Thursday, February 04, 2016

In which we go toether

And so, Baby Bump is all registered up. I think it’s pretty decent numbers. We didn’t get a couple of the city schools I was looking for, but everybody else is on board. It will be a good practice tournament for the Hud without my having put it all together, aside from the registration part, which I already do for everyone else. They’ll pull it off fine.

Most people don’t run tournaments. And most people really don’t understand what goes into it. They go to tournaments week after week, and I think most of them are just happy to be there, although there are plenty of people who harshly criticize on Facebook when something isn’t to their liking. Things run late? They blame the tournament, when 999 times out of 1000, it’s the attendees who are holding things up. Do you really think the tab staff wants to hang around until after midnight? (Read CP’s recent FB remarks on attendees screwing up tournaments if you want more details.) They lose an important round, and they blame the tournament for assigning them that judge. Which they rated highly enough to get the judge in the first place. They don’t like the amount of money the tournament is offering to judges? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I have admittedly screwed up many times in tab, as the VCA well knows. Excoriate me over it. I really don’t give a horse’s patoot (although you probably don’t want to confront me directly when I’m trying to solve a problem and all stressed out because, well, in the end it won’t go well for you). But at the bottom of this is, if you run a tournament yourself, you are at least in a position to appreciate the work that goes into it. Especially the extreme stress. If you don’t run a tournament—I mean a real tournament with hundreds of people over multiple days—then thank your lucky stars other people do, you ungrateful wretch!!!

Actually, as I began, I think most people do appreciate it. Otherwise I don’t think any of us would bother.

I started running Bump in media res, having to plan the tournament with literally no experience as a coach and little experience as an attendee. I met with someone who had run it in the past, who told me to do a million different things, including buying little gifts like scarves and gloves for the tab staff. My first time out I blew it completely. I just didn’t know enough to make it happen. Fortunately some experienced folk stepped in and pulled it out of the fire. Needless to say, I learned from that. But having an initial bad experience paved the way for my apprehension every year as tournament planning began anew. Think of all the things that can go wrong:

  • ·      Weather: One year before I took over there was a storm on Saturday that kept everyone from leaving the tournament. One year when I was running it there was a big storm predicted and I pulled the plug early (and it snowed like crazy, thank God).
  • ·      Acts of God, for which one does not give thanks: One year, at two-thirty on the Friday, as four or five hundred people had just descended on the school for registration, the head custodian came up to me and told me that there was a water main break, none of the plumbing was working in the building, and the fire marshal was ordering evacuation. Fortunately the problem was solved in under half an hour, before people actually got back into their buses to go home.
  • ·      You have to set up registration, multiple meals for hundreds of people (many of whom won’t or can’t eat the foods we commonly consider staples), a comfortable and tasty judges’ lounge, thousands of dollars worth of trophies (never with a date on them, in case of the weather [see above]), as many debating spaces as you can carve out of a couple of buildings where many teachers are little tyrants who think they—and not the school district—own those spaces, and deal with administrators who have no understanding what you’re trying to do (not to mention that you don’t work on-site, so they also have little understanding of who you are in the first place). You have to find beds for 150-200 little criminals (or more to the point, find a parent who can figure out a spreadsheet and operate a telephone, which sometimes seemed even harder than just opening the door to the chez and packing them all in like the sardines they virtually were), work with the custodians to solve situations of malicious mischief (graffiti, slobbery, etching, etc.) when they’re not unlocking the doors they should have unlocked an hour ago, feed the tab staff (always paid for out of your own pocket because of all the people there, you want them to be the happiest), find judges late in the day when all the obligations are starting to blow off in the wind, and manage a team of mostly Speecho-Americans who have never been to an actual debate tournament much less grokked the need for ballots to, A, get into the hands of the judges, and, B, get pulled out of the hands of the judges and back into the hands of tab.
  • ·      And a bunch of other stuff that I’ve managed to repress in my memory because they’re too horrible for conscious thought.

You go through this every year, because none of it ever gets much better or easier. Yeah, my trophy order became a breeze, except that every year I seemed to have different events with different expectations of numbers, but at least the pit bull at the trophy shop was friendly. Really. My families handling the food might have been new, but at least the venues supplying the grub could always pull out last year’s order (although the Saturday pizzas seemed to come from a different joint every year). And after the first decade where, and this is only slightly exaggerated, there was a new principal every year, things got a bit easier on the admin side. But mostly it was a recognition at some point in the middle of summer that Bump was coming, kicked off by a visit to the trophy shop on Labor Day weekend, and once more it was off to the ulcer races.

So here’s a few things, if you’re an attendee. First, put together an accurate registration, and stick to it. Cover all your judging (I haven’t mentioned the hassle of hiring adjudicators), especially if you’re a big program. Show up on time, because Google will tell you how long it’s going to take, and how much traffic there’s going to be, and if worse comes to worse, send me a text telling me who’s on the bus and when you expect to arrive (because Google will tell you that, too). Enjoy our hospitality and if things aren’t to your liking, either keep it to yourself or express your displeasure with respect and understanding. As the tournament draws to a close, don’t leave until you’ve fulfilled your judging obligations, and don’t hesitate, if the spirit moves you, to volunteer for an extra round or two, since I have yet to attend a tournament that had too many judges. In other words, be a good guest. That will help us be good hosts. The two go together.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


If you’re a Nostrum reader (and who isn’t, aside from a few Republicans, and look at what they’re up to), you’ve been waiting for the real meat of the Free Willy story. The latest episode over at Nostrum Nation provides it, while also introducing the person who is most responsible for Willy’s problems in the first place, Tab Ularasa. I think I’ve mentioned Ularasa here before. I have to admit, it was a tossup between Tab Ularasa and Tabu LaRasa, and I only made the decision at the last minute, and I’m still not sure of it. If the story weren’t about debate, it would have been Tabu hands down. And let’s face it. Aside from Tab Hunter and TaB soda (the cap B is intentional), how many Tabs can you name offhand? But then again, the TH is actually 84-year-old Arthur Andrew Kelm, so there you are. The Tabs of life are few and far between. What venue better than Nostrum to put another one into the mix?

Looking up TH I got off on this thread of other far from classic actors of the period. Merle Johnson, Jr. (AKA Troy Donahue, deceased), a Columbia grad, was, for a while, married to Suzanne Pleshette, presumably before she settled down with Bob Newhart. 82-year Ed Breitenberger (AKA Edd “Kookie” Byrnes) was prohibited by his contract from taking roles in Oceans Eleven, Rio Bravo and The Longest Day, but he did replace Tab Hunter in the unforgettable Darby’s Rangers. Fabiano Forte, a young 72 today, dropped the Irish part of his name (O’Forte) back in the day, and nowadays does a oldies show with Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell (dreamily pictured over at the right). Frankie is the father of 8 children. Bobby’s last name is Ridarelli.

And there you are.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

In which we move our can and our grunts

It’s weird doing Bump stuff. Over the weekend I shoveled up all the old tropheic detritus in the chez basement and put it into the back of my car for delivery on Saturday. There were some NFL District awards from the early 00s that were unrecyclable, so they went into the gar-bahge. But there were also plenty of Sailor medals and mugs for Baby Bump on Saturday, plus the odd gavel or two. Most of all, there was the Traveling (Fruit) Cup. I’ve never seen my spouse so happy that something was leaving the house, never to return. Then again, it did have pride of place in the family room, distracting from the unknown skull remains and the Alfred E. Neuman buttons and the WDW cocktail stirrers. What to do with the cup is up to the Sailors. Maybe they’ll eat it. It’s their call. It’s their fruit.

Catholic Charlie will be helping out, which is very nice of him. He’s always dropped by at Bump over the years (he lives over in the next town) but usually he’s had a CFL event to run. Which means we’ll have our Pups team together again. We hardly screwed anything up too much that weekend. The only thing I can recall was a mistake I made that cost us a bunch of time on Saturday afternoon, that I conveniently blamed on the Paginator as the youngest person in the room. Old age has its benefits. One of the down sides to the weekend is that we won’t have the grammar school, and therefore the piano. I’ve always enjoyed serenading CC with the greatest hits from the grammar school music library, the titles of which are, unfortunately, too lewd to reprint on a family blog. To tell you the truth, I think that’s mostly why he would stop by in the first place. He’s going to have to settle for the Paginator’s Iron Mike collection.

Someone on our circuit raised a question about the viability of the March LD topic, which is about democracy in the Middle East, which looks to me pretty standard issue and probably a good choice for the NSDA and CatNat qualifiers around here. You can run very high level stuff that can appeal to less circuity judges. Out of curiosity I glanced at the March PF topic, which is about removing US troops from Okinawa. There’s a hot topic for you. I did a bit of quick research, and there’s plenty of stuff. Okinawa is apparently tired of its 25K or so randy marines tossing Budweiser cans out of the jeep windows during their drive-bys, but no one else on the archipelago is dying to take them in if they relo. Which means that debaters can dive into boringly parochial albeit factual evidence to their hearts’ content. Why not just resolve that the US should move out of Japan in toto? At least that would have forcibly raised the question of the US presence, vs. simply the site of the US presence. Oh, well. That’s PF for you. (And not me, since I don’t coach it anymore. YAY!)


Monday, February 01, 2016

In which we update some tournaments

If I were to post a message saying that there are no more judges for hire, why are you immediately responding asking if there are any more judges for hire? I don’t think my writing is terribly unclear. Are we all that hung up on context and subtext that reading the damned text per se doesn't happen anymore?


The Brotherly Lovers came up with a boatload of student judges. I spent a couple of years entering them into tabroom on Saturday (can you say “bored to tears”?) and I looked this morning on our spreadsheet and there’s a whole battleship more. Most are for IEs or PF, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Anyhow, I’ll enter more tonight. It will help alleviate my insomnia.

Baby Bump is settling down, meanwhile. Once again, the Academy LD is the hardest hit with drops. Ditto was the case with Byram and Monticello, where those divisions barely happened. Please tell me yet again that LD isn’t going the way of policy. Anyhow, the tournament won’t be enormous, but it’s quite satisfactory. Mostly it’s a novice shindig, but in a world bereft of the MHL, that is to be expected. I wonder what it would have been like as a two-day Academy-Novice tournament. That is likely to be their approach for next year (or maybe not; I have no particular knowledge one way or the other). The weather at the moment is promising not to be frightful, so there we are. The Paginator is definitely coming, with Iron Mike. Or Killer Mike. Or some kind of Mike. Maybe he’s bringing a microphone. Whatever.

I’d like to see more numbers for rescheduled Columbia. The debate events are slowly filling up, but a little too slowly for my blood. I’ve asked the Gemmers to send out another blast. I’d like to see them have some kind of event to make up for the loss. It’s up to the community at large to want to go to such an event, though. I mean, those PF and LD bids are hanging there ripe for the picking…


Thursday, January 28, 2016

In which we update on a couple of tournaments

First of all, there’s the Gem.

After Columbia bit the dust (or, more correctly, ate the yellow snow), there was immediate discussion about rescheduling it. The thing is, there aren’t many weekends for such a thing; tournament weekends in debate are sacrosanct (as Emory recently found out). You just don’t drop yourself anywhere and start counting the money. For the Gem, in all of it was the idea of distributing their TOC bids. They have to be in by mid-March, which means that the tournament would have to be before then, and not step on anyone’s toes. There wasn’t a lot of choice, and March 4-6 stood out as the obvious one. My estimate is that we’ll hold well on the debate side of things, maybe not so well on the speech side, as the locals will be scrambling for their States quals, and they can do that for free at the CFL. We’ll see. In any case, the tournament is up and open, and I’m letting people in pretty quickly, rather than asking them to hang out on the waitlist.

Has anyone looked at the long-term weather forecast?

Second of all, there’s the NDCA tournament in Orlando, April 9-11. I always loved the idea of the NDCA, where the business is theoretically conducted by the community of coaches rather than a Star Chamber. Qualification is objective, as compared to the political decisions that guide TOC bid allotments. (Don’t tell me they’re not political. Been there, done that.) They bring in a great group of neutral judges, and, I repeat, this year they’re in Orlando. I strongly believe that the northeast is under-represented, mostly because it’s not on people’s radar, but at the same time, I don’t know why that is the case, since there are indeed plenty of northeasterners who do attend. I can’t for the life of me explain the continuing appeal of the TOC, aside from the obvious one that, if people accept that something has value, it derives its value from that acceptance. Like paper money. Whatever. Anyhow, the NDCA website is and the tournament is open on tabroom. You should go. And take an extra day to go to Diagon Alley. Isn’t it about time you replaced that knotty pine wand with something a little more…adult?

As a side note, I just plugged rooms into Bump, and did the sorting rooms for Penn. (In the latter case, you sort the rooms by putting them into the sorting hat and— Well, you get the picture.) February is just around the corner.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

If this is Wednesday it must be Nostrum

Four episodes are now in the can. (No, not that can, you tattie howker!) The new episodes are still mostly backstory. We’ve learned how the COC was created, and we’ve met Dearth Hannah, today’s director, who is also the SUCKy coach. We’ve met Jazz and Haley, who are in it to win it. Now we’re digging into the whole Free Willy phenomenon. Who is John Galt Willy Lubjut? What did he do that was so wrong? It will be a couple of episodes before we get to the Brotherly Love School for Highly Intelligent Teenagers, but for now, at least, you can contemplate the acronym. All of this, of course, is over at Nostrum Nation.

Meanwhile, this is a real poser: Yesterday morning I looked down and saw that my left shoe was coming apart. All I could do was hope to make it through the day without the whole thing falling to pieces. Thanks to a merciful God, I survived. But when I got home I noticed that somehow during the day my right shoe had started coming apart in the exact same way. How does one shoe know that the other has died? And more to the point, how does one shoe decide to commit sympathetic suicide at the loss of its partner? Until now I have always thought of my shoes as mute, unthinking companions on the sidewalk of life. And now it turns out that, apparently, they are not merely self-conscious but conscious at the very least of one another. Who knows the full reach of their grasp?

I will never look at my shoes the same way again.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In which we think about the baby

I’m interested to see what will happen with Baby Bump.

I think I’ve admitted here that Bump was becoming untenable for me. The lack of a broad pool of alums to draw into the judging pool makes things pretty dicey. Back in the day, one of the reasons we dropped Policy was precisely because we had to entirely rely on outside judges. Occasionally I could dig up a hire or two, but mostly we were beholden to the people who showed up. One year I was lucky to beg a lone, lorn, single judge to adjudicate the final round. That was the final coffin nail. Last year I had to hire judges ad hoc to stay beyond their commitment to make things work. A little of that goes a long way.

Beyond the judging issue, there are all the various moving parts to a tournament that I was getting tired of moving. Some of these are fun, and I continue to help other people move them, e.g., tabbing and organizing registrations and juggling rooms. But actually getting the rooms in the first place, or signing contracts on the buildings that have me accountable for everything that goes wrong, or doing tax forms on the concession sales? You’ve lost me there, brother.

I managed to fill Bump up to the max for 20 years. We ran what I think was a fun tournament, even as the nature of tournaments was changing. There was something new every year, as we learned what worked and what didn’t, or we experimented with different approaches. For instance, we eliminated elimination rounds for the novices. That early in the season, what they needed was more rounds for all, not just for some. (And also I’m a believer that novice success is only partially a predictor of the future, so aren’t we better encouraging everybody at the beginning? Someone will still win, but at least this way everyone will debate.) We became famous for crappy prizes, and I always loved handing them out—“Chosen at random especially for you”—not to mention relating the elaborate tale of the traveling (fruit) cup. All tournaments have a personality; I think Bump had an especially nice personality, as tournaments go.

My recommendation to my successors was to try a one-dayer. If I was thinking pretty grim thoughts about pulling it off, I couldn’t imagine how they could. If there were a seasoned debate coach in my place, I’d feel differently, but the coach now is speech-oriented with virtually no tournament-running experience. Why not design a tournament that could work, rather than one with a big possibility of failure?

I used Wee Sma Lex as the general outline. One day, four rounds. I set it up for novice and Academy, on the assumption that we’d be hard-pressed to get meaningful numbers in varsity divisions. Keep in mind that Papa Bump had TOC bids; with Baby Bump you’re just in it for the rounds.

At the moment, we’re pretty much filled up. The administration found some extra rooms in the high school (where were these rooms when I was running things, you might ask, as I assure you I did), so the divisions are pretty substantial. Of course, it’s only local schools, but there’s enough of them to fill up the place. I assume we'll get a little shrinkage when the deadline approaches, but we should still be in good shape. And as long as the weather holds out, it will be a fine event. And best of all, I’ll be able to clear out all the medals and mugs in my basement. And, of course, pass along the traveling (fruit) cup.

There’s still time to sign up, if you’re interested.