Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In which one is, marginally, back

Monday we arrived back at JFK after a couple of weeks in Belgium. I usually don't like to post about trips until after they're over, as I operate under the assumption that thieves in the night are hovering around the chez just waiting for their chance to purloin the silver service in our absence, and letting them know in advance when I won't be guarding things like a hawk seems at best ill-advised. When we unlocked the door upon our return, not a single shrimp spoon was missing from the set, which may not prove my point, but there you are.

It will take me a while to get back to business, though, so bear with me. First, there's the jet lag, then there's the piles of things to do at the DJ, which demand first priority for one's attention. Then there's almost literally a thousand photos to sort out from the trip, and that will take some quality time; I usually edit out at least one in three if not more, plus Apple has pulled the old switcheroo away from iPhoto to...whatever—Photos? Pictures? Who knows? Who cares? Anyhow, there's that to be done, among other things. Essentially, there's all the process of returning to normal, except, of course, without the team anymore, for me it will be a new normal, as I've noticed looking at the tournament schedule I maintain, and my websites, yadda yadda yadda...bleeech.

So, continue to enjoy not being bothered having to read this blog for a while. I'll probably be back on track after the long weekend. Which I need desperately. Nothing like a nice relaxing vacation to make you want to take some—more—time off and relax. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

In which you won't have Jim Menick to kick around anymore, at least for a couple of weeks

We're on hiatus. See you in the middle of May. Please be up to no good in the meanwhile, so that I can comment on it and rake you over the coals publicly when I return.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

If this is Thursday, it must be Wednesday

Yeah, well, yesterday we had something else we wanted to post. Back in the day, Wednesdays were more of a promise that a perfect reality. We were quite familiar with the odd Thursday. Why should things be any different now?
Anyhow, continuing the Miracle of the Frankfurters.

We almost didn’t make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression, and rightly so: he lost his job at the hot dog factory. It turns out the reason that more pounds of hot dogs came out the end than herds of assorted mammals went in the front was because the paper that was supposed to be recycled was being added to the frankfurter mix rather than the local landfill operation. It had been the Mite’s job to solve this mystery, and his solution had been to run more reports. Every time he ran a new report, more paper was generated, and more pounds of hot dogs were created, and more reports were generated, and the hot dogs kept tasting less and less like mammal by-products. Finally one of the professional wiener tasters that the company keeps on the premises recognized the flavor as computer paper. And the Mite was out on his keister. And if that wasn’t bad enough, then the stock market had to crash. At least there was some good news in that, because, first of all, the Mite doesn’t own any stock, and second of all, he has hatched what he considers to be a foolproof plan to beat the market in the future. Think about it. Hillary Clinton turned 50, and the market crashed. So the Nostrumite, who knows cause and effect when he sees it, reasons that anyone selling short when Hillary Clinton turns 60 is in for a killing. Eat your heart out, Michael Price.
If anyone at Dean Witter is reading this, keep in mind that the Mite is looking for a job and can be reached through this e-mail address.
“If you were smarter, I’d be funnier.”

That may have been the first time I used that tagline. It’s always been one of my favorites. I don’t know if the prediction that the market would crash on Hillary’s 60th birthday came true. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Anyhow, one last entry, and then Coachean Life will be going on hiatus for a while. All will be explained when I return.

We almost didn’t make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression now that he’s out of work again. Last weekend he went to the mall to do some research, and came back a nervous wreck. Apparently they have a George Washington Barbie Doll at F.A.O. Schwartz for $75 that simply defies analysis, even by the Nostrumite. The thing is, there’s the old Barbaroo, all duded up in the formal attire usually associated with the father of our country, and the Mite can’t figure out why. I mean, has the old Barbaroo dumped Ken and gone on a Presidential kick? If so, why couldn’t she settle for Bill Clinton, like every other woman in America? We’re sure that Bill would have obliged, as he has for every other woman in America. Anyhow, there’s an enormous disconnect here between Mattel and old Dollar-Bill Face, and the Mite has retired to his reading chair with Flexner, unabridged, to try to get to the bottom of this.
We’ll keep you posted.

The GW Barbie is absolutely a reality. If I could make up stuff as good as that, Nostrum would have made JKR and her silly Harry Potter look like a piker and a half.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gender disparities in national circuit LD

Chetan Hertzig posted this on Facebook. I thought I'd share it here for those who might not see it there. This is all Chetan speaking, not me, but there isn't much here, if anything, that I disagree with.

Warning: this is a very, very long status relating to gender disparities in national circuit LD. I told a few people that I would be writing this, and a few suggested that I do so in the form of an article to be posted on a debate website. I’m considering that, but have held off on it because I want to avoid trolling and counterproductive flame wars (not that I think anything I’m saying here is particularly controversial). Maybe this will turn into some kind of article later, maybe with a co-writer or two.

I am aware that gender is a much more complicated issue than a simple male/female binary divide would suggest, and that there are people within the debate community who do not identify as either male or female. This post is not intended in any way to exclude those individuals; however, I do focus largely on debaters who identify as male or as female here.

I am also not attempting to shut out other identity-related issues in debate, many of which have been the subject of ongoing discussion all year. That is not my focus here, but I want to make it clear that this isn’t an attempt at “oppression Olympics” or a way to derail other conversations, which are also important to have.

I have used the spelling “women” in this post, but I recognize that other people may use “womyn” instead. I don’t intend for my spelling of the word to have political implications.

Finally, I am aware that I am writing this as a male debate coach. Because my national circuit team is mostly female (and has been throughout its existence), I feel qualified to comment on the issues that I discuss here; I am in no way attempting to “speak for others,” but am instead relating my own observations and some of the experiences that my students have discussed with me.

Here goes. As I said, it’s long.

I want to start by congratulating the four women from Harrison who competed at the TOC this weekend on their excellent work. Amy Geller, Elyssa Alfieri, Kathryn Kenny, and Sarah Ryan all had some major wins during the tournament; Amy, Kathryn, and Sarah were still in up through round 6, and Sarah ended with a 4-3 record (two of her losses were to the TOC champion and runner-up, respectively; the third was to an octofinalist who was coached over by a teammate), and was 19th speaker. I can confidently predict that we will see at least one of the juniors in outrounds at TOC next year.

I also want to note that I judged several great debaters in prelims this weekend (many of whom ended up clearing, or easily could have), and I saw two outstanding elimination rounds on Monday, so I don’t want this to come across as a criticism of anyone who cleared – or anyone I judged who didn’t, for that matter. Every debater I saw was very, very good, and clearly deserved to be there. I know that this is a time of celebration for many people/teams, as it should be; everyone who did well should be recognized, because being successful at TOC at any level is an awesome accomplishment.

With that said…Houston, we have a problem.

17 out of 87 LDers at the TOC this year were female. Of those 17, four were at-larges, meaning that 13 females fully qualified to TOC. (Four of the 13 were from Harrison, so there were 9 non-Harrison, fully-qualified females this year.)

Let’s think about that for a second. There were 52 TOC bid tournaments in the 2014-2015 season (9 octos bid tournaments, 11 quarters bids, 14 semis bids, and 18 finals bids). That means there were 306 bids to be earned, excluding ghost bids and auto-quals from the previous year. And this is nation-wide, for an entire school year, with many tournaments filled to capacity. And THIRTEEN women earned two or more bids. And four were from a single school.

As several people have noted, there were two women in the run-off round of TOC this year, and there was one female in octofinals. That means 15 of the 16 top-placing debaters were male.

In terms of speaker awards, the top-speaking female was 14th, and there were three females in the top 20.

Six females had winning records at the TOC.

There was one female judge in the run-off round and one female judge in octofinals.

None of this is new. Despite a spate of female final round appearances in the 1990s (’94, ’95, ’97, and ’98) and a few in the last 15 years (’02, ’08, ’10, and ’13), the vast, vast majority of TOC LD final rounds have been between two males, and 28 out of 30 have featured at least one male debater. Meanwhile, the top speaker award in LD has gone to exactly one woman since 1986, which means 29 out of 30 TOC top speaker awards have gone to males.

These are major concerns, and I would like people – particularly judges and coaches – to take a minute to think about why there is such gender disparity in LD.

Is it because females just aren’t as good at debate? That seems unlikely, particularly when there are so many incredibly talented women who don’t end up qualifying to TOC. This year, I judged at the Hockaday Women’s Round Robin for the first time, and I know that the majority of debaters I saw there, very few of whom had received a TOC bid, were at least as good as anyone I judged at TOC.

Is it because judges are sexist? Perhaps in some cases and not others; it seems like there’s a good deal of overt sexism in the community that manifests itself in different ways. What I tend to see in my female debaters’ experiences isn’t really open gender bias, but is instead what others have termed “micro-aggressions.”

Let’s examine a few examples.

Prior to this year, we had only qualified one female to the TOC, and when she won her second bid round that year, her male opponent screamed, swore at the judges, openly dismissed the decision as “bullsh*t,” and created such a big scene that it undermined the accomplishment of winning the round.

In fact, in the first year or so of our team, many male debaters referred to our students as “Harrison cheerleaders”; when a male summer debate instructor came to pick a few of them up from an airport upon their arrival, he asked them, “Are you sure you’re here for debate camp? Not cheerleading camp?” There were quite a few stories like that.

Between 2010 and 2014, we had the good fortune of getting an amazingly talented male debater, Danny DeBois – and only then did other teams seem to care that Harrison had a program.

Although Danny faced a lot of hostility when he started beating much better-known circuit debaters as a sophomore (which connects to the related issue of national circuit exclusivity), it didn’t prevent him from winning ballots, clearing at the TOC, or getting invited to three round robins that year. People may not have liked him a lot back then, but they definitely knew his name.

After Danny graduated this year, many people asked me how I planned on “rebuilding” the program. Even after two of our students had received TOC bids, one coach came up to me at a tournament and asked me how it felt to have a team go from “here” (gesturing towards the ceiling) to “wooosh” (gesturing towards the floor). Another told me, “I guess this will be the year of you leaving tournaments early,” a comment made the weekend after we’d earned another two bids.

This year, I have often overheard people (students and judges alike) referring to my female debaters as “the Harrison girls,” as if they had no distinct identities or styles. One prominent first-year-out reportedly remarked, “I judged one of them, but I don’t know which – I can’t tell them apart.” When Sarah won a round she was not expected to win in prelims of TOC this past weekend, people talking about it referred to her as “that Harrison girl,” rather than acknowledging her as a separate person. I find this curious, since Amy, Kathryn, Sarah, and Elyssa (and Ella, another of our rising seniors) don’t look, sound, act, or debate even remotely alike. I have never heard people say that they can’t distinguish between the male debaters from, say, Lexington or PVP or Scarsdale or Strake Jesuit, all of whom had multiple male debaters competing at TOC this weekend. I’m surprised that a similar standard seems to not apply to women from Harrison.

The four Harrison debaters who qualified to TOC, along with a female sophomore who earned a ghost bid, received 13 TOC bids this season. That is an impressive number. Yet on websites that keep track of school bid counts, their bids were repeatedly reported to be lower than they were, Elyssa’s name and code were repeatedly misspelled/mistyped despite my sending corrections, and my students were almost always ranked towards the middle-to-bottom of online lists for the “top debaters.”

In rounds this year, my female debaters often had male judges vote against them while saying, “Yes, you had conceded turns/offense on the flow, but I just didn’t buy it,” or (even more interesting and more common), “I really wanted to vote for you; I just couldn’t.” I don’t know how often that happens to others, but I’m not sure it ever happened to Danny when he was debating. I do wonder what would stop a judge who “really wanted” to vote for a particular debater from actually doing so.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that there is a deliberate attempt to exclude female debaters from the top tiers of the national circuit. But I think that many judges (of any/all sexual identities), consciously or not, tend to default to male debaters when they are judging a male against a female. I think that many judges favor an approach to debate that prioritizes argumentative tricks and procedural arguments over substantive discussion, and while I certainly am not saying that there aren’t “tricky” female debaters or substantive male debaters, I have found in my 18 years as a debate coach a major division between those “types” of debaters along gender lines.

More importantly, I think the national circuit environment is toxic and unhealthy for high school students, and I often see the impact of that on my female debaters in particular. In the past two years, I have had two female debaters, both of whom had major potential, withdraw from tournament competition because of behavior from male opponents and judges. One of them was in an elimination round last year against a prominent national circuit male who labeled my student a “rich white girl from Harrison” who had no authority to speak about issues of imperialism or oppression. (I found that interesting, as my student did not identify as either rich or white.) My student was in tears after the round, and has subsequently said it had a major impact on her decision to stop debating after that season.

In another round last season, a male judge screamed at one of my female debaters for several minutes for “power-tagging cards” after an elimination round and in front of an audience – in a round whose subject matter included domestic violence, and against a male opponent. (For the record, the cards were not power-tagged. Yes, I checked them.)

Twice this year, a male debater has told one of my female debaters to “sit down and shut up” in round.

The list of stories – from my own female students, and from others around the country – is endless. I offer these examples as a glimpse of some of what my debaters have experienced every weekend; I have heard even more frightening stories (many related to direct sexual harassment) from female debaters from other teams. And while my male debaters have occasionally dealt with some of this treatment from opponents and judges, it has not occurred with anywhere near the same frequency or magnitude as it has with my female students.

I think it’s pretty clear that there’s a problem. I hope that is clear to others. The question is, as always, how do we fix it? In the past few years, there have been several online groups, petitions, and pledges related to this issue, and I think those are all good first steps. But it doesn’t seem like a lot of people who have signed those pledges are actually following through on them, at least not in a way that has resulted in more female representation in national circuit LD.

I have a few ideas that I hope can serve as a step towards actual, practical change, and not just a continuation/repetition of discussions that other people have been trying to have for years. I am not diminishing the importance of online discussion on this issue, because I think it’s part of what needs to happen. But I also think we need to take physical, tangible steps that will affect who we are seeing both at the front of and sitting in the back of debate rounds at bid tournaments.

First, we need more female LDers, period. Debate coaches need to actively recruit female debaters, and create an inclusive environment on their own teams. I have challenged my female debaters to find middle school and high school females who might be interested in joining the team, and to serve as that student’s mentor throughout her novice year. Debaters need to have a support system in place so that they have a place to turn (besides their coach) when they face sexist behavior in this activity.

Second, female debaters need to be in a place of leadership on their teams. I know that on our team, there has only been one year when we didn’t have a female captain; I plan on continuing the tradition of female leadership, and hopefully on expanding what those leadership roles entail.

Third, teams should make an active effort to bring at least one female judge to a tournament, especially when they’re covering multiple entries. I know that that can be difficult given the relatively small number of women who stay involved in the community after high school, but we absolutely need to see more female representation in judging pools. In many instances, I would rather my students have a less experienced female judge who is willing to become familiar with the activity than a very experienced male judge who is openly hostile to my students’ approach and wants to entrench circuit trends.

Fourth, more women need to come back to the activity after graduating from high school to coach and/or judge. Even if it’s just one or two tournaments, even if it’s just judging a few rounds, it’s important that people take steps to counteract the “boys’ club” mentality that seems to exist in just about every pocket of the national circuit. I’m certainly not suggesting that all female judges or coaches judge/coach in the same way; it’s not really about that, though. We need to see more gender-diverse panels to decrease some of the male hegemony in national circuit debate, and that’s true regardless of particular argumentative or strategic preferences.

Fifth, tournament directors should consider using the “blue ribbon” method used by Newark’s tournament this year, in which certain experienced judges/coaches were ranked as automatic 1s and placed in prelims and on elimination round panels. (Regular MJP was also in place.) Some of those “blue ribbon” judges need to be women, because there should be female judges/coaches in the back of the room in quarters, semis, and finals of bid tournaments. Is the decision as to who constitutes a “blue ribbon” judge subjective? Absolutely. Does it interfere with some schools’ preffing strategies? For sure. But it also means that judging panels are going to look more gender-diverse, and are maybe going to require a broadening of approaches. I think that’s a good thing.

Sixth, judges need to question their own potential biases when evaluating rounds, and really ask themselves WHY they feel they “have to” vote for one person, even when they “want” to vote for someone else. Judges, ask yourselves: is your decision about who you actually think won the round? Or is it about not wanting to justify a controversial decision to your friends after the round? Have you actually considered the way each side framed the issues in the round, or are you voting for the person who took the approach that seemed “cooler” or more “circuity”? Of course, debate is about giving judges what they want to hear, and I’m not saying anyone should vote against their intuitions based on the identities of the debaters. But I am saying that there seems to be an unthinking default to particular approaches or styles, and that those may obscure the substance of what actually is happening in the round.

Seventh, round robin directors should invite more female debaters, and should be willing to take a chance on lesser-known women. Only looking at TOC bid count is going to perpetuate the already-existing exclusion; women who have achieved success, but perhaps haven’t qualified to TOC or been in late elims yet, should also get a chance. The Harvard and Penn round robins invited Danny as a sophomore, when very few people knew who he was; if we want to build women’s presence at the TOC, this can be an important way to do it.

Eighth and maybe most importantly, debaters, coaches, and judges need to think about their attitudes, words, and actions at tournaments. I hear people talk endlessly about inclusion and equality in rounds, yet those things are conspicuously absent in much of the LD world. The Hockaday Women’s Round Robin, which included many male coaches and judges, was noticeably different from any of the circuit tournaments that we went to this year. From what I could see, the participants were actually nice to each other, actually had conversations with each other between rounds, and actually were mature about the rounds they were in. The Harrison students who competed there said that they enjoyed the experience regardless of their ballot counts; the environment encouraged them to be more emotionally invested in supporting the other debaters at the tournament than in winning every round themselves.

As great as that round robin was, it made me wonder why that type of atmosphere is the exception and not the rule. Why do so many tournaments feel so unfriendly and alienating? Why do so many debaters feel harassed and intimidated in and after rounds? Isn’t one of the goals of debate to give people a chance to develop advocacy skills and the ability to be heard?

I don’t know whether it’s the environment of the circuit that causes many female debaters to leave the activity, or whether it’s the sense that winning certain rounds is impossible due to the combination of a particular male judge and a particular male opponent (or whether it’s both). But in 6 years of coaching at Harrison, I have had very few male debaters leave the activity, whereas I’ve lost more female debaters than I can count. And almost all of them said that they still liked the activity, but didn’t want to be around the negative energy that they felt surrounded them at circuit tournaments.

The bottom line is that we’re not going to see much progress on gender issues in debate unless we start seeing more women LDers in elimination rounds of tournaments, and more women judging those rounds. And we’re not going to see that if we continue the same practices we’ve seen this year.

Will any of the suggestions I’ve made be productive? I don’t know, but I’m interested in trying them out, and I hope others are, as well (and/or will propose additional concrete suggestions or alternatives).

Regardless of whether any of this works, one thing is clear: we need major change, and it has to start now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In which we ask, What's playing at the Roxy?

I have just spent an amazing amount of time collecting the pieces of a home theater and assembling said pieces, including furniture. The 21st Century can be complicated.

When I was a kid, TVs were delivered from the TV store and hooked up by the store professionals to antennas on the roof. If you wanted to turn the TV on, you walked over and turned it on. Ditto if you wanted to change the channel. The range was from channel 2 to channel 13, although I think one or two of those were nothing but static all the time. Every channel was static some of the time. At the end of the broadcast day they played the national anthem and showed pictures of air force planes presumably protecting the ether until the next day’s broadcasting began. Screens were small—thirteen inches would be considered gigantic—and black-and-white. In my recollection, it seemed as if the repairmen visited often. Those old TVs were collections of vacuum tubes that always seemed to be blowing up. There would be a burst and you would smell electronic fire, and for the next few days the set would be out of commission. TV repairmen were the busiest people in town. Of course, no one had more than one set, so you couldn’t just go into the other room, whatever that was, and watch there. And since you couldn’t record shows, if you missed it, you missed it, until rerun season. But as a rule shows weren’t continuous as they are now. Every episode stood alone, so you really didn’t miss anything except that episode, in which nothing earthshattering was likely to happen and nothing that happened would probably ever be mentioned again. Today every show is an installment, and miss one episode and you’ll have no idea what’s going on, but today there’s no reason to miss an episode, and there you are.

I got my first color TV in the 70s when my wife won all 19 inches of it in some kind of office giveaway. She was reluctant to take it, as it seemed too extravagant. It worked fine and never blew up. It was the set to which I plugged a Betamax in 1980. We were among the first to have a videotape recorder. VHS wasn’t even on sale yet. I replaced the Betamax once with a later model and subsequently replaced it with VHS. I was big on time shifting, and eventually owned a DVD recorder, although I never got into TiVo. Just didn’t seem to need it.

In our house, watching TV means watching TV. We don’t do anything else; we just watch what we’re watching. We watch virtually nothing that is, as you might say, “on.” It’s all disks or streaming. As a rule, we do one show a night during the week, which is what, forty minutes? Getting the new HD big screen setup is intentionally directed at watching more movies. I used to breathe movies back in the day, but got out of the habit of going to them during my debate life. Honestly, I don’t think I missed much, because I do believe that movies have not been on some sort of straight line up if the measure is pure quality. There’s good ones, of course, but if you miss, say, a Marvel superhero movie, you’ll probably survive until, two weeks later, the CGI is recycled into another one. Still, I want to watch more. And I want to watch them on a fairly big screen. Yes, I do believe in the movie-going experience, sort of, but not that many movies available around here motivate me to go to a theater to experience them. I just don’t feel like the bother is worth it. Last movie we saw on the big screen was Into the Woods. Have I missed all that much since then? (Sue me: Boyhood put me to sleep, and I doubt if seeing it a lot bigger would have made it a lot better. Interstellar had the same understanding of black holes as the notorious Disney movie, The Black Hole. I have Birdman cued up next; I’m prepared to be disappointed. On the other hand, the TV show True Detective is phenomenal. What can I say?)

The hardest part of setting up the new system was banging together the new stand, which is still only 99% finished because the screws in the last hinge elude me completely. But other than that I’ve got a new cable box, soundboard, Blu-Ray player, the works. And today I threw away the boxes and Styrofoam they all came with.

I think I’ll watch The Honeymooners tonight.

Monday, April 27, 2015

In which we watch it all from way in the back of the cheap seats

I admit to watching TOC happen from afar. I like to root for the local favorites, for one thing. Even if I think LD has gone to hell in a hand basket, plenty of people don’t, and I still care about it, although truth to tell, I care more about the people and schools I know than any particular activity. I want my friends to do well, as I’m sure you want your friends to do well. I would prefer that the whole thing be a positive experience, for all the ills it may have (or may not have) inflicted on the activities overall. That as a culture many of us have gone way overboard in our expectations of what high school is, and what college is, and turned education into a competition for perceived bests rather than a search for knowledge, isn’t TOC’s fault. Or debate’s fault, for that matter. Debate, seen as a tool for upping the level of one’s college admittances, has become something that people see as transcending things like having a school debate team or needing to be a part of a student body representing said body out in the world. It doesn’t matter to some what high school they’re from: they’re independent. And independence is good in many things, but probably not this one. This definition of indepence is out for one’s self, period. Of course, TOC bans independent entries, and at least in the past has been slammed for doing so. I’ve been slammed for doing so at tournaments I run. I can live with that.

Whoever wrote those articles that claimed that debaters did better getting into colleges than non-debaters should be hung by the thumbs over the burning embers of last decade’s Derrida cases.

Meanwhile, I received an invitation email from one of our local schools throwing a hoedown at the end of May. It all seems to be in aid of good causes, but honestly, the end of May is pretty decidedly past the expiration date of interest in debate around here. I don’t wish them ill but I’m not sanguine that they’ll be able to pull it off. September, when there’s still some free weekends if you don’t mind dodging the Jewish holiday speed traps, is probably a much better bet for any sort of new varsity tournament. Or have it simultaneous with the first-timers’ events in October, when it doesn’t matter that the weekend is “taken.” Different universes, for the most part. Oh, well. Nobody asked for my opinion. Which doesn’t stop me from offering it, but there you are.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

In which we say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye, but not really because we're tabbing every weekend

This Tuesday night, when we’d normally be having our debate meeting if our season weren’t over, the Sailors threw me a nice retirement sendoff. We had dinner at a hibachi restaurant where the cook throws food at you, which seemed appropriate with this group. We reminisced, they gave me crappy prizes, and I have to admit I was touched by it all. I really can’t keep managing the team and doing my DJ, and honestly, there were things about team management, none of them having to do with dealing with the any of the members of the team, now or ever, that were getting me down. For instance, the stress of running Bump. It’s one thing to angel someone else’s tournament, but the worry of running your own from top to bottom is murder. This is probably why most people don’t do it in the first place, and why of those that do, not all are successful. There’s a million pieces to contend with, all the while worrying that some 15-year-old yabbo is going to fall into boiling acid or something on your watch. I recall, unfondly, when about 500 people had just descended on the school on Friday afternoon, clogging the hallways and filling all the crooks and nannies, and the head custodian came up to me and told me I had to send them all home because there was a water main break and no plumbing in the building. That’s just one incident. Then there’s the paperwork of running a team, which this last year blew up exponentially. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I might not mind so much if I hadn’t also gotten those new DJ responsibilities. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t working hard enough before, but then again, reading and editing aren’t exactly backbreaking. But now there’s all kinds of new business stuff and different sort of books (nonfiction vs. fiction), and the move from the revenue that is earned from regular series payments to the need to get revenue from each individual title in the stores. Big difference, and a lot more stress. And who needs too much stress? Action, yes. Stress, no. Anyhow, as I’ve said, 20 years of doing this as a volunteer night job is a lot, and although I regret leaving behind the students, who over the years have made my life so much more rich, it is time to move on. I only hope they get someone else to take over and keep things going for them. On the immediate front, though, they have committed parents who will certainly get them to tournaments, so they won’t miss out altogether.

Time moves on.

As I was writing the above, I realize that I’ve hardly ever said much about the DJ here. Of course, this is a blog about debate, and will continue to be so, even though I won’t be directing a team anymore. I’ll still be plenty involved in the activity, as long as I’m behind the curtain at my various tournaments that I tab and/or angel. Nevertheless, some of the DJ stuff is intrinsically interesting, and I may start sharing more of that. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear me talk about me reading books all day?