Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rules, Part Two, They're Back and They're Mad

Let’s go on from where we left it.

3. Argumentation – Because Lincoln Douglas debate is an educational debate activity, debaters are obligated to construct logical chains of reasoning which lead to the conclusion of the affirmative or negative position. The nature of proof may take a variety of forms (e.g., a student’s original analysis, application of philosophy, examples, analogies, statistics, expert opinion, etc.). Arguments should be presented in a cohesive manner that shows a clear relationship to the value structure. Any research should be conducted and presented ethically from academically sound and appropriately cited sources.

Pretty obvious. I do note that they’re not making a big deal about ethical research, aside from saying that it’s required, and that’s fine by me; unlike some, like Smilin’ J, I’ve never felt there was a lot of finagling going on in this area. The only thing that really strikes me about this paragraph is that they’re mandating a “clear relationship to the value structure,” which, combined with other things already mentioned, pretty much mandates having a value structure. I’m a little iffy about that, because the standards framework doesn’t strike me as the only way to go, but I have no difficulty living with V/C if the rule is there. Occasionally a resolution may not require V/C for a good, solid argument, but I guess going forward, it will by default. So be it.

4. Cross-Examination - Cross-examination should be used by the debater to clarify, challenge, and/or advance arguments in the round.

No doubt the whole flex-prep issue was raised and ignored by the NatNat Natterers. So it should be. One could, perhaps, point out that this is not prohibiting flex prep, but as far as I’m concerned, there are a variety of aspects to CX that make it valuable, both to the debaters and judges, moreso than a couple of debaters sitting around trying to figure out one another’s cases and throwing out the odd question when they’re totally baffled, because those cases are so complex they defy ready understanding. If you are going to argue with someone, at some point you should face them (so to speak) and confront their material. Good old-fashioned cross ex does this. Ever watch a presidential debate? Usually the vacuousness of the enterprise is entirely the result of the lack of clash and true confrontation. We don’t need this in LD too.

5. Effective delivery: Lincoln Douglas debate is an oral communication activity that requires clarity of thought and expression. Arguments should be worded and delivered in a manner accessible to an educated non-specialist audience. This encompasses:
- Written communication: Cases and arguments should be constructed in a manner that is organized, accessible, and informative to the listener. The debater should employ clear logic and analysis supported by topical research.
-Verbal communication: The debater has the obligation to be clear, audible and comprehensible, and to speak persuasively to the listeners. Additionally, debaters should strive for fluency, expressiveness, effective word choice, and eloquence.
- Non-verbal communication: The debater should demonstrate an effective use of gestures, eye-contact, and posture. Throughout the debate, the debaters should demonstrate civility as well as a professional demeanor and style of delivery.

Now there’s a bunch of mouthfuls.

“Worded and delivered in a manner accessible to an educated non-specialist audience.” In other words, you’ve got to speak it out loud so that the average yabbo will be able to understand what you’re saying. Perhaps this more than anything so far aims at the heart of what I’ll call present-day “bad” debate (usually referred to as “progressive” debate by those who have learned linguistics from the RNC). The tendency to go really fast, to run overly complicated positions, and to read impenetrable evidence, are the core things people like the Legionnaires have been railing against, for whatever reasons. I’m with them on this. And I’ll give one simple reason: at the point where I can’t bring along an educated non-specialist (read “parent”) to cover my judging, I can’t afford to go so much anymore. If you want to do policy, then go ahead and do policy; they’ve already let the speed/complicated/obscurant horse out of the barn. The NFL is trying to close that same barn door on LD before it’s too late. Will this result in change? Maybe.

The bullet points simply elaborate on the core idea, and they’re all fine. I would tell my debaters to do all of this in order to win rounds, and come to think of it, I have been telling my debaters to do all of this since the first day I ever told them anything.

More tomorrow, if I get a chance. I’ve been up to here in Bump, MHLs, chezzes and generally living my life somehow, which is why I didn’t write anything yesterday. O’C wants me to contribute to the debate on WTF, but honestly I haven’t even peeked at it yet. Not to mention that O’Bietz’s new design is driving me crazy. He’s got systemsitis; when I managed editorial systems at my day job I saw this all the time, to wit, the inability to leave well enough alone. And for some reason he seems to think that a list of who responded to what in the news events is somehow of paramount importance. Oy. I need to give him one of my many user lectures.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Rules, Part One, The Early Years

Am I the only person in the world aware that the NFL has issued new LD guidelines? I thought our parochial little universe would be burning up with discussion of this stuff, but I haven’t seen thing one or thing two. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place. The Legion of Doom may be dead and buried, but I at least expected WTF to roll out the usual crackpots and bloviators and non-normative lunatics. If they did, I can’t find them. Maybe Bietz has designed controversy out of the site. Even I wouldn’t want him to have gone that far.

I had been invited to sit on the committee proposing the new rules, but of course, not going to NatNats kiboshed that. Too bad, because I would have liked to have gone. But the committee was strong and diverse, and did a good job. Ripon sent early materials out during the summer, and now the Executive Committee has passed a bunch of their recommendations and made them into rules. (Those rules only apply to NFL, of course, but that’s like saying that the rules of golf only apply to Tiger Woods. I play by the same rules, mostly, even when I’m not in contention for a Master’s Green Jacket.) According to Scott Wunn, NFL’s majordomo, the Halvorson/Doshy handbook is geared to these new recommendations, so that work is as timely as… some… really timely thing [you know the drill: we don’t waste time thinking up cute metaphors here—our experience with pomo informs us that even thinking about metaphors is the pathway to perdition].

Anyhow, let’s take a look at the new material.

It begins with a comparison of values to operating principles. That’s a good start. One of the problems with the word value is that it seems to confuse people. Maybe the whole source of having a value/criterion comes from the vagueness of the idea of value as opposed to policy, and, of course, LD began as a counterpoint to policy, lo those many years ago. Now that LD is its own banana, clarity of its purpose on its own terms is required.

“Neither the affirmative nor negative side is permitted to offer a plan; rather, they should offer reasoning to support a general principle.”

Right at the top the rules prohibit plans and counterplans. Previously the rules said that plans weren’t required; now you’re required not to have them. I don’t think this changes anything in particular, but it does clarify the concept that we are arguing for or against something based on underlying principles (or underlying values). People use the word principle in this context all the time; they don’t use value in this context all the time. Hence, the move to clarity is manifest.

“The hallmarks of Lincoln Douglas debate include: 1) Parallel Burdens 2) Value Structure 3) Argumentation 4) Cross Examination 5) Effective Delivery”

Wow. Don’t tell me that 1, 3 and 5, right off the top and with no explanation whatsoever, won’t rile the $ircuit folk.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I’ve been arguing in favor of parallel burdens since day one, if for no other reason than that a negative with a strong advocacy is more competitive than a negative that just says no. Here, the rules specifically state that “there is no presumption for either side,” which has always been true, but somehow lately judges have been acting as if there is a presumption for the neg, as in policy. Tain’t never been so, tis less so now. “No debater can realistically be expected to prove complete validity or invalidity of the resolution.” All those people who argue that “I only have to prove one little instance is not true and therefore the whole thing is not true,” which has never made logical sense, now are out of business. “The better debater is the one who, on the whole, proves his/her side of the resolution more valid as a general principle.” This could not be clearer. There is then the burden to clash: “neither debater should be rewarded for presenting a speech completely unrelated to the arguments of his/her opponent.” In other words, argue the ^%$#* resolution, you yabbo! Where have you heard that before, oh VCA? And if ‘nuff hasn’t been said: “Resolutional burden: The debaters are equally obligated to focus the debate on the central questions of the resolution, not whether the resolution itself is worthy of debate. Because the affirmative must uphold the resolution, the negative must also argue the resolution as presented.” Someone, I think it was Menick, once (no, a hundred times) said that a debate round is not the place to argue what the resolution should be; there’s a whole process for that outside of the rounds. Now it’s a rule. Yeah. For that matter, I’ve also always said that a debate round in not the place to argue what a debate round should be! It is not the proper venue, if for no other reason that performative action will have no effect outside of the round (although there are other reasons).

I’ll go on to one more thing for now, #2, Values.

“2. Value Structure -The value structure (or framework) is established by the debater to serve two functions: a) to provide an interpretation of the central focus of the resolution, and b) to provide a method for the judge to evaluate the central questions of the resolution. The value structure often consists of a statement of the resolution (if affirming), definitions (dictionary or contextual), the value premise (or core value), and the value criterion (or standard). This structure is commonly but not always employed.
Definitions: The affirmative should offer definitions, be they dictionary or contextual, that provides a reasonable ground for debate. The negative has the option to challenge these definitions and to offer counterdefinitions.
Value Premise/Core Value: A value is an ideal held by individuals, societies, governments, etc. that serves as the highest goal to be protected, respected, maximized, advanced, or achieved. In general, the debater will establish a value which focuses the central questions of the resolution and will serve as a foundation for argumentation.
Value Criterion/Standard: In general, each debater will present a value criterion (a standard) which the debater will use to:
- explain how the value should be protected, respected, maximized, advanced, or achieved.
- measure whether a given side or argument protects, respects, maximizes, advances, or achieves the value.
- evaluate the relevance and importance of an argument in the context of the round.
The relationship between the value premise and the criterion should be clearly articulated. During the debate, the debaters may argue the validity or priority of the two value structures. They may accept their opponent’s value structure, prove the superiority of their own value structure, or synthesize the two.”

This is as clear as [yadda*3]. It explains how values and criteria should be used, without completely mandating them (“commonly but not always employed” allows some wiggle room, which is a good thing). It asks for neutral definitions. It states that sides can have the same or different V/Cs, which is occasionally confusing to the troops out there. I have regularly heard that “there’s a rule that both sides must uphold the same value,” or different values, or somesuch nonsense. It is now clear that this is not true: “They may accept their opponent’s value structure, prove the superiority of their own value structure, or synthesize the two.” Same, different, whatever, just debate them.

More on this in the future. So far, I’m in the happy camp.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

1.5 * 24

Well. Yesterday was a day and a half, now, wasn’t it?

1. New Nostrum episode up and running. We seemed to have re-achieved schedulation normalcy.

2. Long talk with some yabbo from the WSJ who’s been talking to everyone who’s anyone in an attempt to uncover the dirty truth about LD, how it’s been hijacked by the $ircuit and stands at the brink of either despair or Kirkegaardian leap. The more I talked to him the less convinced I was that we were in imminent danger of much of anything. Thinking back to the rounds I heard at TOC, which is about all the rounds I heard last year except for some perfectly normal material at the Bi’g Lex RR, I had to admit that I saw nothing much that I hadn’t seen 10 years ago, with the exception of one truly too-fast-for-me round. I guess I could have gone on some about framework debates, but if there is a more boring subject than frameworks, you’d have to dig a lot deeper in the WSJ morgue than the features page. So I recommended he talk to some people who are actually doing the things the Legion would claim are sabotaging the activity. O’C ought to be able to connect him to these notorious LD hooligans. I couldn’t.

3. Long talk with Scott Wunn about our Red Light District. Wunn is good at his job, which is convincing yabbos like me that the NFL is superduper. I mean, I didn’t come away thinking that literally, but he made sense regarding the NYS district’s position. That’s the problem in debatefolk talking to other debatefolk: they actually make and listen to arguments, and if the arguments are good, they are accepted. This is also why debatefolk aren’t good politicians: who wants to actually listen to and respond reasonably to a good argument? Get real. Anyhow, there are some provisions for upping the status from Red Light to Commie Pinko for a couple of years, and I think we can meet those criteria. After that, other steps could be taken. Since I feel a commitment more to the regional community than to the NFL, and the regional community is probably better served by doing our best to maintain a normal district, I’m back in the fold. Although I’ve never had any brief against the NFL aside from the Red Light business, as you know. And I am excited about the new LD guidelines (about which more soon). Anyhow, as I said to the district committee, take the fork out of me, because I’m not done yet.

4. I’ve looked at the VB brief Mike B sent me. It’s a bit different from the sort of thing they were doing a decade ago, and I have to admit I came away from it feeling rather agnostic about the whole enterprise. Any reasonable team will sit down and brainstorm and come up with most of this stuff, depending on one’s bent. They have different kinds of people talking about the topic, and some of them approach it one way and some of them approach it another way. Just like real life. And you take from it different opinions (some of them contradictory), and there you are. Just like sitting around in a debate meeting talking about the material. They point to some directions for research, and provide a little background material, but there’s no real wealth of material to preclude the need for you to do your own digging. (Here’s one big variance from the past, if I remember correctly, when they provided skadoodles of raw, undigested research material and quote blocks as if that could substitute from doing your own research.) I would imagine that a debater in a vacuum could profit from this material, but debaters not in a vacuum wouldn’t benefit too much. It’s certainly not the end of life on the planet as we know it. It really won’t let anyone successfully circumvent the work that goes with debate. Honestly, it just looks like hiring some first- or second-year college kid as a part-time assistant coach, except it can’t judge for you. You get some stuff out of it, but is it worth it? That would be your call, wouldn’t it?

5. Working on some Bump stuff last night, I realized that registration closes next Wednesday. Holy McMoly! This thing is now about two weeks away. I feel as if I haven’t done much of anything, but realistically we have filled up the high school (except I still haven’t heard from the admin about the number of rooms available to us), and we should edge over 100 in LD shortly, and the biggest question is going to be where to put PF. Which is now my favorite activity, because you charge the same as policy but you can fit twice as many people into the same time/space continuum.

6. For some reason the old PC doesn’t recognize the Jack-Ride install disk. My initial attempt to return debate to its former trivial glory has thus been a bust. I’ll try again tonight. When in doubt, reboot.

7. I tried a number of times to access the MFL site. First I wanted to register for Li’l Lex (it’s too soon, says La Coin), then I wanted to just enter team names, but I was stymied. Feh!

8. Edgemont will not host policy the same weekend as Scarsdale’s tournament. Another Feh! Their admin pulled the rug by giving the facilities to someone else. Ain’t that a kick in the pantaloons?

Tonight I’ll enter the CFL data for Saturday, which is always more fun than Tik pronounced teek jumping on my head with his claws out while I’m trying to sleep. But only a little bit more fun…

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Trial of the Century

I think it worked quite well. We conducted it last night. Since Nov-Dec seems to be more about conditions than baseline morality (i.e., it is predicated on self-defense being a priori acceptable, and the issue is about whether the situation at hand qualifies as self-defense), it seemed to make sense to demonstrate the conditions. So we held the trial of Daisy Dweeble, convicted of murdering her husband, a crime (in NY) which apparenly could earn her a sit-down in Old Sparky (although I vaguely remember a court voiding CP in the State, but that may just be me). Our jury could not reach a verdict in the allotted time, which indicates that there are plenty of ways the ball could bounce in a debate round. Anyhow, for your delectation, the background notes of the event. Feel free to have your own TOTC. Make O.J., Nesbitt and the Lindbergh baby eat their hearts out.


Here’s how the trial will proceed.

Menick will provide an introduction.

Emily will act as judge. The team at large is the jury.

Ben is the District Attorney Ham Berger, and will prosecute. Eric is the defense attorney, Frank Footer.

State’s witnesses: Officer Fwop Doolitttle (Matt R) from the upper New York State town of Frog’s Foot, Episcopalian Minister the Right Reverend Minnie Mouskewitz (Brianne)

Defense witnesses: Social Worker Brill Goodfellow (Stephen), Daisy Dweeble (Nicole)

Please have fun but try to make it real.


(Each person was given a marginally different script, highlighting what they needed to emphasize, deleting what they need not know).


Dwight Dweeble, Husband, 37 years old – Dropped out of college after one year (couldn’t keep up with the work). Ended up in a low-paying job as a shoe salesman at the Syracuse Salt City mall. Much of his day was spent sitting around reading newspapers, waiting for customers to come by. Business would pick up at the end of summer, with back-to-school sales, but mostly it was a few customers a day during the week, relatively busy weekends, and a boring job all around. Life was frustrating for Dwight, who came across to everyone as a hale fellow well met, always smiling and charming and patting people on the back. He wanted more from life, and never got it. He saw himself endlessly earning a chump salary, working for a boss who graduated college a year ago and was already earning twice Dwight’s salary. The high point of his day would be dropping in at the Rosebud Inn, a local bar in the town where Dwight grew up, and everybody knew his name, and for a few minutes, he was Somebody. He wasn’t that big a drinker, though; one or two beers and he’d head on home. And if there was no one he knew at the Rosebud, just a quick one and then home to Daisy and the kid. At least at home he was King. There was no punk kid boss to push him around, to make him stack and restack the shelves in the back room, to make him flounce around cleaning the shelves with a feather duster like a bloody French maid, rubbing it in that he was the boss and Dwight was the slave. At home Dwight’s word was the law. And he made sure the law was enforced. Daisy did what he told her to do, and the kid did what he told them to do, and if they didn’t, well, he would make sure they did. A firm right hand can always get the job done. Of course, once or twice he might have gotten carried away, but he always made it up to them afterwards. And he made sure that he never did anything that left any visible signs, although he was happier when Daisy stayed home where she belonged. That was a woman’s place, after all, making a house a home for her family. Daisy didn’t even have her own car, not that Dwight could afford two cars even if he wanted them. When they shopped for groceries, they shopped together. After all, they lived about twenty miles out of town: it was the only place decent enough that Dwight could afford. The only time Daisy really ever got out anywhere was to go to church on Sundays. Sometimes Dwight would go with her but mostly he felt that church was woman’s work, like cleaning house and raising kid. So Daisy would take the kid to St. Johns every Sunday, and he’d even let her take the car, but she’d better be home right after it was over so that she could start making Dwight’s Sunday dinner. Dwight loved a big Sunday dinner, and watching the game, at least on those Sundays when he didn’t have to work. Damn, but life was tough if you weren’t some snotty college kid. If things had only played out better, it would have been Dwight running things 20 years ago, instead of being run himself now. Who knew how things would have turned out if he had stayed in school?


Daisy believed, in the beginning, that it was right for her to be home raising the kid, that that was her place, and that Dwight ought to be the king in his castle. But then he started to hit her. Not often, but when he did, she usually felt she deserved it. And he always apologized afterwards and tried to make it up to her. But then he broke her arm. At the hospital they just said she tripped and fell down the stairs, and no one asked any further. But that was the beginning. As he began to hate his job more and more, he took it out on her. And there was nowhere for her to go. She lived in an isolated area, she didn’t have use of a car most of the time. Once she tried to talk to the police, but they just told her they couldn’t do anything, they didn’t interfere with family issues. She thought they didn’t believe her story. And she talked to her minister. He seemed to side with Dwight, that somehow it was her fault. And when Dwight suspected her of talking to the minister, he beat her worse than ever. She began living in total fear. She thought she would try to escape, but where would she go? All she saw was a life of progressive degradation. And then the night that Dwight attacked their daughter—that was the breaking point. Daisy could never let that happen again. The next time Dwight raised his hand to his children, Daisy was ready. She popped him over the noggin with a frying pan. Again and again and again. Until it was over.

Social worker

A witness for the defense. He knows that there are no domestic violence services in the small town of Frog’s Foot. No Battered Women hotline. No obvious place to turn.
SW has all the facts. E.g.:
▪ Only about 1 in 5 of domestic violence victims with physical injuries seek professional medical treatment.
▪ Women are far more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner. Of those murdered by their intimate partner, 74% are women and 26% are men.2 In other words, nearly 3 out of 4 of the murders committed by intimate partners have a female victim.
▪ The FBI reports that between 1976 and 1996, domestic violence claims the lives of more than four women each day.3
▪ Between 1976 and 1996, there was a "sharp decrease" in the number of men murdered by intimate partners, whereas the number of women murdered by an intimate partner remained constant.3 Some have attributed this to the increasing availability of shelters which provide battered women with options other than killing an abusive partner. It is possible that some women who might have otherwise killed their abuser are able to leave and go to a shelter.
Under-reporting of Domestic Violence to Police
▪ Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. African-American women are more likely than others to report their victimization to police.3
▪ The most common reasons for not reporting domestic violence to police are that victims view the incident as a personal or private matter, they fear retaliation from their abuser, and they do not believe that police will do anything about the incident.3
▪ Even with this dramatic under-reporting, domestic violence calls constitute approximately half of all violent crime calls to police departments. For example, 49% of the violent crime calls received by the DC Metropolitan Police Department in 2000 were for domestic violence incidents.6
Police Response Frequently Inadequate
▪ Skepticism regarding the quality of police response is grounded in reality. A recent study by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department concluded that there was a "clear and pervasive pattern" of departures from departmental policy.6
▪ For example, in only one-third of the domestic violence calls did an officer take photographs or ask about prior abuse.6
▪ Only 17% of the victims were asked about a restraining order, and 83% were provided no printed information with contact information or resources.6

Officer Fwop Doolitttle

The facts.

Daisy herself called up and reported that Dwight was dead. She claimed that Dwight was about to attack their son, Mortie, but Mortie is 4 years old and unable to testify. A police doctor reported no visible signs of abuse on Mortie, some slight signs of abuse on Daisy, but it was impossible to confirm whether the abuse was caused by Dwight or was self-inflicted.

Daisy had come to the police once in the past, but there was no evidence on which to press charges. Frankly, it looked like a simple domestic squabble. Everybody in town knows Dwight, and he was always a good old boy. Daisy refused to see a doctor to confirm her story at that time. She claimed it was out of fear of reprisal from Dwight.

Minister Minnie Mouskewitz

Daisy came to church every week. She had come once to say that things weren’t right between her and Dwight, but the minister urged Minnie to pray to the lord to find a way to reconcile with her husband. She didn’t mention anything about abuse (but the minister has no experience in this area, and wouldn’t know what to do or how to recognize it).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Breaking Coachean News

I've finally managed to get a favicon on my home page.

Vote for Pedro

Since you brought it up, and because I have no interest in securing yet more $5Ks for you know who, I’ll talk about it here. I mean, the NFL resolutions. I’ve starred the ones I’ve voted for.

In United States courts, victim impact statements ought to influence sentencing.

In the Sailors’ poll, this one got the least number of votes. It’s easy to see why. I mean, even if there is a very promising concept hidden in there somewhere, no one really cares much. It’s just not an issue that comes up very often.

The precautionary principle ought to guide environmental regulations.

This one got a lot of votes. My guess is that this is a debate versus “A stitch in time saves nine” vs. “Screw you.” Historically environmental debates posit one side taking a position and the other side taking the same position but pretending otherwise.

The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals.

The answer to this is yes. The Sailors liked it, but what do you argue, that corporations are not bound to act morally? Or that because they have more power than individuals they have to act more morally? Give me a break. Two months of this will guarantee the eventual supremacy of PF.

*On balance, violent revolution is a just response to political oppression.

Say hello to one of the two possible NFL Finals topics. Although where does the “on balance” come from?

The United States government ought to allocate humanitarian aid to foreign nations based on the need of recipients rather than its own interests.

Well, somewhere in this concept there’s a debate resolution, but this isn’t it.

*A just society ought not use the death penalty as a form of punishment.

The other National contender. An oldie but a goodie, most rounds are identical, and it forces debaters to actually debate. What a concept!

*In the United States public university admissions, socioeconomic disadvantage ought to be a higher priority than race.

The Sailors gave this low points. By me, if there’s a dark horse for Nationals, this is it. What debate coach doesn’t want to spend two months discussing one of the most important issues in American life today?

*In the United States, the federal government ought not limit the autonomy of local school districts to determine their own curriculum.

The Sailors like this one. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but I can envision a whole string of really bad debates pitting community values against national values, two complex and bogus concepts about which more can be said than your nightmares can hold. They’ll be pulling pomo out of the old Coriolanus for this one, and Communitarianism, and the right to be stupid if your community values stupidity, and the failure of your left be-hind. Still, there’s opportunity for interesting pre-debate discussion, so I concur, but only because I think this is marginally better than the other 5 I didn’t vote for.

*The United Nations’s obligation to protect global human rights ought to be valued above its obligation to respect national sovereignty.

The Sailors like it, and I agree. I mean, what the hell is the UN supposed to do, anyhow? Brainstorming alone is worth the price of admission. I’ve also always been a fan of the study of sovereignty. What does it mean? What’s its value on the open market? Didn’t work much for Saddam…

On balance, in its trade agreements the United States ought to value the welfare of workers in developing countries over its economic gains.

A stinker. Corporations are fair game in this discussion—how much oppression are those sneakers worth—but exactly what trade agreements by the US? NAFTA? This would be a true mind-boggler.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The First Timers are now Grizzled (and Gristled) Veterans

If you’ve never run a tournament where half of the people are from one school, you’ve got something to look forward to. Obviously you have to pair same-school couples (which, as far as I know, is only legal in Massachusetts), and you try to give them neutral judging, while all their judges, whom they number in the dozens, are about as useful as photographs of schematics from some tournament you’re not at, if you get my drift, and I think you do. But we made it happen pretty well on Saturday at our Mid-Hudson League First Timers’ MHL. No debaters were harmed—much—in the making of this event. We did have the usual casualties of the Battle of Mind vs. Intestines, with the intestines winning in mid-round, and I gather there were some Polician shenanigans that should not go unremarked, but mostly everybody debated and got judged, and the Sailors did fine and one even took tin, so all in all, a good day. 80 or so LDers, when all was said and done, the biggest inaugural since I’ve been doing it. Bigger than some invitationals with TOC bids! LD lives.

Yesterday I intended to do all sorts of forensics stuff, but aside from sorting out post-MHL issues and reading mail where my colleagues keep telling me not to pull the NFL pluf, I didn’t get far. I think I finally understand how best to debate Nov-Dec, which makes me thankful that I don’t have to, and I will focus on that for Plebe purposes. And tomorrow night is the Trial of the Century about just that, which should help concentrate the young mind. Since next Tuesday is Halloween, which would set up a conflict I can only lose, I think I’ll schedule the first novice Chez Moi for that Monday, concentrating on topic brainstorming. The week after that is Election Day, and I haven’t decided about that one yet, but I’ll probably have to have something on Monday or Wednesday just to get last licks at Bump planning. We’ll see.

I did manage yesterday to get the speakers working on my relocated TV. I had set everything up ass backwards originally, and yesterday I finally realized what was wrong and set them up ass forwards, and now they’re fine. Once again I can savor the sound of helicopters landing behind me during tonight’s film presentation. Apparently, since the invention of SurroundSound, Hollywood mandates at least one helicopter landing behind you scene in every film released by a major studio. I don’t know if they actually have helicopters, or just the helicopter sound effect. The result is the same, either way.

Other than that, the big news in the world at large is that This American Life is now a free podcast. It’s about time! It has been instantly added to the recommended list.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The forensics blues

I, for one, am thrilled that O’C is putting pictures of the schematics from Texas on FBI. I love seeing schematics of tournaments I’m not at and have no interest in. This enables me to see initials of people I don’t know, from schools I’ve never heard of, being judged mostly by people totally unknown to me. Is there anyone who really cares? If you are among that group of the rabidly interested in non-events that don’t concern you, do please let me know. I want to take you off my Christmas card list. My seeming fit of pique—I am so seldom sarcastic--ensues from the lack of judge names from Jakey for the upcoming MHL. Home is where the heart is? Or where the heart of Texas is? Whatever. Maybe I’ll send the skems of the MHL to O’C to post for me on CIA. A waiting world wants to know. $5K a pop: it’s the only explanation I can think of that explains it. Fortunately for me, the site remains totally or partially screwed up, depending on which browser I use to view it, so since I’m missing stuff, at least it’s stuff I like to miss. Poor Bietz. I feel his pain. There’s nothing worse than trying to get web pages to work. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to find the problem, and often the problems are only on this platform and not that platform. I’ll bet he can’t wait for the combined new releases of both Mac and PC OS’s!

Anyhow, the MHL is entered into the new TRPC (so I can print ballots, and it won’t be a problem with only one division per iteration), with the biggest pool of LD in quite some time, and that’s not even taking Jakey into consideration. Let the little novices come unto us, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Of course, before long LD novices turn into full-fledged Pfffters, from the look of it. I’ve got most of the Sailors Pffffting at Li’l Lex, for example. Can’t say as I blame them, though. If you’re not traveling the $ircuit, Nov-Dec is pretty bleak, nautically speaking. The only major tournament in the northeast is Bump, which doesn’t help us any. Can’t say I blame the higher echelons of our tars for seeing how the other half lives while they can. Then again, if Li’l Lex is coming, Bi’g Lex can’t be far behind.

I’ve passed my tentative NFL resignation letter along to the District committee. I’m not sure if it’s a heads-up or a talk-me-out-of-it at this point. I do seem to have great relationships with everyone in positions of forensics authority. NYSFL wants me to go away, the NFL will no doubt want me to go away, and the Legion of Doom probably wants me to go away. No doubt CFL will join on the bandwagon once they see the way the wind blows. The only reason the MHL doesn’t get rid of me is because I run it. Do I detect that much of the debate establishment is, indeed, an establishment? An installed conservative oligarchy that likes things done just so, and woe to anyone who challenges the status quo? Is the originating principle of the Legion, for instance, not preservation of educational goals but merely the reactionary bluster of old farts unwilling to consider meaningful change? Hell, I’m the oldest fart around these days, and I strongly believe in the educational goals of forensics, but people, please, if you really believe that an activity devoted to dialogue is immune from the dialectic, you were obviously out of school on a very important learning day.

But I digress. This is not about how everyone in the world is wrong. It is how poor, poor pitiful me is being persecuted. Damn. Nobody loves me but my mother, and sometimes I think she’s jivin’ too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Coming soon: Lit Crit

I think I’m going to go into the review business. I now have, first, and unread, the Doshy/Halvorson LD how-to, which was posted on the NFL site. I took the briefest of looks at it, and it seemed perfectly acceptable. La Coin has her own guide that she distributes, which would act as an interesting comparison. When I was getting started, I used the Weise book, which was straightforward and simple enough and the only thing available, but the world of LD has changed a lot since then. Weise was good on getting novices started, explaining things in the simplest of terms, and I’ve long since internalized all of that. On the other end, however, I’m certainly much less fluent. For example, Termite was attempting to discuss spreads with us on the way back from Big Jake Saturday night, and was as if we were all trying to translate from the Urdu, and it wasn’t until the moment we were about to push him out onto the highway that I finally just went into the usual riff on, tactically, grouping, and strategically, debating on your own terms. (That is, when you cede those terms, and debate on your opponent’s terms, you deserve to lose. Simple enough. Of course, the best debates are when both sides are debating on the same terms, but how often does that happen?) Anyhow, considering the amount of jargon Termite was able to throw around with virtual incomprehension on all sides, including his own, I’ll try to look at the D/H guide over the next few weeks, to draw some conclusions. I do want it to be good, if for no other reason that the NFL is distributing it, and if it’s good, we all benefit.

Secondly, because I was thrown for a loop by DMV’s mishmashed web pages yesterday—MB is revising the thing yet again, and it’s still out of whack—I emailed him, mostly to be annoying, but also because sometimes I see things Mac-wise that PC-wise people might miss: even the most professional webmasters don’t always cover all contingencies. As I think I’ve made clear, any reservations I may have about DMV are usually lessened by each iteration of the site, and I think Mike is doing a good job of creating the default home of LD. Anyhow, out of the goodness of his heart, or the meanness of his bile which is darker even than mine—you be the judge—he responded by sending me their Nov-Dec topic analysis. To be honest, I haven’t seen a packaged brief since Clinton was in the White House (and Lord knows that he wasn’t up to any good while he was there), so I have to admit that I’m curious. So, shortly, review number two.

Then, for a third review, there’s the official new NFL LD guidelines. This document is longer than [Amateur Comedian’s alert: insert metaphor here for some really long thing]. I opened it yesterday but, instead of being inspired to read it, I was inspired to draft a letter withdrawing my team and myself from the NFL. I haven’t sent the letter, but I did write it. My sending it will depend on further discussions among the New York State shire folk. I hate to admit it, but I continue to smolder over the whole Red Light District affair; instead of getting over it, I just get madder. To them, too, as I did yesterday to others, I wish to say Bah, Aha, Boo and Pooh-Pooh. I’m now in the bloody-likely-to-bail stage. Since I have to do it by Nov 1, we’ll know soon enough where I end up. Still, we need to talk about the LD guidelines here. No doubt WTF will tear them limb from limb, so why shouldn’t I?

On a business note, the registrations are in for the first MHL. There are enough Bronx folk to [Amateur Comedian’s alert #2: insert metaphor here for some really heavily populated thing]. I’ll have to pair them against themselves, which I hate. Coverage of LD should be okay, but policy is going to be extremely dicey. I’ll probably adjust the awards to spread ‘em around, but how remains to be seen. The problem is, with the imbalance being what it is, either Bronx will take them all, or take none of them, and neither is fair. So I’ll probably invent a separate Bronx category. We’ll see. I’ll talk it over with whoever is in tab Saturday (which may just be me and my Grumpy pin, what with the competition of Texas this weekend). I wish to invest neither in favoritism nor unfavoritism. I don’t mind being a miserable SOB, but at least I want to be a fair one.

Last night I finally sent O’C his pdf of the Jakey results. Took me long enough, I’ll admit. And scanning through the printer makes a really long document, as compared to rather dainty results of virtual printing. I probably should get the full Adobe program. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon…

And finally, I managed to get a new episode of Nostrum up, proving that yesterday was indeed a Wednesday. It had been a while, but there’s no reason not to get regular again, especially since the tale is heating up, and to be honest, I’m curious about what’s going to happen. There’s the whole William and David gay business at the moment (but if you ask me, when I do the voices, the two both sound exactly alike, so I can’t imagine anyone knowing who’s talking to whom), and the intestinal boogie, and when I first read this stuff it was so many years ago that I admit I’ve forgotten most of it. Everything old is new again, eh?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Boo, Mothers Against Menick, Myrmecology, novice adrenalin ooze

There is now no unread mail in my inbox. It is a moment to savor. I haven’t felt this free since that time a while ago when I simply didn’t look. Now I can look with pride. To my Inbox I sing: “I say Boo! to you, Pooh-Pooh! to you.” (Or more to the point, I marginally quote Mr. Gilbert’s lyrics, which also includes saying Bah to you, Aha to you. God knows how to punctuate that. Or, for that matter, how to spell Pooh-Pooh. I’m not sure I want to know.)

Last night we had the team’s Bump kickoff meeting, and the jobs were assigned. We’re looking good. One thing we didn’t discuss was housing; I’ll connect with Mother Housing tonight and see what she needs me to do. So far I know she’s sent out letters, and yelled at me for not updating the team list in an organized manner. Jeesh! These mothers are always putting me in my place. (And there’s another sentence for the ages.)

O’C has got pismires in his Pradas over the undelivered pdf of the cumulative results from Big Jake. I should have done them Sunday, except I spent most of the day zonked. He’s suggesting I get myself the full version of Adobe so I can create a virtual printer, but poor Little Elvis’s Pradas are already filled to overflowing and I don’t want to overburden the poor thing. And my Dell printer will create perfectly good pix, once it’s plugged in somewhere (parts of Chez HQ are still unglued). Anyhow, tonight he’ll get what he wants, and, finally, he’ll stop sending everyone messages about his tournament. It’s over. Done. Finito. Kaput. Sleeping with the fishes. Move on. Please.

MHL entries will come in tonight for the First-Timers’ event at Byram Hills. Always an exciting tournament, with all that untested novice adrenalin oozing into the ozone. We have about 8 of our own guys heading down, with kid judges and parent judges and a big bus and the whole banana. And we get to sleep late because it doesn’t start until after PSATs (or SATs, whichever it is). Then we’re home in time for a lovely dinner in the arms of the nuclear F. Beautiful!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Snood, less Drifterooni

O’C puts about 53 times more angst into his tournament than most everybody else. To be honest, I ratchet down the angst every year, as every year we do it again (barring the blizzard of ’05) and it all goes according to plan, and each year we introduce some improvements, and all hell never breaks loose, and that’s the end of it. What I worry most about this time out is adding the 6th TOC-mandated round, which means that we’re there all that much longer paying custodial fees. I’m sure we can single-flight doubles, so that should help. Then all we have to do is cook the results so that everything from quarters on is a close-out. A few more speaker points here, a few less there, a couple of elim ballots misread, and we can be out in time for a lovely alumni dinner. I mean, isn’t that what goes on in tab rooms anyhow?

Seriously, of course, that isn’t what goes on in tab rooms. I’ve occasionally heard tell of various sleazolas trying to cook results, and to be honest, I can’t imagine how they do it. I guess you could try to assign sympathetic judges to your own team, but if you work with a partner from another school, a necessity not merely for honesty purposes but for not making mistakes and judge-rating purposes, then so much for that, unless the two of you pool your evil resources, and something tells me that La Coin and JV—an evil pair if I ever saw one--are simply not going to agree to this at Bump, so the VCA can rest easy knowing that our tab room will be entirely neutral. As was Big Jake's. The first goal before even thinking about pairing rounds is making the best division possible of the pool into A, B and C judges (if we’re rating, and sometimes we don’t). O’C did the ratings for Big Jake; I’ll be using community ratings (a new wrinkle) for Bump. That’s another reason for multiple and disparate tabfolk: to wit, better understanding of the judge pool. After that, what you want to do is blindly monitor the computer as it automatically assigns the A judges to the down-ones. At a big enough tournament this will be a no-brainer, and at Big Jake, TRPC automatically assigned As to the down-ones in every single round, bless its little soul, and we didn’t have to touch it. The job of tabbing is not to mess around with the randomness of the machinery, but simply to oversee that the machinery is doing what it’s supposed to do. What we did have to touch, aside from the inevitable dropouts of suddenly sick participants and who’s on what subway coming in when (“So-and-so is on the phone and he says he’s just arrived at O’Hare. What do we tell him?”) and the constant appearance and disappearance of rooms a la Lewis Carroll, was the dreaded Driftarooni, where judges you thought were there (didn’t I just see that blatherskite in the judges’ lounge?) don’t pick up ballots, and you have to sub the first semi-sentient being that you stumble upon after learning the news. So much for As, Bs and Cs. (Which is, admittedly, nothing compared to the hunt of the Pffft Brigade. In an activity that thrives on lay judges, you can’t be lay enough. I think at one point at Big Jake the Rev BA, the Pffft tabber, was outside trying to convince the Mr. Softee guy to turn his bells off and come in and do a flight or two, and he was damned happy to get him. The rest of us were happy with a chocolate cone, the perfect soother for those high blood pressure moments.)

O’C and I talked about a cure for dreaded Drifterooni, which I mentioned yesterday is often a coach prepping a competitor. This is a policy disease that LD seems to have caught, and it’s not a good one. One can assign all sorts of fines and jailtime and community service and the like, but no one seems to care. Our idea was simply to set a time at which the rounds must begin. If a judge is not in the room by that time, that judge’s entire team forfeits all their strikes immediately for the remainder of the tournament. Holy MJP, Batman, but I’ve got Menick as a judge and I’ve been striking him since 1991. Yipes! That may be a price teams are simply not willing to pay in return for a coach making his or her kid even more nervous by throwing last minute instructions into the young forensic face. We’ll see if that still looks like a good idea next year. We don’t really get that much of it at Bump, but then again, Bump is a little less national $ircuit than Big Jake. And if you’re going to hire yourself a passel of private coaches, those sumbitches better prep you out every minute of the weekend. Aaaarrgghh! I look back at when Noah and I were doing it. I’d be playing Snood on my PC and he’d come up to me before a round and look over my shoulder, and I’d ask him where he thought he might like to go to dinner, and that was prep enough for both of us. He did okay, too, all things considered. So did I, for that matter. I cleared me a whole bunch o’ Snood screens. Which has to be the definition of a coaching job well done.

Take that, national $ircuit.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not Live from Big Jake

I’m pooped.

The biggest problem with Big Jake is that the school doesn’t dismiss on Friday until around 3:30, unlike most schools that hightail it out of the building at least an hour earlier. This means that, no matter how you slice it, you really don’t have round one up and running till 4:30, which translates as getting home at about 1:00 a.m. Fortunately when I arrived at that wee small hour Pip, who is rather wee small himself, was at the door to carry me upstairs, or vice versa, but we had hardly made a dent in the sheets when we were up Saturday morning pouring Sailors into the car and heading south again. Saturday too was a long day. I finally escaped out the door of Big Jake at around 9:00, when Quarters were in bloom. O’C had wanted the Coin and I in those rounds, but Pip wanted me back home. For that matter, me wanted me back home. Me and Pip, as my more illiterate Tars might say, won the toss. There was a meatloaf sandwich back there with my name on it. And Pip’s name (he loves meatloaf). End of story.

My biggest disappointment of the weekend was not getting the O’C interview. There were just too many things going on, fires to put out and whatnot, and the moment just never arose. I know an eager America awaits this like [some really eager thing] awaits [something really funny, preferably with a caustic twinge], but that’s the way the cookie bounces. We’ll try to make up for it at the Regis CFL. I also didn’t get a chance to talk at any length to Smilin’ J, whom we kept busy in rounds, but before I left we exchanged grumblings about the Legion of Doom, which I’ll discuss soon in further detail.

I think the biggest difficulty of Big Jake, or any tournament, is logistics. One prioritizes getting the rounds up and running as the number one job, which means collecting ballots, distributing ballots, finding judges, ascertaining that rounds are indeed taking place, checking that all ballots are marked correctly—everything that gets ballots out of tab and into tab. This is much harder than you would think. For one thing, there’s a lively percentage of judges who are, shall we say, tardy in getting to their rooms. Usually they’re coaching their teams, a little bit of which goes a long way, and a lot of which holds up the entire tournament. Drop to one knee together, address your Deity of choice for a minute, then push your kid into the room: that will cover most of what might come up, and anything else should have been covered during the week when you were writing blocks. And even the best of judges, who do it every week and can easily comprehend the arithmetic, make mistakes, usually of the mismarked low-point-win variety, and occasionally even of the no-points-at-all variety, so there’s a few ballots that must be sent back to judges who think they can hide under the covers for a while, which is always a headache. (Speaking of which, I do love the LPW with a .5 differential. Come on, people. If you’re going to give a low-point win, give some damned low points! 22-28, for instance: that speaks volumes. 27-26.5, on the other hand, says loud and clear, “Wha?”) To solve the vagrant judge problem, next year we’re giving O’C some contraband nunchucku; just knowing that, at any moment O’C could rage down from the ceiling with a hearty “HAI-OO!” should get those judges moving at a nice, sharp pace.

And there are other, albeit lesser priorities. Food, housing, placating the administration, placating the custodial and security staffs, distributing ballot packets (the sorting of which is the world’s most boring tournament assignment), monitoring the pairings—all manner of things that those who merely attend tournaments really can’t grasp, although most understand that they are running in the background, which is why there are so many kudos on WTF for the event. What pisses me off is now both Monti and Jake can take the rest of the year off, while I’m just starting to turn up the heat. I’d like to take the rest of the year off too, and not have to contend with all the contentiousness of Bump, but when one buys into this business, one buys into it all the way.

Anyhow, Sunday I opened my eyes enough to send out a notice about this upcoming Saturday’s MHL and to read a couple of emails, but mostly I just let things hang. I’ll catch up tonight. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have won 25MM Euros in the Irish sweepstakes, or have an opportunity to do something really nice for a truly religious Nigerian gentleman while profiting handsomely from it myself at the same time. Otherwise I’ll just prepare for the Bump meeting tomorrow night. See what I mean? The heat is being turned up. 4 weekends from now, and then I’ll be taking the rest of the year off too, and the Coin and JV can start banging their heads against the wall. Hoo-ha!

Friday, October 13, 2006

And so to Bronx

Last night was the entry of the judge strikes. Yucch! It's just one of the hardest things to do in TRPC, because there's no real easy way not to do it one at a time, and to make mistakes, which means much double-checking. I must admit I was glad to see the last of O'C's name in my mailbox.

I was disappointed that I was only struck a couple of times, especially since, duh, I'll be in tab. I mean, yeah, there's the small chance I'll stick my head out of the library, but the odds of getting me to judge your round is about, the way I figure it, about 1 in 500. Am I so evil that you'd strike me, at 500 to 1, when you could strike any number of other people who are about 15 to 1 likelihood? To be honest, I appreciate that my odor is so strong as to extend to the striking universe. But mostly I like seeing everyone else who gets struck. There are some strike magnets, let me tell you. Some are obviously just personal bugbears of individual debaters, but others are obviously persons of opinions, and debaters are doing their best to avoid those opinions. And there's also a couple of total losers who, once being met at the back of the room, are shunned by one and all. These are the judges who, when there are no strikes, tend to see roses and garlic around the necks of their judgees.

Anyhow, I'm off soon. Or I have been off for a long time. Either one. Whatever.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Auntie Mame on the Hudson

Talk about endless. I put in the Tasty Judges of the World for Big Jake last night. What a combination of forensician celebrities, homeless wackos and Craig’s List Rent-a-Philosophers. And plenty of ‘em, too. O’C has managed to pull in enough markers to cover a single-flighted 6th round (thank you, oh TOC, for this extra burden), which means I had to take about 70 names off the federal sex-offender list and paste them into the Big Jake judge pool. Jeesh. Meanwhile O’C and I are emailing up a storm (and I’m wishing, just momentarily, that I was an instant message user) over this, that and the other, while Bump registrations are simultaneously pouring in (Policy is now closed) and I’m fraught with doubt over downloading the new OS upgrade until after Saturday, not to mention v7.01 of iTunes, which may or may not be the one, but I need to grab the episode of Heroes that I missed (I can’t imagine why I’m watching that show, but I admit that I am) and the latest software is essential for videos. Plus I finished reading The Unofficial Guide to Vacationing with the Old Baudleroo, which means I’m knee-deep in arguments with the daughter about things like oom-pah bands vs belly dancing, AKA Brats v Bistiya.

Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving.

Meanwhile there’s working on the backstory for the trial of the century, figuring out the team assignments for Bump (which I’m giving out next Tuesday), catching up on Nostrum, planning the O’C interview, reorganizing the chez hq which is finally (FINALLY) ready for almost complete moving in as soon as Liz paints the bookcases but which at the moment is still hanging fire with me huddled over Little Elvis like one of those homeless Big Jake judges roasting wieners over a garbage can fire. Speaking of which, when I got the new Hunka Hunka Burning Love battery to replace the old HHBLB, for some reason the thing now teeter-totters. It’s not flat on the table. Everything looks right when you turn it upside down, but something is amiss, and I’ve found that the only cure to this dreaded typing wobble is the under-body insertion of a little mini-disk from my camera. In other words, Little Elvis is 8 megs short of a Hound Dog, or something.

Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving.

I’ve got to send out an invite for the first-timers MHL next week, but I need to know how the invoices should be worded, which I’ll sort out with O’C this week when I give him about a hundred checks that I owe him. I’ve also got to come to a decision about the Red Light District, but I realized that this morning I am almost completely ready to retire from the field of battle and to take the Sailors with me, all of which I’ll have to explain at length, but not just yet, as St. Augustine might say. I’m setting Nov 1 as my fish-or-get-off-the-pot date. And Manchester is all set, finally, with the Sailors bussing up with Gazzola Joe and the Jakers. And any day now the plebes will be signing up for a tournament and actually debating.

Yeah. Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tastes of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your lunch.

There are way too many emails in the old inbox, most of them from O’C, no doubt having second thoughts and thinking about canceling Big Jake.


I look forward to Big Jake, as I think I’ve mentioned. There’s something about that dry airless library, the sound of boom boxes from the courtyard right outside the windows, the cheers of the restless football teams from across the street threatening dark ritual violence against one another, the barking of orders by the Reverend BA at his army of people who actually follow orders, the sight of Gazzola Joe (which is a much more interesting name than the amiable sounding Joe Gazzola) sniffing the air in aid of making a quick exit and wondering why the tabfolk look at him askance for serving Jiffy Sub sandwiches, or, for that matter, Tastes of the Known World; tabgrub is best left to three-star Michelin chefs who understand the concept of essence infusion, and not second-generation chameleon-like Greek pizza-makers churning out chipatis and chimichangas as if they were born to the game. Don’t get me wrong: I applaud O’C’s attempt to elevate the level of cuisine in the darkest Bronx. I just don’t want to have to eat it, any more than I want a blob of debate ziti on my Styrofoam plate at your normal forensics venue. Even when Lexington offers those restaurant makers offering their best wares at discount prices, I still sneak off to the local restaurants for a quiet sit-down with a metal fork and food out of an oven rather than out of a tinfoil pan over sterno. Am I too fussy? Not really. I understand the logistics of feeding the huddled masses cheaply, since I do it myself at Bump. But that doesn’t make me drool over the prospect. There’s no scent rising from the food, beckoning me with its smoky finger to float from tab to table, bib around my neck, lips smacking uncontrollably. A little lo mein straight from the crappy Chinese, and maybe a couple of dumplings, in the peace and quiet of a buzzing tabroom, and I’m a happy camper.

Then again, looking forward to Big Jake at some point means opening all those O’C emails. There was a period of a few hours yesterday when I hadn’t heard a peep out of him, and vice versa. It was quiet, as they say—too quiet. So much for that. Presumably he has the judges for me; I’ll input them tonight after I get back from dinner (I’m going out in preparation for the presumed famine to come, i.e., Tastes of the Known World). The heavy lifting is already done. Now it’s just the gory details. Or, I guess, Judges of the Known World. At least he’ll have it out of his system soon enough, then on to normal life.

Last night at the Sailors’ meeting we were in competition with the West Point Jazz Band, which was playing in the auditorium and definitely has to be a better gig for them than, say, reveille bugler in Baghdad. But our attendance remained high. The plebes all brought books and read for us, which means that for the first time ever we actually had all of them doing what I asked, miracle of miracle (and shades of the Rev BA). And they were pretty good. You could hear them in the back of the room, and they didn’t shake, rattle and roll too much. They’re a promising group already. Afterwards we did a lot of little bits of business, but nothing notable. The plebes are getting their first demo round this week, and that should shake a few squirrels out of their mental trees. Then next week, they’re on to the Mid-Hudson League’s annual First-Timers Only event, this year at a new venue, Byram Hills. Because of SATs, they all get to sleep late: our bus leaves at 11:00. They are going to get soooooo wrong a picture of this activity! Then again, maybe O’C will let us sleep late this Saturday, too. He’s got all those flown-in Judges of the Known World, numbering, if I’m not mistaking, in the low 300s. We could single flight everything, including bathroom breaks. Roll in around noon in our berets, flaunting our best Hollywood duds, flouncing and fleecy and furry-eyed. Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Trial of the Century

All right, maybe not the century. But at least the trial of the week.

Here’s the thing. You can rant and rave all you want about various aspects of the Nov-Dec topic, but at its core it asks the question if, under certain circumstances, murder in self-defense is justified. As I’ve said before, probably most of the jawing will be about the circumstances, and that may be okay, but if you can get past the circumstances, you still have to answer the question, is this murder justified? It’s like capital punishment. People ran all sorts of stuff, and recidivism inevitably faced off against executed innocents, but if you could get past that, you still had to answer the question, is CP right or wrong on a moral level? With domestic violence, I can fairly easily paint a picture where the abuse is beyond acceptability, and there are no alternatives. Still, is deadly force a morally correct action (which is a higher plane than a legally acceptable action, although legally acceptable may be enough to satisfy the test of justness) in this situation? That’s the question I will set out to answer next week, at the trial of the century.

Tonight we’ll jaw about this and that, including more details about the new rez. (And I feel so sorry for the novices, having to bounce immediately from Sept-Oct to Nov-Dec, a plight that would have been ameliorated by the Modest Novice. One forgets how wrenching it is to barely understand one topic before hitting another one; Modest Novice would have made the move after Thanksgiving. If I were going to remain a member of the NFL, a dubious proposition given our Red Light District status, I might make a higher level push for this.) After everyone has gotten the rez at least vaguely understood, I’m going to set up a mock trial for next week. We will have a victim accused of deadly force on trial for murder. We will make that victim the perfect example of what this topic suggests is the necessary situation for the action: she’ll be relatively poor and uneducated, living in a fairly remote area, firmly convinced that no alternatives exist. We will have a defender and a prosecutor, and the novices will be the jury. I’m still working on a witness list. It should be most interesting.

Of course, that same night we need to have a Bump team meeting first. Aaarrggh. I envy Monticello, with their tournament behind them. O’C is pinballing around for his this week. I entered his LD data last night, except for the judges. He wants me to name the thing “The New York City Invitational” on all the schematics and stuff. I want to call it “Big Jake,” or maybe the “Please Make Me A Quarters Bid, JW.” Word on the street, of course, is that he is flying in judges, which my team finds most impressive. Hell, I’m flying in Emcee (except, of course, he’s paying for it). I mean, in this day and age, who the hell wants to get on an airplane? You can’t have a drink of water, they make you stow your computer in the hold because they’re afraid its battery will blow up, and nine times out of ten some loud-mouthed lunatic sitting next to you starts ranting and raving and the next thing you know your flight has been diverted to Tempe, Arizona. Me, I’m bussing the judges in, courtesy of the Lexwegians. You never hear of anyone misbehaving on a bus…much. On the other hand, I’ll be flying myself out of town for Bump. I can’t imagine a better place for a tournament director to be than somewhere else while the event is going on. Peace, blessed peace. Amen to that, brother.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Montwegian Idyll

Ah, Monti. What bonnie little brae is it that names thee? Or art thou after Jefferson but soft cee’d? Thy restaurants glow like beacons from the fields of the hardy spinach growing farmers, their sleeves and trousers rolled, a hint of e coli on their breath. Thy inns are famous ‘round the globe, with their screams and ichor-stained streams, their bullet-proofed concierges ever helpful, their rare bars of soap a delight to behold if unearthed before the golden moment of checkout. Thy saloons roar with Euterpe’s tootles gnawing at the medulla oblongata, mixing memory and desire and the blasts of Colt Saturday Night Specials and lo, it’s only Friday. What wondrous city is this, that mine eyes take in each Colombo’s eve?

Then again, Montrose ain’t exactly the City of Light either. Especially if you stay at the Watergate.

This year, with the Bullups so early, for all practical purposes Monticello was the real kickoff of the season, since from now till April, excepting intergalactic holidays, every weekend has a tournament on it. The goal of Monti was to pack ‘em in, and pack ‘em in it did, ultimately resolving its numbers at 108. They were, in a word, hanging from the rafters. This makes tabbing relatively easy, once you get things started and the noshows are clearly dumped and whatnot. All you have to do is keep the ranked judges on the bubbles, and there were more than enough for that, or how else would Joe V have gotten a flight off? I mean, we weren’t ranking him a C or anything. And the Sailors did admirably, with RG taking top speaker and making it to Quarters, and the second-year folk picking up some ballots in what was at least for one of them a first varsity experience. All in all, a worthy start to the season.

The Coin and I also tabbed PF, which given the small number of teams (13) went better than you’d expect. The brackets somehow held pretty well, and there wasn’t any 4-0/0-4 pairings as there occasionally are in small fields. Of course we did it all by hand, and ameliorated the process by judiciously stealing clean and capable LD judges from that pool, but it all worked out well in tab, and since no once stormed the battlements in protest, I have to believe it worked out as well for the competitors also.

But I know you, and what you want to hear is all the dirt. I mean, you put all the coaches in a room together for the first time and there has to be some result, right? Now, as you well know, the problem with the northeast debate coaches—people like the Coin and JV and Kaz and me and O’C and God (AKA the retired RJT who was there making things happen except for the TV, so she didn’t get to work to watch the Yankees lose the Stanley Cup or whatever it was that they were losing) and various other passers in and out over the weekend--is that we don’t hate each other’s guts all that much and we don’t cut each other’s throats or stab each other’s backs at the first opportunity, unlike what I hear tell about the coaches in other regions. As a matter of fact, we tend to relish our peaceful existence together. We have some differences, but we settle them like civilized people, by playing “You Don’t Know Jack” for instance. So our eyes are not on ourselves but on others. There is no blood in the tab room, in other words. We throw our blood out the door at others.

And what were we ranking on (which I assume is a verb form of rancor)? Oh, some fun stuff. Make-believe teams, for one thing, are always a hit. So-called independents are a thing of wonder in the debate universe. One suspects that they think that no one knows what they are up to, but since, obviously, all the coaches tend to hang out together (I had to forceably pull O’C away from the slot machines as he insisted that he had WTF money to burn and damn, but he wanted to burn it), if there are issues with a school, sooner or later those issues bubble up and are shared with the professorial community. If you don’t pay your bills, or your school doesn’t know you exist, or you’ve created an inutile judge whose lack of English is only matched by his abundance of absence, we’ll all tend to find out about it. And then there’s the basic generally unreliable judge, the last to pick up a ballot and the first to call up with a reason for being late, yadda*3. They expect to be hired in the future, or expect that we’ll accept them as judge coverage, and again, how dumb do they think we are? Practically speaking, judging is just about money for nothing, and it’s not bad bucks for a day’s work, even if you only show up on the Saturday. But that does require showing up. Then again, I like the harried looking parent who shows up in tab begging not to have to judge. Depending on my mood I’ll tell them I understand completely and I’ll only use them if I absolutely have to, and then I pat their hands and put my arm around their shoulders as I walk them to the door and then go back and click the “on in all elims” button, or else I’ll tell them that I have no trouble taking them out of the pool but they’ll have to drop 4 teams along with them, and just give me the kids’ names and I’ll take care of it. At Monti I was on the warm and cuddly side, it being a warm and cuddly weekend where, actually, there was little mumbo jumbo being attempted by many people. But every tournament has a little mumbo jumbo. It wouldn’t be reality otherwise. And it wouldn’t be any fun.

I guess I’m making Monti sound like part Wisteria Lane and part Dazed and Confused, but mostly it was sitting around listing to moldy oldies on the iPod, introducing Set to the girl of the streets, eating chips and brownies (and I’ve learned that when everyone says that a certain batch of brownies aren’t any good, they’re the ones for me, and vice versa), listening to the abhorrent walkie-talkie squawking at irregular intervals, marveling at the teetering health status of the Lexwegians (who seem to be a living rebuttal to the Sept-Oct neg), attempting a drool-free nap, and suffering the shame of JV finishing my Saturday puzzle which I swear I would have figured out without him given enough time (and I will point out that he didn’t even buy the paper himself, dog that he is).

And what happened at Casino Royale? Did O’C indeed go into eternal debt with his endless collection of DMV $5k fees? Feh! The place wasn’t half as degenerate as I was hoping for. A few of us had a quick chat about NFL, did some horse-trading on Manchester-In-The-Sea, and then ran screaming from the place as soon as the band started playing. Other people get revved up when they hear covers of modern classics ordinarily only heard over school bus loudspeakers (and you have to wonder where bus drivers get their musical tastes from). Debate coaches head for the hills, their hands over their ears, wishing they were football coaches, who never run away from anything.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Please remain seated until the blog has come to a complete halt

Well, you’re out there planning your cab ride from the airport to Glenbrooks, but some of us have other fish to fry. I’m continuing to plan the family trip to Disney World.

The week is set (in May), leaving on a Thursday, returning on a Sunday, so it’s 9 days of fun in the mousey sun. 5 for WDW, 1 for IOA, 1 for Univ, 1 for Blizzard Beach and 1 for SeaWorld. It is an art to adjust the days for the best flow. Kt and I have, I think, finally settled on the plan. The guiding principle is that one wishes to rub elbows with the least amount of hoi and polloi, and The Unofficial Guide, TUG, is good at helping you there. Then there’s your own busy days vs. busier days. You need to rest a bit here and there to keep up your strength. And then there’s the classic, what do you start with, what do you end with. As I’ve already mentioned, we’ve always started with MK in the past, but this year we’re ending with it. There was never any question about the inaugural dinner at California Grill, with view of the fireworks, but V&A has been in play since the beginning. You need all the time in the world to enjoy the best dinner of the vacation, so it’s moved position on the calendar about 5 times. And one needed to address (and as it turns out, dispense with) Aloha, rejected on the basis of less than sterling reviews. I’ll just listen to my Iz albums at home and imagine the grass skirts. Anyhow, barring changes in corporate policy, viz., changing the days of early/late openings, the general course of the vacation is now finalized in the gmail calendar, and approved by the daughter. Next there’s the selection of the second-tier restaurants, which is coming along. The biggest question will be the EPCOT dinners. Repeats or new places?

A DVD planner from the Mouse arrived yesterday, and I’ll look at it shortly, and I was also going over the planner on the TUG website. TUG makes my vacation planning look about as punk as G. W. Bush going to war in Iraq; these people plan EVERYTHING, including which toothbrush to pack and which day to pack it. And the Mouse will expect me to reserve through them, no doubt (one of the 2 disks is actually a CD-ROM planner, which I’m sure is connected to Rat Central). Mostly, I think, one simple calendar like Kt already made will do the job. Then again, it’s nice to know that it is now precisely 180 days in advance and you can start making your coffee break reservations: we’ll have two bagels, one cinnamon doughnut and a pineapple nasty, please, and hold the mayo. Of course, the interesting thing is that I’ve made numerous trips to Europe, to entire countries about which I’ve known virtually nothing, with absolutely nothing resembling this level of planning. One does this for its own sake: vacation planning can be every bit as interesting as vacationing. For that matter, most of us in the debate industry are very much into the advance-planning mode. We know where we’ll be every weekend of the year, and which motel we’ll be staying at, and which restaurants we’ll be eating in. The people at WTF also know who’s going to be debating whom in which rounds, who’s breaking, and who’s going to win, but that’s a little TMI for my blood.

Last night I entered the Monti LD data. 118 of the northeast’s finest! Quite a turnout, I’d say. Even allowing for the inevitable fall-off of forensicians who inexplicably get the yips on tournament morning, they’ll still have three digits. It will be fun to tab, although honestly, the most fun tabbing is the smallest tournaments where you have to do half of it by hand. That’s where the skill, if any, comes in, when the software fails you and you’ve actually got to know what you’re doing. I’m long enough in the game to have done MHLs on index cards, but not long enough to have done major invitationals. The mind boggles.

Tonight is parent judge training. This has been an evolving business. At the start, I used to include a demo by my slowest speaking varsity, but I dropped this after Ma ‘n Pa inevitably complained that they were talking too fast. Jeesh! For that matter, the whole thing was too much input for one night. Now I breeze along talking mostly about what happens and what underlies the business rather than the specifics of 1AR and 2AR and all that. The details are in the handouts, which are about the length of Anna Karenina but without the railroad station. The key thing is to motivate them to do it, and to do it early, so that they can learn their chops at MHLs and CFLs so that they’ll be competent when they eventually hit the invitationals. By competent I mean able to sit in a round, take notes, and generally understand the specifics because the debaters have adjusted to the parent factor. In rounds that are very fast and extremely technical, the incompetents in the room will not be the parents, as I will tell them tonight. Any decent debater knows how to adapt, and the debater who doesn’t adapt deserves to lose. Debaters who have spent their careers adapting to college judges who study critical theory whine at great length about having to adapt to parent judges who think pomo is a joke. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, Bucky. The art of adaptation is about the only public speaking factor left in the activity; take that away, and we might as well just do the whole thing as IMs.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


There’s a bottom-line issue with Nov-Dec. At some point, you have to argue that murder (i.e., use of deadly force) is justifiable under certain conditions. You also have to argue the conditions, but they are beside the point. A firm argument in favor of self-defense murder, or against self-defense murder, should be at the core of both sides.

Of course, the rounds may never get there, because of the conditions, which is the other facet of the rez. Aff must postulate that deadly force can be justifiable, and that these conditions justify it. That’s a two-pronger, no matter how you slice it. Neg can get off easy, and pick just one of the prongs. A really good neg will go for both; as always, the best neg contends an offensive position, not just a defensive position. Our discussions at our meeting last night, which were admitted preliminary, were nonetheless interesting. There is much work for the aff in demonstrating that the conditions can justify the action, but it can be done. The neg temptation will be to argue that, since other solutions are available, they preclude the alternative of force (much like weak Sept-Oct negs will argue that, since there’s other things the gov can do with its money that are better than spending it on HC, then the existence of alternatives somehow precludes the justice of that healthcare spending). This is problematic. Any situation that is debatable has alternative choices of action; the fact that there are alternatives doesn’t seem to be much of an argument against selecting any one particular course of action; the existence of alternatives is an inherent requirement of debatability. In Nov-Dec, of course, since the action we are criticizing is the most violent, at least you can throw that extremism into the mix, but still, you ought to do better than that.

It’s just me, though. I hate weak negatives. Given that there is usually a whole raft of strong negative positions available on any resolution, and that the stronger the neg position it, the larger the burden that is put on the aff, I am always puzzled by the negs who “just say no,” who don’t uphold a position of their own but simply argue that there’s something wrong with the affirmative position. Talk about unconvincing. I want a choice between two sides, not a choice of one side or not that side. But, I am talking to the wall here. Only great debaters are willing to stand for offensive positions on both sides of a rez, at least if you define great debate as a clash of opposing sides. And how many rounds actually have any clash in them, anyhow?

If you aren’t clashing, you aren’t debating. Don’t try to pretend otherwise. Don’t duck the resolution. Argue the damned thing for once, will you?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Musical lead-ins, frigate rights, season openers, amicable Menick, euphemisms (or, what's another word for Thesaurus?)

There’s still a bit of disarray at Chez HQ, but last night I was able to get back to Nostrum again. It’s been a while (and having a cold didn’t help), but it is fun to get back into it. I envision some day archaeologists uncovering these episodes and thinking, these must have changed the world. How little they’ll know! I’m incorporating some music into them, finally (not my own, but some podcast-safe stuff I found), and I also found something for the lead-in to the “View” podcast, still in its embryonic state but beginning to gel. Having the O’C interview will be a great start: they’ll come from miles around for that one. I plan to cover both his criminal record and his bizarre attraction to WDW, which means that if the FBI doesn’t show interest, at least the CIA will. Next stop, Gitmo!

Tonight is Rights night at the old Hud frigate. That is, I lead the plebes into the world of Locke & co., only to see them emerge four years later running CLT cases that prove the Supreme Court not only shouldn’t exist, but doesn’t exist. It’s sad how they all grow up; you wish you could keep them as plebes forever. Along those lines, according to O’C, there’s some cub reporter for the WSJ out there researching the rise and fall (or, for some people, the simple rise) of LD. Interesting. I guess that means that, as LD goes, so goes the Dow. If you ask me, forensics ought to be traded on the Chicago Board of Trade along with wheat, ethanol and soy bean futures. When sow bellies go down, LD inevitably goes up. I think it was Adam Smith who first pointed this out.

Sabrina sent the names for Monti. I’ll start entering them tonight. I didn’t count them up, but it looks promising. Plus there’s Pffft data on its way. The debate season, in other words, begins in earnest this week.

And I do have a couple of Sailors expressing interest in Pffft at the CFL at Regis the end of October. I like that. I’m going to hold a full tutti for the team fruttis next week (rather than the usual segregation of the early season) to discuss all manner of things, like Nov-Dec, Nov Pffft, 2007 rezzes, whether we’ll even be NFL members in 2007 (given my rez voting record, I gotta wonder what’s the point, Red Light Districts notwithstanding). Plus I’ll throw in some entertainment from the plebes, the reading from their favorite books. I like when we’re all together. And I like when we’re all apart. I like everything. I am soooooo easy to please.

And, oh yeah, I had to go to the Big Jake invitation to look up arrival time (I have a business meeting Friday morning). On their Saturday morning, they have posted that the “Tastes of the World” cuisine will be American Continental. And that, apparently, is what they call bagels in the Bronx. Then again, they could just serve debate ziti for every meal, but have it served by students of different national origin. When the Indians serve ziti, it’s Indian food. When it’s the Iranians serve ziti, it’s Iranian food. When it’s the French serving ziti, it’s Freedom food. Lordy, I’m looking forward to that tab room! I mean, I’ve already gotten the FOB award, so I have nothing to lose. Two full days of torturing O’C. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Monday, October 02, 2006

With apologies to Sam Goldwyn

Chez HQ is beginning its long ascent to normalcy. Yesterday I started arranging the books on the shelves and setting up the wireless and whatnot, and although there’s one or two odd jobs left for Juan, Kwan and the stoners (who also have plenty of even jobs left in other areas of the chez), I’m just about ready to reclaim the place. There’s not much furniture in it yet, however, so seating will be limited if I decide to throw a chez meeting for any reason. I don’t have any on the immediate horizon, however. Soon, though.

And here’s a shock. Nov-Dec is, yet again, a topic we hadn’t picked. I haven’t given it much thought, but off the top, to argue cold philosophical constructs as if they are meaningful to hot situational explosions can’t possibly be any picnic, and should lead debaters initially into some really bizarre case areas. But sticking to the resolution, we’re simply talking self defense. So it’s not about beaters and beatees, but about courts, what should or shouldn’t be legal (or, if you’re really fey, it’s about what should or shouldn’t be moral). Then again, since it’s not about US (thanks a lot, guys--again), no doubt people will—the first week--discuss things like genital mutilation and honor killings (although the word repeated is in the rez, and you can just honor kill someone the once). But in the world of people with brains, courts it pretty much has to be, so in other words, is “deadly force” against repeated abuse a form of acceptable self-defense? Well, let me think about that for 38 years and get back to you? Hello, as they say in the Valley. There’s simply no debate here. Either you accept a principle of killing always being wrong (an extreme and virtually untenable position), or you allow for situations where killing is not wrong, and this one would have to be right at the top of the not wrong list. In other words, you’ll either have to argue something non-rez like honor killings or argue the virtually inarguable resolution. To argue that this should or shouldn’t be on the not wrong list can only lead to sophistry, silliness, and dare I say it, good CT arguments wasted. Or maybe there will be people (probably of the novitiate persuasion) who will spend a lot of time counting pin angels and talking about the nature of the abuse in the first place, or mis-defining deadly force. Aaarrgghhh!!! Send me a postcard from the front. I’ll be in the back. O’C is making me judge at Big Jake. Thank God he’s Sept-Oct!

Pffft anyone?

Monti is this weekend. Big Jake is next weekend. Then newbies and Catholics and bears, oh my. And through it all, the continuing roil of the Red Light District. Reactions, such as they are, are less mixed than I would have thought. I went to the race track on Saturday (really), and picked 6 out of 8 winners (and 4 place horses to boot); I actually do know how to classically handicap a Thoroughbred race (and am old-fashioned enough to capitalize the word). To handicap the Red Light situation, at the moment I’d say it’s even money on disbanding/not disbanding. Whoda thunkit. Since Ripon probably thinks that putting the fear of God into us would somehow get us pounding the pavement to get new members, and I cannot honestly see what benefits NY members get if they can’t go to NatNats because of the time of year it is always held, and there’s not much else worth wresting $100 per school in times of cutbacks, Ripon’s intentions have backfired completely. Or maybe they really do want to get schools out of the NFL, or dramatically change NatNats. It doesn’t matter much, because the only real result will be a slight diminution of the number of teams, and not much else. Way to go, guys! It's nice to know that, in this era of inclusion, we've been included out.