Workin’ Out

Man in Black: I think the odds are slightly in your favor at hand fighting.
Fezzik: It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.

The Princess Bride (1987)

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Tonight I went to the YMCA for my first “official” workout.

I have been going; in fact I got to go three times last week. The bad news was that two of those trips took place in a single day. Gotta space these things out a little, methinks. Besides, that was a special circumstance.

This is the side facing 33rd Street. Who knows if anyone uses this entrance. Today’s visit was to the Waverly location to get set up for my FitLinxx account. Up until now, I was essentially going in and re-doing some of the stuff I did when I was in Physical Therapy—recumbent bike, treadmill, leg extension. With this setup, I’m not only able to use the other equipment, I’m able to use it correctly.

The first thing you do when getting into this system is fill out a form with your basic demographic information and any medical issues, real or potential, that you may have. The staff member puts all this information into the FitLinxx database and then begins to put together a workout routine for you based on this information and the overall goals that you have. We then go over to a kiosk and input the FitLinxx account number, then “begin the workout” in the system. The first time around, however, they have to follow you around and set up the machines for first-time use. They input the beginning information (what position the different elements of the machines need to be set, etc.), and monitor you as you go through the circuit. The specific order of the machines doesn’t really matter (it’s better to just move on to a different machine than it is to wait around for somebody to finish), and in fact we had to jump around out of the sequence that the FitLinxx created. The system essentially follows you, counting your reps, ensuring that you actually DO the reps (in one case I didn’t move the weight through my full range of motion and it didn’t count), and telling you how much of the routine you have left. As you work, the screen will occasionally offer tips such as “try to move slower” or “try not to let the weights touch” or some such, and will give you an encouraging message when you finish. When you get to the end of your program, you go back to the kiosk and “end the workout”, and it displays a summary for you.

FitLinxx webpageOne of the cool things about FitLinxx is that you can go home and review your progress online. The not-so-cool thing is that you need a separate account for each location. So at right is the webpage for my one-and-only workout (so far) at Stadium Place. There’s no data for my cardiovascular workout because you have to input that manually and I didn’t bother (plus I did only 10 minutes on the bike, and who needs such a lame-ass statistic). I’m pretty sure, however, that the cardio machines in Parkville do that information automatically. Here’s hoping, anyway. Otherwise I’m going to have to tote around a means for writing all this stuff down.

Oh—and here’s a fun little surprise: I weighed myself in both locations on the same day (Friday) to see whether the scales agree with one another, and it turns out that they do. Today, just for the laughs, I weighed myself again, and I’m down a pound and a half.

Go Figure!

Techno Boy to the Rescue

Haley Graham: Elite gymnastics is like, the navy seals, only harder. There are like 2000 navy seals, there are only like, 200 elite gymnasts. Guess that’s because there’s kids who’s rather have a life than spend 6 hours a day training tricks that could kill you. Don’t be fooled by the leotards people, the things gymnasts do make navy seals look like wusses. And we do them without a gun.

Stick It (2006)

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Wee One chose not to do her Extended Cheer season at the local recreation council; instead she’s participating on a team called Charm City All-Stars. It’s a more rigorous program than the rec program, which is good for her cheerleading skills. On the Parkville Rec team, she wound up teamed up with some very inexperienced girls, which wound up making it tougher on the coaches and the more experienced girls, who wanted to move on to some of the new moves and instead wound up rehashing some of the old ones. This isn’t a complaint specifically; it’s just the way it goes sometimes when you have an inclusive program and only so many participants. You could have two very small teams or one decently-sized one, assuming you have enough coaches. It’s a problem either way and I don’t envy the people in charge of making the decisions. Anyway, Wee One is at Charm City All Stars this winter.

Charm City does its training at a place called Ultimate Gymnastics, which is a pretty gung-ho name for anything. If you’re going to Ultimate Gymnastics already, you don’t have a lot to reach for. I’m just saying. They have two sessions a week of cheer practice, which is where they do the choreography and such for the cheer routines. On Friday night she participates in a tumbling class, where she learns some of the basic stunts and skills.

Believe you me, Wife and I are much happier that she’s learning in this environment. When she first got into cheerleading, she was out front for hours every day teaching herself how to cartwheel. The grass is only just so soft, so we’re just waiting for the moment when she comes in with a broken limb; said limb not being from the tree in the yard.

tumbletrack All of which leads to the fact that I’m sitting now in the waiting area at Ultimate Gymnastics while Wee One is in the gym proper, doing her tumbling stuff and such. They have this extended trampoline thing that she’s on right now, and she’s using it to do roundoffs (kind of like a cartwheel, but your feet stop together and at the same time), and who knows what else. I know her big goal is to do a back handspring independently but I don’t see her working on that specifically just now. I don’t watch her too closely when she’s in there, because she gets a little bit of a “lookatmelookatmelookatme” thing going on, and then she’s not paying attention to what she’s doing.

Windows Live Writer So here I am, banging away on my laptop. Unfortunately, I don’t have the internet access in this place, but I do have Windows Live Writer, which works pretty well until I can get jacked back into the Metaverse. This is my usual gig when I bring Wee One to cheer/tumbling practice: sit and write, and listen to iTunes (got Beethoven’s Sixth going on just now). This has given me a bit of a reputation, I think. Not the reputation for being aloof and unsociable (not that I really care), but rather for being the sort of guy who crunches bytes for a living.

A few minutes ago, another dad (the only other adult, it turns out, in the waiting area this week) walked up to me and asked me to help me with his Blackberry. Now, this guy and I have a “hi, howya doin’” relationship, but not much else. He had no idea whether or not I’d ever seen a Blackberry before in my life, but he was pretty sure I could solve his problem for him.

Naturally, I could.

Shut up.

Victims of Their Own Success

Sebastian Stark: This just in: I'm too good.

Shark, "In the Grasp" (10/19/06)

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Our first visit to Virginia Beach was an uneventful one, except for the whole cheerleading thing.

We both got out of school a little early and grabbed Wee One from her school, and hit the road hoping to stay ahead of most of the traffic. We also decided to take a less-conventional route, down I-97 to 301, then to Route 17 and out to I-64. This way we'd bypass the whole DC mess. GF complained about the traffic lights, but I look at it this way: when you're staring at a red light, you know pretty much when it's going to be over. And when we got in, did we hear the stories about people who spent an hour going just under two miles. So, score one for us.

We checked into the hotel, which again was several miles from the event. It was the Hyatt Place in Chesapeake, roughly 15 miles away, but we weren't the only team stuck out in the boonies. On Friday night we got a sheet with the performance sequences, and it turned out that our girls wouldn't be on until midafternoon. What! We get to sleep in on the day of a cheer meet! Woo Hoo!

We got up early-ish anyway, around 8:30 or so, so we could pad on down to the lobby area for the Continental breakfast. The parents debated how they could keep the girls occupied until it was time to go to the convention center. They couldn't use the pool, since they couldn't risk getting their hair wet. Finally they called upon me to use my Mad Google Skillz (heh) to find out if there were any kid-friendly movies playing in the area. Before long, they had a plan to take the girls to see Hannah Montana: the Movie. I was smart enough to stay behind, taking a nice long walk and such.

We got to the Convention Center and it was something else again. There were literally hundreds of teams (PDF file) competing at the Nationals. They had two stages set up at opposite ends of the center, and basically two competitions going on at the same time. This was going on for the entire weekend, from 7AM until 7PM each day. Plus, nobody ever checked my ticket so I don't know why I bothered with it.

In addition to there being so many teams, the sequence we'd been given was incorrect because teams weren't getting to the practice area in a timely fashion. Most venues don't put up with that sort of thing but they just rolled with it here. The spectators who had programs were a wee confused, though.

So the girls go out and do their routine and two things happen: at one point they make a pyramid but one part of the group doesn't quite reach the rest of them. Usually there's no deduction if everyone's appropriately posed but not connected, but not at this competition, baby. So that's a ding. But the big hit was taken by the girls for executing a stunt, and executing it perfectly. The only problem was, it was an Advanced stunt, and the girls were competing as Intermediates. Boom! Big points lost in a safety deduction. The coaches were told about this before the awards ceremony, so the girls knew pretty much where they stood before the placements were called. It's a fine line between last place and total disqualification, I guess.

And, of course, they came off the stage in tears anyway. GF and I got to the front as they came off the stage and gave each one a pat on the shoulder; GF telling each one "We love you, you did a great job, we're proud of you," etc. They were heartbroken, naturally. It's one thing to screw up, drop a girl, fall on your face, step off the mat, whatever–and we certainly saw all of that–but it's another to work so hard and do so well and actually feel like you're being penalized for the effort.

We managed to get back to the competition area just in time to see the older girls perform. They did a really good job but ultimately placed ninth out of eleven teams competing. I didn't see all of the other teams in that group, so I can't really comment there. But I was surprised by this.

Naturally, throughout the rest of the weekend we saw girls who were clearly in town for the competition, so once in awhile I'd ask how their team did. They'd tell me how it went, and I'd relate what happened to the Parkville team. Most of the girls I spoke to had a similar story of how they'd lost a competition for the same reason. So I guess it's more common than you'd ordinarily think.

So cheerleading season is finally over. Thank goodness we don't have to think about that for a long, long time!

Until next week, when we put in our orders for next season's equipment.

For Some of You, It’s the Scariest Picture on the Internet

Narrator: You're entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location, the kind of place where there might be a monster or some kind of weird mirror. These are just examples. It could also be something much better. Prepare to enter… The Scary Door.

Futurama, "A Head in the Polls" (12/12/99)

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Prepare to be terrified:

Emily Resampled 

Look! It's a Cheerleader! On the Internet! Isn't that scary??

Feh.

This Was My Day

John Van Dyke: If our children can buy pornography on any street corner for five dollars, isn't that too high a price to pay for free speech?
President Josiah Bartlet: No.
John Van Dyke: Really?
President Josiah Bartlet: On the other hand, I think that five dollars is too high a price to pay for pornography.

The West Wing, "Pilot"  (9/22/99)

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You may have to click to embiggen:

28463_strip_sunday Free Speech

'nuff said. I'm glad this day is over.

The Kings is Dead to Me

Tennessee Steinmetz: I'm not saying a mechanical thing, can't be a friend. Like when, I was broke one summer, and there was this giant claw-machine in the Sutro amusement park, and it would grab cameras and watches and drop 'em down a hole to me, and I would hock 'em and buy lunch. You followin' me?
Jim Douglas: Yeah, yeah… I think you were up on that mountaintop too long.

The Love Bug (1968)

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An aside, before I get into this: I have no business remembering this, but I can remember seeing The Love Bug in the theater. I was FIVE, for crying out loud! I also remember seeing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Phantom Tollbooth in the theaters. And there was a movie that ran for a few Christmas seasons, called The Christmas That Almost Wasn't. Some of you may remember it as an HBO staple in the 70s and 80s.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah: another weekend of cheerleading. We got out of town early-ish and headed south to Kings Dominion, the location of our second-to-last cheerleading meet of the extended season. For a change, the traffic through Washington DC was a breeze, but before we could celebrate our good fortune, it got ugly around Quantico and stayed that way for several miles. At one point, shortly after it opened up again, I looked at a road marker and pointed out to GF, "If you can get the car up to 180 miles per hour, we might make the meeting on time." She'd do it, too, if she could. We took the more conservative route, though, and got in at nearly 9:00. Which was OK, since other families were still arriving as well.

The park opens at 10:00, so for once we weren't going to be getting up at 5:00 AM to get ready. We got barely presentable at 8:30 and padded down to the lobby for the free breakfast that the hotel was offering. It was more than a typical hotel Continental breakfast but less than a luxury buffet. Still, it was a nice array of the hot and the cold and the beverages and fruit and whatever else. And, since our hotel was about 12 miles from the park, we were the only team down there, so it was (relatively) peaceful.

Patriots at KD Back up to the room and getting ready in earnest: decent clothes for me and GF; uniform for Wee One. We left the hotel a little after 9:00 so that we could all meet outside the gate by 9:30. Between then and opening time, we whiled away the half-hour with taking pictures of the girls and making sure everyone had tickets and wristbands.

What? Of course we needed tickets. Just because the event is in Kings Dominion, that doesn't mean that we get any breaks on the admission. We still had to pay admission to the park, plus $10 parking fee, PLUS another $8.00 entry fee to the meet. And it's the usual bit where you can't bring in outside food or drink, so you have to plan on getting gouged in the park for that as well. On the bright side, you can stay in the park as long as you like after the meet. The flip side of this is that you've got a kid who's been wearing polyester in 90+ degrees all day, and you're probably not going to do more than a couple of rides before everyone bails out.

We get through the gate and there's more picture-taking in front of the fountains, then we head through the park, as a group, to the amphitheater for the show. As it happens, the amphitheater, and a couple of other music pavilions, are tucked into a corner of the park just behind the Dominator. There's a gate across the sidewalk, and we have to show our bracelets to get through. On the other side are the usual vendors: one booth hawking the cheer T-shirts, another with custom airbrushed hats and stuff, one vendor selling team photos and another selling videos of the performances. There are also a couple of KD food and beverage vendors. We bypass them all in order to find seats, which turned out to be abnormally easy. GF then headed back out to get some water for us.

When she returned, she reported that your basic bottle of Dasani cost $3.00. Yikes! We may have to risk the heat stroke. We made those bottles last the better part of the morning. It wasn't until after we'd tossed out one of them that it occurred to us that we could just refill the bottles with water from a fountain, or a tap.

Wee One's team was the tenth to go up, out of about thirty in the time before the judges' break:

Back in that loading area somewhere, there was a water station for the girls to use. Girl faint Unfortunately, there were no cups for the girls to put the water into, so they couldn't use the water station. This actually resulted in one of the girls on the 14-and-under team (the older squad) collapsing from the heat, just moments after she left the mat. In the long run she was OK, but there were a few scary moments there. Thanks, Kings Dominion. Way to take care of the girls, there.

At the break we went out of the amphitheater area and onto the concourse. I noticed the water guy's sign and asked GF, "Didn't you tell me that the water cost you three dollars?" She said yes, because she bought three bottles and had only ten dollars on her. I pointed out the sign to her. The water was now $3.75. GF started to freak and was about to lay into the guy, but I pointed out that he's a minimum-wage slave and had nothing to do with it. She went over there anyway and demanded to speak to a supervisor. Someone ambled over a few minutes later and, clearly having heard most of this before, spouted the party line. The only thing she could add was that they weren't taking advantage of the heat; that the water was supposed to be $3.75 all day because that's the price it is everywhere else in the park, and "we have to be fair." In short, selling it for the three bucks was an error in our favor.

Now, we're in a section of the park that's cloistered away from everyone else; so I don't know what the big deal is, especially since we've paid full price for tickets that we can't use the entire day (since we're in the amphitheater from opening until 3:00 PM). A small break on the water, especially since their negligence nearly killed one of our girls, is not so much to ask. For what it's worth, GF and I didn't find out about the girl collapsing until shortly after she'd spoken to the supervisor. She'd have really raised hell if she'd known it before. She's already got the address of the corporate offices (both in Virginia and the home office in Ohio), so I'll be curious to see whether they respond.

In other injustices, our younger team took second place. Frankly, I think they were robbed. The older team took third, which didn't feel so unfair because the competition in that division was pretty stiff. But I was sure that the younger team had pretty well outclassed the other teams. That's the thing about these competitions, though: you never know what a judge is going to ding you for.

Next post: dinner makes up for the miserable day.

One More and Then I’ll Shut Up

So this past Friday night was the Bull & Shrimp Roast for the cheerleaders. One of the topics of conversation was a piece of literature that was going around that someone had written about the event. It had no context to it whatsoever, but it turned out to be the post that I'd written a few weeks ago. By "no context" I mean that it didn't have the Baltimore Diary header on it, nor my sidebar picture, or anything else. Apparently someone did a quick copy and paste.

(It just occurred to me that they're not supposed to be able to do that…I wonder if they had a Mac?)

Anyway, on Saturday night a response to the post was added by one of the parents. It was long, and thoughtful, and written by a parent whom I respect. I actually agree with much of what she had to say, but I also think that my point was missed a little bit. So I'm going to respond here, and then I'm going to drop the matter. Anyone who wants to debate it further can do so through email or can feel free to speak to me directly. This isn't really the place to do it. This blog is about whatever I choose to care about on any given day, and I'm moving on.

Her (unedited) comments are in italics and indented; mine are in regular text:

Unfortunately, due to the economic times, fundraising is a must!  Many parent's just cannot afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for their children to do activities that I feel are important in the growth of the children and keeping them occupied and out of trouble. 

I agree completely with this, but this was also part of my argument for a different activity. I'll get to this in a minute.

With that being said, I have to comment of the article about the Parkville Patriots Bull Roast fundraising event.  While the suggestion of the pancake breakfast was a good one, there are a couple comments I have about that.  First, from what I was told, there was a problem with the location having enough parking, thereby make it really impossible to sell a large amount of tickets. 

The location that GF had considered first was a church that was in the community. They manage to fill up the sanctuary every Sunday without too much parking hassle, not to mention the nearly-every-evening events that take place during the week. However, if this were to be an issue, there were plenty of other places to choose from, again in the immediate community. This event was held in Rosedale (not on Eastern Ave. as I'd originally been led to believe). Which of the Parkville Cheerleaders live in Rosedale? This was a failure to get another facet of the community behind the event. Also, given the nature of a Pancake Breakfast, which would not be an all-morning event for the people who come to eat, parking would be in a state of frequent turnover.

Secondly, while the suggestion of the girls helping in the fundraising is a nice idea, my feeling is that they have done more than their share by practicing and working very hard to make it to U.S. Nationals in the first place. 

I have to respectfully disagree with this point. Well, not quite: of COURSE they worked hard to earn their way to the Nationals. But if paying for it is part of the issue, then it's part of the commitment. The Bull Roast took away the girls' commitment toward the full measure of what it takes to get to that event.

Additionally, this group has 43 cheerleaders in the 5-14 age range, and I feel that the parents/grandparents/guardians, etc. who volunteer to participate, would have to spend a fair amount of time supervising the girls, which would take away from the actual working of the fundraiser and could jeopardize the event running smoothly.  Let's face it, they are children and children tend to goof off when with their friends.  That's just how it is.

The short answer is that we've done this before, more than once, and we've made it work. Plus it's safer than having them wander about Perring Parkway with a bucket.

As for the parent meeting and the decision making process for the fundraising, well let's just say, if you don't show up for the mandatory meeting, that you were informed about, then you don't have a say in the outcome. 

As I'd said in the original post, I had to go to New York to support my OTHER daughter in her extracurricular activity. My family was represented, however.

I have been with this program for several years now and have seen the time, dedication and hardwork that the directors, coaches and cheerleaders put in and year after year, seen the same parents pitch in and get involved, while other's barely show their face at practices, competitions, fundraising events, etc. 

No argument whatsoever at all, there. I put in a full day and about $150 of my own money to ensure that the Show & Tell day from last week was a success. And I know that you're there at every turn when someone is needed.

To run any youth program, it takes hardwork, dedication and a commitment from everyone involved, including the parents.  These youth organizations are not babysitting services!  You cannot just drop off your child and come back to pick them up in a couple of hours and think it's okay to complain about how things are run.  That's the problem with this society now, people have to get involved with their children and not just sit back and be a spectator.  Raising children is not a spectator sport.

I could cop a "guilty" plea on this one–I tend to stay only when I'm required to. But part of that is because I know that A) Wee One tends to get distracted when a parent is nearby; B) I actually like to see the routines for the first time in competition; and C) when I'm there, I usually just hole up with my iPod and my Kindle, or my laptop. I can do that anywhere.

As for the shrimp and bullroast – let me just say first, and foremost, that the people that put that event together took a lot of time out of their personal lives and busy schedules with their own children, to do a wonderful thing.  They worked very hard making phone calls, driving all over the community to meet with people regarding tickets, donations, scheduling, etc.  They should be commended for doing such an absolutely fantastic job in such a short time frame.  Kudos to the small group of volunteers that took the ball and ran with it!  Without them, nothing would have been done at all.  You Are The Best!!! 

They did a hell of a job, and I did send a note to the mom who sent out all the emails, thanking them for their hard work.

If more parents would get involved with their children's activities like these people did, then maybe the kids today wouldn't be getting into trouble like they do.

Again, no argument there.

And the questions were – Will they make money?  Yes indeed they did!!! 

My original post conceded that money would be made from the event.

Was it worth the time and effort put into organizing the event?  It was well worth it!!  Several thousands of dollars was raised to help send the cheerleaders to Nationals.  Money that some parent's just could not afford to dish out of their own pockets. 

This is true, but the problem then becomes one of cannibalizing the available money. Look at it this way: GF and I spent a given amount of money for the entry fees and for the hotel. Now we're asked to shell out another $80 for two tickets to the event. Even if we get $10 from each ticket back, sales still have to cover $60 just to get us back to being even. Plus, if we spend money on the raffles, the wheel of fortune thingy (which I admit I had fun working on, once I got the hang of it) and the silent auction, that's still money coming out of our OWN pockets to pay for the event we've already spent a couple of hundred bucks on. Our only hope is that the overwhelming number of people who attend and spend money aren't in the immediate families of the girls. In addition, the cost of the event itself was just prohibitive to some people. Wee One's father, for example, simply could not afford to attend, despite his recent attempts to support her cheerleading activities. A less expensive event could have brought him, his mother, his sister and her family. That's several extra bodies that would have netted the organization more money in the long run.

During the event itself, I spoke to many that attended and they all commented on how much fun they were having, what a wonderful job the organizers did and that they can't wait for the next one! (see you in September)  As far as I'm concerned, I would certainly promote this fundraising event again.

Lastly, yes decisions are made by those that show-up!  You can't vote, if you're not there!  It's not rocket science.  Was this a hijacking?  Not by any means.  When this was brought up in the MANDATORY parent's meeting that only the true dedicated parents attended, nothing was carved in stone at that time. 

I can only go by what GF told me, but as far as she could tell, this was presented as a done deal. And when GF asked one of the directors how this had happened, the response was pretty much "I have no idea." GF also doesn't remember hearing anything about doing this again in September. At what point during the meeting did the group make THAT decision? Yeah, it was a hijacking.

I don't believe that the contract had even been signed yet. 

I admit I don't know one way or the other. GF's impression was that we'd guaranteed a minimum of one hundred participants, which suggests a commitment of some kind.

So, had there been strong objections to the event, it would not have taken place. 

Again, I have to respectfully disagree. Again, according to GF, concerns and objections went unheard at that meeting.

This was not a "mandatory participation event", so if someone chose not to partake, then they simply would have to endure the costs for their child's expenses themself.  It's that simple!  I know that my little cheerleader has a special place in my heart and like many of the parents, I would do anything in the world to help her fulfill her dreams.

Well…none of the fundraising events are mandatory participation, and those who choose not to participate don't seem to endure any grief from the ones who do.

I think that all (well, most) of us tend to have a special place for all of the cheerleaders, and are pretty supportive of them as a group. You'll recall from my other post that GF and I were starting to look into the fundraising activity before we even knew that Wee One's squad was going to the Nationals.

As I said, I'm dropping the matter now. You've said your piece, I've said mine and that's plenty, unless you feel like continuing in email or in person. I ask only that you deal with me directly in this; GF doesn't participate in this site nor does Wee One, and they shouldn't have to deal with any fallout from my standing on a box and spouting my opinion.

Peace.

Once Again, Stupidity Breaks the Writer’s Block

Kent Brockman: What started out as a traditional soccer riot has quickly escalated into a city-wide orgy of destruction. Reacting swiftly, Mayor Quimby declared "mob rule", meaning for the next several years, it's every family for themselves…

The Simpsons, "The Cartridge Family" (11/2/97)

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So the good news is, that even though Wee One's cheerleading team came in fourth at Ocean City, they've still been invited to the Nationals at Virginia Beach. Yay!

The bad news is that the team is going to have to raise some money to get there. Now, the older team had been invited already; we knew that and we also knew that money was going to have to be raised for them as well. So last week, GF sat down with the Rec Director and let her know that she and I have experience with fundraisers. Those of you who have been with this bit of electronic detritus have read stories about it in the past. New-England-Patriots-Logo On those two events we raised quite a bit of money. The Rec Director thought this was a great idea and GF and I started working on the plans: locating a date, finding a location and digging up all the old contacts and documents that we used the previous times. It's not our squad specifically, but we're going to do our part for the Parkville Patriots, right?

On Tuesday we got word that Wee One's squad had also been invited to the Nationals. We're not clear on why this is the case, but who's complaining? We also heard that there was a mandatory parents meeting going on today while the girls were in practice. I was going to be out of town, but GF could be there and put forth the presentation on the pancake thing. (We'd decided on pancakes because there are way too many dinners going on in the area, including the local VFW, which seems to have a spaghetti dinner every month, and because the overhead is pretty low, which means more money going directly to the team.)

When she got to the meeting, however, it was a different story. From what I can piece together, another parent had already taken it upon himself to set up a Bull & Shrimp dinner at some place (I'm still not clear where) on Eastern Avenue. Tickets for this thing will be $40 each, three-fourths of which would go to the guy supplying the food. The team would get $10 per ticket sold. And–AND–this parent guaranteed the supplier a minimum of one hundred participants. So before this was even presented to the other parents, the team was three thousand dollars in the hole, for an event that's about one month away and competing with a dozen other similar events in the area.

Also, because of the timing of the event (nighttime) and the fact that we're talking about serving beer at this thing, this means that the girls themselves won't be able to participate to any great extent, thus marginalizing their buy-in to the process.

This wasn't the only bone of contention, GF told me. There was also some discussion as to whether the older team–which placed better than Wee One's team, remember–is actually ready for something like going to Virginia Beach, that perhaps they hadn't really given it their all and who knew if these girls were ready and willing to put in the work involved? Apparently a lot of this discussion had already taken place among several of the parents. VIA FACEBOOK.

I asked GF if anyone considered just going into the room next door where the girls were practicing and, oh I don't know, asking them–and she said that someone did, indeed, finally do that. The girls were completely psyched about going.

The other thing that gets to me about this whole mess is that this was supposed to be a mandatory meeting about the Nationals competition, and GF told me that no more than four or five girls from each squad were represented. She said that there were no more than twenty grownups in that room total, and several of them were couples, which meant that some kids were represented by two adults and others by none at all. Usually the decisions are made by the people who show up, but this time the agenda was completely hijacked and has spun way out of control. They're also talking about a silent auction, a raffle, one of those wheel of fortune gizmos, and I don't know what-all else.

I wasn't going to do this, but what the hell. Let's do a cost comparison:

On a shrimp and bull roast, we have to spend thirty dollars per person. Someone else supplies all the food and drink, and the adults do absolutely everything, because the girls can't do much more than get underfoot. At $40 a ticket, that's 33% profit, which isn't bad.

On a pancake breakfast, and assuming that nothing gets donated (and GF and I are pretty good at getting businesses to donate goods), we can buy ten pounds of pancake mix for six bucks. 36 sausage patties is another eight dollars. A gallon of syrup is less than six dollars. Orange juice is about three dollars a gallon. We've invested an hour in shopping, we haven't spent thirty dollars YET and we've fed at least eighteen people. What the hell: throw in a few dozen eggs and some coffee and make it an even thirty. The girls themselves will be able to participate in the serving and some of the cleanup, which gives them some personal investment in the project. And now at the conservative price of seven dollars each, I see that we've netted almost $100. By my math, that's a 320% return on the original investment. Plus, I think it's a hell of a lot easier to sell a stack of $7 tickets than it is a stack of $40 ones. In fact, when we did the Morrell Park fundraiser (the first one), several people bought tickets and never even showed up. That was entirely profit on our part. That's not likely to happen with the bull roast.

Will they make money? Yeah, they probably will. But there's so much overhead, and so much that needs to be overcome, that the money made will not be worth the level of effort that will have to go into it, especially given the rather small relative profit to be made.

Decisions are usually made by the people who show up. But this was little more than a hijacking, and in my eyes, letting it take place is a huge mistake. You saw it here first.

You Know What Sport Needs Cheerleaders? Chess.

C.J. Cregg: First of all: you're wrong. Second of all: shut up. Third: I went to Hoynes with your thing and he said he wasn't the one who talked to you and I believe him and he's really pissed at me and he's right. And fourth…shut up again.

–The West Wing, "Enemies" (11/17/99)

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Greetings from Ocean City, Maryland!

That's what I'd be saying if I were still in Ocean City, Maryland. My first trip to that vacation paradise and it was a rainy weekend, punctuated by literally thousands of screaming girls aged 5 to 14.

We headed down there on Friday afternoon, which was not so great for me because I wasn't feeling well, but at least I had the better part of the day to get some rest and be generally medicated. But it was either go down Friday afternoon or leave the house at about three AM on Saturday.

Because of the weather, it took us much longer than we expected to get across the Bay Bridge and into Ocean City. I think this town has been built up into the realm of things that have gotten so much P. R. from people that I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. It's a seaside community driven by tourism and that's about it. If I didn't know where I was, I could easily have mistaken it for Wildwood or Point Pleasant or any one of numerous communities on the New Jersey shore. This isn't a bad thing, but it wasn't especially standout for me, either.

We stayed at the Princess Royale hotel, which is almost as far from most of the tourist action as one can get, not that it matters in the off-season. A chunk of businesses are closed for another several weeks, and most of the ones that are open are on truncated hours, or scrambling for whatever business there is.

And there is some business, make no mistake about that. There's clearly something going on in the Convention Center on a regular basis, and everybody knows about it. There are signs on many of the restaurants, etc. welcoming the cheerleaders to town. One place even had "Give a Cheer, Get a Discount" on their sign. It's too bad that they weren't especially kid-oriented (I think it's a surf shop), but it was still enough for GF to pop in with the Wee One and see what was up.

Saturday morning and we have to be up at 5:00 to get Wee One's uniform on, get her hair fixed just so (there are hair rules!), get the right socks on her feet, and so on. We'd gotten word that the squad was going to meet in the indoor pool area at 6:00. At precisely 6:00 we arrive at the pool.

Which is locked. Also, we're alone.

It turned out that, despite getting there exactly on time, we were the first to arrive. Other parents and their youngsters started showing up, and in no time the hallway was starting to get crowded and a little noisy. Finally we decided to just re-convene in the lobby.

More girls. Other teams filtering through. More hair and socks and uniform adjustments and god knows what. And finally we caravan it down to the convention center. We got there a little after 7:00 and the girls re-assembled. They had to be ready as a group by 8:15 because that was their warmup time.

I'll tell you what, this event was kind of slick compared to others we've been to. It's run by the American Cheer and Dance Academy, and they've clearly been around the block a few times. And, with all the slick, came a different level of competition, a little higher than the girls were used to.

Usually the girls compete against other teams in Harford and Baltimore Counties. This time around there were a couple of those teams, but there were also teams from as far away as Frostburg MD, Herndon VA and I think the distance winner goes to Rochester, NY.

So without any further ado, here's the video. Wee One is in the far left group as they start. She's the one on the right side of that group. If you lose track, she's the one who stumbles at 3:04. I'm told that because they were in transition, and because her chest didn't hit the floor, there's no deduction for the stumble. Oh, and one other brief explanation. The MC tells you which group is "in the hole", which means two teams out, then who's "on deck", which is the next team up, before announcing the team about to go on. So the video starts with him inexplicably saying "the Westminster Wildcats", which is his announcing the hole team (we lose the part where he says "in the hole").

Ultimately, her team placed fourth out of a field of five or six, which is not bad for a first effort in Extended Cheer season. And, as I've noted in other posts, this Parkville squad has a way of getting pounded in the first round, but using it as a rallying point and then kicking ass the rest of the season.

Next week, (next week!) there's another meet, so there won't be time to adjust the routine, but after that there's a month-long period in which they can really fine-tune. And fine-tune they will.

The Morning After

Well, that's that for the Ravens this year. Ravens Logo

Other than checking to see if there's anything new about Willis McGahee's condition (apparently he's considered "neurologically intact"), I haven't looked at any of the post-mortems that are no doubt all over the Internet, but I don't think I'm going to learn anything new: Joe Flacco's rookie status finally caught up with him, the Ravens had lots of injuries, the team played essentially without a bye week this year, and so on.

It doesn't really matter. The fact is, it was a hell of a ride, and a lot of people are proud of their team regardless. Thanks for a great year, guys.