Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In which we pretty much wrap up Jake

One does get to see all sorts of people one hasn’t seen for a while at Big Jake, which is a good thing for the most part. The truth be told, I’m more likely to be ducking bumping into locals rather than avoiding far-flungs, as the locals are more likely to have annoyed me recently while the far-flungs annoyed me long enough ago that I’ve probably forgotten about it. Then again, I’ve forgotten what I had for breakfast this morning, so maybe it’s a wash.

Throughout all of this, O’C is like a stereotypical Japanese tourist who has to have his picture taken in front of all the sights. He did it on the DisAd, and he did it at Jake. Check out his FB pix. O’C standing in front of this alum or that alum. O’C standing in front of this coach or that coach. O’C standing in front of the Foods of the World Unite. O’C standing in front of the trophies (which, given that some of them are as big as the Ritz, make him look teeny weeny indeed). O’C standing in front of the urinal. O’C standing in front of the Mr. Softee truck. Actually, that last one was with a purpose, as Mr. Softee has now been officially awarded a Bronx Achievement Award. Personally, given that Mr. S never has chocolate dipping sauce to make what I used to call a Brown Bonnet, I think the award was unearned. But you try to stop O’C from giving an award: I don’t have the stamina.

Then again, I can’t say I saw much of himself over the weekend. CP and I were ensconced in the principal’s conference room, a quite comfortable space that is small enough to discourage tab leeches. We had a good team of major and minor domos, and when we needed to find out why someone hadn’t pressed the right button a mile away, they went and got the button pressed. Then again, one of them kept slurping bubbles at the bottom of his empty iced tea glass. Hmmmmm. That’s a hanging offense. Unfortunately we had blocked internet access, so CP had to do some of his magic to connect us to Sporcle, but once he had done so, even bubble-slurping couldn’t bother us.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this there was an NDCA board meeting, which didn’t move the needle much. I couldn’t get my computer to Skype, presumably because of the blocks, so eventually I did it on my phone, which worked fine. But there were no revolutions, counterrevolutions, or even blips on the screen. Then again, I wasn’t expecting any, so there you are.

Since there were no major explosions of irate pitchfork-carrying coaches into LD tab, I have to believe that we did a pretty decent job. If I never see another mob of irate pitchfork-carrying coaches exploding into LD tab, I will die happy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

In which we debrief on the events of the previous weekend

Seriously, I don’t have much to say about Big Jake.

I guess the issue of electronic balloting is a big deal, but it went over so well that we barely noticed it in tab. We did have one judge without usable electronics, so for a few rounds we had to remember to print out the ballot and, later, to sort the ballot, but that was it. Of course, this was LD. I gather things were dicier in the PF universe, where many of the judges are unaware that electricity has been harnessed for the home, but Father M seemed to be functioning okay despite this. Policy, needless to say, had no issues with e-ballots, they all being old hands at it.

Speaking of electricity, we did have one yabbo who came by to claim that he couldn’t debate because he had no access to electricity in his room. As we were rolling on the floor in hysterics, he mumbled something about running a electrical socket critique and I think he thought that this threat would sober us up. I will point out that he did not accept our offer to print his cases for him, since he couldn’t read them off his dead computer. He sniffed at this unlikely scenario and was never heard from again. The only other interesting confrontation was when we were going to forfeit students who hadn’t shown up for their round, after, I might add, determining that there could have been no confusion about where to go. We were operating under the assumption that, if the judge is in the room and a runner comes in and the judge says there are no kids, and the runner goes down to tab and reports it and then goes back to the judge and then back to tab again, and the kids still haven’t shown up, the argument from the coach that the judge wasn’t there is, well, not very strong. We rescheduled the round because, well, we’re wonderful human beings that way, but people, here’s the thing. Go to your room. If something is amiss, and there are 1000 runners within Ebola contagion distance, tell one of them that something is amiss. Do not shrug and wander off, or sit down and read a book and discontinue paying attention to the situation that you thought was amiss. In other words, stay where you’re supposed to be and report the situation. This is not contradictory advice, since most debate rounds have at least 2 people involved in them and often more; one can report the problem while the other holds the fort. And don’t wait an hour before reporting the amiss-ness, especially if you are all alone. The thing is, if you are all alone, you are probably in the wrong place. The longer you remain there, the less likely we can set amisses aright. Too bad common sense is on the endangered species list.

It was fun to work with CP. I’m thinking this is the first time we’ve sat together using tabroom, and I have to admit, I learned a few things. There is something to be said for having the creator of the application in the chair next to you. At some point he was beavering away fixing a bug, but to be honest, I didn’t notice the bug at the time and for all I know it was in answer to an online problem submission, of which there are many throughout the day. A bit of advice: if you have a problem, be specific. Help requests along the lines of, say, “I find your program generally confusing,” don’t really suggest avenues of pursuit to solve the problem, although they do provide some welcome comic relief. Also, comments like, “My school doesn’t have a program and I want to create a phony school so my daughter can attend tournaments,” aren’t really advisable if I’m reading them (and I am). Then again, I got an email this morning from someone who wants to send their kid to the upcoming MHL in policy, and asked if we could provide a partner since the kid has none, and ended by asking what the topic is. That’ll work.

Anyhow, I learned some new tricks from CP, who promises to find a new host for the program, given that the present host is occasionally slower than some metaphorically really slow thing. There were only a couple of big tournaments running over the weekend (Jake and HOT), and combined they shouldn’t have been able to stop things quite so dead in their tracks as they did. The only problem we had, and I suspect it was (my) user error (although I can’t imagine why), was pairing the final round. Fortunately, in this particular final round there were only about 2 debaters, and we had plenty of judges to choose from. We all suspected that reentering data from the previous round or two would fix the problem; JV did exactly that, and yes, it did the job. In any case, it wasn’t particularly a disaster, just an annoyance. The trains continued to roll on time, which is all that anyone can ask.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In which we preview this year's BB Opening Award Ceremony

I read in the Times this morning that the Dutch Army—all of it—has checked into the tournament hotel, so they’ll be ready for the opening ceremony on Friday. They’ll be marching into the auditorium in full battle regalia, acting as an honor guard for this year’s winners of the Bronx Disillusion Awards, given annually to former debate people who have demonstrated a firm resolve to get as far away from the activity as possible until Jon Cruz set a trap for them in their backyards and hauled them in bodily, torturing them by repeated forced viewings of the Bea Arthur segment of the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Show until they finally capitulated and agreed to show up, just make it stop, just make it stop, JUST MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!

After the induction of the new honorees, there will be a musical interlude during which Stephen Sondheim ’47 (well, not really, he went to the George School in Pennsylvania, but he probably wishes he went to Bronx Science, so we’ll just fudge it) will conduct the Sumerian Philharmonic Orchestra in a rousing rendition of the Bronx Fight Song (“Pick up your pencils, put down your pencils, hand in your papers, try not to drop the ball this time you schmegeggie”) followed by the original cast of “Oh Calcutta” performing a medley of their hit from the show. It is unclear whether or not they will be wearing their costumes from the show.

Next up, Jon Cruz will descend from the rafters in a hot air balloon. Given the amount of hot air at the average Bronx opening ceremony, this is probably not going to be as impressive as it sounds. Once his feet hit the ground, followed presumably by the rest of him, Cruz will make the preliminary announcements, telling the assembled multitudes the amount of prep time for Declamation Debate, that the official name for Policy at the Bronx is Polic-I-Mean-Team Debate, that the bathrooms will be closed for the duration of the weekend in honor of preserving the oceans (this year’s Polic-I-Mean-Team Debate resolution), and that those people you saw at the entrance to the building in hazmat suits are purely coincidental and you shouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to them.

At around this time, as everyone in the auditorium is about ten minutes into streaming the latest episode of NCIS: Ripon and paying no attention whatsoever to what’s happening on the stage, the curtain will pull back to reveal the Bolshoi ballet performing the Ballbuster Nutcracker Suite accompanied by some guy with GarageBand hacked onto an Apple 2GS. Seven of the people in the auditorium will look up momentarily and then go back to their television show.

In the Grand Finale of the ceremony, following a brief demonstration of the Glorious Dancing Fountains Water Vaganza (all other vaganzas are, of course, extra), this year's travelling awards will travel on their own power from whoever had them last year down to the stage, where they will take pride of place among the 3,283,291 other awards already on the stage waiting to be presented. A fifteen minute firework display, a short prayer for the repose of the immobile and the release of 1500 pigeons of the world into the auditorium will mark the end of the event.

(NOTE: all participants at the award ceremony will be given an umbrella in advance of the pigeon release.)

(ALSO NOTE: the serving of squab internationale for lunch on Saturday as part of the Foods of the World Unite is entirely unrelated to the pigeon release. However, a bounty of a buck a pidge will be paid out immediately following the closing of the opening ceremony. How many other tournaments can you think of that offer you a chance to earn back your entry fee?)

Monday, October 13, 2014

In which we return from the frigid north

Another Monticello Kaiser tournament goes into the record books.

This was one of our “Academy” tournaments, aimed at younger students who might get shut out from events like Big Bronx. So can someone explain to me why people aren’t breaking down the doors? An awful lot of schools didn’t sign up, and they are the schools who would seem to benefit most from such an event. Are they too hoity-toity for such things? “TOC bids only, please, before we wear out any of our precious shoe leather.” Whatever. A few schools blew off their entry and dropped after the fee deadline. This could be problematic for their entry at, say, Bump. Why do people forget that the handful of people in tab are the same people week after week? Do they just think that we’ll forget they stuck a school with extra food and extra trophies that proved unnecessary? Oh, well. There’s good debate citizenry and bad debate citizenry, and the usual suspects always seem to be the usual suspects, and what can you do? I support the good citizens as I become progressively less interested in the bad ones. Do what you want, folks. But don’t be surprised when I do what I want on my end.

We did have some tabbing problems. One of them, a soupcon of mis-flighting, CP says he was able to correct. The other one, the wrong people advancing, was entirely my fault, because of a bad setting that I put in. The problem is that when something like that happens, after about a minute of panic, one sets about moving the tournament along come hell or high water, which we did (I was working with Kaz), first by hand and then by recalling a workaround for this from past experience. We never did realize the root cause until CP pointed it out after the fact. As I told him, thank God it was user error. That I can learn from and fix. I just worry about people who aren’t us, using this program week after week. I’ve been wondering if it would make sense to put out a default set of tournaments that people can copy and work from, rather than always starting from scratch (or from what’s input from the last iteration of the tournament, which is moot if there was none in tabroom). Isn’t it better to adjust defaults than to have to always fill in everything? Anyhow, I’ve often said that most of tabroom success is based on setting things up right, because there’s so bloody much to set up. That has proven true once again.

Still, I got home for dinner, and on the bright side, our PFers managed to get a winning record and break to octos. Very nice. I’ve got to remember to put in their NSDA points. (There’s a new one for the Sailors!)

And finally, prefs opened today for Big Jake. Things seems to be working fine, aside from the fact that there were two Ryan Hamiltons listed as LD judges, and popular opinion is that one Ryan Hamilton is more than enough to do the job. I fixed that, and then I went in and conflicted The People’s Champion and my daughter, neither of which should probably judge Hen Hud. As for PF strikes and LD prefs, I’ve set it up so that the Sailors can handle that themselves, another nice feature of tabroom.

Meanwhile, O’C is floating on an uncharacteristic sea of calm for these last few days before the event. Obviously he’s in denial.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

In which we leak the instructions to the PF judges

As we were able to discover the guidelines to the LD judges on speaker points at the upcoming NYC Invitational, we have also discovered an early version of the overall instructions to the PF judges that will be printed on the ballots. Whether these instructions will be final remains to be seen.

TOPIC: It is better for professional sports teams to play in stadiums than on the streets, but if we hear about just one more pro athlete behaving badly we should stop professional sports altogether and go back to reading Thoreau, which is almost as exciting as, say, the World Series or the Superbowl, provided you have a really low threshold for defining the concept of exciting.
• Judges should decide the round as it is debated, not based on their personal beliefs. In other words, the debaters are not here to change your mind, but to convince you as if you had no mind at all, which I assure you is what they will believe if you don't vote for them.
• Written ballots are important to the coaches to understand what happened in the round. This could require the judge to actually pay attention during the round, and we apologize in advance if this is an inconvenience.
• We understand that this may be the first time some of you have been exposed to spoken English, so when it comes time to write your ballot, don’t get carried away. “The Pro Teem Was Moor Serpuasive” is about as much as you need to say, especially if you think the Con won.
• We are hoping to have total adoption of electronic ballots. To enable this process, you can use either a computer, a tablet or a smart phone to access our wireless. If this last sentence was a total mystery to you, tab will be happy to provide you with paper ballots completely filled out, including the winners and losers and the RFD, “The Pro Teem Was Moor Serpuasive.”
• Debaters should advocate or reject the resolution in manner clear to a non-specialist citizen judge. That’s you. Clash of ideas is essential to debate. Clash of fists, on the other hand, is taking things a little too far. If fisticuffs do break out during a round you are adjudicating, the prudent course for you to take is to let them duke it out. Each debater should be assigned speaker points in the opposite order of hitting the canvas.
• Debaters should display logic and reasoning, advocate a position, use evidence, and communicate clear ideas using professional decorum. Like that’s gonna happen…
• Neither the pro nor con should offer a plan or counterplan, defined as a formalized, comprehensive proposal for implementation. Rather, they should offer reasoning to support a position of advocacy. Debaters may offer generalized, practical solutions. The funny thing is, despite the fact that all this doesn’t make much sense and there’s virtually no way to address most resolutions without evaluating implementation, we stick by it. Worse, half the time debaters in the round who are offering a plan or counterplan immediately cry foul when the opponents offer a plan or counterplan and demand an immediate victory for their side. Judges who can work their way through this conundrum are to be congratulated.
• Crossfire should be dedicated to questions and answers rather than reading evidence. Evidence may be referenced. There are probably other things we could say about crossfire, like for instance it may or may not be important, it may or may not be counted into your decision calculus, and it may or may not be clear who is asking whom what, but those are beside the point. The important thing for the judge is to somehow survive the Grande Crossfire, where all four debaters are talking at once and no one is making any sense. Meanwhile, you can thank your lucky stars that we are not using Venti Crossfire, where the judge also has to participate. If you have noise-cancelling headphones, Grande Crossfire is the time to use them.
• No new arguments may be introduced in the Final Focus; however, debaters may include new evidence to support prior arguments. The reason for this is, of course, that you can’t start something new to which your opponents will not be able to reply. However, once the round is over and the decision is announced, the losing debaters are encouraged to take on an attitude of high dudgeon and explain to the judge how idiotic this decision is and to attempt to convince the judge to change the decision. Judges are encouraged to entertain such suggestions, and run into the tab room and explain how they didn’t know what they were doing until these helpful debaters explained it more clearly. That way the tab room will have a good laugh while surreptitiously marking you as a C judge for the next round.
• Debaters must supply evidence on request to the judge or their opponents. Evidence is, surprisingly, not the sentence in their case where they said that 34% of all dentists recommend Viagra to their patients who chew gum. Evidence is a copy of the original article in Dental-Marital Arts Magazine where the dentists themselves said that 34% of all dentists recommend Viagra to their patients who chew gum. Don’t be fooled by substitutes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

In which we succumb to the annual October tempation

The following was leaked from this year’s Fairly Large Bronx tournament. I’m not sure if it represents what they’ll actually print on the LD ballots.

Judges: Please use the following guidelines for assigning speaker points.
30: avoid at all costs, unless you want Vaughan to come out of tab and hit you over the head with a frying pan
29: debater paid a boatload of money for private coaches
28: lone LDer on all-Speech squad hoping to last long enough to have to find private transportation home to avoid the singing of show tunes on the bus
27: may break to runoff round, but will then immediately be torn into limp Froot Loops by the top seed
26: unlikely to break to runoff round at this tournament, the next tournament, or for that matter any tournament ever, and should have joined the 43-man Squamish team when he had the chance
25: ran an RBI vs an SUV while misquoting the TMI card, creating a violation of the DMV for the IRS and not responding to repeated cries of “Hey, you, wake up!” (Or something like that. I mean, it's LD. Who knows what the hell anyone is talking about anymore?)
24 and below: use only for exceptionally poor fashion/grooming choices including rampant nose hair, Doctor Who bowties and VPBs (visible plumber's butts). Wearing Chester A. Arthur costume is unlikely to sway anyone but the tournament director, and who cares what he thinks?

We will be using tenths of points despite our belief that the likelihood of any judge objectively being able to assign a range of 50-60 different designations between 24 and 30 is about as likely as any judge being able to identify chemical elements from their atomic number. (Quick: What’s 105?) Keep in mind that when a round is 28.6 v 27.2, the tab room will inevitably fall on the floor laughing while the judge nevertheless maintains that he/she knows exactly what those points mean. [Snort!]

Because we are using a scale that defies everything we know about the human ability to choose between more than a handful of alternatives, no tied points will be allowed, as that would make things too easy. Untied points will also not be allowed.

Low point wins are acceptable, but meaningless if it’s only a tenth of a point. If you’re going to assign a LPW, make it a humdinger, like 29.9 v 21.2. Now that’s the kind of low point win you can take to the bank.

(Fans of this sort of thing are advised to check out http://coachean.blogspot.com/2011/10/big-bronx-schedule.html)