Don't think there was any particular trigger, just tired because I had a short night's sleep earlier, and hungry because I'd missed lunch and dinner.
Wrapped up another week on my humor blog. Here's what ran, in case you missed it at the time:
- No, The Space Whale Probe Can Hold Off, Too. Last week's big piece, about apocalyptic thoughts. Timely! Remember last week when we were going to be at war with North Korea? Good times.
- In Which The Journey Is Its Reward, Turnip Edition. Goes by way of Wikipedia.
- Statistics Saturday: The Numbers Zero Through Twelve In Alphabetical Order With A Mistake To Lure Some Know-It-All Into Commenting. Self-explanatory.
- What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? June – August 2017. No fursuits this time.
- Meanwhile In Town. Gentrification has its very mild inconveniences!
- Dream Preview. A weird moment.
- Has The Guy Who Draws Beetle Bailey Ever Seen A Squirrel? There is only weak evidence for.
- Getting Ready For The Eclipse. This week's big piece. Timely!
So Cedar Point has announced what they're doing with the former Mean Streak, and what the new ride's name will be, and it defied my expectations by not being Vicious Streak or what it should have been, Winning Streak. Instead it's completely non-streaky. The name is Steel Vengeance, and the ride comes with a backstory about it being the personification of JRPG lawmakers come to seek revenge on Maverick, the next-nearest roller coaster, that's a representation of a horse. Unanswered: wait, vengeance on a horse?
And the entrance to Mean Streak's queue for our second and last ride on it that day. I notice with sadness that the approximate wait time for this, the last chance anyone would have to ride this, was still only 45 minutes.
Green train returning towards the entry queue. Please admire what I did with light and color there.
From the vast infield of Mean Streak. Again, please admire what I did with light and color there.
Yellow train climbing the second major hill of Mean Streak.
Footers for the roller coaster with suspicious-looking pink dots of spray paint. Note the other footers that don't have dots on them. This means something.
Mysterious wooden post marked RMC 118 stuck into the ground near one of the footers. This means something. Well, specifically, the RMC all but surely means Rocky Mountain Construction, since RMC is the outfit that turns wooden roller coasters into steel coasters. I'm not sure if Cedar Point had announced RMC was doing the conversion at the time, but it's kind of like guessing that maybe the voice actor doing that wacky-sounding cartoon animal was Frank Welker? The 118, who knows what that could mean?
Trivia: New York City adopted the orange, white, and blue of the 17th Century Dutch Flag for its own city flag in 1915. Source: The Island At The Centre Of The World, Russell Shorto.
Currently Reading: A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game, Jenny Uglow.
(I thought I was all set to read it to the Pip, since Chad got to read it to SteelyKid! But, foolishly, since chapter 3 is pretty short, I let the Pip talk me into just a little of chapter four last night . . . without checking how much of chapter 4 was left, or asking Chad to save chapter 5 for me.)
(Last time I read even-numbered chapters through chapter 12, then Chad read chapters 13 & 14 together, so I did odd-numbered from fifteen on; which, to be fair, now that we're back on me doing even-numbered, means I get to do the spiders and Smaug again, which were great fun. Still! "Riddles in the Dark"!)
The first four rounds of the day, as the first four rounds of Thursday were, groups were arranged by ``slaughter seeding''. A group of four players had one high-seeded, one low-seeded, and two medium-seeded players. The gap between the high and low seeds decreases until near the end everybody is playing people of roughly equal standings. The last rounds of the day weren't; their seedings were spread out more. This is new; previous years the fifth round had people all but tied playing one another. The change is because it transpired there were groups of players agreeing to take ties on the round, in order that they all get moved into the higher group (for Thursday) or all get into tiebreaker games (for Friday). The new system is meant to provide no incentive for anyone to collude, at least not without cash actually changing hands. I'm still shocked that such a thing would happen, or that I could be that naive.
But it does mean that I'm facing weaker competition than I might otherwise have. Not very much: the difference between the number two seed and the number 32 (whom I play) is six wins out of (so far) 72 possible. But I am aware I'm going in as the number-one seed, and defending that position. But there's liberation in this: even if I go 0-12 I'm all but sure to be in the finals.
The round starts late. There's two groups from the previous round that haven't turned in their results. There's rumor that one of the score sheets might be lost, at least, nobody's turned in the group's sheets and nobody can find the players from the group. That gets resolved though. The other group is just taking forever to finish. Those pesky A Division ringers. But they finally finish and turn over results and the world can move on.
The modern game: Stern's 2008 Shrek. It's spent months haunting the Blind Squirrel League. It's a re-theming of the Family Guy game, just changing out the art and what modes are called and such. Somehow, that change makes the game ten times more enjoyable. I could never stand Family Guy, but Shrek? Yeah, I kinda like it. I start out trying to play the long game, starting several modes and the Donkey Mini-Pinball and all, and then remember that's stupid. There's a center post which, if hit a couple times, will start a designated mode. Is that mode Dragon Multiball? ... Why, yes, it is! So I stop trying to play clever, and go for the simple cheap point grab, and come out just edging out player one for a first-place finish. And now I'm willing to grant that I might have secured being in the finals.
The electromechanical: Gottleib's 1967 King of Diamonds. It's a single-player game, and I have to play my five balls before anyone else plays theirs. I can't learn anything from what other people do, but they learn from me. Go ahead and guess what the theme is. I have two really solid balls, ones that keep getting the pinball back into the bumpers and letting it hit the targets to collect cards. I even get away with shots on the spinning roto-wheel target at the center, a dangerous shot but one that lets me get cards, and thus ten or even fifty points at once. I get 940 points, coming close to rolling. Player four has a fantastic last ball, and does roll it. Second place for me; five wins, one loss so far.
The late-solid-state game: Williams's 1988 Swords of Fury. It's a crowded playfield, nice and busy. There's a horseshoe, all set to take a ball and rocket it back towards the center. There's a ramp behind some obstructed targets. There some kind of rule about multiballs. The game likes me: I find the ramp for locking balls, and keep on locking them, and starting multiball play. If there's a jackpot I never find it, but a multiball on this era game typically doubles or triples the playfield scores, so, that's good enough. I get another first-place finish. Eight wins, one loss so far; even if I bomb on the early-solid-state game, I have had a great round.
I bomb on the early-solid-state game. It's Williams's 1984 Space Shuttle, the game that saved pinball in the 80s. The game that introduced playfield toys, in this case a tail-bobbed space shuttle, to modern pinball. There's a couple things to do, like locking balls and shooting up the center to release them. You can steal locked balls that other players have left behind. I am a courteous player, stealing nobody's locks. I have one house ball and another that might as well have been. Despite a third-ball rally I end up at about one-third everybody else's score. It's a soggy end to what has been my best day of competitive pinball play ever.
Because I have had a fantastic day. The record for the whole day was 44 wins, 16 losses. This puts me in undisputed first place (by one game, mind). I'm in the finals. I get two rounds of byes for the five-round finals. I'm staggered.
bunny_hugger's final round is bank 42, Lepus, which you'd figure would be a good omen. But she has the same result on it as she had her first round Thursday, with the similarly well-named Procyon. She goes 6-6 in a group where some points-hog went 8-4. She drops from 9th seed to the five-way tie for 13th seed.
We have to wait. I still don't believe that I have first-round byes; after all, I haven't seen the results any. And bunny_hugger knows if she gets ranked in the top 16 she gets a first-round bye, but there's no way to be sure she has that. Or if she needs to stick around for tiebreakers. This round, too, is taking forever. Someone comes on stage to say that if we would like to see the thrilling final game of Pinburgh's qualifying rounds, he's sorry, but the last group is playing World Cup. (It's a 1978 Williams table that competent players can win, slowly but surely, by repeating this shot into one scoop. When I played it last year I drained the ball rapidly, three times over.) We see who knows the game by who chuckles knowingly.
That finally ends, and the tiebreakers are somehow decided without bunny_hugger needing to play, to her relief. At 38 wins, 22 losses, she's got a single bye. At 44 wins, 16 losses, I have two byes.
We've had outstanding days. Over the two days I've had 70 wins. bunny_hugger has had 64. These are as many wins as some of the finalists in the B Division has had. But, of course, had there not been the division breaks we'd have probably not had perfect rounds.
We do collect our medals, and are just giddy about this. Also dreading the implication: we can't sleep in Saturday.
Trivia: Railroad car wheels in 1860 Virginia cost about fifteen dollars per wheel. By 1864 they were thirty times that. Source: The Railroads Of The Confederacy, Robert C Black III.
PS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Height Function (elliptic curves) which has maybe a 50 percent chance of being the thing I was asked to write about!
So, Provenance will be out in a bit more than a month! I can’t wait for folks to read it, honestly.
Not long ago, you had a chance to read the opening, oh I’d say half first chapter, for free online. And maybe that just whetted your appetite and now you have to wait until nearly the end of September for the rest?
Well, if you sign up for my newsletter, you can get all of Chapter 1, plus chapters 2 and 3! You might see a black banner across the top of my website asking you to sign up for the newsletter, with a text box for entering your email. You can use that, or if you’ve dismissed that click this link to go to a form you can fill out–a text box for your email, and then under that are checkboxes for which newsletters you’re signing up for. You want to check the “Ann Leckie” one, and you might or might not want to check any of the others, depending, but it’s the Ann Leckie one that will get you the chapters.
Here’s the deal–I hardly ever use my newsletter so I guarantee you won’t be spammed. What it does get used for is things like this. And for announcements of upcoming publications and such. Folks who are already signed up probably already have the chapters in their inboxes. If you aren’t signed up yet, you’ll get the chapters when you do. So, if you want to read the first three chapters early, there you go!
Mirrored from Ann Leckie.
The lunch-or-dinner break came to a halt sometime around 6:15. The round was supposed to start then, it's just that for some reason they don't make announcements about the start of the game then. You just have to notice that people are moving to the tables and go along. It's sloppy stuff; bunny_hugger has been groused at by group-mates who don't see why she was two minutes late. Could be worse; I understand one of the top players bombed out of his position when he thought the lunch break ended at 6:30 and was ruled absent.
My bank is number 35, Eridanus. One of the women from my last round is in this one. We start with the modern game, Stern's 2005 Sopranos. Is the Jersey connection a good omen? Eh, who knows? I never saw the table much; for years it was one of only two Stern games at the Silverball Museum. But I never got into it and I don't even recognize the table. It has a local quirk. It's possible on the game to plunge the ball into play softly enough that the table doesn't know you've done it. You can start one multiball mode without the game ever ``validating the playfield'', starting the timer after which the ball-saver expires. Pinburgh has disqualified this by rigging up an automatic trigger; everybody shoots the ball in with the same force, hard enough the game knows you've done it. I fall back on my standard old-fashioned approach, trying to start modes and multiball together. It's good for second place. The woman I'd played with before marvels that I, too, am mortal.
The electromechanical game is Williams's 1975 Pat Hand, another card-themed game with Christian Marche artwork. It's a game of hitting the standing targets and hitting some rollover targets. And it's got a pair of bumpers just over the left flipper, where a kicker should be. I have a lot of fun on it, but get second place again.
The late-solid-state game is Gottleib's 1991 Surf 'N Safari, which I know from how it haunts eastside tournaments. We'd played it at Rollapalooza just a few weeks before. The frustrating thing is there's an obscured skill shot on the waterpark-themed game that awards a random prize. These prizes can be incredibly valuable, including fine things like multiball or completing the board that puts you in what passes for wizard mode. Is that disabled? We have such a hard time shooting it that maybe it was. I'm not sure any of us got that award. The goal of the table is repeat any of the major shots and then collect a big prize. I find where one of the ramps is and repeat that until I get multiball and even get a jackpot. I feel pretty good about this, but someone else has been watching me and is able to repeat my strategy. Another second place. Still: I already have six wins this match. No matter what happens I'm not having a bad round.
The early-solid-state game is Bally's 1981 Medusa. I know it a bit. It's one of those slightly over-complicated games of the era; you could suddenly do anything back then so designers did. There's an inner playfield with a small set of bumpers, there's zipper-flippres that slide in and out, there's a movable center post, a lot. And I have it. I have a good first ball. And a great second ball. I'm running away with the game and ... did my left flipper drop?
It's a curious thing. One of the common failures of pinball machines: a flipper sticks up. Often, hitting the button for the opposite flipper will make it drop again. This doesn't mean the flipper doesn't stick, but it does mean you can make it drop again. But it is an important malfunction. Did it happen? Or was I just not noticing my hand on the flipper button, a thing that's easy to do in the heat of the game when you aren't thinking anymore, just playing? ...
So I watch the flippers closely as other people play. If it isn't happening for them, then it's a fluke and I can take what's looking like a sure win with a clear conscience. It doesn't seem to be happening, but they're not doing well keeping the ball in play either. It ... and then the ball comes around to someone who is sure it's sticking, and calls over a tournament official for it.
The official asks whether this was happening for other people. It could make the difference whether the game gets stricken. A fluke affecting one player is minor; something hitting several people is major. I say what I knew: I thought it stuck at the end of my ball, but I wasn't sure. The woman I'd been with before said she thought I'd been keeping the left flipper up a lot but she hadn't been sure I wasn't just trapping a lot. The official talks about whether this might be worth striking the game after this. He's testing, it seems to me, whether the four of us think the malfunction deserves an extra ball as compensation for the obviously affected player or whether it should invalidate the game.
I swallow maybe three points and say, I'm comfortable moving to another table. I hope we don't. But with the flipper obviously sticking, and the evidence it has been, there's not a real choice. We're off to the bank of substitute tables and, per the judge's random number generator ... Clown, a 1985 table from Italian maker Zaccaria. I've played it some in simulation. On the real thing, at the VFW two months earlier, I'd rolled the table. We're seated behind a group that's playing its own substitute round. ... And waiting. And waiting. Clown breaks down. They can't fix it speedily. We get moved to another substitute table.
The replacement replacement table is Old Stern's 1979 Meteor. I know it. It's at MJS's pole barn. It used to be a mainstay at the Brighton Arcade. There's two paths for success, knocking down sets of drop targets or shooting the spinner. I can manage neither of these feats. I share the delightful trivia about the game being based on the Robert McCall advertising poster for the movie Meteor (which gets reviewed in Roger Ebert's I Hated Hated HATED This Movie). But I go to a pretty sad last-place finish.
I finish the round with 6 wins, 6 losses. I nurse my wounds, thinking of how it could have been 9-3, and feel greedy for that. It's not as though I could be more in first place (although, at that point, I didn't realize I had been in first place going into the round). I'm sitting at 36-12, two wins ahead of the three players tied for second.
bunny_hugger, on set 4, Sextans, has had a strong round, going 8-4. She moves from 12th place up to 9th. The weird game there is the late-solid-state Blackwater 100, a freak of a game where you have to launch three balls into play to start the game. Someone wins that table just by hitting the flippers wildly; trying to aim or something just brings ruin.
Trivia: Besides commanding the United States South Seas Exploring Expedition, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes chose to take over the physical sciences in the field: surveying, astronomy, meteorology, and natural science. Source: Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Exploring Expedition, Nathaniel Philbrick.
Currently Reading: Under A Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894, Daniel James Brown.
PS: Reading the Comics, August 12, 2017: August 10 and 12 Edition, wrapping up last week's stuff.
Somebody I never played with my first day at Pinburgh? Someone who brought a pen. I always carry a pen and relinquished it to the round scorekeeper reluctantly. Not because of my not-actually-crippling germ phobia, but just because I know lending pens is the first step to losing pens, and to do without a pen would be horrible. I didn't lose my pen. I would get a cold. This changed the second day; people brought pens, this after I grabbed a pen from the free supply offered by the scorekeepers. But I had a pen I could sacrifice in case someone lost one.
Somebody else I never played with my first day at Pinburgh? Women. None in the five groups I played with. Also none I played with the first two rounds of the second day. The third round that finally broke; there were two women in my group, on Bank 43, Cassiopeia. I look the games up early and feel good. NBA Fastbreak I slightly know; it's a late-90s basketball-themed game. It comes in a variant to allow for head-to-head play, duplicate tables next to one another. I go in feeling good about this. I'm wrong to. It wasn't NBA Fastbreak. It was Stern's 2009 NBA, which I never knew existed. And I can't get back on PinTips to get advice. It doesn't have anything, anyway; if it had I might have realized there were two different similarly-named, similarly-themed games.
Well, there's always something to fall back on. Read the instruction card. Try shooting all the ramps and whatever the obvious gimmick on the playfield is. Watch other players. I'm player two, so there's not much I can learn from the first ball before I'm up, but I can pick up some things. Like what seems to build multiball, and what the basketball points seem to offer. I do get multiballs going on, I believe, balls one and three. I end up winning, 5.1 million to 5.0 million to a couple people around half our score. It's a good start.
It's almost a stop. Next to us is a group of Division A ringers, including AJG again. They're playing the electromechanical, Bally's 1975 Captain Fantastic. It's themed to the Pinball Wizard sequence in the movie Tommy. AJG is in a quartet that threatens to recreate the scene. Among those in the group: Lyman Sheats, whose name means nothing to you. He's the programmer whose game logic is behind many of the murderer's row of 90s Williams tables, and many of the better modern Stern tables. He literally wrote the code for the NBA game in that group. We can't play until they finish playing. They have multiple people who roll the table.
We play a lot quicker. I have the best game of the set, coming in at 64,000 points. It's not best by a lot; the second-place finisher had 63,830 points. One good spinner shot and the round would have been lesser for me. Third place ended up at 60,510. It really could have been anybody's game.
It's our game for a while, though, as AJG and his group continue on the late-solid-state game, Williams's 1990 Diner. I keep looking over their shoulders, trying to get some idea of how the game works for experts. There's not much I gain that I didn't already know; I played the game some in the 90s and it's got a rule set that isn't deep but that is fussy. I do get to see Lyman Sheats fumble the ball trying to post-pass. It's a trick where you tap a flipper quickly to send a ball rebounding to the other flipper. bunny_hugger berates herself whenever she fumbles this and the ball drains. I can attest, now, that even Lyman Sheats will sometimes fumble the post-pass.
Finally they finish, and move on to the next game, Gottleib's 1983 Ready ... Aim ... Fire!, which they promptly break. Techs rush over to open it up and try doing something, and I ponder how long we're going to be stuck waiting after the end of Diner. They eventually move AJG's group to a substitute early-solid-state game, and the techs keep working.
I knew two things from playing Diner on location in the 90s: the skill shot is an easy one, all timing, and the multiball isn't worth going for. The skill shot still serves me well, though I have to study other players closely to pick up the timing. And multiball ... is surprisingly easy to get. Maybe the table's being nice to me. Maybe I'm better at this than I thought. I get a speedy little two-ball multiball going, and leave a ball locked when my turn ends, and then think: there's surely locked-ball stealing in a game of this era.
I get away with it, though, ending up just short of three million points. Second-place is around two and a quarter million. I've already got on the record nine wins, zero losses, and we haven't played the early-solid-state game. And I'm liberated: no matter what happens, I have had a great round.
What I try very hard not to think of: I could have a perfect round.
I know nothing of Ready ... Aim ... Fire!. PinTips's whole advice is ``keep toward the top and complete the standups for bonus x''. OK. The game is carnival or amusement-park themed, with the whole game accompanied by lovely early-digital circus music. It's a wide-open playfield, bumpers each protecting a set of standing targets. Hit all the targets of a single color and you collect a prize. Collect more prizes for more points. I'm enchanted by the theme right away. The gameplay is just as good, for me. More, it's fun. I think I would have liked the game anyway, but a long first ball, and an even longer second ball, wins it a grand place in my heart.
I'm the third player. When the third ball is over, I have 615,690 points, more than double what the first two have. They clap. I shake it off: there's still another player with the last ball. I'm not trying to be self-effacing. I point out, I got three hundred thousand points (or something) on one ball, there's no reason the guy couldn't.
He doesn't. I come in first again. I have a perfect round.
They clap. I stagger over against the table and giggle. I can't believe it.
They congratulate me and talk about how just great it was to see, and we all reflect on what a close thing it was. And they sign the score sheet. I take a photo and swear I'm not doing it for pride. I've been photographing the score sheets in case one gets misplaced. They say they understand; many people do that. I still worry I'm coming off as boastful. But still, a perfect round.
I walk with the score sheet in a daze. Before I get to the scorekeepers PH spots me and asks how I'm doing. I can't help it and show the sheet. He's congratulatory. I don't think he's ever done this. His son, AJH, never has. It fuels my giddiness.
Finally, finally, after the many delays from being behind AJG's group and from the length of our own games and from the daze with which I took the score sheet up, I find bunny_hugger. She's eager to tell me about her morning, and her own perfect round at the start of the day. I deliver the news of my own perfect round. She accuses me of upstaging her.
A half-hour or so before this Michigan Pinball had been gathering to go out and eat somewhere. The chance for that is long since past. My group was just too slow, exciting as it was for me. I get a black bean burger from the refreshments kiosk inside the conference hall; bunny_hugger passes. We have something under an hour before the fourth round of the day.
My perfect round has launched me from 10th place to 1st, sitting with 30 wins and 6 losses just barely ahead of second place. bunny_hugger talks about how I might go on to win the division. I answer, ``chickens and eggs''. There's two rounds to go even before the finals lines are drawn. And finals themselves would have ... who knows how many rounds? (Five rounds, but some would get byes.)
bunny_hugger's third round of the day, on bank 40, Libra, wasn't a bad one for her. It includes Williams's 1989 Zootopia table. She went 7-5, putting her record for the day at 24 wins, 12 losses, and setting her in a four-way tie for 12th place. Quite good, by any measure; it only looks relatively bad to the extent it does because I got lucky on Captain Fantastic and NBA. And because Ready ... Aim ... Fire was fixed in time.
Trivia: A 1236 statute of English King Henry III, De Anno Bissextili, states that leap day and the day before are to be considered a single day, implying an English leap year would be legally 365 days. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest To Invent The Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.
Currently Reading: Under A Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894, Daniel James Brown.
PS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Gaussian Primes, which don't include things like '2' or '5' but do include '3' and some crazy numbers like '1 - i'.