May 10th, 2015

krazy koati

One word can bring you around

The Lansing pinball league is casually run. That's its birthright. It started out mostly because WVL thought if there were a core of people playing the three pinball machines in the hipster bar, the machines might be better-maintained, and there might be more of them. He was brilliantly right about the number, possibly right about the maintenance. It's a club without many serious rules, and an ad-hoc nature to the rules it has. As a group of people who like hanging out together that's all it needs to be.

Those experienced with geek social fallacies have probably spotted the group's major fault lines: it can get ugly when someone tries taking things seriously. The most aggravated I'd ever seen WVL were times that folks from more professionally-managed leagues wanted to tighten up operations. But that passed as they got to either appreciate the laid-back charm of our group or wandered off.

Those experienced with anecdotes have probably spotted where this is going. The possibly-sandbagging guy who popped in to take B Division this week didn't manage to do it cleanly. He and the other guy who'd beaten bunny_hugger --- the one who did really belong in B --- had to play one another repeatedly, first when they were both in the winners bracket, then when one was in the winners and one was in the losers bracket, and then again because of how double-elimination brackets work. And then the two of them got into an argument about how many games they had played, and how many matches they played. In short, they were arguing about who took first and who took second for the B Division.

I don't fault you if you think this sounds absurd: how could you forget how many games you played? But I can accept a prima facie case that someone would. They played each other a lot of times in a row, and apparently played the same games repeatedly. One of them wrote down what, to the best of his recollection, were the results of all their games; among their four rounds they played Lord of the Rings four times (twice in round two) and The Simpsons also four times. I can believe someone losing track of that. The other guy couldn't (charitably) or wouldn't (if you're a harder skeptic) remember them all and didn't write down his best recollection of the games played.

WVL meanwhile was overwhelmed trying to work this out, and trying to keep it from escalating into a serious fight. bunny_hugger could only take a few minutes of being close to the quarrel before excusing herself. I tried to be neutral-good, though I lacked any good ideas of what to do past ``well, could you write down what you think happened and maybe we can work out what most probably did?'' and trying to let WVL know I'd support any ruling he did make. MWS tried to be supportive too, and to emphasize that he believed it was all an innocent and accidental mistake and that nobody suspects bad will on anyone's part. I would agree with that except that my sense is everybody suspects bad will on the suspected-sandbagger's part.

One said fine, he'd just take whichever trophy and go home and never come back. Somehow the idea of a one-game or a one-ball playoff got floated. This turned into a one-game playoff on Getaway, which then turned into a best-of-three playoff all on Getaway and mercifully that stopped rather than turning into a best-of-five. The disputants, and bunny_hugger, lined up for pictures with their trophies, and the disputants went off to buy one another beers in what we'd like to believe was a show of no hard feelings.

I'm afraid of the way the incident may disrupt the league. I can imagine rule changes that would at least make it harder for this particular problem to recur. (For example, have both players return to a center station at the end of their match to report the answer, and let both sign off on it.) They're little touches of a professional attitude. And that's all right. But having such a procedure would also mark the edge of the group's loose, casual friendliness. Maybe it won't change the league in important ways. The incident resulted from some actions out of step with the group's nature. But I worry it's trouble aborning.

Trivia: In 1570 Naples there were something like seven hundred thousand ducats in circulation and savings. By 1751 there were eighteen million. Source: Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World, Jack Weatherford.

Currently Reading: Beggar Thy Neighbor: a History of Usury and Debt, Charles R Geisst.

PS: Reading the Comics, May 9, 2015: Trapezoid Edition, mathematics comics. This is something like the fourth since the last roundup, I think.