Saber brain trust

This photo, from a group of pictures from NAC F in Virginia Beach posted by Tim Morehouse at his blog, makes me smile every time I look at it:

Ed Korfanty, Tom Strzalkowski, Wes Glon, Arkady Burdan, Yury Gelman

For the past ten years, I’ve seen some variant of this discussion at nearly every national tournament I’ve worked. My daughter tells me she thinks this particular iteration was about what constitutes a compound attack. It always amazes me how often and vehemently—and at such length—that even the very best coaches and referees discuss the rules and actions of fencing. Take this group: that’s Ed Korfanty, national women’s saber coach and head coach at the Oregon Fencing Alliance; Tom Strzalkowski, 1996 Olympian and volunteer coach at the Air Force Academy; Wes Glon, of Penn State; Arkady Burdan, of Nellya Fencers; and Yury Gelman, national men’s saber coach and head coach at Manhattan Fencing and St. John’s University. There may be consensus on the theory embodied in the rules, but almost never on the interpretation in real bouts, especially when it’s Arkady’s fencer on one end of the strip and Ed’s or Yury’s on the other.

At one the of first national tournaments I ever attended (NAC C in Palm Springs, probably 1999), I saw one of the most entertaining versions of this when Arkady and Yury disagreed with the referee’s calls in a bout and proceeded to reenact the entire 15-touch bout, discussing the slightly different interpretations they each had for the actions of their fencers and how the referee had erred (or not). Their performance lasted longer than the original bout and drew a larger crowd than most of the actual fencing going on, which is even more remarkable when you consider that they were speaking in Russion the entire time.

Proof of insanity

It’s lovely here today.

Not a cloud in the sky, just a light breeze as the temperature heads for the mid- to high 70s. A perfect spring day.

Except I’d rather have spent too many hours crammed into a Boeing or Airbus tube to fly across the continent to spend 12-14 hours each day for four days pushing paper to the accompaniment of screams and complaints and electronic whines in a crowded, noisy, and usually over-air-conditioned convention center hall.

We bout committee folk are clearly nuts.

Earth Day

i remember the first Earth Day.

I was a high school junior in California. Somebody—I don’t know whether it was teachers or administrators or students or some combination—organized a full Earth Week at the school. We had several assemblies every day of the week, with speakers and films on every aspect of the environmentalism then under discussion—air and water pollution, solar power, energy conservation, population control, and more.

The only assembly I remember, though, was one where some legislator had sent a staffer to discuss population control. The staffer contended that population was not an environmental issue, that the world could and would support however many humans there were, apparently because God gave us the earth. He further maintained that it was all women’s duty to have as many children as physically possible for as long as they could bear children. Asked to clarify his statement, he only said that it should be within wedlock, of course, but people should definitely marry as young as possible in order to populate the earth. There was lots of muttering at that point, but not much argument—I think we realized there wasn’t much point.

But aside from that one oddity, I remember Earth Week as fairly exciting. It was a brand new concept that we could change the world, and we were young enough to believe that whatever we could imagine we could make happen—now that everyone realized what needed doing, it was only a matter of time until it was done. 1970 was, after all, the year that the national EPA was created and the California Environmental Quality Act was enacted. If I’d been asked then what the United States would be like in forty years, I would have said that we’d be a mostly paperless society, that we’d get most of our power from solar and wind systems, that cogeneration in manufacturing operations would be commonplace, that water and air pollution would be non-existent, and that the nation would be served by a web of high-speed rail linked to local light-rail and trolley systems.

We don’t believe any longer that organizing and marching in protests and demonstrations is the same as doing something, but I miss all that energetic optimism. We could put it to good use.