Wednesday, March 04, 2015

In which if this is Wednesday, it must be Nostrum

I was always sort of proud of the character names in Nostrum. Coaches were anagrams of philosophers, principals were movie directors, and everyone else was whatever came to mind.

Here's A and B:

Abelard, Tom
The lead debater on Quilty Prep’s LD team. Abelard is a senior, and the team’s topic theorist, the one who divines the real meanings behind the resolutions. His teammates may sneer at his interpretations and choose to follow their own paths, but in the end it is always Tom Abelard who makes it furthest in the elimination rounds, with enough Combat of Conquerors limbs to qualify a small army. But it is not Abelard’s debating skills that set him apart ; it is another quality altogether that makes this short, curly-haired teddy-bearish Quilty student remarkable. Tom Abelard has what can only be described as animal magnetism. He is not the smartest person in the world, nor the nicest, nor the best looking, but the opposite sex is attracted to him like weevils to the cotton bolls.

Andrew Johnson High School

”Home of the Unimpeachable Education” and also home of the Andrew Johnson Reconstruction Memorial and The Little Johnson, the classic debut event for Northeastern debate novices.

Ambrose, Ashley

Nighten Day’s Original Orator is never haphazard, and never less than fully dressed in a pastel lawyer suit, a white silk shirt, a Hermes scarf tied tightly around her throat—and never the same scarf twice—and three inch heels in a color matching her suit. She is always smiling, perhaps not sincerely.

Bisonette Technical

Located in Stockwood in upstate New York, Bisonette (pronounced “Bisonay”) is just beginning to assemble an LD team under the auspices of their new coach.

Coach: Amnea Nutmilk (also the Editor of Metro New York magazine)

Principal: Val Lewton

Brillig, David

Originally the Duo partner of William Hand, and also his long-time best friend. They are both blue-eyed and blond-haired, and are students at Nighten Day. Their greatest triumph was “Parrots.” David’s solo HI piece is a cut from the film of The Fountainhead.

Brooklyn Behemoth

An all-speech venue.

Coach: Alida Devans

Buglaroni, Grandma

The former Maria Contaglia, she is a small woman, but thick, and her aura of solidity makes her seem larger than she is. Her hair is gray, pulled tight and knotted at the back of her head. She smells of BenGay, which she is constantly rubbing into her sore legs and arms. She wears black—widow’s weeds—the mourning outfit she has worn a la Queen Victoria since the death of her husband, Ham Senior’s father, in 1956.

Buglaroni, Hamlet P., Jr.

The novice LDer from hell. And also from Nighten Day. Thirteen years old, five feet ten inches tall and unable to push the scale over 130 pounds. His favorite cap is red, tightly fitted around his head, and it says nothing, which he considers a major statement. He always wears two pairs of socks. HPB may be the ultimate hero of Nostrum... or maybe not.

Buglaroni, Hamlet P., Sr.

Divorced (from Sharon), father of the Novice from hell, stepson of Grandma Bulgaroni, with distinct ties through his automobile-related businesses to organized crime.

Bunbury, Lav

Lav Bunbury, the Nighten Day Guidance Counselor, is perhaps the school’s most flamboyant administrator. Mostly bald, what hair remains is surfer blond and closely cropped around his ears, and he is perennially deeply tanned. He believes that college visits should be bunched alphabetically.


As I've been saying, the Ultimate Edition of Series One is almost ready for e-book publication. If you start saving now, you'll be able to afford it immediately, because it's free. 

See also

Palmer on theory:

Methinks he's a tad against it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

In which we threaten to ruin all your Wednesdays

Hmm. I have exactly 2 more tournaments to tab this season. Time to start thinking of other ways to spend my weekends. For a start, there’s about a thousand hours or so of sleep to catch up on.

One thing I won’t have to do is edit any more of Nostrum Volume 1. I finished it on Sunday with one last push. I threw in an unlinked table of contents, which I’ll probably keep unlinked, as the thing is meant to be read in sequence, and also an introduction. I have to admit that, 2020 Word pages later, the idea of going through it again to do a final check for errors is not exactly appealing. If there’s something wrong with it at this point, so be it. I’ll flow it into the Kindle app probably this coming weekend. Then I can move over to the more fun stuff, like the Epistles of Saint Jules to the Forensicians. And meanwhile, I’ll start hawking the whole enterprise here tomorrow. If you’ve already had Nostrum up to here, you might want to bookmark Wednesdays as your day off from Coachean Life. I’m tempted to do so myself! By the way, it will be a free download. This child has already been sent off to the world at large. Why would anyone pay for it at this point?

CFL Grands this weekend looks to be its usual small self. I’m surprised that one or two of the usual suspects won’t be there. While I don’t want it to be overflowing (or over 20, at which point we’re obligated to use 3 judges), I don’t mind it being bigger than smaller. It makes it just that much easier to tab. Even with three of the great minds of debate tab tossing the cards, it’s a bit of a sticky wicket. CFL has very real rules that one must follow. We try to emulate CatNats as much as possible, although my suggestion that we have round one start at 5 in the morning was roundly rejected. This year the event will be in Florida. Why can’t we emulate that? We can start at 9 or so, but have round one in Ft. Lauderdale. Who would complain?

Monday, March 02, 2015

In which we debrief on the land of lakes

Lakeland is in the history books.

The idea of tabbing a tournament one town over, where the high school is about the same distance from my house as my own high school, is pretty attractive. And following Brian M’s setup of the tournament meant little hassle except for a few of the nooks and crannies that no one ever thinks about until about round 11. Plus there’s working with Kaz and Catholic Charlie, which seals the deal. It’s going to be fun no matter what happens.

As it turned out, there were no major issues with tabroom. We lost one division somehow, where the bracketing disappeared of the first break. Whatever. We manually rebracketed, which almost worked. Then I manually rebracketed a later round, and that time it seemed to stick. More interesting was finding the screen for manual rebracketing. Brian and I knew it was there somewhere, because CP had been explaining it for ages, but I’d never actually used it before. But there it is, and shortly I’ll document it over at Adventures, and it will be captured for the ages. The idea that you can reset brackets to anything you want is interesting. Not that you’d ever want to do this in the real world, but it’s nice to know that you can. (And if it takes in the system, even better, I guess.)

The whole event was electronic. One thing we learned was that, maybe, if you personally turn off notifications, it looks like you’re getting messages but you’re not. I want to test this a bit, but needless to say, if it’s true, it explains a lot. We’ll see. In any case, e-ballots worked fine for us all weekend. And no one came storming the barricades complaining about this, that or the other, so the No Button didn’t get much use. And the tab room was pretty much quiet and peaceful all weekend, aside from us. The look on Catholic Charlie’s face when “The Mole People” came up on my iPod was pretty priceless, I will say. Spotify was very, uh, spotty, probably due to wireless issues, which is why we were not streaming songs to bring that look to CC’s face. Just to keep the savage beasts at bay, I even played a Genesis album, but CC told me it wasn’t one of their better ones. How can you tell, I wondered, but I kept the comment to myself, considering the amount of ukulele music I’ve thrusted on him over the ages.

CFL Grands this weekend. Maybe I’ll just bring a ukulele.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

In which we find ourselves endlessly amusing

I was wrong. Lakeland is using 9 tiers rather than ordinals in its policy MJP. I have no idea why they've changed from last year, but as I think I reported after Lexington, 9 tiers is fine mathematically, once you wrap your mind around the likelihood of lots of one-off rounds. Since those one-offs are theoretically closer than some mutuals in a 6 tier system, 9 tiers can make sense, especially with a lot of judges. My main objection against using them at the tournaments I’ve been handling has mostly been the overloading of new stuff on people. Change management is a complicated business, but let’s face it. The users I’ve been dealing with have been LDers and PFers, with their attendant teams, fields and pools. Policy is much more mature in all those areas, and they have different expectations. So the 9 makes sense this weekend.

Next weekend, the one after this one, is our qualifier for CatNats. Registration closes soon, and it looks as if the numbers will be small. As it turns out, the Sailors are tossing their annual musical that weekend, which will no doubt thin down our personal numbers substantially. I know I’ve already lost my senior PF team to the gods of theater, and no doubt a few Speecho-Americans will also be swept up into the tide as well. I’m curious to know our final number. I won’t be able to go to CatNats myself, so I’ve made it clear that if you qual, send me a postcard. I’ll be away on vacation the couple of weeks prior, and way too bogged down at the DJ to head out immediately for another weekend after that. Life just doesn’t work that way. (Too bad work isn’t confined to working hours, but if it were, I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much.)

And last night, while editing Nostrum, I actually had forgotten one scene that actually had me laughing out loud. Needless to say, one shouldn’t laugh at one’s own jokes, but I wrote it over a decade ago and I’d forgotten it completely, so I think I can be forgiven. It’s a scene based on what they used to do at Villiger (and maybe they still do it), the pullback of the curtain to reveal a dazzling display of trophies. Except this year, among the trophies, is a coffin displaying the corpse of a fallen debate god. And, well—eh, go read it yourself. 

I become more and more convinced that Nostrum needs to be more than just collected. There's just too much stuff there worth re-sharing, old though it may be. I'm looking at something mid-week. After all, "If this is Wednesday, it must be Nostrum," was the standard introduction pretty much from the getgo.

If this is Wednesday, must it still be Nostrum?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In which we look to yet another upcoming weekend

I just posted a little piece on dealing with mixed judge pools over on Adventures in Tabroom, if you follow that sort of thing. Meanwhile—prepping for Lakeland this weekend, one way or another.

There’s the team, of course. Last night the Sailors attempted a practice round, pretty much over my continuing protestations throughout of “What?” “Are you running to catch a bus?” “Is there any link at all between any of what you’re saying and globalization?” and “Would it kill us to actually have a definition of globalization?” and other witty phrases along those lines. As virtually everyone under the PF sun has pointed out, a debate over “Resolved: Globalization is Good” would have been great fun, since you could argue either Glob Good or, on the other side, Glob Bad, and everything interesting about globalization would have been on the table. “Globalization reduces poverty,” on the other hand, being a matter of determinable fact, forces one’s brains to fall out prior to attempting to write cases. Oh, well. I still sort of think that links of some sort from globalization to what one is running in one’s case is sort of a necessity, but most people in the room last night seemed to feel otherwise. What do I know? I’ve made it pretty clear what I think the link chain ought to be, as I’ve tried in vain to explain that a McDonalds in Paris is an example of globalization, and that if you have no definition that excludes a Royale with cheese, you’ve lost me from the getgo.

I just wasn’t made for these times.

On the positive side, they’re mixing and matching teams, so one each of my grizzly veterans is debating with one each of my up-and-comers. I like that. The U and Cs can pick up some pointers in the field as they debate. The confidence level and speaking skills are sooooo radically different; if the young ‘uns can just pick up a nickel’s worth of what the old ‘uns do so well, it will have been worth it.

Meanwhile, there’s the tabbing side of the tournament. They run policy wildly different from the way we run LD and PF, with round-by-round commitments and ordinal prefs. Brian M is the guru of all of that, which he is used to on the college side. He is one of the few certified wizards who run it pretty much every week and know how to make it roll over and beg as needed, so the whole tournament is in good hands, although it’s not an exaggeration to say that the concentration of effort is on the policy side. Duh. Nevertheless, there’s not just novice and varsity LD and PF, there’s also middle school PF and, although we won’t be touching it with the proverbial ten-footer, 3-person middle school Parli. Egads! Kaz and I managed admirably to juggle all of this last year, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again, although the proliferation of Capitol teams and all the conflicted judges as a result is problematic. Actually, I think Lakeland is the first tournament I’ve worked all year that’s let in club entries, beyond just Capitol. Don’t look at me. I’m just hitting the buttons on the computer.

They’re also looking for total e-ballots. I don’t know if they’ll be able to pull it off in the middle school divisions (they were pretty nutty last year at State), but the rest should be all right. Given that Lakeland fulfills my prerequisite for e-balloting in that it’s location pre-establishes a captive audience, it should be fine, except for the inevitable PF parent who hasn’t brought a computer, tablet, phone, or any other technological device crafted within the last fifty years and who will demand a printed ballot.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In which we discuss what we did instead of the Blowout

Not much shaking on the home front. Or chez front, I guess, to be more precise. We cancelled the Blowout relatively early in the game, when it was apparent that not enough people were coming. Given the costs associated with running a tournament, like custodians, for instance, you can’t just do this stuff willy nilly. How much money should the Bronx pay to debate the Bronx ended up being the big question.

As I indicated yesterday, I’m about done with the MHL. It has served its purpose well for many years, but its purpose no longer needs the MHL to serve it. If there’s an active UDL circuit in the city, and if they’re willing to accept the MHL folks, then I say go with it. Of course, the VCA knows that I have often bemoaned the lack of support of local debate we often see. Local debate around here allows people to enjoy the benefits of forensics without the commitment of offering the sacrifice of their firstborn, when the time comes. Debate as part of a healthy diet, in other words, rather than an entire diet consisting of nothing but debate. For those hearty souls who enjoy that monolithic diet, have fun. There’s a $ircuit out there just waiting for you. But for everyone else, the alternative of doing just some debate seems reasonable. That’s why I moved over from LD to PF. I got tired of losing students who couldn’t stomach the harsh diet. Unfortunately there are a lot of $ircuit opportunities around here, and they command most of the attention. So it goes, eh?

Having no tournament to go to on Saturday allowed me to attack a very big chunk of the Nostrum repurposing. I had hoped to get the Kindle edition out last Fall, but I underestimated the size of the thing and the amount of work necessary. It’s now all in one file, and it’s about 1800 pages. Do you have any idea how much writing that is? Jeesh! What was I thinking? Anyhow, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s only a couple more chapters to edit, and it will be done. Or at least The Original Series will be done, and I can get that volume out. It will solely consist of the (occasionally annotated) original episodes. Volume 2 will be the Epistles of St. Jules to the Forensicians, the lost Tennessee Williams High School Chronicles, Nostrum Series 2 (The Next Generation) with the Julean epistles in their proper positions, and finally, the unpublished Nostrum Series 3. If anything, Volume 2 will be more fun to put together. I look forward to going over the old Epistles. They were often more entertaining than the episodes, if you ask me, and they haven’t seen the light of day since the 90s.

With all this toying around with old content, I’m thinking of using CL as a vehicle for republishing some of it serially, the way it should be published. I can really see something like “Nostrum Fridays” coming down the pike. If you’re following CL via RSS, you might want to get out now while the getting’s good.

Monday, February 23, 2015

In which we copy a note we sent today to the NYSDCA regarding the MHL

This is pretty much self-explanatory. The MHL is over. Life goes on.

We cancelled the MHL blowout this weekend because there weren’t enough entries. And the MHL has, at best, been simply limping along this year. I think we can safely say that the MHL is virtually dead.

The league was originally formed as an educational league, providing rounds to younger students getting started in debate. In its heyday, schools from all along the Hudson and down into New Jersey attended in force. Even Lexington popped into the Monticello event, in aid of getting much desired rounds. It was a vibrant, lively league fulfilling a need within the community.

The thing is, the need for the MHL doesn’t really exist anymore. In both New Jersey and New York, UDLs have become the vibrant, lively leagues fulfilling the need for rounds. One gets out of the habit of going to MHLs if one is going to UDLs. That's reasonable. On top of that, there are plenty of novice opportunities these days at invitationals. Almost every invitational in the region offers novice LD, most offer novice PF, and some even offer novice Policy. The point is, students are getting the rounds they need.

A couple of things the MHL does should not go away. The MHL Workshop early in the season has been a continuous success, and should continue until people stop coming. The First-Timers’ Event has always drawn a crowd, either in NY or NJ, and that should continue as well. After that, there might be a need for “filler” tournaments, like Stuyvesant hosting novice and JV during the Columbia weekend. But a regular schedule of MHL events simply seems unnecessary.

I’m recommending that the NYSDCA take on this handful of MHL events and put them under their umbrella. There’s nothing about them contrary to the NYSDCA mission, and they would bolster that league. As for the former MHL debate events, I would recommend that NYSDCA keep them open to the NJ teams, which has been beneficial to everyone over the years.

And there you are.