Tuesday, June 29, 2004


The review of the California trip you would be expecting in this place has been postponed. Reason one: my head is absolutely pounding, and I can't think. Reason two: if I write it now, my account will be unfortunately colored by my four hour run to LAX, which at one point had me swearing never to set foot in the state again. Reason three: I've got lots of things I should take care of tonight.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

As some of you are aware, I am heading out on vacation tomorrow, out to California. The ostensible reason being my best friend from high school is getting married out there, but it's seemed like this has just spun into "Let's traverse the state, see everybody." (Those of you in San Francisco reading this, don't worry. I'm not getting quite that far north, but it looks like I'll have to give some training in Palo Alto in the fall.)

S'anyway, this is just a log of my thought process as I have a document open on my last day at work before the trip.

Pack: Laptop, power cable, mouse?, camera, camera connector, battery recharger?

Stop at CVS, reload on travel size

Don't take pens with you. You've lost enough pants to ink leaks

They moved the Wendy's across the alley. And now they've got someone outside it inviting people in, dressed as Wendy. Yes, I think that could be the worst job in the world.

Smooth, I've managed to stop two projects dead in their tracks today. Nothing like leaving with a trail of bloody developers in your wake.

Is the vending machine on this floor the last to be filled? Or is there another reason all our specialty snacks are alphabetically last this month? (Whatchamacallit, Zagnut, Zero...)

So...exactly how far off from eating a sweetened loaf of Crisco am I, in eating this Zero bar?

Okay... enough shirts, check. Pants, check. Underwear...laundry time.

If I overwater the plants now, will they make it for the entire trip?

Giant Keebler elf, not quite as frightening as the GIANT DODGE RAM LOGO.

I have to get up at 3am, don't I?

If I don't get cash now,.... Yeah there's still a machine at the airport.

Monday, June 14, 2004

My brain makes the oddest connections. Witness these two stories.

Number 1. The idea of this article, that high school graduates are getting a graduation present of plastic surgery is something I've heard of before, but I just reflexively winced and moved on. Today, instead of the reflexive wince, I suddenly had an image of an native American with a weathered face. After two seconds, my brain bothered to explain (very kind of it) It pulled back the shot, so I could see the background, a outpatient clinic. Then it pulled back in, and I realized the old man, now crying was Iron Eyes Cody, lamenting the dumping of plastic all over our precious natural resources. "Wow," I thought, "Nice deep reference, brain. I'm proud of you."

Number 2. I got through scanning the first paragraph of this article, picking up the words "Cincinnati", "shopping mall", and "bomb" and before I could get the next to the next sentence, I realized wherever I looked, my mind was surreptitiously inserting into every sentence the phrase "with live turkeys."

I meant to note this last week, but I forgot, and since the first game has passed, I feel like I'm jumping on a bandwagon, only to find its shocks are bad. As you may know, Euro 2004 is going on, and without a dog to hunt in this tournament, I was kind of looking for a team to follow. (Paraguay is of course out, and Belgium is on the sidelines) So I was despairing until seeing this. I especially like the fact that the 12th one is clearly off the pitch, a nice detail. (Look, I'm sorry, but the little guys keep cracking me up.)

So, I've pulled about seven attempts at the question of "How was the HSNCT, Dwight?" and each time I've pulled back before I could figure out what my answer was. Maybe it's time to just take all the opinions and put them all down, thematic structure be damned.

Houston. I don't know if I've ever been more physically uncomfortable during an entire tournament. I mean, I've had attacks of various ailments during tournaments, and there have been tournaments which were held in hotter conditions (Atlanta and Tempe being two that I can think of.) But I really don't know when I've just felt more like I'm getting beaten down by the environment. Humidity and heat, bad combo. When they are combining to defeat the local air conditioning, or possibly the building is complicit in adding heat and humidity, worse combo. I just felt like I was oozing constantly. Maybe I was actually having humidity condense on me, because it felt as if I was sweating in places I didn't have pores (like the top of my feet. That shouldn't have ever happened.)

Clearing the 64 marker. This was probably the thing I was most hopeful for. We got there, and didn't lose anyone on their way there. (We've had teams register and then not show up. It's a very worrisome thing. Especially when they've already paid.) On the other hand, I'm now facing the double-edged sword, 64 was a big milestone for me. While I figure the next hurdle is 72 or 80 or 96, none of those are going to have that special quality.

I didn't really get the feeling of panic or full-on nervous energy that I normally get from these tournaments. Some would say this is a good thing. (We've lived through enough potential crises that we're running solutions before the first problem hits. No surprises, no panic.) I guess because I wasn't doing things central to tournament control (all my duties: consolation bracket, photography, double checking senior information, were peripheral to the main path of the tournament), I didn't have the stress hitting on me directly. Not that I wasn't getting stressed, I just was playing for smaller stakes.

Consolation brackets. When I first took this job at the first HSNCT, I did it because I figured it was the right thing to do. If the majority of teams a eliminated from competition on the first day, there should be something that offers them the chance to redeem themselves the next day. Of course, the beauty of our consolation rounds is the utter anarchy involved. Some teams just want to play a couple games, some just want to duel off against a rival, some just want to get prep in for next year and some want to beat up their coach. With all those agendas, it can't run like a normal tournament. You don't know who's going to show, who's going to want to leave, who's going to come late. All you can do is put two teams together, one room at a time, one match at a time. Every year I'm lucky, this has all the earmarks of complete fraught, and yet every year, it comes together, order from chaos. I used to believe in the theory that most of the arguments in quiz bowl are so bloody because the stakes are so small. Doing consolation brackets has made me recognize there's a lower limit to that statement. There's no stake involved, and because of it, everybody has more fun. It's a remarkable thing, and it almost makes me wonder if we could apply this sort of chaos to a regular tournament. Reduce the stakes, reduce the expectations of order, increase the enjoyment. Still don't know exactly how to do it, but it may be worth exploring.

Now if I could just keep from doing the opening lines from Rollerball "HOUSTON! the Energy City!" every time I land there.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

My immediate thought upon reading this story: Blue-tongued mango voles.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I seem to be surrounded by endings this week. Not just the Reagan thing, (Let's just suffice it to say, I really should either watch the media, or stop staring blankly other people's weblogs wondering "what is this hagiography of which they speak?") or Ray Charles, but a lot of just random things coming to a stop.
If you look on the left side, I started wandering down my blogroll to find that several of them became defunct recently. Doug Pappas (Business of Baseball) passed away, Vitamin Q is going dark due to illness, Puzzleblog is at minimum hiatusing due to time constraints, and this afternoon, I see that Very Important Things has run out of mockable clipart. Then I drove home tonight to see that someone had assassinated the giant elf.

No point to this article, I'm just feeling a little bummed, and just want to build my repetitions up, having looked like I was going dead last week.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

More on the HSNCT later. I'm dealing with other oddities.

Like this further proof that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is interested neither in Liquor nor Control.

Tonight they had the grand opening of the liquor store within the grocery store. (Not the first day it's been open, but they like to make a big deal about these things.) S'anyway...as I'm driving home, I see the materials laid out for the celebration. Chiefly this. All well and good, and reasonably appropriate. However, across the driveway from this tasteful sign is this, decidedly neither reasonable nor appropriate. Normally, these two objects should have no relation to each other, but this is Pennsylvania. Frankly, I'm baffled as to the symbolism.

Is this a symbol that Keebler's fine baked goods are the perfect accompaniament to a fifth of Jack?
Is this a symbol that if you drink too much, you'll begin to hallucinate 30 foot-tall mythical dwarves (possibly with helium hats.)
Is it a new public service campaign. "Hey kids, Ernie checks ID's, and if yours is fake, he'll stomp your house like it's Tokyo! A message from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board."
Is Keebler's making New S'mores Schnapps?

The other thing I'm concerned about with this is the fact that we've got a lot of storms flying through the area tonight, with tremendous wind gusts. Now say one of those wind gusts brings Ernie over to my apartment block. I can think of no better wakeup call in the morning than looking out your third-floor window while half-asleep to find Ernie's a peeping Tom. You might not blink ever again. And yes, by mentioning this possibility, I have made myself the perfect prank target, why do you ask?

Now you see, I don't have to go looking for weird, it comes looking for me.