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October 11th, 2005

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08:50 pm - The Witching Hour recap
This entry is being written at an altitude of five figures of feet between Boston and Atlanta, returning with Meg from a week near Salem, MA to attend The Witching Hour to Atlanta. We spend one more night together, then we part to our homes until next time.

Many things about The Witching Hour were excellent; of particular interest to me was the Quidditch, for which I co-ordinated the referees and the equipment. The refs were excellent in quality, though disappointingly few in quantity; the largest and upmost of "big up"s to Sarah, Lee, Jeremy and Colin, plus all the Snitch-movers. Quidditch was definitely a more interesting game here than it was at Nimbus, and our Quidditch programme was about as cool as the one at Nimbus (the shirts, the House tournament and the general publicity made up for the absence of banners, commentators and other fun stuff that the Nimbus ballroom atmosphere permitted). More people got to enjoy Quidditch, and I think the players did enjoy it at least as much, probably more.

It's highly relevant that we played outdoors on Salem Common, through weather that wouldn't have seemed out of place in the recent Prisoner of Azkaban movie and we pounded the pitch to muddy smithereens. Not the most conducive of weather towards fine passing moves and assured ball-handling, but tons and tons of fun - and somehow letting yourself go to play a fantasy sport from a series of books went quite well with playing as hard as you can in mud, an opportunity which people get far too infrequently. On the downside, I picked up a sore throat and a gloopy nose from being out in the rain - albeit under an umbrella - all day, which rather put a dampener on the rest of proceedings. I suspect that this was not too uncommon. There was no good alternative. In other news, this year's quests were really solid and well-executed - clearly far better than the one I struggled to put on at Nimbus.

There were tons of lovely folk there, some I hadn't seen for far too long, others I enjoyed getting to meet for the first time, and fond thoughts of friends who couldn't be there this time. I felt introverted, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable, at several points during the events, and unfortunately freaked out somewhat in the charged atmosphere of the Hallowe'en Ball. Fortunately this was quiet and out of the sight of most, but unfortunately it seriously spoiled a night to which Meg had really been looking forward, about which I feel ashamed and sorry. (Next time I'll propose an Internet Introverts "Room of Requirement" where people can bring their own laptops and sit down quietly in a room, not talking to each other - possibly except through contributing to a common LJ post. The silence - except for possibly the occasional Instant Messenger bloip - and the lack of pressure will be comforting.)

There were a number of issues that made the event rather more stressful and challenging than it might have been, as well as unexpectedly expensive. Many of these were out of the control of the very hard-working organisers (to whom grateful thanks and massive fanworship are due) not least the weather. However, there were enough aspects which were ill-conceived that the intangibles made the overall effect of the event for me rather less than the sum of its parts. On balance, I'm glad I went, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been involved as a volunteer, so I could properly enjoy the wonderful environment in which to play in so many ways. I don't feel like going into it any further than that.

One funny thing that happened on the first day - Wednesday's volunteer registration, training and set-up session - was that we stopped at a small Pizza Hut on the main road into Salem. We went in to find probably ten of the twelve booths occupied by parties of schoolkids. There were only two apparent servers on duty and it quickly became clear that this was a school party all enjoying the all-you-can-eat pizza and salad bar buffet. Every time a pizza was placed on the buffet, the hordes dashed out of their seats and set upon it like eagles on a carcass. The highly harassed staff soon dropped all their previous plans and just concentrated on producing as many cheese and tomato pizzas as possible, only for all eight booths to rush out more or less at the same time. (Most of them even paid, which impressed the staff.) Apparently this wasn't a regular occurrence, which is why the staff were unprepared.

Mind you, we've enjoyed our own little slices of all-you-can-eat overindulgence, particularly at a strange and wonderful restaurant called Ryan's which, for one fixed price, can serve you a wonderfully varied meal. I had one cup of soup, one slice of (comfortingly cheap) pizza, one scoop of chicken stir-fry, one ladle of fried potatoes, one taco, one rather dull plate of salad, one spattering of okra, one plate with strawberry jelly, artificial cream, fruit and samples of three different puddingy desserts - plus a make-your-own-sundae station which points out just how bush league the British Pizza Hut's "Ice Cream Factory" is. By and large the quality of the food was highly comforting and mostly mediocre. I also bought Meg a cup containing half a (U.S.) gallon of Coca-Cola from a gas station, just because I could, and also because pumped Coca-Cola is now evidently cheaper than petrol. (Aren't you meant to be able to run a car on the sugars in Coke at a pinch?)

Happily, the shift swaps which meant that there was an unusually long gap between my last visit Stateside and this one mean that there won't be very long at all until my next visit, so I'll get to experience the Goblet of Fire movie and Thanksgiving in good company. Speaking of which, Meg's mother does wonderful sauteed, breaded okra; it has the closest consistency I've yet found in nature to that of tofu. To me, that's a good thing.

Meg is doing the USA Today crossword and a sudoku puzzle in the seat next to me; we're lucky even to be in flight, as inclement weather has closed Chicago and Denver airports, plus the many and varied connecting flights therefrom, and set so many other planes out of position that there have had to be cancellations across the board. Seems that the US low-cost airlines are just as insistent as the British ones on limiting their liability in case of cancellation to "a seat on the next available flight", paying no heed as to whether this will inconvenience travellers and force them to stay overnight out-of-town at their own expense. Fingers crossed that this fate hasn't befallen too many of you.
Current Mood: lovedloved

(43 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:October 11th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC)
clearly far better than the one I struggled to put on at Nimbus.

That -wasn't- your fault!

Fingers crossed that this fate hasn't befallen too many of you.

The hostel was quite satisfying, and many thanks to both of you for the idea. The communal sense was a nice touch to the end of my adventure. I even played a hard-fought chess game with a German tech convention-goer for 90 minutes!

My grand recap post ought to come tonight or tomorrow -- Quidditch elaborations and all. One thing, however: do you have the list of all final scores? I'd like to compile them the way I did the Nimbus games...
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC)
Cool! Glad we were able to help, that we led you to chess and that things all turned out OK. I hope and assume you're back safely in FL now.

I very much doubt there will ever be a list of all final scores - though I would be delighted to be proved wrong! - simply because the only records were in pen and pencil on paper and they got thoroughly soaked. It's quite possible that we may be able to reconstruct most of them, though, but probably not all; for instance, everyone completely lost track of the score between Scrimmageclaw and Hufflepuff in the non-semi-final. The experienced pros won by many, many tens; very probably over one hundred.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2005 08:13 pm (UTC)
grand seeing you again, dear. Hopefully it won't be too too long before it happens again, but somehow I have a suspicion it will be. *hugs* have a good flight back.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2005 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much!

Meg and I kept saying things like "We need to go up to Boston just to spend time and hang out with cool people"; fingers crossed the budget will permit some day.
Date:October 11th, 2005 09:26 pm (UTC)
>also because pumped Coca-Cola is now evidently cheaper than petrol.

Pound for pound, hamburgers are more expensive than cars though.
[User Picture]
Date:October 15th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
Do you count the weight of the bun and the salad in your value density calculations, though?

(Should you do so? Some of those serve-yourself salad bars are mighty expensive, considering.)

I think my favourite brigbother line ever remains "Thought for the day. Why aren't quarter-pounders 25p?"
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2005 11:49 pm (UTC)
I felt introverted, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable, at several points during the events, and unfortunately freaked out somewhat in the charged atmosphere of the Hallowe'en Ball.

Extra hugs to you for this. I'm much the same way and if I hadn't had to go to the ball, seeing as it was one of my team's events, I wouldn't have. It's not the sort of thing I can usually handle, so I spent most of it upstairs in the PEM in the quiet gallery, sitting at a table talking to one person about a variety of things - or hiding from the music, noise, and crush of people, whichever you call closer to the truth. I can handle being around people to a certain extent, but the more people and the more uncomfortable I am with the situation, the more I hate it and want to get away. I had a rather memorable panic attack at a party about 6 years ago now, and since then I've been a lot more careful with what I will do and what I won't, and knowing when I need to go outside or off with just a few people or whatever. I'm sorry that it happened to you, though.
[User Picture]
Date:October 12th, 2005 12:10 am (UTC)
"Next time I'll propose an Internet Introverts "Room of Requirement"

Sounds good. :-) I felt good about my time in the Game Room at Nimbus. Not only was I able to help, but I felt, in the end, that I had been 'forced' to meet more people than I otherwise would've felt comfortable if I had been required to approach them.

I wouldn't be adverse to a recap of the events (by email) as I'm interested in what did and didn't work this time and the differences you found between the indoor and outdoor (despite the conditions) events. And what suggestions/changes/adaptations you have (since their so fresh in your mind) for future matches. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:October 13th, 2005 08:27 pm (UTC)
Quick thoughts:

* The three-competition structure worked well and would have worked very well had the weather held up, which would have created much more interest in the non-pro tournaments.

* A mistake was made right at the start by announcing that there would be twelve teams and single elimination - and this was published early, so could not really be changed. I don't think it's wise to fix the number of teams so soon as demand is very hard to calculate, likewise the format. Guaranteeing people a certain number of games in advance is key.

* Not enough refs. The refs we had were great, but they ended up refereeing all day, more or less just like last time, which is not wonderful. Spare refs mean refs can take breaks, can eat and drink, can go to other events and so on.

* Ref training in advance was aborted due to lack of demand, which was a shame. The last-minute ref training we did worked OK, but only OK. It would probably have gone better if, while the refs were refereeing the practice matches, we could have tried to analyse the refereeing - though I can't think of anything that I would have changed.

* It was a real thrill to see teams get much better at playing the game over the course of the day: chaser strategy really improved, some teams used excellent beater strategy and the final had excellent seeker strategy. I thought the Phoenixes were the best team as far as I could tell. (Incidentally, they unpromptedly singled out quidditchmaster as the best chaser they faced, because he could score goals from a variety of angles, and probably the only one who actually did score against them.)

* malachan suggests bigger hoops are required for more goals. Am not sure about this - Gryffindor in the House final showed what could be done. Wouldn't mind slightly bigger hoops if possible, but perhaps hula hoops only tend to come in one size.

* Beaters and bludgers: better than at Nimbus, but not perfect. I would prefer bigger bludgers still, which would move slower - possibly eccentrically, due to filling. This would be harder still to ignore and also harder for it to go out of bounds.

* Seekers: worked better than I was expecting. Haivng only one seeker in the final was a mistake. There was a discrepancy in seeker organisation in that, during some games, (I think) caught-but-incorrect snitches were returned to the bag, and in others, they were not. If we're going to remove each wrong snitch from the game (which I think is wise) then we need more than eight snitches, and we need a longer gap before the first snitch in most of the games. The fact that games can go 30 minutes, like one of the early ones did, is a good thing. I'm still not opposed to trying completely different Snitch simulations.

* Scheduling worked pretty well, but might have been even better still had we planned for games on one of the two pitches to start on the :15 and the :45. Moving the pro final from 5 to 4 was probably a mistake, though a very understandable one to make thinking about people's coldness and wetness, because people still turned up at 5 to see the final, which was bad.

* Referees and snitch-movers were excellent. Pitch was excellent, probably deserves to be canonical. Having someone set up tent within the dotted zone around the outside of pitch two was a mistake. Keeping people back behind the dotted line - reminder at the start of each match? - would have been better.

* If we're going to lower the value of the Snitch from 150, I think 50 is too high still. Consider 25 or 35. (And I was once an advocate of 75 - whoops!)

* Am not convinced about outdoor Quidditch - at least, in the rain. Plus sides: much greater publicity and accessibility/exposure to the public, fun mud. Minus sides: inclement weather and little possibility to shelter, no commentary, no seating, no scoreboards. Scoreboards would have been very useful. I don't think there'll often be a practical available choice between the two, but I think I prefer indoor if possible.

* May return to this later.

On balance, I think most attendees enjoyed TWH more than I did and found the problems to be less problematic than I did. This is good, on the whole, if not good for me.
[User Picture]
Date:October 12th, 2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
Aren't you meant to be able to run a car on the sugars in Coke at a pinch?

I think you'll find that should be "ruin" a car. sugar and petrol tanks are not a good combination. Unless you're a mechanic who needs some practise at sucking air in through your teeth.
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2005 07:19 pm (UTC)
sucking air in through your teeth

The "teeth hairdryer", my boss calls that.
[User Picture]
Date:October 14th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you'll be back soon! I'm going to look at hotels for you guys soon for that weekend.

Internet Introverts "Room of Requirement" where people can bring their own laptops and sit down quietly in a room, not talking to each other -

That would be nice. :)) Seriously, I think the O_O-ness of the week would have been taken down a few notches with a few moments like that a day. I think my heart was beating 157247823 times a minute until yesterday. Trips with so many people key me up in a way that makes me very unproductive when I get home.
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Meg and I have booked somewhere now at a decent rate, plus got a very good rental car rate. Fingers crossed that it turns out to be decent enough; only three weeks to go now. In fact, I expect to touch down in three weeks and twenty minutes' time, so it'll be only about three weeks and four hours until we get to see you again. Looking forward to it!
[User Picture]
Date:October 15th, 2005 10:25 am (UTC)
Hi, Chris! It was lovely to meet you at TWH, and although we didn't get to chat much, I enjoyed talking with you when we did have the chance. I hope it's okay that I've added you to my f-list! :D

I felt introverted, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable, at several points during the events, and unfortunately freaked out somewhat in the charged atmosphere of the Hallowe'en Ball.

Well, and also you weren't feeling very well toward the end of TWH, and that always exacerbates one's need to have some personal space, IMO. I am an introverted person by nature, although one might not guess that about me at first glance -- quite often I just reach the point where I need time and space to myself!

(Next time I'll propose an Internet Introverts "Room of Requirement" where people can bring their own laptops and sit down quietly in a room, not talking to each other - possibly except through contributing to a common LJ post. The silence - except for possibly the occasional Instant Messenger bloip - and the lack of pressure will be comforting.)

I would so go to this. When longtimegone came to visit me in March of last year, we laughed at each other because we still continued to use Y!M, even though we were in the same room.

[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It's taken me long enough, but it was wonderful to meet you too - though utterly bewildering, with such an incredibly high density of fun new folk to meet in such a little time - and I have added you back. I hope you're feeling at least a little bit better now!

There's something about IM that just feels more comfortable for saying some things; I think it might just be the smilies. I've tried pulling a :-/ in real life but it just looks, well, sillier than the iconic version does.
Date:October 17th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC)

my thoughts

This was the most fun I had in my entire life. My only problem was lack of consistence with the ref's-which you're going to get regardless of the sport, I know. But I did see many people get penalized for "aggressively getting the snitch" or what have you, and then towards the semi finals and finals, it was totally allowed by the same refs. And maybe have some points for catching the "wrong" snitch would work. There were many teams who caught numerous snitches and then lost because the other team caught it only once, but it happened to be the "right" one. BUt you all were awesome! I thank you!!! OUTDOOR Q would be the best!!!!!!!
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC)

Re: my thoughts

Glad you enjoyed it! People were getting tired towards the end of the day, both players and referees. That's probably a good argument for trying not to hold everything in the same day and giving people a good chance to rest between matches - see Nick above - but that poses its own set of logistical problems.
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Date:October 24th, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)
Happy birthday!
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! :-D

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