Thursday, December 22, 2005

Break time!

Well, debate is at rest for a while. I feel that I've given people clues toward affs and negs for Jan-Feb, and assuming that the world doesn't end, I'll seek inspiration over the holidays for some reason to teach ID in science classes for the poor Pfffters...

I was rather taken by the fact that O'C has come down with a severe case of VBD (Venereal Baudrillard's Disease, or something like that). I was reminded of the Craven One Hundred (Big Bronx) in the warm outpouring of get-well wishes from his admiring fans—AKA the people who want him to pick them up next time out—on the PLO site. This is, of course, why we don't serve ziti at Bump. If we had had Bump, and O'C had been there, chowing down on vegan wedges with Chetan, this never would have happened. Anyhow, I was tempted to add my thoughts to that warm outpouring, but the only thing I could think of to post was the phrase "Who's Jon Cruz?" and maybe the craven horde wouldn't have appreciated the sentiment... Since O'C is one of the few people I know for a fact who read this blog (certainly my novices don't, although there is that poltroon, the legendary interloper, that's right, you!), I'm sure he'll find out soon enough that I do hope for him to get well soon. I hate to pick on somebody when they're down.

I'll be going off into the twilight for a while, Holidaying hither and zither till New Year's, so I probably won't post anything. I may not even have 'net access for a while. We're going up to Boston, where I hope to see the Star Wars exhibit. They even have a Milennium Falcon ride! So as I heard O'C say as he rode outta sight, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a—Milennium Falcon ride? Let me outta here, Nurse Ratched!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


This is most of the message I sent out to people yesterday:


Last week a few of us happened to be together and attempted to lay out next year's season way in advance, because there were some big changes brewing, and we needed to see where we were. I share this with you as tournament directors and coaches in the area.

It would make sense that we publish one main calendar for the region, which teams could consult and plan from. I'm sure we've missed some contests here (and there is no attempt to track non-regional events); please use this as an opportunity to comment and query and offer suggestions. It is not meant as any sort of fiat (as, apparently, they now like to say in LD—right before we hit them over the head with a frying pan).

We'll start with October, assuming that Yale will fight its way through the Jewish holidays one way or the other in September (it's going to be tough for them).

Oct 6-7 Monticello, same as last year. We're hoping they'll keep their TOC at semis.

Oct 13-4 Big Bronx. There was general agreement that BB should continue to operate on a normal two-day schedule, 3 rounds on Friday, finishing up on Saturday. Jon Cruz had been querying folks about going to some Sunday rounds (which, of course, had been a part of BB in the olden days). Most people really weren't ready for another lost weekend. This is varsity only, LD, policy and PF. There's hope that Bronx will have TOC bids next year in LD and policy both.

Oct 20-21 Lakeland. This looks to be a good spot for the Westchester Classic on the old Bergenfield weekend. Open divisions only. We'd also like to hold the first-timers' MHL this weekend. There should be enough space at Lakeland, although Pete Kruppenbacher figures that they could get the middle school if necessary (it's about as far from Lakeland as the Bergenfield MS used to be from their HS, but I wouldn't recommend walking it, because there's no sidewalks in this part of the world).

Oct 27-28 Manchester, TOC at quarters. I'm unclear about this, but it seems that there is hope that Manchester will offer more or different policy divisions? Varsity, presumably? Dan J can sort that out. That weekend is also the NYC CFL, a mandatory event in our league, for LD.

Nov 4 Monticello MHL

Nov 10-11 Bump at Hendrick Hudson. This would replace the NFA tournament, which will no longer be conducted. At this point I have not definitely secured the facilities for this weekend, but my request is in. I would love not to have to worry about snow anymore, and, honestly, to get the thing over with as early in the season as possible! I would assume that our cancellation this year will have no effect on our TOC bid (LD, quarters).

Nov 18 Little Lexington (novice and open divisions of LD and policy plus PF). I always go up to Lex as a fun start to training my novices to travel. We get housed Friday, run 4 rounds on Saturday, and we're home before midnight Saturday night. It's a great place to send younger folks who aren't going to Glenbrooks (or Villiger).

Dec 1-2. We're assuming that Jim Murphy will continue to carry on his new tournament at Weston. We will officially eliminate the MHL that would otherwise compete.

Dec 8-9 The old Bump weekend. Assuming that I can move, it has been suggested that our region consider attending the Kings College tournament in Scranton. Michael Bacon has long been a strong advocate of connecting with the Pa folks, and this would be a good start. I've been communicating with Mike Berry from Kings.

Dec 16 NYC CFL, policy and LD, again mandatory (and usually enormous!).

Jan 5-6 Ridge invitational in Basking Ridge, NJ, with an MHL on Jan 6. We're hoping that this new tournament gets off to a good start this year and comes back again next year.

Jan12-13 Big Lexington (and getting bigger every second!)

Feb 2-3 Newark (assuming that Emory is some time in January), with MHL on 2/3. 2/3 is also the date of the Manchester lasagne event. (Note: the debaters eat lasagne, as compared to the lasagnes getting to debate.)

Feb 9-10 Scarsdale/Edgemont. Next year Edgemont will join with Scarsdale so that there will be policy and LD on the same weekend. Edgemont is the next town over.

Feb 17-20 Harvard

After this there's the various spinning down of qualifiers and finals. Please note that NFA still intends to host its Novice RR, most likely the week before NCFLs.

And so, another year passes right before our eyes...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Another year bites the dust

Regis on Saturday was the last tournament of the year. And a mighty large one, with about 120 competitors in three divisions (not to mention the large Policy and Congress divisions). The freshman LDers are forced to debate in the cafeteria; I stuck my nose in down there for a minute, and regretted that Dante hadn't lived long enough to experience this particular circle of the Inferno. But somehow people managed to sort things out and make them happen. McHush even managed somehow to train a couple of our new parents. Amazing intestinal fortitude, if you ask me.

Things were jumping in the tab room. Aside from magically handling a series of disappearances (the usual rogue vomiter that every tournament seems to engender, some schmegeggie who never told his coach he was hitting the road and was never heard from again, the judge whose engine was firing on negative burners and had to have the ballots pulled directly out of her small brain—why do we bother with opening judge instructions, anyhow, when the ones most in need of listening are most likely plugged into Moby outtakes or whatever it is that's destroying the youth of America these days), we briefly went over Brother John's good response to my NYSFL letter, and talked about next year's calendar. As for the former, I'll save that for a few days until I get my response organized, but I was heartened to see that he was taking me seriously. As for the latter, I think we really managed to sort things out well. I did make the announcement that I was probably moving Bump to the NFA weekend (although I'm still waiting to get approval from the school). Then we sorted this, that and the other, I think in a good way. I'm sending out a message to the region's guiding lights shortly, and I'll also post it here, in case I miss anybody. In a word, 2006-7 is ready for primetime.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

2492 Regis LDers

Or close to that. For some reason this event is always jam-packed. This year it's more jam-packeder than ever. I've seen the list of debaters; I'll do the data entry tomorrow afternoon (I have a half day off to go "shopping," which for me is a stop at the local handmade chocolate shop, 11 minutes at Target wondering why I bothered, then a dash home for a nap--shopping at its finest!).

As usual I have put out a call for another student judge this weekend. As usual, no response. I guess everyone is recovering from all the work they did at Bump. Jeesh! What a bunch of schlubs!

Thinking about the Jan-Feb topic (and putting aside the nonsensical idea that came up at our meeting that somehow the neg, who has to affirm that ED for Private E is just, will run a K, meaning essentially that they'll be defending justice by claiming that the aff is not just on face, which is, duh, the affirmative position, which is why it is unimaginable except from debaters so lacking in true debate skills that they've given up trying), I was thinking a little about something that I don't like (the consequentiality approach) but which is nonetheless interesting. In a nutshell, the position that the neg defends is that some grandiose and complicated scheme of city planning (in this case, requiring acquisition of private land for development by other private interests) will lead to urban improvements. This calls to mind all sorts of efforts in the past to "improve" cities, resulting in the horror of Moses's urban renewal projects, the concepts of Jane Jacobs and the maintenance of varied life at street level, gentrification/enfranchisement leading to a Gap on every corner of Manhattan, the pure visionary concept of the original EPCOT which is totally contrary to the enlightened visions of today--all sorts of things of that nature, some of which are in Variations on a Theme Park, some of which are in the Moses book, some of which I've just picked up from the gutter. Hell, even Baudrillard could conceivably apply, if you think about it, on the level of the creation of the postmodern landscape as devoid of content. The point is, so many visions of urban improvement have proven false; perhaps they've improved urban economics but they've destroyed urban soul and culture. The life and deaths of cities may be best left to the market/social forces on the ground, allowing for improvements of those market and social forces but not for playing the god game of selecting new forces to replace the old ones. That is, it's okay to clean up Thompson Square Park to make it an open park again, but not okay to turn it into a WalMart.

These are interesting thoughts that this topic can lead to. Not necessarily interesting debates, again because arguing that it doesn't work or won't work or didn't work is simply a weak strategy on any topic, but just interesting meditations. Which is why we do this activity in the first place, right? Not to win debates but to expand brains?

And to judge this weekend, because if you have time to read this, you have time to judge a few rounds, you spalpeen!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Return to normalcy

I watched a whole bunch of LOST episodes over the weekend, starting at the beginning. I'm never exactly current in my TV viewing, seeing that I watch about 3 hours a week (excluding films), so I feel that I'm practically running with the herd on this one. Quite entertaining!

I cleaned up and reorganized Chez HQ, but there's still a few tables to be moved. I don't think we'll have another chez till after vacation, anyhow. The only real need is on the Pfffft topic for Nicole and D(&PF)IML at Lex, and it's not as if the subject of Intelligent Design hasn't been hashed to death in the press. We still do need demos twixt Craig, NoShow and Matt T. I'll figure out something, eventually. Maybe before the Ridge MHL, if they're all signed up. The Ridge two-dayer fell by the wayside due to lack of parent. Maybe people will start believing me when I say that, every now and then, no parent, no tournament. Maybe not.

Tomorrow night will be the last semi-normal meeting. Novices will entertain us, we'll hash over business and some cur, we'll show why the aff is right on Jan-Feb (having shown last week why the neg was right). I've already begun getting registrations for Regis Saturday. The planet does keep spinning, doesn't it.

Oh yeah. I load up RCT3 on Little Elvis, and lost myself for an entire afternoon yesterday in the sandbox mode...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Why we don't print the date on Bump trophies

It was a rough week. At the beginning, the weather report was categorically perfect. There was absolutely no chance of snow after Wednesday until sometime in Big Lex. Then, slowly and steadily, the forecast began to deteriorate. By Wednesday it was clear that if things didn't change, we'd be in for it. And it was also clear that, the sooner we shut down, the better. It was going to be bad enough that plenty of people had already bought plane tickets; they didn't need to land in a snowstorm, or get stranded at a tournamentless venue in the middle of (stormy) nowhere. We would have to salvage what we could as soon as possible. And so, with fair certitude on Thursday morning, we agreed to shut down. It was the right decision, regardless of whether the snow were to actually happen; there is no such thing as acceptable risk when you're talking about students on roads in bad weather. And that was that. (Although I do admit to waking up this morning quite pleased that it had not just merely snowed, but really most sincerely snowed. And it still is snowing, for that matter.)

But oh, the agony. Yeah, I put in a lot of work and get really stressed out, but there is enormous satisfaction to pulling off a successful tournament, and I know that, at this point, we can and we do. We have some fun aspects that make Bump unique, like crappy prizes, and we've been in business long enough now that we usually make things happen efficiently. Food. Rounds. Housing. We've got a great team of kids working hard, great parents helping wherever they can, experienced tab people I can count on while I'm running around stoking some other engines. The disappointment for everyone when, after all the preparation, it just doesn't happen, is palpable. I feel especially for the seniors. There is something special about running a major tournament, and the seniors are my generals at the ballot tables, keeping it all together, enjoying their positions of authority in their primary school activity. It sucks not to get to enjoy that experience.

When we made the final decision, I could have perhaps come up with some other arrangement, but it just didn't feel right. I couldn't imagine reorganizing 200+ housing slots, or getting people to get new plane tickets. I couldn't imagine going through all the registration hassle again. I wish I could have figured out something. It just didn't seem to be in the cards.

You know what feels the worst? There's a judge list I posted, with Hen Hud graduates going back to 1996. 1996! Saturday night we were going out after the tournament, I didn't care how late it was (if I had to, I'd have popped over to the all night A&P and bought stuff and cooked it). And I think I had made it clear that this was a dinner for present and future alumni. I wanted my core team from now in there too, Hush and McLean and Emily, people who have done the activity for 4 years and been Bump stalwarts since I had them majordomoing. And anyone else who was still with us probably at around nine o'clock Saturday night while I was pissing and moaning over neverending final rounds while playing Jack in the library...

Thanks to everyone. Thanks first and foremost to the Hen Hud Forensics Team. You guys did a great job this year. You got the housing, you showed up when I needed you, you kept at the admin to get the rooms. Thanks to the alums for remembering. Thanks to the parents for understanding. Thanks to the registrants for supporting the tournament and for supporting the difficult but inevitable decision to cancel it.

Today I am going to rearrange the command deck at Chez HQ. I'm going to figure when to plan a chez on the Intelligent Design Pffft for Nicole and DIML (and no doubt at least Horaceman, the superhero without any superpowers, whose voracious appetite for debate is a little scary). I'm going to talk to the Nostrumite, who, if 2ARGRL is any indication, has absolutely no idea what the AFF is about for Jan-Feb. I'm going to watch a movie, one of those blizzard films I've been storing up since the invention of the DVD (to tell the truth, I haven't watched one yet, but if there ever was a day, this is it). I'm going to start creating questions for Debate Jeopardy at our last meeting of the year. I'm going to print out the order for the District trophies to give to the folks tomorrow when I pick up next year's Bump trophies. Lots of stuff. After all, how often do I get an unexpected day off? Two days, if you count tomorrow.

Enjoy the free time. I'm sure you can find something productive to do too.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The future of debate

I sent out a notice this morning that I had to cancel Bump. (More about that later.) Within five minutes two coaches sent me messages offering me their schools and/or their weekend to make up for it.

The future of debate is not whether we argue CT or use the LDEP ballot. The future of debate is the commitment of young coaches to this activity.

Thanks, guys.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Frightful weather

It's looking progressively worse weatherwise for Friday, but nothing is definitive yet. I'm assuming that we'll just have a couple of inches, and the relative annoyance therefrom. But if the school closes, we're out of business because that means that the roads are just impassable. If they're impassable for us, they're impassable for everyone. I've taken to posting updates on the Bump site, but there's nothing more to be said till tomorrow. In any case, I've got some good movies out from Netflix, so Friday night maybe I'll be sitting by the fire, smiling at a Lubitsch film, planning for Bump 2006...

Last night the team of Ben and Ewok won the election. Or Benewok. It was close, right down to the end. That's why I don't like elections. Think back to the classic Peanuts cartoon, where someone is saying how it was the end of the 4th quarter, the team was down by 5 points, then all of a sudden they intercepted, ran 99 yards and made a spectacular comeback touchdown to win the game at the last moment, at which point the fans went wild and carried the team off on its shoulders. And Charlie Brown asks, "How did the other team feel?" But, what are you going to do?

I see they're arguing CT over at EMT. Gimme a break. (Hen Hudders are reminded that there is a file about arguing against same on the group website.) I would imagine critical legal theory will pop up in January, with affs presumably critiquing that anything DWMs--or living white males, for that matter--do as judges is prejudiced, so the resolution can't be argued at all, which means that the aff has to throw out the rez, which ought to make things uniquely interesting for negs who are intereested in arguing whether ED in these Kelo-esque situations is just or not. Forget all the other aspects of CT (whether it's appropriate, legitimate, etc.). It just isn't as bloody interesting as seriously understanding the topic, the power of ED and the just use of legislative will. Oh, well...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

5 days till the day after Bump

Things have slowed down considerably. It's been at least 7 minutes since I sent out a housing change.

Tonight is election night at the old corral. Team captaincy has an interesting history at Hen Hud. When I first started out, the team was so small that pretty much all the upperclassmen claimed the brevet rank of captain, and no one really challenged it, although Dave F was the President of the whole team, whatever that meant. When Kate and Noah were around in their sequential years, they were obviously the team leaders, but not really officially recognized as such. If I remember correctly, it was with Wedro and Jared that I finally decided that we needed something ex officio, and they were Solomonically appointed co-captains. Then, the year after that, we opened it up to elections.


I mean, elections seemed like a good idea, except I hadn't reckoned with the concept of electioneering. Richard Nixon, CREEP and a certain Washington hotel were like Teletubbies by comparison. I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say that I was taken aback. Amused, but taken aback. Little had I known...

Despite the muck, or in aid of it, depending on your level of perversity, we stuck with elections for a while. Until last year when I simply didn't want to make an issue out of the obvious, and appointed McHush. End of story, just reward for years of dedication.

But this year I reverted. Not that I don't have my own opinions (and I do get to vote like everyone else), but a leader is someone who, to some extent, people want to be led by. Let the followers decide, in other words. It will be interesting. Nominations were open to anyone, in any combination of one or two (i.e., capt or co-capts), and we practically have every mathematical possibility on the boards. I doubt if there will be a majority on the first ballot, so some sort of run-off will probably ensue. I understand that odds have been posted by the sports book folks in Vegas, so if you want to lay a few bucks on someone, here's your chance.

By the way, at some point I did move the executive term to match the calendar year. When Noah got sort of tired of debate in his senior year, I began to understand the true meaning of senioritis. If he could come down with a touch of it, no one was immune. So matching the calendar year got people while they were still hot to trot, and replaced them with the next hot trotters.

Of course, most people reading this will remember things entirely differently. To which I say, get your own blog, you twit!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Chip dip

Well, here's the deal. If you had ace-king unsuited, would you bet big? If the flop includes another ace and another king, would you go all-in? Here's my consolation. I lost to a royal flush. If you gotta lose, lose to a royal flush.

So there's this big stack of paper at home that is Bump. And various program files and their backups. Tonight the judge list goes live, although a number of people have apparently seen enough to know that so-and-so won't judge them, thank you very much. I did offer an option of dumping Hen Hud judges predicated on their old-time conservatism. I claimed that my old-timers would as a rule expect you to argue the resolution, and for all I know (I haven't opened any of the emails yet) that was good enough! There is still a part of me that says, you should be able to pick up ANY ballot if you're really good, but then again, 3 strikes of some stinkers who have always had it in for you doesn't really contradict this stance.

Other than that, I'm beginning to catch up on stuff. Novice cases. MHL bills. Christmas shopping. Cancelling Ridge (no adult, we're out of business). Planning Lex for us and Speech. Harvard notice (I haven't even looked yet at that db since I've created it). Exploring the new Firefox (issues here in the office, but they may be related to our font server, which often shows signs of insanity). Letting the Little Elvis battery run down (otherwise battery life runs down, and we wouldn't want that). Saturday was strange. Yeah, I was doing Bumpisms, but also it's the first Saturday I haven't been at a tournament since Monticello. I don't expect Saturdays off except during Christmas. I felt I should be reading the Sunday paper on Saturday morning. It took FOREVER to do the puzzle.

6 more days till Bump is a memory.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

No nap today...

...although I could have used one.

High point of the day: Pulling out an umpty-ump of crappy prizes from the crappy prize closet. Jeesh! Some of this stuff is worthless—I mean, priceless. Definitely priceless. And the thing is, the closet is still filled to overflowing. What a life!

Low point of the day: Sitting here inputting everything, except now, it's all done. I'm missing a couple of judges from hither and thither, but LD is 99% done. Policy is missing two schools, only one of which is dubious. So, Policy is 90% done.

And the waitlist is shut down. No way. Housing is filled, and would be happy to be less filled, the tournament is filled, and would be happy to be less filled, so as they say on the Food Channel, put a fork in me because I am done.

And now, upstairs for a nice cuppa tea. Maybe a digestive biscuit. And maybe a sit-down with the old Pipster for some Christmas menu planning.

BTW, my daughter sent me her iterinerary. She arrives home Wednesday night. She leaves New Zealand, from the looks of the flight plan, 187 hours in advance of final arrival. The bad news: she is going to be seriously jet-lagged. The good news: she'll get to read Moby Dick again. Twice.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Odds at the end of the week

Poker night tonight. Probably a tournament. I'm feelin' lucky, punk.

I didn't even log on last night. I watched House and played some stupid ATV game that came with my PS2. So much more fun than Bump.

I forgot to mention that I made an enhancement (all right, I was given an enhancement) on the team site's reading list. Now, you'll need a PC for this, more's the pity, it doesn't work yet on the Mac, but run your wee sma mousie over the link to Amazon. No! Slower! Ah. There it is. Cool, eh? But speaking of which, some of these books are PD (not to be confused with VBD, which is another thing altogether), and there's no reason why we can't just throw up a pdf. I'll get on it. Some day. Some place. (Some place where there isn't any trouble. Do you think there really is such a place?)

Tomorrow I clear out the waiting list (I think I can find a few more spaces for LD) and begin entering the data into TRPC. That'll be the Good TRPC. (Or Glinda, as we like to call it, the Good TRPC of the South. Glinda was the witch of the south, right? The witch of the north—not in the film—was never seen again in the books, I don't think. East and West were the Wicked ones.)

(See what I mean about Bump destroying otherwise perfectly good minds?)

Meanwhile, I've been trying to scope out the Speech tournament on Lex weekend. It looks as if it's nowhere near Lexington, plus their tournament hotel is, get this, the Ritz! Hell, most places we go to, not even the tournament crackers are the Ritz. And they tell us how wonderfully cheap it is (about $170 a room with taxes), which I guess *is* cheap for the Ritz (hotel, that is; it's pretty expensive for the crackers). And then there's Harvard, which is always bing-bang sign up fast, get the rooms, hoo-ha! I've definitely decided not to go, because I'm leaving for London bright and early the following Tuesday, and I don't want to screw that up. Plus, I have a feeling that now that Claire has that actor on call playing the part of Phantom, Old Leather will turn up everywhere during the weekend, and I simply can't afford his bar bill, much less keep up with him. Anyhow, I've put up a signup db for Harvard on both team group sites, and nudged Dave about Lex, on which we'll confab Tuesday, so planning for post Bump (or Bumplex, as I'm beginning to see the two as a continuum) goes on apace.

And just think: Post Bump is just 10 days away!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

'Nuff said

We're done. Bump Registration 2005 is now concluded. It's all over now but the gory details. We're so booked I'm not even taking any more waitlisters.


Taking my mind off of all of this last night, I heard from the Nostrumite, right in the middle of enough email to sink the Potemkin. I needed the break. Of course, he has signed some TWHS kids up for the tournament (otherwise I'd have his head), but mostly he was complaining about Blogger AKA Blogspot, to wit, the site for this, and his, blog. I had told him way back when that it was a piece of cake, easy as pie, plus a few other assorted dessert metaphors, and he took me up on it, and began typing away. If you've followed the TWHS exploits, you know that first he was trying to write things up, but got bogged down in doing his real jobs (coaching and learning Lamaze) and passed the thing along to his team, and then they seemed to give up on it, and then finally 2argrl took over right before Thanksgiving. Along the way I've been providing them some storage space on Anyhow, apparently 2argrl simply could not log on to Blogger after the first couple of times, no matter what she did. She went to the Mite for help, which is like going to the Sahara desert to see the rain forest, and he couldn't log in either. Between the two of them, they did everything they could, which according to the Mite meant mostly stomping their feet in frustration and cussing like bandits, until finally they just gave up. So, 2argrl is now on her own at a brand new site and will be carrying on with the blessing of the Nostrumite, but no longer under his broad bumpershoot. Which is probably not a terrible thing. The fewer minds we allow the Mite to corrupt, even indirectly, the better a place the world will be.

People do occasionally ask me how I even know the Nostrumite. Truth to tell, he and Jules were in my very first HH batch of alums when I took over back during the Middle Ages. My first graduates. LD was so different then. People argued not merely resolutions, but the resolutions that they were supposed to be arguing. Heady times! I was reading an article in Rostrum about the (semiannual) downfall of policy, and the writer was complaining about gamesmanship vs resolutional argumentation. Cross-apply to LD, my friend. Said writer also called for an end to judge strikes, which simply enable the gamesmanship; this is interesting to me in light of my allowing strikes at Bump. The argument against strikes is that you ought to be able to pick up any judge, especially in LD which is intended to be for an enlightened but nonetheless general audience. There's a thread now on OMFG where people complain about the caliber of their regional judges. As Mr. Rogers might put it, Can you say "Get Real"? If the judges of an entire area are roughly of a certain cast, that means you have to debate to that cast, not that they're all screwed up and you have to go somewhere else. Can you say "Judge adaptation"? Jeesh. The point of public speaking (are we in any way advocating the learning of public speaking skills in forensics these days?) is to address any audience, not just the audience primed and prepped to love you, just you and always you. Any fool can do that, you bozo! Convince a hostile audience of your point of view, on the other hand, and you've actually done something. I wonder if we've created a TOC that is not a tournament of champions but a tournament of people who are only capable of convincing a very small body of hand-picked judges that their arguments, regardless of how uunresolutional, are good ones. Mebbe.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Countdown to semi-finality

Registration closes at nine o'clock tonight. If I only knew how many rooms we have at the grammar school, I could conceivably open a slot or two for LD, but my hardware engineer has abandoned me, and no one else seems to be rising to the occasion. Of course, we don't really need LD. It's just more trouble for everyone.

The housing list will go out tonight at some point. Last night was a novice meeting, and I heard their various tales of woe, but it sounds as if berths are getting notched for the arriving horde. And I do like novice meetings. At this point I know who all of them are, and they know something about debate, and we can actually talk intelligently about things for, oh, 60% of the time, which is pretty good. It's not easy being a novice, being judged primarily by the inept and the inane. If you can survive your first two years of debate, you can survive anything. Varsity debate, say what you will about it, at least allows you to do whatever it is you want to do, and to expect reasonable success based on your efforts (or reasonable failure, if your efforts are true stinkers). Unspellable told me something about an opponent of his running a critique of the word "is." Shades of Bill Clinton! I do hope it was a joke... Anyhow, one thing about novice debate, it does tend to be about the topic. Speaking of which, a new topic should be coming down the pike shortly. Here we go again.

O'C showed me an early version of the sexchange function I was suggesting he put on DOA. I was impressed. Originally it was intended to be called judgesexchange (you can figure out the capitalization), where judges and tournament directors could go to buy and sell souls, but shortening it to sexchange seems to be the way to go. I applaud DOA doing something useful, aside from its primary goal of keeping Smilin' Justin B up at night, fuming. I would have liked to have had the sexchange when starting up Bump. I've got a lively enough pool, but they are SO Hen Hud (YAYYYY!). This is not going to be a tournament to run, say, a K of the word "is," if you get my drift (this is aimed at you, you sniveling kritiker, you!).

Next week is the captain election. Hoo-ha! I gather there has been some campaigning, and that Jeanine Pirro refuses to consider going for the job and that she will stay the course running against Hillary. Which is as it should be. Pirro would not make much of a captain, if you ask me (but damn, she'd be one helluva Hardware Engineer—there'd be no begging for rooms with her around).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I'm breathing a little today

I seem to have spent the last couple of days in a true Bumpidian fog. Losing the dome was the capper (no pun intended), but I worked out the solution last night pretty satisfactorily. I'll get it organized probably tomorrow night, which is, of course, official registration shut-down. Ha! In fact, I've now created a new mail folder for waitlist requests (after all the waitlist I've already collected). Unless the NY UDL goes out of business between now and tomorrow, I would imagine that we are mostly done. This morning I sent out a few advisories for more info to a few slugabeds; otherwise, we're set. I pushed back the closing date this year to give myself more time to catch a breather. In retrospect, that seems to have been a brilliant idea. I was due for one of those, eh?

There is other stuff going on. I've sorted out the Guertin finals, which will now be our culminating LD tournament, predicated on qualifying a la States (which we will not go to, regardless of when it is). They do allow upperclass judging, it will be hoteled, it should be fun. I'll make some preliminary arrangements after Bump is over. Tomorrow I'll make the Ridge arrangements; so far, only one parent, so one judge + whatever he can fit in the car and cover in the pool. Now we just need them to have splendid weather.

Then there's Princeton. This has been interesting, at least from my perspective. Two debaters marginally signed up on our db, then said they really didn't want to go, then they did, then they didn't. There was more hearsay evidence than the collected works of John Grisham. By the time they finally decided they would go, they were shut out of registration. I think they're still waiting to hear more; God only knows. I wish I had known that they were expecting me to register them. The object lesson here is simple: if it's an optional tournament, don't expect me to sign you up for it unless I've very specifically said I would (and you've very clearly said that you would attend). As a rule, if people go to optional tournaments it's iffy whether I'll be involved, especially when there's flying involved, although obviously nobody's flying down to Princeton. Still, I have no set approach. If you're on the team, make it clear who's doing what and we'll be fine. (To be honest, I don't see not going to Princeton as any great loss, as I have no particular fondness for the event, but that's just personal opinion. I do have personal opinions, if you haven't noticed. But normally I keep them to myself and play well with others. Yeah. Right.)

Speaking of options, I've filled out 2/3 of the forms for Emory (which I *will* register folks for, but the rest is up to them). I still need Emcee's record. I guess he doesn't want it shipped south of the Mason-Dixon line. Some people are still fighting the Civil War, it would appear.

Some day I'll publish a certain pathetic email a certain pathetic ex-HHer sent me to get out of judging a round at Bump so that she could break bread with her long lost father. Apparently he's just back from Iraq, New Orleans, Kashmir and Lexington. It brought a tear to my eye; I didn't know she had a sentimental side. Usually she just tells me what to do and I do it. I was really touched.

Speaking of which, the only two grads I'm unsure of at this point are NoRelation and Jeremy. I'll track them down; I vaguely recall them anecdotally telling me they'd be there. I can't imagine they'd have anything better to do. I mean, what *could* be better?

I did post the (I hope) final Bump job list finally. The first version was a misbegotten pdf, and I don't understand why. I ported the sheet from Excel in Virtual PC to Appleworks and it looked fine, but printing the pdf was half-baked, literally. So I just saved it out as html (I can't create pdfs in my Windows existences) and posted a link. There weren't many changes from the original. The biggest was deciding to change the majors domo to majorettes. A bow to the feminine side, if you will. It's been so long since we even needed a majordomo in LD (Averill used to md himself, so to speak) that it's taken me a while to get into the swing of it.

Monday, November 28, 2005


We can't let anyone in till school is out on Bump Friday. And we don't have the dome, which means everyone will be directed to the cafeteria.

This is a little rough, but shouldn't hurt us too much. I'm going to institute a call-in process Friday morning, where we get any last minute changes by phone. Then, when people arrive, it should be zip zap zug. At least I hope so.

We're pretty much done, at this point, as far as signups. I'm shutting it down till I get final rooms from the grammar school, but we're well over a hundred, and enough is enough. I'll make the update as soon as I save this entry.

I hope that your life is as swell as mine.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

We have policy rooms

35 of them. As always. We've expanded the building quite a bit, spending about a bazillion dollars and fifty cents on it, and apparently managed to add no new space anywhere in it.

Oh, well. At least that reminds me: If Curtis Jackson and Sean Combs ever decide to merge product lines, will the result be called Fiddy Diddy?

I've got half a day at work today, which means on to Harry Potter after I bring back my sad little lunch tray! Then on to Thanksgiving! And on to lots of stuff other than debate (little if any of which you read this blog for, except for you, you spalpeen, but you don't count). Although one day this weekend I will sit down and update Bump, such as it is. We've now got practically every graduate ever coming to judge (or eat) at some point during the weekend! Even Wedro is hanging up his mitt for a while. What a prospect! The housing requests are, I hope, being made. We seem to have enough ballots, mugs and crappy prizes. Everything is under control. Right?

What else is there?

Happy TG!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Adrift in the sea of pre-Bump

There's nothing much to do except curse that I don't have the room lists.


Tonight is the meeting I would have had last week if anyone had shown up. Or was that the week before? Whichever. Lots of general how-to business, that sort of thing.

I have sorted out Big Lex insofar as who's going and who's waitlisted, just about. Then there's Ridge, now that Matt T's dad will chauffeur. That one will require a motel. I'm also still waiting for word on the speech side of Lex; there probably will be speecho-Americans interested in attending. I did get one extra motel room, but I might need two (two buses + Dave?). We'll see. And our Hardware Engineer and Horaceman the superhero without any superpowers are heading down to Princeton, the poor things; you can debate all those Regis at home, I keep telling them. Oh well.

I was surprised to see a new version of TWHS popping up in my RSS reader. I thought the Mite was long gone. Actually, from the looks of things, he *is* long gone, and he's passed the baton completely. I did talk to him at Little Lex (he was there with a few TWHS policy novices). Odelie is doing fine, thanks for asking, and he's wondering why pregnancies have to last nine months when you're perfectly ready for the event after three or so. Why the extra six months of torture? I told him to think of them as the last six months of peace. He'll learn. Oh yes, he'll learn.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A day of rest

Sunday I got up, ate, bought a Christmas tree and a Thanksgiving turkey, then took a nap. Then I woke up again, ate, watched a movie, and went to bed. The perfect day!

Little Lexington is now history. Scarsdale joined us for the trip—all 487 of their novices—and aside from the fact that a few of them had jackintheboxitis and couldn't stay seated, I was gald to have them. It made for a bigger, tougher field (decidedly so, since they virtually swept their division). But we held our own in Pffft, with Hush and McLean proving once and for all that they're in the wrong activity, and Nicole in Open LD proving once and for all that she is in the right activity.

The high point for me, of course, was meeting the actor Claire hired to portray Phantom. This is the furthest she has gone to perpetrate the fiction that this guy exists. Whoever this actor was, though, I have to admit I liked him, even if he did drink like a fish, dress like a Hell's Angel and claimed to spend all his time watching Kung Fu movies. I also got Claire to attempt to explain what she does as a computist, thus learning that I have absolutely no idea what Claire does as a computist, or will do as a computist when she goes out to face the real world. Hell, I can't get my home wireless network to work. What do I know about SML? Give me an English major any day. How about that Moby Dick, eh?

Once again the "new" TRPC program performed beyond expectation. Unfortunately. Lynne was loaned a PC from the MFL (pronounced Muffle), which had downloaded the data from their registration site into the very utmost latest and greatest. And this was fun. Not once, not twice, but three times, teams from the same school had the same name, not only the one on the schematic that everyone can see, but also the one the program uses for i.d. in the tab room. Holy Hannah! And of course, there was one pair of geniuses that didn't bother asking the tab room which they were, so they went to the wrong round. There were other issues, too, but this was the most grievous, and together they cost us about a half hour of deep confusion. On the other hand the new version will accommodate Pffft with its shifting sides on the fly, so I say, if you must tab Pffft, use the new version and do the rest in the old version. Like the Johnny Appleseed that I am, I left a copy of the Benevolent TRPC behind on the desktop for Muffle, if they wish to come to their senses. How anyone ever uses the new version more than once, by choice, is beyond me. Then again, I am inspired to begin working on that brochure to sell that bridge down there in Brooklyn. Muffle will be my first client.

Tomorrow night, a tutti meeting to go over everything I would have gone over last week if anyone had shown up. Arrrghh! And with any luck, will have room lists (or I'm throwing my Hardware Engineer over to the wrestling team).

There's a few more Bump folk to enter on my list. I would have done it yesterday, but we're not quite at the LD limit yet, and I prefered sleeping. Some yabbo complained that our judges were too "lay." This would come as quite a shock to the assembled troops, if you ask me, considering that as far as I can tell, about the only people on the list who didn't compete at TOCs are the coaches of the people who competed at TOCs. Plus we give 'em 5 strikes (which they can use on the couple of judges who got TOC bids but didn't go). One less yabbo, I guess.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I've posted this on my website, and sent it along with the team dues. I've also sent it to a handful of NYS folk.

An open letter to the NYSFL

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bump judges

Lots of signer-uppers among the alums, and O'C sent me a long list of independents that I'll try to snag. Which brings up the issue of the alumni dinner after Bump. There's been confusion about this in the past. Here's how it works. The alumni dinner is for present and future Forensic Team alumni. Present alumni get a free meal, even if they were too lah-di-dah to actually judge at the tournament (they grow up, they get old, they turn their back on childish pursuits, the ungrateful $%^&*%@s!). Future alumni are encouraged to come as well, except, of course, they have to pay their own freight. In other words, it is not for graduates only, but I do get a kick out of having them there. We'll probably be a bit later this year, what with the extra round, and I'm thinking we'll have to head down to Croton somewhere, depending on the time; I really don't feel the Beach Chinese is up to the class of establishment we're looking for at this grand feast. New Mexican? Umami? Justin Thyme? Whatever Replaced Elmer Sudds? Something along those lines. New Mexican sounds damned likely to me; I just hope they have a gringo menu for you know who.

Last night was the giving out of the assignments. I took a few people by surprise, I'm happy to say. There was oohing and aahing, for instance, in my choice of Policy Site Manager Slash Runner Wrangler. And my LD Major Domo is expected to be eaten alive and spit out in record time by the tabroom team. Maybe. I managed to inadvertently omit Debateismylife from the list, a serious oversight on my part as he's been doing a lot for the team this year. I will rectify that shortly. We also got the team list pretty much updated except for some speecho-American schlub who insisted that he should run the shindig then ran off when I asked for his details. So much for running the shindig.

I've reserved rooms for Big Lex, and put in for the bus. I still need to reserve for TOCs; I just have to remember to do it when I'm not wasting time typing this stupid blog. I think I'll stick with the Days Inn. It's right down the road and it just seems more...sedate, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bump Prep

Or, The Bump Preparatory School for Young Meatheads...

Last night, while the tatties were roasting, I mapped out the team assignment plan for Bump. Another job well done, if I do say so myself. There's one or two loose ends, but everyone seems to be matched to the right thing, at least as far as I can tell. And with umpty-ump freshmen this year, there will be no problem finding runners (at least, there better not be any problem finding runners). Emily J says I get grumpy during Bump. Short of temper. I say, au contraire. I say Bah! to her. Ah-ha! to her. I am like the sun on a spring morning for at least a good five minutes of the weekend. Really. You just have to catch me at the right five minutes.

Entries are still coming in at the usual clip. We're somewhere either around 60 or 80; I forget, to tell you the truth. I have had to send a few people packing (no adult chaperones), but most people are following the procedure. I do need to sell a bunch of judges, and last night I solicited the usual suspects, who I expect will attend in the proverbial droves, if for no other reason than to find out if Noah can find them any jobs in the porn business.

Big Lex is marginally set, now that Twin M's dad has risen to the occasion. Matt is right; the team should fall at his feet. Or at least at his father's feet. I'm going to reserve the rooms when I finish typing this. I still question whether *everyone* will be able to go; we are awfully large, and far be it from me to expect people to give us a special deal when I don't give anyone any special deals at Bump. Business is business, on both ends of the equation. Too many people from one school lowers a tournament's value, regardless of what school it is. Ever wonder why Glenbrooks and Emory limit numbers? They're inntrinsically elite by virtue of their selection process AND by virtue of their selection limits.

Of course, I mainain that if no schools were ever allowed to venture more than 100 miles from home, debate would be a better place.

I've also started the ball rolling for the team elections. I do believe that aligning captaincy with the calendar year is a good idea because it allows for senioritis. Last year, of course, I simply appointed our captains because it seemed pointless to go through an exercise that would take up a lot of time so that the exact same two people would end up as captains. This year, the field is large and woolly, and is rumored to include Harriet Miers.

You know, if you think about it, this is just about the expiration date for Harriet Miers jokes. On to Slammin' Sammy jokes, I guess. You've got to love a judge who believes that men rule the home roost. (Is he married, does anybody know?)

This is a busy week, over all. Tonight, Bump meeting. Tomorrow, dinner with an old friend. Thursday, the War of the Roses. Friday, Little Lex. Such a busy social calendar. The big question is, will I find time to burn the disk with the Brazilian music I promised Burgers? The crowd quivers in antici-


Monday, November 14, 2005

Newburgh Faux Academy

As I kept saying to Kaz, we could have been in Newburgh Saturday, and all this would have been hers.

In fact, it came off swimmingly. The first thing I heard when I arrived was that there was a flood in the chorus room (sewage, no less), but it wasn't one of our promised rooms, we didn't cause the flood, and help was on the way. This reminded me of the Bump that started with a water main break that had shut down all the water to the school, and they were threatening to send everyone home because they couldn't flush the toilets. My explaining that debaters never flush the toilets anyhow wasn't really seen as a reason to go on, but fortunately the main was fixed, the water flowed, and, although I wouldn't swear to this, the toilets were flushed during the ensuing event.

Mrs. DIML, Mere d'Ewok and Nicole's Mom (a pitiful excuse for a nickname—sorry) were there b & e to get the judge's lounge stocked and to handle the food. I threw some money at them and pretty much never saw them again except to get more money back at the end of the day than I had originally thrown. We actually made almost $300 selling candy, water and pizza. I was rather impressed, because I had really expected to lose money, just because I'm a glum sort of guy. But the MOD Squad (Mothers of Debaters) pulled it off. Sweet.

There were a few arrival hoops to be jumped through, what with a number of folks showing up via Metro North, but everything started when it had oughta. The strangest thing was when I made the announcement of our new rule that having your cell phone go off during a round was an automatic forfeit. You'd think I'd announced that the losers of every debate would be sterilized on the spot to prevent them from ever reproducing other bad debaters. No cell phones during the round? OMG, like, I mean, that is so not happening! Wait till next time when I tell them they can't watch Desperate Housewives rerurns on their video iPods. Am I cruel or what?

The goal was to conduct 4 rounds, with actual power-pairing on 3 and 4. And it happened. My outside goal was a 6:00 award ceremony, and if the copy machine had been faster (I was using my Dell all-in-one) we would have made it. That's quite an accomplishment, not for me but for the teams involved. Everyone hustled to make it happen, and happen it did. That makes for a much better tournament no matter how you slice it. We managed to pull off three PF rounds (a first for the league), in rather bizarre conditions over at the Dome. HoraceMan, the superhero without any superpowers, and Robbie the Hardware Engineer managed to win and go undefeated in the event, while pulling down pretty much the worse speaks of the day. The idea that this is a speaking and not a debating activity didn't necessarily get across (which, of course, is the bane of the activity's existence in the first place). If you bring debating skills to it as compared to oratorical skills, it's going to be more like a debate round than a speech round, simple as that. The Fresh Pfffs of Hen Hud will try again at Little Lex; I expect their success to be slightly attenuated when they meet teams that have actually done this before.

As for debate, our guys did fine, and Alex went undefeated for a third place. The main event was dinner afterwards, which was an education. Or more to the point, will lead to an education. I am reminded of the bleak old days, when the group presently about to graduate college first dined out with me. That was when I was forced to realign my educational goals from helping students learn how to debate to making it so that I wouldn't mind being seen in public with these people. (And if you doubt me, think spoons on noses at NFA.) And—OMG, like, I mean, that is so not happening!—I've got to eat with them twice this coming weekend. Note to self: Add ettiquette lesson to the cur for tomorrow night.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Elliptical? Moi?

It has been suggested that I was beating around the bush yesterday. Well, I didn't want to come right out and say that it is a team tradition for the novices to get tattooed at Little Lex, because there is liability involved, but there you are. Lexington is, if you've never been there, the park where all the Massachusetts trailers end up. Strip joints, pool halls, gun shops—good old Lex-Ink-Ton fits right into the tawdry downtown street scene. It has been ever thus. Why do you think Paul Revere was in such a hurry to get there? Why do you think the British wanted to shut it down? King George, a notorious bluenose, thought of the city as proof positive that the colonies couldn't be entrusted with self rule. "The Americans want nothing but a musket, a tumbler of ale and a lap dance," he was famously quoted as saying in March of 1775. On this idea began the Revolutionary War. Years later the familiar phrase "Banned in Boston" always had that hidden codicil, "But Legal In Lexington." Less than half an hour away from the center of New England puritan prudery, it still proudly flies its flag of libertarianism: the bluest city in the bluest state, their town slogan today is, "We didn't vote for Teddy until AFTER Chappaquiddick."

Anyhow, some kids find their first debate tattoos a bit of an ordeal, but most of them quickly get into the flow and it's "The Illustrated Man" in teenaged spades. They start out as timid young adolescents and three years later emerge as virtual Queequeegs! It's a proud, honored Hen Hud tradition, begun, of course, by the original Grabbo. On his back is the Battle of Waterloo, beside it the wreck of the Hesperus too, and proudly above waves the red, white, and blue... You can learn a lot from Grabowitz!

La la la. La la la.

Okay, enough of that. I haven't gone off the deep end. I'm just staring at the abyss and hoping not to slip. Why I took on another tournament is beyond me. Kurt won't be able to get the trophies up here, so I'll have to figure out something, probably ripping the tags off the Pffft trophies and hoping no one notices. We're still packing them into the Library; I'm thinking of tabbing in the judges' lounge, next to the Box o' Joe from Dunkin' Donuts. McRotty just lost his bus; he likes to leave messages on my cell phone, which I've really got to start keeping on a little more regularly. Someone who will remain nameless is sending the Slowest Judge in the East when I'm trying to get through 4 rounds before 6:00. I'm beginning to wish I had decided instead to visit the vaguely romantic sounding Coyne-Jewett-by-the-Sea instead of running my own shebang. "By the sea, Mr. Todd..."

I'm feeling very musical today, for some reason. Sleep deprivation, I guess.

Jared seems to have gotten a job at a literary agency. Hoo-ha! Welcome to the world of publishing, where the days are long, the paychecks are small, but you get to meet famous writers who like nothing better than talking about themselves. There's one on the bestseller list today, known familiarly to his editor as That $%#^&ing *&^%$#. Ohhhhhh, the stories I could tell; ohhhhh, the stories Jared soon could tell. The hardest thing is finding a place to live in the City or thereabouts. It's never been cheap, but compared to when I did it in the 70s, it seems to be ten times worse now. Speaking of which, I'm listening to an audiobook I strongly recommend, Pete Hamill on downtown Manhattan. I think it's time for a list of audio links on the right there. Why not? If you did everything I told you to do (with the exception of you, you interloping spalpeen) you'd be a lot smarter, and, of course, I'd be a lot funnier.

Lordy lordy lordy, I do entertain myself, at least.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mass tats

Last night Joe V asked for space for 14 of his little darlins going to Sma Lex (I'd already offered them a lift). So, it's a tight fit. We'll deal with it. Scarsdale has been berry berry good to us in the past, and we can only return the favor. The real issue was the coordination of the tats. As you know, the trip to Sma Lex is the great initiation, where the novices get their first tattoos at the Lex-Ink-Ton Parlor, and all those kids getting inked at the same time... Well, Big Mo is going to be up to his eyeballs in Aff Dragons and "I Do De K" slogans. But he and his needlers can handle it. Look at Emcee and Hush: they're classics, all thanks to Mo. Of course, they haven't worn short sleeves since 2002, and Hush is the only soccer player on the team to play in Dr. Dentons, but if you can get them at a weak moment, you'll see what I mean. The two of them are considered museum-worthy in six states, thirty-two biker bars and, of course, France. I'm recommending the obvious legume for young Cacahuete. Imagine: his first p-tat! At least I think it's his first.

Noah's comment to the previous entry speaks for itself. My initial reaction was to turn my back on his sort of post-California riffraff (Schwarzenegger wins one little election and Noah runs off to Israel to become a pornographer—is there no gumption in the man?), but considering that it will keep him off the streets, and I don't recall him asking for any money, it might be a good idea. The whole We Are the Horace Men, the Horace Men, the Horace Men issue is a burning one, and Noah could solve it. Plus he'll be a good influence on the activity, a traditionalist in the best sense, since he actually believes in arguing the resolution (what a paradigm!). And best of all, it might give my daughter a Spades partner at Bump, provided she gets back in time from NZ.

Speaking of which, last night, while waiting for Kurt to show up with the MHL trophies (but he didn't because it was way too dark and stormy a night), I updated everything I have on Bump, just about. I think I've missed a few LD entries, but mostly I entered them in the db. (I don't enter them into TRPC till they're official.) Looking good so far. Actually, this is the moment when I think to myself, maybe nobody's going to come after all. But we've got some Florida and Texas (Hockaday and some others I don't know), and some goober (sorry, P) from Maryland, and with any luck we might even get some entrants from, I don't know, the New York region. We did fill up last year, after all, and I turned people away. I gave Ewok the list of the Frank G rooms to go over there with Little Red and engineer us up some hardware. Little Red, btw, hasn't proven to be exactly at the pinnacle of HE; the lack of last Monday's room is a good indication of that. He who fails at Hardware Engineering fails at, oh, I don't know, something. HE is good preparation for life, I always think. Look at the Ink Brothers: they were HEs once. Look at Ewok! The Olive! Some other people whose names I've forgotten! All great hardware engineers whose names will live forever, except for the ones I've forgotten.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

As peaceful as some really peaceful thing

I do feel peaceful. Really. All right, I did wake up screaming in the middle of last night because I haven't hired any Bump judges yet, but I'll remedy that this weekend. Mini-B is all sewn up and I'm not even fretting about it anymore. Not in the least. Really.

The next big issue, absent Bump, will be Lexo Grande. We've already got waaaaaay too many people, and waitlists are nice, but at a popular tournament like this, they're unlikely to result in attendance. Of course, if anyone on my team actually groks to the fact that bringing a parent judge is not only required for the team as a whole because of transportation, but a guarantee of a slot for said debater... But that would require deductive skills far beyond those of mere mortal Henhudians.

Whatever happened to Machiavelli, anyhow? Jeesh!

I marked up the team schedule with a number of "no-bus" messages. Harvard, of course, and Columbia (take the train, bub), plus States, too. As for that one, first of all, only Speechies will want to go, and not that many of them, and they'll need parents if there were to be a ton of entries, so there you are. Debate will handle its share of the load too. I'm thinking the Fridays of Ridge and Newark especially, and maybe Scarsdale as a whole. The busfolk made it sound like this would be an issue at least for a couple of years. On the bright side, aside from having to drive, with whatever burden that may pose, going by car is always faster and, at least in the front seat, more comfy. And we rotate front seats, so there's happy butts everywhere you look!

Kurt is trying to get the trophies to us for Saturday. We were missing various and sundry when we checked them at Monti, and it would be nice to have a full set for Mini-B. He went to Trophy Guy and picked up the full set for the next event (which would have been, I guess, 12/3, now cancelled). All he has to do is get them here, no mean feat since he's in Newark without a car. He's working on it. When he called I was at the bank finally depositing the MHL checks. And the latest check from Amazon for the team fund. I still have to find out what was in the team fund from last year; when I tried to connect with MF, I still had a blog listing in my Yahoo signature, and her AOL account simply sneered at my audacity and moved on. At the time, I didn't yet know why AOL didn't love me anymore. The bastids!

And I'm adding a new recommended book to the list to the right. Actually, think of it as a recommended author; Johnson rules, if you like opinionated, readable history. The last thing I read last night was how the Roman Empire was founded on its use of concrete. I love stuff like that. Or consider the ancient Greek considered to be the best painter of his day (no Greek paintings as such survive): he painted an equine portrait that was judged the most realistic ever painted, and the panel of judges consisted entirely of horses. Gotta love those Greeks!

Then again, in LD, we've occasionlly had to debate in front of panels consisting entirely of horses, so maybe it's not that big a deal.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sanity returns

So last night I sorted out everything that needed to be sorted out about Mini-Bump. What a mess. People registering for the wrong tournament, coming, not coming, yadda yadda to the yaddith degree. In the final analysis, it looks like we have just enough room, although we still will use a couple of spaces in the library. We're down to two PF schools with 3 teams each, plus maybe the Elderfroshen. A little RR, so to speak. Plenty of policy; in fact, policy is Katie bar the door. LD is a good novice pool and an elite open pool. This morning I imagined what everyone on the team ought to do who has signed up for work and put that info on the db. All that's left is communicating with the parent volunteers.

Mega-Bump, on the other hand, continues apace. With Policy shut down, I'm looking at LD starting to fill up. I haven't done a count recently, but I know we're not at the edge yet. Sunday I'll sort that out. This is the earliest we've ever shut down any division; I don't know if I mentioned it, but next year I'm setting a 5-team policy limit. I would prefer more schools to larger numbers of fewer schools. Some people with big teams may not like this, but it seems to make sense to me. Anyhow, I'm hoping the school frees up a couple more rooms than last year so I can reopen and take a few scragglers. I can dream, can't I?

Saturday was the rather thin-on-the-ground Monti MHL. Way too many of the usual suspects were not in attendance. I wonder how people are expecting to have varsity next year if they don't have novices this year. Maybe it's a Star Trek thing. "Computer: coffee. Black. With two sugars." You'll order up a couple of replicant debaters. "Computer: policians. Indian. With 5 tubs." Next MHL is on the holodeck!

(Actually, the next MHL won't happen. The 12/3 one, that is. Most policians are heading up to Weston. And without a venue anyhow, we're at sea. We'll survive, though. At least HH will. After all, we've had Monti, Mini and Little Lex, plus the CFL. That's plenty of debatin' for those of the newbie persuasion. I'll send out a notice shortly. And I realized yesterday that Jeff is now States-qual'd. Not that we're going to States, but that means he'll move up next opportunity, which might be this weekend, depending on the size of the Open field.)

I met this morning with the bus folk (not to be confused with the busfolk, a race Tolkien had originally envisioned in the place of the hobbits, until he came to his senses one cold, English morning while waiting for the M10 to arrive). We need to cut back. So I did. I'll put through an announcement of what and how to the entire team, but a handful of tournaments will not have bus transportation. This should not be a terrible tragedy, and it will protect our budget for when we DO need buses. Cars will be the vehicles of choice. (If I'm driving, be prepared for Coachean entertainment of the first order).

Meanwhile, O'C claims he is going to get his blog going again. Much like, I would guess, the South will rise again. He wishes to write a diary of debate coach life. Who would want to read something like that?

Last night we had the most sparsely attended meeting since the year I imagined that high school people were too old to participate in Halloween. Yeah, right. Plugged-In is my middle name. Last night I guess everyone was doing last minute campaigning. Too bad. We had a pretty neat cut into the concept of JA, and also into the idea that you actually have to do research and know what you're talking about if you have any intentions of winning your rounds. It all started with the Cacahuete case; we are a strange group, no doubt about it. Next week is the Bump meeting with entertainment from Harrison and Charlie. But I need to get at the novices again.

I'll think of something.

Monday, November 07, 2005

News you can live by

Bump policy is now waitlist only. Ain't that a kick in the pants.

Meanwhile, a couple of policy teams dropped in MiniBump. I'm giving those slots over today to waitlisted LDers. I should be able to open a couple of those tomorrow, after I look things over tonight after the meeting. I brought Little Elvis to work, but the Tab files are on my PC. Rats!

I'll catch you up on other stuff tomorrow.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Which one?


And why the sea is boiling hot

And whether pigs have wings... (Don't ask.)

Last night was hell. Mini-Bump is to Bump as a bris is to a pat on the back. We are so oversubscribed that I had to drop people already entered, close policy, and sit in the chez dungeon banging my head against the newly painted wall wishing I could just listen to bossa nova records. I sent out an email to almost everyone I should have explaining the situation. In my inbox today are all their responses, plus messages from people I should have included but didn't. I can't bring myself to open any of them.

Is it vacation time yet?

And speaking of inertia, in the midst of all this, I heard from the Nostrumite, who tells me that he has shut down the TWHS site for a while. He is in a state of permanent depression over the team's inability to communicate any better than he had been communicating for them. Plus, he's up to his own neck in forensicia and incomprehensible novvies, not to mention the inescapable growth of Mini-Mite. "You can feel the baby kicking," he tells me. It won't be long before he and Odelie are up to their eyeballs in diapers, although I wouldn't put it past the lad to try out this newfangled train-em-the-first-week approach that's all the rage these days. Apparently babies prefer not to poop in their diapers; this is something that children and parents can agree on at a much earlier stage of life than originally believed, at least in the scrutable West. It may also be the last thing children and their parents ever agree on, but that's another thing altogether.

Tonight, for a change, poker! It's been a while since my group has gotten together because Shadowman Junior won't come unless the Fifteenth Beatle is there, and everyone else has been jumbled up for one reason or another, and poker with fewer than six is like, oh, I don't know, some kind of brisian metaphor—you do the work here for once. We're playing at Burgers' house, which is nice for me because it's right around the corner. Burgers, by the way, says that I can probably move my blog to without too much sturm und drang, and I probably will give it a shot after Bump. I did update this, anyhow. I'm not thrilled with it, but it's a start. That damned Photoshop is just not my kind of program:

Thursday, November 03, 2005


We got 27 rooms for Mini-Bump. Plus the library. So, we'll commit Regiscide. We'll turn the library into a bunch of rooms. Will they be perfect? No. Will people be able to debate? Yep. It's the best we can do, given the numbers I'm expecting, which is about 40 policians and 40 LDers. We also have the dome, but I don't think we can make anything out of that (but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Noah chimed in with more JA analysis, which I've passed along to the team. Like everyone else whose been waiting since forever, this is the topic to die for. Too bad is not much of a topic to debate, and that we won't be debating it much at the varsity level. Our future is in the hands of our novices. AAAIIIEEEEEE!

The answer to the goober issue is, they're like Kryptonite. If you put them in a lead box, Peanuts won't be affected by them. But the closer he gets to them when they're not behind lead, the worse the effect. Then, as with Kryptonite, there's red peanuts. And yellow peanuts. (And this does raise the question, wouldn't Goober be a better nickname than Peanuts? I'll have to try that one out. And, as far as I know, the newbies still aren't reading this.)

Digression: You, of course, know the difference between raising and begging a question. I thank my lucky stars every day that there is a you who does. (This, of course, excludes the you who is you-know-who, whose existence begs every question I've ever pondered.) I only point this out because you can't swing a cat around here without some marketing person begging the question that he or she should be raising. That's why there's editors in the world, I guess. I always cringe when a typo makes it through these entries, which I don't really edit overmuch. In order for something to be read with pleasure, it must be written with clarity. If I am unclear, you are not happy.

Then again, as McG always says, If you were smarter, I'd be funnier.

Last night we had a chez meeting to figure out Pffft. At least our Cocap Tains had done it at Districts, so they had some experience. 4 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. And it's not debate. You must get to the core of the rez and stand on one side or another. With the toss, probably best to pick your favorite side if you win, despite the Machiavellian turn the NFL instructions give to toss analysis. If you lose, well, we didn't settle on anything there, I don't think, but it seems to make sense to go first. If your opponents chose their favorite position, your going first gives you an offensive advantage of at least presenting the first arguments. Right? We'll see. We'll be Pffffting at Little Lex (for which I have now registered, although I'll keep the db live a little longer). Ahhhh, Little Lex. The rooms are rented at the Battle Green Inn (which gets its name from the fact that you have to battle your way through the green slime to get into the place), the bus is warming up, the cards are being shuffled, they're throwing the day-old sushi onto the buffet table. Highight weekend of the year, eh?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hen Hud, the TechnoTeam

Let's start with this:

I sort of like it. Very Caveman. I threw it together yesterday in the ongoing revision of the team website. I'm using the template of the Hen Hud Forensics site, which was originally a borrow from A&L (and you can see the similarities if you stare at it long enough). I'm trying to get that unifed look, if you know what I mean. IdratherdiethanjudgeatBump had volunteered to help me out, but he disappeared when I told him what I really wanted was to move the blog to the new site. Can't say as I blame him, to tell you the truth.

Last night's meeting was all novices, plus the usual officer representation, plus the odd bodkin thrown in because I guess there was nothing good on television. The novs, it appears, not only remain blissfully unaware of this blog, but they're not even aware of the site. Techno in spades, I guess. It's not as if it's printed at the bottom of every email I send them—Oh, wait a minute. Hmmmmm. If they're not looking at the team info, I can't imagine what they're doing on their computers. I don't think I want to know.

Both Newguy and Newnewguy were there last night, but they both seem pretty insistent on not debating and, if at all possible, not coming to any more meetings. Our content last night was basic philosophy again. There was plenty of griping early on that Mr. T was teaching them imaginary numbers, and then I had to break their little hearts by explaining that all this SC stuff was merely metaphoric. Imaginary ethics. Imaginary ontology? We gave them a pretty straightforward approach to Nov-Dec, too (I doubt if any of them will really grok the Nino article I sent them, although it is a Neg in a Nutshell).

And speaking of nutshells, you gotta love Bush and Alito! I'm actually willing to go on record that Slammin' Sammy is going down. (Maybe I say this because, if he gets in, we'll be living with Bush Bushwa for, oh, the next 50-60 years or so, that being how the law works around here. If you're at all interested in due process, gay rights, women's rights or any of that useless rights nonsense, Slammin' Sammy is probably not the guy for you, bub.)

Random: Tonight we're having a small Pfffft chez. Next week we'll have a tutti on Monday on strategy and tactics. Tuesday I have to meet with the transportation czars of HH, no doubt to figure out a way to conserve diesel fuel. I continue to bang on doors trying to get a site for the 12/3 MHL. I wish I could get the room list for 11/12. If I can get enough parents, Mini-B will have Pfffters. I'm still waiting for the checks from the MHL bank account. Only one NFL district person seems to be interested in the new double-entry rule. I'm signing up for Little Lex today, and beginning to worry about Big Lex. The speech team's updated team list was, uh, unique, and remains in their hands. The Duo demo will be on 11/15 after the tutti grande Bump prep meeting. I've added a new podcast ref to the right, there. My earbud lanyard finally arrived. I need to update Grandpod and get rid of all those Track 1 through 10s by "Artist." When in the name of all that is holy will I actually read the complete New Yorker set on disk that I just bought? Calatrava's Turning Torso is giving me nightmares; I have GOT to get to the Met (and I thought that just seeing the Fra As would be satisfactory). My entire team is obsessed with learning how much exposure to peanuts is necessary for Peanuts, the team member, to roll up in a ball and die. No one seemed to know that Caveman was finally finished. And, as you can tell, it's not even lunchtime yet.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Life-changing events

Today I changed the theme on my Yahoo home page from Halloween to Thanksgiving. Talk about momentous! I also just wrote Burgers to tell him I've got my copy of RCT3 for the Mac pre-ordered. Little Elvis has been remarkably game-free till now, aside from poker. It's time to move on. I had also been considering the new Civ; Civ and RCT are the only two games I've ever really allowed to take over my life. Or maybe they're the only games that ever could take over my life. I chose RCT because I think that at the moment I've been Civ-ed out, but I've still got a few coasters left in me. We'll see.

Yesterday morning I met with one of the new APs and explained the ins and outs of Bump and Mini-Bump. She was very nice about the whole thing. One worries sometimes that the school is secretly out to get you, but in the event, we've never really had anything but the most solid support for forensics at Hen Hud. We are so much luckier than a lot of other schools, especially considering that I'm not even there to keep the machinery oiled. Then again, maybe it's better that I'm not there. The more of my oil, the less well things might work.

I haven't seen our results yet from the Home of the Albino Bagel. I did hear from CLG who—surprise—agreed with me on what the topic ought to be about. It wasn't even a bad topic, all things considered. Too bad most people are more interested in winning debate rounds with dumb positions than actually debating a resolution. Averill & Co. did do the LDEP bit to some extent, including, apparently, the much maligned (by me to the LDEP folks) point system that is supposed to average out at 25. This, to me, is such a leap past present practices as to be incomprehensible, especially since I don't see any particular gain from it. Points are the least problematic of the issues facing LD today. Top speakers at tournaments are almost always objectively the top speakers, so why would it matter what numerical device got them there? More problematic would be the assigning of rounds to random rather than rated judges (although it's unclear to me if Tim actually did this). While I certainly support intelligent lay judging in LD, I also believe that if one is running a competition, one needs to address the needs of that competition. If the first 2 rounds are random, everyone has plenty of opportunity to win over less experienced judges. Ditto if you're above or below the bubble. But at the bubble, and keeping in mind that one is playing up the whole TOC qual business, you sort of have to play the game. Hell, I'm even offering strikes this year at Bump. While I think that Mutual Judge Preference is probably antithetical to the ends of LD, I nonetheless don't think it's all that terrible, and I'm frankly not really convinced one way or another about it yet. I've heard good arguments in favor and good arguments against. Not that it matters much, I think, at a tournament like Bump, because it probably simply wouldn't work. It barely works at TOCs, after all.

Of course, I do know that HoraceMan, the superhero without any superpowers, did manage to pull down another qual. This is his third, plus he broke at Bronx. If he keeps this up, I may start to believe that it's not a fluke.

I gather that things were pretty quiet on the Lakeland front. Having two bid tournaments in the same region at the same time did seem to lower attendance at both. Which was predicted by one and all. Obviously there will be much rustling of calendar pages between now and next season. (And for HH, Nov-Dec looks so bleak, at least this year, without NFA.)

An MHL update went out yesterday, reminding the troops of Monti and Mini. I've got a feeling Mini will be oversubscribed; UDL is talking about sending 27 teams (where did they get that weird number, anyhow?). There's just so much space in the old Hud... Not that anyone concerned reads this blog other than the O'C and that piker who just wants to make trouble, but if you are of the concerned persuasion and you're thinking of waiting to the last minute, don't. We're going to have a lot of policy, at least. Obviously, the NFA gap affects everyone.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The CFL tabroom

Oh, that dark and murky place, where the sacred monkeys are kept under strict lock and key... (Yeah, I know, it's from Brideshead. Sue me.)

Regis has become a really nifty gig, as these things go. First of all, there aren't too many changes on the day, since registration protocols include the threat of eternal damnation. But better yet, everybody picks up their ballots right away (although I always use labels because the table is, well, loosey-goosey), which means the tournament keeps moving. I gave judge instructions early on that this was novices and JV and I didn't want to see a lot of low, squirrelly points, and saints in heaven, I didn't. Even the food was good! There were about 40 in each of the two divisions, and although there were the odd drops during the day ("I have no idea what I'm doing so I'm going to quit debate until I find out" was my favorite explanation) and I managed to put one Monti Twin in JV by mistake, mostly I was able to solve all problems by hooking up the bye with the opponent of the dropper. And wonder of wonders, we were so efficient that I was able to pair round 3 on both of the first 2 rounds, which is unheard of anywhere else. The thing is, there's no point in trying to beat speech; they're done around 5-ish, and so were we, and there you are. My only problem was two adult judges who were half an hour later than the rest of the pool on round 3. Amateurs!

The team did ok. Liza and Unspellable both went 2-1, and Javo took a state qual in congress. And nobody sang on the bus on the way home. I did eventually give in and explain the difference between "Me and Jeff" vs "Jeff and I," but whether it took will be determined at a later date. There are no nominatives in Montrose, I guess.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Menick in Rostrum

That's Rostrum. With 2 Rs.

Here's the article, as written. As I've said, I feel that Jason probably improved on it in the long run, but you can read the final yourself if you've got all that much time on your hands.

I'll report on the weekend in future posts.


Brainstorming on the Hudson

At Hendrick Hudson we are limited in the amount of time we can spend on debate. Or at least I’m limited. I do not teach at the high school, so we do not have a debate class, or even regular after-school sessions. We meet once a week, at night, for an hour and a half. In that time, we do everything that there is to do. We cover how to debate, we do exercises (some of which may be of dubious value but most of which are fun), we hear enthralling lectures from the coach about Rights, Morality, and the Evils of Fast Food, we decide on the best nicknames for team members (who will have to live with these decisions for a lifetime). And, once in a while, we talk about the resolutions.

There are a variety of academic benefits to be derived from LD, one of which derives from the study of its variety of subject matter. The list of all the possible resolutions of this calendar year, for example, includes judicial activism, separation of church and state, jury nullification, government regulation of industry, property rights of drug companies, progressive taxation, limiting science, censorship, and the—unfortunately vague—conflict of community vs. national standards. There’s a lot of meat on those bones, and even where the areas of discussion are similar—the courts, for instance—the content of the discussion is quite different. As coach I get to lead the brainstorming on the topics; it’s one of my favorite things to do, but it is not necessarily easy. So there are some rules (some of which have been hitherto known only to me) to make sure that we actually derive that hoped-for academic benefit from studying the subject matter.

The process begins with research. My research. First of all, I’ve got to make sure that I understand the background of the topic. If I look at it and it makes absolutely no sense to me, the work is pretty hard, but usually the conflict of the resolution is clear, as is the context, and what I need to do is get some data to back up my instincts. I like deep background on a resolution, because I believe that the more debaters know what they’re talking about, the better off they are in a round. With the separation of church and state topic, for instance, I dug up Jefferson’s letter, the First Amendment, and a handful of meaningful Supreme Court cases: the US having coined the concept of SOCAS, parochial approaches seemed a good starting point. But of course, the topic was not about the US, so I threw in some data on “good guy” countries that do not have SOCAS, viz., Finland and the UK. So now we had a data starter set. In addition I tossed in a few areas of do-some-thinking-and-get-your-own-data, general conflict areas such as creationism, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the 10 Commandments monuments, plus some ideas off the top of my head, like “Protect the church from the state, not vice versa?” I plugged all of this into an email and sent it out to the team on our listserver. (Because of my remove from the school, having a private listserver is our lifeblood.) The seeding had begun.

After the background is mailed, at the first meeting to brainstorm a topic (and there may only be two, plus a little bit of updating after that, for a total of, if we’re lucky, a couple of hours), the first thing I do is write the resolution on the board—all right, to be honest, I have someone from the team tell me the resolution and then I write it on the board. Occasionally they don’t all agree on what the wording is, and we may have our first discussion. Make this a rule: If you don’t know what the resolution is, letter for letter, you’re not ready to discuss it, coach or student. This is because discussing it letter for letter is the best way to begin.

Next, we analyze the wording. Here we’re mostly interested in underlying sense, usually of phrases. “Strict separation of church and state,” for instance, is one phrase, a common usage. It is one thing all by itself, not requiring further reduction. (This approach proved controversial for a while. Some debaters would argue the word “strict,” which is like evaluating levels of virginity, while others would critique the use of the word “church,” arguing the idiom instead of the content. This controversy had mostly ebbed by the time of TOCs, when people tended to argue separation versus no separation, which was the point of the thing in the first place.) “To better protect civil liberties,” “community standards” and “national standards” were the phrases at issue in March-April. “US immigration policy,” “restrictions on the rights” and “democratic ideals” are starting points in September-October. What is US immigration policy? Are we talking about border-guarding or busting illegals at Wal-Mart? What rights do non-citizens have? To what rights are they entitled? To what rights should they be entitled?” What are democratic ideals?

Add to this, the niceties of the resolution’s “evaluating” words, which should take secondary position in discussing the background of the topic—the background must always come first—but which may ultimately determine the grounds of the debate. For instance, the word “consistent” is very leading in the immigration topic. On the other hand, as I mentioned parenthetically above, the word “strict”—unlike “consistent” here—was a dead end in SOCAS; it pays to know a pleonasm when you see one.

So now the brainstorming begins. The topic is written (correctly) on the board, and we begin talking about it. Let’s make another rule: we are not talking about “what to run.” You don’t understand a topic by first discussing arguments about it. You need the facts. You need the data. You need to understand the context. I don’t care what you’re going to run. I don’t care what the arguments are that you heard at institute, or that you ran three years ago as a novice. So I will cut off any discussion of arguments. We are going deep here. We are going to understand the thinking of the people who framed the resolution. What was going on in their minds? Why this topic? Why is it deemed debatable? Sometimes the wording of a resolution is less than sparkling, and we might turn up flaws in our discussion, but that’s not what we’re worried about. We want data. We want facts. We want understanding.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I already know the data, I know the facts, I know what the resolution folks were thinking. Or at least I think I do. How about another rule: I am the coach, and I know what I am talking about, and I am going to make sure that we spend most of our time talking about the right stuff and not going off on some ridiculous tangent. This is a balancing act with yet another rule, that there are no bad ideas in a brainstorm. That no-bad-ideas concept comes from business brainstorming, and it is not meant literally—of course there are bad ideas, and except for the schmegeggie spouting them, all of us know them when we hear them—but it is true that hearing a bad idea can generate a good idea, plus we don’t want to inhibit the free flow of ideas in a lively discussion. Think marketplace of ideas here, but with a governing board of trade. I’ll let any ideas that arise float around, but I will direct things where I want them to go if I deem it necessary.

Which brings us to another rule: one conversation at a time. This is difficult. If everyone is popping with ideas, everyone starts talking at once. Not good. With twenty or so people popping, control is required. And I have to keep an eye on people who aren’t popping. It’s one thing to be taking it all in, and another thing altogether not to be able to get a word in edgewise because the big-mouths won’t shut up. Plus there’s the perceived wisdom of the older kids versus the perceived lack thereof of the younger kids, sometimes true, sometimes not. I do want my varsity to be heard because they are the veterans. But newbies have something to offer too. It is the coach’s job to make sure that all voices are heard as much as possible in the correct balance. And one does have to be careful not to torture someone who really does not have any ideas yet. There are other, more legitimate ways to torture team members, and we need not resort to doing it here at the brainstormings.

And here’s one of the fun things. As a rule, there is an initial tendency toward one side of a resolution. The immigration topic is the perfect example of this, where everyone immediately believed in the negative as better, or, in some cases, categorically correct and inarguable. You can’t restrict people’s rights just because they’re not citizens. Given that they can’t vote, these poor huddled masses, yadda yadda yadda. So this is what I love doing: being prepared with a line of questioning that quickly and efficiently gets everyone to agree with the “wrong” side. I picked Norway for this instance. I began my imaginary cross-examination: Norway is a virtual socialist state in many ways; for one thing, they have universal health care. Imagine that one night you snuck into Norway. Does that mean that the next day you are entitled to a free medical checkup? Maybe get a few cavities filled? Get some new eyeglasses? No? Okay, then you probably wouldn’t feel that you’re entitled to a free education. Or that if you had a baby, that baby should be Norwegian with full entitlement to all the rights and privileges of being Norse. But you’re saying that if some Norwegian sneaks into the US illegally, we instantly make him an American, give his dubiously American children free education, and probably give him an iPod and an SUV to boot, just so he’ll fit in better. By this point, the team is ready to close the borders completely. Of course, sometimes this requires that I play the (right- or left-wing) baddy, taking extreme positions not only far from my own beliefs but far from the realm of the debate. But unless the team can see both sides of the argument, they can’t argue both sides. So maybe there’s a rule here too: be prepared to shake ‘em up a little bit.

After this sort of brainstorming discussion, I believe that the team now has an idea of what the resolution is about. It is not about running so-and-so or critiquing the concept of such-and-such; the resolution is about what the resolution says it is about. And this brainstorming may be the first time you’ve ever heard about it, or given it any real thought. What are the issues involved in this controversial subject? That’s why this resolution was chosen, to inform high school students on an important area of controversy. That is where the academic value lies, in knowing about and studying that area of controversy. And we don’t even ask you to make up your mind; in fact, we demand that you don’t, and that you be prepared to argue both sides of it. You could, of course, unearth some bizarre argument from some obscure French flaneur and run it every single debate against every single topic and maybe even win a few rounds doing it, but you’re probably better off knowing the real issues involved and running them. That’s why most of us are here. That’s why I’m here. (That, and those Friday night ziti dinners at high school cafeterias throughout the northeast—hmmm-hmmm!) Most specifically, a coach has to ask, am I doing my best academically for my team? Bringing your team to an understanding of a complex and important controversy is a good positive answer to that question.

[About me: I’ve been the debate coach at HHHS since 1996, and I’m the District Chair of the New York State District. My day job is Deputy Editor of Reader’s Digest Select Editions.]

Friday, October 28, 2005

The K of S

I.e., that thing on which we have always relied... Although nowadays I like to think of it as the Kindness of Assistant Principals.

I got a call from the AP's office. Good gravy. Makes me feel like I'm 14 again. You should hear about my run-ins with Fr. McDermott (I'm pretty sure that was his name—you know me and names) in the good old days. Of course, they didn't call him the AP then. He was the Dean of Discipline. Now there's a Catholic boys' school image for you. He was a good egg in the long run, with a great sense of humor, and they eventually made him Principal. But he could wreak holy havoc on the life of an adolescent, let me tell you. So the idea of having to meet with authority dies hard, even though I'm probably twice as old now as all the APs in Hen Hud put together. They mostly just want my assurances that the Pffffters won't burn the building down at Mini-Bump (and Maxi-Bump, for that matter). They're new. They'll learn. It's not the debaters they have to worry about. It's the chess club. Every one an anarchist. Trust me on this.

Last night was spent entering data for Regis. We're a little over 80 in 2 divisions at the moment, and I gather Eric DM is thinking of holding rounds on the roof; this is one mother of a tournament, with every forensic division represented, including Afterdinner Speaking, Tourette's Syndrome, and Futile Remonstration (my personal favorite). I'll bet things will be really jumping at Lakeland by comparison. Ah, Lakeland. Ten-minute drive, big library all to ourselves, proximity to the mall when you get the munchies. Of course, last year Lakeland never told us that there were no trophies, and that they were contributing the tin money to some nice cause or other. Not that we were against the contribution, only we wouldn't have minded participating in spirit a little more. KevinNotKeith, who went on to other things, marched to his own drummer. The new guy lives in a different time zone; all his emails to me are dated in September, and the only way I can read them is those rare occasions when I view only the unreads in my mailbox. Shakes of Ewok, whose computer once upon a time similarly resided in its own time warp. Whatever.

Right about now the Manchestroonians are on their way to the furthest reaches of the American northeast. Adios, amigos. Bring back plenty of TOC bids. And albino bagels.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What I do

Noah's post in the comments below this entry is illuminating in that it points out what I do, if only indirectly. I don't lead the team in arguments on topics. I provide background on topics to the team, and push them away to find their own arguments. So there was that issue of major disagreement that I was interested in SCOTUS per se, as compared to JA. True, but I'm not suggesting anyone run Life and Death in the Scotus Lane (Harriet, we hardly knew ye!). Those who were at the meeting heard me say most of what Noah said (we raised that boy well), but if you were to pick between running ideas he was proposing versus running ideas I was proposing, you would be seriously in need of a sanity check if you chose me over him. Old-timers know this by now; new-timers will learn it.

Thank God the novices don't read this blog. They'd be more hopelessly confused than they are already.

We continue to gain and lose novices, speaking of which. Tim Newnewguy came Tuesday, replacing Mike Newguy. Cassie Sixtoes seems to have flown the coop. Remaining stalwarts are Peanuts, Paul Unspellable, and a handful of people who just haven't gotten nicknames yet. What's wrong with these people? They need to do something to identify themselves. Although Alex was pretty impressive not talking to people on the phone, I'll give him that. And Emily seems to have a modicum of culture, which is unusual in our neck of the woods. And Jeff just sort of looks like a debater. We'll see. We'll come up with something.

Last night the Bump honcho parents came to the library, and everything is now set with housing, meals and judges' lounges. The magic need is the list of names, which I have to update on my end, while Harrison is updating on his end. I'd love to have it done by tomorrow. I wonder if Harrison reads this? The only Speecho-American I know who's ever read it is Little Em'ly, and she probably only wants to find out if I'm saying something nasty about CLG and the Phantom.

I've got a ton of work getting ready for Regis this weekend. They're inching up to about 90 or so in the 2 LD divisions. Unfortunately Vaughan is going to the Home of the Albino Bagel, so I'm marginally alone in tab. But I'll second some Regi kids to help me out; they always do a good job. We've got two buses going down Saturday, because the wheelchair only works on small buses, so we'll have a nice little caravan. Dave and I are handling it thus: in the morning, there's my bus and the breakfast bus (the bus I'm not on can get all the pineapple nasties and double lattes it wants); coming home, there's the singing bus, and the bus that Dave and I are on.

Singing? Pishtosh!

And speaking of Dickens (you did catch at least one CD ref, right), is there any reason not to lead off your Nov-Dec case with his most famous legal quote? I'd love to hear it myself. But I don't think anyone would have the guts. Unless I were judging. Which, thank Ford, I won't be doing.