July 4. Fireworks tonight, though it’s unlikely we’ll be done in time to see them.
It’s also the first day of the Pan American Zonal Championships, which means strips will be easier to assign because all the replay systems but the one on the finals strip have been moved to the Zonals hall. No worrying about funneling rounds of 8 toward the replay systems, often tricky when events we expected to get to that stage consecutively end up nearly simultaneous.
All I need to do is keep an eye on L3, which has congenital grounding issues (eventually the armorers will take it out of service and add a bunch of new rivets, which will fix the problem, at least for this tournament). Strip-wise, it’s a pretty straightforward day.
But today definitely tries my patience in other ways. At least three irate parents have stormed up asking to speak to whoever’s in charge (lucky me) and proceeded to inform me that the way we post events on the bulletin boards is completely unacceptable. “You need a projector,” they rant.
Unfortunately, I haven’t developed the ability to squelch the sarcasm when I say “Thank you for the suggestion.” Do they honestly believe we’ve neither thought of nor tried other options?
The bulletin boards are yet another of the many “least awful” alternatives common to national tournaments. I hate the bulletin boards—they’re wobbly and ungainly and usually far from new, and I inevitably stab myself with pushpins several times each tournament. Posting also eats up a lot of BC staff time when we don’t have a crew of runners, adding as much as 30-40 minutes to the overall length of each event when we have to do our own posting.
You’d think a better way to provide fencers the information they need about their seeding, pools, and DEs would be easy, but it’s not. Take the projector idea, for instance. You need to have a projector, to start with, easier now with all the teeny pico-projectors now available than when we originally looked into the idea, and you need a suitable place to put the projector so that what it projects is visible and in focus. If that’s near the BC stage—easiest for connecting it to the computer that feeds it the content—a screen is necessary. If the projector can be placed so that information is projected on a wall, there needs to be plenty of space in that area, as well as a long, reliable cable back to that computer. (The computer, by the way, needs to be dedicated to the projector feed.)
The lighting in the hall is a huge problem, though. In a hall lit brightly enough to fence in, information projected on a screen is exceedingly difficult to read, even at the highest possible contrast. Possibly a hood of some kind could alleviate that problem, but that limits access and visibility.
Each of our bulletin boards (usually three or four, all posted with the same information) holds information for all of the events held on a single day, anywhere from 4 to 14. Projection on a single screen means that the information has to be scrolled. For a fencer who just missed his event, he’d need to wait through all the other events in progress for the items he needs to come up again; with several events at once, quite a crowd could be gathered in front of the screen, waiting through multiple scrolling cycles.
Oh, and projector bulbs are prohibitively expensive, lasting only tens of hours under continuous use.
A better alternative, eliminating the lighting problem, would be flat LCD screens. We’d need several sets of screens, to minimize the crowding problem (the scrolling would still be a problem), and we’d need considerable space to place them, a problem when we already barely fit the strips we need into the venues we can afford. In addition to the screens themselves, we’d need mounting hardware of some kind (kiosks?), cabling, and shipping crates.
My guess is that most fencers would rather the money be spent on more replay systems.
Several people (various armorers, computer staff, and others) have for years discussed the possibility of implementing a messaging system—fencers could sign up to receive a text message with their strip assignment, probably for a nominal fee, to cover the expense of the system. In some versions, there would also be a kiosk where parents, coaches, or spectators could look up one or more individuals and find out their seeding, where they are fencing, or how they finished. Probably a nice amenity to have someday, but there are other things we need first (such the aforementioned replay systems and new tournament software).
J.R., though, arranged for the water stations to be refilled on an as-needed basis through Tuesday. Normally, they’re only refilled on a schedule, every few hours, because the convention center charges us $17 per 5-gallon bottle. After tomorrow, our entry numbers are smaller, so going back to the schedule won’t be too much of a hardship when you consider the expense.
J.R. also managed to persuade the Atlantis restaurant management to let officials order anything on the breakfast menu up to $10, too, so we will now have the option of oatmeal or yogurt and granola or a fruit bowl instead of those mammoth cholesterol plates. Yippee!