Thursday, April 27, 2006

BrokeBack Barista

No, this isn't some sort of new comedy movie with baristas testing each others' tampers.

Get your mind out of the gutter and get yo hand outta my pocket!

This is serious.

A fellow barista in San Francisco fell out of a three-story building while most of us were cavorting in Charlotte at the SCAA Conference the other week. Steve Ford is his name and he built his fame with Blue Bottle Coffee. I met Steve in January 2005 just after he had opened Blue Bottle's kiosk in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. I personally don't know him very well having only met him once, but what a nice guy - and everyone on the West Coast from Brownwen to Dismas to the crew at Ritual all think he's swell.

So, he falls out of a building and was airlifted to a shock trauma hospital in the Bay Area where he was treated and is recovering nicely. But as some of you may know, a visit to the hospital is an expensive one. Being airlifted and kept in the hospital is exorbitant. And Steve doesn't have medical insurance.

Because of this, some of our friends have started a "Save Steve Ford" fundraising drive to help Good Man Steve cover his medical expenses.

Please take a moment of your time to consider a donation of any amount to help this effort and help a brotha out.


It's Never Dull at the USBC

If you're a regular listener of the Podcast and have heard the most recent episode, Podcast 36, then you already know what my thoughts are about the USBC Committee's spineless attempt to placate a certain Nebraskan competitor.

In a word, I think it's "Bullshit".

After the recording and release of Podcast 36, I thought I would enjoy a nice leisurely night at home. To my chagrin, a message from the USBC Committee popped into my e-mail box, it read:

April 26, 2006

To Whom It May Concern:

It was brought to the attention of the USBC Event Manager, Michelle Campbell, by the USBC Judges' Committee Chair, Tracy Allen, that there was a mis-judgement against USBC competitor, Ryan Dennhardt. This took place during his competition in the semi-finals of the USBC on Sunday, April 9, 2006.
It concerned the type of cappuccino cup used by said competitor. The cups were judged incorrect by three of the four sensory judges. Later, during the judges' calibration that follows the performance, the cups were deemed incorrect by all four judges. This decision cost competitor, Ryan Dennhardt, four points in his final score of the semi-finals.

In reviewing the validity of the judges' decision, several things came to light. Mr. Dennhardt had brought two sets of cups for his performance. Both sets appeared to be the exact same cups from the outside. Inside, one set had squared or straight bottoms and the other set had the appropriate rounded bottoms. Prior to his performance, Mr. Dennhardt had asked the advice of one of the judges to check one of the sets of cappuccino cups he hoped to use. The judge told him the cups had a flat bottom and would be marked incorrect. Upon hearing this information from the judge Mr. Dennhardt decided to use a second set of cappuccino cups he brought that did have the correct rounded bottom. During his performance, the correct cups were used, but due to the similarity of the exterior of the cups, (compared to the flat bottom cups first reviewed) three of the judges assumed that they were the incorrect cups. This was an incorrect assumption. In fact, the correct cups had been used.

As a result of this review and the events that took place, it is the decision of the USBC Event Manager and the Judges Committee that Mr. Dennhardt be given the four points that he lost (in the Semi-Finals Round) as a result of this mis-judgement.

We appreciate this coming to the committee's attention and the opportunity to correct the score. Please know that the process in place for contesting judges' decisions is there for the most transparency possible in the use of the USBC Rules and Regulations for these competitions. A complaint must be made in writing to the Event Manager and all information must be compiled immediately following the event.

It's always refreshing to see how the vanity and ego of one person ruins it for the whole.

Is this Dennhardt guy so hard-up for validation of his place in the USBC Finals that he can't let it go? What more do you want? Bullied his way into the Finals round on a bullshit call but got smacked down by the people who deserved to be there by placing Seventh. The illegitimate fact that he participated in the Finals round should have been enough. But obviously that's just not enough for this guy.

Hey Dennhardt, wake up. There's not a competitor in the USBC that believes you deserved to be in the Finals this year. And no matter how hard you try to make your placing look "legit" everyone knows that it's a sham.

At the 2005 USBC Dennhardt did a very noble thing at Cyclops in Seattle. Something that earned tremendous amounts of respect from me. He's thrown that respect away by his actions at this years' USBC.

"Cups that looked alike." What kind of bullshit is that? Each competitor knows that judges will drag their demitasse spoon on the bottom of the cup to test the "roundness" of that cup. If a USBC Judge hits you with points for a flat bottom, it's because they tested it, not because they "looked" at the outside. Let's not miss the fact that THREE OUT OF FOUR Judges scored incorrect cups. A majority of the judges said they were wrong and yet the USBC Committee is going with the minority?

Also, don't miss the point that Dennhardt talked to "a judge" about which of the two cups were appropriate. Is this one of the actual judges from his round? If so, isn't that illegal unto itself? Or did he speak with all four of his sensory judges, asking each one which cup was appropriate? Because that's the only way those three judges would have predisposed to marking him incorrectly.

And to bring that forward now after SIXTEEN DAYS?

So who was this judge that Dennhardt "consulted" about his cups? If it was the Head Judge for his round, why didn't the Head Judge challenge the rulings of the three sensory judges? He obviously challenged the minority judge to change his/her score.

It's time to lend the truth to this claim of "transparency" by providing the names of the judges involved in this incident. Is this truly a question of incompetence on the part of the judges? Or is this just a prime example of the corruption of the USBC?