Dream Scrap

Apr. 18th, 2019 05:59 am
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[personal profile] moxie_man
I don't recall dreams all that often after waking that aren't story-related. But this one needs to be shared.

D&D-type adventure group going through a dungeon somewhere. It's obvious some other group has beaten them to it as every room/chamber has already been searched. Every second or third room, there are dead bodies, the result of some gruesome trap being set-off, Spikes from the ceiling, poisoned darts, firebomb, etc. All the bodies have something on them with the same symbol. It's not a swastika, but my brain still reads it as some sort of Nazi symbol. Alas, I woke up before the adventurers catch-up with what's left of the Nazis.

Surely we said it was March the 10th

Apr. 18th, 2019 12:10 am
austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (Default)
[personal profile] austin_dern

If we expected anything about Meridian-Baseline State Park it's that it would be empty. It's a tiny park near nothing but the intersection of county lines and 200-year-old surveying paths, and was opened to the public only four years. It was not empty. It wasn't packed, mind, but there were several groups of people. People resting in hammocks in the woods. People walking dogs. People curious what we were looking for, which we explained as ``frogs'', an excuse tolerable since there were 180 billion spring peepers there making a great noise which silenced when we talked, and which came back gradually as we stood silently still. People walking with their kids, who'd run a while and then fall down and cry. This would be a danger: it's bad form to leave a mysterious small package in a remote area while strangers are watching. Urban letterboxers have similar challenges.

Another thing we expected: that there would be a place to put a letterbox. We kind of knew going in that the north intersection point would be no good. Also there's a north and a south intersection point. Michigan's baseline latitude is broken, with the part east of the meridian --- the older line --- 935.88 feet north of the part west of the meridian. Nobody is sure why. But once you've laid out a baseline like this, there's no choice but to stick with it.

The land is marshy. This is because the lower peninsula is, geographically, a swamp that someone went and chopped all the trees down from. That someone is Americans, a project which started in 1837 and was complete by 1915. When the park was built in the 70s, both the north and south intersection points were marked with neat copper(?) discs inset in a small circular pyramid. Over the decades since the building and the opening, the land around the north point washed away, so it now sits like a flying saucer several feet above the swamp level. Part of opening the park was building a boardwalk from kind-of dry-ish ground to the concrete cylinders. There was no hope of placing anything there, although ``underneath the monument'' would be such a cool hiding spot, if a thing could be kept there. Also at some point somebody stole the north intersection's disc and it had to be replaced when the park opened. Yes, everybody wants to know who fenced a Meridian-Baseline Intersection Point monument.

Also why they didn't also nab the south intersection's marker. The ground for this one has not yet washed away. Nor has that disc been stolen. This would be the obvious candidate for a place to plant the letterbox. If there were a single good hiding place. In a forested area like this there's normally a bouquet of hiding places. Hollowed-out logs. Piles of rocks with a good little cavern among them. Fallen branches that form a concealed crater. And here? There was ... nothing.

There were a lot of constraints here, of course. We wanted someplace that didn't seem likely to flood. Someplace not on the main trail between the north and south points. Someplace that could conceal a sandwich-sized Tupperware-style container. Someplace that wasn't so far off the trail that people visiting it might form a social trail. Someplace that wasn't defended by too many thorny bushes. And we just kept on not finding viable places. We would go back to the car --- where I had rashly left the letterbox, when I thought the park was much smaller and nearer to the parking lot than it actually was --- and reinspect the north monument, out of the forlorn hope that maybe we had missed a spot and something in the marshlands would be not so terribly bad after all. Or that we might find a spot which maybe failed one of our criteria but was so good for the others that it was all okay.

But we did come out of this understanding why Meridian-Baseline State Park has a mere ``virtual'' geocache, in which you go to the spot and demonstrate you've been there (I think it was by counting the concrete pillars between the north and south baselines?) rather than by going to a specific location and getting a particular thing.

Oh yes, also. Michigan has a permit system to allow you to leave geocaches in state parks. This system was designed without awareness that letterboxes are a thing. And the system wants information, including precise GPS-datum coordinates, that we simply couldn't provide. This is why I am going to conceal the answer of whether we did find somewhere acceptable. I may not want it to be too easy for a state agent to find and dispose of our box, if it's there. Or to not face too directly the heartbreak of such a great location being unsupportable. Ask in confidential channels if you really want to know.

Trivia: Michigan's eastern border was set by the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which set the boundary between the United States and Upper Canada as the middle of Lake Erie ``until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron; thence along the middle of said water communication into Lake Huron, thence through the middle of said lake to the water communication between that lake and Lake Superior''. Source: How The States Got Their Shapes, Mark Stein.

Currently Reading: DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes, Les Daniels.


And then, like, twelve minutes after we got there the VFW closed for the night. Here's a row of solid-state games, a particular delight, mostly turned off. Notice there's pinball playfields hung as wall decorations, too.


The playfield for Data East's Secret Service, one of the first pinball games I really got into as a young undergraduate. It's ... not a great game, since Data East never figured out how to make a rule set that had something like balanced scoring, but there's a bunch of fun shots, including the upper playfield flipper created by someone who thought he was Pat Lawlor or something. This is a correctly formed pinball joke so you shall now laugh.


A couple of stragglers, caught still playing games at 10:00 when the night ended. Unfortunately for them, it's F-14 Tomcat.


Apr. 17th, 2019 09:36 am
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[personal profile] bladespark
Building Power (27342 words) by bladespark
Chapters: 9/9
Fandom: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor (Movies)
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Loki/Thor (Marvel)
Characters: Loki (Marvel), Thor (Marvel), Odin (Marvel), Hela (Marvel)
Additional Tags: Kinky, Alternate Universe - BDSM, BDSM, Whipping, Aftercare, Alternate Universe, Alternate Universe - Modern Setting, BDSM Scene, Heavy BDSM, Blood Kink, Electricity, Intersex, Master/Pet, Family Drama, Sex, Teasing, Sibling Incest, Pseudo-Incest, Showers, Oral Sex, Major Character Injury, Vaginal Sex

Thor wants to get away from the everyday stresses of his very mundane life helping run his father's construction company. He's also long had a few...interesting fantasies about pain and submission. So a friend's invitation to a kinky "play party" seems like just the thing. But the last thing he expects when he turns up is for the group's "expert whip top" to be his disgraced and disowned adoptive brother Loki. And things are only going to get more complicated--and more interesting--from there, for on the one hand, Odin is on his death bed, and on the other hand, Loki and Thor turn out to have an intense, if probably taboo, kink chemistry between them.

Finally 100% posted. :3

I'm still also updating Kiss Against the Wall weekly.

I have written jack and squat recently. I finished a couple thousand words for the patrons this week and that's all. A new record low in recent times. But I'm just so goddamn exhausted all the time. No mental energy to write.

Surely we set it for 3 pm

Apr. 17th, 2019 12:10 am
austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (Default)
[personal profile] austin_dern

The town east of East Lansing is named Meridian. It's called that for sensible reasons: it's along the principal meridian used for the Michigan Survey, which laid out the property reference for the then-Territory. All land in Michigan is surveyed from that point. There is also the state baseline, the reference latitude. It runs from the north end of Wayne County, which contains Detroit. They intersect, as they must. Meridian-Baseline State Park was established in the 70s, but it was landlocked. It was not until 2014 that the state purchased any property that offered road access, or places to build a parking lot, or provide any interpretative material. [profile] bunny_hugger had been fascinated for decades by this theoretically open but inaccessible state park, and missed the news that it had opened. But this meant one thing: she had to plant a letterbox there.

She spent some of her too-scarce time in fall carving one. A grand one too, with a compass rose in the midst of several trees, a great representation for this most precisely known location in Michigan. And she could make this letterbox an even better find: besides its good location we had a hitchhiker to offer. This would be the Air Mail hitchhiker we'd picked up at the rest area on I-96, the one that was so badly waterlogged and ant-infested that she'd had to do emergency surgery, separating pages and drying them in the back of my car. The log was as repaired as could be, and we were ready to re-launch it. A new box in a prime location would be great.

The trouble is that weekends in October got consumed with things, including Halloweekends and visits to her parents and a host of other events. And she got frustrated by small things, like, trying to make a good reference print of her own stamp. She made a great one for the start of the logbook. She tried to make another, to print out and make a solid wood backing for the stamp. But every attempt at re-printing it came out a bit worse --- terrible, by her lights --- and she could never get it to where she liked. And even trying to glue a backing on turned into a fiasco, as the glue didn't stick, but it did turn into this gummy mess that left her infuriated. And that ate up time. With each busy week and booked weekend we lost more time, the weather getting worse and worse. Someone might come out to explore a new letterbox when the weather was good; but going in to December? (December turned out to be a fairly nice one, as mid-Michigan Decembers go, but there's no counting on that, and nice is a relative measure anyway.)

So the box lay fallow, almost ready to go, sitting there until there might be some nice weekend in the spring. A week ago last Saturday was a nice weekend in the spring. We got the letterbox pieces together, and set out.

Trivia: In 2004 China exported about 5,960,000 (twenty-foot-equivalent unit) containers to the United States; it imported about 1,390,000. Source: Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World, Brian J Cudahy.

Currently Reading: DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes, Les Daniels.

PS: And some more of the VFW Ann Arbor etc.


Some of the tall playfield of Gottlieb's 1951 game Mermaid. It's a much more open playfield than you'd see in a modern game, although the line of rollover buttons in the middle gives you something low-down to shoot for. The real action is the bumpers at top, where you want to hit each of the numbers 1 through 7 or so.


Lower playfield of Ball Midway's 1987 Heavy Metal Meltdown, a game notable for having this awesome synthesizer power chord that plays when you hit pretty much anything.


Lower playfield of Williams's 1989 Bad Cats. I know I post this picture like every three months but please understand: it's a pretty fun cartoony-chaos-themed game.

here, have some Reiki

Apr. 16th, 2019 08:57 pm
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[personal profile] julian
I've got a women's spirituality place nearby. I had two, at one point, but the one in Attleboro closed due to rent problems, which is sad because it was more neo-pagany, and this one (in Easton itself) is more Angels And Mediumship And Stuff, which I'm less of a fan of. This is the very purple Women of Wisdom, which I keep calling Women of Wonder because of the 70s-era feminist SFF anthology series. (Actually, there's a store in Abington, too, come to think. They're more Wiccan-y, and among other things, they sell animal skulls.)

Women of Wisdom, however much I may eye the Angel stuff warily, does teach Reiki levels I & II (I hope to eventually take the Reiki L1 class, anyway), and also has a bi-monthly (that is, twice a month) Reiki Healing Circle, which I translate as Reiki Circle Of Energy and occasionally go to. Well, more accurately, went to once a couple months ago and then kept having things happen on Tuesday nights.

So I went tonight. There were a pantsload more circle members than practitioners there, but it worked anyway. What they do is they stick people in a circle of chairs, introduce the general idea of Reiki, and put on a (longish) meditation tape. (The group leader lady said, basically, "Things will come up, emotionally or otherwise. Just go with it.") This one focused on chakra visualization and a white ball of light going to hang out with your various chakra points; as we meditated, the practitioners went around and did Reiki on us.

(I'm not a particular fan of the chakra worldview, and feel many uses of it are appropriationist, so I try not to deliberately go to things involving them outside of a Hindi and/or Yoga context, but will certainly meditate to it if presented with a guided meditation tape using the framework.)

Being as I am me, I sometimes don't visualize too well, but gestures help with it when that happens, plus which when I get into a circle/location/sacred space where there is energy going on (which there certainly was here), I quite often will open my hands to the energy. So, since the lady *said* "just go with it," I was doing a bunch of hand and arm movements along with the "visualize the white light merging with the X light of X chakra point" background voice.

Apparently, this flummoxed one of the practitioners (the only guy practitioner), who, he said afterwards, stood behind me and tried to work within my movements, but completely failed to. (I knew he was there, but felt no energy off him at all; I do think this was in part because he's got some back and knee problems and was in pain today, but also just I wasn't acting like he was expecting me to. One of the practitioners talking with him and me afterwards said, "You should have just put your hand on her head," which I do think would have probably stopped my movements, at least; not sure how his energy would have done with mine, even so, but it would have, at least, helped him. I'm assuming he's not very experienced even though he's all white haired.)

He muttered something to one of the women about having failed with someone (presumably me, but I was in meditation-space and wasn't fully listening), and could she try; soon after, she came over, put her hand above my head, which I could feel quite well, and lo and behold, there was energy a-plenty. She and I did some extremely effective Reiki together; her hands were quite warm and I could feel her even when she wasn't touching me, and she was effectively directive without using words, which was a relief given the guy previously, and she worked the energy well, and I had some blockages I wasn't even aware of, and ommm, and so yeah, that was nice.

(I don't believe half of that paragraph, incidentally. Energy isn't tangible, says my skeptic brain, and Reiki has no measureable, scientific benefits. A lot of things don't, though, and I've long ago basically figured, I don't have to believe in it to be able to work with it and/or within it, and meditation and a kindly person being kind to me are good things in and of themselves, even if nothing else happened. But I mean, I don't believe in ghosts either, or predictive Tarot, or all kinds of things. But that doesn't mean I'll reject community warmth.)

After things broke up (they get everyone up, have them hold hands and do three Oms and a couple dance steps, at the end, to get people more back into their bodies), the guy and one of the women practitioners asked me what I'd been doing, and I explained, and the woman said it was very Tai Chi-esque, and I really *do* want to learn Tai Chi sometime...

Anyway. So, just for the record, if you don't want people to move around, don't tell them to "just go with it." And I'm sorry I messed with my practitioner's head. But I enjoyed the evening anyway.

Not dead yet (catch-up post)

Apr. 16th, 2019 05:18 pm
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[personal profile] moxie_man
Not much to say as RL is boring for the most part.

Sick in March (like many other people out there). Made it to a local fur event just before getting sick and hope I wasn't contagious yet and 'shared the wealth.'

The second Pine Fur Con happened the first weekend in April. No long report on it this time. I volunteered like last year. Attended what events I could that weren't late at night. Had an ok to good time, but from the posts I've seen on Twitter, others had a better time (shrug).

This past weekend, I was at the Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage. We don't normally open this early, but we did so on Saturday because Union Fair (where the museum is located) was the host fair for this year's annual Northeast Fair & Exhibitions Conference (not sure of the official term for the group). Saturday, attendees were bused to the fairgrounds to look around. We got a lot of praise for our extensive museum. We also got lucky with the weather. We feared we'd be wearing multiple layers to keep warm. It got into the mid-60'sF (15-16C) during the day on Saturday, so it wasn't too bad in the museum building for the two hours visitors walked around.

Work is insane (which is normal).

Not much else to say.

not quite a cliche

Apr. 16th, 2019 12:01 pm
julian: Picture of the sign for Julian Street. (Default)
[personal profile] julian
Startlingly, I found out about the Notre Dame fire on Dreamwidth. That never happens anymore!

When the Iraq National Library (and Museum) burned in 2003, my reaction was all intellectual, and there've been others since that are similar. "Oh no, it is a tragedy that Thing X is gone." I don't feel *bad* that my reaction to Notre Dame burning was purely emotional, and fiercely so, but I did want to observe that it's true.

Having learned from 9/11 coverage, I did not let myself get glued to the TV/internet/news sources, but I did let myself occasionally look for pictures, later in the day. Altar. And some ravens above the actual fire.

I have been to it, but when I was 13, and as I recall things I liked Chartres better, in part because of the requisite Notre Dame crowds. (Though now that I'm looking at the stained glass windows, I am having memory spurts, so apparently I'm minimizing my own emotional connection, which would be just typical of me.) In any case, I will look forward to its being rebuilt, since about $600,000,000 has already been pledged by various people, and visit again in 30 years or so, when I will perhaps be more civilized. It will not be the same, but then, nothing is.

If one is having charitable urges brought on by things burning, Notre Dame will likely be covered, but there's three black churches in Louisiana that could probably use some help. (Unlike Notre Dame, which was probably an accident, the Louisiana churches are victims of arson.)

In addition, the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a major Muslim site, had a (minor) fire, yesterday. (As with a number of religious things in Jerusalem it is a) holy, b) gorgeous, and c) debated about in territory claims.) This is a previously-extant fund for its restoration, but nonetheless, can't hurt.

In other news, Yo Yo Ma plays cello to make a point at the US/Mexico border.
austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (Default)
[personal profile] austin_dern

So, taxes are a thing which happened and which we've gotten sorted out. This year was another one where we got things under way later than we should have: [profile] bunny_hugger launched into it in the evening hours before going to work, the day before the start of Motor City Fur[ry] Con, since why not add a bit more pressure and chaos to an over-busy week? We keep figuring to do this sooner in the year, and keep putting it off, because it's such an annoyance dealing with my two-state income-tax issues. So, you know, thanks, tax-prep industry, for forcing us to go through this.

Days before [profile] bunny_hugger put our tax information together I realized: oh no. This could be really bad. Because we have for years consistently under-estimated how much should be withheld for New Jersey income taxes. It always seems like we're paying more than we ought to, but we can't find a thing we're calculating wrong, and the one time we brought this to a mall tax prep office they couldn't find something different to do either. And then I remembered how the fiasco of the Vichy tax shenanigans last year screwed up everybody's withholding. I got to worrying how much we might owe everybody, and this just as I got my personal savings up to a level I'm sort-of comfortable-ish with.

And, for once, the clouds parted. Entering all the forms was not so bad this year as in past years. And we did not end up owing money to everywhere. Indeed, for a wonder, we're getting refunds from the federal government, both Michigan and New Jersey, and the City of Lansing. That last one is baffling, since we didn't think our incomes changed that much 2017 to 2018. I said, jokingly, that the difference is we didn't have our big Pinburgh payouts bumping up our income this year. I'm not sure that it's wrong.

Nevertheless, I'm happy that, for once, I don't have to e-mail work to ask them to take an extra ten bucks a week out of my paycheck for New Jersey's needs. At least if we've got our withholding about dialed in for 2019. Goodness only knows.

Trivia: The United States calculating-machine industry produced about $20.2 million worth of accounting machines in 1944; a further $18.9 million in orders went unfilled. Source: Before The Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand and the Industry they Created, 1865 - 1956, James W Cortada.

Currently Reading: DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes, Les Daniels.

PS: Now let's take a little look at a special pinball game, if I remember this right, which I do not necessarily.


Lower playfield of Data East's 1988 game Time Machine, which is absolutely not an attempt to rip off Back To The Future. If I remember rightly this game has a special place in [profile] bunny_hugger's heart as she occasionally tried to play the game in college, before she really understood pinball, and it was all right except that at one point the ball always got jammed and the game got stuck. In hindsight, she wonders if this might have been a ball locking, for multiball, and that if she had known to look in the shooter lane she might have gone on to ever finishing a full game.


The outlane and inlane of Time Machine, featuring Cartoon Einstein and a shout-out to future Williams hall-of-fame pinball game Twilight Zone.


The ``Star Warp'' spiral at the upper left of Time Machine. Also lurking behind that: Santa Claus going into hyperspace. There were a lot of Santas Claus on pinball machines in the 80s.


Apr. 15th, 2019 02:31 pm
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[personal profile] bladespark
Back from the Voltaire concert. It was, indeed, weirdly like going home, even though I've never been to that place, met any of those people, or even heard Voltaire live. I sung along with choruses of songs I heard for the first time three days ago,(although also to songs I've known for years, he did the U.S.S. Make Shit Up!) and it was AMAZING.

If you ever get a chance to go hear Voltaire live, I suggest you do, the guy puts on a really great show. And I don't mean in the sense of stage show, lights and drama and production. I mean he's entertaining as hell. He interacts with the crowd. It's really great. I feel like on the one hand it's a shame he's not better known, his music is great and he deserves to be able to pack major theaters. On the other hand, being with 50 or so folks on the dance floor right in front of the stage is a fantastic experience, and one you don't get to have often with somebody who's that good.

We also kicked around Portland, had random-impulse pizza at 1am, visited a huge barcade where I discovered that I now really suck at DDR, escaped from Powell's City of Books with just one book for I think the first time ever, and generally ate good food, drank good booze, and had a good time.

Getting a break from the kiddo was definitely needed, and I'm going to try to do so on a regular basis going forward.
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[personal profile] xaq_the_aereon
Going back to Iowa for a week on vacation with family tomorrow. It's been quite a while since I've been out there...

To put it in perspective here as I just did on Telegram, the last time I was out there I'm not 100% sure [personal profile] jesterelijah had been born yet. That realization just slammed the "press this to feel old" button.

*rattles head*
julian: Picture of the sign for Julian Street. (Default)
[personal profile] julian
I've got a (rather large) backpack that I was using for school stuff, and therefore it had Everything In The World in it, since it was being a portable home. I'm converting it for use as a hiking knapsack, since my mom got me a membership to the Trustees of Reservations for my birthday, and I got myself a State Park parking pass for my birthday, and my dad got me an Audobon membership for Christmas (which I mostly asked for as a support to their good works, but they have entertaining nature places too), so my point is, I'm all set for Places To Go in the state. (The Parks pass is useful, once it comes in a week or so, because Borderland State Park is about three miles from me, so I can stop by at any time of day I so choose, and not have to pay, so *there*.)

And if I get in to Lesley, and have to go on another apartment search, I can just go walk in things that are close to apartments I look at.

Anyway, I'm getting together with one branch of my family tomorrow for combined Frederick-and-me birthday stuff, and my mother-in-law has invited him and me over for dinner next week as a *different* combined birthday thing, because her husband also has an April birthday. But today, in celebration of its being gorgeous and of my being 46, I went off solo to Explore Things. In particular, Purgatory Chasm. I've never been, and honestly had never heard of it until last year, when I went past on my way from Worcester to Easton, and the name kept luring me. It's apparently Well Known in some parts of Massachusetts that aren't Boston, especially to families with children, because zillions of people were there. There's a nice network of trails, and some A+ glacier-deposited rocks, and a burbling brook, and the eponymous chasm. Said Chasm was officially closed, since there's still ice pockets, but that was honored more in the breach than in the observance by the zillions of hikers. I did avoid it to begin with, and took the overland loop and the path to 'Little Purgatory', which was basically just a hill with more rocks, but the trail went along the brook for awhile. Coming back, there was no barrier and it was hard to resist, so I didn't, since I thought they were being alarmist and had it still closed mostly because of the mild flooding due to snow melt. But no, there were sudden cold pockets of air that I am familiar with when hiking, and which totally mean ice, and lo there was ice. (But it too far along for me to turn around.) Shows what I know.

I expect it's *packed* in the summer, because today was gorgeous (in the afternoon, anyway -- sunny and 70ish), and as noted, there were 5 zillion people, but that's OK, I like people. Sometimes.

There's a couple different myths about the origin of the name and/or the location. (I figure it was originally named that because it was a place of temporary suffering that felt endless.)

Went back home via Connecticut and Rhode Island, because why not? While getting lost in northeast Connecticut, I came across Morning Beckons Farm, which has alpacas aplenty, the requisite guard llamas, a burro and a donkey, some type of cow with curved horns, some goats and possibly also sheep off in the distance (they're normally accessible, but their access road was flooded), a bunch of emus in one fenced off area close to another fenced off area that had various kinds of chickens, a standard peacock and peahen, a couple of white peafowl (apparently not albinos, those, but a variant of Indian Blue peafowl), at least one turkey, and some (loud) guinea fowl both inside and running around outside the enclosure.

Also, there was a tortoise shell barn cat, who showed up, gave me a careful looking over, and declined to be petted.

Oh, and a statue of a camel, in with the alpacas, but no living camel.

It doesn't have a sign with its name on (I only know the name because of Google Maps), but it does have a sign explaining about Emus, and one about alpacas, and various notices not to feed the alpacas (who are on a specialized diet). I wandered around for about 15 minutes outside, talking to the cat and insulting the (loud) guinea fowl, but none of the owners emerged. (As it turns out, they have a gift shop, which was open til 4, but I was there around 5.)

Anyway, shall go again sometime, when it's less wet and I can get to the goats.

As it turns out, most of the weight in my bag was the water and the Off (and my book), but nonetheless, I'm still transferring the extraneous stuff into another bag.

Stuff In Bag:

Cut for length, because this is already long. )


Apr. 13th, 2019 04:17 pm
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[personal profile] bladespark
I have been listening my way through Voltaire's discography the last couple of days. We are going to go see him live in Portland tomorrow! I am super excited. I've always liked his stuff, but I knew him almost entirely as a nerd-parody songwriter (The U.S.S. Making Shit Up, The Sexy Data Tango, etc.) and I hadn't listened to his more serious stuff until now.

It's good! I feel like as a musician he's basically competent. Catchy tunes, solid, enjoyable performances, nothing super genius, but well-made, workmanlike stuff. (This is a good thing, to be clear.) But his lyrics... Oh gods. Not only does he love wordplay, but the stuff he writes abut is so me. It's the goth-nerd experience, distilled down to its basic essence.

It's interesting, because these days nerd spaces are diluted. Nerd media (Marvel, Star Wards, etc.) is the biggest thing in the world, nerds run billion-dollar companies, computers are a part of everyday life, and everywhere you go, the nerds have gone mainstream. There's no longer that "the world rejects us, so we reject the world" feel to being around nerd culture. Goth culture, though, hasn't lost that. Goth will probably never go mainstream. And his songs often capture exactly that feeling of being other, different, on the outside, that is why I felt instantly at home in goth culture when I ran into it.

My "space", my safe place, my "I go here to feel like I'm really me" place during a certain period in my mid-twenties was in fact a goth club. It was called Sanctuary, because it had once been a church, but that's literally what it was for me. I wasn't even that into a lot of the music (some yes, but some I was very indifferent to), I just needed a place where somebody who didn't fit in anywhere, who was not-a-girl but hadn't figured out how to "be" a guy yet, who was still Mormon but knew I didn't "belong" at church, who had strange thoughts and obsessions, who found pain and blood fascinating in ways that were supposed to be bad, but felt good, could just be and feel all those things, and nobody cared.

After the Voltaire concert, the venue, which is normally a dance club, is having a goth-industrial dance night. I am almost as excited about this as I am about the concert. Sanctuary closed down more than a decade ago, and I've moved cities three times since then. So it seems like this weekend will be a chance to visit a little bit of my own past. I wasn't quite raised by bats, but I certainly lived in the belfry for a while.

It's good to go home.
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[personal profile] austin_dern

My mathematics blog stirs! It got like a whole thousand words that weren't Reading the Comics posts. But also some Reading the Comics posts. From the past week:

And story strips? I got story strip plot summaries. What's Going On In Mary Worth? How can you scam a Mary Worth character? Learn answers to these questions and more! Thanks.

The day after Thanksgiving, 2017, we went to the Black Friday charity fundraiser at the VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Hall of Museum or whatever its name is. So here's a bunch of pictures of pinball machines, the theme that just never stops giving shots that all look like they really should be a little better than they are.


[profile] bunny_hugger, too busy even to take her coat off, because she wants to get on the high score table for Space Station. The game has what she considers to be the best high-score entry music of all pinball, and that is quite the standard to meet.


LCD screens have in the last couple years become the standard score screen for pinball games. But nothing is ever the first of anything. Here's Fast Track. made around 1989 (a version of 'Motor Show') and featuring an actual computer screen for the time. The high scores are on display here.


The playfield for Fast Track, which seems like it should be reasonably fun if I could figure out any of the shots. But notice how the game sets up features near the flippers that should help you learn where the ball should be to reach any of the major targets.


Pinball-ornament Christmas tree set up at the VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Museum Hall of Fame thing. Some of those are bumpers such as might have been on games.


Bally's Game Show, one of the surprisingly few game-show-themed pinball games out there. I had a pretty good game.


[profile] bunny_hugger achieves her goal for the night: a high score on FunHouse.


Playfield detail for the Capcom rarity Big Bang Bar. It's a fun game, with a theme of ... well, an outer space bar. Although when you look at some of the modes here ... I mean ... you kind of understand why pinball needs to apologize a lot to women and to the men who don't fundamentally dislike women.


``Big Bang Bar was partly designed by Python Angelo, you say? I would never have guessed except by looking at the game any.''


The central gimmick of Sega's Apollo 13 game is, like it says, the 13-ball multiball. It is the funniest multiball in pinball and there are few things more delightful than watching someone realize this shower of pinballs is coming at them.


Adorable little demon resting in the palm of satan, from the Devil's Dare playfield.


[profile] bunny_hugger getting in some quality time in Woodrail Row, a bunch of 1950s games from before the era you could necessarily count on pinballs having scoring reels or two flippers or even flippers at all. Firepower II here is an anachronism and, if I remember right, it tended to reset mid-game anyway.


Neat little helix whirligig feature of Nine Sisters, a 1953 Williams game. It's a neat little thing that can launch a ball back up into play, and it goes over this helix because that's a bit more fun. (There's a kicker at the end of the helix, which kicks it the rest of the way up.) Nine Sisters was one of Williams's first experiments with scoring reels. Also the game has just the one flipper, although it has buttons on the left and right so you can play as feels normal-ish.

Trivia: Building of the Absecon Lighthouse, opened in 1857 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was promoted by the Camden and Atlantic Railroad. Source: Railroads of New Jersey: Fragments of the Past in the Garden State Landscape, Lorett Treese.

Currently Reading: Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City, Stephanie Kirkland.

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[personal profile] austin_dern

So maybe you might like a little in-state pinball drama. It seems to be playing out on Facebook, so I'm getting this through [profile] bunny_hugger, so I'm getting it wrong. But, you know? It's basically fandom drama. It's all right to get parts of it wrong.

The center point here is the pinball league at Chesterfield. It's one we don't get to often. It's one we would love to get to. The place, in a bowling alley, has about fifty pinball games, almost all of them 80s and 90s games. We love the late-solid-state games and the golden age of late Williams games. The format's pretty good too. It's a strikes tournament, on randomly drawn games and groups of players, so if we have a good night we can play game after game after game. A good finish gets a huge payout in International Flipper Pinball Association ratings points. And there's a tournament every Monday. If it weren't for [profile] bunny_hugger's work schedule we'd totally be there. But it's two hours away, and that when the traffic is good. We went last summer, at least during May and early June, but, of course, they take off most of the summer, when we'd be able to attend. [profile] bunny_hugger had two weeks this semester when she would have been free to attend. But these were weeks they were holding finals, when we'd missed the whole 'seasons', so ... the best we could do is take the B Division trophy away from someone who had actually played. And if we didn't swipe a trophy like that, it would be because we'd gone all that way and had a bad night.

But the league is suffering growing pains. Until recently they had one incredibly serious player, AJG --- always a good bet for state champion --- who'd attend, at least until he had the twenty events that count for your state ranking. (After that, an event can only replace a lower-value event.) MWS often attends, but he's a less-high-ranked player. And of course [profile] bunny_hugger and I are lower orders again. But the last few league nights, AJR --- who's been state champion twice, and is another steady bet --- started attending. He's no less a power player than AJG; indeed, he won the Stern Pro Circuit Tournament just last month. Also joining up: DAD and JMA. They're both in MWS's class. It's throwing off the rhythms and normal equilibrium of the group.

AJR seems to be a particular flash point. Possibly because he can clean AJG's clock, and the normal players of the league have trouble imagining that. (Most of them don't play in any league besides Chesterfield, so don't know the size of the competitive pinball scene.) Probably also because he's easy to notice. He's one of those players who wears gloves, which helps stand out. But he also wears a lamp, strapped to his forehead. It's not daft: many games are dark, or in dark venues, and many games strobe, and that's hard on eyes. A steady light source levels things out. But it also looks like, you know, showing up for a way more serious event than Chesterfield has traditionally supported.

Also this influx of high-ranking players is making nights drag on longer. Considering how when [profile] bunny_hugger and I were there, and we'd have nights barely ending by the bowling alley's nominal 11:00 closing time that's hard to imagine. But if every night ends with AJG, AJR, JMA, and some poor mortal slugging it out through 40-minute rounds I can understand the mortal player getting fed up with it.

There's some talk about ways to cope with this. One that at least a couple people floated is stop having tournaments be International Flipper Pinball Association-sanctioned. That is, take the league out of the competitive-pinball world. And ... goodness. That would ... well, it would help us, because Chesterfield is this massive points mine for the players who can make it there, and there's nothing we can get to that compares. But we probably would stop, or nearly stop, going out there even in summers when we could. It's one thing to make a hard two-hour drive out there when, yes, you might play three games and be knocked out, but also might play three games and get 16.23 IFPA rating points. To make that drive when you might get knocked out in three games, and at best, be playing Judge Dredd at 12:55 am while the bowling alley staff watches you plaintively? That's harder to justify doing.

Which is all a shame. Chesterfield has besides the great venue the same sort of relaxed, laid-back, casual attitude that the Lansing league has. But the Lansing league is set up so it's worth rather fewer IFPA points, and so it doesn't have to risk ace players using it for a points mine. Still, we have been getting larger ourselves, and our league as it's structured will have serious problems if it gets to more than 20 players in one night. But we can improvise around that for one night. They have more difficult problems.

Trivia: Clouds typically release about a third of their moisture as rain. This can be increased if the clouds are seeded with particulates. Source: Molecules at an Exhibition: The Science of Everyday Life, John Emsley.

Currently Reading: Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City, Stephanie Kirkland.

Oh, so, some pictures from the Super-Ball IX Zen tournament, in which pairs of people play matches. This was in November 2017, the last season that WVL, the league's founder, was running things; karmic justice would have him be one of the winners.


Why we play: the trophies for the winning team. WVL had gone to the trophy store and asked for the most over-the-top ridiculous trophies they had available, which is why we got Milo of Croton here.


Playing with two people, one person each flipper, is not conducive to great play. But it can happen, if you have a pair that coordinates well and picks the right strategy. More than once it's happened that a team gets on the high score table, as for example here. So what to put on the high score table? People have to improvise. (I was not part of the group that did this; I'm lousy at AC/DC.)


What a zen tournament looks like: one team on the table, one team talking over strategy, [profile] bunny_hugger in the distance thinking whether she has enough pictures for the league web site report about this.


WVL, alas, was not on the winning team, but at least I have this 'The Babe Bows Out' shot of him leaving at the end of the night. He'd play in another season, before finally graduating and moving to ... I want to say Kalamazoo, for work. He's talked about coming in and playing when his schedule allows, but hasn't had the chance yet.

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[personal profile] austin_dern

It was I confess an embarrassingly long time ago that we bought a new fire alarm. I forget why we needed a new one. I suppose the old must have broken in some obviously fatal way, but it was long enough ago I forget what the issue was. It wanted to be hung as high as possible, and reasonably enough. We have plaster ceilings. I'm scared to drill holes in them, partly for fear of doing lasting damage to a house that's 90 years old and that we see as caretakers for. Partly for fear of screwing up the plaster. So I put it on the side and resolved to drill the necessary holes sometime later when I had tools likely to do it with minimal risk of lasting harm.

Last week after far too long I finally did it. I got some screws specifically rated for drilling through drywall, and the hardware store people agreed that this should work fine, especially if you put a little bit of masking tape at the drill site to limit the chance any accidental cracks grow. While [profile] bunny_hugger was at work, one day, I got up on the footstool and cursed out how I couldn't be sure I was holding the electric drill to drill vertically, and how the masking tape got spun off the wall by the drilling action. I could at least feel the confidence of how I had, at long last, done a thing. Well, the alarm keeps falling off the mounting that's what's actually drilled into the wall. I don't know why. But as long as we don't have to fiddle with the thing, that's all right.

Two days later while showering the alarm went off. I jumped out of the shower, and [profile] bunny_hugger out of bed, and the thing fumbled out of the mounting. I did a dripping, towel-clad inspection of every room in the house just to be sure. No: the problem was the steam and hot air of the shower. There's disagreement on this on the Internet, but [profile] bunny_hugger tells me there's a consensus fire alarms should be put five to ten feet away from the bathroom door and at the top of the stairs. These are mutually exclusive constraints in a house from 1928. That'll teach me for getting a thing done.

Or maybe not. We had resolved to take the fire alarm down for showering, and got lazy and forgot a couple days, and didn't get an alarm interrupting us, like, Wednesday. Also, really, what should fix things is repairing the ventilation fan in the bathroom. It broke, we trust of old age, a couple months ago and never got around to fixing it because it was winter, who wants less hot, moist air in the house then? But if we could fix that, then we'd probably put less strain in the hallway's atmosphere. Being able to open the bathroom window for summer would probably help too.

Still, our best hopes now are: we replace a ventilation fan, and we don't have cold enough nights we need to close the bathroom window. It still seems like a lesson to never do a thing, though.

Trivia: The Venerable Bede wrote of the confusions between the Celtic and Catholic computations for when Easter would fall, noting that in some years, such as 664, they differed to the point that ``Easter was sometimes kept twice in one yar, so that when the King had ended Lent and was keeping Easter, the Queen and her attendants were still fasting and keeping Palm Sunday''. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle to Align the Clock with the Heavens --- And What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan. (If I am not misreading Duncan, this refers to King Oswiu and Queen Eanfl æd of Northumbria, but there were a bunch of kings in Britain at the time.)

Currently Reading: Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City, Stephanie Kirkland.

PS: And now the last bits after the end of the fireworks and all that, from the Silver Bells In The City event, 2017.


The Christmas Village, a bunch of little tents with vendors set up a couple blocks over from the parade and tree. This was, I think, the original part of Silver Bells, with the electric lights parade a later add-on and the state tree lighting coming even later than that. Do you see the ghostly image of Santa Claus looking down on everyone?


More of the cityscape, including lights projecting images. Green and red with a white Santa's sleigh on the lower buildings, for example, and the face of Santa up on Lansing's own skyscraper the Boji Tower, formerly the Olds Tower. The small, purple, brick building on the lower left is the Kewpie Restaurant. It's possibly Lansing's oldest restaurant, and it's one of the remnants of a long-dead chain of Kewpie Doll-themed restaurants, and it has what seems like a good claim to inventing the Olive Burger, a mid-Michigan hamburger variant, so there you go.


A quick snap inside The Peanut Shop, a former Planter's roastery that's still in operation. Not pictured: the army of squirrels who gather outside to cadge everything off shoppers.

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[personal profile] austin_dern

I wrote something every day for my humor blog for another week! Well, I published something every day. There were brief moments that I was a little ahead of deadline. Here's what I published:

And now let's ... not quite finish all of Silver Balls, but at least get to the end of the parade!


The rush is still on to get the camera battery replaced. Truth to tell I'm not sure what the kid on the guy's shoulders adds to the operation.


Success! The camera's back in operation and ready to go before they get out of commercial break.


[profile] bunny_hugger is not a fan of the song chosen for the community sing, nor that it is a song going on when it's fairly cold really and we've already been standing in the same spot for two hours and we're waiting for the tree to light.


The tree lights! And the fireworks have started.


More of the skies opening up to highlight the capitol.


Did you notice the camera guy recording the fireworks too? He got that idea from me.


Fireworks caught in that moment that makes it look like the capitol dome is on fire or maybe exploding.


``When it gets to the grand finale, you'll know it's the grand finale!''


``So is that the grand finale?''


Yeah, that was the grand finale. They're already cleaning up the reviewing stand. The big red contraption with the candy-cane lever was a new thing for 2017, a great switch for the mayor to throw to light the tree that was definitely actually connected to a thing and really made the tree light up.


Meanwhile at the base of the state tree: it's held up by exactly the same complex network of shims and desperately added braces that you or I might use to hold the tree together. Huh.


[profile] bunny_hugger is happy to be seen at the base of the tree.

Trivia: The federal Swamp Act of 1857 declared that any land claimed by the states to be swampland by the end of that calendar year would belong to that state, regardless of whether it was swampland and regardless of whether railroads had already laid claim to that land. Source: A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters, Scott Reynolds Nelson.

Currently Reading: Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City, Stephanie Kirkland.

PS: Is 1/x a Continuous Function? A question drawn from social media. Shut up, it is too social.

What madnesss possessed me?

Apr. 11th, 2019 05:42 pm
bladespark: (Default)
[personal profile] bladespark
I'm still exhausted today, but this time it's a good tired.

I had a date. There were, er... shenanigans, let's put it that way. Not going to spread the details of my sex life all over this blog, at least not this time.

But what madness possessed me to try to date right now? I don't have time or energy for this! I really don't! I'm just somehow doing it anyway.

food issues

Apr. 11th, 2019 03:12 pm
julian: Picture of the sign for Julian Street. (Default)
[personal profile] julian
This appears to be New England only (so, not Giant, which is also owned by the same people), but: Stop & Shop workers across Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are now officially on strike. If you *can* go buy food elsewhere, try to.

(no subject)

Apr. 11th, 2019 12:43 am
dreadlordmrson: Queer eye for the cat guy. (Default)
[personal profile] dreadlordmrson
you should be leaving the memes to me!

Mr. Son:
Yeah sure yours are actually amusing to other people but MINE are inscrutible horseshit and where else can you get that other than the entire internet?
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