Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In which we are inundated with work

I need a break.

The DJ is at its craziest. I’m doing mostly what I normally do, but I seem to be doing a lot more of it. As a matter of fact, I am doing a lot more of it. I’m helping cover for someone on leave, plus we’re about to embark on preparing books for our international divisions, and, well, there’s just so many hours in the day. I haven’t read a book for me since vacation, and see no end in sight. That’s the down side of an editor’s life. Yes, you get to read a lot of books, and the ones you stick with are usually fun, but they’re not the books you would have read by your own devices. Thank God for audiobooks. At least there it’s all for fun. Finishing up The Three Body Problem. Chinese SF. Interesting. Different.

As a general rule, I prefer fiction audios. I’ve done plenty of nonfiction, but you don’t necessarily read fiction and nonfiction in the same way, so the experience of listening may or may not apply. The mind tends to wander a bit during NF at times, as compared to, I don’t know, scenes where the aliens are invading the earth or whatnot. The latter seems, in the narrative spoken universe, a bit more compelling. Depends on the nonfiction, I guess. I mean, I haven’t enjoyed every single fiction audio. I haven’t finished one very famous novel that I found deadly dull and forced, and I haven’t finished one very famous collection of rock essays, which were deadlier dull and forcedier. Shocking. Who would expect that it’s hard to write about music? Duh. It’s also hard to write about painting, or dance. We can appreciate, and we can provide contexts, but certain art forms engage parts of our brain that words leave cold. So it goes.

I did get to see the granddaughter over the weekend. She’s grown about 25% in her first couple of weeks, and is happy as a clam. Her parents have this wraparound thing more like a glorified scarf than a baby carrier, and her father looked much like a Zouave soldier as we crossed the desert of Prospect Park. She slept contentedly during the whole thing. Cute. Meanwhile Kt and I are hashing over whether we should go to WDW in the fall. Probably yes, but not as commando as usual. Rowan won’t be up for, say, Expedition Everest yet. Still, WDW is a resort, and you can be as leisurely as you like, and soak up the sun and pools and lounges and atmosphere. I’m thinking we’re better than odds-on to do it. I’ll keep you posted.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In which we are unenthusiastic about the latest app

Holy smokes, Batman! There’s an app for CatNats: https://itunes.apple.com/US/app/id1220562992?mt=8

The bind moggles.

Going by the description on iTunes, the app has all the information from the CatNat website conveniently presented in one easy-to-access location. The idea that the CatNat website already conveniently presented all the information in one easy-to-access location may have eluded a few people. Maybe the fact that an app is available on a mobile device while web pages are not avai—Oh. Wait a minute.

We live in a strange world, and the Natholic Catholics are not the only ones who inhabit it. People above a certain age, let’s say the mid-30s but it could be elsewhere, live on computers. People below that age live on mobile devices. Because apps for mobile exist, and lots of people are mobile-addicted, there is a widespread belief that it’s better to have things in an app, even though those exact same things can be on a website, and nowadays even the clunkiest websites can be funneled into decent-looking content on mobile.

Go figure. To me, the idea that I need a specialized program to do something that I can already do via a browser is crazy. One browser = infinite apps. One app = one app.

I know, by the way, that this is crazy talk. If I were fighting this as a battle, I would lose. I know I’ve lost it long ago at the DJ. Yes, I am a dinosaur.

I can live with that. 

(Oh. I see you've stopped reading because you went over to iTunes to download the CatNaps app. So it goes.)


Monday, May 15, 2017

In which we say nothing good about a particular tournament

Forgive me for disparaging the world in which we live, where UKy manages to conduct a Middle School TOC. Qualification, I gather, is simply a matter of paying an entry fee. Are public middle schools paying for this, for 11-year-olds to fly to Kentucky for the weekend? I doubt it. It’s parents who believe that this will somehow improve their students' chances of, well, getting into those Ivy League colleges. You can look at the entries on tabroom.com and make your own judgments.

I love the idea of middle schoolers learning the art of debate. I do not love the idea of buying their way into an imaginary elite. Have I not ranted endlessly on the idea of local debate at appropriate levels versus the $ircuit? And now we have a junior buy-your-way-in $ircuit? Feh.

‘Nuff said.

Now that my season is over, I’ve begun devoting time to polishing up the Tournament Toolkit. While there are a lot of documents already available, there is a big missing piece, contained in the presentation I gave last year at the NDCA. It only exists in a PowerPoint presentation, and as far as I’m concerned, PowerPoint is the Middle School TOC of communication. I hate PP presentations, which are coin of the realm in the business world. It’s not the presentations per se, it’s the clumsiness in which they are handled. If you want to send me a memo containing two sentence-long pieces of data, don’t send me a 30-page PowerPoint. And if you want to give a formal presentation, don’t stand up in front of me and read your slides aloud. Occasionally someone does pull of a good PPt presentation, but it’s rarer than the stinkers. So it goes. Anyhow, much of value is hidden in my own presentation, and pulling it out of PowerPoint is virtually impossible, because the notes on the screen were simply jogs to me to elaborate. The bullets were aimed at me, not at my audience. My job now, as a result, is to write up the material that remains, at the moment, in virtual memory only. The first of these was the three most important things a tournament director must know. Although, thinking about it, I decided that the thing to kick off with is whether or not (and why) you should run a tournament in the first place. Which means reordering things on the website.

This is the sort of thing that keeps me busy on rainy Saturdays. That and the Hephaestus level of Bioshock, where I finally gave up and googled how to release the nitroglycerin. You can follow the flow of the toolkit on its Facebook page. As for the flow of my gaming, you’ll just have to imagine it. (Attendees of the Kiddyland TOC$ will no doubt prefer that I spend all my time releasing nitroglycerin and keep my opinions to myself. That will be the day.) 


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In which we realize that a list of tournaments can be both amusing and useful

If you go to tabroom.com without being signed in, you’re sent to the page of upcoming tournaments. (It's also the home tab when you are logged in.) It’s an interesting display.

All the tournaments, regardless of circuit, are listed in chronological order. The first thing you note is that there are tournaments that last seemingly forever. There’s a couple on the top that started back in April and are still going on. There’s some ten-dayers on the agenda. There are tournaments where registration closing is set as the same time as the tournament ending. There are tournaments that are obviously limited to a certain locality that are noted as national. There’s a college demo tournament scheduled for November of 2018.

It’s quite the entertaining display.

People aren’t terribly careful about setting up their tournaments, or more to the point, some people aren’t terribly careful. There’s ways of keeping a demo off the list by clicking a button indicating that it’s a demo. There’s lots of fail-safes preventing scheduling a tournament in the past, or the ending before the beginning, but apparently nothing preventing it from lasting until the end of the millennium. Or maybe these tournaments really are month-long. I’ve been to tournaments that felt as if they were months long. Maybe they were.

I have commented on people opening registration at times that are out of whack with the logic of attending that particular tournament on the TournamentToolkit Facebook page. Registrations that are too far in advance of the events simply give you lots of fictional entries, endless TBAs that people are only using as space fillers, not real indications of their numbers. Schools with a total of 3 teams in one event will reserve 6 slots in every event, things like that. Timely registration dates are an inherent reality check.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with putting a tournament on this page of tabroom.com, even if it’s practically a year from now. There are various calendars and schedules out there, but none are real as a listing on tabroom. Yale 2017, for instance, has been on there for quite some time. This has not stopped people from emailing me to ask when Yale will be happening in 2017. Which means that not only are they ignorant of the easiest lookup resource, but they actually think I’m still involved with the tournament. Didn’t the lack of my august presence register with them last September? I guess not. (I wonder if CP is still getting emails asking him when Yale is going to take place.)

Anyhow, people running a tournament might consider posting a skeleton setup on tabroom early, and people who attend tournaments might consider looking there first. Just don’t email me. I can’t be held responsible for the consequences of such an action.


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

In which we consider a bit of CatNattery

I’m sort of in the slough of debate despond, the point in the season when I absolutely have zero irons in the fire. That’s when I start getting meditative.

I’ve often talked about CatNats here. It’s a crazy tournament for debaters, but I always enjoyed it, for reasons I cannot explain. Maybe it was the predictably warm weather after a season of cold classrooms, or maybe it was the possibility of nutty venues without food or water or bathrooms or breathable atmosphere. Maybe it was the crazy topics that always seemed to have been drawn out of the wrong hat. 

Those were the good old days.

I like the topics this year, and I know that a bunch of thought went into them, and they weren’t just dreamt up at random. They’re appropriate for the venue, quite general and philosophical. That’s what they should be.

I find it interesting that, among certain debate people, CatNats gets a bad rap, primarily because of its laic judging pool. The tendency of speakers to blame the listeners on their failure to communicate is classic, and transcends debate. It is, of course, on the speaker to identify the audience and present accordingly. Or, in debate terms, to adapt to the judge, rather than the other way around. But arrogance often deems that the judges are too stupid to understand the debaters, hence they are illegitimate as judges. This is the reason that $ircuit LD is a relatively closed system, and why the lesser debaters (and coaches) dedicated to the $ircuit are snooty about more traditional venues. Not all, though. The best debaters speak both $ircuit and traditional, as needed. I would maintain that the skills mastered by traditional debaters, and $ircuit debaters who speak fluent traditional, are more immediately valuable than the skills limited to $ircuit. This is true of LD and Policy both. The best of the breed thrive in either milieu. That’s what makes them the best.

That is probably why I enjoying doing States last week, because the whole thing was aimed at winning over a pool mixing styles and skills and experience, and good debating has to be about winning over anyone, not just those predisposed to like what you’re going to say. That might work in politics these days, but debaters are better than that.

Thank God someone is.