Ask the Judge, 10/17/2008: Feature Friday
Busy Days, Here to Stay
Are the days getting shorter? It certainly feels like it. And I'm not talking about when the sun rises or sets. I'm talking about the level of sheer, hectic bustle that is descending upon my life.
My household hosts an annual party every year over Columbus Day weekend (which has essentially nothing to do with Columbus day, really) and I have managed to survive another year's four-day party. Bands, games, dozens of houseguests, bonfires, singalongs, loads of food, even more homebrew.... it's a lot of work, but it's also a tremendous amount of fun. Much of this year's work was put off until the last moment. On Friday, we had a singalong event, and worked on the songbook (fifty pages of They Might Be Giants, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields, Johnny Cash, The Mountain Goats, etc) right up until the living room filled with people and we got started. I led the group on guitar until my voice gave out and I retired to the basement to nurse a pint of beer.
The beer was another last minute detail: work commitments and Board of Directors work at Free Geek meant that I wasn't able to keg the beer until just a week before the party. It takes time for beer to carbonate, and I risked making a large foamy mess if I put too much gas in the beer. Serving pressure is about 12 PSI of CO2; ideally, I'd chill the beer and leave it at serving pressure for a few weeks. Instead, I kept it for the week at 30 PSI and crossed my fingers. The result was positive: I discovered that I'd made half as much as I ought to have.
Having finished up with the party, the truly busy portion of the fall begins in earnest. I leave for Berlin next Friday. I haven't exactly nailed down all my accomodations yet. I'll be out there five days ahead of my booked room in the staff hotel, ready to wander the city until my fellow judges turn up. Where will I go? I haven't sorted that out yet, either. Recommendations? I'd love to hear them. I'd particularly be happy to hear recommendations for a place to drink traditional Belgian beers. I suspect I'll spend a lot of time just wandering the city, by foot, subway, or even by rented bicycle, if the weather accomodates.
This will be my first European tournament, and I'm looking forward to working with a lot of new faces. One of the nice things about Wizards-run events is that they're intensely consistent, so I don't have to worry about the event itself, beyond usual preparations, but can rather focus on the details of working with judges new and old. We're going to have an excellent staff, I think, fronted by Sheldon Menery.
There's a short week-and-a-half between my return from Berlin and my next Magical adventure: GP Atlanta, where I will lead, as mentioned last month, a ragtag, scrappy band of judges into the kind of adventure most players can only dream of. That, or we'll run a tournament. We'll see.
Silliness aside, while I'm confident that our staff and HJ are going to get the job done at that event, it does remind me of one of the aspects of judging that I like to talk about when I'm explaining the program to non-Magic players: judging is a series of challenges of near-infinite variety and arbitrary difficulty. It is a certainty that this event will be different—in some ways easier, in many ways more challenging—than GP Vancouver; no doubt that the next GP will offer hidden problems to solve, and so on for the forseeable future. In my five (five? ...six. Where does it all go?) years as a judge, I've learned study skills, customer service skills, job interview skills (as an L3 applicant) , job interview skills (as an L3 interview panelist), organizational skills, motivational skills... Many of these put directly to work in my professional life as I've moved from a member of software development teams to a leader of software development teams. And I know that I am far from alone on this front.
The next month, even when I'm not at tournaments, is going to involve a lot of time spent on Magic and the DCI. I'll be making sure my rules knowledge is up-to-date and comfortable, and planning my teams for Atlanta. Since I missed the prerelease, and Atlanta is a Sealed/Booster Draft GP, I'm going to have to find some time and opportunities to play with the new cards. I know that I've mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating: judges must play Magic to be at their most effective. When I take appeals, players will see me read cards, and there's no shame in that, but when we use the cards to confirm what we already know, we make rulings that are more accurate and more confident, which is what players want and deserve.
Please feel free to look me up, if you find yourself at Pro Tour Berlin or Grand Prix Atlanta. If I don't see you there, I'll catch you here next time. Until then, keep shufflin'.