Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Checking in

Give me a minute here. Reentry takes longer than you think. For the moment, just some random thoughts.

1. See Billy Elliot, the musical. See the movie, for that matter, if you haven't already, but that's not what I'm talking about. (For those of you in the know, if there were a book, you could also read that, given that all media are interchangeable in certain eyes, but that's an issue for another day.)

2. Don't read The Half-Blood Prince. Not that it's bad, really, but not much happens, give or take the obvious, and if you want all sorts of new stuff, you'll apparently have to wait till the climax. On the other hand, reading Harry in the UK adds a certain charm, I must say. So does reading Wodehouse on golf.

3. Figure out a way to eliminate spam. Please. Talk about clogging the old mailbox. I did get some really superior phishing posts on the old AOL account while I was away, though. I like to figure out where the error is and I enjoy it when I'm especially stumped. I entered O'C's social security number into a couple of the best ones.

4. I sent out umpty-ump requests for Districts judges and have startlingly received quite a few fewer than umpty-ump responses. Jeesh. We're going to have to ask O'C again, I guess. Worse things have happened, though. He likes when I sit in my comfy chair at the chez and give the "Engage!" command.

5. No judges have turned up for speech at Regionals, so I guess they're giving up the ghost, given that tonight is the deadline. This is not good, but I can't imagine what one could do about it. Whatever happened to rabidity? We used to have Speecho-Americans you couldn't fight off with a stick! Those were the golden years.

6. I thought there'd be at least three new versions of the iPod released while I was away. Jobs has been sleeping on the job, I guess. Or his employees have been sleeping on the Jobs. Or something.

7. Wallace & Gromit is perfect for an airplane. And probably anywhere else. I really didn't think it would work for a whole feature, but what do I know? Pass the cheese, what.

8. Fortunately I prepared material for tonight's meeting before I left last week, because I plan to be asleep on my feet in about 45 minutes, when the jet lag usually kicks in.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It's been swell

I'm packing up, which isn't all that hard to do given that I'm not away that long. Mostly, as I've said, it's issues like what to read and what to put onto the Nano rather than what color socks. Although socks will be something of a necessity; it's as cold there as it is here, more's the pity. Oh, well. Winter is winter, and I'd rather be in London to visit the queen than in Cortlandt Manor watching Dora the Explorer reruns.

No, I don't watch Dora the Explorer, either in reruns or in the original. Jeesh.

I love the fact that everyone on the Hudwarts team believes that someone else's parents will judge. It just doesn't work that way. As in States, for instance, where our one parent can cover 4; it's interesting how everyone thinks they know who the 4 will be, now that we've got the one parent. Yeah, right. For that matter, for all I know it's 1 to 3; I haven't seen the invite yet. And we haven't filled up the Grands list yet, probably because of that same judging issue, although Termite thinks his unqualified dad can judge. I don't know where some of our other stalwarts are. Maybe they're just less stalwart than I thought, despite the fact that our varsity all have a good chance of going to Chicago. Oh, well...

On return, and back at meetings, we'll attack such lovely subjects as, Debate as Story, Logical Fallacies, How to Research, and that old favorite, Scots Poetry reading. Pass the tatties, lass. We haven't done Scots poetry in a dog's age, and it was quite the hit in its day. It's time to bring it back. And I've been trying to hire some Districts judges, mostly for the tournament at large (Districts eats judges and spits 'em out fast). I've really got to think Districts when I return. I've sent out the announcement, but there's all sorts of prep work. And post work. Oh, well, it's the big bucks and all that make it worth the hassle.

I'll bring you back a banger.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Oh joy. Oh rapture.

Noah actually thinks I'm right about something (see previous post). Gainful employment must be going to his head.

Meanwhile, I am in the throes of doing things like deciding on airplane reading (Harry, yes, Delirious NY, maybe) and what would be the perfect electronic toy to buy that I don't already own so as to pass the empty flying hours, mostly because not only have I ground to a halt, but so has the debate universe. I mean, I guess the poor schlubs up at Harvard still think things are happening, but everyone knows they're just throwing their money into the Harvard team's coffers in the biggest scam since that very first coach decided that ziti was suitable food to serve at debate tournaments. There's the steady trickle of LDEP stuff, but I'll let them resolve themselves while I'm away, and if nothing has happened, I'll try one more barrage before heading off to the dinosaur burial grounds. I'll need to talk to a couple of people directly about the Modest Novice. And States? Well, we didn't expect anything this year, and since no one from HH will probably even go, I won't worry about it much. I sent an update to the entire team yesterday in an attempt to energize them to find judges/chaperones, but there was no immediate response. I am going to have to do some serious hiring for Districts (not to cover us, but for the tournament in general), and I'll start that this weekend. Otherwise, it's just cleaning up the crumbs.

On the positive side, some of the Jolly Tars are heading down to NYC to research tomorrow. Normally they would go to a library, but given the nature of the new topic, they're just heading to Chelsea to attempt to mug tourists to see what happens when they get arrested. This will allow them to run a post-performatic critique, and I'm all in favor of it.

O'C is still not responding to me. I guess he's been sucked into the mother ship via his Intergalactic Network Chip that OMG purchased for him. He's probably happy up there with all the other trekkers. (And did I tell you I was watching Firefly? Why did this show go off the air? Jeesh.)

Special entry: From the guy who thinks he won Newark 3 times

Comment to blog post from yesterday that was too long, according to Blogger:

I honestly can't remember the last time I heard you talk broadly about
a debate topic and agreeing with EVERYTHING you said; I must be
slipping in my old age. Jeff Hannon, who was the kid in finals my
senior year at Harvard who, when a cell phone rang a minute into his
1AC interrupted himself and said, "telephone?" (he was one of my Nova
boys.) In every round, he used to basically fall asleep during the
negative's speaking time and get up cross ex and ask, "so what don't
they understand?" And he was like a big fourth grader and it was
clearly the most intelligent question anyone was forcing. He'd just
ask the same thing over and over again, kind of like asking one of
these semi-pubescents arguing statism critiques "do you really believe
a single word of this you little 16 year old blessed soul?" No kid in
debate can say that they're meaningfully different from adults.

If you want to know, the most effective argument I found was
predicated on this evidence from an author I can't remember who wrote
a very good quote explaining why VIOLENT people, regardless of age,
are not amenable to rehabilitation. Frankly, the neg (if that's the
"treat them like adults" side) can't argue about retribution because
that criterion for punishment gives a pretty clear mandate. I
remember reading that just punishment has four attendant criteria that
can be deemed more or less important that one another in debate and
also ranked, lexically, as it were (this was always the best part of
punishment topics.) The thought experiment where you consider whether
to harshly punish a man in his mid-90s who's two years away from death
and is, for the sake of the thought experiment, both repentant and
assured never to commit a crime again, is hard to answer in harsh
terms, specifically given that the punishment proposed in the original
incarnation of the thought experiment is between jail time and
consignment to a deserted island (which is obviously meant as a trick
because the point is that he's basically denied of pleasure but he's
not a threat to anyone, just like the presumptively reformed criminal
(who may have been a very bad kid when he shot that pregnant lady)).
The evidence in support of the state's ability to rehabilitate people,
even those who are said to be climinically amenable to treatment, is
fairly weak but there's good reason to critique it in light of the
quality of the attempts tried. And all of that said, there was an
argument that you alluded to in your overview that I thought was very
important for the negative but it was hard to make convincingly
because it was so simple that it seemed almost wasteful to devote a
lot of time to it. Since I think trying and punishing kids like
adults means housing them in the facilities (the argument for the
right to affirm while housing kids in separate facilities was that
they could still receive adult-like punishment but there were at least
two responses: first, that's ridiculous. No matter how savage they
were on the whole, it would be impossible where adults relate to
soulless teennagers the way they might to an adult on death row
(people who'd committed the same crime.) Basically, to separate kids
would be separating them on the basis of their juvenility, meaning
that, a priori (there's no other way to put it...), kids were not
being treated like adults if incarcerated separately. You couldn't
affirm the resolution that women should be treated like men in the
criminal justice system by observing that they should still be house
in separate facilities on the basis that men and women can't live
together, at least in prison.)) I mention all of this because the
evidence on what happens to kids in hard core detention who are housed
amongst adults is really disgusting. I thought I had this really good
part of my case where I read the universally accepted statistics on
the relative likelihood of rape, abuse, dropping the soap, and then
"analytically" explained in mathematical terms what that meant on an
hourly basis for kids versus adults. Given that, as a criterion, its
pretty easy to argue that no matter how bad the bad guy, it's always
worse to convict one innocent than to let ten to go free; accordingly,
subjecting equally guilty people to egregiously different punishments
isn't worth it because of the injustice done to the relatively less
innocent (yes, the cases are not perfectly analogous but I'm sure you
can see a relevant parallel.) So this point could've been really
effective in "turning" the aff case, since violent adults are no worse
than kids who kill Crips , then consigning the kid to an equally long
period behind bars wherein, and I'm not just pulling this out of my
ass, 9 times more likely to raped and absurdly likely to deal with
more than mundane work in the laundry room or even hammering out
license plates, seems pretty cruel. It would be like putting, at
minimum, androgynous people, let alone women, in the same facilities
as most sexual predators, let alone generally bad people. I thought
the point was good, too, because it did what good negatives on the
capital punishment topic did: point out some inherent problem, not
even gross Oz episode, with the affirmative and then just ask, "so
what's the point?" Capital punishment, to me, is ultimately stupid
because it's pretty useless and, at least as a policy, there are some
pretty big downsides and my feelings about this topic are the same,

I always flipped aff, though, and, with the exception of the very
beginning (Newark being the biggie), I lost on this topic but I always
thought I got screwed and not just like I always got screwed (everyone
knows that if I lost I got screwed but the degree of legitimate
bitterness was slightly different from case.) If you can get one
point across, tell those NFL people that it's retarded that the two
most popular topics are debate by an overwhelming minority of
debaters, since they're in March-April (#2) and Nationals (#1). Who
thinks of this shit?


We return now to our regularly scheduled blogger...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Winding down

I sent out the JJ topic materials last night; a ton o' stuff to sort through. It was fun reading the names of the old debaters at the time, and seeing the cases they were running. And interesting to figure that all the old problems will return to haunt us. There are so many ways to argue the rez poorly, and a lot of ways to argue it interestingly, and with any luck, the people doing the latter will be able to avoid the people doing the former, but as always with that, it's Good luck, Charlie.

Jeff, having taken umbrage at being accused of looking like a debater, from a post roughly as old as my socks, claims that the novices now not only read this blog, but that one of them even has it bookmarked! Will wonders never cease! Next thing you know, NoShow will turn up at two meetings in a row, and I'll have run out of bile fodder.

I thought next week was a full break for them, as it is for me, but there is school Wed thru Fri, the poor dears. I was hoping they'd use the week off to pretend to research (except, I guess, for Jeff, who would simply look like he was pretending to research, and the bookmark guy, who would take the opportunity to do all sorts of other exotic computer-agey things, like maybe attempting double-clicking). Oh, well. Maybe they'll learn something in school.

I did start writing up the BusinessMan lecture, but it's going to take forever to make it intelligible. Talking is one thing, writing is a whole 'nother thing altogether. Which should not be such a great appercu for a forensics coach, but I do suffer from a slight case of Debate Dementia (and don't say you haven't noticed), so forgive me this once. And speaking of forgiveness, or debate dementia, if O'C really expects me to photograph my tin, he will test my software. (Parse that, you spalpeen!) Of course, he'll never know my concern because he never reads this blog--he's too busy posing for the cover of Atlas Shrugged, which is the only explanation I can come up with for that bizarre picture of him on the VBI advertisement. "Who is Jon Cruz?" Hmmmm. You could make a slogan out of that!

Jersey has chimed in favorably on the Modest Novice. Mostly that leaves the families running the New York territories to make it a reality. Somebody'll have to make 'em an offer they can't refuse. And if you're interested, we're going to pair the third round of Grands hi-low, which makes a lot of sense to me. It used to be hi-hi, which means the top two hit, and it wasn't unusual for one to put the other out of qualification, even though they clearly both deserved it. Now it's like a short invitational tournament, where one round can't ground you. That is as it should be. We are trying to qualify the best, after all, not just have them knock each other out of contention.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Last night we dug deeply into the new resolution. I share the following with you (and, yeah, I mean you, you base spalpeen) in the hopes that it will increase the quality of your discourse. Although honestly, there won't be much debating of this sucker by the Jolly Tars. I mean, there's Grands, of course, but States doesn't look likely (they've got no judge) and, well, Districts is just filler...

So anyhow, first there's the question of what a juvenile actually is. In a round, there should be no question about the existence of same. Society clearly defines juveniles for all sorts of activities (voting, marriage, driving, drinking, etc.), so there's no great claim that the state of not being an adult doesn't exist or is somehow culturally insignificant. Arguments that hinge on your somehow changing on your 18th birthday are, in a word, inane. The rez is not asking if you change your stripes on a birthday, or if you're a chrysalis emerging on some pre-ordained day on which you are capable of emergence. Society makes this sort of arbitrary determination every day, you chump, because it has no mechanism to do otherwise. Nor is the rez asking us to evaluate if 8-year-olds should be tried as adults, because we don't need any evidence whatsoever to know that 8-year-olds are not adults. The rez wants to know what to do about that indeterminate group, viz., teenagers. They seem to be capable of taking responsibility for their actions. But are they indeed fully responsible? That's what you should be arguing. Anything else is just sophistry, and not even good sophistry at that.

We talked a lot about the difference of the juvenile justice system and the adult justice system. And the natures of tried and punished, both of which are required by the rez. We talked about the relevant cases in the US (e.g. Roper) and how, I guess, the US is presently neg (which says nothing about either side being right or wrong). We pointed out why the topic, while not referring specifically to the US, should be argued in a US context (because reasonable discourse on the subject requires knowledge of the concepts of "tried and punished," which one can only conclude will arise if we concentrate on the US; if one side talks about Ugabugaland, and the other side talks about Ix, there is no reasonable discourse possible because there is no common ground, but once reasonable discourse DOES ensue, then that discourse's conclusions can be applied to any arena). But mostly we thought about what makes all the people on the team different from me. Seriously. They're all juveniles; I'm not. So, what is it about them that theoretically makes them less culpable for their crimes. Answer that question well, and you win the aff. Disprove the statement, and you win the neg. And lordy lordy, this is one evidential topic, because intuitively I look at two debaters standing there arguing with (at least some) maturity about whether or not they are mature, and I believe completely that they are easily capable of understanding culpability, so you'd better have some serious facts or figures to overcome not my prejudice but the immediate clear evidence of my eyes and ears.

Anyhow, I'll send out the old background info tonight over the listserver. I won't update from the old JJ topic, since there really isn't much difference. There are some references and links in my notes that are outdated, though, and I will expunge them. And you, you spalpeen, now know how to think about Mar-Apr, so you can save a few bucks buying old cases from LOL. Hell, I'll send you my notes for nothing if you want more (and I even include a bunch of case positions, among which the Empty-V is a classic pre-pomo from back in the day when bizarre cases were a noteworthy event).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Scarswegian Idyll

Irons in the fire? Let's see. There's the States fracas. There's the LDEP fracas. And there's the Modest Novice fracas (although that one hasn't drawn any flies yet). It's been a busy year, eh, mate?

So how was Scarsdale, anyhow? Well, we have the continuing issue of squeezing a relatively large team into a relatively small bus, which was not ameliorated by Mr T's car dying in the Montrose shopping center. He claims his car just doesn't like debating, since this is not the first time he's had this problem. On the benefit side, I was able to send him off with the bus early Friday night while we continued to tab away, so worse things have happened. To be honest, I like these little buses, because the seats have more leg room than the big ones, plus if necessary there's plenty of room in the back to dump stuff. What more could you ask? No room for the teeming millions of Scarswegians or whatever to travel along with us, but you can't have everything.

Tabbing Scarsdale is an interesting challenge. First of all, there's the varsity division, and its judges. Then there's the novice division, which has in its judging pool all of the varsity judges, plus all of the varsity debaters who are able to judge. Then there's the Pfft division, with its small pool of very quickly sullied judges. What you have to do is, first, pair and assign the varsity. Then you pull out the extra adults and funnel them into PF and out of the novice pool for that round. Then you assign the novice judges, making sure that you're alternating the varsity students, i.e., giving them at least one round off after a round on so as not to overload the poor darlings, except in the break from rounds 1 to 2, where anything can happen. Then you find the varsity judges that are in both divisions and you change their novice room to the same as their varsity room. All of which adds up to a lot of work. And not a lot of Jack, if you know what I mean. But it all worked with only a couple of hitches, usually when we had to sub in a judge, which is why all judges need to be in all the right places at all the right times, because subbing is a royal pain and leads to issues, especially when a judge can be in any or all of three divisions. But seldom are all judges in the right places at the right times. The brain damage that affects many of them who, for some reason, forget to pick up ballots but go to rounds anyhow, is baffling, especially since this is usually former TOC people. The minds go, I guess, once they reach college. Then there's the parents who disappear. Literally. I mean, where can they go? And don't they understand that we would all like to disappear, and doing so really isn't an option?


Throughout all of this, Typhoid Mimi kept dropping by to cough and collect nostrums from the assorted hypochondriacs that tab rooms tend to attract, and we kept trying to play Text Twist, and good old Grandpod kept on chootling despite the fact that everyone else had Gen 5s and I really want one but I'm holding out for Gen 6 which will have a bigger screen (turn it sideways, Steve) if I'm any guesser of such things iPodian. And the Saturday puzzle was practically a gimme, so that was a bust. When I first started tabbing, these rooms were quieter than the Vatican on the Pope's day off, but nowadays they're louder than the cafeteria during ziti distribution. But it's probably more fun, and that's something, anyhow.

Meanwhile, results on the floor were interesting. HoraceMan, the superhero without any superpowers, managed to lose the toss: that must be the part that Noah was coaching him on. (Noah is coaching him? Poor HoraceMan. Poor Noah.) The Hardware Engineer placed 17th, which is always a thrill. Termite and Peanuts both broke, thus proving the value of a nickname early in one's career. Emcee and Matt broke in Varsity, while at the same time Javo was killing 'em up in Congress. Ewok managed to get a speaker award, pulling victory from the jaws and whathaveyou. All in all, a fine weekend for the good guys. We managed to unload the Bump candy, so now Dave is even again, or he will be tonight when I give him his check. And so we bid a fond farewell to--

All right. Bidding farewell was harder than you think. It was starting to snow when we left, so I told CLG ixnay on the Indian Ousenay, but as time and the car progressed, it got drier and drier and CLG sounded hungrier and hungrier, so I called Liz who said she was in, it was cold, Pip was on her lap, and she wasn't moving come hell or high water. Fortunately, la mere de la Claire relented--she had been telling young C that she would have to eat elsewhere because this was Unitarian Taco Night--and allowed the prodigal daughter into the house for dinner. I guess one of the Unitarians bowed out at the last moment.

And thus Scarsdale II is in the can!

Monday, February 13, 2006

I have seen the future

So I managed to judge a couple of rounds of Pffft on Saturday. With all the complications of varsity judging novices and adult judges in LD and Pffft, it was something of a busy tab room, although I have to admit there were no problems with not one not two but three iterations of the new software. Amazin', as we used to say about the Mets. I tried to zip a copy of the old file to O'C, but when I did I stopped hearing from him. By then he had probably had enough of me, the blizzard and Texas, in that order. So it goes.

My point, anyhow, is that I enjoyed the Pffft. The idea that you needed a little bit of evidence for your side but a good bit of knowledge to rebut, and that you focus on just a point or two made for interesting clash. And it's over before you know it. Hard to imagine them running a theory of Pffft argument, if you know what I mean (although someone could have no doubt argued 20 years ago that it would be hard to imagine anyone running a theory of LD argument). The Israeli topic is a hard one, by me a lot harder than a lot of the others I've seen, and I applaud those folks I watched who were debating it. Regis took the final; CLG and I were in agreement, as was our third confrere. If LD is going to go down the tubes, which seems more than likely at this point, it's nice to know there's something there to replace it with some real potential. Mix a little speaking ability, a lot of research, and a little case writing, and you've got something pretty good. You'll lose the philosophical underpinnings, but then again, in an activity that thinks that Derrida and Baudrillard are philosophers with more weight than [name any 20 off the top of your head], we may not be losing all that much.

Speaking of LD going down the tubes, let's see. Pffft has planted a flag at TOCs, so that's step one. Pffft is about to plant a flag at CatNats (where there is no dearth of parents to judge it). I'm thinking of doing Pffft at Bump (maybe putting aside 10 Policy rooms, which means another nail in THAT particular coffin). I'm getting seriously tired of hounding the LDers to provide parental judges to cover their entries. When a given tournament offers strikes, everyone inevitably strikes the people with Mr in front of their name, which only makes it even more likely that Mister won't show up next time, and certainly keeps Mister that much more inexperienced. LDEP and the proverbial call to arms is winding down to, at best, a call to fingers, and not many of them. I hold out less hope as each day progresses that this particular group will martial its forces and make anything happen.

And will I miss LD? I don't know. If I refocus on Pffft, it will mean there's plenty of Pffft around, it means the topic changes all the time, which I love, and I won't have to contend with speed or non-resolutional argumentation or bogus scholarship. Will I miss LD? Ultimately, it's really hard to say. But if I had to bet, I would bet that, miss it or not, I won't be doing it.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Uncharacteristic Sunday posting

But it is snowing, and I'm addressing odds and ends. And you look pretty odd around the end, so here we go.

And, Jeez, I toss out the mildest insult and everyone seems to go ballistic. (I was first going to say postal, and then I started thinking about various coaches going postal and was going to say something like, going Menickistic, except I wasn't going to say Menick, if you get my driftwood, but I decided that the libel/slander laws may not provide all the protection I would like to have, so I decided on ballistic.) All right. I give up. You've all read Swift in the original Greek. You've all read Huck in the original Latin. And you've all read Aristotle in the original Position. I'll never insult you in this blog again. (I'll wait till we're together, when it's more fun.)

So here's the message I just sent to the powers the pow in NY, NJ and Ma. I trust I didn't forget any...



This came up in a discussion a few weeks ago at
Lexington, and it seemed almost immediately to be a
great and workable idea.

One of the problems we always face with new novices is
that not only must we train them for LD in general,
but we also have to start them on the Sept-Oct topic,
whatever it is, followed almost immediately by the
Nov-Dec topic, whatever that is. The likelihood that
the way we train the novices will somehow be congruent
with the content of these topics is pretty small (at
least it always has been for me), and worse, you
barely have time for one before you’re onto another. I
don’t know about you, but I don’t like to even begin
talking topic to the novices until October, which
means that I’m talking Sept-Oct to them while trying
to brainstorm Nov-Dec with them and everyone else at
the same time. It’s a bad system.

The suggestion is that we pick a topic, and
henceforth, that topic is always the novice topic from
September through the end of November. This would
apply to the MHL area, the MFL area, NYC, and New
Jersey. And while I don’t think we cross paths that
early in the year, it would be great if the closer
parts of Long Island also joined in.

By doing this, we allow ourselves to develop a starter
curriculum about a topic that we know is good for
starting. We get to use that curriculum year after
year. We get to concentrate on whatever we believe we
should be concentrating on with our newcomers, without
the distraction of not one but two random topics.
Meanwhile, according to the natural evolution of
topics, the novices will certainly be involved in
discussions of the real Nov-Dec. And they will have
their chance to write and present cases for it in
December events. (We had originally thought of simply
having a novice topic through the end of December, but
there is a point at which we are stepping beyond the
bounds we can set ourselves—i.e., lots of us send
novices to Princeton, which would of necessity run the
national topic—and the novices do have to get into the
swing of things sooner or later, and the end of
November was “later” enough.)

Realistically speaking, we can do this if we all agree
to it. I can set this as the novice topic at MHLs,
Eric can set it throughout Manhattan. Lynne has the
ability to set it throughout Massachusetts (which is
important for the few but crucial crossover events in
November), Bill and Dario and co. can set it in
Jersey, and Bro John can implement on the Island.

At this point, we would like to get your thoughts on
this. I am very strongly in favor of it. If you like
the idea, suggestions for which topic, and exact
wording, would be welcome. Personally, I like
“Oppressive government is more desirable than no
government,” because I get to work out all the social
contract stuff that I like to give novices at the
beginning of the year. In conversations, other topics
have been suggested, but I don’t remember the exact
wordings (this is called selective memory; the only
one I remember is the one I like). If we all agree to
this, and if there’s no fly in the ointment that I’m
missing, and we can agree to a topic in the next month
or two, I see no reason why we couldn't begin this in

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Old homeys

Noah dropped by yesterday. Now that Stripe is gone I guess he feels it's marginally safer to enter the building, although Pip did give him the evil eye on occasion. Got and gave various updates on various old-timers. One thing we didn't discuss was how he would be featuring pornmeister on his resume when he sets out for law school. I mean, do you lead with this, or put in on a special adults-only second page? My guess is that most law schools would see this as the perfect background for anyone wishing to become an attorney, but more I cannot say being that this is, well, a PG page. My daughter was originally scheduled to join us but now that she's joined the ranks of the gainfully employed (in a literary agency, a la Jared). she couldn't make it up from the city for the night.

We talked a little about novices (and I still have to work out my Modest Proposal for same, which does not include eating them, for the most part [and that's the perfect example of what I mean when I say, If you were smarter, I'd be funnier]). He suggested the idea of using MHLs as some sort of institute or training beyond just the rounds. Actually, he was positioning one's entire first year or two as non-competition-oriented. Interesting idea, worth developing. I'll get on it with, if you'll pardon a pun you won't understand, with all swiftness.

Speaking of which, what, if anything, do people read in schools these days? When I was recently talking about firing cannnons over the water to raise dead bodies a la Huck, I was regarded as more insane than the usual everyday insanity regard that I am used to... Although I do have to admit I never have understood how that cannon was going to do the job, so if someone can enlighten me on that, please go for it.

Off to Scarsdale tomorrow. There's hints of snow in the forecast for Saturday but I'm ignoring them until tomorrow, at which point they'll either be the Blizzard of '06 or minor showers and not to worry. Fingers crossed, yet again.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Ballad of LDEP

The drama continues. A little while ago I got a copy of LDEP's Tournament Policies document. It's not far from what I was saying, but there were differences. And did the floodgates open? Na'ah. I got the impression that these folk, whatever they decide to do, will keep it sort of milquetoast, which is just not right. So, throwing caution to the winds, I followed up with this. At this point, they'd probably be happy to see me disappear completely from the LD universe. No doubt they're hoping that I'm one of those Good-bye LD, Hello Pfft coaches. Not yet, folks...

Last night I introduced "Businessman," the soon-to-be-famous lecture on how business works. This comes from seeing how many creative spellings of laissez-faire our novices were able to come up with in their Jan-Feb paragraphs, not to mention how many creative understandings. I would say I'm about 50% of the way there with it; all the material is there that I want to cover, but it wants better organization. I'll play with it for a while (that always keeps me out of mischief) until I can store it away until it's needed again. How can you argue Big Boxes if you don't understand Businessman, eh?

I updated the schedule yesterday with all the changes resulting from the Bump move. Interesting. I think I missed one or two things, but I'll get to them shortly. I more and more like Ridge on the Bump weekend, especially if they offer a novice division, which they've said they might. That does open up the first weekend in Jan for a possible MHL, too, and I haven't completely abandoned the MHL in December (although I've come close; that one's always tough). On the other hand, I've always wanted to travel in December, and have never been able to. Venice for Christmas! Or Santa Fe? WDW, before the crowds descend? Lots of possibilities, none of which existed when Bump was in the way. Not that I moved it to open up my vacation possibilities, but now that I *have* moved it, I'm not blind to the possibilities.

Oh, yeah. I sent O'C a link to, good grief, an R2D2 PotatoHead. This is getting ridiculous. I mean, PotatoHeads are taking over the popular imagination, or at least they're trying to. What's next? Karl Rove PotatoHead? Hillary PotatoHead? Mr. Peanut PotatoHead? The possibilities are, I hasten to point out, not endless. On the other hand, I can imagine a nice line of debate Bobbleheads. O'C Bobblehead. Menick Bobblehead. The ever-popular Soddy Bobblehead. There is definitely a market for them, as compared to, say, the O'C PotatoHead. I'd pay good money for an O'C Bobblehead, but I wouldn't give you the time of day for an O'C PotatoHead. But maybe that's just personal taste.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


This morning I met with an incredible number of people from the district to discuss the subject of budget-cutting. Ouch. We are not alone in being asked to trim down; we're only alone in that everyone else works at the school and I work somewhere else, so I'm not a party to the normal business process. Like everyone else, we've been asked to trim by about 10% next year. This year, of course, without Bump profits but with the cost of the trophies, we're hurting. Next year, with an eye on the ball, we should be okay. I will have to raise Bump fees a little to cover custodial costs (shades of Bigle X). And we will have to continue to keep a tight eye on unnecessary buses; apparently there's a form for parental transportation, and we'll get these for the future. All in all I can continue to report that the team has the strongest possible support of the district, but we are in the mix like everyone else and must face economic reality.

And how does Veteran's Day sound to you? 'Cause that's the next Bump. We have officially moved our weekend. Moving a debate weekend is like moving Peoria: it's a big deal. But we will no longer have to worry about snow cancellations, which is good, but we will now have to hit the ground running in September, which is nuts. Ridge can segue into the old Bump weekend, and maybe we can put an MHL on the old Ridge weekend... Anyhow, I'll need to do lots of planning over the summer, but my vacation will be over in June, and I can put the old shoulder to the wheel and get gwine from there.

Just a reminder. I hate Bump. All TDs hate their tournaments. Unless they're insane. Which means about half of the TDs hate their tournaments, if you do the math correctly.

Speaking of which, Joe seems to have a nice boatload for this weekend, with 2 divisions of LD nicely filled plus a decent contingent of Pfffters. I'm really looking forward to it, because of all the complications of playing with the novice judges who are in the varsity. 2 or 3 rounds each, nicely spaced, is the goal. Judging every round is too stressful. And I'd like to get into a round or two myself, as I've said. And I need to unload all the candy that Dave bought. Or Dan, as the district people refer to him. Close enough, I guess.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Newark has always been a good tournament for Hen Hud, combining as it does an invitational with an MHL, giving ample opportunity for anyone to try their hand at the old debate game. When I first started going, the invitational was much smaller than it is now, and we were dumb enough to come home late Friday night and go back again on Saturday, putting us into a state of virtually complete catatonia. Then I learned about the hotel. It was also one of the first tournaments I tabbed, and I can remember showing Dario the ropes as much as I knew them. I also remember what really happened those years everyone thinks Noah won the tournament, but I'll keep all that to myself.

This year I once again missed the invitational part in favor of the MHL, since I do have to run the latter. Four of the Sailors' finest managed to escape the clutches of the school by the skin of their teeth, and McLean managed to break his way through to Octos. As for the MHL, NoShow managed to take tin, and even showed up at the awards ceremony to pick it up! Talk about your never-ceasing wonders. This is the problem: these Mets people just have different priorities from the rest of us. Sometimes, like BenT, they even have different wardrobes. They inevitably have different email addresses, like ILOVEMETS, which looks to me like "I love 'em: ETs," but that's just me... I haven't been to a Mets game since the year they were formed, which was down at the Polo Grounds (am I remembering that correctly?). Since then I have been to a Yankees game and a Brewers game, one every twenty years without fail, and if Rose J-T ever comes back, I may even go to some other game, if my companions can ignore the kicking and screaming in the car driving over. Once I get there, just give me a hot dog and I'll shut up.

Then again, I shouldn't complain about sports. For the second year in a row I won the office SuperBowl pool. I am obviously quite the expert at picking blank boxes, a skill no debate coach should venture forth without.

Prior to rooting for my blank boxes last night, I worked up the Districts letter and sent it out, which is one more chore out of the way for the year. We did finish the final MHL of the year Saturday on a high, with some money in the bank and everybody geared up for next year. I love having the various UDL teams there; they do fill up a division! Of course, they also send in a new registration almost every day, but then again, no one sends in as many registrations per tournament as O'C. I've got my email filter set to automatically delete all but the last one unless there's abject apologies; we let the normal apologies go unnoticed, but the abject apologies are dipped in bronze and stored for the future, to be given away as double-octos awards.

Update: I saw Stefan and Lakeland now is looking at the first weekend of December for their all-policy tournament, alternating with Weston. This would be fine, as there would be no conflict with anyone; LDers could head down to Princeton.

Tomorrow night I give the famous (or what will become the famous) business lecture, and we begin brainstorming juvenile justice. Seems like old times, eh? I briefly looked over my old topic notes, which are voluminous. Who needs Victory Briefs when you've got a big hard drive? What do they charge over there at JD central, anyhow? I'll undercut 'em. Nobody beats our prices for old ideas and bad case positions! Send checks, cash, money orders, Muppet stamps, whatever. The only thing that's changed since the last time was the recent court decision, the one where certain SCOTUSians went ballistic over the idea that it was an accepted practice around the globe not to send children to sit on the lap of Old Sparky. Doesn't make it any more right or wrong, though. And you can commit a violent crime without mandating capital punishment. Anyhow, I'll go over all the old notes in detail tonight. Ah, the memories...

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Good old Stripe lived about twice as long as any other cat we've ever had.

We originally got him when Kate was about seven years old. She wanted a cat of her own, and had her heart set on a tiger striped kitten. So set, in fact, that she already had the name selected before we even saw any cats. We found an ad in the Pennysaver and followed it to a house where the closest we could come to a striped cat was the completely stripeless creature that immediately decided that he wanted to go home with my daughter. Since Kate had an almost perfectly good name picked already, it seemed silly not to use it. So Stripe joined the family.

Stripe did the job we had asked him to do. He was a great cat for a kid, and although he gave nothing more than a raised eyebrow to the kind of hijinks that Pip is so notorious for--this cat wasn't jumping in the air for anyone, thank you very much--he was the perfect warm body at the foot of the bed, or in your lap, or cuddled up with the other cats in the family. As my mother used to say, he had charisma (and, simply put, Stripe always used to favor my mother's lap at every opportunity). Eventually it was Stripe and Pip at the household pets, and Pip quickly proved himself more fleet and more powerful, but he always acceded to Stripe as the dominant cat in the household. When they played together, it was Pip who allowed Stripe to win. It was, as everyone knew, including Pip, the right thing to do.

In his day Stripe looked like quite the bruiser, but he was more hair than brawn. Still, he scared the bezooties out of a couple of people who weren't expecting him. Near the end, he lost a lot of weight, and there wasn't much left of him. When he sat in my lap this Sunday while I was reading the newspaper, the tiniest wind could have blown him away. According to the vet, he seems to have had a stroke; his system pretty much just gave up working.

There will be other cats. Pip will adjust to being alone for awhile, and then there will be a kitten from somewhere to shake things up. But Stripe will be remembered. He had a special fondness for debaters who were allergic to cats, although how he could detect these allergies was a secret he kept to himself. While Pip was doing tricks and seeking to prove his wondercatness, Stripe was comfortably watching, sitting on someone's lap, preferably someone allergic, and enjoying the show with the rest of us.

One of the things that makes humans human is their desire to connect with other creatures. We bring pets into our houses and treat them like one of the family. And when one of them passes on, we're sad. But happy, too, to have enjoyed all that wonderful company, and that connecting to a life not our own, a life not even like our own. Stripe was, almost from the beginning, inevitably referred to as Good Old Stripe. The only thing he was missing? The one thing a seven-year-old didn't seem to care about after the initial introduction: stripes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Consult the relevant philosophers

That brilliant line is one of the Cardinal Virtues of writing a good case. I sort of sloughed it last week when I was going through meeting odds and ends, treading water so to speak, but its relevance was clear last night. In the demo round of Senor Matt v NoShow, one of these professors used some Nozick analysis on the individual to underly the concept of treating people equally, and the other professor sort of made something up. The Nozick seemed a lot more convincing for some reason. I mean, I'm not particularly a fan of Nozick, and I'm certainly not a fan of the authority of famous people saying it so it must be true, but either of these seems to trump pulling it out of the top of one's head. But that's just me.

The round was interesting enough personally, in that my flowing skills have really degenerated. Or maybe it's that my handwriting has degenerated. I've got to work on this more. I'll hit the floor at Scarsdale, at least, with great urging of the debaters not only to talk slowly, but if they wouldn't mind, to come to the back of the room and write it down while they're talking. That should be a big hit.

Meanwhile, I think we need a new Hardware Engineer. Last night we had no room, and the engineer turned out to be an imagineer (he'd imagined that he'd signed up for Scarsdale, for instance, despite any evidence of his doing so). I consulted with the Captains Emeritus (or, I guess, Captains Emerita, it's been a long time since I took Latin) and they made a great suggestion for next year that I'll almost definitely follow. Picking the HE is the most difficult job of judging, truth to tell. Anyone can brainstorm a topic. But picking a Hardware Engineer? That takes skill.

Which reminds me. No doubt there's a new resolution floating around today. I'm looking forward to it. Those of you who stumbled upon the great controversy at Ripon (the University of Wisconsin has banned pornographic snow scultpures) know that things can get pretty dicey in the cold country. And those of you who watched the Commander-in-Chief addressing the country last night know that things can also get pretty dicey inside the Beltway. I don't know about you, but I sleep better at night knowing that Bush is in the Oval Office. I mean, do we really want this guy roaming the streets?