Sunday, November 4, 2007

USCF EB Meeting

Just a quick note about my impressions before I leave. First, I've had a cold with persistent coughing all month. It had died down the last week and I had thought I was getting better but last night I started coughing again. I left the meeting this morning because it was getting to be a distraction to the other people in it.

I met Susan and Paul yesterday for the first time. We had breakfast together. In my mind I was anxious to not come across as some kind of groupie and so I kept a reserved manner. Here I was with someone who is famous because she had legitimately accomplished something - first woman grandmaster in history (you know what I mean) - former woman's world champion, and so on. I've met famous politicians. Being tops in chess is special.

Paul arrived late. Susan and I had already started eating. Paul was by far the more animated of the two. He'll talk a mile a minute and about every subject. Other chess people came in and gravitated to our table. Susan introduced me to them. It was kind of interesting basking in her reflected celebrity.

As for the meeting itself the one theme that ran throughout was the hostility for the USCF Forum. I must admit that I sympathize and share some of that hostility myself. This came up in several different discussions.

In the finances, I couldn't help myself from raising my hand and asking to respond to statements that there was nothing of value in the financial disussions that we have engaged in here from time from time. I tried to give just one example of a valid point. So, I went to the issue that cash did not match up in the reports. Bill H and Joe Nanna strongly challenged my statement. Bill G asked me what time frame the statements did not match. Put on the spot, I couldn't remember exactly, so I just lamely said last spring. Joe said that would never have put out such financial statements. He said that these must have been before his time.

While, this is all water under the bridge now, I believe my statements to be accurate. I think that if folks go to the March, April, and May Financials, they will be able to see for themselves. Moreover, I was not comparing historical with prospective information. The larger point is that while I now think (see my latest exchange with Donna earlier on the finance - shhh! thread at the USCF Forum) that there is a whole lot of stuff that is just noise, there are valid points raised in that forum, too. Her point (she originally raised it long ago) that the the cash amounts do not match was one of them.

The rest of the fireworks was at the end just before the end of the open session. They were talking about the retirement fund issue and I was struck with the large difference between was had been posted at the USCF Forum and what they were saying. Also, I was thinking of my criticism of Donna - her being a tiger on the internet and a wuss when in an official meeting. With that in mind, I decided to let them have it.

To summarize their response ("they" seemed to be practically everyone else in the room) Donna has not been telling the whole story of what happened. Before people should judge, they need to know the rest of the facts. Facts which cannot be disclosed right now. It is difficult for me to challenge this because for all I know, this may be true.

The solid information that is being disclosed is that the service is working on the matter and it is taking them 3 weeks per year. At this rate, the ED expects them to not be done before early 2008.

This was new information to me. Bill G said that all this had been disclosed before. I must have missed it.

Then they went into closed session.

Bill Hall took me aside and spoke earnestly to me that they were really making a sincere effort to do the best that can be done. I didn't want to hold him from the closed meeting so if it appeared that I was short with him, it was for that reason, only.

That night we all had dinner together. Susan sat to my right. Jim Berry sat across from me. Everybody was there except for Randy Bauer who had to work in his room. I found out that Jim loves to argue. he got into a spirited argument with Mike Nolan about the meaning of the words "and" and "or". The two Bills and Joel were drawn into the argument. I turned to Susan and whispered that this dinner was starting to resemble the USCF Forum and she giggled.

It was all in good fun and we were all in a relaxed mood. Other items we discussed was the three wisemen - between us we could only come up with two names. Then I asked for the names of the twelve apostles. Joel said we could recreate the last supper. That led to counting the people present at the dinner. One person counted 12. Another person said that was wrong; he counted 14. So we did a slow count and discovered that there was 13 - which was just right for the last supper. (The painting by Da Vinci.) I remarked that this was the folks in charge of running the USCF and that brought a laugh all around.

This gives a flavor of the dinner. We were all relaxed and a little tired and having dinner and having a good time. I liked seeing these people not as celebrities and pols but as human beings.

At breakfast, Jim Berry and his wife sat at the table next to mine. As we were close together, we struck up a conversation. I raised the issue of the Oklahoma split. He pointed out that there were two sides to every story and proceeded to give his own. I replied that this put his actions in a new light as far as I was concerned. As for the USCF Forums, not everyone is unreasonable. He should have told his story direct here. I think he understood what I was trying to tell him. As for the election, it is a moot point now, anyway.

As for this morning's meeting, I was reluctant to speak as I had caused so much commotion the day before. They discussed the web site and the forum.

Paul pressed for improving content of the website, while Bill G and Mike N spoke of overworking J Shahade. For those who know my past views on this subject, you know I have strong and very negative views of how web content is handled. Bill G did agree that for US events, no one ought to beat out the USCF in reporting on them. They left the issue unresolved.

On to the discussion on the USCF Forum. The two sides on the Board seems to be "End it" versus "Mend it". Andy Applebaum has resigned and they spoke of the difficulty of finding people to be moderators and FOC members. Bill G said that there was a new regime of some kind with new AUG and new mandates but that has not started as of yet. It sounded to me that he was speaking more of change of policy than of personnel. The Board decided to wait and see what this new change would do. I can't explain this, as I don't know what he was talking about.

I spoke up to say that I had written extensively on forum management and I would just refer them to that. Bill H said that he would put be down for the moderation team but I had to decline as I am already committed this Forum. Paul laughed and said that him and Susan have had no problems with moderators quitting.

Other matters discussed was certifying coaches for kids. They were concerned with legal liabilities for this. The fear is you just know that someone in the country is going to abuse a kid and when it is found that he is a USCF certified coach, then they would sue the USCF. I spoke up and said that the USCF ought to have criminal background checks but they said that this would expose the USCF to even more criminal liability.

Bill G wants to change the election of EB members to the Australian ballot. Sounded like a good idea to me but everybody was against it.

Another Bill G proposal was to allow wealthy donors onto the Board. If someone were to kick in say $50,000 they could buy themselves a seat on the board for say two years, bypassing the election process. His proposal was in the concept stage only. There was much opposition to this, too. They did decide to look at having an Advisory Board as many non-profits do.

I'm afraid my coughing was getting worse and worse. Terry V gave me something to suck on and when Joel Channing asked me with real concern if I was alright, I knew it was time to leave. I was becoming too great a distraction.

In short, I was struck how nice everybody was. The whole experience was positive for me.