Friday, December 08, 2017

In which we blast nuisances

I’ve learned all sorts of things lately about tabroom. I’ve learned, for one thing, that dropping or changing a judge is not considered a nuisance, hence does not incur a nuisance fine. I have mixed feelings about this.

Most of all, I don’t like nuisance fines. What might have once been considered a nuisance, back when people signed up for tournaments by newfangled faxing and everything was tabbed on index cards and there was no indoor plumbing, maybe any sort of change was a true nuisance. But nowadays? Seriously? At worse, you take 17 seconds to make a name change or hit the drop button. At best, you freeze fees on Monday but allow people to make all the changes they want on their end up till the point when, say, prefs are open. I mean, what the hell do you care? If someone drops a team, you’ve already got their money. They’re paying for someone not to come to the tournament. I’m in favor of this. But telling them they need to pay an additional, say, ten dollars? How many greed pills did you actually take with your orange juice this morning? For that matter, given how schools work, and how checks are cut, do you really want the annoyance of spending your whole tournament chasing down ten dollar fines from high school teachers? What are you, the Republican Congress? Jeesh.

Can we say that high school debate tournaments are not money-making operations? This is not to say that some of them don’t make money—most of them do—but then the school with all these big bucks just turns around and spends it back to other tournaments. Everybody ends up breaking about even, except for maybe the airlines and Uber. The exception to this is colleges, which make boatloads of money that they pour into their own college teams rather than the high school community (although there are notable exceptions to this, like Penn). I don’t begrudge them this. First of all, we run a lot of very good tournaments under their auspices, so no one goes away unhappy. And second, most people are willing to pay megabucks to attend a tournament at Grand Old Ivy halfway across the continent over attending a tournament at Poor Local HS down the street, because, well, Grand Old Ivy. So it’s a combination of a sucker born every minute, but at the same time, the sucker is getting pretty good value, so nobody’s complaining.

Anyhow, the point is, nuisance fines are at best a thing of the past and at worst, a greed play. Can we all just drop them, period, end of story? We freeze the fees early in the week, and let it go at that. If you get 10 schools that make changes after that, you’ll be able to extort a whole extra hundred bucks out of them. Is that really the way you want to portray your school in the fabric of the debate community?


Thursday, December 07, 2017

In which we relive the Tiggers

The Tiggers was last week, and I have to admit that this has become one of my favorite weekends.

First of all, we are blessed with an abundance of rooms. Granted, some of them are in Pennsylvania, but there’s enough so that we let in pretty much everyone, within reason. In PF, for instance, reason means 60 rooms = 240 entries = 7 rounds to make it work. We got all that. This year we threw PF’s hat into the e-ballot ring, and it worked fine. As I’ve often said, if you give users something that benefits them, they will adapt to it. E-ballots means way less schlepping around, and in a place like Princeton, where there’s a nice little village in which to hang out, not having to come to a judge call and, perhaps, not get called, is a good thing. This is the last of the dominos to fall in my particular e-ballot row. All the tournaments I work on, with one or two exceptions where the high school wifi simply isn’t up to the task, are electronic. The printer has been taken out of my car for good. The revolution is over.

This is not to say that there’s nothing to do in the tab room, however. Every judge who doesn’t press start is a headache. Most have gotten the message to do their jobs, but there’s a handful of boneheads out there who haven’t. As a rule, these boneheads are not the PF parents trying to do a good job based on their limited experience, but regular “professional” judges who are anything but professionals, who are just too cool for the room. However, no one is too cool for the tab room, and we will annoy you to death until you do get with the program. We can’t run a tournament without knowing what’s going on at the furthest locations, and we don’t have an army of myrmidons with boots on the ground all over creation. You may be preffed a 1 by the majority of the students, but you’re preffed a horse’s ass by the tab room if you can’t A) press start and B) enter results. Aaarrrghhhh.

Anyhow, we threw the Paginator over into the PF world, since he works the way we do getting e-rounds to happen, and everything went fine. Maybe, if he behaves himself, we’ll let him do LD sometime again in the future, but as it turns out, he is intensely aware that there are ducks out there—hundreds of them—and they’re all looking at him with those beady little duck eyes. Normally I wouldn’t mention someone’s personal phobias—lord knows I’ve got a few myself—but any grown man who hides from ducks at the drop of a feather does not get off the hook that easily. Fortunately the duck population in Princeton is famously small. What will happen when he gets to Columbia, a well-known duck hotbed?

Kaz and I did the LD divisions, and everything went as smooth as a duck. The Congressfolk came in and out occasionally, and there was a repeat of the conversation I once had with a Tigger judge who was both there and not there when the ballots were distributed. Apparently Princeton is the home of Schrödinger’s Judge. Once was an anomaly. Twice is a pattern. 


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

In which we explain a few things, and promise to get back on track

Part of the problem in keeping up with writing lately has been the DJ, as I’ve noted, but I’m working on getting that under control with a bit of process reengineering. The other part of the problem is the existential nausea over the overall state of affairs in the US. It’s not so much Trump and company per se as much as the lack of disgust in the country overall over Trump and company. Yeah, sure, he’s a minority president with a low approval rating, but that anyone with a pulse who isn’t as reprehensible could approve of him either means that a lot of people are similarly reprehensible (active support) or don’t really have the capacity to feel reprehension (passive support). Either conclusion is mind-numbing. I start each day catching up on the news, meaning that around a quarter to eight I’m ready to go back to bed and bury myself under the covers until it all blows over. But it doesn’t blow over. It’s not going to. I find the stress of living in America in 2017 to be difficult to stomach. I am not alone. Pretending it isn’t there isn’t an option. So I rant like a lot of other people on Twitter, which is futile but does at least leave no doubt on what side I fall on things. I avoid Trump news on Facebook because I would prefer just to find out who’s whining about the judge prefs and who’s eating out at a nice restaurant and whose baby is better than everyone else’s baby. But you can’t avoid him completely, or isolate him completely. He is in the very air that we breathe, and he and his legacy of hatred will be in that air for decades after he is gone.

Still, life does go on. I’m going to try to get back on track with my normal business, and do my best to compartmentalize the fiend in the White House as much as possible. I mean, I have a busy and complex life aside from all that. I run or help run tournaments pretty much every week, affecting hundreds of people every time. I read the topics and have curious opinions. I follow all the trends in debate and, while not in rounds anymore, have curious opinions about them too. And I like photography and nice wine and long walks in the rain (!) and whatnot. There is other stuff to talk about and think about. In fact, talking about those other things might be therapeutic.

So let’s give it a try.  


Thursday, November 02, 2017

And the winner is...

Big surprise. It's the NCAA topic. Folks interested in learning more should follow Kellams:

Meanwhile, you ask, what else is new in the world?

Let’s see. Princeton is opened and packed to the gills (and then some). The warnings have gone out that TBAs will disappear on Monday. This always requires lots of warnings, because, well, we really mean it, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. I have found that this part of the process does a good job of cutting out the ribbon clerks. What isn’t so easy to cut out is the waitlisted camp and independent entries. The invitation is clear that the tournament is open to official school entries only, but I guess hope springs eternal.

Penn just opened yesterday. That always seems early to me, but whatever. We worked with it last year. I’ve cleaned up the spreadsheet I used last year to track numbers and I’m ready to start breaking hearts any minute, although it won’t be for a couple of weeks. Probably the biggest problem is that there are always a lot of local Philadelphia schools that don’t understand that they can’t just waltz in at the last minute and expect slots. We totally filled up last year and expect to do so again this year. Where do they think those slots are coming from?

JV has been refining the Scarsdale tournament. My only fear there is the inexperienced tab room staff. Can Kaczmarek, Page, Menick and Sloat actually do this job? Of course, it’s comparable to the tab room at Baby Bump, of Menick, Vaughan, Page and Sloat. Somehow these tournaments manage to happen, despite our efforts to the contrary.

Kaz has started sending out messages about Wee Sma Lex. There seems to be about a hundred divisions happening all at the same time. It’s always fun, even if it is wee sma. Key this year will be e-ballots. As I’ve said at various times, a tournament that is not all E reaps few benefits of E other than not having to enter some of the ballots. That’s some benefit, but the speediness of an e-tournament is lost. That’s a big one.

Other than that, there’s Ridge of course. Lexington and I are staying at some new place in the wilds of New Jersey. Be prepared to send out the hounds.

My tournament calendar year winds up with the Christmas Chlassic, or the Kristmas Klassic, or whatever you want to call it. The Holiday Hasidic? The Xmas Xic? The KwanzaaVaganza? Pick one. Then we put our little feet up and rest for a while.


Friday, October 27, 2017

In which we continue along those lines

Rob commented about the second possibility: "Well presumably that's the point: if they were treated as employees under FLSA, they'd have to be paid. I imagine FLSA was chosen specifically so they'd have to be paid hourly, as opposed to assume profit-sharing mechanism."

Okay. I admit I know nothing about sports. Does that mean that they are already sharing profits? Or is that just a possibility, an alternative to a salary? I still have to admit, in either case, it's not terribly interesting compared to the issues of free speech that NSDA could be addressing with a better version of the first rez. This article, by the way, is a good analysis of the free speech problem overall: 

In other words, I guess I think that understanding freedom of speech, and arguing about it, is a way better use of high school brains than the issue of paying a handful of athletes. These kids are heading to college soon. What are they going to see there? What are they going to learn there? 

What are they going to think there?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

In which we apply everything we know, which isn't much, to the December PF resolutions

OPTION 1 – Resolved: Professional sports are an appropriate platform for political change.

OPTION 2 – Resolved: NCAA student athletes ought to be recognized as employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

I admit that I haven’t been posting much lately, mostly because I don’t have much to say except the same old same old, and I am otherwise engaged more often than not, but this one caught my fancy. My first reaction was, like yours, sheer wonderment that the NSDA would get that drunk before releasing potential topics, but then I realized that they were probably stone cold sober, which led to even more wonderment.


A platform for political change means, I guess, a place to demonstrate in the hopes of changing things politically, as compared to a place to have a direct cause/effect relationship. I mean, they’re probably not saying that if you act in professional sports, there is a direct result in politics. I guess. Here’s what Web sez about a platform:

2:a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons stands; especially :a declaration of principles and policies adopted by a political party or a candidate
3a (1) :a usually raised horizontal flat surface; especially :a raised flooring 
(2) :a device or structure incorporating or providing a platform; especially :such a structure on legs used for offshore drilling (as for oil)
b :a place or opportunity for public discussion
4a :a usually thick layer (as of cork) between the inner sole and outer sole of a shoe
b :a shoe having such a sole
5a :a vehicle (such as a satellite or aircraft) used for a particular purpose or to carry a usually specified kind of equipment
b :operating system; also :the computer architecture and equipment using a particular operating system

While I like the idea that the rez refers to scarily tall shoes, it’s probably more like the declaration of principles or the place for public discussion. Actually, in the literal syntax of the rez, it would have to be the latter. So, professional sports are an appropriate place for public discussion in aid of political change. I have two thoughts on this. What place isn’t appropriate for public discussion in aid of political change? And second, when exactly during the football/baseball/soccer/43-man-squamish game does this public discussion take place? I mean, I just read in the NY Times that the huddle is disappearing from pro football, and as far as I know in my limited understanding of sports, that’s about the only time in that game anyone ever says anything to anyone else other than trash talking on the line of scrimmage and “Oomph” when someone tackles you. My guess is that this rez is somehow meant to address taking the knee during the anthem. Which of course means in NSDA Speak that the rez should not mention in any way, shape or form the concept of taking the knee during the anthem. As statements of principles goes, and taking the knee is definitely such an animal, it is also overarching in its obliqueness. It is analogous to the Marlon Brando movie, The Wild One, when Johnny is asked what he’s rebelling against, to which his reply is, “Whadda ya got?” In the US in 2017, a general protest against pretty much everything makes sense to me, but it doesn’t lead to political change as much as public awareness. Unfortunately, that awareness gets turned around into more hatred and bitterness, but that’s sort of beside the point. A topic that said: Displays of resistance during the national anthem are … something, would at least tackle it head on. It wouldn’t go anywhere during the argumentation, but at least people wouldn’t have to spend argument time trying to explain what they’re arguing about.

As for the second possibility, on the Department of Labor website it says, “the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.” The NCAA is for college students, so my initial thought, which was that the one thing that might be applicable here, child labor standards, turns out to be impossible. Which raises the question, Did I miss the memo where it was announced that we now pay college basketball players? I mean, that could absolutely be a thing that I don’t know about. In which case, insuring that they get paid the same as burger slingers at McDonalds really does seem like a good use of debater time this coming December. (I’m sorry. I realize sarcasm doesn’t always come across clearly in the written word, hence I’ll parenthesize the subtext.) If they don’t get paid, the laws that apply to their getting paid seem to be, I don’t know, inapt?

Sports. What do I know?