BC Diary: Cuisine, Part 2

Typically, by the end of Monday’s competition and teardown, I was too tired to post. I did take photos of the Monday lunch offerings, though, and since my first food post from Milwaukee was so popular (my 2nd highest hit count ever, aside from one of the July SN posts), I shouldn’t keep you waiting any longer.

The vegetarian option was grilled vegetables on a tomato focaccia roll, with a side of potato salad:

Here’s the chicken version:

Before this fall, I’d never seen so many officials eager to work past 7:00 pm to get meal tickets for the venue concessions; many saved their tickets for hot food for the next day’s lunch. At least we had some decent afternoon munchies, thanks to both the large stash Meredith brought with her and the haul Karen and JR brought in from their local shopping trip. (I’m always amazed at what a morale booster a 3:00 pm cookie break can be—it’s not so much the quality of the snacks as the fact of their appearance that seems to make the difference.)

I’m informed that the officials’ meals will return to their former standard of no more than one cold lunch per 4-day tournament for the rest of the season. I wish I could believe that the promise of proper meals will make it easier to hire officials for future tournaments, but it’s going to take a lot of time and more than a couple of hot meals to rebuild the trust lost by so many unkept promises over the last couple of years.

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BC Diary: NAC A, Day 2

For strip management, we’ve got an easy start this morning: Div I Women’s Saber gets two pods to double-flight their 13 pools on, and Div I Men’s Epee gets everything else-—including the finals strip—for their 37 pools.

We’ve had a bit of a scary start to the ME—there was a medical withdrawal after the pools were posted. But the fencer was not among the protected group and was in a pool of 7, so we didn’t have to pull the pools back and restart. Then it turned out that two fencers were listed in other pools but were not actually here. Fortunately, they too were unprotected in pools of 7, so we escaped a huge reseed by pure luck.

This is why I love the new scanners for check-in out at registration. Traditionally, fencer check-in has been done by hand. A fencer appears at registration, the check-in person finds their name on the registration list, and very neatly crosses out the number next to their name. If it’s not done neatly, it can look as though the fencer above or below was checked in, too, so precise marks are very important.

Ideally, about 10 minutes before the close of registration, the registration staff will go carefully through the list and circle any numbers that are not yet crossed out. For each circled number, they will take an index card and put a label with the fencer’s name, division, and event on it. (Or if labels haven’t been made, they’ll just write the info on the card.) If the fencer shows up while the cards are being made, they’re crossed off the list just as the others were and their card is torn up and discarded.

Then the registration list and the cards are delivered to the bout committee, where the staff member running that event reads the names of all the fencers on the cards to give them their one last chance to come check in. Any who show up are crossed off and their cards discarded, and once the event is announced as closed, the rest of the cards are given to the computer operator so the no-shows can be withdrawn from the event. As part of this process, both the event manager and the computer operator go over the registration list to make sure there aren’t any uncircled numbers and to make sure the numbers of checked-in and withdrawn fencers add up to the proper total.

As you can imagine, there are numerous opportunities for error in this system. XSeed’s tiny print makes it difficult to find uncircled numbers, even using a straight-edge to check each line of the list. In large events like today’s ME, it takes a lot of conscious effort to stay focused on those marks through four full pages of fencer names. If a card is not made for a fencer who has not checked in, that name will not be read, that fencer will not be withdrawn, and we’ll end up with a fencer who is not there listed in one of the pools. It’s also pretty easy for the person doing check-in to mark off the name above or below the proper one, so that a fencer who is actually here will be listed as a no-show and withdrawn,  and end up missing from the pools. (That’s one of the reasons we post the “revised” or “updated” seeding before we post the pools, so that people can verify that they were properly checked in. Unfortunately, most fencers don’t bother to check that list, so we often don’t discover those errors until after the pools are posted and they can’t find their names there.)

With the scanner system, which is actually a patch to XSeed written by Joe Salisbury, one of our BC computer staff, fencers simply get the barcode on their membership cards scanned (the system has a membership number lookup for people who show up without their cards, but that’s a bit slower). At the end of check-in, the bout committee is handed a printed list of the fencers who haven’t checked in from which to make the usual n0-show announcements, and we don’t have to depend on unreliable human vision to find all the no-shows.

So how did we get two no-shows in pools in the ME this morning? Out at registration, with that huge line of fencers waiting to check in, they decided it would be faster to divide the registration list in half and do two check-in lines by hand instead of using the scanner. And all the eyes out at registration and in here on the BC stage who looked over the list and the cards missed those two names which were not crossed off. Exactly the situation the scanner system was created to prevent, so we’ve mandated that accuracy at check-in gets priority over speed, and that the scanners should always be used, even if using them takes more than the hour provided for check-in. An extra 10 or 15 minutes there is far easier than having to reset pools, especially after they’ve been posted or fencing has actually started.

Once the fencing is well underway, though, the day goes fairly smoothly. The Div I WS moves quickly through its two flights of pools and its DEs, vacating strips for the Veteran events coming in later in the day. The ME finishes pools and shrinks to only 16 strips, leaving room for the 18 pools of Div 2 MF when it starts. Today, at least, the schedule is working essentially as it was supposed to.

Today’s officials’ lunch is egg rolls and three varieties of fried rice, not great for sustaining referees through the long afternoon. The national office staff has a chat with the caterers and assures us that tomorrow’s menu will have more protein.

The ME, with repechage once again this season (much to our dismay), finally finishes after 11-1/2 hours. about 2 to 3 hours longer than it would have been without those extra rep rounds.

Tonight is once again a meal voucher night, but not as late as last night. It’s amazing how much easier the late nights are when the concession stand food is reasonably good.

Saturday stats:

10 events
603 competitors
End of competition: 8:30ish?

Alarm’s set for 6:00 am.

BC Diary: NAC A, Day 0

My flights into Cincinnati were completely uneventful and the scheduled shuttle (provided for officials by the local sports commission) was there to pick me up, so I checked in and dropped off my bag at the hotel and got over to the venue by 4:30 or so.

Why e-readers are good to have in armory lines. (Photo - Delia Turner)

The hotel is connected to the venue by a skybridge, so getting there in the morning will be easy—no need to worry about shuttles or light rail.

The hall is long and narrow, so we just have one straight run of 4-pods this time, with the BC stage and the trainers roughly in the middle of the room. The armory is behind the BC stage, and there’s a long line, nearly to the end wall, of fencers waiting to have their gear checked.

Unusually, all the strips are laid, but there are no scoring tables, so no towers or boxes or reels or cables set up yet. That means there’s not much for the armorers to do until the tables are here, so most of them are working gear check for now.

Tanya is already here, of course (she came in yesterday), as are Joe and Marc, two-thirds of our three-person computer staff, and Carla, as ever, is working on the seeding for this weekend’s events.

The layout, for once, is unchanged from the map I’d already been sent. For this tournament I’m going to try numbering the strips alphanumerically—each pod will be labeled with a letter and the strips within each pod will be labeled 1 through 4. I think this will be easier for me to work with for strip assignments, and both the armorers and the trainers seem to like the idea, too—they expect it will make it quicker for them to head in the right direction on strip calls.. I don’t think it will confuse the fencers too much, so we’ll see how it works. (A couple of people express some skepticism about using an idea I got from fencing.net, but it’s not the first useful idea I’ve picked up there.)

While I’m labeling my venue map and making copies, the scoring tables finally start showing up.They’re still not covered and skirted, though, so the armorers are still waiting to be able to set up the scoring machines, though they’re distributing reels and cords and towers around the room.

At 6:00 pm, the entry doors are shut—the armorers will finish checking gear for those who are already in line, but that’ll be it for tonight, aside from the people who sneak in while others are leaving. At 7:oo pm, we shut the entry doors again. Since we can’t put up the strip numbers until the scoring machines are set up, I turn on my computer and work on the strip assignments for tomorrow morning. That doesn’t take long—with just two events, Div I Men’s Foil and Div II Women’s Epee, first thing in the morning, everything else will depend on when they finish their pools, so I’ll wait to do the later events until tomorrow.

On what will be my F pod, the first of four video replay systems is being set up. Nobody’s quite sure how this will work: the idea is to use replay from the round of 8 for at least the Div I events, but there are only four sets. If we put one on the finals strip, that leaves only three for the F pod. But we’re not even sure yet whether there will be anyone to run the replay systems—the FOC was not informed of them in time to hire the extra bodies needed to use them, and nobody’s been trained on this equipment. Makes my little strip numbering experiment look pretty trivial.

Kathy Brown, the head armorer, decides that they can’t wait for the table covers any longer but will go ahead and start setting up the machines. As it turns out, just as the armorers start, the venue crew appears with their supply of table cloths, so only one scoring table ends up without a cover. We ask them to leave the BC tables without covers, too—these tables have reasonably good plastic surfaces instead of the chipped and splintered wooden surfaces often found in convention centers, so we won’t have to deal with wrinkles and any spills will be easier to clean up.

Oops, there’s one table with a curvature twice that allowed in sabres. Turns out it’s cracked, so we call for a replacement.

Tanya and I ask Kathy if there’s anything we can do to help, since there’s not much we can do until the machines are set up, and she gives us a lesson in machine setup: unpacking the scoring boxes and power supplies and cords, attaching the boxes to the towers with cable ties, trimming the tie ends, attaching the floor cords to the boxes, stashing the machine boxes under the tables, etc.

Tanya gets called away to handle something or other, so Gerrie Baumgart and I end up hanging a couple of pods’ worth of scoring machines on their towers. By then I’m out of cable ties (and I trust the armorers more to do things right, anyway), so I turn in my snips and return to more familiar chores. I leave copies of the map for the head referees,  drop off copies for the armorers and the trainers, and start putting up strip numbers on the half of the room that now has finished towers. But before I finish, the rest of the gang announces they’re heading out for dinner, so I grab my computer and join them. We’ll come over early tomorrow and finish up.

Since it’s after 9:00 pm, we go directly to the restaurant (a Rock Bottom Brewery, home to much BC comfort food—and drink). My immediate—and not unreasonable—goal for this tournament is to finish early enough to eat at least one more evening meal in a place where we get to sit and have food brought to us at our table.

As we walk back to the hotel, we notice that The Colbert Report is on the downtown Jumbotron. Pretty cool, Cincinnati.

To bed by 12:30, after ironing clothes for tomorrow, but I’m still awake when my roommate, whose flight was delayed, shows up at 2:00 am. Oh, well, that’s still only midnight my time, and I dozed a lot on the planes coming in.

Alarm’s set for 5:30 am.

BC Diary: Gearing Up

It’s that time of year again.

I’ve been to a couple of local fencing tournaments in the past month, but as far as I’m concerned, the new season isn’t truly underway until the first NAC rolls around in October. This year’s version starts next Friday in Cincinnati, which will be a new airport, a new city, and a new convention center for me.

As bout committee chair for NAC A, I’ve received emails and files from the USA Fencing national office intermittently for the last month or so—a tentative strip map, entry numbers, proposed check-in times, travel itineraries for the rest of the BC staff. This week, though is when the updates and changes start flying in—a new strip map (better), officials’ rooming list (yes, all my staff are on it), arrival and departure lists (cool! the Greater Cincinnati Sports Commission is providing airport transportation for officials). And this week is when I start obsessing about getting all this information organized and figuring out what else I need.

It’s not that I really need to get it all taken care of quite this early. I think, though, that the same detail-oriented aspect of my personality that makes me reasonably good at working BC also makes me obsess slightly too much slightly too soon.

This should be an interesting season, though. We’ve a somewhat different mix of events this year, which will make for a few . . .  interesting . . . schedules, to put it kindly. With all the people who keep telling me how much they liked my diary posts from this year’s Summer Nationals, I think I’ll try to keep at it through this whole season—there should be plenty of material.