I was reading through a set of articles about things that used to be A Thing and are not anymore — stuff like the walkman, VCRs and i-mode. Another one is the pinball machine.

Of course, being the age I am, I played my fair share of pinball. In my teenage years, we preferred the arcade video games, but during my time as a student, there were some bars that we frequented that had pinball machines. In the early 90’s, pinball machines were feeling the crunch from video games. In response, pinball machines were adding more and more digital effects, often using a LED matrix display. Wouldn’t it be fun to play pinball again?

It turns out that there is a Dutch Pinball Association. Their clubhouse, which houses 120 pinball machines, is in Veenendaal, which is only half an hour by car away… And they had a ‘Funhouse Friday’ coming up, just an open house from 15:00 until 23:00, with all the machines on free play. Entrance fee was EUR 10 for non-members, and I sent them an e-mail to ask if one could just go there as a non-member, pay the fee and play.

It was possible, but you’d have to get invited by a member first. And the person in charge of the clubhouse decided that he’d invite me! Such hospitality, I really liked that. But it turned out that there were more people interested in an evening of pinball: Klik wanted to come, as well as a friend of ours. And I didn’t feel like it was proper to take advantage of the hospitality by showing up with three people instead of one.

So we got a membership. And they have a semi-professional kitchen as well, so you could even have dinner there! Which is what we did.

The view from the bar area. There were three ‘corridors’ like this, and there was also a line of pinball machines along the far wall.
There was a good spread of machines: some really early ones, and more “modern” ones, including some that I played a lot in the early 90’s.
Left: Klik playing Black Knight 2000. Right: Friend O. playing Tommy.

Such good fun! We’ll definitely do this more often, perhaps we’ll get good at pinball eventually…

Yesterday I visited my parents to fix something for the RGB-LED display I built for my dad. The thing had fallen down and had stopped working, and my dad missed it… He had made a new housing for it, but there were some things that needed some soldering.
In the end, I didn’t do much — I did repair the one panel that didn’t work anymore (loose ground wire), but the rest of the evening was spent chatting and looking through the etch prints my mom made thirty years ago.

On my way back, I listened to the radio. 3FM is holding a “90’s request week”. There’s much from the 90’s that I don’t like, but there’s enough there that I do like — so I listened to that station. I was on the highway, somewhere near Veghel, when they played ‘Cannonball’ from The Breeders (video here). And I was immediately transported back to 1993.

1993/1994 were the best years of the 90’s for me(1). Just before the beginning of the university year, T. had dumped me. I was a bit down for a few weeks, and then I decided I just didn’t care and wanted to have fun. I reconnected with some friends (most notably O., who went on to be one of my two best men at my wedding) and did a lot of social things. It was the one year I allowed myself to take it easy: I almost had my candidate’s exam for Computer Science, and I did not yet study very hard on Cognitive Science.
One of those things was going out in The Swing every Tuesday night. The Swing doesn’t exist anymore — there’s a furniture outlet in the building now, and in the weekends it was part of a scene that I definately wasn’t a part of. But Tuesday was ‘alternative night’, and we went there every single week. Drinking beer, chatting and, of course, dancing. Every week you saw the usual suspects, and it was always a lot of fun.
And ‘Cannonball’ was a song that was frequently played. And I always danced to it, shaking my long hair at the equally long-haired C. who was there too.

Hearing that song back reminded me of how I used to feel at those times: finding myself in the company of people that mattered to me, enjoying myself and simply being myself. It stands symbolic for the fun we had that year.

(1): Of course, in ’94 I met ingiechan. Of course, that was an important moment too. But that is not something I look back to with a feeling of nostalgia, because that’s still going on: we’re still going strong fifteen years later.

I took the plunge and upgraded Calcifer to Intrepid Ibex yesterday. Everything works like a charm… except video. I get very sluggish screen-redraws, and switching from one virtual desktop to another takes forever — like, two seconds!
But when I enabled Compiz, some other driver was installed and video performance is once again very acceptable. However, I’m not a big fan of the Compiz desktop effects. But switching off Compiz disables the accellerated video driver, for reasons I can not understand.

I remember the good old days when you could simply edit the xorg.conf to choose your driver. Now it’s all dumbed down so Windows users don’t get scared, and I’m stuck with effects I don’t want to have. Gah.

Nostalgia

Yesterday, I attended a presentation from a former professor of mine. The one I worked for ten years ago.
He is still at it (even though he is getting at an age where he should be starting to think about retirement), and he is still working on the same things we worked on together. It was loads of fun to see his current project, and to be able to understand why it is superior to the keyword-based search of the likes of Google.

I stopped working in Information Retrieval 6.5 years ago, but even after all that time it still gets me all excited in a way my current job doesn’t.

I am part of a group that calls itself ‘the vets’. It’s the group of people who made up the ‘events commission’ of Thalia, the studen association for Computer Science at the University of Nijmegen — back in ’91 and ’92.
We held parties for our group, binges that featured lots of weed, vodka-jus d’orange and garlic butter. And movies — preferrably Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for historical reasons. Parties of epic, nay, mythical proportions.

Eventually, people graduated, started their graduation projects, started their own companies or started a wholly different studies. We passed the stick over to the next generation — thus becoming self-proclaimed ‘vets’.

Last week, a flurry of emails was exchanged: with the movie of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe out, it was inevitable that the vets would once more convene to watch a movie. This time in a movie theatre, with a cup of coffee before the movie. It was great fun to see most of the gang again.

What can I say about the movie? It was OK, not great. But then again I seem to be a bit excentric for not liking the books/radio show overly much. I have the same with the Discworld novels: heaping bizarre stuff upon bizarre stuff just for the heck of it just isn’t really my thing.
Anyway, I liked the visual jokes best. The animations that the Guide displays are hilarious. And, to the screenwriter’s credit, there is an actual plot. Go figure.

Afterwards, we retired to a cafĂ©, and, in contrast with my best intentions, it was 3 AM before I was in bed. I slept 5 hours and then got up to work. I managed to pull through better than I had expected, actually. I think I’ll hit the sack early tonight, though.