Power of Positive Thinking, or Just Lucky?

Dallas had a few surprises in store for us. I’d suspected the strip layout I’d received wasn’t conveying the size of the hall we were in, but the amount of empty space turned out to be impressive:

Red Square

Plenty of room for fencers to drop their bags without blocking any aisles, but we definitely needed the BC binoculars to see to the further reaches of the hall.

Half of Tienanmen Square

The other half of Tienanmen Square

Let’s see how we did on my wishful thinking list in my last post:

  • I hope the weather and air traffic control system allow all the referees and armorers and BC personnel (and even fencers!) to arrive when they’re supposed to arrive.

Not too many weather-related travel problems, aside from a couple of vendors (Leon Paul and Fencing.Net, based in Atlanta) who allegedly couldn’t ship their merchandise because the door to their storage space was frozen shut.

  • I hope all the fencers who are competing Friday morning and arrive early enough on Thursday get their gear checked on Thursday, so the Friday morning lines will be shorter than they would otherwise be.

We were seriously worried all afternoon on Thursday and then again early Friday morning—the armory line was never anywhere near what it usually is on set-up day and the first competition. Between the extended hours for gear check and all the warnings we tried to scare people with, gear check lines were short and never threatened to delay the start of any event.

  • I hope the download downloads properly and the BC computer crew doesn’t need to spend extra hours getting everything set up and functioning.

We had all sorts of unusual data problems this time. Many of the entry numbers were wrong, but weirdly so—overall numbers for the day were in the right range, but some events were much larger and others much smaller than we thought, so the assigners and I were reconfiguring whole day schedules on the fly for the first couple of days, and consequently, there was much more trading of referees among the assigners than usual.

There was at least one event where fencers with points showed up on the seeding list at the bottom of their letter group instead of at the top, which we had to fix. And because the origins of these flaky numbers were not clear, half the BC spent hours each day going over all the seeding data for every event to make sure everything was correct. It appears, at least, that the database itself is fine, and that it was some sort of anomaly in the process of transforming that data into the form XSeed uses that caused the problems.

We’re making progress getting most of the seeding process automated, but it’s a tricky job—there are always several dozen foreign fencers who need to be placed appropriately, and often they have no FIE or US points or no directly translatable classifications to help determine where they fit.

  • I hope the armorers have their systems for handling the long lines all figured out and working.

See above. Never an issue.

  • I hope the automated check-in systems work properly all weekend.

No major problems—Joe kept the scanner system working for us just as he always does.

  • I hope all the referees have DART figured out so they all show up on time.

Well, there was that one day when Annie and Rich were in the midst of conversation when they boarded the train, only to wonder a bit later why they’d not noticed on previous days that the route paralleled a freeway. Turned out they’d stepped onto a Green train instead of a Red or Blue. But they managed to get themselves to the BC stage in time to run their events.

  • I hope that any lunch items meant to be hot are mostly warmer than room temperature and any lunch items meant to be cold are mostly cooler than room temperature.

Lunches were a vast improvement over those in Milwaukee; hot food, lots of salad items, reasonable variety, and better-than-average sandwiches on the box lunch day.

  • I hope that fewer bouts than usual go to time in single digits.

Still too many of those. We even had at least one 1-0 in priority. Coming from a saber-only club, I find single-digit scores particularly depressing.

  • I hope that grounding wires and scoring machines and body cords all work the ways they’re supposed to.

Except for that one glitchy épée DE that took 40 minutes because of electrical gremlins that several armorers couldn’t track down. (Although I have to admit it was kind of entertaining seeing the referee—usually one of our fastest—so frustrated.)

  • I hope the venue concessions have a decent selection and quantity of food available for officials to acquire with our little meal tickets on Friday and Saturday and Sunday nights.

Our meal tickets were $12 instead of the usual $10. Some pretty decent looking salads and cold sandwiches, but for those of us wanting something hot, there were only little 6-inch cheese or pepperoni pizzas, hot dogs, and chili dogs. Nowhere near as good as Milwaukee (and I don’t think Milwaukee’s venue food seemed so good only because the lunches were so bad).

  • I hope no loud drunk people run up and down the hotel hallway shouting and singing at 3:00 am any morning throughout this tournament.

Either it was dead quiet or I was dead to the world.

  • I hope we finish up every night before the light rail schedule goes to only one train each hour.

A couple of nights, we were well into the trains-only-every-half-hour stage, but it could have been much worse. Our end times were around 8:30 Friday night, 11:30 Saturday night, 10:30 Sunday night, and an almost normal 6:40 on Monday evening.

  • I hope that the Dallas LOC will provide its usual healthy and helpful crew of volunteers for posting and other useful odds and ends.

We’ve had lots of volunteers at previous tournaments in Dallas, but like the other NACs so far this season, there were fewer local volunteers than we would have liked. We had a few for parts of a couple of days, but often had to call for volunteers to help us post. It’s frustrating for us—if we have to do our own posting, it can add half an hour or more to the overall length of an event. Maybe we need to create an official Emergency Back-up Posting Crew made up of parents or teammates who travel regularly to NACs.

  • I hope (probably forlornly) that every fencer has already checked that their seeding information is correct (and already had it fixed) and that all NCAA fencers have already made sure their affiliations are entered correctly.

I knew it was a forlorn hope—we had lots and lots of fencers come talk to us about their seeding info, but most came to see us before their events closed, and the ones who came late still came early enough that we never had to pull back any pools that were already posted or started. The big Div I ME on Saturday was finally sent out around 9:20 (instead of the usual 9:00 or the always-aimed-for 8:30), but at least I never had to stop any fencing this weekend.

On the other hand, fencers are getting much better at talking to us before events close, and I’m far more hard-nosed about conflicts—the most we’ll do for club conflicts that we don’t find out about before the close of registration is to reprint the pool sheet so that the teammates fence first.

  • I hope the head referees already have their crews sorted and grouped for assignments before they arrive at the venue each morning.

A terrific crew of referee assigners this time–they knew who their referees were and where they were assigned, pretty remarkable when you consider how much we had to readjust their allocation with the flaky entry numbers we had for the first couple of days.

  • I hope that at least one night after we’re done that I won’t be too sleepy to be able to drink at least one beer.

I got my beer and dinner at a place where the food was hot and cooked to order and brought to us at a table (wow! an actual sit-down restaurant!). I’ve just been sleepy ever since.

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Wishful Thinking

I’m heading for Dallas in the morning, ready for what will be US Fencing’s largest tournament this season, outside of Summer Nationals. I’ve done all I can here at home to get ready, and will do more tomorrow afternoon when I get to the venue.

But there are far too many items I have no control over that could—and some undoubtedly will—affect the smooth running of events. So at least part of my flight time between attempts to nap will be indulging in wishful thinking, in hoping for random fate and intentional actions to combine to keep NAC C as not too awful as possible:

  • I hope the weather and air traffic control system allow all the referees and armorers and BC personnel (and even fencers!) to arrive when they’re supposed to arrive.
  • I hope all the fencers who are competing Friday morning and arrive early enough on Thursday get their gear checked on Thursday, so the Friday morning lines will be shorter than they would otherwise be.
  • I hope the download downloads properly and the BC computer crew doesn’t need to spend extra hours getting everything set up and functioning.
  • I hope the armorers have their systems for handling the long lines all figured out and working.
  • I hope the automated check-in systems work properly all weekend.
  • I hope all the referees have DART figured out so they all show up on time.
  • I hope that any lunch items meant to be hot are mostly warmer than room temperature and any lunch items meant to be cold are mostly cooler than room temperature.
  • I hope that fewer bouts than usual go to time in single digits.
  • I hope that grounding wires and scoring machines and body cords all work the ways they’re supposed to.
  • I hope the venue concessions have a decent selection and quantity of food available for officials to acquire with our little meal tickets on Friday and Saturday and Sunday nights.
  • I hope no loud drunk people run up and down the hotel hallway shouting and singing at 3:00 am any morning throughout this tournament.
  • I hope we finish up every night before the light rail schedule goes to only one train each hour.
  • I hope that the Dallas LOC will provide its usual healthy and helpful crew of volunteers for posting and other useful odds and ends.
  • I hope (probably forlornly) that every fencer has already checked that their seeding information is correct (and already had it fixed) and that all NCAA fencers have already made sure their affiliations are entered correctly.
  • I hope the head referees already have their crews sorted and grouped for assignments before they arrive at the venue each morning.
  • I hope that at least one night after we’re done that I won’t be too sleepy to be able to drink at least one beer.

Better than I’d thought

In my initial burst of enthusiasm when I started this blog, I intended to post every single day. That didn’t last long, of course. Eventually, I settled in to trying for posting at least once a week.

I’ve gone stretches of weeks, though, without posting, and have come to think of my blog as woefully neglected, so it was a bit of a surprise to see in my WordPress year’s summary that I received today that I wrote 78 posts last year. Since I didn’t start it until March, that means I actually managed about 1.8 posts per week, much better than I’d realized.

The summary also lists my most popular posts, which were less unexpected, since I’d already seen those in my site stats. In case you’re curious, though, here are my top 5 (fencing referee food definitely got some attention):

This year, I’m aiming for a couple of posts each week—more regular writing and fewer intermittent binges.