January 16th, 2016

krazy koati

Not one seat belt on

When bunny_hugger and I arrived at the hipster bar we found the mezzanine, and the eight pinball machines there, turned off. One of the women who helps running some east-side-of-the-state stuff rushed up to bunny_hugger to start helping, or explaining what chaos was going on, unintentionally driving bunny_hugger crazy before she could even find out what exactly there was to be crazy about. I didn't help either in my promising that everything was going to be okay before I even knew what exactly had gone wrong.

What happened was the roof leaked. The winter finally froze enough for there to be ice, and the ice cracked through the roof, and that warmed it enough to drop through onto the upper level of machines. The bar's staff was working hard to get the upper floor mopped up enough that machines could be turned on, and before the planned start of the tournament, but they would only promise to try as hard as they could. In the end they would get the power turned on up there, and turn on five of the eight pinball machines. After some coaxing from MJS, they turned on a sixth, Lord of the Rings. The last two machines in the row were too near the leak for the staff's comfort. The bar staff was also not even slightly convinced by the pinball folk promising they could totally move the machines to a safe space.

Also there was a side surprise and disappointment. One of the machines too near the leak was The Walking Dead, which had been at the bar earlier in the year and was taken out. It replaced The Simpsons Pinball Party. That Simpsons table --- the second pinball table made to the theme --- was a well-regarded one everywhere but Lansing. Every pinball table is a bit different, each individual unit with its own quirks. Our Simpsons table had the quirk of being the most brutally terrible experience one could possibly have on a pinball machine. The operator had made the game a little easier recently, by turning on the ball save, but that still didn't make it a favorite. Anyway, The Walking Dead would surely have been a beloved new choice, if it were turned on. We couldn't get it on.

Also knocked out would be Indiana Jones. CST played it several times and insisted the game would shortchange folks one of a multiball. That's bad in any game, but Indiana Jones gives incredibly huge rewards for multiball, and being one ball down allows an incredible advantage, especially for highly-skilled players, like nearly everyone there. MWS, who's been practicing on that particular table a lot, insisted it didn't withhold a ball at all on him. But bunny_hugger made the decision that no, CST wouldn't rule a game out, especially with the balcony possibly out of service, unless he were certain.

So that was the start of play: 26 players, many of them Michigan's highest-ranked players, plus a couple of folks who saw flyers, and at most twelve pinball machines working. And one of those, Iron Man, was reserved for the side tournament. That would be a simple who-can-score-the-most contest with people playing through the night. But it put us down to 11 playable machines. With the first four rounds, at minimum, requiring 13 matches you can see where a problem arises. A round can't end until all the pairs that round have played.

Brackelope, the tournament-management app we used, and that a lot of tournaments use, handles this. It draws pairs of players and a game, and if it runs out of games then it just waits until some machines are free. So for the first six or so rounds we'd have to have a bit of stacking, a couple of competitors sitting and waiting for machines to open up. So the first several rounds took longer than they needed to. But it did mean that bunny_hugger had the time to run out and deposit the entry fees, securing them in a bank account, rather than worry that the charity funds were somewhere they might be lost or worse.

I ended up in the sort of middling managerial position that's perfect for my personality type. This was because I wanted to relieve stress on my wife, of course, and because I had the only iPod capable of running Brackelope. bunny_hugger's iPod is too old for it, and my iPad is way too old for it. So I spent much of the tournament night writing out on little sheets of paper the assignments of game and player. This was something we adapted from the tournament we went to in Flint, along with our awareness that at the Lansing league finals a season ago there was some deep unpleasantness when the B division finalists couldn't say exactly how many games they had played against one another.

And that's fine. This is exactly the sort of low-level bureaucracy --- a lot of form-filling --- that I'm good at. I realized quickly I could write out cards for all the games and fill in player names ahead of actually calling them out. I'd become pretty efficient at handling all this, actually, and so that was good fun.

Oh yeah, also, I had to play pinball too.

Trivia: Jeremy Bentham had a cat named Langbourne. Source: The Uncyclopdia, Gideon Haigh.

Currently Reading: The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, David Graeber.