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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Nov-Dec in a nutshell

As if it were that easy!

The first problem is that the phrase "judicial activism" has negative connotations. In common usage, an activist judge is one who is doing something you don't want that judge to do. The seemingly opposite term, "judicial restraint," sounds so much nicer. Restraint sounds so much more "judicial" than the concept of active/action. Which means that the dice are loaded before aff even opens the debate.

For that matter, there's a judge sitting in the back of the room during the round. Do you want an activist judge or a restrained judge? Which do you think would give you the most fair adjudication of the round?

So there is a negative mindset in the literal language, if not necessarily in the gist of the resolution. This requires the affirmative to define the terms very carefully in language not as loaded; it may even require to aff to point out that the language is problematic and to reframe the rez in terms that will make for a more useful debate. Because, as the aff can point out, the question of judicial activism is one of the most important facing the US today, as we face an aging Supreme Court with 2 replacements in this very session. The principles by which we choose judges, and by which judges act, are of paramount importance to our society today. And that's what we should be discussing.

The good news is, if you can get past that barrier, it ought to be clear sailing. Sure, there's all sorts of anti-resolutional stuff weaselly debaters can pull out of their nether regions, but the question is simple, and it's simply stated in the rez: Is judicial activism necessary for rights protection? There was marginal discussion last night of whether the word necessary is a stumbling block, but I don't see it. The aff must argue that JA would or can or has done things that otherwise would not have happened. If the ends of JA would have happened anyhow, through legislative or executive action, then the JA could not have been necessary. True enough. But it was posited that negs would simply argue the necessity bit, which seems to me awfully weak if that's all they've got. To wit, it was said, if the neg could show the same results would happen some other way, then JA isn't necessary. True, but again, I can't imagine a weaker position (short of a Michel Saucisse pomo kritik). The negative ought to be able to come up with clear evidence not simply that "there's other ways," thus positing the whole thing on necessity, but that JA is wrong. Bad. Anti-democratic. Just as the aff will claim that it's right. Good. Pro-democratic by protecting rights. In a nutshell, the difference between a real, resolutional debate, and phogna balogna debate. Choose your fancy.

The main question is, how do we best achieve the just protection of rights in the US? Do you think it's entirely by laws and executive power? (Personally, if you do, you haven't been reading the papers since 1999, at the very least). Some JA may, in fact, be irrelevant to the rez. If the election of Bush by a vote of 5 to 4 in the 2000 election isn't JA, I don't know what is, but it's hard to see how that applies here. It was offered in our brainstorming that somehow JA was abridging the rights of the electorate by prioritizing the judiciary over the legislative, and I guess an argument could be made in that direction, but a simply tyranny of the majority block ought to knock that out.

I popped over to my local neighborhood Federalist Paper for the odd gander this morning. Number 78, if you care. And the Montesquieu quote is relevant. Of course, I know you. You have no intention of doing any real research on the powers of legislation and the judiciary. You just want to win, you spalpeen!

All right. I give up. I'll lend you my copy of Saucisse for Schlemiels. It's got to be around here somewhere.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


You have to ask? 27 entries in a row telling me who's still in some tournament at the other side of the country? Can I hero-worship enough seventeen-year-olds, please? Followed by national debate rankings? If you need me to explain it, you haven't been listening, or else you'll just never get it.

It has been suggested that Speecho-Americans don't sing. They do. It's just that our S-As are pretty thin on the ground at the moment. Wait till they get some momentum, and it's 99 Bottles of Beer, Slim Shady and Bohemian Rhapsody on their bus too.

I continue to get Bump registrations. They're early, but they're coming from the furthest folk afield, including those Voices people. Tomorrow we'll have the organizing meeting with the honcho parents. It's coming, in other words.

For some reason my sterling upperclassmen haven't quite gotten the message yet that if they don't judge, I will browbeat them to within an inch of their debate lives. Go figure. We go through this every year. Tonight the people who aren't judging this weekend at Regis get to select which novices can't go. That should be fun. Might thin out attendance a bit, come to think of it. Stop reading this if you're that contemptible a human being! There's only so much room for contemptibility on this team, and I get first claim.

Last night it was prepping for tonight's Judicial Activism discussion. I'll tell you, this is one topic that is as clear as a bell in its substance, but really hard to polarize into arguments (that is, if you're actually going to debate the rez; I know there's one of you out there that might give it a go). But arguments aren't my problem, so I won't worry about it. Mostly this will be argued by our team at the underclassmen level because of the lack of Nov-Dec varsity ops. Too bad, I think. And there is that sense abroad that JA is what the judges you don't agree with do, which is hard to get over. And facts won't be used much, no doubt (e.g. Scalia's voting record). Interesting possibilities, anyhow. It makes me wish I was a novice.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Montclair MHL

If you look at the map, Montclair looks to be on a level with Newark, but in reality it's a lot closer. I had estimated a solid hour and a half travel time, but we made it in just about an hour. Not bad.

Of course, we left one poor schmegeggie in the dust. Emceesis was under the misapprehension that we were leaving at 7:30, not 7:00, because of various listserver emails about other trips. So it's not like she was late because she was lounging about having the servants clip her toenails, but she simply thought we were leaving when we weren't. My guess is she was on time for the wrong time, if you know what I mean. Her mother called me on the bus, but even though I had my nice little phone on my person, there was no ring, because apparently there's a lot of coverage outages on the Garden State. But I did get a message when I arrived, and so I called her back, but at this point they were on the Garden State, and, well, I gather they're still driving around Jersey two days later, no closer to Montclair than they were when they awoke on Saturday morning.

It's a jungle out there.

Montclair State University is much bigger than I'd expected, and the surrounding neighborhood is chichi to the point of mind bogglement. Glorious estates all lined up in stately array: real estate heaven! Anyhow, the main event was the JUDL, as in Jersey Urban Debate League, a policy event, and they were breaking down the doors for that one. LD was an afterthought (but a happy afterthought). They put us in a dorm and told us not to roam around past the lounges, because they thought that the lean and hungry college kids would somehow attack the poor high schoolers. As if any lean and hungry college kid gets out of bed before six o'clock at night on a Saturday. The first rounds were in these lounges, then we had some classrooms which were around the corner or something, and everyone kept asking me where they were. People always ask me things like that. Where's the ladies room? Where's the Titanic? Where's Waldo? What is the 39 Steps? I never know and I always point out that I never know, but that doesn't stop them from expecting me to know. This may be the only case on record where being older than someone somehow confers knowledge. Do all these kids spend their days assuming that their teachers know everything, and that they're just not telling? I doubt it. Yeah, I know where all the ladies rooms are. I'm just not telling.

We ran pretty well, all things considered. Some guys who were banging on the walls with pile drivers were threatening to break into our combination tabroom, judges' lounge and hangout area, but they never did. I did screw up one ballot (which was, in fact, a ballot that was already screwed up and I had already remonstrated with the judge for being a putz, so you'd think I would have known better); it was one of Peanut's ballots, so he went 2-1 and not 1-2, and he would not have garnered a trophy, but still I entered it correctly with the Gods of Ripon. Paul Unspellable pointed out, correctly, that if he had done better he would have won; he shows promise in his play-by-play tournament analysis. Still, he and Emily and Jeff did take tin, so it was not all for naught.

We even had auditors. Mrs. Hirth brought some of her Australian World Congress girls along. I was with them by chance during a novice round they were watching. After it was over they went screaming back to Sydney. I don't blame them. A novice round will do that to you.

On the way home the dark secret of this year's novices was revealed: they sing on the bus. I will trust that the novice coordinators will beat that out of them before the next trip. Singing on the bus? That's what Speecho-Americans do, isn't it? And they don't even sing songs that people sing, if you know what I mean. Not a nice harmony ditty, not a nice singing song. Oh, no. Not these guys. These guys sing (and I use the term advisedly) Bohemian Rhapsody. With Peanut on the guitar solo.

Save me a seat to Sydney.

Friday, October 21, 2005


So I moved the MHL stuff from geocities, which so has that scent of amateur about it, to, which so has that scent of some other amateur about it. Scott NoBumpForMe Brainard, after making PFC look more spiffy, has offered to do the same for me. I do have some (many?) areas I could use help on. Like I need to add Cribs, for instance. And a section of photos of O'C. Not to mention an archive of Cruzie Award winners.

I live such a busy life.

I'm in the process now of mailing out Mini-Bump invites, and alerting folks to the MHL website move. Newark has chimed in for the Montclair MHL tomorrow, so we should be able to pair small but workable divisions. I was up last night dreaming of novs debating JV, a frightening aspect on both sides of the aisle. Now we won't have to do it. Whew. But if I ever have to, I think I know how to measure success at the end in order to hand out trophies (but I'll keep it under my hat for the time being; it may be so dumb that it would be better just to do it than to suggest it).

HoraceMan, the superhero without any superpowers, sent me a message to the effect that he was assembling some sort of Junior Justice League or something down at his Institute of Expensive Learning. Obviously, in other words, here come the Horace Men. I read his message, marked it as unread, and put it back under my electronic pillow. Too much thought required. We are the Horace men, the Horace men, the Horace men.

My literary background is soooo wasted here.

I've heard from the Nostrumite, who is in a state of permanent depression over the comings and goings at Tennessee Williams High School. He's got about seven more months of impending parenthood, and the waiting is killing him. "I want to meet this kid," he tells me. The poor little thing. You wonder sometimes if we shouldn't make child conception a little more difficult so that the hoi and the polloi won't do so much of it. Not that Odelie is either h or p, mind you, but the Mite on the other hand... He says that while he's reading What to Expect While You're Expecting, the team is going to hell in the proverbial h.b., with limited internet access, his gapper feeding pomo to his Seven Samural LDers, and his new speechies already veering over to the school play (they're performing some new version of "Moby Dick"; how come Lloyd Webber never tried that one, I wonder. Or Sondheim. "Bring in the harpooneers; don't bother they're here." Na'ah. Doesn't make it.) In other words, he's finding out what life as a debate coach is all about.

And I know I should have mentioned this earlier, but the shock was too much. A week or two ago, Family Circus, which I doubt you consider the sine qua non of intellectual graphic publication, actually did a Stephen Sondheim reference. I was taken so far aback I had to be revived by trained professionals. Is nothing sacred?

Bring in the harpooneers.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Getting ready for Montclair

I'm making a big move on the stuff. I've got the MHL stuff mirrored, I've played around with this and that, I've adjusted the home page. For a while I thought I might steal this blog template, but I couldn't make heads nor tails of the code. I know 9 html commands and then I'm done. Of course, you can do a lot with 9 html commands. Hell, Charlemagne didn't have ANY html commands, and look how well he did.

I've written up an invite for Mini Bump. I'll get it out Sunday (my guess is that no one else is going to launch a tournament for that weekend between now and then, but if they do, let 'em!). Registration for the Montclair MHL is pretty thin on the ground. I even had to cancel Pffft—no critical mass. My guess is that we'll get that critical Pffft mass eventually. If not, then maybe it's a fair barometer of PF's chances in the world overall. I wonder how quickly LD got off the ground back in the day. Interesting question.

Smilin' J Baldwin sent me back the article yet another time. His email made it sound as if King Wunn of the Scots couldn't find enough ways to eviscerate it, but I didn't mind what they'd done and I okayed most of the suggestions. Being an editor makes one pretty docile as an editee. Maybe I'll post my original, if I can find it. (This will be my first article in Rostrum. I wonder if it will get any response from DDT?)

And I'm about to pay my NYSFL dues, but not without more than a little sturm und drang. In other words, if you understand German, stay tuned. We'll have a rootin' Teuton good time! Ja.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Last word on Big Bronx

One curious item that Bietz pointed out is that, in random pairings, TRPC inevitably pits singletons against singletons. It's not hard to figure out that the software does the "tough" pairings first, where there's lots of people from a team, leaving the easy pairings for last (they can debate against anyone, judged by anyone). Somehow, instead of debating that random anyone, they debate the other singles. This is quite problematic at a tournament with a Round Robin where there may be a whole slew of singletons, and the last thing you want is all your presumably strongest debaters knocking each other out in the random pairings! Unfortunately, most of the fixes for the problem (most simply creating a geographic region of singletonness) are no more fair than the lack thereof, because this would exclude the necessary randomness. There's nothing wrong with singletons hitting each other if it's truly random; then it's luck of the draw,


Joe V suggests simply doing a new hand-pairing of the singletons with the pairs on the schematic above the problem pairs. You would have to decide to do this in advance, of course, because you don't want to spend too much time on it while people are waiting to debate Round One. I say, select a universe of problematic singletons. When your first pairings are released, check if more than 50% are debating each other. Then create a paradigm of how many should hit if it's random. Then readjust that many.... Boy, that sounds bogus. (Joe merely suggested the above hand-pairing stuff; I came up with the bogus part).

Anyhow, I'll be thinking about this. Solutions welcome, if you've got one, short of moving to cards.

I never pointed out that we housed the Montwegians Friday night. We've housed the team before, and once again we just split them among our assembled selves. I only had a carful of Hen Hudders to begin with, plus some cornshucker HoraceMan, the superhero without any superpowers, picked up. On the way north Friday night HoraceMan and the Cornshucker carefully established who would be teaching labs at what camps this summer. On the way back Saturday we listened to Bat Out of Hell at top volume, complete with Menick singalong. Now you tell me: which would you rather listen to?

And I continue to work on my various websites, trying to find order, but doing so by haphazardly tossing things up into the air and seeing what happens. Not exactly the best approach to achieving organizational efficiency, I would say. Last night we had our first tutti meeting in a while, talking about various biz plus the new topic. I'm proud to say we brainstormed the topic for 45 minutes and never once discussed judicial activism. Talk about deep background (which reminds me, I still need to post my Rostrum article here). Next week we'll get down to the actual topic. Although realistically, there won't be too much action with it on the varsity level, given the demise of NFA and our exclusion from Bump. Which is why I'm probably going to launch the Newburg Faux Academy tournament on 11/12, which will run exactly like Little Lex with a novice and an Open division. The Open will give people going to Princeton and Bump somewhere to practice their resolutional chops. Although when HoraceMan at one point last night pointed out some bizarre techicality that would provide so-called good debate fodder, I almost threw him to the wolves. What are the odds most debaters WON'T discuss judicial activism over the next couple of months? Which is too bad, considering that it's one of the most interesting subjects around these days. Viva Clarence! Way to go, Nino! I'm just wild about Harriet! Et cetera, et cetera. I'm going to side with my mother in the future. She decides whether or not she likes women judges and politicians and the like by how ugly they are, essentially claiming that the ugly ones should go back where they came from. Now THAT's a kritik.

Speaking of mothers, I met O'C's on Saturday. Really. Apparently she's homeless and found herself roaming Jerome Avenue when she saw a bunch of teenagers in suits, and on a hunch, followed them back to the High School. I was just returning from my car when I saw O'C trying to hustle her out the back door, saying that, in fact, it was actually the assistant principal. Nope. You can't fool me, fella. I saw the resemblance immediately. I commiserated with her on the fact that her scion was unemployed and living in a stolen penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue and spending all his time giving out Soddy and Cruzie awards. She punched me in the solar plexus and told me to go back where I came from. So I did.

A splendid time was had by all, and the next time I talk about Big Bronx, it will be about a year from now. I promise.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Old-timers and my pornographic blog.

O'C pronounced it coach-ee-an. It's co-ack-ee-an, isn't it?

I was listening to TWIT this morning, and I've got a tentative explanation to why all of my MHL updates to AOL accounts were bounced. When I did the mailing I got a reponse link from AOL that I followed, where I was told that there was an offensive link in my message. The links in my message were Kurt's email address, Montclair's site, and my signature, which included geocities, and blogspot. Rather than spend my life experimenting, I turned off the signature and was able to send again to AOL no problem. Well, it would seem as if the blog link was the problem, which was what was discussed on TWIT. Apparently AOL (and others—TWIT is hardly AOL-friendly) has pornographic blog problems, and my innocent little baby had been thrown out with the pornographic bathwater. Let's face it: the porn level of co-ack-ee-an is pretty disappointing compared to, say, even VBD. Thank God I'm not in the porn business; how do these people survive, anyhow? In the end, I changed my signature to simply reference the site.

Speaking of porn people, Noah went back to Israel without dropping by, the dog, but I did coincidentally have lunch with Jared yesterday. He's looking to get into publishing and we did our best to scour my brain for any useful info. Things have changed a lot since I started out, so I can't be as helpful as I'd like to be. Still, as one of the few people ever to transfer to Harvard, J ought to have some leg up credentialwise. As long as he doesn't mind going into a business that doesn't pay very well... I forgot to mention that to him, but I don't think it would matter. If you like words, you like words. (You think I write this blog because I don't like to write?) We also talked about old times and other old folk. Coincidentally I had been talking to Daniel O at Bronx, and in the olden days "Bronx DO" was inevitably an opponent of Hendrick Hudson JS, much to the dismay of the latter. And of course Bronx DO is now a crime reporter in Baltimore. Lots of journalists out there! I'd always expected everyone to become lawyers. Turns out only half of them become lawyers. The rest become writers/publishers/journalists. Who knew? (Wedro, on the other hand, is apparently barnstorming the country looking for a baseball gig. I would guess that it will be a year or two before he turns to publishing.)

McRotty says that my Bronx adventure was Bonfire of the Vanities all over again. Close. I really do wish that we could get an MHL back in a City school of some sort. We did it once years ago. We went deep into Brooklyn, if I remember correctly, into a building the size of Cleveland which was absolutely perfect! But I can't make people volunteer to host, more's the pity.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Why Expedia Doesn't Offer Tours of the Bronx

On Saturday morning I had an appointment to go look at Eagle Academy as a possible MHL venue. Great googly-moogly! McRotty, their coach, sent me directions from MapQuest that were virtually impossible to follow. I spent about 10 minutes just driving around Yankee stadium, agape. Finally I located the street I was looking for, at which point the directions went from virtually to literally impossible to follow (having to make a left turn at a street marked "no left turn"). I finally parked somewhere I thought was nearby. (These streets were one way in both directions, if you know what I mean—you don't? I mean, not one way in either direction, or two way, but one way for a while in one direction then one way in the other. No wonder the Yankees can't win the Series.) Then the building that should have been the one I was stalking, now on foot, was some other building entirely. Then I got back into the car and drove around some more, getting a chance to watch the odd perp walk outside the local gendarmarie, when I thought I'd give the building with the wrong name another try, so I doubleparked and popped in and, lo and behold, that was indeed the right building, demarcated by the sign-maker from hell, I guess. What the signmaker had against me, I don't know. At this point I realized that, A) there was no way to get to this place, and B) if you got there, there was nowhere to park, and C) I might be taking the next perp walk myself if I didn't hustle back to BxSci for the MHL registration.

In other words, that went well. So much for Eagle hosting an MHL. Which means we're still short a venue for 12/3, the week before Bump.

On another note entirely, for those of you with eagle eyes, yes, Burgers is one clever fellow. For those of you without eagle eyes, you've really come to the wrong website.

I continue to find it amusing that BB has been the least reported-on tournament since the impressment of O'C into the DMV navy. Obviously everyone enjoyed the tournament, although the bid discussion is, as always, marvelously misinformed. Since I actually sit on the advisory committee and know all the details, it's interesting to hear what people think we're doing, or to see what myths they're maintaining. The point of the bid system is simply to insure that the TOC is populated by the best debaters in the country. Getting to that population is the goal of the committee. And there's certainly a feeling on the committee that it makes sense to balance things regionally, although few outside the committee ever seem to get their facts straight about which regions have which bids. Also, in order to have bids, you need to have tournaments capable of generating debater pools worthy of those bids. At the moment, the evil Northeast, even if you include the missing NFA bids this year, is not overapportioned in senatorial terms, and is maybe even a little underapportioned in house of reps terms (if you don't understand what I meant by that, go back to the eagle eye comment above and meditate on that some more; you're obviously not TOC material yet). California slash The West is certainly underapportioned in rep terms, even if you think of Cal as one region (although the distance from north to south Cal is much further than from NYC to Manchester). TOC is pretty generous distributing bids out west (btw, it's JWP who makes the decisions, not the advisory board, which simply advises). The problem is, there's not that many predictably bidworthy tournaments, that is, tournaments that run year after year and will continue to run year after year and continue to draw and generate bidworthiness. This is one of the problems that we always face. We would like to make bids available to every around the country on a scale of perfect apportionment, but the tournaments themselves don't exist on that scale. When programs like Lex and Manchester and Hen Hud run year after year after year in virtually the exact same way, they prove their dependability regardless of their evil Northeast location. Ditto the Texas tournaments (although no one ever questions all those Texas bids and they're just one lone state—that was irony, if you need me to point it out), or Apple Valley, or a few others. Where are the high schools in California running regular, predictable tournaments? And if they are out there, why aren't they sending their data to Minh as the officer of the committee to explain their situations and make their cases? The committee can neither make these things up out of thin air nor go by the comments on the WTF website. Of course, there's always the at-large process to take up the slack; that's why the at-large process exists.

Still, it isn't easy to ascribe bids, which is why there's some fluctuation in where the bids are applied from year to year. Is the present system perfect? I doubt it. Is is as good as it could be? I doubt that too. Is there a better way? I also doubt that. Any way you do it will be imperfect. But if you have a system that's about as good as you can decently expect, then that's the system you use. And that's what we do.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tell me on a Sunday

Lots of news, I guess. We've got the school for an MHL on the NFA Saturday (11/12). I just sent out a message to the troops to begin assembling. Plus I'm sending out messages to the world about the MHL stuff in general. Yahoo, out of great fear that I'm a spammer, only allows so many emails per hour, so I'm a quarter of the way through the mailing list. Spam? Me? Why don't they stop those ^%$#&*&% Nigerians?!?!?

Yesterday's MHL was, in a word, a nightmare. The shifting registrations, the judges who didn't show up, the teams that didn't really know who they had or didn't have. You don't want to know about it. It got to the point where I put out Policy schematics with literally no idea what might happen, with judges names pulled out of a hat, or no judge listed. I wasn't sure, to be honest, which teams/judges I had or didn't have. Of course, the teams that gave me the most problems had no adult running them. Next time, I expel them from the league. I don't need the aggro. As a result of this hoo-ha, I never really got a chance to hang with the novices; I will correct this omission next week.

As for Big Bronx, that was, by comparison, quite the normal tab room. It was fun to have the Rev BA in there grabbing every warm body north of 125th street to judge Pffft. And O'C had a great judge pool for LD. We gave folks 4 strikes, and it had no effect on tabbing because most people struck the exact same villains, few of whom were on O'C's A list, and since we had the judging assigned by rating, and he had As up the proverbial wazoo, all went swimmingly. That is, once the ballots actually reached us. That building is enormous, and the travel speed is in direct ratio to how much you actually need the ballot. Enormous, but not really big enough for a big Big Bronx and an MHL too. They were MHLing in the sewers, the poor things. Next year we'll separate the events as we used to in the past, starting MHLs the week after BB. That'll work, as long as we have the venue. For that matter, maybe there's no reason to do beginners only? Something to think about.

The Betrayal of Images

And that? The one on the left next to So-Crates? That's the trophy you get for torturing O'C. I didn't know there was a trophy involved. I didn't even know it was a competition, much less that I was going to win it. Great googly-moogly!

Honestly? It's in recognition of my work for helping preserve Big Bronx, and I'm honored and flattered to receive. I did indeed do my best to keep them alive in the region, and I fought for their bids (I've got the email to prove it) and so forth and so on. My next contribution to the Bronx, and I'm sure Big Bronx fans everywhere will applaud this effort on my part, especially the ones who want to get home before the next tournament starts, is duct tape. I mean, I don't want to say that O'C is a little talkative on stage, but before he started talking, Craig was a freshman. By the time O'C got to handing out the octos awards, Craig had graduated. Duct tape, applied orally, might help next year. Jeesh!

We talked a lot to JW about the region, by the way (he was up to check things out and pick up an award himself; the Cruzies flew fast and furious). The bid situation, NFA, the whole thing. I can't believe JW won't put Bronx back on the list next year, not because NFA's bids need to be "replaced" but because the caliber of the Bronx pool will be, plain and simple, bidworthy. Which is the only criterion that counts. And if NFA bounces back, better still for everyone.

And that's it for Sunday. And you know, and I know, that the best thing I just wrote is that one single word. God, I'm good. What word? Come on. The Cruzies? If that doesn't stick, I'm packing it in, Pedro.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Thank you, Little E

I am at Big Bronx, on line wireless for the first time. I love the 21st Century!


Things are really jumping in the Baldwin/ADD wars. Having been known to publically tease O'C about the site, and to have made a few less than unserious comments, I guess I ought to feel obligated to discuss at great length the point/counterpoint of Baldwin's and Jih's articles. But I don't. Not really. Besides, everyone in the universe has already written about 10,000 pages already, leading me to wonder who has time for all this stuff? Doesn't anyone watch TV anymore?

The big complaint I have about ADD is not that they're commercializing good stuff, but that on their site their commerce and the good stuff are all tossed in willy nilly. I have nothing against educational commerce; I mean, we don't attack textbook publishers for attempting to make money. My ADD problem is that the blog format means that you might have an interesting discussion going on, or interesting news for the community, but the next thing you know, there's some dumb pictures of Day 444 of the VBI hostage situation. If at least they would compartmentalize a little bit, keeping the neutral stuff neutral and the commercial stuff commercial, it would help the casual viewer. And I am, at best, a casual viewer. I like to see if there's any tournament news I should know about, and I'll read an article about a subect I'm interested in (e.g., how to crystallize, or me), but that's usually as far as I go. I just don't care about the rest of it. (I spend probably the same amount of time on the Burgers site, if you want to know the truth. It's just me; it's just the way I am.)

But there is one aspect of the site that does bother me, and that's the glorification of certain debaters. And it's not just through interviews, but in the general celebration of success that occurs by default. A handful of students every year are, indeed, better than everybody else at LD debate (a skill in life that will really come in handy thirty years from now, when their boss turns to them and says, What we really need now is an LDer!). As a result, they dominate outrounds. And they dominate the outrounds at the national circuit tournaments that ADD is always reporting on. So you can't escape these people, and photographs of these people, and shoutouts for these people, no matter how hard you try. If there was no TOC, I wouldn't invent one? If there was no national circuit, I wouldn't invent one of those either! It's not ADD's fault that there's a national circuit, and it's not ADD's fault that people are interested in its doings. And my issue with the glorification of certain debaters has nothing to do with those debaters or their isolated little universe, but that the glorification distorts the importance of TOC and national circuit debate to a degree detrimental to many others in the activity. When students say that a tournament isn't worthy of their time because it doesn't have the right TOC biddage, that tournament suffers and that student suffers and whole teams suffer. And if ADD presents photos of stars on an equal footing with good discussion of debate paradigms, the message is that they are all of equal weight, and that contributes to the suffering. So the problem is not ADD's fault, but they are if not contributing to the problem, they aren't doing anything to fix it.

Yet there is an easy fix for this that goes back to my original point. I don't really care what ADD does, and certainly nothing I say will have any effect on them, but if they were to organize themselves differently visually, into three columns, say, and one column was tournament news, and one column was general debate news, and one column was VB commerce, they could have their cake and even I might be more interested in having the odd slice. No longer would all these things be on an equal footing; the Baudrillardian commodification would be separate, the indirect glorification would be isolated, the good stuff of value to the entire community would stand out better. And, by golly, this would also make the site just more accessible. All news is not created equal; that's why the NY Times site isn't organized last-in last-out. It's organized by importance.

At this point in its existence, ADD rules the roost. It owns LD on the internet. End of story. Sorry, Jason. How ADD uses that ownership is up to ADD. I think that the people who run it who I know are fine people with great intentions. I'm disinclined to assume the ones I don't know are a bunch of evil SOBs. So the bottom line is clear: With great power comes great responsibility. ADD now has great power. It is therefore forced to evaluate closely how it uses that power. Given that the people involved are pretty decent, maybe Jason's article will at least make them reconsider their positioning of some of their content.

(Oh, yeah. About the actual products VB sells? No comment. Never touch the stuff. Probably never will. Then again, if Burgers starts selling stuff—like what? Hamburgers?—I probably won't buy that either.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Lakeland gets NFA's policy bids

That probably works in making the weekend more confusing than ever, but then again, Manchester doesn't have policy bids, and anyone who has both policy and LD teams can simply go back and forth between the two buildings. Might take a couple of minutes, though.

Quiet Nights

That's a headline for you Jobim fans. I once met this young Brazilian woman, sort of half punk, half goth, who was also a big Jobim fan. Apparently when he was about 180 years old he married some young cookie, and the woman I met wished it had been her.

Quiet nights of quiet stars...

My quiet night was spent entering judges and strikes for The Craven One Hundred. In a word, there are a couple of really vilified characters out there whom everyone wants to strike, often with a bludgeon. Some of these people are so notorious, not only are the LDers striking them, but also the Policians, the Pfffters and the Declamation folk over at the CFL tournament on Staten Island. It will be interesting to see what the computer does with them. Will it sit them out, or will the poor schmegeggies who struck someone else get stuck with them every time? We'll see. At least if no one wants you to judge at TOCs you get to relax and go to Starbucks and read the Sunday Times. That's what I always do!

And of course there are also quiet stars in my eyes over the doings at Apple. I've been meditating on getting a desktop, and those new G5s look awful purty. One probably should wait till the switch to Intel, but still... Then again, where am I supposedly getting the money for all this equipment? I can look at the video iPod with admiration but not lust, on the other hand. But I like Jobs's strategy: build a great iPod that doesn't depend on the video part, and if the video works, you're there, and if it doesn't, you haven't really lost anything. I can't say I've always wanted to pay two bucks to watch Desperate Housewives on a 2.5 inch screen on any given Monday morning, but I'm sure there will be more content shortly, and to some extent what we're creating here is just a miniature player to hook up to your 50-inch monitor in some not too distant future.

I do love technology!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rights and privileges

I really get a kick out of writing on the blackboard. You say something, then you write it down. So I'll say "Social Contract" and write down "Social Contract." What a blast! Of course, writing it down means that it must be more important than the stuff I didn't write down, so anyone taking notes will write it down on their notepad: "Social Contract." The communication circle is complete. Cue the sun.

Last night was Rights 101. Novices came from far and wide: we're down to 10, including the two who didn't show up. They seem still not to be reading this blog, which means we can make fun of them for a little while longer. Remarkably, I think I know who they all are, by name. That's unbelievable for me. Usually it takes years. I'm still not sure who Ewok is, after all. I mean, I know who Ewok is, but I have no idea what his real name is. Maybe that's all for the best.

While we were discussing John Locke, the Board was being bombarded by the remaining forensicians making their plea to travel to Manhattan. Early reports from Ewok (whoever he is) and Harrison were positive, and it looks like we're in the clear. Thank goodness. Missing out on Manhattan venues would have been one incredibly negative hit to the team on all counts.

After the meeting I entered the Bronx contestants (AKA the Craven One Hundred) into the software. It's a great field. Too bad TRPC doesn't allow parimutuel betting; maybe the next version. I've also gotten some MHL entries, but not a lot. I'm assuming that Monticello will have the odd few, and maybe one or two city schools might come up with some, but so far it's us, Bronx (482 names so far) and Scarsdale. Should be interesting. Policy is even thinner on the ground. I don't know what more I can do; I've sent out at least an umpty-ump of invitations...

One last thing on the voting issue. Since voting is the only thing that separates cits from non-cits, arguing about voting is simply arguing whether there should be any inherent distinction between cits and non-cits, period. And if that's not an idiotic arena for debate, I don't know what is.

I can't wait to get pissed off about how people are ruining the next topic!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Future judges safe from Rocking Chair Killer

The Rocking Chair Killer failed to show for the judge meeting last night, so there were no casualties. It was mostly me rambling on (as if I ever ramble) and touching various issues, using MJ's neotraditionalist memo as a starting point. Much of that is relevant only to college judges, but it was still pretty useful. Anyhow, now at least that group can go forth and conquer.

Persuant to yesterday's discussion, here's today's challenge: find the rules about voting in the Constitution. (Hint: this is a trick question, but if you're really good, you will find one of the few references to the fact that you must be a citizen to vote, as compared to all other rights which are simply applied—or not—without references to citizenship. This is why parent judges are important; they're not half as dumb as the Ivy League college kids who think voting rights should be given willy nilly to tourists the minute they get off the red eye to Vegas, or that we should legitimatly be arguing that issue.)

We probably will have to do a Pffft session for November, especially if Little Lex is Pfffting. (I'll find out from LC this weekend.) We've definitely got nascent pfffters on the team.

Speaking of the forthcoming weekend, O'C seems to be busy getting nervous. There's about a hundred or so people registered, and I figure we've now got a list of the most craven debaters in the country, i.e., all those people who don't want Cruz to drop them in the foreseeable future. We'll be doing 4 blocks; the way I figure this, it's potentially removing 16 judges from any double-flighted round, but he's got enough overage that we should be fine. I told him I could handle it, but if it doesn't work out, I'll just blame him. Apparently he's got Soddy and JW both coming. If he can get Soddy to yell at us to close the door, O'C's work here will be done. I started entering the data last night (into the good software, of course), and I should have it all done by tomorrow night (tonight I'll be at the school) so we can begin entering the changes. For some reason, the earlier in the season, the more changes. By the time we get to Bump, things have lightened up a bit.

Speaking of which, it seems as if the PMI is open after all. Burlington got rooms, and they said that renovations won't begin till next year. Good news for this year, anyhow. A few teams have already registered for the tournament. Poor O'C wanted to be first but came in a poor third. You've got to move fast around here. I think he figured I really hadn't opened registration until I sent out the invite messages Sunday. I mean, it's just me saving emails into a Bump folder. Or it's brain surgery. One of the two. And, oh yeah, BenT's mom has volunteered to do the meals! I sleep soundly now. The trophies have been ordered. What else is there to do? I'll have to get busy getting nervous.

Monday, October 10, 2005

You've got to be kidding

E Rin and I drove back from Monticello (or more accurately floated back from Monticello) and she told me that there were cases out there revolving around whether non-citizens should have the "right to vote."

Read the headline of this entry.

Citizens are, by definition, members of the state. Non-citizens are, by definition, not members of the state. The absurdity of suggesting that non-citizens are entitled to vote, that the right to vote ought to be protected for people who are not members of the state, almost defies argument. This is the usual problem with absurd arguments: if someone actually believes that UFOs are landing every night in Newburgh stealing our TOC bids, it's hard to come up with a logical argument against this position that anyone who believes that UFOs are landing every night in Newburgh stealing our TOC bids would accept.


Of course, by the same token of this absurd, non-citizens ought to be allowed to hold office, n'est-ce pa? If you don't need to be a member of the state to vote, the same logic would protect the right of non-members of the state to be, say, President of the United States. Which means that if Osama bin Laden snuck in from Canada tomorrow, i.e., became a resident non-citizen, we would need to defend his right not only to vote but to stand for office.

Then again, maybe these vote folks are only defending the right of legal immigrants to vote. But nothing in the topic separates legal from non-legal non-citizens. Even ignoring that, though, non-citizens should be entitled to vote the minute they get through immigration control? Jeesh! Why do you think there's such a thing as naturalization? Why do you think it's not instant, where I take one frostback, add water, and presto, you're an American?

Let's stick with Canada (it's either hard to offend Canadians or it's permissible, compared to any other group where it's neither). A group of frostbacks sneaks over the border. Do they have the right to assemble? Publish a newspaper? Petition the government (US) for a redress of grievances? Bear arms? Are they subject to search and is their property subject to seizure any differently than the average Kansan? Are they entitled to a grand jury indictment? The usual process of a fair trial we would give to Kenny Kansan? Are they entitled to a trial by jury?

Same group, but they enter legally. Ask yourself the same questions as above.

Now, are you telling me, with all that meat on the plate, with all those potatoes, with all that gravy, with all that debate nourishment, you are so craven as to turn away from this forensic meal so that you can argue the absurdity of non-citizens voting?

You are, certifiably, insane.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Little Elvis to the Rescue!

Final word on Yale: I learned that some of our brave Hen Hud legion didn't get rounds started till after midnight last Saturday. 'Nuff said.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've begun sending out Bump invitations. I guess I could jigger the invite around for the next 50 years, but nobody ever reads it all that closely, so why bother? Of course, with the Peekskill Motor Inn being renovated, things won't be easy. But somehow we'll muddle through. I'm recommending the Holiday Inn Express over the goat path as the nearest. Not much we can do about it...

Monticello is the order of the day, blogwise. Much to the dismay of all and sundry, they were using the new version of TRPC. In fact, so new that it had a 2005 date on it. Great googly-moogly. The first thing that happened to me was that all the policy folk migrated into varsity LD. So I elimated all the policy folk, 2 divisions of them, polician by polician. After that, it refused to acknowledge some of the byes (but not all), forgot who the judges were on a given round, and generally forced you to keep an eye on it every minute. As for policy, they had the same problems, but worse. Every time Kaz turned around, all the policians had become LDers. Not once but regularly.

It was a nightmare. I installed Good TRPC on Sabrina's machine for the future and clearly labeled it as such, and labeled Bad TRPC as "If You Run This You Will Go To Hell (I'll see to it personally)" or something like that. And I warned Dario, who runs East Side and the new Ridge, and Kurt, who's running the policy side of Montclair. If you want hell in a handbasket, it's your handbasket! Meanwhile, the old TRPC, missing some of the nice features of the new, has the virtue of never giving us the least bit of problem. Do not be fooled by newness!

Meanwhile, in one of those great displays of oversight, one of the computers (new) couldn't connect to the single printer (old). One of them had no serial port, the other no USB (I'll let you figure out which was which). Fortunately I had thrown my printer into the car just for the hell of it as a backup, and I found myself running down to the trunk about five minutes after I arrived. Then the computer didn't have Epson drivers, and I didn't have my disk (which I have now copied and stuck in the bag with the printer-semper paratis, baby!) so I had no alternative but to pull out untried, untested little Elvis, AKA the Hunk o' Hunk 'o Burnin' Love (you don't have to be an Elvis fan to understand what I'm talking about, but it helps). The little squirt ran like a champ! Awe was inspired far and wide. No, says I, it's not magic, it's Little Elvis. Oh yeah, and Virtual PC. But it does work. Go, Little E!

After that, the tabroom was abuzz with tabroomian gossip, much of which you can imagine for yourself, since I won't tell you. Losing NFA was discussed at length. When I was at Hen Hud Friday I put in for our school for Nov 12; we would run an MHL at least, which will help ease the pain a bit. I should know in a couple of days where we stand. For those of you who know the tab room personnel, you know that there is always much comparing of symptoms in the race for who's the most decrepit. "I'm allergic to chocolate." "That's nothing; I'm allergic to wheat." "Oh yeah? I'm allergic to any food derived from either plants or animals!" "Oh yeah? Well I'm allergic to air! And vacuums! So there!" I can't keep up. They make me feel like such a medical also-ran. But it was fun to be back, getting the scoop(s) from everyone, figuring out how we're doing what when. We all seem to share one thing: a strong belief in developing the younger students. Not that we don't highly regard older students, for whom we wish all the best. But if you want solid varsity debaters, you need to plant solid novice debaters. It's as simple as that. Which is why we're so gung-ho on the MHL. Which is why we're so depressed about NFA. But with Hen Hud doing an MHL that weekend, and Manchester doing a comparable (which they volunteered to conduct) on the other end of the geographic spectrum, at least we'll save some of that experience for the newbies. Who, presumably, will be next year's oldies.

On the debate floor, Nicole and Craig had outstanding tournaments, the team as a whole looked none the worse for wear when it was over, and we had a nice batch of Chinese food at the Beach to wind it up. It's not great there, but it is open, which is unusual for local restaurants after, say, eight o'clock when they roll up the sidewalks (except, of course, we don't have any sidewalks around here, which I guess means that they're permanently rolled up). Driving through that storm was wet murder: trees down, flooded roads. But all's well that ends well.

Which is enough for now.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Good news, bad news

Good news: Odelie is pregnant. Great googly-moogly! The Nostrumite is going to be a father. If that doesn't disprove intelligent design, nothing does. (As a prenatal favor to the Mite, I'm giving him some space at I'm moving things over there slowly but surely. If a link is dead on the team site, that means I'm futzing with it. It'll be live again in a day or two.)

Bad news: 3 parents showed up for judge training last night. That does not bode well for the future. In essence, it means that I may have to pick and choose who gets to go where by random draw, which is never entertaining for any of us. If you're a novice reading this, just because they didn't come to the meeting doesn't mean they can't still learn. I've got documentation up the wazoo. Talk to me, people.

I'm just about to pack Little Elvis for the trip to Monticello. It's practically balmy out (it's certainly barmy in), very unusual for the Monti trip. Should be fun.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

There is a great disturbance in the Force

I love consistency. As in, guess who won't be showing up for Monticello... Right the first time! Thank God we didn't nickname the guy ShowUp.

CLG is doing a fund-raising walk. If you're interested in sponsoring, go to where you can find her name (Le Goues) in the Boston walk. I'm all in favor of curing just about everything. If there were no diabetes, we wouldn't have spent four years leaving needles behind in every restaurant we visited. That would have been nice.

I was pointed to a thread about BB somehow co-opting NFA's TOC bids on the site (if you think I don't look at DOA much, then I REALLY don't look at this one anymore). There seems to be some sense among debaters that the northeast should have some specific apportionment of biddage, and that the cosmic balance needs to be redressed before life on earth as we know it ends in catastrophe. I don't really think it works that way. First of all, while I would love to see Bronx regain its bids, the issue we are facing at the moment is that there is simply a gap in the schedule on the weekend of Nov 11. This is a gap of Policy/LD in two divisions, novice and varsity, plus PF. In other words, at least half the people usually attending NFA have absolutely no interest in the TOC. Every tournament in the world should not be evaluated as how well it gets you into some other tournament. NFA is a spectacular opportunity to introduce a large number of novices to two-day events. I miss that a lot more than I miss four TOC bids. The number of people in the northeast who are seriously in contention for TOC bids is rather small. The number of people who mistakenly think they are seriously in contention for TOC bids is about the same. The number of people in the northeast who are seriously interested in debate for other reasons is everyone else, and that's the big number that I'm interested in.

In my wish list for that weekend, first and foremost is a place for the greatest number of my entire team to get debate rounds. This includes novices and varsity. At the absolute bottom of my wish list that weekend, although it would still indeed be on my list, is that whatever opportunity presents itself include a TOC bid of some sort. Some of us are working to do something in that direction; there will be much talk among coaches over the next couple of weeks when we congregate at Monti and Bronx. I do hope to see some solution that does the best it can to serve the complex constituency of area debate teams.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I have no idea what's happening when

There seems to be no way I can coordinate the Coachean calendar with the Teamean calendar. These people simply never seem to go to school. I had this whole thing worked out for topic meetings and judge meetings and novice meetings, and it all went to hand in a hellbasket when Liz reminded me about Columbus Day. So I've sent out an update. Again. And updated the Yahoo Group calendar (which sends out automated reminders). Thank God there's only a couple hundred Jewish holidays to keep track of... I left next Wednesday open for upperclassmen who might be interested in visiting with the school board. I don't want to promote mutiny or anything, but if we can't go to the city, we're in a little trouble. Bronx can't host on 10/29, and substitutes Regis or Stuy are both in Manhattan, last time I looked. The effective place for the team to air its voice is at the board meeting. I'm sure they'll get a sympathetic hearing.

If I get a chance I'll launch Bump this pm. Depends on if I get involved reading a good book. I just need to move half a dozen addresses to my mailbox and we're golden.

I feel quite ready for the parent judge training. Last year I scaled it down a bit and eliminated the demo, which had a tendency to leave most parents in a state of nostrumian depression. Let them have the shock when they actually show up at a tournament.

Other than that, odds and ends: updating the student address list (I'll do that during Monti downtime), meditating on JA, counting the money from Yale (I never actually figured who paid and who didn't, which I will do, I assure you, before next week), entering the first MHL names (Yaa'aay!), talking to various random people on the phone who the NFL send to me for info (more than you'd expect, but I usually set them straight pretty quickly and convince them that starting ping pong teams ia a much better idea than forensics), that sort of thing. Oh, yeah, and I'm just about to register for the Home of the Albino Bagel.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Reasonable satisfaction

I am now reasonably satisfied with, at least as a spaceholder. If you wish to be wowed by my computer skills, don't check it out. If you wish to think I can make html sing like one-legged goose, be my guest. Yeah, yeah, it's just the Hen Hud site shell. But I'm not competing with anybody here, just getting the info organized. Now the boring part of moving every page with every link begins. But at least I'll update as I go along, so the info will all be fresh when that freebooter (yeah, you again) steals it all from us and runs it against us at Bump.

Wait a minute. We don't debate at Bump. Nyaah, nyaah, as they say in France.

And Bump is ready to go. I'm this close to telling O'C to let fly the dogs of ADD. Mostly I just want to torture him in my evil way by holding off. I know he loves posting actual news, as compared to pictures of all the kids he's coached trying to look like they want their pictures taken. Of course, I'm still waiting for those surreptitious crib pix he took back at districts...

Fans of Legal Affairs might want to check out their website ( It's gotten much more dynamic than it used to be. But then again, haven't we all?

Still hoping for news regarding the NFA date. Some HHers are rallying around Pffft for November, so I'll have to talk a look at the topic and do a topic session. I'm thinking of watching a round or two at BxSci, just to get a feel for it. I mean, if it's going to replace LD, I should know what it is. Anyhow, if you are thinking of pffting, don't forget you'll need parent judges.

The Bronx CFL is now off. As in, about to be relocated, most likely in NYC. As soon as I know something I will run it past the parental units. This is one of the biggest CFLs of the year; if we don't go, we are really knocking the legs out from under the speecho-Americans, and not doing much for the LDers either. I hate going to tournaments alone...

Monday, October 03, 2005

A fairly big day, as my days go

First of all, the Newburgh tournament is cancelled. Cancelled, you say? Yes indeedy. Mostly due to budget and admin issues. They haven't been able to get their novices started yet, and they're just not up to it. In the long view of things, I doubt if it will affect their TOC bid, but this year that leaves one awfully big hold in the schedule. I'm going to see what I can do to patch it. With what, I don't know. But I've got an awfully lot of hungry brains to feed here, folks. is now up and running. Of course, if you go to the site, you see the IX Webhosting info at the moment. I'll move it in a day or two, as soon as I remember who they are and have log-ins bookmarked on all my machinery. So far I've moved on the sked and Bump.

Yale has come and gone. I don't know how well it came and went, but I'll find out soon enough. At least HoraceMan, the s sans s, and Nicole, my Liaisester (try to parse THAT one), both broke. I haven't heard yet about the speecho-Americans, but I haven't checked my mail since I asked about them.

As I type this I'm updating the Bump mailing list. As soon as that is done, the bloody thing is in the mail. Good riddance. Next step, trophies (I think). I'll check my instructions once the invite has gone out.

The MHL invite for Bronx and Montclair went out without too many bounces. I can't wait for the MHL to get going. For that matter, I can't wait for everything to get going. There are no meetings this week because of the holidays, so tonight it's Bump, tomorrow it's judge training, into which I will have to throw Pffft.