Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New York City Transit Strike

New York City Transit Strike

Let me just empathize as a fellow bus rider with my counterparts in New York City about just how bad this must suck. And from what I read, the major sticking point is pension plan contribution rates for new hires. That’s right transit workers all over the city are forgoeing their own incomes, severely ticking off every transit customer in the city, and violating state laws forbidding pulic service workers to strike, all to help out new hires they don’t even know. And the city was, according to the article already agreeing to up those pension plan contribution rates. Which means that the average transit worker is not going to see any benefit out of this, and all of them are going to be facing the wrath of a scorned public for time to come. I’m really hoping the State can go through with its threat of sticking the union with a $3,000,000 fine they way they plan on doing, of course it won’t be the union that pays it, it will be divided up and the burden will be born by the front line workers in the form of dues increases. And just in time for the new year too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bombing at Clifton Mosque

Bombing at Clifton Mosque

First the news item:

It sounds like a headline you would read regarding the Middle East, doesn't it. I learned about the bombing on the Wednesday afternoon news and was instantly shocked and angered. We live in a nation that prides itself on “freedom of religion” amongst other things, and yet here in the Midwest a hateful act occurred against a mosque. It’s especially troubling as this partcular mosque is in an upscale part of town known for its cultural and religious diversity. At one time there were houses of worship to 4 of the major world religions in a this neighborhood, and for years they have gotten along, even going as far as to creatively share parking resources and sometimes even buildings. (The basement of a nearby Christian church was temporarily used as an Islamic Mosque while the Clifton Mosque was undergoing renovations). Also troubling is that this particular Mosque and its sister facility in West Chester have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the area of community outreach and education. They often have programs intended to help those of us like me who do not practice Islam to get a basic overview of what Islam is, what it believes, what the traditions and customs are, as well as giving tours of the facilities and even going as far as to allow outsiders to observe during prayers. Last year, I took advantage of the opportunity to learn a little bit about another culture and attended one of their evening outreach programs and had a fascinating evening.

The thought that here, in our own hometown, such acts of hatred still exist today is especially disheartening, and lends itself as something to meditate on and pray for a more peaceful new year. This morning a press conference/media event was held at the mosque where local, state and federal civic and religious leaders and others came together in a unified stance to condemn this senseless attack,. Who knows, perhaps this will ultimately help bring people together instead of driving people apart.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Shameless Plug: Monday Night Roller Coaster Chat

Shameless Plug: Monday Night Roller Coaster Chat

Are you fascinated by roller coasters and amusement parks? Well, I have just the thing to help ease you through the off season. Every Monday night I co-host a roller coaster live internet chat. Chat hours are typically 8PM-1AM (Eastern Standard Time) on Monday nights. Our chat is on the IRC protocol so you will need to install an IRC client such as mIRC, MS Chat, or Trillian. Once you have that installed, go to (if you are using a command line based IC client the command is “ /SERVER” once on the server you can connect to our channel by enterig the command “/JOIN #roller-coaster”

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mini TR: Eastgate Mall (12/18/05)

Mini TR: Eastgate Mall

December 18, 2005

It seems that the Ohio coaster enthusiast community is now halfway through the second month of the off season, Sure I was just at Paramount’s Kings Island on November 26 to celebrate Winterfest, and I did get rides on the grand Carousel, steam train and interactive haunted house rides at that time. I didn’t go to Eastgate Mall with the plans of riding anything, and in fact I didn’t ride anything. I’d just like to point out what they have in terms of being a winter time amusement venue.

Eastgate Mall is a recently renovated mall to the east of Cincinnati somewhere between Cincinnati and Batavia. In terms of amusements they have instlalled a Carousel in the food court area. It’s a smaller two abreast machine complete with wooden floor and equipped with safety straps. I also looked like they were requiring all riders to utilize the safety straps. Cost per ride: $1.50, with multiple ride package available. It’s not a carousel worth traveling out of your way to get to, but if you happen to be in the area, there is one here.

Also at the mall, down by Sears is a mechanical bull. It’s the ‘friendlier, gentler’ mechanical bull complete with saddle, rodeo style hand grip, and a nice big air cushion all around it. A chance at being a rodeo star goes for $5 for two tries.

A short way down from the bull is a collection of coin operated children’s rides, these would not be noteworthy except they have the Cedar Point roller coaster personal motion simulator. This is the smaller one person version, and I somehow doubt that the machine can accommodate an adult, much less one of typical coaster enthusiasts dimensions. $1 per ride, which is a bargain as the bigger 2 person full size model generally goes for $2. Speaking of arcade machines, they also have a small video arcade, but it has a nice selection of games, including a pinball machine and a Dance Dance Revolution. Rounding out the amusements are a Showcase Cinemas out in the parking lot and a kids play area by J.C. Penny’s sort of a summer camp theme. With a fiberglass ‘canoe’ to sit in’, and a fiberglass tent for playing in or climbing on, and other camp related stuff, including a fiberglass fire, which must go with the fiberglass logs sitting around the area.

How long is it until Kings Island opens for the summer?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Coasterville Evacuated

Coasterville Evacuated

I thought I had seen the worst of this particular snow storm on Thursday December 8, 2005 when it took me three and a half hours to commute home from work, a trip that usually takes about 40 minutes. Cincinnati had taken a beating in the form of 5 inches of an ice/rain/snow mixture that managed to bring almost every major road in town to a grinding halt. Some friends who went outside for a smoke break around 3:00 reported back we had nothing to fear, by 3:30 the ground was covered, by 4:00 the roads were so bad that it was taking some people 2 hours just to get out of the parking garage.

Being responsible, when I finally arrived home, I proceeded to perform the required snow removal. I know I probably could have waited till the weekend, but we had Cincinnati Pops tickets on Friday, so I figured this was my best shot at having time to remove the snow. I did, however, watch Survivor first, because I needed to warm up, and I just had to find out how the whole car for yourself, or 4 cars for your tribemates challenge played out.

So after a snow removal job that was just over an hour long I went to bed just hoping Mother Nature would be nice to me. Friday morning arrived and things didn’t seem all that bad, roads were clear enough for driving, and traffic was back to normal. I reported to work relieved everything was all over, or was it?

Shortly after 1:00 I receive ca call telling me the furnace was making real loud nasty noises, and was not putting out heat, and that a service tech had been called. As you might presume with the cold snowspell we were enduring the repairman just barely beet me to the house, at 5:45. The good news was it didn’t take the service tech long to figure out what the problem was, the bad news was that he didn’t have the appropriate parts on his truck. The worse news was that he was doubtful that they would be able to service our furnace before Monday. We did feel relived, however, that he told us we did the right thing by calling him, and that had we continued to let the furnace run as is, the blower motor could have completely burnt out leading to electrical fire. To be fair, the company did loan us some portable space heaters, and the furnace itself was under a service agreement, however we decided to forgo the space heaters (which do almost nothing in a huge house like ours, besides their own fire risks) and opted to find temporary accommodations elsewhere. At around 7:30 we were packed up and moving to a local hotel.

We figured we would probably be at the hotel until Monday, but at the time were thankful to avoided the potential fire, and being season ticket holders for the Pops, were able to get our seats changed for the Saturday night show, and then the Survivor finale on Sunday, some shopping to do, and a couple inspection visits back home. A friend warned us to shut off the water service and drain as much water out of the system as possible, so we did that. So we had enough activities to fill our time. On Saturday, we received confirmation that they did not have the part on hand and would have to order it, but with it being a weekend and a busy season for the shipping industry, we would have to wait till Tuesday. Needless to say we were not happy, and added another night to the hotel bill. Tuesday comes, we check out of the hotel, return to home in time for our appointment and wait around until we finally get impatient and call to learn that the parts we needed did not arrive with the days shipment, so its back to the hotel, for another night. Well we have the Amazing Race finale tonight, so that will keep us occupied but by this time, the novelty of living in a hotel has worn off and we feel defeated.

Fortunately for everybody’s sakes the parts did arrive on Wednesday and the entire repair job only took about 30-40 minutes, it took several more hours for the house to heat up from 37 degrees back up to 75. As of Wednesday afternoon, everything has been resolved and we are back to living a normal life.

Now to bring the light side to this, over the years my boss and I have joked about how if money were no object, it would be really cool to live in either a hotel or a cruise ship. Advantages would be not having to worry about maintenance, having a valet to do your laundry, concierge to run errands for you, having restaurants and convenience shopping right in the building, the availability of room service, the lack of utility, cable, or internet bills, daily housekeeping service, furnished furniture that is updated, and your basic bathroom supplies covered. We though the cruise ship sounded wonderful with its added bonus of included entertainment and travel, but the hotel would provide better face to face contact with all the friends you had built up through the years.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reality Show Finale Week

Reality Show Finale Week

Ah, the middle of November, which seems to mean its time to wrap up this falls reality TV game shows. I think Survivor, Amazing Race, Apprentice, and Apprentice: Martha all ended this week. I only watch Survivor and Amazing Race, and in a rare turn of events, both games were won by a likeable contestant.

It started on Sunday night with the Survivor finale. This was Survivor season 11, which took place amongst the Mayan ruins of Guatemala. The show was won by Danni, who won in a 6-1 vote over Stephanie. One of the twists in the edition was bringing back Bobbi Jon and Stephanie who earned a spot in Survivor infamy when they were the last two tribe mates left from the suckiest tribe in Survivor history. It seemed like a cheap gimmick and also a way for CBS to say "Guys, sorry about that sorry tribe you wound up with, here you can have a do over" This was reason enough to root against Stephanie, I mean sorry this is Survivor her former two tribes had spoken but she was allowed an unprecedented second appearance. (For a non all-stars game) Also in Palau she played the friendly outgoing person who poured her heart into the game and just couldn't win anything, leading the audience to sort of feel bad for her.

Well in this Survivor she decided to adopt a totally different personality, one that was a bit harsher and not as endearing as in Palau. For someone who didn't manage to win a lot of stuff on her own merits, she seemed to be invited along to partake in more rewards than was fair, while get this, acting like she 'deserved' those rewards, openly telling those who weren't invited to just shut it and thus drove a nice wedge between herself and the other tribe members. This is probably why she made it so far in this edition of the games, was that she managed to alienate herself from so many tribemembers that the remaining players were eager to use her as a final 2 running mate. Danni, on the other hand chose a style of play almost unheard of in Survivor, Danni was never really in a power position in the game until the final immunity challenge, and in fact her head was on the chopping block several times, and yes she used the immunity necklace a couple times to escape sure death, but most of the time she adopted the strategy of making sure there was always someone else in camp that was a bigger annoyance. Its almost like an Amazing Race strategy, forget about winning the popularity contest, jut make sure someone else looses the popularity contest, fly under the radar and let your more flamboyant opponents knock each other out, then come up to claim the prize. In this case it worked like a charm.

The final episode had all the usual Survivor finale components: 4 contestants, 3 tribal councils, 2 immunity challenges (including the final endurance competition), and 1 winner. It also had the "Tribute to Fallen Tribemembers" moment where the finalists (and audience) got one last remembrance of the other 14 players. It also had the "Rite of Passage" that has become popular, whereby the finalists participate in a local traditional ceremony as a blessing. It was here that Stephanie's new personality really came out and provided one last bit of controversy. It seems the shows producers had arranged for some Mayans (who knew the culture was still alive and well, see you CAN learn from reality TV) to lead the finalists in a blessing and sacrifice to the Mayan gods. While the other three finalists were more or less, taking in this ancient Mayan custom and soaking in the local cultureal experience, Stephanie was the one moaning that the honey and sugar and other items used to prepare the spiritual circle and sacrifice could have been better used as nourishment for the tribe. Never mind the fact that Stephanie almost always seems to be in on the food rewards, and that the Mayan's did in fact prepare a feast of tamales to go with the blessing ceremony. So the Mayan's managed to feed Steph and still she was crying over a little spilt food. This cme to a climax when it was a live chicken that was to be offered up in sacrifice. (I was sure PETA would have been all over this) Steph, totally oblivious to the cultural history playing out around her had her one track mind on one thing. Obtaining and eating the chicken.

It was one of those cases where you sort of know you are wrong because she had to convince Lydia to ask the Mayan's if they could eat the chicken, instead of having the guts to ask herself. The Mayan's distinctly said "No" and that should have been the end of it. I mean this is a case where Steph would have better off not to ask at all, and then rescue the chicken from sacrifice as soon as the Mayan's left. At least if they hadn't expressly had the Mayan's deny then the chicken, they would have had the ability to play dumb like "You mean we weren't supposed to eat it" But eat it they did, all except for Rafe. Rafe would have been my favorite to win, as he was doing well in all the challenges and in tribe life. Rafe's fault was when he experienced an Ian moment and decided at the last possible moment to suddenly become all moralistic and release Danni from the secret partnership the two had forged to go to the finals together. Had Rafe not released Danni from that promise, I'm sure we would have had a more interesting final tribal council and vote.

But where was I, yes the chicken It seems that Steph, Lydia (who claimed to be very in tune with the ritual they had just witnessed) and Danni all decided to go against the Mayan's direct orders and went ahead and ate the chicken. As fate would have it eating the chicken was followed up by the worst thundersorm of the season, and further followed up by Lydia being the first to suffer from a need to clear her conscience as she came clean bout the chicken at Tribal Council. Sure it was just superstition, coincidence and a leading question by Jeff, but Lydia spilled the beans about the chicken, and Jeff acted like he was appalled at the tribes actions. This has left viewers to take up the debate on whether the chicken should have been eaten. On one side you have those who will state they are in a survival situation and any food they can source is fair game, and besides they aren't Mayan so no harm no foul in upsetting a god you don't believe in. On the other side are those that profess that Survivor has always tried to impart a feel for the local culture, and that for the context of this game, he specifically said "They are to live like the Mayans did" Sure we may not subscribe to the Mayan culture but it’s a "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" concept, where they are a visitor in the Mayan's land, and as such they should at least respect and observe the Mayan way of life, just out of courtesy. I myself fall into the "Im a guest in their land, so I should at the very least be respectful of the local traditions, even if I don't believe in them"

It also reminds me of a word of advice Jeff gave in the audio commentary on Episode 1 of the Survivor Australia DVD box set. Jeff said that as host players are always coming up to him and others to ask for rules clarifications, especially right after a challenge is explained to them. Its usually players who are smart enough to think outside the box and come up with an alternate strategy, they then want to have a show official bless their idea. Jeff's advice is that if you have an alternative idea, DON'T ask for a rules clarification, because if you do, the show official has to give you the official rules as the challenge was intended to be played, whereas if you don't ask, as long as your tactic wasn't forbidden by the rules, it is fair game. I think asking the Mayan if it was permissible to eat the chicken falls into the same bin, They asked, and got an answer, they should of at least had the decency to respect that answer.

Moving onto Tuesday, on The Amazing Race. This was season 8 of the Amazing Race, a special family edition that way played mostly within the borders of the United States. I am more than happy to report that hometown team, the Linz's took home the first place 1 million dollar prize. The episode didn't start out well for the Linzs with them walking right past a hidden clue box in the Montreal underground (And hey, I've been to Montreal and I have been in that Underground, it’s a FANTASTIC place), then they got lost finding the ice rink for the Curling competition. "Sweep Sweep Sweep Harder Harder!" Count me in the group that became fascinated with Curling during the 2002 Olympic games. (At least it looked more interesting than rolling logs along a roller coaster like course) The least liked team, the Weavers were well ahead of both the Linzs and Bransens upon arrival at the Stade Olympique, which was Montreal's Olympic Stadium (hey I saw the outside of that too!) Teams were sent on an EVIL needs in a heystack to find on of three sets of plane tickets hidden somewhere in the stadium. (Attached to the back of one of the seats, the stadium has over 56,000 seats, that is over 18,000 seats per set of tickets to be searched, then the sets of tickets were so close together it didn't really matter which set they received. The Weavers totally melted down here, claiming the game unfair, practically quitting, and showing once again they had no idea how the game was played when they kept moaning "But we were here FIRST" Being anyplace first only counts for the leg prizes at the pit stop, and the final finish mat. They then flew to Toronto where the Linz's and Bransens really pulled it together, and the Weavers just kept losing more time. I did note a little Easter egg here, one one of the detour options, a team member had to climb aboard a old fashioned style sailing ship (after sailing to the old time sailing ship in a more modern sailboat), once at the old ship, the chosen team member had to climb up 100' on the ships rigging (yes they had a climbing harness), at the 100' point there was nautical flag flying that the team member had to retrieve and turn into the captain to get their next clue. I noted the nautical flag happened to be the flag symbol for "R" Appropriate for a Race, isn’t it. In the respecting others property category, it was noted when the Linz's did this task that the climbing harness was outfitted with a caribeaner to hold the flag for the person while they climbed back down. The Linz's used the caribeaner the proper way, the Weavers just dropped the flag 100' to the deck. I know its not a national flag or anything like that, but have some respect for others property. Had a breeze started and that flag flew overboard, they should have been thrown overboard after it.

Anyway, when all was said and done, it all game down to a geography test. A giant jigsaw with a piece for each US State, Canadian Province and Central American nation. 71 pieces total, one person from each team had to put it together while the others were powerless and just had to watch, while they stodd mere yards from the finish mat.

But, as I said earlier the Linz's won the one million dollar prize, and the remaining two finalists were allowed to compete in one more challenge for a new car. The Bransens won the challenge of taking 12 magnets representing landmarks or challenges during the race, and attach them to the big map they just created in the final Roadblock. I like the "What have you learned" type of challenged.

And thus ends another reality show season, and starting next February the spring reality show season starts with Amazing Race returning to its more traditional format, and Survivor returning to Panama for the third time. The Exile Island concept has me intrigued though adding the possibility of getting banished alone away from your tribe on Exile Island.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Friendly Reminder for those with Flex Spending Accounts

Friendly Reminder for those with Flex Spending Accounts

Just a reminder, you only have until December 31, 2005 to incur those qualifying reimbursable expenses. You work too hard for your money, don’t give yourself a voluntary pay cut by failing to file claim to all your money that is being held in a “Use it or Lose It” style FSA.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

TR: Holidays with the Pops

Holidays with the Pops

On Saturday night, Mom and I went to the Pops annual holiday concert. Mr. Kunzel, their director is an absolute showman and loved to put on high energy performances. This one was no different with the cast including the Pops Orchestra, the May Festival Chorus, a youth chorus, cloggers, hand bell ringers, a visit from Santa, Rudolph and Frosty, and a wide range of music from both the secular and religious sectors. The concert started with a Hanukkah song tog et things started, and then highlights lincluded a stirring gospel version of Go Tell it on the Mountain, Mel Torme’s Christmas Song, a number with the cloggers finishing up in a chorus line eant to evoke images of the Rocketetts, clogging Santas, an audience sing along, another stirring rendition of White Christmas, a traditional piece of comedy they like to do based on the 12 Days of Christmas, except that th gifts are parts of the orchestra. Nestled into the first act, and a break from all the holiday fare was a Suite from the Lion King complete with a theatrical dance company. When you go to see the Cincinnati Pops, you usally get much more than just a concert, you get pageantry, you get high energy extras, all led by a great showman Of special interest was when an address was made to the audience about a program change later on this season. It seems that the May 2006 concerts have been changed to a Tribute to New Orleans theme, complete with very notable guest stars: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Welcome to Snow Season in Cincinnati!

This Thursday marks the first instance of significant snow fall in Cininnati this winter season, and were the effects ever felt.

It didn't see, like such a big deal at the time, and although it waited till 3PM to start, by 4PM the city's traffic system was virually paralized. In telling my own story, I was glad to have been release from work early at 4pm and ran out to the bus stop. Get home, do a little snow removal, etc. It only looked like an inch or two on the ground at the time, but the major streets were in gridlock. I caught a bus and proceeded to take a ride that would be so slow I didn't arrive home until 7:45pm. Folks, the entire ride time is usually only about 40 minutes, tops. This was 3 and a half hours. It took possibly a half hour to go a block in some spots. Later I would find out that the snowfall was more in the 4-5 inch range. It seems thatit took lots of people 3-4 hours to get home. School buses were dropping off their last students at 9:30pm.

Ah, winter gotta love it! Or not.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Airport Security

Tonight in the news, the big story is about an airport shooting, but not your typical airport shooting. This shooting involves an air marshall. For those who are not aware air marshalls are undercover law enforcement personnel who are placed on flights to help insure peace and order.

At issue is a passenger who by reports was pacing up and down the aisle of the aircraft announcing that he has a bomb in his backpack. As you may guess this causes air marshall who was placed on that flight to spring into action. Further reports reveal that when the suspect passenger was confronted by the air marshall, he fled from the plane onto the jetway into the airport. The air marshall took chase and upon confronting the suspect in the jetway, the suspect allegedly reached into his backpack for something. Not knowing if the suspect was atteempting to detonate a bomb or reach for some other weapon, the air marshall shot the passenger.

Let me first say that based on the objective details of the event that have been released, I agree with the air marshall's actions. It has been revealed in later days that the suspect may have been suffering from bipolar disorder, like a Jeckell and Hyde disease. While it is a sad consequence for the family that the suspect subsequently died, I'm afraid the marshall's reactions were justified.

Unfortunately we as humabs can't detect motives or mental issues upon an outward glance of a person, I kind of think of this like running into a crowded theater and yelling "Fire!" There are some things you just don't say or do less you face the consequences.

Objecively the air marshall saw exactly what they are trained to look for. A suspicious acting passenger, who later makes a bomb threat. Then the suspect tried to flee the scene, which is not usually a wise move to try to get a law enforcement officers understanding. I mean this is what leads to high speed chases through crowded neighborhoods. While it can be debated that deadly force was unjustified, without knowing what was in the backpack, unfortunately it was the only option to try to prevent the incident from getting very tragic.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Is one in the hand always worth more than two in the bush?

Tonight the CBS reality show Survivor offered one contestant the chance to make one very difficult decision.

In the second-to-last episode, Survivor held a reward challenge where one of the final 5 tribe members could win a car. It's a very traditional challenge, and at the conclusion of it, the shows host announced that the contestant could either take the car for themselves, and an overnight BBQ feast for two, or trade it away. Jeff explained that in Survivor history the winner of the car challenge has never won the entire game, so the winner of the challenge could either keep the prize package, or give their car away so that all four of the other tribe mates wouldbe given a car.

It's a decision, I hope I never have to make as the political implications, particularly in Survivor are astounding. As you a probably aware, at the end of each episode the tribe has to vote on of their own members out.

So the choice becomes, do you keep the car for yourself, then ask those same four people to not vote you out? Or do you give the cars away, and hope that this will generate enough goodwill to advance you further in the game. After all, it would seem hard to vote out a person who just gave you a car, but in the game of Survivor there are no guarantees and the other tribe mates could just as easily go up to the voting urn and say "So Long, and Thanks for all the Cars"

The way I see it the best way to handle the car challenge is to lose it. If you keep the car for yourself, you are as good as gone as you have just upset all four other people. I mean you may survive if you are on the majority side of a 3-2 alliance, becuase getting rid of you will make it even, and your alliance could lose your carefuly built power. If you keep the cars and you are in the minority alliance, you have given the other people a big reason to evict you, However if you are in a 4-1 majotiy, your Alliance can afford to toss you out of site and still keep the lead.

On the other side the arguments for giving the cars away aren't that great, I mean you might buy youself a vote or two, because it would be very hard to vote out the person who just gave you a car, butthinking long term, do you really want the person who gave 3 jury members a car in the final two. That is a lot of payola to the jury, who could base their entire vote on the fact they gave you a car.

As I said, the only answer is not to win, then odds would be that somoene else would give you a car.

Okay, what really happened was Cindy won the car, AND kept the car for herself, but a if she didn't cuase enough ill will, she kept on bragging in front of her tribemates about her new car. It should surprise no one except maybe Cindy that Cindy was evicted from the tribe at the very next opportunity.

What I would like to find out it, Jeff has used this "Give or Keep" twist on a challenge in a former season,. (mind you in that instance the prize was more sentimental than material), but in that case the contestant "Gave away" the prize to all the other tribemates, and Jeff respondede by awardingthe contestant another even grander prize for his generosity. I wonder if Jeff had another prize for Cindy in store in case she gave away the cars.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

College Basketball:Cash for Wins?

In today's sports section of the Cincinnati Enquirer, there was an article alleging that certain schools (Xavier University (OH) was cited as an example) that colleges buy their way to wins in sports.

At issue is the way schools create their schedules. After a school determines their league play schedule and schedules games based around local rivalries, the school is left to build the rest of their sports schedule themselves. For some schools it makes a lot of sense to try to add as many home games as possible. The reasons for this are based around the revenue the school can make from a home game, and the more games you can play in a season the more real-life pracitce the team gets.

To add home games, another shool has to add away games which aren't as financially lucrative. There are two ways to do this, one is to arrange to play a pair of games, where each school gets a home game, the other way is to agree to pay the guest team a fee for their appearance for a one game deal.

The article alledges that schools 'cherry pick' the schools they book in for non-leauge games to virtually guarantee a victory. After all the more "W"s a school can put in their record, the better they look for the even more lucrative post-season play.

I'm hoping this is not the case, as I would have real ethical objections with trying to build a winning record with cash rather than performance on the court. It so happens that the December 7 game is one of the games that is being decried by the sportsw writer as being "bought and paid for", including a comment from the opposing team's coach that said ""yeah, we can win this game, but then we'll never be invited back" The article alledges that there some sports programs out there that use these type of games as a major fundraiser basically renting out their sports teams to come to your arena and lose.

While I can see the benefits of playing a game against a team that is supposedly far superior to yours, I can't imagine tring to coach or playing for a coach that is selling wins to other schools. "Okay men, go out there, but if you start to win, hold back!"

It also so happens that I had tickets to the Deember 7 game, so I watched the game with that on my mind. I think it was widely known that this game was a severe mismatch, as the oddsmakers were giving Florida A&M 30 points and the spectators arrived at the game at the last minute. For the first half Xavier basically overpowered Florida A&M as expected, however the story wqas far different in the second half. Xavier put its b-team on the floor and I'm quoite sure the b-team had a very beneficial practice session actually getting to play. ?However they didn't to to well and a 76-38 lead was cut down to a 79-51 final as Florida A&M was able to overpower the Xavier b-team. That score 79-51 is interesting as the spread was 30, and Xavier won by 28, which meant that bets on Xavier lost.

Xavier also basically stopped playing in the last two minutes and refused to try to get that score to put them over 30 sprad, despite the crowd chanting from them to take a shot.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cincinnati has a chance at The Amazing Race finish line

Go Linz Family!

Tonight the final three tema were determined for The Amazing Race finale. The best part of this season is that my hometown of Cincinnati has a team in the final 3. Stay tuned on December 13 to see if the Linz family takes the one million dollar prize.

Cincinnati is allegedly a hotspot town for CBS television's reality game shows. To date we had Lillian who made final 2 in Survivor 7, and this season we had Cindy on Survivor. The Linz family could become the first hometown teaam to actually win one of these reality shows.

Need I say it again, GoLinz family.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Trip Report Archive Updated

Greetings to all those reading my blog.

I have updated my archive of amusment park trip reports.

You may read all about my travels to amusements parks going back several years at:

Coasterville Trip Report Archive

Coney Island OH 2005

Coney Island (OH)
July 4, 9, and 30, 2005

This summer, Mom and I decided to purchase summer tickets to the Cincinnati Pops.  The Cincinnati Pops performs their summer series at the Riverbend Music Center at Coney Island.

Coney Island was, and still is a traditional amusement park.   While it is true the park may be smaller and less grand than it was in its golden years, make no mistake Coney Island is still a fine traditional amusement park.  The park offers great swimming, tennis, miniature golf, and other athletic pursuits, group picnic grove, an excellent concert facility and a couple dance pavilions. On the rides side, the park offers a collection of classic amusement rides.

While it is true I went to Coney Island three times this summer for the three concerts, I only explored the amusement rides area once.  The trip to the amusement rides area is all this trip report will cover.

We arrived at the park around 5:45 and parked for free by showing the parking attendant that we had tickets for this evenings Riverbend show,  (Parking is normally $6).  We opted to park at the far end of the park, which meant a long walk from the parking lot to the rides, but a very short walk from the concert venue to the car after the show.  We walked to the rides area and I stopped at the ride ticket booth located next to the Python.   $5.95 later I had a nice patriotic themed wristband.  (Okay, I guess now you know I rode rides on July 4th)  Coney has moved away from ride tickets, now you either have a wristband and you can ride the rides, or you don't have a wristband and you can't ride the rides.

I started out by going over by Lake Como to ride the Tempest.  Tempest is a fairly rare ride by Watkins  It consists basically of 4 octagonal cages, each seating seven people.  The ride is mounted at a sharp angle, so that all four cages rotate around on the main boom, then at either end of the main boom is a shorter boom with a tub at each end. So you have the main boom spinning all 4 tubs around the ride center, while the two sub booms are spinning the tub pairs around in smaller circles, and did I mention that each individual tub is swivel mounted and so can spin freely as well.   It’s a spin ride lovers dream.   I boarded the ride, where I noted some changes have been made.  The big change is that the old Americana pink/teal paint job is gone, the ride is now mostly green, but more importantly the seatbelts have been replaced.  The ride used to have some seatbelts that were so short that I could only ride in about half of the seats.  They have all new belts on the ride, and this time they went with retracting seatbelts.  In  other words, it seems like they did a nice overhaul of this ride this year. I enjoyed Temepst so much I took two rides on it.  

I next took a ride on the Scrambler mainly because it was there. I looked around  Lake Como where it looks like there is a nice collection of classic rides including a Herschell helicopter, a Spin-A-Ree, Frog Hopper, Eli Ferris Wheel, and both adult and children's bumper boats.  

We continued up past the games of skill area and the Bob Evan's children's play village.  (Okay its really called Kidtown or something like that, but one of the prominent buildings in the play village is a Bob Evans restaurant look alike.  Continuing out tour down what was the old midway in the golden years, we pass a Carousel that is definitely not from the golden years  (The original carousel sits up at PKI), instead it looks like a totally ordinary Hercehll portable merry go round.  Next to the carousel however, in the area that held the Spin-A-Ree for a long time, then the Frog Hopper, now sits "The Scream Machine".  "The Scream Machine" is a Moser Spring Ride.  The Moser Spring Ride is generally marketed and used as a children's freefall/bounce type ride, which is actually quite similar to a Frog Hopper.  But don't tell Coney Island that as they are really marketing "The Scream Machine" with t-shirts for sale and all.  The Python rollercoaster doesn't even have t-shirts for sale.

I felt compelled to take a ride on "The Scream Machine", especially since the local carnival that has one has posted a 150 pound weight limit on theirs. It seats 10 people, 5 facing each way with OTSR's. You go up to the top and you bounce back down, then up, then down, then up, sometimes you bounce short distances, sometimes you seem to fall the whole way.  It’s a really nifty ride.

We continued down the midway, and next came across the Tilt-A-Whirl where I took a ride.  I am happy to report I got a very Whirly Tilt-A-Whirl ride.  We next passed by the mini golf course and came up to another ride cluster. In this cluster there are a couple more children's rides as well as a Super Round Up and a Trabant. I took rides on both the Super Round Up and the Trabant, then took a walk through the 'rain room' which is a misting station.  Coney Island has set up a few of these tents which contain misters, walk through one and you instantly feel a bit cooler.

Continuing on our way to the next ride cluster, I forgo both the giant slide, and the "Fire Engine Ride"  The fire Engine Ride is a cleverly themed trackless trolley ride where they take kids for a ride through a more sedate area of the park in what looks like a fire engine.  I think they even loan the kids little firemen helmets for the ride too.  Also in this area is the parks bumper cars, and according to their ride safety decals, they come to us used from Ontario, Canada.  It’s a fairly ordinary looking portable bumper car arena except it does have the divider down the center of the floor, so you are supposed to drive around in circles like a Dodgem.  As has been noted, Coney Island attracts the nations worst bumper car drivers, which helps to make the ride more frustrating for us skilled bumper car drivers. Yes, I took a ride on the bumper cars.

After the bumper cars I headed around to the last ride cluster, where I took a ride on the Pepsi Python, which is a little portable steel coaster, like something you would see at a fair.  The ride uses two two-car trains, but the have not used the back seats of the trains in several seasons now, which means you have effectively two 6 passenger trains.   I wonder if they would be better running 4 individual cars on this ride. The ride is noteworthy for all the wrong reasons.  The cars are ugly with their really tall headrests and the really tight lapbars, then the first drop has a gut wrench and a pull out that is just way more severe than the rides profile suggests.  It doesn't get any better as the ride is a rough violent ride.  I understand they bought this ride used, and I have to wonder if its old owner was thinking "I'm glad to be rid of that piece of junk"   After my ride on the Python, I closed up with two half-rides on the Flying Bobs.  You seem this park operated both their Flying Bobs and their Trabant in a weird manner.  They run the rides forward for a cycle, unload, then run them backwards for a cycle, unload, then forwards again.  

After my Flying Bobs rides, I note wehave less than an hour before the concert starts so we take the nice shortcut path that runs from right next to the Giant Slide to Riverbend.


Strickers Grove

Strickers Grove
August 14, 2005

To the west of Cincinnati, Ohio, there lies a little town called Ross, and inside Ross there is a picnic grove called Stricker's Grove.  Stricker's Grove is just like any other picnic facility in that it offers above average facilities for groups to hold group outings.  It has the groves as well as athletic fields and the all important beer booth. What makes Stricker's Grove particularly interesting it that amongst the groves recreational facilities there is a wonderful amusement midway, complete with two wooden rollercoasters.

While Strickers is a wonderful picnic grove, due to its primary interest in private group outings, there are very few days when the public can just drop by to ride the coasters.  Things are looking up for the coaster fans, however, as the park has gone from two public outings a year to three. The first one is the Independence Day picnic and fireworks show held on July 4, then there is Family Day which is typically the second Sunday of August, and lastly in more recent years a day has been added in October.

So it is on this second Sunday of August, that Rideman and I had made plans to go to Strickers for Family Day.  Rideman mentioned he had some things he had to do back in Columbus before he could head on down to the park, which was fine since the park didn't open the rides until 2. On days when the park is open to the public it is generally open from 1-9 with the rides open for two ride sessions, the early ride session from 2-5 and the late ride session from 6-9.  All the rides close from 5-6 so that the ride operators can take their dinner break, and I suppose makes it easier on the families to pull their group ionto the picnic grove to have their own dinner.

Around 2:30, Rideman and I contact each other, and Rideman suggests making it the evening ride session, which again is fine, I rarely stay for both ride sessions anyway.  Around 5:30 I get the next call from Rideman telling me that he is on his way if I am still interested.  I ask where Rideman is, and he tells me he just left Columbus.  I do the mental math to determine that would get Rideman to my place around 7:30 and us to the park around 8:00.  Am I still interested?  Why of course, I'll be ready.  So around 7:30 Rideman picks me up and we head off.  I suggest that maybe we should go to Coney Island instead as it would be much closer than Strickers, but we decided to proceed west and go to Strickers.

We arrived at the park around 8, and pulled into the free parking lot.  Due to guests already leaving we were able to park almost right up by the admission gate, and when we walked up to the admission gate, well the kind folks running the gate felt kind of bad about charging us the full $8 admission fee, so I think we got in for $4 each. We entered the park.

Stricker's Grove is a rectangular piece of property with the parking lot taking up one of the long sides, and the admission gate roughly in the middle of one of the long sides.  When you enter the park you enter into the picnic area.  Straight ahead of you is the cooking pavilion where the grills are located and the picnic shelters are located immediately to your right, and the athletic fields are located to the left.  Just to the left of the cooking pavilion is the parks multi purpose building, which has a beer booth and a funnel cakes stand along the outside wall.  If you continue past the cooking pavilion you come to the snack bar, and taking a cue from Holiday World, the Free Unlimited Pepsi Stand.

Making a right at the snack bar you pass the skeeball building, and then the arcade which also has some skill games.  I also note a new skill games building has been erected across the walkway from the arcade.  There is a miniature golf course that runs along side the parking lot and is accessible from the back of the picnic grove.  But that's not why we came, we proceeded through the gate located between the two skill games buildings into the amusement ride area.  

The amusement ride area is a classic long straight path with rides located on either side.  On the left side the rides consist of: a Herchell carousel, complete with a brick carousel pavilion and a working band organ,  an empty pad most recently vacated by a PTC Crazy Dasey,  the walkway back to the station for the Chance C.P. Huntington Train (which circles the perimeter of the grove, I mean the entire perimeter including the athletic fields, the parking lot, and the big empty field out back, it goes through an impossible tiny tunnel to get under the entrance driveway.), an Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel, a Hurbetz Tip Top, am Eli Bridge Scrambler, a Herchell Helicopter ride, a Bisch Rocco Flying Skooter, and ending up at the Tornado wooden coaster. Walking the midway on the right hand side you first have a pavilion which contains three children's rides which may or may not all be King rides.   All three rides are the type of children's rides where the ride vehicles go in nice slow circles. You have boats, cars, or little suspended airplanes to choose from. After that pavilion there is a children's Tumble Bug (Turtle), a Mangels children's Whip, the Teddy Bear (the parks junior wooden rollercoaster), and lastly a big new concrete area that currently holds the parks Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl.  You then come to the end which again is anchored by the Tornado.

Rideman and I proceeded to make a beeline for the Tornado but we didn't quite make it.  Since Paramount's Kings Island heartlessly ripped out the Flying Eagles, both of us are going through Flying Skooter withdrawal.  A ride on the Flying Skooters was therefore in order, and we found several other Flyer enthusiasts taking the same opportunity.  Strickers has the portable model whereas PKI had the park model of this ride, so this ride is a bit smaller than we are used to, and the tubs are just solid colors with no fancy artwork of  eagles on them, but most importantly the tubs don't get near the amount of ride action that PKI's used to have.  It is very hard if not impossible to snap these Flyers and trust me, we were listening for that wonderful sound the whole time we were at the park.  I mean you got the tub to go up high and ACT like it was going to snap at the end of a nasty diving drop, but you never got the satisfaction of the loud snap or the tub shaking.  That did not stop us from taking a couple rides on it before heading to the Tornado.

The entrance to the Tornado is still guarded by a ticket cage I have never seen used, but it looks like it must get used because it looks like the ticket cage has been renovated.  It seems tat the Tornado is set up to be an upcharge ride. There was no upcharge for it today, however, and soon we were headed into that wonderful back seat.

The Tornado is based upon a classic Herbert Schmeck/PTC wood coaster design, and fits a nice small to mid sized coaster into a compact footprint.  The total height of the ride is just under 60' and the ride is laid out as a double figure 8 layout.  The train leaves the station, goes through a turnaround to the right, and proceeds up the lift hill as it crosses over.  You go down the first drop, then back up into a turnaround to the left, the second pass through the structure consists of a lot of small speed hills.  You won't get strong airtime on any of them, but instead you will just kind of float along, so yes they have nice subtle floater airtime.   A turnaround to the right sets you up for what you think is going to be another pass just like the last one.  It is except for the final hill which rides like a mistake, a WONDERFUL mistake. Whereas the ride had carried on a nice mild mannered demeanor up to this point, the last drop on the third pass contains a moment of strong ejector airtime, especially in the last car. You make a turnaround to the left, and there is another moment of airtime as you head into the brakes and then the station.

Its not a very thrilling coaster, but it is a very fun approachable coaster.  I have even got my mom to ride this one with me!  We took a couple rides on the Tornado, then took some time to look at the Tilt A Whirl.  The State of Ohio has recently made a lot of changes in the requirements for fences around rides.  Stricker's Grove, like most Ohio parks and carnivals had to make a lot of changes to update their fences and gates to meet the new standards.  They also added this big new concrete pad in the area between the Tornado and the Teddy Bear.  It used to be just a grass field that contained the Flying Skooter, but this season it seems the Flying Skooter and the Tilt-A-Whirl have changed places. Another part of the new fence laws is a little provision that particularly affects portable rides, in that the operator must prevent someone from crawling underneath the ride.  Up at the state fair a week earlier I had noted that people were using that orange mesh fencing commonly seen on ski trails to close the area between the ground and the bottom of the ride trailer, and also along the sides of the ride where the top of the sidewall of the ride is less than the minimum required fence height..  Strickers decided to enclose their tilt with a second fence that runs along the perimeter of the ride a few feet away.  

There is also a rumor floating around that the Tilt may soon be sharing this concrete pad with the Mack Hully Gully the park recent'y purchased from Cedar Point, and made a big show of taking delivery of during the October public day last season.   A less confirmed rumor is that a Sellner Berry-Go-Round may take the place vacated by the Crazy Dazy.

We continued along the midway and took a ride on the classic Teddy Bear.  The Teddy Bear is made from the same plans as countless other PTC kiddie wood coasters built in the 1920's   It has a very similar trackplan as the Beastie, just only about half as tall.  The Teddy Bear also has some really soft plush padding in its cars, unlike that hard concrete-is-more-forgiving "padding" used on the Tornado.  Anyway, we had a pleasant ride on the Teddy Bear.  We then learned the park has followed Holiday World's lead in another way by installing waterless urinals.
We then took a ride on the Tip Top.  It's a spin the tub ride, except that during the ride, the whole platform tips up, and then starts softly bouncing..  It’s a unique sensation, and I clccked us having gotten the very heavy ride tub up to 20RPM.  I like spin rides.

After the Tip Top, we could not pass up another couple rides on the Flying Skooter before ending the day on the Tornado.  All in all, I'd say we got a lot accomplished in the hour we had at the park.   After the last Tornado ride I sprinted up hoping to get to the Funnel Cake stand in time, but no such luck.  I was able to get some cotton candy, which I consumed while a group of ride enthusiasts stood and chatted for a long time in the parking lot after the park closed for the night.