Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In which we sign off for the holidays

The concentration now is on the Tiggers.

The waitlists have whittled down about as much as they’re going to. The rough area is PF. We’ve let in 4 teams per school, and gotten to 200 entrants. You can do the math on that yourself. I would imagine that if we had the space we could easily have gone up to 5 or 6 teams for most schools. Of course, there is a down side to that. Someone has to handle all those ballots. And PF is the hardest, what with all the lay judges. I mean, it’s hard enough for whoever invented PF to get the ballot straight, much less some poor parent doing it for the first time. I always used to right down insulting descriptions of which kid was which on my flow, so I’d know who was on which side and who was speaking first or second. Hairy Ape. Knock Knees. Snape Lookalike. Potato Face. Et cetera. Of course, I did not show the flow to Hairy or Knock or Tater. Anyhow, no matter how you slice it (or mash it), 200 is a lot of ballots to process before the next round.

LD mostly won’t have that problem, although between the two divisions we have more ballots. We have such a big break on Saturday between rounds that there’s plenty of time to rabble-rouse and still get all the ballots entered. Plus I’ll put some loose Tigs to work, given that we’ll be getting most of our info via text. I still maintain that e-ballots won’t work without a big infrastructure and no where for the judges to disappear to. I may be wrong, but I’m the one paying the price for it. So it goes.

Speech and Congress, which I know you’re wildly interested in, are also nicely set.

I spent a lot of time on Sunday room whispering. Did Friday and Saturday both for everything but Speech, which is JV’s devoir. I even managed to keep a few spare rooms in the McCosh building, our central launching area, for emergencies. I also hired out an oodle or two of judges to everyone.

So, it’s all mostly set. This time out I’ll open the prefs on Thursday, rather than repeatedly telling people to redo them every time there’s a drop or add. I’ve learned my lesson. Earlier in the week I’ll publish the riot act about judges showing up and the proper use of conflicts. And then I’ll sail off into the sunset that Friday morning, or more to the point, away from the sunrise, to beautiful New Jersey, the alleged Garden State.

Meanwhile, enjoy the upcoming holiday. We've got all kinds of fun things planned. Maybe we'll run into you while we're doing them. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

In which we debrief on Wee Sma Lex

I went up to Lexington Friday after work. The traffic in the other direction was stopped dead from about Hartford to Waltham, from what looked like accidents. I vowed never to go in that other direction. I also posted on FB that I was going, in support of regional debate, mostly just because everybody else was going to Glenbrooks, which seems to be the de facto way to spend the weekend. We only had about 400 (!!!) people at Wee Sma Lex. What do I know? Anyhow, that post got more likes than anything else I can remember posting. It was nice to see.

Of course, I used to love going to Glenbrooks, back before I dumped it in favor of WSL. We had a lot of fun, it was well run, it had a great, quality-of-life type schedule. And we always did well. But the lure of a tournament that would take all of the younger side of my team, train them to be housed, build up a little confidence and not cost much money eventually won over the day. Driving back on Saturday night and stopping at Reins was another thing in its favor, although I didn’t do that this time. As it turned out, the traffic was quite light heading back, and I just barreled through, singing along with my oldies playlist. Made the trip in record time, but I did miss having a nice Reuben. You can’t have everything.

As predicted, WSL was fun. Got to work with the Massachusetts folks, Pajamas Wexler, Undead Averill (the only live person I know with a memorial tournament) and Kaz, and the Lex team, which is very competent. We had plenty of e-balloteers, although there were enough Luddites to warrant firing up my printer. Most of the entrants were PFers, not surprisingly. New England was among the first regions to go gangbusters on the event, because, according to CP, it was seen as an offshoot of speech back then. No longer. It’s got its own momentum now. And as more schools swear off LD (not to mention Policy), the brainpower has got to go somewhere. PF is the place. A perfect event? No. The best debate event overall these days? Pretty much. Easily trained judges providing a broad base of adjudication that mitigates against overspecialization is probably the biggest part of it. And the fact that coaches can understand it, as compared to LD, where the 14th shell off the 32nd spike in 7 second blips has rendered much of it into virtual nonsense, at least in the $ircuit world. But then again, circuit debate is a pretty limited animal, which many of us often forget. Treat yourself to a non-circuit tournament once in a while. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see, like people debating the resolution and adults involved in nurturing the activity. (I know, that is so illegit. Sigh.)

Speaking of CP, I was really disappointed that the software worked well all weekend. I hate when that happens. For a while we were talking about TRPC, which they were using at Glenbrooks, and singing the praises of Rich Edwards, although we’re not terribly in love with the program anymore, now that tabroom has come along. The half hour savings in every MJP round is reason enough to switch. The fact that we were comparing CP to Rich Edwards, and actually started referring to CP as Poor Edwards, is probably not something I should mention here.

So, even without a team I was glad I went. I knew I would be. You would be too, if you went. Or you were if you did. If you know what I mean.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

In which we cover this and that, with the odd rhapsodic waxing

Clearing waitlist entries is a daily chore. With the Tiggers, it’s an out and in process: if you drop out, I’ll put somebody else in. With the Franklins, there’s still some legroom, although I noticed that we’re nearing 200 in PF. Maybe it’s time to pull in those legs a bit.

TBAs bite the dust tomorrow for the Tigs. Nowadays that doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Presumably on the user ends it means that they finally decide who’s coming—and come on, people, it’s only two weeks away—but the numbers don’t shrink much, if at all. Aside from the bogus entries from non-high schools, everybody looks pretty legit to me. Of course, there may be minor trimming, but I’m not expecting much.

Speaking of non-high schools, I have to say that the level of fom toolery isn’t as high as it’s been in the past. Maybe people are getting the message. I guess it must be bleak, signing up for tournaments and never getting off the waitlist because your school doesn’t approve of your shenanigans, much less our tournament. I mean, there are some schools that are perfectly happy to have their maverick warriors scoot around the country, provided they're suitably chaperoned. But some schools obviously are of the persuasion, if we don’t have a debate team, you don’t get to be the debate team we don’t have. No one has yet come up with a good reason why the students who pursue private endeavors should be granted public support for them. I’m pretty sure that if your school doesn’t offer debate, it probably offers something else to fill up your empty hours. The problem is probably that there’s some literature that says debate gets you into better colleges, or colleges better, and people are so convinced that if you don’t get into X your life will be a total ruin that there’s no helping them. They’ve checked their reality at the door. Whatever. Not my problem.

At Scarsdale last week, I was further sunk into my comfy chair of not-my-problemism, now that I’m not coaching. No sick kids. No schlepping people to and from the high school, or heading north to the Hud when the tournament school is south of me. No coercing of judges to support the kids they insisted on giving birth to a decade and a half ago—I mean, they’re not my kids, and if you were going to be too busy to cover PF for them this weekend, you should have thought of that when you were jumping each other’s bones way back when. No explaining to parents that just because their kid is out, they’re still in. I mean, not having to deal with administrations and parents? Any wonder I retired from that end of it? I do miss the actual students, on the other hand. Coaching, as in explaining what you know about stuff to people who might actually listen to you, is fun. Explaining about stuff to people who think they know more than you do, on the other hand, especially when you really know an awful lot and they know an awful little, is not so great. Whatever. I have to admit that I still have a residual fondness for the Plebes, and kept a little eye on the progress of this year’s noobs. Good luck, folks. The debate world awaits you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In which we discuss the preffing of unknowns

I saw a Facebook discussion today, heartily joined by many, over the fact that there seem to be so many judges on the pref sheets these days that no one has ever heard of, and who have no published paradigms.

I think there’s some attempts in tabroom to solve this problem, but I don’t think they really do the job. For instance, there’s a button to ask for judge qualifications and history at sign-up, but there’s a similar button to ask for phone numbers, and plenty of judges get through unnumbered—I know, because I’ve tried to call them up. There’s a different button later asking for judge paradigms. Hmmm. I thought I’d give them both a shot. I tested them out (which required creating the bogus school Menick’s Academy for the Criminally Insane, which was way easy and explains a lot vis-à-vis bogosity in the registration business). For the former, a little box appears asking for qualifications, but it’s not accessible to the world at large (and, honestly, I couldn’t easily find it on the back end). For the latter, nuttin’. Of course, I didn’t expect much from either, because, let’s face it, this is not a tabroom-tech question. It’s a community state-of-the-art question.

One thing I’ve been doing at tournament setups is tossing in that everyone rank judges as either circuit, traditional or trained newcomer when they register them. It ain’t much, but it helps. When the coach enters a name and clicks trained newcomer for someone whose face has never been seen by said coach, much less seen in a training session, at least I’m hoping to instill a modicum of shame, although I doubt if I’m succeeding. Shamelessness seems to be one of the top requirements of coaches these days, often in direct proportion to the size of their squad. Maybe I should modify those categories, since they were originally intended to introduce MJP to the teeming masses. By now we’ve gone past the introduction stage. Maybe the categories should be experienced, partially clueless, and totally clueless. Experienced people will, by default, have published paradigms. The question remains, how clueless are the rest? Totally, or just partially? The point is to provide information to attendees that they can use for doing prefs. But of course, if you’ve never heard of someone, they’re going to be a 4 or a 5, on the assumption that strikes are for people you know hate you, and you’re unlikely to actually get 4s and 5s, so you’ll go with it. (Needless to say, if you want 1s for all your prelim rounds, be on the bubble. You’ll always get your best matches.)

Anyone whose first name is, for example, Mr., is dead certain proof that the coach of the team is not doing the job. Shameless, in other words. You don’t even know the names of the people you’re putting into a semi-chaperone position over your students? Seriously? You don’t conduct meetings for the parents of your students whom you take away from home weekend after weekend? You can’t ask your students what their parents' names are? Granted, the first name of Mr. or Mrs. is funny. But it’s also a serious indicator of a bad coach. I think I’ve said this before: when I was a kid, I had a cocker spaniel named Mister. The only reason you can put down Mister as your judge’s first name, in my opinion, is if he’s a cocker spaniel (who would probably do a better job than the person you’ve judge-bombed us with.)

Anyhow, I think most people know exactly how to do prefs in a world of anonymity. The bigger question is, why don’t people do their jobs and eliminate that anonymity? Go back to the inept/bad shameless coaches. Shouldn’t you take responsibility for the judges you’re bringing? I know damned well that you will take the first opportunity to complain about anything and everything you don’t like about the tournament, often before we’ve even begun registration. But are you a good debate citizen yourself?

It does all boil down to good debate citizenship. Are you doing your job? Are you bringing great judges? Are you making sure they’re there on time for all their rounds? Are you making sure they know what they’re doing to the best of their ability, and informing the tournament about the level of that ability? (I’ve made the point before that while coaches may whine about not getting all 1s, most good debaters are wise enough and capable enough to pick up any ballot, provided they know the provenance of that ballot. Run 27 theory shells in front of a first timer? You deserve what you get. The point at which we forget the nature of good old-fashioned judge adaptation is the point at which we have taken the teaching of public speaking out of the activity.)

My favorite recent story is the school that complained to us at an MJP tournament that we were discriminating against their judge who had never adjudicated any rounds. I don’t know what the objective source of our discrimination was supposed to be, but I do recall that the judge was a total unknown with no paradigm. With MJP, the tab room doesn’t pick the judges, the students do, in aid of best matches as they perceive them. Regardless of whatever you’ve done to perceive of yourself as being discriminated against, being a total unknown trumps that coming and going. You’re the devil they don’t know. Students weren’t blowing you off because they knew you and your discrimination-worthy nature. They were blowing you off because you were unknown to them. Of course, that’s a one-off situation. But it is a good demonstration of how ignorance is a great determinant of action. I know nothing about X, but I’ll be damned if I won’t complain about it. [Sigh.]

The good news is, with a nice sized pool at a big tournament, tabroom does a spectacular job of assigning highly preferred judges. (That was one of the biggest original reasons for moving away from TRPC, which made you do most of it by hand.) Most of the time, you are getting 1s and 2s, unless you’re one of those schools that have, shall we say, a unique vision of the judging pool. I know there are people out there who claim to be able to game the system, and for all I know, maybe they can. But the system, such as it is, doesn’t require gaming. Put the judges you most want to be judged by in the highest rankings, and you’ll probably get them. Trying to read the mind of your competitors’ coaches, or whatever? Good luck with that. And meanwhile, look to your own judges. Make sure they have up-to-date paradigms, and that they perform their job professionally at the tournament. See to your own debate citizenship, and the world will be a better place.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In which we debrief on Scarswegia

Scarsdale went swimmingly.

Your humble tab team included myself, Father Michael, Kaz and Catholic Charlie. We were working out of the library, which was either hotter than Hades or freezing, depending on the time of day. Friday night they were vacuuming the place for hours on end; my ears are still buzzing. On the other hand, I am pretty dust-free.

It turns out that, if you have a judge named Shipoopi, the song is going to take ear worm residence in your brain, and you will sooner or later listen to the entire Music Man soundtrack, which seams like the perfect sort of music for this group. Fr M offered for our possible entertainment some sort of Irish folk music, which would, I guess, fill a much needed gap on my iPod. I was also roundly chastised for actually having an iPod—until we were all harmonizing on “Good Night Ladies.” It was that kind of tab room.

Mostly everything ran smoothly. The only issue I had with tabroom was my own fault, but it was buried deep. I’d created a pool of judges and assigned some rounds, then replaced that pool with another and assigned the same rounds. Confusion ensued, but CC managed to uncover the discrepancy. Some problems are buried deeper than others. The lesson: Delete pools that you’re not using. I also had some issues drawing from multiple groups into my pools, but it must have been sunspots because I thought I had done it before, and CP told me he was able to do it so shut up, and then I could do it again, so there you are. Gotta love the tabroom help desk! (Actually, we didn’t curse CP much at all this weekend. I did curse Fr Michael though, which didn’t exactly produce the hoped-for results.)

One thing about this year, the number of debating judges was minimal. Whether this was just happenstance, or if people really don’t want their debaters to judge at the same tournament remains to be determined. It does change the nature of the beast, obviously.

Of course, all the usual suspect were up to all their usual shenanigans. I outlined them vaguely yesterday. Why judges believe that they shouldn’t be judging, the job they are at the tournament to perform, is beyond me. And when it’s single flights, which an extremely easy burden for any judge, and they’re still whining about it, well, you just want to boot them in the butt and get them out there doing their job. The number of no-e-ballot Luddites was depressing, although now there’s a big L on the schematic in tabroom next to the Luddite’s name. Loser, of course, is a better ascription of the initial. We also need a letter for people who, A) press the Start button before they get to the round, and B) never press the Start button until a runner goes in and hits them over the head with a frying pan. Curiously, that latter group includes mostly judges who do this every week. By the frying-pan-shaped dents in their heads ye shall know them.

The judge lounge food, as Facebook had hoped, lived up to its billing. And there was plenty of it. I noticed the Paginator in there a couple of times. He had his valet handling his judge duties for him most of the weekend, so he was free to tell tales of great adventure to the assembled hoi and polloi while everyone else was working. (But he’s going to have his work cut out for him at Ridge, where he does PF: they’re breaking down the doors for that one!)

Through it all, JV, wearing taped Harry Potter glasses, seemed to be way less stressed than usual. Not having to give a thought to potential blizzards didn’t hurt. And who can be anything less than gleeful with “Shipoopi” spinning around in their head all weekend?