me think of mine ride coasters, and maybe the ride's siblings farther from shore are set up as kiddie mine rides. It's a small thing, which drew a pretty good-sized queue that had to stand what seemed dangerously close to exposed power cables and the like. In any case, it's a good ride for kids learning how to ride roller coasters, and it smashed our knees something awful.

Next to the Pirates Gold Rush is a bumper-car ride with the same sort of circular tube cars we'd seen at the Columbus Zoo. And which we would see again, making this the summer of Baader-Meinhof amusements. We'd also look at but not ride the swinging ship, and the Chance fiberglass carousel. We would look at, and eventually use, the bathrooms with upwards of 850 people in line. And we'd admire the parrot they had out for photographs while wondering whether that's really good for the parrot.

And with this nearly surgical visit we were off, walking up the boardwalk in the direction we thought Gillian's Wonderland would be, worrying all the time that we were just walking into the mist until we'd get lost. Almost right away, though, we walked up to ... The Fry Guy, a big, inflated, mascot costume of a bucket of French fries. It was working the crowd, posing for pictures and hugging kids who find this exactly as baffling as you might imagine.

Also along the way we passed Haunted Golf, one of many indoor miniature golf courses in the area. It promised 18 holes, and it had a pair of animatronic hosts out front, a skeleton in a suit and a taxidermied buffalo head, who in-between talking the place up would karaoke to Michael Jackson's Thriller. Now none of this directly promises that the miniature golf is any good. But apparently the industry practice is to invest about as much money into the frontage as into the course, and this was clearly a solid investment in the frontage. Plus the thing was packed, with a dense line going out the door. Which is why we passed on it, ultimately: if we hadn't come to the place after Story Book Land and the Playland Castaway Cove we might have had the time for it. As was, no.

We continued on, passing the Tee Time miniature golf with a couple ancient-looking figures, some from fairy tales or apparently adapted from them (a man working on the Little Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe's roof?), some dinosaurs and stuff, some just Hanna-Barbera characters that maybe were legitimate once upon a time? They had Fred and Barney in Fred's car, anyway, which made me think of the statue of Yogi Bear at Seaside Heights. Inexplicable things with, it's got to be, some story behind them.

And just past that, finally, we saw the slowly turning signs on posts that spelled out, one letter at a time: Wonderland.

Trivia: China's 1873 Imperial delegation to Burma was accompanied by a 1300-mule caravan carrying gifts of ``fruit and some hams''. Source: The Stone of Heaven, Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott Clark.

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Eisenhower and the Quest for Aerospace Security, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk.

PS: Goodnight, Halloweekends Saturday.


Pumpkin spice snake. One of the carved-`pumpkin' snakes, seen here at night, and illuminated, so you get what I mean about the way they look.


People walking back to the hotel, though the after-midnight fog and intense lights. Also: the cover for my acoustic album.


The last time, it turned out, that we would leave by way of the Resorts Gate. And we noticed the sign with what apparently was Mean Streak Henry's final count of 16,174 rides on that roller coaster. No idea where if anywhere the sign's been moved to now.

My mathematics blog finished the A To Z project this week! There'll be an essay with some closing thoughts soon enough. And then I'll try to find some other series that I can commission some art from [personal profile] thomaskdye.

Here's what's been going on around there, though:

And, do you know What's Going On In Judge Parker? For July - September 2017? This is your chance to catch up!

Now to the evening of Halloweekends Saturday at Cedar Point ... nearly a year ago. I'm not doing well catching up on my photos.


Our last time going into the pre-renovation Resorts Gate, that Halloweekends Saturday a year ago. I noticed in the office where they'd moved the Mean Streak Henry sign to after Mean Streak was demolished. Presumably that's been moved somewhere else now, too.


Rides graveyard. Mean Streak's spot, with the open grave ``dug'' at the burial ceremony a few weeks earlier. And a car from the green train coming out with light underneath and smoke billowing out. (Or maybe it was just foggy, because there was a lot of fog that night. You will see.) You know, in case anyone didn't know they were going to turn Mean Streak into a new roller coaster. Also you see why I expected they'd name the new coaster Vicious Streak, when it has hints like that dropped around.


Part of the furry takeover of the world: woman wearing a cat tail, on line for the Blue Streak roller coaster. Sorry it was impossible to take a good picture. Costumes aren't normally allowed at Cedar Point, but things that can be done with a couple accessories creep in, especially around Halloween, especially since you can get some of them as redemption game prizes or in the gift shops.


View from the Tiki Twirl (formerly the Calypso) of the ride, and of the fresh-installed palm-tree-inspired light trees, and the Giant Ferris Wheel with the expensive and fancy modern lighting package at a moment when nothing much seems to be happening. (It was doing a thing where beams of light shoot out from the center, all apparently out of synch.)


[profile] bunny_hugger in her bunny hoodie, looking out over the really too ample queue for the Wicked Twister shuttle coaster. It's a ride we go on maybe once a year, and that's probably enough, although I do like its electromagnetic acceleration and deceleration.


[profile] bunny_hugger looking out on the entrance gate from the Midway Carousel, the main centerpiece of the park that isn't GateKeeper. You can see her adorable little pumpkin earrings. Also, above and to the left of her hand, the state historical plaque mentioning Cedar Point's ancient claim to being the Queen of American Watering Places, an attempt to get in on some of that Brighton (UK) glory.


Penultimate ride of the night (we'd get the last one on it): the Corkscrew roller coaster zooms out into the just-before-midnight air. Corkscrew was running, because it just never goes down. The ride staff often teases Top Thrill Dragster, across the midway; that roller coaster's big and can be seen from nearly the whole park and gets huge lines, but it goes down if there's any weather, including sunny, clear days.

Trivia: In 1826 John Jacob Astor was paid $27,000 in Manhattan property rentals. Source: The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History, Edward Robb Ellis.

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Eisenhower and the Quest for Aerospace Security, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk.

So first thing to understand about Playland Castaway Cove, the park we didn't know we would visit, is that it's tiny. You know the size of an amusement pier you're thinking of? Think of something smaller than that. It's maybe the size of our bathroom. Also, that it was packed. I estimate that everybody in South Jersey, Delaware, and Southeastern Pennsylvania had converged on the Castaway Cove for the day. Also they have a rather good number and variety of rides. The result is it felt cramped, and claustrophobic, and honestly a bit tense. There were always swarms of people moving around, wherever you might want to go.

A quick check of the arcade suggested no pinball, which, all right. Didn't expect any. Also there's not much space for arcades there. They did have a modern-style Chance carousel, a swinging ship ride, a drop tower, the Ferris wheel that I'd thought was Gillian's, bumper cars, and a lot of roller coasters for the square footage. What they didn't have, so far as we could tell, was a wristband plan that would make sense for us. It was all tickets. But that was kind of all right; we didn't figure to do more than ride the roller coasters and maybe if something seemed uniquely compelling about the area that. Mostly we hoped to get through the park without being compressed into lumps of person-flavored protein by the crowds.

To give some idea of how cramped the park was: the centerpiece, tallest, biggest-thrill roller coaster is this brilliant blue thing named Gale Force. It was surrounded by the track of what I assumed was a recently-defunct roller coaster, Wild Waves. I was wrong about that: it wasn't a recently-defunct roller coaster. It was a roller coaster still being built, and slated to open later in July. (According to the Roller Coaster Database it actually opened the 7th of September.) That's two major roller coasters they opened in the same season, by the way. Also next to both of these is a compact, spinning, figure-8-shaped coaster named Whirlwind that was a kind I'd never seen before. It's only 14 feet tall, but makes up for not being tall by running many, many circuits each ride. And it wasn't the only roller coaster of this type we'd ride that weekend. I love the aesthetic of rides atop rides; it's one of the things I love about Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Indiana Beach, and Kennywood; and here, was a place going crazy with it.

I felt a bit indecent looking over the park's attractions and deciding what ones to target. Usually we go to a park to soak in the atmosphere and while we'll have priorities, we want to amble around it. But we were fitting an unexpected park into an already-advancing evening. And the crowd made it difficult to figure where to just wander or take in the atmosphere. We picked out what we wanted and bought the tickets that we'd need for that. Which included separate, special, Willie Wonka-style Golden Ticket sheets for one ride each on Gale Force.

Gale Force is the tallest ride, and it's a launch coaster, one that uses electromagnetic induction to build up speed, instead of a chain that pulls you slowly to the top of a first hill. Instead it gets you up to speed at the base of a U-shaped hill, fast enough that you ... don't ... quite ... get up to the top of the hill. The car falls back down, picks up another boost as it goes backwards through the launch station, and then goes up the return-leg hill again partway. You fall back down again, pick up more acceleration going through the launch station, and then go over the hill to see the rest of the ride. Which is your complicated, twisty path that's all surprisingly close to being in one plane of motion.

From the top of the hill there's a grand view of the Playland Castaway Cove, and you could probably see out to the ocean, if there weren't so thoroughgoing and heavy a mist. As it was, the park looked like a little patch of color and evening lights turning on in the middle of a great grey expanse, one that hid even the water. And this from the Boardwalk. Quite a weird feeling, especially compared to the brilliant sun and warmth of the previous park, two hours earlier.

Trivia: The Latin zodiac sign Capricorn, the Goat, was in Sanskrit `Makarus', and in the Babylonian scheme `Goat-fish'. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Eisenhower and the Quest for Aerospace Security, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk.

PS: Just some walking around Halloweekends before sunset.


One of Cedar Point's old statues, emerged from hiding and set up with a guitar because near the Corkscrew roller coaster here they put up the Rock and Roll Graveyard every year.


Pumpkin Spice Snakes. Decorations, with lights on the inside, so that at night you just see the slits of their eyes and the enormously many holes over their bodies.


Photo of the Magnum XL 200 photo stand, which we didn't know was going to be renovated out of existence over the off-season, but which was, and aren't you glad to have its Very 1989 styling preserved? The photo's at a weird angle because I wondered what it would look like if the apparent path of the roller coaster train were level instead, and I missed that angle too.

We had an ambitious Saturday planned: two amusement parks. Story Book Land in the morning, and then Gillian's Wonderland Pier, in nearby Ocean City, New Jersey, in the evening. We'd wanted to get there, not least because of [profile] rapidtrabbit's many kind words about the place, and it's so near to Story Book Land that they make a natural pair.

The Wonderland Pier's web site didn't give really good directions. They're, literally, ``Follow signs to Ocean City; Look for the Giant Wheel!'' The web site also suggests that ``sunglasses, a camera and film would top off a list of recommended items'', for everyone visiting the park in 1998. But, hey, I had the car's satellite navigator estimate of the park's address. And even if we were only nearby, how could we miss a giant Ferris wheel?

As we drove in, so came a mist. A surprisingly heavy, slightly chilly, mist. [profile] bunny_hugger feared it was starting to rain and the evening would be spoiled. I supposed that maybe it was just from the temperature drop and would clear up soon enough. We got to Ocean City, and pulled up to what sure looked like the row of houses just past the boardwalk, and through the mist saw: nothing.

A lot of nothing. Oh, beach houses, yes, block after block of beach houses. But no, you know, piers. Or Ferris wheels. Or lights, or amusement park noises, or anything. Not even something that looked like it might be the pier's business office. Just houses, and a dune, and a vast grey misty nothingness.

I picked a direction, north, and started driving, supposing that maybe we'd see something, somehow. And we kept driving, even as the road merged with another and then split off again. We started to despair; somehow, in one of the small shore towns, we were going to miss the amusement park because our street address was just wrong and the mist kept us from seeing a giant Ferris wheel from maybe one block away. Until finally --- aha! A Ferris wheel! Some roller coasters! We were there!

It wasn't giant giant, like looms over Cedar Point, but that was all right. They had a smaller base and if there weren't so much mist it'd probably be easy to see from the edge of town. At least the west edge of town. I pulled over into the first parking lot I could find, where the attendants took $15 for the rest of the day. After a trip of free parking and municipal parking lots that felt odd. But we ventured out, and then ventured right back to get our hoodies because it was kind of chilly in the mist. But we ventured out again and ... couldn't exactly find the way into the amusement pier. Which was on the shore side of the boardwalk, but what the heck.

We walked several blocks, getting farther away from the roller coasters without seeing any signs for Gillian's and then had to ask: what the heck is going on?

[profile] bunny_hugger was, as often, ahead of me on this. The roller coasters and the Ferris wheel we'd seen and all that were not part of Gillian's. They were part of another amusement pier, Playland's Castaway Cove. Formerly Playland. No connection to Rye. And I realized, oh, I had seen that as a nearby park when looking up Gillian's on the Roller Coaster Database. But didn't think of it as anything to pay attention to; it seemed minor, and only two little roller coasters, and ... well ... so where was Gillian's?

I went to one of the boardwalk police to ask where Gillian's was. And prepared to hear it was a couple miles down the way (I expected it to be a little south of where the satellite navigator first took us), and that we'd have to eat the cost of the parking spot. No such dire news: it was only five blocks farther along the boardwalk. We were in reasonable walking distance after all.

And ... we had another, unplanned, amusement park we could visit.

Trivia: The United Kingdom dropped more than 29,000 tons of ``highly active radioactive waste'' into Atlantic waters about four hundred miles west of Land's End, an area around nine thousand feet deep. Source: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, Simon Winchester.

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Eisenhower and the Quest for Aerospace Security, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk.

PS: Who doesn't like a parade?


Still from my Halloweekends parade movie: Vampire Woodstock, which has some canonical basis because there was that storyline where Peppermint Patty was telling vampire stories to Woodstock and Snoopy and giving them nightmares.


Another still from the Halloweekends parade: candy and discount Oompa Loompas and wait a minute, those candies.


And one more still form the Halloweekends parade: isn't one of them Duke from Dutch Wonderland? That's the Kennywood amusement park chain, not the Cedar Point chain. The heck?

PPS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: What I Talked About, a list of 26 essays plus a link to 78 other essays.

It's been a week of mostly excuses on my humor blog. Did you miss it as it happened? No fears; you've got your chance to see them now:

Now back to Cedar Point's Frontier Trail, which has shops that do crafts even when it isn't Halloweekends season.


Candle shop wares. Bunnies, dragons-or-dinosaurs, some kind of bird on the right, all too cute to actually use as candles.


Wood-carving shop stuff, including one of multiple Schwabinchen figures --- the woman, torso-up, on the right --- that they have in various states of carving and painting but not as far as I can tell put to any use.


A Filipino(?) mock carousel horse that Cedar Point somehow came to own and that's in the wood-carving shop for reasons I don't think I ever got clearly. s


The conference. Animation assignment: storyboard the rest of this scene.


Dragon figure trying to look his best peering down at you even though you're using him for your electric-wire-bundling needs.


One of the very former captive-airship rides, repurposed for the Halloweekends event into a steampunky airship.

Trivia: An attempt by a German housewife in 1838 to poison her husband by lacing his soup with rat poison failed, reportedly, when the husband noticed the phosphorous-laded soup glowing as he carried his bowl down the dark hallway from the kitchen to the dining room. Source: The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorous, John Emsley. (Emsley doesn't specify, like, what city it happened in or who the people involved were, so good luck verifying it. But, it is an interesting story.)

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Eisenhower and the Quest for Aerospace Security, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk.