I presented my paper this morning. The topic, FPGA Implementation of Image Segmentation using Logarithmic Arithmetic, was received reasonably well by the audience. The results within were not particularly good, making it an interesting challenge to highlight the few spectacular numbers achieved. No may be an acceptable answer, but one has to justify it rather more thoroughly than one has to justify a yes. All things being equal, I think I managed to do this. I'll be finishing up my Masters in the next few weeks, and I'll be a happy man when it's out of my life!
9th August 2005
This park was known as Paramount's Kings Island at the time this trip report was written. The ride names from that time have been left in place in this report.
By the time I arrived at the park it was lunch time. Sleeping in had denied me any chance of breakfast, and as such I was very hungry. I had fond memories of a Chinese fast food outlet from a previous visit, and was not impressed to discover that it had followed Chairman Mao to the grave. As a certified devotee of asian cuisine I'm not at all impressed when any such outlet is closed. Nevertheless, it was important that I find something edible, and preferably sooner than later. The park map listed a number of outlets, all of which appeared to serve broadly equivalent cuisine, most of it it typical theme park fare (pizza, burgers, et al). There was one healthy option, in Subway, but this did not really suit my mood. As such, working on a previous recommendation from David, I chose the Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack.
It is never ideal to arrive at a food outlet at exactly lunch time, as the queues will be longest at that time. Fortunately, there were only five people in front of me when I arrived, making me think that I would be served quickly. This turned out to be an invalid assumption; it still took fifteen minutes to get as far as the cashier. Every minute or so, the staff engaged in a synchronised chant, presumably quoting from the Forrest Gump movie, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have yet to see. This was mildly amusing the first time but quickly began to do my head in; I just wanted my food!
The situation wasn't helped by the customer in front of me, chatting loudly in a voice that would shatter glass. She was one of these women that did not have a waist line; rather, she had an equator, or centre of gravity. Such people are not, I'm sorry to say, an endangered species in the United States. At any rate, good things come to those who wait, and indeed when I finally managed to acquire a meal it certainly ranked among one of the better fast food meals I have had. The desert, a bowl of fresh strawberries, was hard to argue with and made up (slightly) for my main course of deep fried shrimp.
With my stomach silenced I headed over to the new coaster this year, Italian Job Stunt Track (#518), reasoning correctly that the queue would be long enough for my food to fully digest before I made it to the station. Paramount purchased two of these coasters initially, one for Kings Island and the other for Canada's Wonderland. Guest feedback has evidently been good, as last week a third model was announced for Kings Dominion.
During the thirty minute wait, I made a note of the dispatch interval on the ride. A twelve seater train has inherent capacity issues, and a brand new attraction is bound to bring with it substantial demand from guests, at least in its first year. The designers built the coaster to run three trains as a partial solution to the problem, but this requires efficiency by the loading crew which was absent, at least today. A train was being dispatched about once every ninety seconds, or about twenty seconds longer than the overall ride length, rendering the third train pointless.
As for the coaster itself, though, I liked it. It is not an extreme thrill ride by any means; rather, it is a good family sized attraction that everyone can enjoy. Doors on the Mini Cooper-themed trains that the ride operators closed for you were a nice touch. It would probably be better if all the effects were working correctly though. I remember reading that the cars were supposed to fishtail around corners, but this was not in evidence today. The on board sound system was also not working.
With my new credit out of the way, I began heading back towards the front of the park, taking in Flight of Fear, Racer (backwards), and Adventure Express on my way. The latter two rides had no wait whatsoever, which is always a pleasant surprise. Without really noticing where I was going my path had taken me over to Drop Zone, the scene of major humiliation a little over two years ago. Since that awful day, I have conquered many other drop rides without nerve problems, though none quite as big as this one. Could I ride it now without problems? The answer turned out to be "mostly". Riding did leave me with a slight case of the shakes, but I had not felt any need to white knuckle the experience. Crucially, my brain had not completely ruled out the chance of riding again later in the day.
Of all the coasters in the park, my favourite is Top Gun. It is probably the most unique ride there, and something which cannot really be experienced elsewhere. One could argue this for some of the other coasters, with that pile of firewood being the obvious one, but rough wooden coasters are a dime a dozen; quality Arrow suspended coasters are a rare breed indeed.
Though Kings Island is the park I had visited on the largest number of unique dates, I had somehow managed to avoid ever taking decent photographs therein. Part of the problem is that all of the visits were in 2003 or earlier, by which stage I had yet to figure out both how to use my camera properly and how to frame good photographs. I made a journey up the Eiffel Tower in a partial attempt to rectify this situation, and while the lighting was not ideal I at least have some better pictures than before.
Maintenance has not been kind to Beast of late. The ride has gotten surprisingly rough despite the serious application of two trim brakes that burn off a lot of speed. I did ride twice, but only because my season pass allowed me to do so without queueing a second time. In its current state the ride is honestly not worth waiting for; with luck it will get some overdue retracking in the off-season.
Spin rides are not my strong point, and as such I had never bothered to try out Tomb Raider: The Ride. Before entering I thought I knew what to expect, namely a heavily themed and fully enclosed top spin. If the ride had been operated like any other top spin it might well have been enjoyable. However, the program included some extremely harsh stops that were not kind at all on the groin area of those riding. The theming was top notch, but I wasn't able to pay that much attention to it as I kept bracing myself for the next movement. Things were not helped a great deal by the car keys in the inside zip pocket of my shorts, but I doubt I would have enjoyed the ride much even without them.
After a dinner break, where I actually managed to find a fruit bowl, I decided that it was time to consider leaving. Before doing so, though, I took two more coaster rides, one on Italian Job Stunt Track and one on Racer (forwards). I then made my way back to Drop Zone to see if I could ride it without a nerve attack. To my delight, I succeeded completely, proving conclusively that big drop towers are no longer a problem for me.