Monday, September 15, 2014

In which we are collegiate (with no apologies to Fred Waring)

I went to the Collegiate Round Robin this weekend. Aside from a drop-off of a trophy last year, I haven’t been since it was the Vassar Round Robin. One thing I noticed right away was that it wasn’t in Poughkeepsie, which meant schlepping down by train rather than driving up by car. Honestly, I prefer the train. It’s much easier to sleep than while driving, for one thing. And my last visit to Vassar, for the MHL and Invitational last year, was sort of traumatic. The sight of all those hot dogs…

Anyhow, for those who have never been there, Collegiate, which is older than any school you can think of and apparently once had Socrates as a teacher until they sent him out once to make a coffee run and he never returned, is a real warren of a building, or actually a number of buildings. You are greeted in the cafeteria by a handwritten menu left over from Per Se down the road, offering a fine selection of entrees that don’t even come close to debate ziti, mystery meat or sloppy joes. Apparently the wine list is a bit light on Bordeaux, but you can’t have everything. Sometimes you just have to settle for a Californian cabernet. Sigh. From this one might get an idea that the place is just too too, until you read the sign on the ladies room door explaining what ladies are and why they get to use this bathroom and you don’t. Normally I don’t read the signs on the ladies room door, and I assure you I wasn’t considering availing myself of that particular facility, but sometimes you’ve got to stop and smell the roses.

I had helped Aracelis set things up on tabroom, and I was there pretty much just to hang out after that. RRs are pretty straightforward, after all. Judges were a tad tight, and tabroom couldn’t really assign them after the first couple of rounds, but it was easy enough to do manually, starting with the hardest to place and working outwards. We hit a wall at one point, but a reboot and a slice or patience seemed to do the trick. CP claimed that there was no system outage, so I guess there must have been a system outage. (Not that I don’t believe everything CP tells me…) He was out in Chicago introducing more suckers disciples to the glory that is his program. One new feature that didn’t work was a notification of when all the ballots were in, which is nifty for an all e-ballot situation, and he seemed to get that working by the end of the day. Nice. Of course, we won’t be doing e-ballots in the depths of Hell House this weekend at Yale. I was considering doing them on the campus on Friday, but going on and off and on again seemed like too much of a reach at this point in the life of tabroom. Maybe next time.

Anyhow, the tournament ended, as most do, and it was a Lake Highland closeout, so I got to take a nice walk from the upper west side down to GCT, and then a nice nap on the ride home, and a pleasant time was had by all. Aracelis managed to cop a couple of tons of leftover meat and potatoes from Saturday night, so look for barbecue sauce stains on her fingers for the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In which we gratuitously mention Big Bronx in passing in order to increase page views

Apple has discontinued the classic iPod. I personally have purchased about 2 CDs this year (although I will allow that one of them was a multidisc set). The idea of physically owning music media, which has been dying for a while as people migrate to mp3s, is virtually over, aside from a few diehards. I actually thought I was one of those diehards until I found that Spotify had more albums than I do. While arguments can be made against the sound quality of the average song file, my old-age hearing loss is beneficial as far as that’s concerned. Maybe there will always be people buying vinyl (I recently threw most of my old scratched-up unlistenable vinyl away—beware of needles!), there is also still a market for Edison-era cylinders. The times move, and we move with them.

Still, I’m not giving up my big ol’ iPod anytime soon, much to the dismay/comfort of my companions in tab rooms. I have gotten off the kick of going through those bazillion songs alphabetically—the loop of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” at last year’s Big Bronx still haunts those of us who suffered through it—but I still like serendipity, so now I just go on random play of songs, and the devil take the hindmost. I’ve got some really good music on there. I’ve also got some real crap. And some stuff I can’t imagine how it got there. With luck, that little machine will last for quite a few more years. (Side note: I do have a playlist now of nothing but different versions of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”: I call it my “Torture Palmer Till He Does Everything I Want in Tabroom” playlist and I’ve got it set for endless repeat. [Evil laugh here. Big Bronx is coming.])

I was able to scare up some slots in JVLD at the Pups, now that VLD has settled down. I feel good about that. There’s a couple of programs I’d still like to let in, but we’re getting close. The shutdown tomorrow could have an impact, although I’m not sure. Things have been so static. There’s still 99 people on the PF waitlist, for instance. Not much I can do there, due to limitations of space. Still, I wonder if a division ought to be bigger than 200. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of prospective craziness. Even if a division has the space to expand to accommodate everyone, is that a good idea? Tab management gets crazy (especially in PF, which is hard to tab no matter how you slice it, with its floating sides in every round). Division quality can’t possibly be that high throughout, which is only a problem insofar as, in a big division, if there’s not enough rounds, teams can break that ordinarily wouldn’t. (Witness CatNats.) And there’s absolutely no control of judging. I mean, random is fine, but at some point, even in PF, don’t we want judges we trust judging important rounds? Maybe not. I know there are some people still reeling from the very idea that all judges aren’t randomly assigned, much less the trend to MJP. Oh, well. It’s a complicated question.

Meanwhile, Saturday it’s on to Collegiate. I’ll pack my backpack tonight (I’m out tomorrow). I’ve already looked everywhere for my really nice debate pens, which seem to be nowhere to be found. Hmmm. It wasn’t that long ago that O’C stayed over and took all the Disney shampoo containers. I wonder if he’s been over again lately? Well, at least I'll be in the City. There's got to be pen stores around there somewhere.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In which we thank our lucky stars for our popularity during debate season

I think I do this because, when I don’t do it, I don’t get much mail. Nobody asks me questions that are answered in the invitation. No one yells at me for losing their ballots last year with a warning not to do it again, you spalpeen! Nobody wonders why they didn’t get any hired judges, even though they didn’t request any hired judges. Nobody complains how hard it is to change motel arrangements, even though I’ve had to change my own motel arrangements and all I had to do was send an email to the nice people at the Hampden Inn and they were most accommodating. Let’s face it; 50% of being a coach is being a travel agent. Speaking of which, I just made my Montwegian reservation today. Must have taken me whole minutes. Oh, the humanity.

Last night the plebes appeared, in rather goodly numbers, meaning that next week I’ll have half a goodly number which is, in this case, still a goodly number. I look for 4 or 5 to make it for the long haul. If we start with 10, that’s where we end up. That’s right for Sailordom. We didn’t pick up many Speecho-Americans, though. They’ll just have to keep on recruiting. We can’t set sail without any Sailors.

Anyhow, back to the Pups. The number of VLD has settled. What I’m looking for next is filling in some of the JVLD slots. I had switched the totals to accommodate more of the former, but now that we’re down to loose or extra entries, it’s time to see to the young ‘uns again. How many remains to be seen, since that division has barely moved a muscle since the beginning. The thing is, a lot of people look to Yale, with what is the last of the JV divisions, as an important event. But the number of rooms is the number of rooms, and it does make sense to prioritize VLD for the sake of the tournament. It’s tough, and people are going to get blocked out. Not much we can do about that.

I will be going down to Vassaregiate this weekend to provide moral support, if nothing else. I love the fact that tabroom never forgets coaches’ notes, which means that, among other things, a couple of our judges are unavailable on Friday for a tournament that starts on Saturday. As long as the notes are eternal, they are, essentially, useless. Apparently the problem is that in Massachusetts, notes are indeed eternal, and the mobs that dumped the tea into the bay would rise again and dump CP into the bay, or something, if the notes went away. As I’ve said to him about a million times, feh! Even if the reason for keeping the notes were a good one, the fact that the reason comes from Massachusetts would render it misguided. I mean, these are the people who elected Romney and Dukakis! Seriously now…

Monday, September 08, 2014

In which we mostly kick the season into gear

Things seem to be locking down at the Pups. The TBAs are gone, the judges are all sold, and there isn’t much movement except the tiniest trickle. I’m still expecting one last little splash when registrations are fixed on Friday, but the way things are going, it won’t make that much of a difference.

Saturday was the NYCFL meeting, which is like the beginning of the season without anything actually happening. It was at Iona, although Catholic Charlie has moved up to directing the entire national league, and toward the end of the meeting, when we had the annual elections, we put Tommy B in his place. This is a big change. No more Genesis. Sondheim 24/7. Wowza! Otherwise not too much to report. We did agree to remove the flip from all PF rounds, which is pretty big. This is in keeping with NCFL, of course, but honestly, as long as there’s big imbalances in resolutions, where the only advice I can give my students is to flip the side that will always win, it makes sense. We know of cases where people flip into winning trophies. We also know of cases where people never debate one of the two sides. Strategically I kind of like the flip, but it only works if all other things are equal, and I don’t think they ever will be. We’re going to institute it at the MHL, too, in aid of it being a better learning scenario.

There is lots of movement of people and programs. Kaz, of course, abandoning the Hudson River for the Mighty [there must be some river or something in Lexington]. Some speech people have moved on. There’s all sorts of calendar changes. You name it. Students of my Hen Hud calendar are advised to take a new look at it, especially for MHL/CFL stuff. We put JV into Kaz’s MHL advisory position, which makes sense. He needs something to do to fill up his empty hours, after all. Anyhow, I’ll send out a message to the MHL troops at some point soon, to provide an update.

Tomorrow night is the first meeting with the new recruits, if any. I trust the Sailors have been driving in the sheep, but one never knows until one gets there. Pray for plebes!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

In which we wring our hands over bogus entries

The freebooters may be getting out of hand.

I do not feel a terribly great need to defend the idea that attendance at high school debate tournaments ought to be confined to official entries from actual high schools. This is about as radical as suggesting that attendance at high school tennis tournaments ought to be confined to official entries from actual high schools. Clubs like to claim that they’re doing all this great stuff for debate, and maybe they are and maybe they aren’t, but that’s not the point. Independent debaters like to claim that they are the stuff that dreams are made of, TOC-quality talent that the tournament needs to make it legit, but again, that’s not the point. Every event I attend is a high school event, with all the various sanctions and expectations in place, backed by and answerable to school administrations, for the benefit of the students in those schools. That’s the way that it is, and it doesn’t strike me as some horribly restrictive system that needs to be changed. Like many folks in the activity, I would like to see more debate in more places, but to me that means more debate in more schools, with recognition within those schools of the educational benefits of the activity. It does not mean more debate in unregulated and/or maverick situations outside of the basic educational context.

As I say, I feel no great need to defend this. Most people I know, from the administration of various national organizations to tournament directors to tab staff feel the same way, so this is hardly heretical. (And as for the latter, the tab staffs, given our experience with non-school entities, independent or otherwise, we have more than merely orthodoxy informing our opinions on this subject.)

I offer all this prelude to the fact that, regardless of the policies of most tournaments which restrict entry to official registrants from bona fide schools, we are now seeing what I would call a boomlet in bogus entries. People pretend to be their coach and sign up, even when their coach has specifically determined that their school will not be attending the tournament. People register under false names marginally similar to their own (in case they acquire a bid and want to claim it later). People simply register as their school slash independent, with no one at their school in fact endorsing their entry even as independents. People don’t even bother pretending to be a coach, but simply register as if they’re the school, creating a completely bogus account under the school name.

We’ve been weeding our way through these at the Pups, but they’re not alone in having this problem. I’m curious to what the warrant is for such deception/mendacity: since you’re not allowed at this tournament for one reason or another, it’s okay for you to lie your way in? This is the lesson of morality and ethics that we are teaching students today?


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

In which we watch the season commence

Things start up pretty quickly, once they start up. All of a sudden I’m getting a million emails, about this, that and the other. I’d almost forgotten what it was like.

This morning I sent out the first of what will no doubt be regular Pups emails on this and that. The waitlist remains ridiculous, although there should be some falloff over the next week. Still, there’s no way everyone who wants to get in will. Not a good situation. Needless to say, sending an email saying there’s nothing you can do immediately brings responses from people demanding that you do something. Oh, well. We’ll clear the TBAs Friday, although honestly I don’t think it will help all that much. The whole process is more aimed at getting people to be realistic rather than a general purge. As CP says, you can always put in one name and then change it to another later. But that says that you’re really coming, as compared to thinking you might be marshaling your troops at some point. I mean, it’s in a little over two week’s time. People should have a handle on it by now.

This weekend there’s the NYCFL meeting, followed by a NYSDCA lunch. The former is the same old same old, where we argue about the rules for Congress and poke at the schedule and reelect one another and eat bagels. As for the latter, this is a good idea, an opportunity for coaches to get together without a tournament breathing down their necks to talk about whatever concerns them. The only problem is transportation from one to the other means that I’ll need to drive into Manhattan. I don’t mind that so much, but I’ve gotten used to taking the train and sleeping. You really can’t do that while you’re driving. Then again, I can make more progress on my endless audiobook pursuit of the Harry Potter titles. Ms. R does slow down a bit after the first four books.

Tonight is the last chez before moving back to the high school next week. We’ll gnaw a bit at the topics and talk about recruiting. And then the game will be afoot.

Can Bump be far behind?

Monday, September 01, 2014

In which we put DisAd14 to bed

I want to finish up this DisAd business and get back to the forensics universe.

There isn’t much to say about Animal Kingdom. We rode the rides, we saw the animals, we ate lunch in the shade. That night we stuck to the theme and went to Boma’s for dinner. Disappointingly, the cocktail lounge there no longer has its own drinks as it did last time; there had been some great ones there. Not that this stopped us, but when Disney cuts back on something unique, well, I can’t ever think that’s a good thing. Like there’s no more literal rope drop in MK, for instance, and no Mickey-hand waving on the way in. That’s small stuff, but the details are what make Disney Disney. Anyhow, as we were drinking away, Kaz returned, and our merry little band was whole again.

Friday was Hollywood Studios. Again, we did all there was to do, pretty much. O’C started out spending a lot of time going on Star Tours, which is new since our last visit, and which now mixes and matches possible experiences. He was wearing his Darth Mickey Ears, and by about the hundredth trip the ride operators were pretty much convinced that his guy was Nerd Numero Uno without a friend in the world. So when we all showed up with him later in the day, needless so say, we pretended we didn’t know him. (Not true, of course; in fact, even I stocked up on merch at Tatooine Traders.) In fact, because of the variations, the whole load of us rode ST twice, and it was indeed different. Another very nice upgrade. Another fun thing was watching the paduwan training. Little kids who could barely hold their little sabers in battle with Darth Vader. Highly entertaining and cute. Later in the day O’C got picked to be color in the Indy stunt show, which made his day on face, until he was there in the hot sun in a caftan for an hour waving his arms around; it always adds a pall to the day when they carry the extras out on a stretcher. After a longish day, Liz and I slipped out and met up with JV back at the hotel lounge. A nice glass of wine and a little salad instead of Fantasmic? Just this once, you betcha!

Saturday was our valediction, a bit of a sleep in and later start on Epcot. Liz and I tried the Behind the Seeds walking tour of The Land, a really interesting change of pace. OC and I agreed that next time (???) we’d do backstage at MK. Doing Seeds meant skipping Captain EO. Thank God! Then we did all the countries we hadn’t already done, snacking, eating, watching movies, shopping, etc., wrapping it all up with the now traditional (except next time I want to go somewhere else) dinner at Germany and, of course, Illuminations.

After the DiDeAd four years ago, it seemed as if the stars had come together just right, and that the fun would never happen again. That was not true. The stars were in whatever was the right conjunction, and the proverbial lightning did strike twice. 8 people, many but not all of them of the forensician persuasion, can come together for four days of peace and love and rock and roll—wait a minute. Wrong event. And it’s more like ten days of fun in the sun under Disney skies, provided a little planning to avoid lines and to secure good food is spent ahead of time.

In other words, as far as I could tell, a splendid time was had by all.