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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

"Yay, I'm a Sheep Again! ...Wait."

Sep. 24th, 2017 08:38 am
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Kihai the Grandiose

I was supposed to run D&D last night but for various reasons (mostly related to insomnia) I hadn't had time to finish prepping. My game is at a particularly lore-intensive moment right now, and while monster encounters and action scenes are fairly easy to run off the cuff, getting the world right requires a little thinking ahead.

Luckily [personal profile] inkblitz stepped in with a fun little side-trip adventure for his game. Following last week's goblin-and-dragon-hunting jaunt, the party was in Greenfork, flush with cash. Kihai, raised in the desert by his semi-nomadic Tabaxi kinfolk and now a wandering monk, had never had as much as a hundred and thirty REAL gold pieces and immediately bought himself a fancy hat, a statue of the Cat Lord (actually just a cat-motif doorstop), and a bunch of other useless junk... most of which his Aunt Graycape immediately forced him to return, although she did insist he keep a platinum earring. (Little did he know that she was using the earring as part of a warding bond spell.)

The otherwise-placid morning was interrupted by... )

It was a fun session! Kihai is such a lovable little doofus that he's just as much fun when he fails at things as when he succeeds, although I still get frustrated at the way the dice tend to hobble things I should be good at. (Kihai has a high Dex and Wis, but rarely rolls higher than 6 or 8 on checks involving those. On the other hand, when asked for Investigation checks, at which he has -1, he rolls 18s. Go fig.) Blitzy has a good eye for a fun scenario, and the group did a little better at working together instead of at cross-purposes this time. The detail of the apprentice recognizing the bear's cloak, which I was just going on about for RP silliness, was a nice touch.

So, good game. :) And, as Blitzy has officially set his campaign in Orbis Leonis, it gave me some fodder for next week's session as well. I'll be back in the DM saddle then, by hook or by crook.

-The Gneech

[1] Immediately mangled to "Sheepbright," because Kihai seems to have difficulty getting people's names right.

[2] "It goes with the hat!"

[3] Kihai, being an elemental monk, can create small flame/air/water/earthy effects, but he has no idea what he's talking about when it comes to arcana, so he just made up a bunch of nonsensical junk. He's also a very bad bluffer. "I am the Great and Powerful Kihai! Kamazotz! Yakka-maraca!" But they never really expected the deception to last. They made it past the guards and got the door open, and that was a success.

[4] Which she actually managed to roll almost the minimum damage on (4d6 for 1, 1, 1, 2), but it was still enough!
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[personal profile] austin_dern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS: Halloweekends Friday after Cedar Point closed!


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


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


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

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[personal profile] austin_dern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS: Halloweekends Friday some more!


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


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


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

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

I am the one hiding under your stairs

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:10 am
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[personal profile] austin_dern

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the municipal parking lot there were two other cars.

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

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

PS: What's looking good at Cedar Point?


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


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


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

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

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[personal profile] austin_dern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS: Roller coasters! And stuff.


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


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


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

But I don't feel afraid

Sep. 19th, 2017 12:10 am
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[personal profile] austin_dern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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[personal profile] austin_dern

Let me first give you some more pictures from the Lansing Pinball League costume contest last Halloween:


And who's that fine-looking peacock? It's my dear bride, in her kigurumi, plus some gloves and a mask that she decorated herself to complete the look.


Winners of the Lansing Pinball League costume contest. League president WVL is in the center doing, I think he said, something or other from Stranger Things, a media product I know not a thing about. Note that [profile] bunny_hugger made use of some old bird-foot slippers to add to her look

Nice, huh? Well, here's my mathematics blog's activity the past week.

Also, What's Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Besides my discovery that I wasn't scheduled to be writing about Gil Thorp this week?

And now some of our pumpkin-carving from last year. Enjoy, I hope!


[profile] bunny_hugger hard at work carving out her pumpkin. My pumpkin's at the far end of the table and much more rushed through, really. On the left is her father's jack-o-lantern.


[profile] bunny_hugger's jack-o-lantern, which last year was giving something reminiscent of a Popeye squint, along with the electric candle inside to test out how it looks illuminated.


[profile] bunny_hugger's parents got a pack of (reprinted) Halloween cutouts like the kind they saw when they were kids. We estimate the art style to be mostly 1930s. [profile] bunny_hugger got a similar pack of (reprinted) cutouts from when she and I were kids. They're more 60s-styled.


Our pumpkins set up outside [profile] bunny_hugger's parents' house. Her father's is on the left, and her mother's next to that. Mine is the tall, wide-smiling thing and you know [profile] bunny_hugger's already. I needed so many test shots to get one where there would be lens flare from two jack-o-lanterns.

Trivia: A Pittsburgh paper boy was arrested for shouting out the (accurate) news that trading firm Jay Cooke & Company had failed on 18 September 1873. Source: Devil Take the Hindmost, Edward Chancellor.

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

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[personal profile] the_gneech
Kihai, ready for some do-goodery!

Last night was the second session of [personal profile] inkblitz's D&D "off-game." Set in an out-of-the-way village named Greenfork, the adventure was a fairly straightforward campaign-starter type. Goblins have raided the village and kidnapped the miller's daughter, so a band of off-kilter newbie heroes head off to rescue her. The party consists of:

  • Qiphina, a halfling wizard specializing in divination (but who didn't get the chance to do much divining)

  • Lindhardt McGimm, a dwarf fighter with an axe in one hand and a hammer in the other

  • Kihai, a tabaxi monk made of cheerful

  • Graycape, a tabaxi cleric who is made of the opposite of cheerful and is Kihai's aunt and reluctant guardian angel

  • Sequoia, an unreasonably tall human druid (gonna guess he's played by Liam Neeson), and

  • Ixy the Fantabulous, a gnome bard who loves to strum his lute (not a euphemism) talk about his family

First Session
The first session took us to the goblin lair. On the way we did battle with an ill-tempered water snake and encountered a high-level wizard named Thorn, who entreated us, if we were going to go poking around the goblin hole, to look for a "round stone artifact."

The goblin hole itself... )

That ended the first session, with everyone gaining enough XP to hit second level. A very nice +1 Wisdom helmet recovered from the goblin leader was given to Sequoia, as it bumped his Wis bonus up.

Second Session
The party followed the old forest trail west, heading for the ruins to which the dragon had relocated. Suddenly Thorn popped up out of the trees to check in. The party informed him that his "round artifact" was not recoverable because it had hatched, to which he replied that he'd suspected it would. When they demanded to know why he hadn't mentioned that it was a dragon egg, he replied that he wasn't sure at the time.

They gave him the egg fragments (and the side-eye) and carried on. Further into the woods... ) The party wished the newlyweds dragon and wizard farewell, and escorted the miller's daughter home, with Ixy finally renaming the dragon Scintillax the Multicolored. We were rewarded with gold and enough XP to hit 3rd level.

Loose Ends for Future Tying
There are many questions to be answered, of course. Where is Scintillax from? He's clearly not a normal dragon. Is he a mutation? An experiment? His egg was acquired by the goblins after they wiped out the kobolds who initially occupied the cave, right? Since many kobolds worship dragons, could it be part of some larger kobold plan? Or the Cult of the Dragon? Scintillax's multi-colored nature points towards Tiamat.

Who were the glowy magic guys, and how did they come into existence? They referred to Scintillax as "the master" and were perusing high-level magics. One assumes that they were also the ones leaving notes around and complaining about goblins making off with the mask fragments. What's their deal?

Who the heck is Thorn? We gambled on the hope that he's basically good and that he and Scintillax will happily geek out over each other for the next hundred years, but we don't actually know anything about him except that he isn't exactly the bravest of wizards. He could be a Dragon Cultist himself for all we know.

Blitzy the DM, and Inter-Player Dynamics
For a first-time DM dealing with six particularly headstrong players, Blitzy did a great job! As a long-time DM myself there were spots where I would have handled things differently, but I did my best to keep my mouth shut and not cramp his style. Right now he's leaning quite a bit on the written adventure, but that's to be expected from someone learning the ropes. Given that our plan of "throw Thorn at the dragon" was completely from left field and apparently not addressed in the adventure, he did a good job of taking the narrative ball and running with it instead of just shutting it down because it wasn't "the right answer."

In terms of not cramping someone's style, however, I do need to be better about that in re: [personal profile] laurie_robey's wizard. Out of a desire to do something other than spam ray of frost there were a few times when she wanted to pull out burning hands or something else and Jamie and I both were like, "Save that for the dragon or multiple targets!" I was trying to be helpful, but really I shoulda just shut up and let her play the character the way she wanted. So, I apologize for that. Wizards aren't really her bag, but she ended up the wizard in this game because nobody else had claimed the role.

This particular party hasn't really pulled into a cohesive shape yet. Ixy wants to just go off and do his thing, Graycape wants to go off and do her thing in the opposite direction, Kihai wants to talk to all the things, Lindhardt wants to fight all the things. Qiphina and Sequoia don't seem to have an agenda other than "try to find some way to be useful," but that leads to them being overshadowed by the more aggressive players.

Every group goes through this, and every campaign even within the same group goes through this. It's a normal process, but it can be bumpy.

But the game was a lot of fun, and I am really eager to continue! I'll be back in the DM chair for the next session either way, tho. The characters are rich, and at one of the major dwarven cities of the world. Time for shopping! And backstory-revealing!

-The Gneech
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[personal profile] austin_dern

We walked to the Seaside Heights boardwalk. It was changed from our last visit, and changed almost unrecognizably from our first. FunTown Pier, destroyed by Sandy and by the fire a year later, still wasn't there. But something was being built around its location. Maybe all the talk from the owners about how sure, they were going to put up something eventually turned into positive action. Last I had heard (from [profile] bunny_hugger, who checks the news more rigorously than I do) they had applied for permission to build a Ludicrously Huge Something Or Other that nobody in their right mind thinks they would ever build, which I'd taken as an attempt to look busy rather that writing the place off. But now there were new boards being laid down, construction vehicles moving sand around, the suggestion that maybe something was, five years on, being built.

Casino Pier, our pier, was different. It was open, and running. It was shorter, no longer going out over the (normal-level) water. It was wider, taking up more of the beachfront, part of a trade with Seaside Heights to swap land for the historic carousel. The carousel is still where it was when we first saw it, that magical night. Seaside Heights hopes to put build a new housing for it, and there's moving of it to be done, and none of that's ready yet. For this visit the carousel was, anticlimactically, exactly where it had been when we took our Casino Pier Farewell Tour several years ago.

The pier was changed, besides being shorter. Many of the rides were gone: Stillwalk Manor, its great dark-house ride, was dropped into the Atlantic by Sandy. Star Jet was iconically dropped into the ocean. The Wild Mouse that was our first roller coaster has gone to what we'd like to think is a better place. (It's Sacramento.) The only roller coasters left from our first visit are the Hot Tamales kiddie coaster that I guess isn't a copyright violation and the Pirates Hideaway miniature ride.

They have new rides. A giant Ferris wheel. The new Hydrus roller coaster, which loomed over the pier --- while huddling up as far from the water as it could get --- and looked fantastic. A pendulum claw ride called Superstorm that had been running when we last visited. The rooftop minigolf had been renovated, and the statues looked new and fresh. There was also a new pirate-themed miniature golf opposite the Casino, toward the water park area of the pier. (Yeah, the water park area isn't on the beach, because ... just ... you know. Things and stuff.) Also we knew that the Berkeley Sweet Shop, closed after the fire destroyed its antique taffy-pulling machine, had somehow found the ability to reopen. It would be north of the old location, somewhere in Seaside Heights, but it was somewhere there.

We were changed too. The most important change was something we didn't consciously notice at the time. When we first visited, someone noticed us and asked if we'd want a picture taken. It's one of the best pictures of us. This time, we weren't approached by anyone. I suppose it's impossible to radiate new-relationship energy forever and to seem always open to strangers asking if we wanted photographs. I suppose also nine years ago selfies weren't a thing we just assumed people would take, though. Maybe folks of today were just respecting our privacy.

Trivia: Johns Hopkins died in 1873, with a trust of $3.5 million bequeathed to found a university and hospital. The university opened in 1876; the medical school in 1893. Source: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John M Barry.

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

PS: Halloween came to the pinball league ... uh ... right before Halloween last year. Let's watch.


Getting ready for Halloween! I paint the lily by putting on a raccoon mask.


Trophies that [profile] bunny_hugger bought for the Lansing Pinball League costume contest last year.

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[personal profile] austin_dern

The next day was Friday. The 30th. Our fifth anniversary.

We had brought presents for each other, hidden away by being put on completely different ends of the suitcase. It's a big suitcase. [profile] bunny_hugger gave to me a small wooden keepsake box, the sort that could hold a small treasured item. She was respecting the traditional fifth-anniversary gift material. I somehow had the idea the fifth-anniversary gift was silverware; possibly we were looking at different lists. But I was true to my list: I'd found commemorative spoons, one for Michigan's Adventure and one for Sandusky, Ohio. It was the closest I could get to Cedar Point, and it does feature the Breakers Hotel from Cedar Point on it. It also features some of the notable architecture of early-20th-century Sandusky. They're small things, naturally, since we wanted things we could easily carry to New Jersey and back again. But things meaningful to each other.

We eventually set out for the day. I don't think we missed housekeeping another day in a row, but it's possible. This was the really the only day we had specific plans to be a specific place for.

Something I discovered before we quite got on the road: if I had the key fob in my pocket I could unlock the rental car just by tugging on the door handle. I knew this was a strange, wondrous property of new cars that [profile] bunny_hugger would hate. She objected, on definition grounds if nothing else, to the `key' being something that just had to be in the car somewhere for the ignition to work. For the key to not even need to be touched to unlock the door would be too far. I would keep it, for a couple days, a weird little magic touch that I knew about.

For lunch we went to a Jersey Mike's. We always used to go to one at least once every one of her visits. Jersey Mike's sub sandwich shops have reached into Lansing; there's two in our area. We never eat there. I think I've picked up sandwiches from them to bring to our home two or three times, and I've eaten there sometimes when I was out for the afternoon. But we've never made it part of our regular life back home, and so it remains something special for trips like this.

One disappointment about the place: the Coffee News thing. It's this one-page kind-of placemat with human-interest stories of dubious reality and trivia of dubious plausibility and all that. It's supposed to get a new issue Wednesdays, but they had the same issue we'd read at the Crystal Diner our first night in town. On leaving I discovered they had some more issues, including the most current. The place just leaves old issues around because I guess it's not like a document talking about weird-news from Ukraine a year ago is timely or anything.

From lunch we drove east, for the destination closest to our hotel, and the site of our first real, important, perfect date: Casino Pier. Or, more generally, to Seaside Heights.

I chose to park at this public municipal lot just at the western border of the town. It's a good, easy-to-find spot, the kind that would keep us from losing where the car was. The unsettling thing is that the lot was empty. I wasn't sure it was still open to the public. But they had a pay station, and that accepted my credit card, so we just accepted the weirdness that it was a lovely, warm, sunny Friday afternoon at the Jersey Shore, just before the fourth of July, and here were hundreds of parking spots that nobody wanted. Unsettling. Bizarre.

Trivia: In 1866 Joseph Dixon patented a wood-planing machine which could process enough wood for 132 pencils per minute; his Dixon Crucible Company of Jersey City would become one of the first mass-producers of pencils. Source: The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, Henry Petroski.

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

PS: Some miscellaneous Halloween-era stuff before I get into Halloweekends pictures.


From about Halloween last year: Blind Squirrel Tavern decorated for the horrors of the season with, like, Road Show one of the games to play. The alcove for the majority of the games isn't very large and arguably isn't the entrance to the tavern, but it's enough space for the league nights and they did dress it up for the season.


So here's what a selfie-type-league pinball league looks like. Write down your scores on the slips of paper provided and drop them in the box. [profile] bunny_hugger also won a gift card from one of the raffles, just a couple months ago. The creepy demonic head guy left after Halloween.

PPS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Ulam's Spiral, with something tossed in to make sure [profile] chefmongoose reads.

Do better than our parents did

Sep. 15th, 2017 12:10 am
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[personal profile] austin_dern

Wrapped up another week on my humor blog. If you aren't reading this on your favorite RSS reader or already, here's a helpful reminder:

Some more puttering around from the reunion weekend last year:


The main fountain in the Richmond (Indiana) rose garden. Just a really splendid example of making water fall, I thought.


And a detail of the water fountain: that art deco-y eagle(?) perched on the inside of the fountain. I like the style.


And then here's a bit of chainsaw sculpture by the Richmond rose garden.


At the Glen Miller park on US 40 --- the former National Road --- is one of a dozen Madonnas of the Trail, monuments to ``the spirit of pioneer women'' erected in the 1920s by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It also happens to be near the spot of the first toll gate in Indiana, marked on the base of the statue as well as on a historical marker nearby. No, it's not named for the missing bandleader. It's a glen named for original owner John Miller.


[profile] bunny_hugger spots someone as she tries taking a photograph of the Madonna of the Trail.


Really interesting pile of late-Victorian house that's seen better days but maybe is being renovated? It's across the street, to the west of the Madonna of the Trail, right where she can glower at it.

Trivia: In 1842 London had eighteen public gasworks and twelve public gas companies, burning about 180,000 tons of coal annually to supply gas to about 134,300 private burners and 30,000 public or street customers. Source: The Age of Paradox: A Biography of England, 1841 - 1851, John W Dodds.

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

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[personal profile] austin_dern

Where to from pinball and the antique carousel? The Bumper Cars, which are right next to that. This, too, is a ride I used to be prohibited from on the grounds of being a tall person, but that height restriction's ... dropped? ... been forgotten, anyway, since then. I was a couple days away from my great conceptual breakthrough about bumper cars, but never mind.

Also at Playland and worth the visit: they've got some dark rides. Your classic proper thing where you sit in a small car and putter along while scary things startle you. Some great ones, too, with some of the best facades out there. Demons with rotating gears of teeth, or a dragon head that spews smoke. (The dragon head on the Dragon Roller Coaster does that too, although it's hard to see by day.) They're worth visiting if you're in the area and have any taste for dark rides; parks don't have enough of them anymore.

We stepped outside the park a little; since there's wristbands for the rides and no clunky metal detectors or anything there's not much reason to. This was first to use the most conveniently nearby bathrooms and second to look at the water. There's a boat that does little cruises on the water and that I don't think has ever been running a day we were at Playland. (Of course, we keep going there weekdays.) It was also a good chance to admire the main light tower, one of the great architectural joys of the park.

Back inside was a chance to poke around the other arcade, one with Skee-Ball and air hockey and four, count 'em, pinball machines. These included The Flintstones, Attack From Mars, Bugs Bunny's Birthday Bash, and Cyclone. Couldn't pass up the chance to play, although we did skip the first two titles since we can play them anywhere. Well, Attack From Mars we can play anywhere. The Flintstones has set up residence in the Blind Squirrel League so we play that often enough for how much we like the game. But Bugs? That's worth it, especially since the game never turns up in competition play. (The game has features where, like, you can steal someone else's score. This is great fun for clowning around with friends, but feels like a ripoff in tournament play.) And Comet? Years ago I had played this table at this park and got the jackpot, launching me onto the high score table. This time around? I did not.

[profile] bunny_hugger did, leaving her initials as grand champion on an amusement-park-themed game at one of the great amusement parks.

What could we do after that which wouldn't be anticlimax? Which, you know what? Never mind, we had hours left before the park would close. We caught the last few moments of the concert show, something I think was called ``Come Together'' that sang ``Hey Jude'' way too early and either finished with some 80s songs or just thought it was a good idea to have the singer dressed like any album cover from 1984. Another ride on The Dragon. A round at the shooting gallery, too, since that's more fun than you maybe remember it being. Looking at the historical plaques for text that's clearly been edited after the fact, or that just doesn't make sense as written. Soaking in the glories of what is already a beautiful park in the twilight and in the warm glow of early nightfall. The Musik Express. The Super Flight, one of the minor adult coasters. It's a 'Flying' coaster, so that you kind of lie down inside a cage that twists around the track. It's small and not actually that pleasant, at least for me. Puts too much weight on my ribcage. The first time I ever rode that I tucked my camera into my pocket, too, in a way that made it press into my hips the entire ride. This time I was smarter about that.

We missed the last of the adult coasters, the Family Flyer, but that's a pretty minor one. It's really more a kiddie steel coaster, but it allows adults on. We've ridden it in the past.

And we got one more ride on the Derby Racer, a night ride and one that showed the racers at full front-and-back action. It would be our last ride for the night; while we hustled back to the Dragon, they had already closed the queue for that. That's not something to be upset about; either's a great way to see out the night.

Naturally we lingered, talking with [profile] bunny_hugger's brother and taking in the beauty of the park at night, fully lit and dramatic against the black sky. Also it let us put off the question of just how sure he was that his car wouldn't break down before he could get back to his Brooklyn home. It didn't, and it would even make it to Michigan a few weeks later, but it's not the sort of thing you want to ponder.

Also not the sort of thing I wanted to ponder: while puttering around getting the car and the satellite navigator and the iPod all set up for the drive home I let my foot off the brake while the car was in gear and nearly bumped into a woman who was walking in front of us. She looked angry, and deservedly so, especially since she had motioned to us as she got in the car's path to make sure I knew she was there. No excuses; I just screwed up, and I'm lucky it was in a way that did nobody any lasting harm.

Somehow the drive back, even though it was nearly midnight, was as traffic-jammed along the Cross-Bronx Expressway as the way in was. I also remember clearly the fact that we saw some baffling van; we talked about the wonder of whatever it had to offer for a couple of miles. But what it was, now, I forget. I expect [profile] bunny_hugger remembers.

While driving the day of our anniversary arrived, and we said how happy we were for this to each other. We got hoagies from the Wawa to eat, as the best dinner practicable in the circumstance, and eventually got to a sound sleep.

Trivia: A 1924 around-the-world air flight took 75 days. Source: Mastering the Sky: A History of Aviation from Ancient Times to the Present, James P Harrison.

Currently Reading: Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer.

PS: Poking around Richmond some more on a Sunday morning.


Dazzling brick pattern in the Richmond (Indiana) rose garden that might have the power to leave me hypnotized. It's even glossier in the sunlight and what's going on that you have glossy bricks?


Fairy door among the various posts and trellises in the rose garden. Also, yeah, corporate sponsors so I guess the First Bank of Richmond wanted to know it underwrote some fairy's habitation?

PPS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Topology, in which I only talk about doughnuts because I'm required to for the topic and then I move on to better stuff.

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[personal profile] austin_dern

Besides the Crazy Mouse, Playland has a must-ride roller coaster. And besides that it has two other roller coasters, although those aren't anything terribly special. It also has a kiddy coaster that's of actual historical interest; it dates to 1928 and is one of the oldest wooden coasters out there. But that's not open to adults, which, based on what similar sized rides are, is probably a mercy to our knees. Certainly my knees.

But the must-ride adult coaster is the Dragon Coaster, which is what you'll see in any of the movies to have been filmed at Playland. (This includes Big and Fatal Attraction in case you need an 80s Amusement Park Movie Night.) Dragon Coaster is, remarkably, not the oldest ride in the park. It opened in 1929, two years after the park opened and a year after the Kiddy Coaster did. Anyway, it's a great roller coaster, complete with several things of particular delight to me: manual, lever-operated brakes, for example, and a curved loading platform, and a queue that doesn't let you pick your seats; you just get in line and hope you get to the seat you want first. Also a surprisingly recent addition of a big dragon facade to its tunnel, so that your train leaps into a dragon's mouth and twists around and comes out let's not think too hard about that because there's no really tasteful answers there. (You can get some glimpses of it, as well as some ride video and general pictures of the park, in the official video for Mariah Carey's ``Fantasy'' by the way.)

Another must-ride, at least by my lights, is underneath the Dragon Coaster. That's the Old Mill ride, another 1920s-vintage ride and one of the last tunnel-of-love style rides in North America that isn't in an old Popeye cartoon or something. It's one of only two in North America that I've ridden, and the other is in Kennywood where it's been re-themed to Garfield and left terribly boring. Playland's Old Mill was renovated in the 80s and yet looks strikingly modern. It's got a theme of gnomes mining, not necessarily safely, and has a number of really good pranks threatening riders with getting soaked or stuff tossed into them or the like. Also at least one quick shot of a dragon getting ready to eat you, so, great work all around.

By now we were getting starved, so [profile] bunny_hugger's brother asked what we wanted: pizza or French fries? Parks have generally gotten pretty good for vegetarian options, but one of the less-charming ways Playland has stayed retro is it really hasn't got, like, red bean burgers or something. We went with pizza, and lemonade, and walked over to one of the arcades. There had been pinball here before. There might be now.

There was! In the arcade next to the (non-racing) antique carousel was a Whirlwind that played much less brutally than the one at the National Championship/Women's World Championship. Of course, everything would. It also played less brutally than the one at the State Championship in MJS's pole barn although there, again, naturally.

They also had a Twilight Zone with the volume set to ``shake New York City to its foundations''. I am sometimes accused of exaggerating because I turn anything moderately outside average into the biggest or the tiniest thing that has ever existed. But when I say this pinball game was the loudest thing humanity has ever done that did not involve a ship full of picric acid catching on fire, I am understating. But the game absolutely thundered, especially when I managed (by luck) to score the Powerball Jackpot. Jackpots are already the loudest thing in the game, and here it was on a volume level designed to rattle our teeth out of place.

The game was also loud enough, and challenged by few enough other sounds, that [profile] bunny_hugger could for the first time recognize its background music. If there's no particular special mode going --- and the game has like fourteen modes, so there's often something else happening --- it plays an early-90s synthesizer rendition of Golden Earring's ``Bullet Hits The Bone'', one of the Dutch band's two songs to have been allowed into American pop culture. (The other is ``Radar Love'', which doesn't sound anything like ``Bullet Hits The Bone''. But they came out like ten years apart, and before 1993 ten years was long enough for popular music to change in sound.) But why ``Bullet Hits The Bone''? Because the lyrics include the words ``Twilight Zone'' is why. See my subject line today. Watch the video for it sometime; it exemplifies that early-80s video aesthetic of ``crazypants yet extremely literal to the verse''.

Also beside these two pinball machines --- and we were disappointed, kind of, that Bugs Bunny's Birthday Bash was no longer there (but wait!) --- was a little baseball game. The sort where you swing at a half-size pinball and try to reach hits and home runs and the like. The Silverball Museum has a couple of them. They hover around the edges of pinball (and probably, historically, gave the idea of the flipper to pinball), but when do we see them in playable shape on location? So it turns out that [profile] bunny_hugger's brother is a savant for this sort of thing, and I am not.

This little arcade is next to Playland's antique carousel, and we went there for the next ride. Fortunately, too; a couple weeks after our visit they would have a fire in the cupola of the building. The carousel, last I heard, was not believed to be significantly damaged and they plan to reopen the ride for next season. We were scared when we heard about the fire, though, and glad that we had visited earlier in the summer.

Trivia: Wednesday was attributed, in Rome, to Mercurius, the God of communication (hence its French name of 'mercedi' or Spanish of 'miércoles); in the Babylonian system it was named for Nabu, the god of scribes. 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: Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer.


Not much of interest was happening at Earlham's reunion on Sunday, so we went looking for a letterbox instead. This is not the letterbox. This is some weird fungus-y mushroom? maybe? thing that we found on the way and that probably isn't an alien pod creature absorbing all of southern Indiana into its botanical biomass, but maybe someone should check on that while wearing an environmental suit and wielding a flamethrower? Hm?


Richmond (Indiana)'s rose garden, near where we found the letterbox and a site of apparently some prominence and historic importance in the rose-cultivating industry. The fountain's charming enough. The two women sitting on its rim were reading some book, possibly books, to each other.

PPS: Reading the Comics, September 9, 2017: First Split Week Edition, Part 2, plus some hard truths about the ÷ sign that I've seen going around Normal Twitter this past week.


Sep. 11th, 2017 10:13 pm
joshuwain: (Feelin' Dead(ly))
[personal profile] joshuwain
I didn't take them for two days.

The first day, I simply forgot. I mean, I knew I had to take them, but filling out the pill caddy on Sunday is something I just hate doing. And, after doing other stuff before doing that, I simply forgot.

It got even easier to forget, today.

I still hadn't filled the caddy and I changed my routine. Instead of grabbing a quick sausage biscuit at McDonalds, I made some oatmeal at home. I stared at my little, empty pill caddy while I ate and, well, I don't remember even thinking about my pills. I think I realized I hadn't taken them while driving to work. (Normally, I take them with my biscuit.)

I got home, cooked dinner, and watched TV.

Came upstairs.

Saw my empty pill caddy again.

Fuck it, I thought, its too late. I'll just take 'em tomorrow. I'll be fine.

I stood up. The room spun.

I didn't fall, but I went to take my pills. I have the bottles lined up in front of me, now.

I hate taking medications. I've taken meds all my life. Earliest, it was for asthma and allergies. Then I got a prescription for glasses. These days, they're bifocals. And now I take meds that I inhale and snort. I have to take my diabetes meds with food. The rest, for high-blood pressure and cholesterol and low Vitamin-D and low-dose aspirin, I can take at will. I have to keep my dosage of anti-depressants at an even level or there can be pretty serious side-effects I'm told.

I hate all these prescriptions. I hate them so much I can sometimes understand why people just stop taking them. They may help keep you alive and on an even keel but they're also hand-cuffs.

Straight jackets.

Prison cells.

They both free and enslave. My C-PAP machine keeps me breathing at night.

But I still hate it.

I took my full amount, didn't take "extra". But tomorrow morning, I'll take my normal dosage.

Grudgingly, yeah, but I'll take them.

The worst part, I think, is that I know that this will happen again. I think it will happen with growing regularity if I'm not careful. It's easy to only think of the medications as shackles. I have to keep reminding myself that they make me freer than I would be on my own. I have to keep repeating this mantra:

Everyone thinks, sooner or later, they don't need 'em. Or, maybe, they wish they didn't.

But you do.

Take your meds.

That's how it works.

Even sitting here, I'm still dizzy. I guess that's today's price for stupid.

austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (Default)
[personal profile] austin_dern

Thursday of our trip was the day to get to Rye Playland. We liked the park anyway, and it would be the second-easiest one for [profile] bunny_hugger's brother to visit. (Easiest would be Coney Island, which we kept thinking about but which, once again, didn't make our cut.) But their derby racer --- the fastest we know of --- had recently repaired the mechanism that moves the horses in a file forward and backward randomly, the way Cedar Point's does, and we could not miss that. The mechanism is tetchy and hadn't been used in years. Who knows how long it would be that they'd last, and how long it would be before they ran again?

I thought, in passing, whether it was worth tweeting at [profile] rapidtrabbit to see if he might want to join us. But I had the idea that he was out of the New York City area, and if he weren't, supposed there'd be time to meet up sometime with more planning. Like if we were to go to Lake Compounce and need help exorcising the sour taste of that day. So I shelved the thought, and I'm sorry not to have tried since, who knows, something good might have happened.

We set out at what the Google Maps directions told us would be enough time to get to Playland about 2 pm. This would be off by something like an hour as we sat, mostly, waiting to get through the slice of Manhattan and the Bronx that we need to get to Rye from central New Jersey. The alternative route would have taken us more miles, but not much more time; the risk there would be that it would take us over the Tappan Zee Bridge. It happens the bridge didn't collapse then, and hasn't yet, but do you want to risk that? Anyway, it worked out all right since [profile] bunny_hugger's brother would be caught in traffic too --- a little bit later on some of the same traffic that caught us, if I'm not misunderstanding --- so that we got to the parking lot about the same time. He was also having some serious trouble with his car, to the point he was fairly sure that if he drove it 35 miles per hour or under on the way back it probably wouldn't freeze up in any way that he couldn't handle, which he took to be normal. He's still living at that point in life where you have a bunch of cars with malfunctions you figure you probably can compensate for most of the time if nothing else goes wrong.

We got to the parking lot at so close to the same time that [profile] bunny_hugger had that always-disturbing moment of talking to him on the cell phone, and trying to work out where in the parking lot he was, and realizing that she was hearing his voice twice over. He was about one row of cars over from us to start.

Our first priority was the Derby Racer, naturally, and we got there to worry that the forward-and-back mechanism wasn't actually running. There had been rumors that it only ran for a few seconds, when the ride was at its maximum speed (which, to be fair, is quite a maximum speed). The rumors were mistaken, at least in this case; the horses moved forward and back just as at Cedar Point's. [profile] bunny_hugger and I worried when we noticed the ride operators not doing the dramatic, daring leaping onto and off of the rotating turntable at speed. They just stayed on, or off, warning riders to lean to the left. But this was idiosyncratic to that hour: they did some leaping on and off when we checked back in later.

That was the highest-priority ride, naturally. But we went on a tour of the other key things right after that. First would be the Whip, which is among Rye's original block of rides and marked with the historical plaque as such. There's a lot that's appealing about Playland, including how its crowd feels like a more democratically driven blend of New York City-area populations than other pay-one-price parks do. That it has much of its original 1920s architecture and rides, though, and that it showcases this history in a way no other park but Kennywood and Idlewild do, is a big part of that charm.

And next to the Whip is the Crazy Mouse roller coaster --- not actually that exciting, except that it used to have a height limit that kept me and [profile] bunny_hugger's brother from riding it. In an earlier visit he had gone up to the ride, been asked his height, and answered honestly to be told he was too tall to ride. ``What if I had said I was (maximum allowed height)?'' he asked. The ride operator shrugged. So later in the day he went back, saying he was the maximum allowed height, and rode. Me, my first time, I was bumped for being too tall, and obviously past the height. But, now, things have changed; the Crazy Mouse doesn't have a height limit anymore, even without anything about the ride changing. So after that roundup I have to tell you we just got on, had a fine ride at the roller coaster that's parallel to the north end of the park and I suppose maybe goes past the gate on that side, and all was normal.

Trivia: The author Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather constructed the Bell Rock lighthouse off the coast of Arbroath (near Angus, Scotland), completed in 1810. His map named treacherous offshore rocks after lawyers. Source: On The Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way The World Looks, Simon Garfield.

Currently Reading: Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer.

PS: The reunion dinner wasn't quite done yet. Let's watch.


The class dinner was in the warehouse district downtown. We were on the fourth floor. This is peering down the elevator shaft through the very open wood-slat door. (See the shadow on the wall there.) [profile] bunny_hugger was nervous just watching me poke my camera through the slats.


Mysterious artefact outside the class dinner's venue, by the former railroad station. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

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