Thursday, September 27, 2007

My day in four quartos

Yesterday was rather eventful. Doctor’s appointment in the morning, finalizing Yale in the afternoon, Bump planning meeting followed by tutti of the fruttis meeting (i.e., all the Sailors, not just part thereof).

As a result of #1, I think I’m supposed to eat more fiber. I’ll be meeting with my GI specialist in two weeks. I thought I was already eating fiber up the wazoo (and I mean that literally). Apparently not. I’ll buy some 110% bran flakes on the way home. And a cauliflower.

As a result of #2, I feel pretty confident that I’m in good shape for arriving tomorrow. Any changes from this point will be reflected in the registrations. What I still have to do is make sense of the judge pool, most specifically, who will be V and who will be JV. We will, of course, accommodate requests, but then there’s the middle ground. One doesn’t want to take all the least experienced judges and make them JV: the young ‘uns deserve good judging too. So, it’s a job. A fun one, actually. I look forward to it. Meanwhile, as I've already noted, I’ve started a View from Tab podcast about this particular tabroom. I’ve posted two parts so far. It’s a little inside-baseball, but you may find it interesting. I packed up my lightweight mic last night to be able to record more on site.

As a result of #3, I feel pretty good about the parents running the Bump stuff that I don’t run, viz., housing, food and lounges. I’m short one lounger, but I’ll work on that over the next few days, and then I can pass the buck get on with the registration issues, which continue apace. One of the parents last night admitted to being a member of the VCA. Damn. That means I have to say nice things about at least one kid. I hate when that happens.

As a result of #4, I have a new way of introducing novices to morality, using the famous trolley examples in Moral Minds. I would do it differently next year, limiting the discussion to novices, but otherwise it’s fun because it’s interactive. We have lost, I think, 2 novices. They took one look at the social contract last week and hit the owl-hoot trail, I probably should have started by introducing them to Derrida. Of course, then they would have stayed and I would have had to hit the owl-hoot trail. So it goes. We also began newbie performances last night, when they read something dramatic that they like. There are no flies on this bunch, let me tell you. Between their performances, and the discussion of morality, I can claim pretty much without fear of reprisal that this group is, at heart, basically evil. I mean, one of them was willing to kill her mother to save the lives of 5 child molesters, but then again, what do I know about her mother? Speaking of which, tonight is new parent night. Here’s hoping a few actually show up.

See you tomorrow in the Puppish Kingdom. (As soon as they drop the ropes, I’m heading for Space Mountain!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Just when you thought all the nuts were in the Snickers bars, Ahmadinejad turns up

No, I'm not blogging about Ahmadinejad, although the guy does break me up. He's sort of like the Iranian George W. Bush. How do these guys get into power, anyhow?

I spent about an hour last night porting over the JV Pups data. After a while, the process becomes hypnotic. Copy, alt-tab, paste, enter, enter, enter, alt-tab, copy, alt-tab, paste, click, repeat. There’s a few short of 160 JVian souls, so there’s a few short of 160 iterations of this process. Occasionally you drift so deep into your mesmerized state you paste something into the wrong box, which forces you to pay attention for a minute. Or for some reason you can’t fathom you don’t have the school entered and the program gives you the raspberry. But, overall, about 2 or 3 a minute, so you’re talking about an hour overall, which is a blazing pace, actually. Try literally typing all that data that quickly, much less accurately (I port over from to Excel, then into TRPC). Somewhere along the line I decided to record the process for posterity via podcast. It’s been a while since my last View from Tab, and this should make a good one. I’ll do a little at a time, including some in situ over the weekend, and with any luck, it will be interesting to, at least, well, somebody. It won’t all be about data entry, obviously. That would, perhaps, limit its appeal even further. Considering the amount of time and energy and thought that goes into planning and running any tournament, much less one this big, it should be interesting to dissect as much of it as I can. You can be the judge, when the recordings begin appearing. They won’t be heavily edited, so it shouldn’t take long for them to show up. Charge up that iPod!

Meanwhile, I see that Bietz is doing a weekly chat/podcast. Interesting. You’ll need to keep that iPod seriously charged. There’s a link on WTF if you want to check it out, but odds are that if you’re here, you’ve already been there. Done that, done this, so to speak. I find the hardest thing about podcasting is editing out the pauses. I tend to talk like Captain Kirk. Who knew? Plus it was a bit of a bother finding a decent microphone. Anyhow, good luck to him. I’ll be subscribing posthaste. We are surrounded by enormous technological possibilities; why not explore as many of them as we can?

Tonight I’ll finish the Pups data, varsity and judges. I’ll double-check for changes Wednesday afternoon, and then again Friday during registration. Then we’ll shoot the starter’s gun and get this show on the road.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Art vs. Manufactures of Metal

Brancusi: “Simplicity is complexity resolved.” (And I’ll throw in a picture: Bird in Space)

One of my mantras for case writing is the good old K.I.S.S. formula, i.e., keep it simple. This may in fact be number one on my theoretical case-writing hit parade that I hand out to the Sailors. This is not to say that your ideas are simple, in the dismissive, derogatory sense of the word, but that your writing is simple, and that your explanations are clear, straightforward, and easy to understand (three perhaps synonymous concepts). For that matter, much of my brief against a lot of writers is their inability to write clearly. Academic writing seems to demand obfuscation as the badge of profundity, whereas lack of lucidity is not testament to profundity but merely to, well, lack of lucidity. The more complicated the thing you are trying to explain, the simpler ought be your explanation, if you want anyone to understand it.

Few people, however, follow this advice.

In debate circles, complexity has often become the substitute for—or perhaps better, the metaphor for—meaningfulness. If one criterion is good, two criteria must be better, while five criteria is approaching sainthood. Cases that use straightforward analysis of the resolution in light of a simple value (e.g., how does the death penalty fit into social justice) are tortured into digressive readings of modern philosophy (which must, teleologically speaking, be better than classic philosophy, because it’s newer). Note that I charitably did not say modern “philosophy”: say what you will about me, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, you yabbo! You’ll also note that I added no alerting signals to that parenthetic statement about how new philosophy must be better than old philosophy; once again, I trust your intelligence, and I trust that you know when I am going Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge.

In other words, have an idea of why the death penalty does or does not fit into a pattern of social justice. Then explain it to me so as to convince me that you are right. Explaining it in a way that I can understand it is the best way to go about that. And don't blame me for being dumb if I don't understand you. You're the one who has the job of convincing to do. My only job is to be, or not be, convinced.

Do I make myself clear?

More Brancusi: “I do not aspire to be in fashion. For what is in fashion, goes out of fashion....”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It ain't easy being good

The problem is, I now have to wear this everywhere. It's going to make Yale all that more difficult.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Coachean log supplementary: Whine-ito ergo sum

There have been some late changes in the TOC bids, and as usual, WTF is full of students in the know about why, and full of reasons why it should be something else, why this tournament is wonderful and that one sucks, etc. (It is not WTF’s fault, of course, that they are the home of the all-knowing commentator; they’re simply the default site for all-knowing commentatoring.) I am reminded of the stint I put in on the LD advisory committee. Every year there was an announcement of bids, and every year the shadow advisory committee (i.e., everyone who wasn’t there) immediately pinned down what had happened and why. Remarkably, they got it right every time.

Yeah. Sure.

First of all, JWP does whatever he wants to do. He fully understands the meaning of the word advisory, and acts accordingly. So while often certain points are made and seemingly agreed to in the session, JWP may act differently than one might have expected. He has studied the advice and acted on it. He hasn’t necessarily accepted the advice, but acceptance of advice does not automatically follow from the act of listening to the advice. And often the advice had two sides; he’s picked one. So it goes. His tournament, his rules. And until you cut open Dr. P’s brain and find the piece that controls bid allotment and put it under the microscope for the real skinny, you’re sort of stuck with accepting what he does as what he does, because he feels no need to explain it, at least to the teeming multitudes. That’s also his call, and he’s entitled to it. If you don’t like the way he does things, don’t put yourself on the road to his tournament. He’ll survive, and so will you. Anyone who runs a tournament has things they do for their own reasons; if you don’t like them, don’t go. There are plenty of other tournaments out there. There’s even plenty of other culminating tournaments out there; CatNats and NatNats are wildly different from each other, and different again from TOC. At least one of them ought to suit your beliefs; go win that one.

That said, the world of high school debate is not a non-political universe. Plenty of people put a lot on the line with their commitment to forensics. For many coaches, it’s their career, and they are ambitious and competitive. Nothing wrong with that. For some coaches, it’s a sideline. Nothing wrong with that either. And there’s plenty of other shades of coacheana. All of these people are trying to figure out things like how to run the most profitable/prestigious tournament (often the two are closely related), which tournaments to go to on their limited funds, how to screw the s.o.b. who has been on their case for 20 years now (too much of that, unfortunately, but debate does occur in the real world, and a lot of people have histories), how to get a raise in salary (by what? more NFL points, more trophies, more members of the team?). Some of these people, with their conflicting issues, narrowly (or maliciously) see the world in the spotlight of their personal agenda. They act accordingly. And maybe they shouldn’t. But they do. Inequities occasionally arise as a result, sometimes over a long term. That’s unfortunate. But it happens.

Debaters also have axes to grind, usually of the nature of, how come there aren’t more bids available that I can get to, and why does X have so many bids, which is unfair to me. Measuring the quality of a tournament, from year to year, is hardly a precise science, but the committee tries. The committee also tries to insure good geographical distribution. Presumably so does JWP, when he acts on the committee’s advice. The biggest problem is, you can’t make statues when you don’t have any clay. High school debate does not consist of a vast number of potentially bid-worthy tournaments. In fact, once you get past the list of tournaments that have bids already, there is only a handful of reliable/predictable tournaments that don’t. I think the best example of this is California, which has plenty of debaters but not plenty of bid tournaments. However, there really isn’t some vast number of suitable non-bid tournaments being ignored. At best there’s one or two schools people argue about year in and year out, maybe over a handful of bids, but that’s about it. And there’s not much you can do about that. I run a tournament every year, and I know how hard it is, and I would be the last person in the world to be surprised that others won’t and can’t do it. To me it’s an annual miracle, and part of what keeps it going is simply its long-term momentum. How long did it take Bump to get long-term momentum? Beats me. It was already there when I got there. It took me a couple of years to get the hang of running the thing, and we lost policy bids and kept our LD bids (and now have PF bids). Why? Ask JW.

Anyhow, mostly I’m just amused by all this. A good tournament is defined as a tournament that benefits the people who attend it. Honestly, the number of people who are reasonably pointed to TOCs in a given year is a lot less than the number of people who are poised for their state championships, or surviving their novice years, or making new friends, or just getting out of the house once in a while. It is merely one small piece of the vast forensic puzzle, and for most people, a non-essential one. Nonetheless, it wields a vast amount of both perceived and real power, to some extent because other hubs, especially NFL, have created a vacuum of authority that has allowed this to happen (although I sense recently that NFL is trying to do something about this). That same vacuum has allowed WTF to become the participants’ voice of LD in the country, for better or worse (although the minds behind WTF are responsible and capable, and we’re not in bad hands with them, even though NFL should be doing most of what WTF does; for that matter, NFL should be doing most of what I’m doing).

There’s no moral to this story; it’s just a random comment on a regular event, the trouncing of the TOC bids. Happens every year. I probably comment on it every year. If it wasn’t for consistency, we wouldn’t have no stency at all…

Everything (Bumpian) old is new again, confound it!

The thing is, I’ve changed just about everything. Which means that my normal confidence level (hey, we’re doing this for the bazillionth time, what can go wrong) won’t be as high as usual. And meanwhile O’C will be hanging around saying, Oh, you really love this, and probably wearing that horrible sweater of his, and I might have to murder him just to keep on an even keel. There isn’t a jury in the world that would convict me…

For years it’s been policy in the high school, two divisions, and Varsity LD (the only LD division) in the grammar school. Figure 33 or so rooms in the HS, 27 or so in the GS. It always worked, for reasons that escaped me. The two policy divisions would simply balance each other out and take up 33 or so rooms, and LD took up 27 or so rooms. Never failed. Life was good. The first problem is, I have no idea how big the novice LD field will be (or PF, for that matter, given the addition of a TOC bid). I would prefer varsity in the HS, if for no other reason than that people wouldn’t have to sit on baby seats, but I know varsity works down at the GS (although last year we had a tad of spill-over-age into the gym). I also have access to some tables in the fairly large library, which can make perfectly good PF venues. So, it’s a tossup. Last year PF was 28 teams, which is 7 rooms, which is a piece of cake in the HS, with Varsity in 28 or so other rooms, including the library, and novices at the GS. As Joe V has pointed out, splitting a division would potentially wreak judge pool havoc, so that’s out. It all depends on the number of entrants in PF and Novice LD. I have no idea.

In any case, add to that the fact that my varsity will be used to judge novice LD. That means the tables are run by Speecho-Americans (but fortunately we have a good, reliable crew of upperclassfolk there, and this time out they won’t have to figure Policy ballots and LPWs, although there are the usual confusing PF ballots, but then again no one can figure them out so the S-As are at no particular disadvantage). Runners, as usual, are freshmen and sophomores. So the operations personnel are different, and there’s no longer the reward of growing up and ruling a table based on your vast LD experience. Now you grow up and you judge rounds. What’s the point of becoming a team leader? Bah!

I have all sorts of prepared materials that don’t make sense anymore, as I just noticed (they’re all in my master spreadsheet that runs the tournament). I’ve got to work out how we’ll train PF judges, how we’ll handle express check-in (although simply presenting my smiling face at the door should be enough for that), where I’m going to get PF ballots from (I think I’ll make up my own), what to do about white-sheeting (I’m definitely using my version of the NFL LD ballots, with labels this time). My remarks of greeting and get-lost awards need revision, my team assignment sheets are all moot, I can dump the idea of checking rooms (except at the end) because we won’t have Policians spewing their usual litter william-nilliam. I’ll probably still need runner wranglers, though. Candy? Oy. I’d give it away except these dogs eat the stuff, and buy the stuff, like it’s going out of style. Pure profit! Go figure.

Next week I’ll instruct my Engineer/Wrangler in the art of getting rooms from the two schools. I’ll meet with the parents who will run housing and food. I’ll line up tabulationists at Yale. I’ll think about ways of executing O’C. It will be a profitable week, one way or the other.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The secret; Happy Keister!; the science of coaching; judicial activism on a personal level; select this

We chezzed it up last night, with a select handful of varsitians and pfffters, discussing all manner of topics. On Sept-Oct, of course, there is only one clear strategy that makes any sense, same this time as last time a few years ago. Send me plenty of money and I’ll tell you what it is; last night I told the Sailors for free. Some of them believed me. As for the Pffft topics, Peanuts seems quite on top of Sept, while everyone stares at October as if it’s [insert metaphor here for some really dangerous, confusing thing you wish would go away]. Asking high school students to make sense of Iraq is a tall item, but then again, they’ll probably do a better job of it than George W. Bush has. At least the high schoolers have an exit strategy, to wit, the November resolution, coming out in little more than a week. For that matter, Nov-Dec LD will be coming out, according to the new voting approach. I did mail in my ballot, which was a little easier than the PSATs, but not much, and with a similar amount of guesswork. As I’ve said, the overall batch of topics was pretty good, so barring any true lunacy, we shouldn’t be too bad off no matter what happens.

As I told O’C yesterday, I’m looking forward to tabbing the Pups. CP has enabled my access to the data, which I’ll start porting on Tuesday (which for me, next week, is a theoretical free night, as we’re having our normal meeting on Wednesday; if you don’t ask why I use the word theoretical, I won’t tell, and we’ll both be happy). O’C is reveling in his own upcoming Big Jake, and as MB pointed out in a comment, O’C would be happiest with a tournament that had all the trappings and none of the debating. You could kick it off with an award ceremony, for instance. O’C is a big one for traditions, and he thinks everything that ever happened qualifies. If some kid trips and breaks his keister at this year’s confab, that will be a tradition for all the years to come at all ensuing Big Jakes, and there will probably even be an award for it. The Keister Award. Bet on it. (You know, if Big Jake did have a Keister Award, there would finally be a compelling reason to pay attention during the award ceremonathon.)

Some yabbo with a debate mailing list who’s always sending me stuff has created a debate resource site, or something like that, listing all the blogs and whatnot. Mine is the only coach’s blog, not unsurprisingly. All the other coaches are out there coaching. I’m sitting around typing. Then again, having imparted the secret of the topic to my minions, what else is there to do? I do not believe in providing positions to my team; I mean, if I do that, what is left for them to do? In a way, I guess I’ve got this thing down to a science. Write blog. Have one big thought. Pass along one big thought. Write more blog. What a life!

Yesterday I hobbled together a list of potential Bump judges and sent out a request (btw, if you didn’t hear from me and want to judge, let me know). I’m not quite sure why I didn’t have a ready list waiting to go, but I didn’t. All the data was scattered from here to kingdom come, and some obvious people weren’t on any of it. Go figure. A couple of people I need new addresses for, and I’ll get them shortly from those who should know, at which point I’ll see what I can do. The initial reply was gratifyingly strong, and my selling of judicial flesh will transpire as usual. Not to mention novice and PF judges, which I still need to sort out.

And finally, if you weren’t aware of this, the NY Times has reopened its electronic doors, and the whole paper is accessible online again. For free. Since I’m always wanting to clip and send things to the Sailors, it’s nice to finally be able to do it again. And the folks who don’t get the actual newspaper can get back to the odd electronic browse. The people win! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Well, smack my gob!

I am gobsmacked. (Which, by the way, could be your word too some day. Use it once, use it twice, use it three times, and it’s yours. Although it is intrinsically not one that you’ll use often, unless you’re exceptionally gobsmackable, so getting to the third, possessive usage might be difficult.)

The normal course of Plebe events is that a certain number of newbies shows up for orientation, and then that number minus 10% shows up again the following week, then by the first tournament we’re down to that number minus 50%. By the beginning of sophomore year, we’re down another 20% or so of the remainder. But that hasn’t happened. Almost every second-year Sailor is back, one way or the other, and few of them had ever dropped off in the first place. And almost all of the returning horde are already signed up for something, including but not limited to PF. Strange.

But that’s not the big news. At the orientation this year we were inundated with students of the female persuasion, which has never happened before. The sea of debating Sailor faces has never been exclusively male, but it hasn’t exactly been Hockaday either. But this year the first batch was entirely female with one exception, and last night, rather than entirely disappearing as I had feared, there were even more of them, and they were still mostly all female, including the new ones. This is a remarkable happenstance. As you well know (or should well know), there is nothing about the nature of the activity that is gender-tilted, but going into it it’s probably about 60/40 male/female overall. And over time it does continue to tilt up on the testosterone scale, as there does seem to be some gender bias at the varsity level, especially on the $ircuit, for a variety of reasons that have been discussed here and elsewhere (although, to be honest, I mostly ascribe it to the losers who go to college and can’t find anyone to hang out with so they show up at high school tournaments every weekend pushing their latest discovery in their philosophy classes as proof of their intellectual superiority instead of hanging out with college girls who won’t give them a tumble because, well, they’re not intellectually superior and they can’t tell a burro from a burrow, which comes out in their misogyny, but one way or the other you’ve heard that from me before too). Still, for the Sailors’ gene pool to shade over to so many XX chromosomes is a new one on me. Maybe it marks a whole new generation of us. Maybe the same thing is happening throughout Westchester. Maybe even Scarsdale is Xing up.

I love the whole idea of it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Here, you do it. And, take my Bump. Please.

I should know this by now. When you give a teenager an assignment, and an underclassman assistant, the teenager will inevitably pass the assignment along to the underclassman assistant. There is some theory, probably French, that all human beings are born thinking they’re line managers, with an innate drive to delegate, and if the evidence I have seen is any indication, this is probably true. The corollary to this theory, also probably French, is that the underclassman assistant will inevitably screw up the assignment. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, like the lemmings zipping off the nearest cliff, like the grizzlies selling lemonade below cost at the home game, it always comes to pass. That I will forget all this truth, and make the same mistake over and over again, is also inevitable. Say what you will about life, at least we all understand it completely, in every crook and nanny. The last time we were surprised about human nature was in seventh grade, and thank God that’s over. So, there you are. And I don’t want to hear any complaints that being part of the VCA has not been highly informative for you. Jeesh!

Meanwhile, last night I sent out a message to my mailing lists regarding Bump. That’s this tournament in November… A few people had already signed up, and now at least I’ve announced that we’re happening for real. Registration opened officially (i.e., for O’C) on September 15. Before the week is out I’ll need to chivvy up the judges. I’ve got to have some LD and some Pfffts. My upperclassmen (AKA the Delegators) will judge novices. Which means my tables will be run by Speecho-Americans. Very odd. O’C sent me a message suggesting that, in fact, I really like all of this. This gives me a chance to use the word preposterous for the very first time on this blog. While I like tabbing and telling everyone else what to do at their events, the stress of putting on a tournament myself, in two buildings, with bazillions of people, is not something I seek out. Years of experience make no difference, because at any moment the whole thing could blow up; it’s bad enough the little things that do happen, much less the way my imagination lights on the big things that are still possible. I think I harbor a secret hope that for some perfectly acceptable reason the school district will clamp down and tell me to send the whole thing packing, at which point, after doing the happy dance for a couple of hours, I would indeed without remorse send the whole thing packing. I’d send it to O’C. He seems to like these things (although, if you were to ask, I could tell a few stories about Big Jake…).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just passing through...

I'm up to here in busy. Pushing at the day job, which means little time to think of writing anything here, while also handling the beginning of the Bump registrations and keeping up with the normal mail (turn away for a minute and the team could turn into aardvarks).

I know you've been worried, but Friday night I won the poker tournament and took home much money plus the bling. Since I have a new camera, as soon as I figure out how to use it, I'll post a picture of the bling, which will no doubt not be in my possession for very long. Nevertheless, I played like a poker god. You would have been proud.

Saturday we saw Spring Awakening. It's quite a show, but I do have to admit I didn't come away raving about the score. But otherwise it was peachy.

On top of that, today the dentist ripped open what he could of tooth number 21 (he calls them by number, rather than by name; I've always known that tooth as Kevin), and then charged me exporbitantly for it. The cad!

On the good news side, now O.J. will be able to write a sequel, If I Did That, Too. I can't wait.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Shopping till dropping; cur changes; clang, clang, clang

I am in the midst of a buying frenzy: the Michelin guide to Spain (which is the country to the left of Italy, a comment specifically aimed at one member of the VCA who needs a vacation but who isn’t quite sure which are the European countries): some Sennheiser headphones (lightweight, to replace one missing and one dying pair of standard-issue iPodians, which looks like it ought to have 2 Ds); a Canon ultra-compact digital camera, fairly upscale, to replace mine, which replaces Liz’s, which died (and this after a long lust for a digital SLR, which I finally realized would be a pain to lug around, and the whole reason I went to tiny cameras in the first place, even pre-digital, was lug pain); a basic albeit solar powered sports watch to replace the old classic Swatch because you can’t wear Mickey everywhere, unfortunately, especially when you’ve already got other Mouse gear on, because then you look like the geek you really are and the world doesn’t need that much additional evidence, although I do worry about leaving solar-powered gear out in the sun too long, and sucking up all the energy, and then where will we be; a DVD player with holes for the sound system wires, since my present DVD player (the main one with room for 5 disks) ate a Star Trek TNG disk unexpectedly and now merely makes gurgling sounds (yes, I am plodding my way through TNG, at the rate of about a show a month, which is enough Make It So for the average person wearing full Mouse regalia).

Amazon stays in business thanks to me.

On the debate front, last night I revised the cur, as I had intended. So now we give an overall description of the Life to the newbies, from which we segue directly into some background philosophy, as compared to formerly segueing into the nature of LD (e.g., what’s a 1AR). This works especially well this year, coming off an introductory discussion of Sept-Oct, which followed the description of the Life last Tuesday. For those who haven’t noticed, while the area of analysis in this rez is the death penalty, which comes complete with a whole subset of issues familiar to anyone who’s given it a moment’s thought (innocence, DNA, recidivism, deterrence, etc.), the subject of the topic is “a just society.” So right off the bat the Plebes (mine and yours) need to understand what that means, and frankly, I think that’s a lot more interesting than the meaning of a 1AR, at least the second week you’re in the room and you’re 14 years old. Correct me if I’m wrong. Of course, this means that next week I’ll need a couple of meetings, one for younger students with this stuff, and one for the ABs, who pretty much know this material by now, and with whom I’ll concentrate on cases, which they should be in the midst of, given that Yale is two weekends away.

Interesting side note: Termite keeps suggesting that people only do the right thing through fear of punishment, which I seem to have read an awful lot of empirical evidence against in Moral Minds. I can’t wait for this year’s morality unit! Or, Push Mama on the Tracks, as we will probably come to know it over the coming years.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Celebrated Jumping Nostrum of Calaveras County

I finally got back to Nostrum last night. I haven’t recorded any episodes for quite a while, starting with being sick a while, and then vacating, and then business tripping. Once I got into the swing of being in a hiatus, I was beginning to sort of revel in it. But it’s Back to School time again, I’ve bought the new marble composition book, I’ve sharpened the number two pencil, I’ve polished the apples for the teachers, so I have no more excuses. Curiously enough, it was one of the episodes I always especially enjoyed, which just to happens to be one of the episodes that least lends itself to podcasting, to wit, the Jumping Frog episode on Postmodernism. In the narrative, a young teacher explains pomo to her class (and does quite a reasonable job of it, if you ask me; “Caveman” has nothing on Jules and the Nostrumite). Then, as Mark Twain did with the Jumping Frog story, there is a French translation (done by Babelfish), followed by a translation back into English, also by Babelfish. There was no way I was going to read either the French or English translations, but I did publish them in the pdf. In any case, I’m back in business, and if you want to know what I’m talking about, read on.

Le Nostrum sautant célébré du comté de Calaveras
From English to French, via Babelfish

Je finalement ai obtenu de nouveau à Nostrum la nuit passée. Je n'ai enregistré aucun épisode pendant tout à fait un moment, commençant par être malade un moment, et évacuer alors, et puis le déclenchement d'affaires. Une fois que j'entrais dans l'oscillation d'être dans un hiatus, je commençais à la sorte de revel dans elle. Mais elle a lieu de nouveau au temps d'école encore, j'ai acheté le nouveau livre de marbre de composition, j'ai affilé le crayon du numéro deux, j'ai poli les pommes pour les professeurs, ainsi je n'ai plus d'excuses. Assez curieusement, il était l'un des épisodes que j'ai toujours particulièrement appréciés, que juste s'avère justement être un des épisodes que mineur prête lui-même à podcasting, à l'esprit, à l'épisode sautant de grenouille sur Postmodernism. Dans le récit, un jeune professeur explique le pomo à sa classe (et fait tout à fait un travail raisonnable de lui, si vous me demandez ; l'"homme des cavernes" n'a rien sur Jules et le Nostrumite). Puis, comme la marque Twain a fait avec l'histoire sautante de grenouille, il y a une traduction française (faite par Babelfish), suivie d'une traduction de nouveau dans l'anglais, aussi par Babelfish. Il n'y avait aucune manière que j'allais lire les traductions en anglais françaises ou, mais je les ai éditées dans le pdf. De toute façon, je suis de retour dans les affaires, et si vous voulez savoir de ce que je parle, lisez dessus.

Jumping Nostrum celebrated county of Calaveras
From French back to English, via Babelfish

I finally obtained again in Nostrum the last night. I did not record any episode during completely a moment, starting with to be sick one moment, and to evacuate then, and then the release of businesses. Once that I entered the oscillation to be in a hiatus, I started with the kind of revel in it. But it again takes place at the time of school still, I bought the new marble book of composition, I sharpened the pencil of the number two, I polished apples for the professors, thus I do not have more excuses. Enough curiously, it was one of episodes that I have always particularly appreciated, that just precisely proves to be one of the episodes that minor lends itself to podcasting, to the spirit, with the frog episode jumping on Postmodernism. In the account, a young professor explains the pomo with his class (and completely does a reasonable work of him, if you ask me; the "homme of the caves" does not have anything on Jules and Nostrumite). Then, as the Twain mark made with the jumping frog history, there is a French translation (made by Babelfish), followed of a translation again in English, also by Babelfish. There was no manner that I was going to read the French translations in English or, but I published them in the pdf In any event, I am back in the businesses, and if you want to know of what I speak, read above.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New narratives

High school is a collection of intersecting sagas. Every year a new set of these sagas begins with the arrival of that year’s freshmen. From their perspective, this is their story, their saga. Each is the star of his or her own ongoing epic. High school will take up four years of that epic, about a quarter of their life so far. That’s a big deal.

A high school debate team has its own narrative. Each year the team passes out a group of graduates, who one way or the other have left their collective and individual marks on the team, and each year the team takes in a new group of students who will make their own mark. The tenor of the team changes with each passage. It’s like families. The firstborn arrives into one family, the secondborn into another family, the third into another family, etc. (unless there’s a decent amount of birth control, which doesn’t really apply to debate teams, as in, it’s too late now, we’re stuck with them). Forensics, with its four-year lifespan, has to be fairly close to unique among high school activities, insofar as the team working together as a team is concerned. I mean, how much do the novice football players interact with the varsity team?

I love the change that comes with the new year. I love the passing of one group and the arrival of a new group, and I love watching how the change affects the dynamic of the team. Needless to say, the individuals on the team, as they move from year to year, change a bit themselves. (I hope, if you’re an adolescent reading this, that this does not come as a surprise, but adolescence is, with any luck, transitory.) I like to watch where leadership arises, where friendships take place, where brains start to spill over, where people who used to say little are suddenly willing to opine at length. I like changing myself, as the team changes. To some extent they have to adjust to me (poor dears) but I also have to adjust to them (poor me). And since they’re different every year, I have to adjust every year. In other words, there’s also my saga, intersecting with everyone else’s, except mine is the longest in chronology, if not necessarily in intensity. That is, I would suggest, probably without much demurral from the VCA, that being a high school kid is a lot more intense than being an old fart coach. But still, I’m there, and as a spectator of my own narrative, I do get a kick out of it.

We brought on the newbies last night. The numbers seemed reasonable, about half a dozen or so each of debaters and Speecho-Americans. There could be some more lurkers, and we’ll try to shake them out of the bushes for next week. I like the idea of adding 5 or 6 new people to the team a year. Very manageable. O’C probably adds 5 or 6 hundred: that’s scary. I like to learn their names by the time they’re seniors. O’C will still be trying to learn their names at his retirement party. Anyhow, my guess is that one or two will evanesce by next week, but the 4 or 5 remaining will be the goods.

After an abbreviated introduction to forensics, rendered abbreviatable by the manageable numbers, we spun off to our own room and talked meaningless nonsense about what we do for a while, then hit straight into Sept-Oct. This is a great topic for novices, because there’s nothing about it that’s hard to understand, at least on face. They’re not prepared for meaningful analyses of just societies, I would expect, but they sure as hell know and have thoughts about the death penalty. For those who are interested, a simple poll of Sailordom on the subject of Old Sparky split pro and con about 50/50, which I thought was pretty surprising. I would have expected more cons. Whatever.

As I say, every year we get to change, and I’ve decided to rearrange my curriculum and go straight next week into social contract theory. Hitherto I’ve gone on about debate structure, but the former seems more interesting, and more likely to keep people in their seats for the duration. Either way, though, it begins some separate novice sessions, which means extra chezzes for the other ABs, which means an awful lot of debate for a while for moi. The first couple of months are like that, what with newbies and new parents and Bump and whathaveyou. Apres Bump, le snooze. I can’t wait.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Corrections, expectations, tweets and jobs, with a side order of bacon

So it turns out that Ridge didn’t move, and the problem is that my link went to their Winter speech tournament. Whew. It was too much to deal with, if it had been true. I’ve just updated my online schedule, and that should solve that.

Tonight is Day One of the Sailors, and it’s pouring rain, which should cut out a few of the ribbon clerks. There’s also a District meeting at the same time in the library, which is our usual startup venue, so we’re exiled to the chorus room, normal home of the Speecho-Americans. I am atwitter.

Speaking of Twitter, is anyone else into this at all? I sort of like it, but I’m not sure why. Let me know if you have an account, and I’ll link up with you.

The big news for the Sailors is that tonight I announce the job assignments. In the past this has been known to mark the onset of many a permanent depression, among both the Tars and their coach. When I pick a stinker for a job, I end up paying the price for the whole year, so I do my best, but an adolescent can go stinker on you in the blink of an eye. Engineer/Wrangler, Apprentice EW, Novice Coordinators, Officer in Charge of Morale, Disinformation and General Communicativeness—these are important posts in the scheme of forensic life. The captain(s), on the other hand, requires an election, which will take place in December, so that I can avoid senioritis. “Vote for me ‘cause I’m always right and I never lie” remains the best slogan I know of, and I urge anyone reading this to use it (no need to credit the Firesign Theater, but that is the source).

Bacon admitted Saturday that he’d been AWOL from the VCA lately. With postings like this, who can blame him?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Breaking wind news

Thank you, O'C.

And so we set sail on a new year (I think)

So, here we go again. I mark the moderators’ meeting of the NYCFL, which took place on Saturday, as the literal beginning of the season. Which means that, officially, 2007-8 is off and running.

As (I think) I’ve mentioned before, we are looking at a strange year calendar-wise. Thanksgiving is (I think) as early as it can get, MLK is (I think) as late as it can get, and Easter is (I think) as early as it can get. I throw in a lot of (I think)s because I’m not precisely sure, but if Thanksgiving were any earlier it would be on Labor Day, if MLK were any later it would be on the 4th of July, and any change on Easter would put it up against Rosh Hashanah, and I don’t think we want that to happen. As a result, the calendar is filled with this-year-only events and asterisks, which we only began to scratch the surface of at the CFL meeting. For one thing, it looks like we can squeeze in two or three extra MHLs. We created a debate-only CFL in January (between MBA and Big Lex). After polishing up my online team schedule I discovered that Ridge may have moved to the same weekend as Emory/Columbia, which is not good, so I hope they’ll move back to one of the December weekends, especially since there seems to be a surfeit of available December weekends. We’ll try to do our State Regionals in conjunction with Lakeland, and we’ll urge Stefan to offer what he did last year (although we may need to think about novice LD vs an MHL in conjunction with the Regionals if the thought is that people at that point of the year are trawling for States bids). One of my responsibilities at the day job is scheduling my department; I seem to be taking on at least some advisory responsibility for that at the night job. Then again, maybe it just goes with NFL Chair, since not much else does.

Speaking of MHLs (were we speaking of MHLs?), we’ll offer a full menu at Byram Hills, and not just a first-timer set, although the novice divisions will be limited only to f-t’s. Meanwhile, the States folks are offering JV PF this year, for freshmen and sophomores only; it makes sense to add this to the MHL menu, and so we shall. Maybe now we’ll drum up some business from States qual hunters, especially since, like Congress, one of these quals and you’re in. We’ll see. When we first offered PF in open divisions, people stayed away in huge numbers. I’d hate to see them do it again.

Tomorrow night is the Sailors’ first voyage. The plebes will, I trust, be there in force. Last year the first night crowd was in the thousands, but I managed to shoo most of them away. Still, we ended up with a goodly number. I hope we can do the same this year. The returning Tars have promised to campaign in the honors classes to drum up some new business. If that doesn’t do the job, nothing will. Although as I always maintain, people show up at the school already wanting to debate, for reasons that escape me completely. Maybe it’s genetic. Then again, the evolutionary value—if any—of a debate gene is highly, uh, debatable.

Friday, September 07, 2007

When I was a kid, I used to think they were saying the Infant of Frog. That was a theological leap that was beyond me.

I did poke around Fred and Ginger a bit Wednesday, although they were working on the entrance, which meant I could only study the exterior. It's not very big, and it fits in remarkably well with its surroundings. Thumbs up!

Spent today updating all sorts of things. MHL site has the tabroom online link; tomorrow with the Catholics I'll sort out if we should have 2nd year folk. Read some NFL District Chair thingie that had a lot of ideas about LD that I liked. I would truly like to see NFL be useful to NY, and acting as a central hub for something other than their making money would be a start. Updated the first few sessions in the cur. Read the Manchester Under the Sea invite: JV LD? Who knew? Sent O'C a list of 1027 possible new traditions for this year's Vassar RR. Updated the parent/student handouts. Respelled Rolling Stones with 2 Ls on my iPod (that was HUGE). Thought about getting back to Civ 4 (my Chinese rock—nothing like 8 hours on a plane to conquer the world).

Anyhow, it's nice to be back. It will really feel like back when I hobnob with my fellow wizards tomorrow at the CFL meeting.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kissing the other cheek

As I was just explaining to CP, I am a total failure at international relations. The thing is, the official greeting for some cultures is the air-kissing first of one cheek and then the other cheek. Very European. Very chi-chi. But I gather there are exceptions based on, in come cases, culture, and in some cases tolerance for the kisser and/or the kissee. How many cheeks do you need to kiss if you met the person once about 18 years ago for three minutes and you're not quite sure what country she's from, and when you make a wild guess, you're three empires and an SSR away? I'm a one-cheek kind of guy at best, but the good news is that there seems to be allowances made for Americans. No doubt everyone here measures us against Americans they know well, like George W. Bush, so no matter how ill adept we are at the niceties, we come in well by comparison.

Needless to say, if you run into me when I return, steer clear for a few days until I readjust to local greeting techniques. This will avoid embarrassment for all involved.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I refuse to make a pun using the word Czech

So, I'm in Prague, and you're not. I arrived Sunday morning at 6:00, which is way to early to arrive in most places, but at least I did sleep three hours on the plane, so I wasn't totally wired. My theory is that walking around in the sun is the best way to handle jet lag, so that's what I did, and Prague is definitely a very nice place to walk around. It's a pretty city, with architecture ranging from very old to very new, so there's something around every corner, not to mention the people watching. Since I was just here last year, this time I explored some back-corner areas I had missed the first time around, and it was just as enjoyable, if not exactly as mainstream. Then last night there was dinner with the assorted Day Jobbians from around the world, and then so to bed. This morning, our first meeting was at 8:30. The down side of sleeping only three hours on the plane the night before meant that I slept through my alarm and awoke at 8:20. The good news is, I can move quickly if I have to! I managed to get to the meeting a couple of minutes early, and after that, business was fine, and then, since I have wireless, here we are. Hi there!

I've communicated with CP about his software, which doesn't think I'm an administrator. Frankly I think he's punishing me for being in Prague, which isn't fair, because I'm over here working, not gallivanting, as he seems to think. In any case, I hope to sort this out soon and set up MHL registrations that way.

I'm also trying to get the Huddian Manchester registration sorted out. My guess is we'll have to hire quite a bit of judging, so I want to sign up early to be on the safe side with that. Presumably they have lay judging up the wazoo for PF, so I'll probably put our judge into LD, as it's 1F's mother chaperoning the trip, and she is quite capable as a parent judge. I've read her ballots, and she does this the way it should be done.

Back home, the Sailors are, no doubt, smiling through tears as they enjoy their last couple of vacation days. Last week it occurred to Termite that it was about time to do the summer reading. I know how he feels. I didn't do half what I intended this summer, but then again, I did get such good stuff out of Moral Minds that I don't feel I wasted the whole thing. Termite was positing that, if we had no police, we'd all be immoral, according to some philosopher chappie he was reading. Right. He is ripe for the trolley (about which more later).

Speaking of Moral Minds, no, I was not convinced that we are born with a literal moral sense, but I was not convinced that we are not. What is clear is that we are born with certain predilictions that are entwined with morality, and it was interested reading about those predilictions in the wild. I will add it to the reading list, but I won't fall over myself pushing it. It's not core, but it is fun, and worth a visit.

So in a few minutes I'm off (in the rain) to dinner. If anything interesting happens, you'll be the first to know.