Monday, October 27, 2014

In which we ponder the Newark MHL

We only got 3 rounds out at the First-Timers’ MHL. Why I continue to think every year that we’ll be able to get 4 out is the proverbial triumph of hope over experience. Oh, well. It’s always worth a try.

First of all, there was the team that ate the tournament for breakfast. We shall never see them or their director again. I got to enjoy watching O’C ream out said director. In the past we have ranked me as passive-aggressive, Kaz as educational-aggressive, and JV as aggressive-aggressive. We’ve never ranked O’C on this scale, because he is slow to explode. But when he does? Nuclear aggressive! No living thing could possibly survive it.

Kaboom…

Then there were all the usual problems with a borrowed building, like locked rooms. That can eat up half an hour without batting an eye.

And finally there were computer problems. First of all, we couldn’t log in, and worse, I didn’t get decent reception on my mifi. So there was that to contend with. And then we had what I can only refer to as latency problems. Some school networks simply don’t have the ability to manage what we do on tabroom. I talked to CP about this, and he claims it’s either latency and proxies or we’re doing something wrong and hitting a wrong button. But I don’t know what button to press that gives different results of the same data on different devices. That’s a server issue, somehow. And when I think about it, we hardly ever run on high school servers, and the two biggest meltdowns this year, at Yale and Newark, were on high school servers, and they both failed because of latency issues.

This problem can be solved. Don’t use unreliable servers. How do you know if a server is unreliable? For me, if it’s in a high school, which all sorts of controls of what can and can’t be accessed, it can’t be trusted. I have a mifi, and I’ve ordered a better one to come later in the fall. I’ll use that, or I’ll use Kaz’s phone if she’s around. If we’re on a college network, we’re pretty safe, I think. We had no problems at Princeton, Columbia or Penn. And if you must use an unreliable server, just have one station pairing rounds and printing/pushing. At least that way, what you get is what you get, as compared to what you get is one thing and what Joe gets is another thing and what Jon gets is another thing and when you send it to CP, he gets yet another thing.

The bind moggles.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In which we ramble

I’ve fallen behind in just about everything, or as we put it while we’re eating the haggis, it’s all ganged agley. I blame it on the DJ. I’ve essentially doubled my workload without doubling the hours in the day. Something’s got to give, and the extracurricular stuff in debate (albeit not the core stuff) suffers, things like updating my how-to docs and the like. Oh, well. The ship of Hud sails on, but the Menickean dinghies are not being launched with their usual rapidity.

CP copped to the finals problem at Jake. He was tinkering with something over here, and while he wasn’t looking something over there squeezed out of the tube. Or something like that. Good. Better him than me.

We had a practice round last night for our new novices. Always entertaining to see how people get started. Of course, that’s why we have events solely for starting novices. If stomachs are going to heave and brains implode as the adrenaline erupts, at least everyone else is in the same boat. But the plebes did quite well, and they don’t have to worry about embarrassing themselves this weekend.

This year at the first-timers MHL, because it is first timers, it made sense that they not debate the Oct topic on 10/25, which would mean exactly one shot for them at that topic and then a switch. Normally they’d get two shots at Sept-Oct, but this year the calendar didn’t like that. So they’re debating Nov's GMFs. Which means that at this tournament, f-t PF is Nov topic, non f-t pf is Sept-Oct topic, novice LD is modest novice, jv LD is Sept-Oct LD, and policy is the 1862 Abolish the Whig party topic. Can you say Yikes? I’ve been getting a steady stream of questions about this, but realistically, in terms of who’s debating what, it makes sense. In terms of running a tournament, it’s absolutely nuts. Oh, well. It will all be over on Sunday, and it won’t be the first time we’ve run a nutty tournament.

Not much movement on the Bump front, meanwhile. There’s been the tiniest bit of attrition, but not enough to matter. People are still potentially debating in the janitor’s closet, the water closet and the Great Pit of Carkoon, which is not so wonderful a situation. The tiny number of available judges for hire, which I broadcast today, may sweep out some of the hoi and the polloi. We’ll see. We still have three weeks. (Three weeks? Great googly moogly!)

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.