Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rooms, Glorious Rooms

Oh joy, oh rapture. I just talked to the new principal of the grammar school, site of the elusive “rooms.” Wait for it—she’s a former debater. Can you hear my sigh of relief? Of course, there will be some logistical issues, because there’s memorial ceremonies on Saturday, but there’s nothing we can’t work our way around. I’m almost beginning to look forward to next weekend. Almost being the operative word there. That’s about as good as it gets.

I sent out a list of who I think is coming to the tournament, to the people I think are coming to the tournament, to see if the people they think are coming to the tournament bear any resemblance. Should be close. The nice thing about my Excel spreadsheet is that it is malleable, and can print out anything, any way. Next year I think I’ll incorporate the housing info. Although I am still alternately contemplating a approach. With single divisions per iteration, I could even do a direct import into E-TRPC. I might do it. The only real problem with for the MHL is the simple, well, “I’ll just send Menick an email because it’s easier” approach. You’d be surprised how many people are of that persuasion. Whatever. Speaking of the MHL, there is some damned bug (see how I blame CP and not myself) that says my judges are in a first-timers division, and I can’t sort that out, but it’s not horrible. This is going to be a big event, and that’s NOT because O’C is overstuffing it with his teeming masses. There’s enough Policians to [insert humorous metaphor here for some activity that requires a lot of people who talk fast]. Which is good to see. And plenty of LDers too. PF looks like it will be a bust, though. I’ll check it all out tonight. I’ve given O’C a 6:00 deadline for his data (following a new rule that he must be no more than 1/3 of any division, not because it’s the Bronx and they’re annoying), which I know he’ll keep, since it’s Halloween, and he’ll be out in his J. T. Kirk drag trick-or-treating, pushing aside 4- and 5-year olds in an effort to fill his bag with a record-setting number of Necco Wafers. Because of its location on a busy, non-sidewalked street, the chez gets virtually no T-or-T-ers (which is not to be construed as an invitation: I bought one bag of Snickers, and I intend to eat them myself at The Day Job).

Last night we tutti’d at the high school, covering all manner of things, including Nov-Dec. The Bietzocast was a good starting point, because it gave us some things to consider seriously, and some to throw out the window. As casual fans of the 14th Amendment, we didn’t care much for a federal point of view on the topic as distinct from the states, but in the real world, with RICO and Enron and terrorists and the like, much of the available thinking might be federal-court based. But that seems inconsequential philosophically. And I’m the only person I know who thinks of this topic philosophically, except maybe Termite. BTW, that justice might not exist, or that the US is inherently unjust, do not strike me as philosophical arguments, insofar as neither of them are statements of truth (and I don’t care what your source is, b.s. = b.s. coming and going, and you can look it up in the physics books if you don’t believe me). Anyhow, a good and fairly deep discussion. After that, we only dabbled in November Pfffft because, well, it’s really really hard to understand unless you’re an economist. The little research I did had my head spinning. Thank God it’s only one month, and for us, only one tournament, Wee Sma’ Lex. Still, next week we’re going to chez it up solely for Pffft. We also need to talk strategies, to get the Sailors ship a little less leaky. I mean, they did worse at Manchester than the teams that weren’t there, although mostly we blame poor, sick Alex for that, as his microbes torpedoed our varsity team. Pffffts that go pfffft in the night, I guess.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's spelled "?"; stand up, you're sinking the boat; poke 'em if you've got 'em; used tournament for sale; or maybe the Nostrumdamuses?

In response to Bietz’s comment, “96 Tears” seems to be the default song on my Nano, for some reason. Press any wrong button, and that's the song that starts playing (I guess because of the artist name). The theme from some random James Bond film is top of my 5Gen random list. That one I can't suss out. I can’t imagine what will rule my iTouch, when I finally buy it (think Gen 2…). In any case, it’s nice when at least one person gets a semi-obscure reference. Then again, if you were smarter, etc.

And in Disney news, they’re shutting down It’s a Small World in Anaheim for refurb because it no longer is a small world, and fat people are getting stalled in the ride. I find this ridiculously amusing:

So I created a folder for incoming Facebook notices, which are taking over my inbox. I figure I’ll look at them once a day, rather than every two seconds as they arrive. Next up? Figuring out the poke. Used to be, a poke was the insertion of machine code, back when I was programming my Apple II. Now it means a virtual prod, I guess. Whatever. According to my page, I can poke the guy in the office next to me at The Day Job. I can’t see the point of it, given that I can just walk over and head him on the head with a frying pan, but I do like the language.

Those wondering about the hell that is Bump will be pleased to note that we still have no rooms, and also someone else seems to have the cafeteria on Saturday. Do you sleep before your tournaments? Tomorrow night or Thursday morning I’ll post what I have so people can doublecheck their entries prior to fee-setting on Sunday.

I spent last night working on the cur for the next meeting or two, pulling up some technical how-to material. Plus it won’t hurt us to discuss some of the issues MB and co brought up in their podcast. I mean, I do perceive it as a podcast (but with a lot of dead air; there are editing tools out there, for pete’s sake). Speaking of which, I also got a new Nostrum up, finally. While the times have changed enormously with such things as LD content, other storylines seem positively prescient. Jules and the Mite were undoubtedly the Nostradamuses of forensics.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A prize with no possible takers; "96 Tears" and other Hogwartsiana; Bump officially relocated

I now officially have more Facebook friends than I know what to do with. I’m beginning to see the potential of such a community, but have yet to see its practice. The first person to give me something useful on this gets a crappy prize.

The CFL All Hallows Eve(nt) at Hogwarts went swimmingly. While PF remains something of a stretch in these parts, LD was 96 strong in the novice division alone. The number 96 stays in my mind because when I paired round two, there was a message saying that 96 teams remained unscheduled.

I turned it off and tried again. 96 teams remained stubbornly unscheduled.

At that point, we tried everything (after O’C took a picture of the computer screen, just to have a record of this magic moment). But the setup was correct, everything was right. O’C, a master of Visual Basic (for that matter, a master of everything with the initials VB), suggested pairing this random round as high-low, knowing that, since there was no high-low data to pair from, it would come out random. He was correct. It worked, and a sigh of relief was breathed by the assembled brain trust. I advise all and sundry to put that into their memory banks against the moment it happens to you. 96 teams remain unscheduled. And this was C-TRPC. Jeesh!

Catholic Charlie, meanwhile, claims that he can spell, but I don’t believe him. We did discuss possibly migrating CFL debate divisions to tabroom. If CP is reading this, it will cut out the middleman. Create another league (NYCFL)? Julie S also claimed to have read this blog. I suggested that this was hazardous to her mental health, and she seemed to agree.

JV and I did a parent training session in the middle of Hogwarts, and I was quite impressed by us, considering that we were doing it impromptu. Then again, maybe it’s because we could also do it in our sleep. We hire out for weddings and bar mitzvahs, if you’re interested in some unusual entertainment for that special event.

Finally, Bump is all tweaks at this point. Add this one, drop that one, etc. I sent out some info to the school district PR guy extolling our virtues, including our can of soup. Wednesday night it locks down (the tournament, not the soup), and pdfs will be sent out. A few creeps have teamed up teams have crept up off the waitlist, and if I knew the number of rooms, others might join them, but I’ve effectively given up and decided that the entire event will take place at Peanuts’ house, given that he is the Hardware Engineer plus his mother is running housing. Might as well combine the two, I think.

Friday, October 26, 2007

As the weekend looms, we ponder the universe and other possible vacation spots

Bump is simmering. One school dropped, I’m waiting for the next waitlist school to step up (is anyone from BC reading this, as I haven’t heard back from JS). Judges are now in overflow mode, and O’C’s posting brought in overflow on the overflow. Magic number is 48, i.e. single-flighted doubles. Looks likely, and then some. Still no rooms, but I figure the lawn is large enough. Peanuts is on his way to Manchester-Under-the-Sea and still no lists. Election Day is the week prior to Bump, which means no Tuesday meeting. I’m thinking maybe no meetings, period, to allow me time to polish up everything. Or maybe just the odd chez. I don’t know yet.

I wake up in the middle of the night almost all the time, and lately I’ve been working out the plot of an SF novel. Actually, more like an SF movie. I have no idea if it will hold up to make it to the page.

Last night I did the CFL inputting, the mindless copy and paste process I’ve worked out. Our illustrious CFL president has the spelling skills of [insert humorous metaphor here for someone with poor spelling skills], which means my automated system picks up his Nighingales and Domincans, and I’m thinking maybe we should just go with Nightengalz and Dominicanz and Regz and Bronx. Well, we already do go with Bronx. Anyhow, spelling ability is a born talent that is no longer necessary in the checker age. My literary god, Mr. Clemens, claimed to be a notoriously bad speller, but I do feel that his writing is pretty good nonetheless. Then again, his wife read the manuscripts and helped correct them, and then there were proofreaders and whatnot. Go back to your Founders, on the other hand, and read their letters, and a bad time is had by all. Not only could TJ, my Founder god, not spell words correctly, he couldn’t spell them consistently incorrectly. Very annoying. Catholic Charlie, who is none of my gods but who does qualify at least as a mythic hero, is at least in good company.

Poker (the meatballs are in the fridge) tonight, MHL tomorrow, rerecording Nostrum and planning out the cur on Sunday: a full and rich weekend, I’d say. I do want to talk to Catholic C about for CFLs, at least for the debate side of things. Keeps everyone honest (always an issue with these religious organizations); they’ve got to enter the right numbers in a timely way, or the computer sends them to eternal damnation. All I can do is send them into temporary tarnation, which is just not the same thing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Twee; twavel; twaddle; bling

Jeepers H. Creepers, as one might say if one were rather twee. I just grabbed the data from this week’s CFL contest (the one I always like to give a nice heathen name to, given the weekend on which it always falls, and being the person that I am). There’s more people here than [insert humorous metaphor—you know the drill by now]. 154 Nov and JV LDers. And I think O’C has something like another 154 tyro parent judges to be trained. This is going to be a traffic jam of incredible proportions, but aside from the inputting, on the tabbing side it will be, of course, rather tame. The more people, the easier it is to run (and I’ve solicited the assistance of young Peanuts, whose trip to Manchester was unceremoniously harpooned by the illness of his partner: teams are a dicey prospect, as any polician will tell you). On the other hand, there are hardly enough Pfffters to throw together a surprise party for someone no one likes. And, speaking of surprises, the vast majority of them are of the Regi persuasion. More a scrimmage, then, than a ball game. Whatever. I do hope to give the most people the most possible number of rounds, and have proposed some alternatives. That’s the point of these exercises, n’est-ce pas?

I’ve also managed to throw together the travel plans for Manchester-Under-the-Sea. One forgets, when one is not going, that one has to tell someone else what to do. Mere d’1F is the chaperone, so I gave her the shooting match from dragging the Byram spalpeen and his aged g.p. along to where and when to eat, who to throw off the bus in Hartford if they look at her funny, when and where to find the motel, etc. I didn’t tell her to avoid the albino bagels once she arrived, however. Some things one either knows intuitively, or are lessons one has to learn for oneself. In any case, there’s that bus, plus the Regis bus, which demonstrates why debate costs so much money that you never think about. People have to get there somehow.

Bump is now in the adjustment phase. Someone drops here, someone moves off the waiting list there. Too bad I don’t have a room list. At the moment I’m still making it all up. This is, of course, the fault of my Hardware Engineer and his Miserable Apprentice (Miserable Apprentice is the official job title). Feh, says I. Feh. If I could get the list by, oh, say, Christmas, that would be good. Obviously I do have last year’s lists, but there is always a little variation on the theme, and one can assume nothing. Feh again!

I recorded a nice half of a long Nostrum last night, at which point the software crashed and all was lost. Let’s bring down one of those fehs from the previous paragraph. FEH! I gave up. And it will be a while before I redo it. Tonight I’ll have to TRPC the CFL data, as tomorrow night there’s a poker game, and one does have one’s priorities. This will not be tournament play, although I will dazzle my opponents with the ceremonial wearing of the bling, to remind them what they are up against.

Maybe I’ll wear the bling to Regis. They all might need some reminding too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Let's face the Facebook and dance; smarten up, you yabbo; a modest digressive proposal

You’re going to have to explain this to me because I don’t get it. As I think I mentioned, the Day Job is playing around with Facebook, and I got myself an account through my office email. Suddenly, like vultures working the night shift out on the Tanzania grasslands, I am attacked by people wishing to become my “friend.” The thing is, I just don’t get it. Am I supposed to have a page somewhere on Facebook? All I have now is my extremely limited profile. I understand MyPage. That’s different. On MyPage you get yourself a bunch of really ugly pictures and paste them all up in a meaningless collage and then you find an mp3 of some really dreadful band that’s still struggling to learn their third chord and you play their music to show how hip you are, and everybody reads your page and mobs over to the latest club at 6 in the morning to drink Black Moquitos as an alternative to going home so that they can all show up at the brokerage hung over but happy. Or something like that. Does Facebook work the same way? Am I supposed to be finding dates, a job, likeminded thinkers (a frightening prospect), sources of secondhand electronics equipment? As I say, I have no idea. There is a comments feature in this blog. Would someone please use it and tell me what happens now that I’ve agreed to be Termite’s BFF.

Personally, I thought that “Sondheim in the Park with Mickey” was pretty eloquent, but maybe “Sondheim in the Park with Walt” would have been more metrically sound. Sometimes I think I’m wasted, being balkanized here in ForensiciaLand. I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody. Sigh. If you were smarter, I really would be so much funnier. You might want to work on your end of the bargain.

This has been a busy week on the high seas with the Sailors. Monday we chezzed it up for the last time on the extant topics, in preparation for Manchester Under the Sea. They’re about as prepared as they’re even going to be. HoraceMan, TSWAS, joined us, which was good, because he does have a debate brain that he can apply freely and extemporaneously to just about any resolution. He should probably become an extemper. Just the right amount of work, and he’d be in serious contention to qual for the various Nats. Why not? Anyhow, last night was a Tutti at the school, and we covered three areas. First, the next Pffft topic, at least in general terms, then the ballots from the MHL for the novices, with a side order of haranguing them about signing up for future events and beating their parental bushes for judges, and finally, more depth on Nov-Dec. I think we’ll do a demo round between Robbie and Termite prior to Glebrooks, as it will serve to, well, give them practice, and also to demo stuff in general. I’m still on the fence with the topic (which I will not pretend I didn’t vote for). It looked good when I voted for it, looked awfully thin on the ground when I first looked at it in any depth, and picked up some clout when I looked at it again. Once more it seems like a categorical aff vs a specific disproving situational neg. It also gets to draw on a utilitarian retributive justice neg, and that’s something I went into detail with coincidentally with the Plebes in the justice unit. It’s hard to see the neg as anything but some sort of utility, absent some cockamamie digressive approach. You know, because the resolution uses the word “is” and because Clinton demonstrated that we don’t know what the definition of “is” is, the resolution is not, isn’t it, or something like that. Beats arguing whether plea bargaining for testimony is just hands down. Then again, maybe we should spin off some pararesolutional version of LD for those who sort of like arguing but can’t get with the program of arguing the resolution at hand. ParaLD, in other words, for Parallel LDers. Works for me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sondheim in the Park with Mickey

Space Mountain? That was somebody’s answer, but they deleted it. Good call.

It’s not something as blah as merely somebody singing “Comedy Tonight” as a generic show opener. (“Comedy Tonight” is, however, the traditional generic MHL opener; if you haven’t seen O’C as Zero Mostel, you’re really missing something. How many other tournaments are you aware of where the directors show up in togas?) I would love it to be an audioanimatronic Minnie Mouse singing “I’m Still Here” (she has, indeed, been through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover), and I would be rather fond of the Main Street Barbershop going under the new management of S. Todd, right next store to the pie shop, but it’s neither of those, I’m afraid. And while you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Hoop-De-Doo version of “Company,” I’m afraid that’s not it either, as that particular version closed out of town, for which we “Company” fans are eternally grateful. It's not even something as natural as a take from "Into the Woods," although that, actually, would make sense.

Space Mountain?

If you’re a big enough Disney Geek, you start acquiring park soundtracks. You won’t hear this on the WDW soundtrack, but you will hear it on the uncut Disneyland soundtrack (6 disks!). Somewhere along with “How Do You Do?” and “Laughing Place” and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” you will hear something called “Burrow’s Lament,” which is in fact “Sooner or Later,” which means that O’C’s instincts were at least right, if not his placement. Presumably there’s an audioanimatronic Madonna in the briar patch there somewhere…

Speaking of the MHL, after much head-banging, we have decided that the Monticello event, the first weekend of November, will run the Sept-Oct topic. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. O’C holding a machete across my throat telling me to change it or die had no effect on my decision at all.

Space Mountain? What are these people thinking, anyhow? Whether that's a rip on Disney, or a rip on Sondheim, is hard to figure. Oh, well. At least they didn't think that SS wrote "It's a Small World." As a matter of fact, I would guess that when SS has nightmares, "It's a Small World" plays a considerable part in them.

Meanwhile, does anyone other than my mother like the Country Bears?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Coachean log supplementary: The ultimate stumper

Which Disneyland ride has a Sondheim song in the soundtrack?

Lost weekend slash maiden voyage, plus ants as pets

I spent most of yesterday swimming upstream through a river of self-generated turmoil. I’m not quite sure why, but some days, it is best not to bother. Unfortunately, the days when one can get away without bothering are few and far between. My goals yesterday were simple: post the results of the Saturday MHL, go through the MHL bills and separate out the deadbeats, and go over the Sailors’ ballots and figure out from them where the bodies are buried. Part one of the above proved almost beyond my abilities, especially when mixed in with sending O’C a printout of the Big Jake elims for his certification of the TOC bids. Now, all I had to do in any of these was open up TRPC, print up some sheets and run them through the MHL printer to make scans. Sounds simple. In fact, it is simple. So why I screwed it all up from beginning to end is beyond me. This fifteen minutes of work lasted at least an hour and a half, and at the end of it I realized I was not now in possession of the full Jake outrounds, even though I had been a couple of days ago (this in addition to some slippery MHL divisions). Fortunately I have my backup through all the prelims, so I can recreate the elims easily enough—it’s not as if O’C doesn’t know it all by heart, plus it’s on WTF somewhere—but still, I’d be happier not having to do it. In any case, after finally getting the MHL postings up, a true miracle, I went upstairs and took a nap, and this seemed to help, even though I didn’t fall asleep. The change of venue, plus the copy of The New Yorker in my lap and Leon Redbone on the Victrola, seemed to do the job. I attacked the Sailors’ ballots with renewed vigor, and they even made sense to me, except for those of a certain Scarswegian whose handwriting is smaller than [insert your own humorous metaphor here for some really small thing]. Jeesh! I mean, what I could read made sense, but I’ll bet this guy could flow a three hour Fidel Castro speech on an index card, with room for the Gettysburg Address, Washington’s Farewell to the Troops and thirty-four assorted Conan O’Brien monologues. Meanwhile, the other planned piece of yesterday, the sorting of the deadbeats, I’ll do sometime today.

As for the MHL itself, which was primarily an event for first-timers, it was the usual chaos of such an event. As everyone in the VCA knows, the opening of any tournament is chaotic, with confused registrations and people finding their way around a strange building or campus and enough adrenalin to launch a space shuttle, but factor in that 90% of your participants are not only novices but entirely raw novices, and you’re in for it. Newbies can disappear way faster than veterans, and with veterans, you at least have an idea where they might have gone. Newbies invent new places to disappear to every year. For instance, this vintage of polician newbies all seemed to think that they could watch other people’s rounds and somehow they’d catch up in their B flights; what are they telling these people nowadays back at the ranch, anyhow? I did like the idea of running JV divisions, which were quite successful, but it’s questionable whether we really had enough room. There was a second cafeteria nicknamed the Bobcat (the school mascot), and early on I visited it and it looked like a nice place to run the 5 or 6 PF rounds. Unfortunately, a whole skein of Pffffters tanked when one school pulled out, and since the Bobcat space now became theoretically larger, every time a round didn’t have a venue (each one of these coming as a surprise since we seemingly had enough rooms, but I think Lewis Carroll had been there first) ended up there, which apparently turned the place into Hell For a Day (or, as we like to call it, Regis’s basement at the December event). But everyone seemed to survive, or at least everyone I was aware of. I was happy to see a large contingent of parents in the peanut gallery. They all had printed guides either from me or Scarsdale, and desperate looks on their faces, and I pep-talked to them for about 10 minutes (I mean, they could have come to my non-attended evening class for a full hour and a half) and then shunted them off to JV rounds for observation and judge commentary, telling them that they could judge round 3 of novices if they wanted. One did volunteer, and his ballots came back to us looking like Chetan’s, only neater. I mean, how many first-time parents give 28.5/26.5 in a round? Obviously, the guy was a ringer. The good news is, he’s one of mine! Go Sailors, eh?

When I got home Saturday night it was about ten o’clock. I settled down with some macaroni and cheese and watched the “Michael Ellis” Monty Python episode. If you know that one, and you know the concept of evanescent registrations, you’ll know that it was the perfect end to an imperfect day. And so to bed, as Pepys would say.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bean trivia

For reasons that may seem elusive, the Sailors and I are rather trivia-oriented. I won’t say that we’re trivial, but we do like to demonstrate whatever knowledge we happen to possess in public forums, especially as that knowledge might be, say, useless. Hence, we occasionally play trivia games. (Side note: My “Jack: The Ride” disappeared from Little Elvis’s PC alterego, as I discovered chez O’C in the Bronx. My crest fell [whatever that means—presumably crestfallen has something to do with dropping your shield, but if you’ve come here for etymologies, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This is the home of nested parentheses, not secret origins. To wit:] ) (which means the period at the end of the last sentence was lost, and since this is a fragment, it probably requires no period, and, all right, maybe we don’t do etymologies but we do have some interest in good writing, but not enough to fix this sentence) (or put a period at the end of it, for that matter)

Okay. Enough of that. Here: . Now we’re caught up.

We have been known to play Debate Jeopardy a couple of times a year. Participants are selected from the levels of Sailordom, i.e., a novice, a jayvee and a varsity, and are pitted against each other in a relatively traditional Jeopardy session. I make up the questions, and at least one category is debate oriented, and more often two categories. The crappy prizes fly at these events, although mostly in consolation. The questions tend to be hard (although they always strike me as easy when I’m writing them). How much money does O’C get for each of his WTF posts, for instance, seems to me like a no-brainer. Who is the author of John Stuart Mills’ On Liberty, asked in exactly that fashion, has occasionally stumped the odd novice, but then again, we have always had some pretty odd novices. Other categories should be accessible but nonetheless semi-relevant. American History, art, Disney, that sort of things. Stuff I figure the Sailors, or any high school student, ought to know.

Bean trivia, explained in a comment to a recent post, is an attempt to create a trivia game with an extra level of strategy and competition, to bring out the ever-present vicious streak lying close to the surface in all of us. The entire team plays. Each person starts out with three beans. We go from person to person. You pick a category, and can get your question either hot or cold. Hot, you have to answer it. You gain or lose a bean with a right or wrong answer. Or, you can choose to get it cold, which means you can pass the question to anyone of your choice. They must answer the question correctly, and get no bean for it; if they answer incorrectly, they lose a bean. The game proceeds from the next person after the hot answerer, if it was taken hot, or the cold answerer, if the question was passed. The game ends when one person is left with any beans. The use of beans arose because I needed something as a marker, and I was in the kitchen at the time, and, well, there were these beans…

For our District tournament, I am thinking a game of bean trivia, perhaps modified. All questions in one general area, however (to be revealed that Saturday), with plenty of sub-areas. Just to keep you on your toes, today’s trivia question: how many presidents of the US have had direct descendents also become president?

(Sub-question: how many presidents of the US do you wish hadn’t had direct descendents also become president?)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We are the Mighty Mid-Hudson League, or, Rumble in the Byram Hills Jungle

This is the first time I’ve used CP’s from the back end. He offered it to the Mid-Hudson League, and I took him up on it. Everyone signs up and does their business all by themselves, and it closes when I say it closes, and there we are. I grabbed the data one way or the other (using the TRPC file data generated by tabroom and importing as delineated-by-semicolons for the judges, plus exporting a straightforward csv list of competitors) and plunked it all into my master Excel sheet that translates into TRPC language. With 5 (count ‘em, 5) divisions, the advisability of using E-TRPC (which automatically connects to) is about as high as the advisability of [insert your own humorous metaphor here for some really ill-advised thing]. Now I have to import the data into a couple of C-TRPC modules, one for policy and one for LD and PF (I’ll pass the tabbing of policy to someone else on Saturday; keep your head down, in other words, if you’re not interested). That’ll take about an hour or so, and I can do it Saturday morning, since the tournament doesn’t start till after lunch. In any case, we’re technically all set, or else all set to be all set. Same diff.

The point is, the MHL is off to a bounding start this year. We have over 150 contestants entered, the lion’s share in the first-timers divisions. The good news is that our venue, Byram Hills, has a spare cafeteria we can use for rounds. We’ll need it. There are two new programs signed up (and possibly a third, whom I’ve been corresponding with off-line), plus all the usual suspects in force. This is excellent. O’C, seeing that this was going to be a big tournament requiring a lot of work, immediately purchased a ticket to some $ircuit tournament in Texas where he could hide in the judges’ lounge (having no doubt been struck by everyone there), although he keeps threatening promising to bring his collection of Howard the Duck outtakes to Monticello. I think he thinks I have some odd secret desire to watch his collection of Howard the Duck outtakes. I don’t know how to break it to him…

I’ve also started the ball rolling on the NFL side, sending out the first broadcast message to the chapters/affiliates. What I’m cogitating over is a consolation event of the impromptu persuasion, because as the Rev B.A. pointed out in Rostrum, the judges from the big schools and all the eliminated are sitting around all day while the final rounds transpire, and we need to entertain them all. That’s my NFL-type entertainment. It also occurred to me that our Sailors’ signature trivia contests might translate well, but that remains to be seen. I’m trying to remember how we played Bean Trivia (not trivia about beans, but trivia scored by beans). If anyone recalls, please let me know. Anyhow, Districts is early this year, and I’ve put out a call for volunteers to host, and so far gotten one and a half. We’ll sort this out as we confirm/unconfirm the half.

So, finally, I feel like I’ve settled in for the year. This is the first week with only one meeting at the school, and last night I got around to watching this year’s premiere episode of Heroes. It’s about time. Next, when Bump is over, maybe I’ll be able to watch episode 2.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Will these Pups never end?

I will argue this, however, he said, continuing yesterday’s discussion, and responding to something Bietz mentioned in his Yale discussion. Overall we (the debate community) are the biggest paper wasters in the history of paper waste. The average tab room can go through a couple of thousand sheets of paper during a tournament without batting an eye. We rival those out-of-work actors in Times Square attempting to distribute check-it-out handbills (a sentence I feel needed to be written in my personal attempt to preserve the hyphen, which is apparently dying off, according to the latest reports). At the Pups, if I remember correctly, we were copier-less, aside from our multipurpose printers, which is why our distribution of skems was thin on the ground. But to be honest, even at other tournaments I’m administering I’ve been doing my best to minimize this waste. I’ve eliminated results packets from MHLs and Bump, and instead post them online as pdfs. This way, everyone has access to them (although they might have to wait a few minutes), they don’t get lost when people need to check them 6 months from now, and they don’t use up a couple of reams of paper. I post skems at MHLs and Bump instead of printing them, for the same reason. We used to say, Print me a couple of hundred of these, my little runner daemon, and off our little runner daemon would scurry off in the effort to please the ferocious tabulators, sending the paper flying in all directions (except, usually, the judges' lounge). It’s just a waste. It may be slightly less convenient for the judges to have to consult a posting, but to be honest, in my experiences LD judges aren’t what I would refer to as being of the hustle persuasion, and this having to get up and look at a schematic (although, obviously, we do try to distribute sheets to a judges’ lounge) is unlikely to do much worse than working off a few of the doughnut calories they’ve acquired that morning, assuming that there were free doughnuts available in the first place. I’d rather waste doughnuts than paper.

CP made a decent point about splitting squads and the desirability of tournaments that cater to the whole team, with both debate and IEs. But I wonder how much that really applies. Some schools that prefer college tournaments have very large squads, and plenty of money, and go where they want to go, and they simply don’t go to their local high schools. They play fast and loose with their connections to the community, on a fairly unpredictable basis. I guess my point is less concerned with someone going to a college tournament than someone simply not getting with the high school community overall. I am very proud of our MHL admin team, which spreads out to many invitational tabrooms (like Yale and Lex and so forth). We support each other, we help each other, we encourage new programs, we want everyone to get what they need forensics-wise and to have a good time while it’s happening. We even like each other, and enjoy the time spent working together. We can disagree on things and be civilized with each other over those disagreements (and maybe change our minds). We are about as political as a herd of neutered wild moose. Which may be one reason why I stay with the activity, because, let’s face it, it’s not my day job, and I could just as easily play a lot more golf, and finally get a Wii and generally sleep more on the weekends. Anyhow, most schools do support each other, and this is an aberration, not some horrible trend. But it’s a bad aberration (is that a pleonasm?), and it should be noted, because I assure you, it definitely is noticed.

Mention of CP brings up a chief issue of college tournaments, which I’ve mentioned before and which is worth repeating. One of the big problems with colleges is that there is no legacy, and no consistency. This year’s directorate graduates, and next year’s directorate starts at square one again. Adults are in short supply. CP, administering Yale and Columbia, among others, helps overcome this problem. Frankly, he’s the reason I’m tabbing Yale these days, because he got a commitment to limit the size of the field. (He’s also the reason I’m tabbing Columbia, but I think that’s because he couldn’t get his first 8 choices.) The thing is, if there’s an issue this year, he can work toward improving it next year, just as all of us do at our high school tournaments. God knows that Bump is a work in progress, but at least I know where the work needs to happen. CP brings that memory to the northeast college circuit. He deserves recognition for that.

And, speaking of recognition, kudos to Bietz. I’ve now listened to all of installment 2. Aside from a few moments when I was yelling at my iPod over some theory arguments, this is a valuable service being provided to the LD community. I just wish the installments were a little shorter. As far as I know, these things are the only debate events in the country that last longer than one of O’C’s awardathons.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stop the presses! Menick agrees with Bietz. Again.

I would have to agree with Bietz on Yale, and on college tournaments in general.

Here’s the problem. Colleges have debate teams, doing collegiate debate things, which may or may not bear any resemblance to high school debate, peopled by students who may or may not have participated in some form of high school debate. It’s not really apples and oranges; it’s more like poodles and pit bulls. But, still, there’s more of a disconnect than not between the two universes, especially Parliamentary debate versus LD. They’re concerned with different things, in different ways. And the problem is that, because the college debate universe is different from the high school debate universe, and concerned with different things than the high school debate universe, for all practical purposes the two universes are separate. Their spiritual intersection, such as it is, is tangential at best.

The first issue that arises is judging. For good or bad, LD has a history of being accessible to the average intelligent adult adjudicator. One would be hard-pressed to make the claim that all of these Pups and Princetonians and Harvardians and the like are not fairly representative of average intelligent adjudication. But in fact, LD is not nor has it ever been intended to be accessible to the average intelligent adult adjudicator who never heard of it before you handed that person the ballot. As a proponent of parent judging—if for no other reason than that someone has to chaperone, and there is a finite number of “professional” judges available, which means that parents are going to be thrown in there and you’re going to have to deal with it—I qualify my advocacy by saying that I am a proponent of trained parent judging. They should know what a ballot is, what speaker points are, how the round is constructed, what some of the arguments they might hear are. They should speak English. They need not be up-to-date on the latest Ks, but that is in their favor as human beings. Anyhow, the colleges often operate on a principle that, because they consider themselves geniuses, they can judge a round of anything, anywhere, regardless of their inexperience with, nay, their total ignorance of, that activity. To be honest, I do not feel that the Pups are the worst offender in this, and of course, we can separate wheat from chaff in tab. But what most colleges don’t do—although I will point out that the Pups did do this—is hire neutrals to create a good pool. A good tournament MUST hire neutral judges of a caliber deemed high by the general debate community. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high school or college tournament, a good judging pool is a requirement. A bad judging pool brings a tournament down. Quite honestly, I have been in too many tab rooms that sell non-existent judges, that hope things will work out mathematically, that make no effort to acquire spares. One reason I ultimately dropped policy from Bump is my lack of connection to the policy judging universe; as I could not guarantee good judging, I could not guarantee a good tournament. To offset this, I created a judge ratio that put the burden on the participating teams. But that’s not a great solution, merely a matter of expediency.

So, the first thing a college has to do is hire real judges and not assume that their own geniuses actually know their asses from their elbows.

Secondly, you’ve got to treat people nicely. At high school tournaments, I think what usually happens is that the parents end up seeing to the niceties of judge lounges and mealtimes. Because they have a vested interest in hospitality, they let you eat dessert without having to eat your vegetables, and everybody’s happy. Occasionally it seems as if the students are getting short shrift on their food while the judges are living like royalty, and I don’t think that’s good, but I do think the solution is treating the students better, not treating the judges worse. It is not easy being a judge. It’s heavy-duty hour-and-a-half shifts of having to pay close attention to every word spoken at top speed. You need a good break from that. It behooves a tournament doing the first thing, above, i.e., hiring real judges, to provide a good experience for them. Plus, there is, as Bietz points out, a sense of reciprocity as we travel from week to week to each other’s events. We want to match one another’s hospitality.

College tournaments, however, do seem to be immune from this sense of hospitality. They are certainly off the path of reciprocity, and I think the result is that, if your tournament is run by ex-high school folk, there will probably be good hospitality, and if not, you take your chances. The thing is, the colleges that conduct tournaments are pretty much all colleges that every student wants to go to. Not their tournaments, but their campuses. They want to matriculate. A tournament at an Ivy is going to draw a lot more than a tournament at, say, Donald Trump University of Lower Hoboken. Because the colleges offer the sizzle of their name, they might not necessarily feel the need to offer any steak. This is especially seen in the abusively high prices of some of these venues’ registration. At times matriculation would seem a better choice, or at least a cheaper choice. Since the colleges get away with it year after year, they keep doing it. In my opinion, Yale fares pretty well on the hospitality issue. They can’t compete with just about any high school, but they hold their own against the other colleges.

So, the second thing colleges should do is make you comfortable and welcome. While they won’t convince students not to come, colleges that don’t regularly provide a good atmosphere for the coaches/judges will ultimately convince them not to come. Not to mention any names, but I haven’t gone to [insert name of large Ivy League school in Cambridge, Massachusetts] in years because it’s too damned expensive and its venue is hellish and their judging is sketchy because of the size of the pool, so if Sailors want to go, they can get their parents to bring them, since for all practical purposes it’s merely an expensive and uncomfortable campus tour masquerading as a high school tournament. (Look at the registration fees and do the math, and tell me why they run out of potato chips in the judges lounge long before the tournament is over.)

My third beef against colleges is my strongest, and that is when college tournaments are scheduled against high school tournaments. The idea that anyone would support some college in it entirely for the money, over some high school in it entirely because they’re in it body and soul week after week, is appalling to me. If your college runs against a high school, I’m not going, and I’ll probably bar my students from going as well. Of course, a college’s level of venality is at least understandable. But how do I explain the high school programs that prefer a college event to a high school event? This is a high school community, and I’m happy to say it’s a fairly strong and healthy one, regardless of what part of the community you happen to be in. Forensics seems to be pretty strong, overall, at least in the northeast. But money is scarce. Those of us who run tournaments don’t make a lot of money out of it, but we make some. We make enough to maybe go a little distance with the whole squad, to put up a few judges at the EconoLodge when we get there and cover all the registrations and judge fees. That’s about the sum total of the profits from your average high school tournament. Most of running a tournament is reflective of being part of the community, of giving back to that group of which you are a member. To blow off a high school tournament because you want the ├ęclat (if that’s the reason) of attending a competing college tournament is, simply, bad form. Colleges are only tangentially part of our community, because we have allowed them to become so, because we like the odor of saying, I’ll be going up to X this weekend. Well lah-di-flippin-da. Or, as Clarence Thomas might say, hoopdy-damned-do.

So this is number three. To colleges I say, if you want us to show up, make sure you’re not hurting my friends on your weekend. (And, if you can, keep in mind numbers one and two and make it a pleasant experience for me, and make it a well adjudicated tournament.) And to high schools I say, it is no choice at all to decide whether to attend a high school or college tournament on a competing weekend. Absolutely. No. Choice. At. All.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eine Kleine Jakemusik, continued

Let’s face it. How many websites can you go to for tournament reviews? I mean, WTF contributors (i.e., students) tend to be unreliable because they have, or are, horses in the race. But here we speak with the wisdom of the ages, the authority of experience, and the disinterest of the narcoleptic. I should probably go more places just to counterbalance WTF reporting. At some point Saturday one of O’C’s myrmidons was photographing a schematic in the tab room. Anyone who actually cares about WTF’s photographs of schematics from tournaments they are not attending is in serious need of either a good book to read, a date, or Halo 3. Good grief!

In my experience, every tournament has something wrong with it. Jake, like some others, has building size/spread. If you’ve never been there, it’s slightly smaller than Boise, and runners are regularly being sucked up by UFOs for strange experiments and never being heard from again. For what seemed a good reason at the time, the ballot table and tab were not contiguous, but this proved confusing because the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. (FYI, Ryan H was the right hand, in all senses of the word.) The original solution to this was to issue walkie-talkies. This sounds good on paper, but walkie-talkies at a tournament are like glossolalia conventions without the glossolalia. They squawk and hiss and generally make manly men quiver in their chukka boots, and seldom deliver anything remotely resembling information. So at the beginning of the tournament, when everyone (other than me) had their stress volumes at 11, Gazzola handed me a walkie-talkie. Two minutes later I ran into O’C, whose mind was a million miles away. He had a walkie-talkie in his right hand; I put my walkie-talkie into his left hand. He didn’t seem to notice, and then I walked away. (Actions like that are how I keep my own stress level manageable, if you were wondering.) That was the last firsthand experience I had of the little machines until at night, when they were put to sleep in their little pods in the tabroom, much like the baby aliens that cause Ripley so much pother. Monticello is also a w-t tournament. At one point I was alone in tab (Robinson Crusoe had more company even before Friday arrived) and the thing was begging me, “Tab, tab, come in tab. Shane! ET! Phone home!” I gave in after a couple of hours, pressed the button and did what they wanted, but I wasn’t happy about it. The best thing to do is put tab here, and put the ballot table right next to it, then put the judges and the debaters in roughly the same neighborhood, and then have everyone go at it until it’s time to go home. That seems to work the best.

I started up on Bietz 2 this morning, but didn’t get very far. He was about to launch a tirade on Yale, and was saying something about college tournaments being in it for the money (note: it was this blog that was the first to publicly complain that TOC was outsourcing its bids to universities, and that we all have a responsibility first and foremost to support the high school community), so I’m looking forward to some details. Let him say one word about the tabbing, however (aside from a couple of things that won’t happen again, I promise), and I’ll give him a piece of my mind. I may even begin attacking VBD in this blog! Bietz, schmietz, I always say. (Although seriously, I strongly recommend his podcast. I’ve only listened to the first one so far, but anyone interested in intelligent conversation on a resolution, i.e., you, should be plugged in.)

I did get time over the weekend to polish my Justice unit, which I’ll do tomorrow night. I’ve also got it ready to add to the Hillary Duff. I’m not quite sure if the plebes are aware of that sucker yet, and while it does need some general updating (I need to shift some pomo people in from Caveman, for example), it’s still a good philosophical starting point for newbies. Feel free to grab it, if you want it. Anything on our Sailors’ site is free for the taking. I would much rather you knew what you were doing than the alternative.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday special: Earlybird review of Big Jake MMDCCLXXXIV-and-a-half

So, another Big Bronx is in the can. As I write this, however, it is still going on. The tournament itself is over, that is, but in its Night of the Living Dead incarnation, it is now into the extra innings of its round robin. O’C told me that tonight they’re all going to eat at Planet Hollywood. I shuddered and turned away.

If you’re unaware of it, Big Jake is the country’s worst semis bid. The field that breaks into what the tournament lovingly refers to as Soddiesexidecimals could easily be the breaking field from Emory or Glenbrooks, with absolutely no ringers thrown in for effect. This is a tribute to O’C’s ability to threaten high school students around the country, telling them that they’ll never get picked up in this town again if they don’t make an appearance. The judge pool is commensurate with the debating pool, and even JWP shows up to survey the situation. I’m sure I’ve told the long soap opera story of the Bronx in this column at some point or other in the past; grab me next time you see me and point me toward Jerome Avenue and I’ll be happy to do it again in person. In the meanwhile, it’s probably never going to get any better than this. And something tells me it’s also never going to get any worse. That makes it a pretty jake event.

Tabbing was like sleepwalking, except for the volume (about 150 or so). Press a button, put A judges in the bubble brackets, photocopy and stand back. The only real issue (aside from the English-as-a-non-language ringer or two) was the striking of judges, which turned out to be less of an issue than I would have thought. Most of the strikes took, but a couple went south in the most amazing way. Students, coaches, archbishops and bouncers would stand behind me as I (re)entered them, certifying them each in their own way, and then a minute later they’d be gone again. Ugh. I guess I was more surprised by the ones that took than the ones that didn’t, given that the tookers really did get took to the tune of about 99%. There were just a couple of students who were apparently on the wrong side of E-TRPC, and were going to suffer through Adjudication Stinkerinos no matter what. I blame those students entirely.

There were few if any incidents worth reporting. Ryan H thinks I chuckle to myself when I write, many of us saw a September Morn vision of flesh we will never be able to banish from our minds, I met one or two extremely serious people of unclear affiliation who scared me more than a little which is why I ran home early, I got to schmooze a tad with a few of the old timers like Jude 99 (O’C insists that his alums come with their vintage labels clearly attached), I had an excellent tab slave who will be my guy till he graduates or O’C can get some other fool to run his LD tab, the Foods of the World Unite spread was actually pretty good, especially after my tab slave was pointed toward the microwave, the Saturday puzzle was easier than the Friday puzzle which had forced me to rely on help from Joe V (an admission that I am loath to make but honesty is the coachean policy, even when I have to lie to achieve it), and who can forget O'C's entrance stage left for the Award Marathon? Heeeeerrrrree'sss Cruzy! The best thing about Cruz's Awards is that it makes everyone else's awards look like the Reader's Digest version, and let me tell you, I make that statement with unusual authority!

Anyhow, best quote of the weekend, overheard in the hallways: “So-and-so is running against having a standard for judging the debate because that limits what the debate is about.” Oooooo-kay. And O’C wonders why I prefer the tab room...

Friday, October 12, 2007

He's killing the time

Big Jake is ready to go. All the strikes are in, all the data is entered, now all that is required is that the people show up and debate. With everything under control, I'm doing some work on the Cur while waiting to go get the Sailors, on a justice unit. I found it curious to discover last year that I never specifically harped on justice at any length, either as a unit or in the Hillary Duff, presumably believing that we would fall upon just thinking through serendipity, or perhaps by pin-balling through social contracts and rights and the like. Of course lately I've been intrigued by ideas of justice as an innate human sense, that we are born knowing a fair deal when we see one. Then again, I'm always intrigued by scientific ideas that underpin (or undermine) philosophical ideas. This may be why I'm the world's worst relativist. Until I understand string theory, and start existing on at least 17 conscious planes, I'll stick with the idea that real is real because it's dumb to think otherwise. To those who propose that we perhaps do not even exist, I can merely respond, Ya think? Jeesh. Gimme a break. If this ain't livin', I don't know what is.

I am so not cut out for these modern times. Thank God for post-contemporary philosophy, even if I did have to invent it myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Block that judge! Block that judge!

Entering judge strikes is a mug’s game. (Or, entering mug strikes is a judge’s game. Whatever.) Last night I had an inbox filled with either people who magically registered for Bump oblivious to its being filled up (the magic arises from their looking at the invitation that clearly announces the fact, and acting as if I’m just making it up), and strikes for Big Jake. The former I diligently plopped into the data sheet in order of tardy arrival, but honestly, I’m not particularly sanguine about their chances. I may eke out some space at the grammar school for the novice gang that showed up late, if PF stays where it is, but that’s about it. So it goes. As for the strikes, I chugged and chugged and chugged. The thing is, if you want to strike as a school, one goes through the judge’s page, whereas if one wants to strike as a single team, one goes through the block page. Which shall it be? As a rule, the next email always wants it the other way around from the previous email. Sigh. Anyhow, I entered what I had, and I swept up the ones that arrived this morning in time for the deadline, and I’ll do them tonight. If I get the time, I’ll do any additional ones that arrive later. There was a deadline. Don’t blame me for having the Day Job.

The biggest issue about judge strikes, aside from our belief that both E and C TRPC don’t necessarily handle them well, is that, if you block a judge from a school, it actually blocks the judge against each individual team from that school. So if there’s a change, say a team drops and is replaced, since the whole school wasn’t blocked per se, the new team has not blocked the judge. It took me about 48 years to figure this out, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle. It’s not like I remember who struck whom, and there’s no way of printing a struck sheet, so to speak. Sigh again. O’C allows 8 strikes. That’s too many. You should get to strike one person (the one everybody strikes, which makes you wonder why that person even bothers showing up, but then again, someone has to lay claim to the comfiest chair in the judges’ lounge), and that’s it.

To be honest, by the way, it’s not one person everybody strikes. There are a couple of standouts, though. I can’t imagine why on some of them. I guess people are reading the paradigms, or maybe this is a smaller community than I would have thought. I mean, I know who’s doing the striking, and I know who’s getting struck, and I say to myself, says I, why is that yabbo striking that yabbo? Some of them I get, while some make no sense whatsoever. I can understand a general swipe against parent judges, especially if you’re running something uniquely nonsensical and likely to appeal only to a select body of similar minds, but there’s some people on this list who would have to be excellent adjudicators who are summarily dismissed for absolutely no reason I can detect. What are you people thinking? I am always fondest of the lone soul in the hinterlands who goes out of the way to strike me, given that I’m clearly marked on the sheet as being in tab. I’m willing to accept that you don’t want me to judge you, but you don’t want me to judge you so badly that you waste a strike on me even when I’m not in the judge pool? That’s a serious block!

Unfortunately there is an obvious need to protect identities: I can’t say who has struck whom, so I can’t go into this in too much detail. But some of these strikes do tell stories. When I publish my book Coachean Confidential I’ll rip the lid off this activity and really go for it. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I would like to thank the Academy

In the universe of spam emails that I am unlikely to open, one with the heading “Got fungus? jim_menick” has to rank near the very top. Good morning to you, too, inbox.

Add to that 79 new messages either regarding Bump or Jake. Something tells me tonight is going to be slightly busy at the old chez. Fortunately I need to juice up the MegaPod, so there will be plenty to listen to as I enter the strikes for, as O’C likes to call it, Big Bronx XXX. (He had originally planned to call it Big Bronx NC-17, but he changed his mind at the last minute. I can’t imagine why.) And also I’ll update my Bump data sheet with the real names replacing the nebulous numbers. I’m feeling good about all of this. That has to be a bad sign.

So, this has been quite the week for awards. First, Robbie copped the Spirit award at Monticello. To be honest, I hadn’t been aware that this was going on, busy as I was in tab, but I applaud the idea. To create an award in RJT’s name, to go to someone who embodies all the good things about this activity, is a good idea. As I always tell the Sailors when they come on board for the first time, it’s not about the competition, and they need to know that from day one, because when they show up at the first-timers’ event, they are going to be rubbing elbows with forensicians from other teams who will become, over the next four years, their good friends. This is true at every level of competition, from casual to $ircuit. The people come first, if your head is at all on straight. You could be making friends for life, if you’re really lucky. People with your interests if not necessarily your perspectives, or vice versa, people who are thrown together again and again in somewhat unpleasant situations and survive them with camaraderie and aplomb. That is, I can think of a lot more genial atmospheres than airless cafeterias at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday, or endless bus rides, or yet another fast food meal (although I may be alone on that last one). These situations are not readily apparent as the forges of great communions, but in fact they are. If you can maintain your good nature and a sense of humor and a “whatever” attitude in the middle of all of this, muddled even further by serious intellectual competition, then you’re my kind of person. You’re RJT’s kind of person. You’re Robbie’s kind of person. Excellent!

Next, I got an award, from the School Board. Apparently the new Superintendent is a believer in acknowledging the toilers in the field, and as a result created an Extra Mile award, which I received last night. I popped out of the Bump planning meeting (not to mention the go-over-the-Monti-ballots meeting, the read-this-so-I-understand-every-word meeting, the soft partition meeting, etc.) down the hall to the Board meeting, heard nice praise, shook a hand or two, had a picture taken (which I hate with a passion, because the only picture of me I have liked in the last 10 years is the one O’C took of Becker and myself at TOC, which is the one from which I’ve excised NoRelation and plopped on this page), make the quick TY (with kudos for the Board’s continuing support of forensics) and then back down the hall to the Sailors again. I like all the Admirals, I guess, but the ABs are more important at the moment, with the first-timer event coming up, and Bump, and Jake for the Pffffters, and so on and so forth. Still, I got a plaque out of it. That’s nice. It feels good to know that the school is aware of us. Sometimes I think we’re the submarine division of our nautical metaphor. I don’t need to be the battleships, or the destroyers, but at least we should be the PT boats of our little navy. More than just the dinghies, less than the dreadnaughts.

Works for me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bump registration (pretty much) closes

Holy cannoli. I got near the end of space for Bump, noted said information to likely suspects, and they decided to break down the doors all of a sudden. There is a mathematical curiosity underlying this. I seem to have the same schools as always in the same number, and nevertheless there are other same schools as always who didn’t make the cutoff. Go figure. Then again, I don’t feel particularly guilty about excluding people, because as I say in the invitation, we do always fill to capacity, so early registration is advisable. I don’t reserve for anyone in advance, except for the tabfolk’s schools (for obvious reasons: “Hey, Vaughan, you can tab but your team can’t come!”). To accommodate as much activity as possible, I’ve pulled the actual list of rooms from last year, and I think what we’re saying is VLD in the HS, PF and Nov in the grammar school. This would mean that, with the tiniest handful of available PF and Nov slots remaining, we’re a done deal. Although with luck I should scrape up some space for the schools on the waitlist with no slots. Everyone else can fuggedaboudit. I’ve sent out an email to the registrants telling them that they’re the nicest people on earth, so now they can supply names instead of numbers.

Good. Now we can move on.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Notes from the Jon Cruz Sucks Memorial

There is an enormous difference between a tournament like Yale and a tournament like Monticello, beyond simple numbers. Of course, simple numbers have their effect, and the Pups were more than twice the volume of the Kiester, but the whole attitude of the event is different. At Pups, there’s a sizeable number of people who are apparently there under duress, while everyone at the Kiester is at least aware of why they’re there, and why they’re in the judge pool more than just occasionally. Of course, I always wonder what people do at a tournament if they’re not either judging or tabbing or debating. I mean, how interesting can it be to sit in the judges’ lounge (if there is one) for two or three days, counting the gravy stains on the ceiling? Granted, actually doing something at a tournament can be tiring, and who doesn’t prefer an occasional round off to fulltime judging, which has been known to make some people’s brains fall out, but if you want more rounds off, bring more judges. The larger the judge pool, the more likelihood you’ll get a break now and then. I strongly encouraged the Keisterfolk that next year they should do a 1-3 ratio. 1-4 is so, I don’t know, 90s. It works mathematically, but so does Fermat’s last theorem (proof of which will be provided on request). That doesn’t mean we want to use it to inform all our actions (especially if we lisp, which gives the word Pythagorean a certain extra poignancy).

So the Kiester went off like clockwork. E-TRPC gave me room problems, and flighting problems, but mostly did the job. As I said, I only used it because, if nothing else, it does handle PF. Which, by the way, was a curious event. There were 8 teams, so I set it up that everyone would debate everyone else once. Judges were brought in from LD, the cafeteria cleanup staff, and Attica prison, as necessary. And after everyone had debated everyone else, all the Pffffters were milling about at the ballot table, waiting for the next round. Who were they expecting to compete against? I can’t imagine. Did they want to just do the whole thing all over again? In any case, they got plenty of soft-partition polish to prepare themselves for the upcoming Big Jake, where I would imagine the pool will be slightly larger. As for LD, once again I think the tournament provided more than 4 good TOC candidates beyond those who did pick up quals, and strong panels to sort them out in the bid round (et alia), which is exactly what a semis tournament needs to do.

There was some socializing, of course. I got to meet the new coach of Manchester-Under-the-Sea, who is younger than most of my socks, which seems to be true of many coaches these days. Got to meet the Potomac guy, who is, mirabile dictu, slightly older than any of my socks. Got up-to-date registrations from the New Jersey sundries for Bump, which gets us awfully close to shutting down. Schmoozed with Kurt about MHL issues. Hung out a bit with Joe V and O’C, which is always a high point of any event. Saw RJT, which is the best reason anyone could have to visit Monticello regularly. Had nice post-event dinner with the Sailors, including the winner of the Spirit of Debate award, about which more in the future.

So, overall, a good tournament. Yesterday I solved all my chez tech problems, including recording, so I sent a new Nostrum into posterity. Planned out Bump assignments. Updated the team list and sent it to the housing and succor doyennes. Updated the cur a bit, but I’m only halfway into a justice unit, which I need to complete by next week. I also went out and bought groceries, took a nap, watched a movie (nothing worth mentioning but enjoyable enough) and realized that the cold that had plagued me mercilessly on Friday had all be disappeared, no doubt thanks to the balmy Monticello climate (it was 110 gloomily humid degrees everywhere, unlike the usual snow up there this time of year).

And so we bid a fond farewell to beautiful Monticello (until a couple of weeks from now, when we’re back for an MHL). Thenceforth, it’s onward, to Big Jake.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Aspersion recall

One doesn't usually post on Sunday, mostly because one knows that the VCA is engaged in other activities than debate at least on this one day a week, which is as it should be. Those in positions of command in this debater's army, however, never rest. And I need to report a slinging of mud in the wrong direction. Let the bell gong.

I had blamed Classic TRPC for problems at Yale near the end of the tournament. I had theorized data overload. Well, I have two words for that: Feh! It turns out that the Dell was at fault, not the software. A quick test on Little Elvis brought Yale to a much deserved, albeit late, end.

Long live Little Elvis!

By the way, because I had a PF division, I used Evil TRPC on Little Elvis at the Kiester Memorial, AKA the O'C Sucks. And as usual, E-TRPC came up with yet newer problems than I'd ever experienced before, this time in the room arena.

Ergo, also, long live C-TRPC!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

You can teach an Excel dog new tricks

If you wish to plan out a Round Robin in Excel, it’s not particularly difficult. What’s difficult is remembering how to do it.

First, there’s mechanical means. Make one column like this (for 9 teams; obviously, you make the column the length of the number of teams in the pod).


Then you copy it and invert it.


Then you abut them, starting like this

1 1
2 9
3 8
4 7
5 6
6 5
7 4
8 3
9 2

That’s round one. For round two, same left-hand column, pull down the right-hand column by 1, so it starts with 2. Rinse. Repeat for the number of rounds. If someone’s debating themselves, it’s a bye. And the bottom half of the matrix is just a dupe of the top, but the human mind finds it easier to copy and paste the whole string. Soon enough you get a pairing for each round in one nifty spreadsheet. Just add judges and cook till done.

You can also just enter the data into Evil TRPC, which will do RRs, and PF, but there’s a little less control. One thing I’m trying to do tomorrow is capture the Monticello teachers while their on-site, so forcing the Monti team to have a bye in round 1, that sort of thing. Sure, you can do it with Evil TRPC but it’s easier in a spreadsheet. I’ll just use E-TRPC for ballot entry. (And it’s not really a round robin, by the way, just a small pool. But with 9 teams, why not do 8 rounds covering the field, then pairing the top two in a final, or maybe top 4 in semis and finals if it’s too close to call?)

I know there has to be a single formula that allows me to enter the number of teams in the pod, and all the Excel shells will fill up correctly. I assure you, I meditated on this for a while. But I could tab a thousand tournaments in the time is will take me to come up with that formula. On the other hand, if you have it, please pass it along.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Theology; more theology; Sailorology; novicology; Palmerology

It’s beginning to look as if O’C actually is the Supreme Being. This might be a problem for people who want to strike him from various judge pools. All I can say is, watch your step.

This morning I listened to most of Bietz’s first podcast (no way I’ll ever have a chance to listen while it happens) and I found it invaluable. I also found it heartening that they were saying about Sept-Oct what I’ve been trying to say to the Sailors since day one. Maybe the Tars will believe Duby if they don’t believe me. And that’s a scarier thought than O’C as Supreme Being. Ohmigod! What if Duby is the Supreme Being? Ohmiduby!!! Anyhow, the idea that people are talking about a resolution at length, without bias, from an objective perspective, is fantastic. Especially when they’re Mike and Sam. Certainly one or two of these per topic would be great. What else? Well, there was some theory debate discussion, and I found that interesting too, because it’s a subject about which I am curious, if only from a distance. What Houston said was clear and meaningful, and not the sort of nutty stuff you see from a distance on WTF. I’m not saying I’m going to start buying theory arguments in rounds, but insofar as theory arguments are implicit in framework analyses in many rounds, I’m not so far off from agreeing with what was being said. Anyhow, I assigned the podcast to the Tars for their edification. Good work, MB & co.!

Last night we divvied up omnia Hud into three parts. First we talked case-writing with the Plebes. Then tutti of the fruttis showed up and we talked, first, about Sept-Oct arguments, and second, deep background on Nov-Dec. I want to look carefully at the NFL topic materials, but these seemed solid at first blush, at least insofar as they provided some source articles I can distribute. This is the sort of thing the Rippers ought to be doing. Maybe we’ll start getting our 99 bucks worth out of them.

My guess is that I’m down to 4 ½ novices, but I could be wrong about this. That’s a manageable number, although I would have preferred more. The thing is, I scare them away early. There’s nothing wrong with this, because otherwise they’d be scared away later. And I like a small, compact team. Still, I also like big numbers, because I think forensics has so much to offer people of all stripes and polka dots. Oh, well. What I really want is a small big team with nothing but serious casual members. Some day…

CP sent out a list of process improvements to following the Pups, including absolutely nothing relevant to LD. Another Speecho-American slight against the world of debate! I smart from the pain.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Coming soon; murk; NFL's site unseen; she's the one who carried the tubs; I could have painted that; Revelation?

Plan your summer now: Wall-E.

Last night I finished up the View from Tab podcast of Yale, and got the XML back in operation (I think), but for reasons I can’t determine, the recording of Part 3 was really murky. I wasn’t going to do it again, so I posted it as is, but I’m not happy with it. I don’t know if it’s the hardware or the software, but there needs to be some testing at the chez over the next few days, which is as likely as an attack by the Bolivian navy, given that there’s a Sailors meeting tonight, Monticello data to input tomorrow (and I’m also a little worried about TRPC these days, after the problems at Yale, which is why I think I’ll go with the new version, there being only the one division), and judge training on Thursday. I feel bad that I am leaving my Nostrum fan(s) in the lurch, but I know that he/she/they demand(s) high quality these days. Oy.

Last night I subscribed to Bietz’s podcast. I haven’t listened yet, but I noticed it’s about 11 hours long. Sigh. In any case, Mike was at Yale, and it was a pleasure to have him hang out with us in tab for a while. We commiserated a little over the “new” NFL. They seem to have discovered the online chat. Next up they will no doubt invent the wheel. Their intentions are admirable, but at some point they need to realize that much of their audience is in high school, with all the pertinent electronic connections that that entails. Mind you, the myth that all adolescents are tech savvy is not what I’m promulgating. But all adolescents are savvy about the technologies that they find essential, much like my aged mother, who bristles at the thought of having to use a computer, but who nonetheless is perfectly capable of operating a television set: one chooses one’s tools, if one is not interested in tools per se. For teenagers, that means iPods and cell phones and YouTube and Facebook and MySpace, etc. Anyhow, until NFL catches up with the NFL members, they will remain, at best, strivers. Admirable, but inessential. Too bad, because they do have a lot to offer, and they want to offer it. Lately they’re filling my mailbox with announcements of all manner of things, and I’m still sorting out their new website. So far it’s, well, old wine in a new bottle. I did notice some blogs, but they weren’t clearly presented, so I didn’t grok them immediately. I’ll spend more time with this when the time makes itself available. After all, I am the District Chairman. Which, according to some people I discussed it with over the weekend, is like winning the lottery in a Shirley Jackson short story.

Speaking of the NFL, who’da thunkit? I kept a copy of my ballot, and the Nov-Dec LD topic was my top choice for—you’re not going to believe this—Nov-Dec. How could this be, you ask. Good question. Usually the topics I like are never debated, and the topics I hate are so popular they give them extended runs. This year, following as it does the discussions of criminal justice that come along naturally with the death penalty topic, it’s a bonanza. My guess is that maybe I’m the only one who voted, because no one could figure out the ballot, except maybe Joe V. I’m not implying that I could figure out the ballot, or more to the point, that I thought it through in any great depth. I’m sure, actually, that there are some who analyzed every crook and nanny of the possibilities before sending it in, but then again, there are people in the world who collect barbed wire. (Check out if you don’t believe me: “Usually barbed wire specimens are collected in 18" lengths to show the spacing between the barbs. Due to space limitations, some collectors acquire specimens in 4" to 6" lengths to show the barb design only. Most collections are mounted on display boards with patent information shown in neat labels as well as occasional comments about the wire.” And if you think that’s a little sketchy, there are even people out there collecting Star Wars memorabilia!) My guess is that, if you pick all the topics in the right order on your ballot, you win some sort of prize like the Irish Lottery. The Ripon Lottery? What could they possibly send me? An autographed photo of the Wunn and Only? An autographed photo of Cherian K? An autographed photo of Paris Hilton (who, as you know, did Policy back in the day). I can’t imagine.

I keep meaning to talk about Yale in some depth, but the podcast took it out of me. There isn’t much that I didn’t include there. One high point was that we arrived early on Friday so to pass the time I took the Sailors I was shepherding into the art museum. The Pups have quite a collection, and we killed an hour or so staring at things like Cy Twombly and thinking cavemanish thoughts. My favorite piece was the blue sea Hopper, but there was plenty of good stuff from many periods. I did end up feeling that the British building across the street was a better display setup architecturally, but once again I felt that this architect just can’t do entrances. He also has some stair problems. Go visit the buildings and you’ll see what I mean. They are free, after all.

Oh, yeah. I didn’t mention that one debater walked into a round, took one look at the judge (O’C), and fainted dead away. What kind of hold does this man have on people, anyhow? Not even Soddy, in his days of highest glory, was able to vanquish debaters with a mere glance. If O’C keeps this up, he’s going to go beyond mere legend into categorically true cosmology. Come to think of it, what if, in fact, O’C is the Supreme Being, just toying with us? Na’ah. If that were the case, he wouldn’t have had to ask Termite to take the Joyful Finalists Embrace While Internally Cursing One Another photo. Still, I’ll try to stay on his good side. You never know.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Every person comes out tired; post Pups post; stay tuned for further developments

Today, October 1, is, of course, the 25th anniversary of the (soft) opening of EPCOT. Do yourself a favor and surf some Disney sites to commemorate the day. And speaking of arbitrary numbers, this is Coachean post #667. This is relevant for those in the VCA who know the number of the beast. It is less relevant for those who only know his email address.

Yale is over. I’m working on a series of podcasts about it, but I hit a couple of glitches. First, I managed to screw up the XML last week. Don’t ask how, but it got totally fried. Fortunately, I did have the pre-screwed-up code at the office, and I managed to copy it, and tonight I’ll fix that. Then, I did some recording in New Haven, but it’s unlistenable, so, so much for that. In a day or two I should have this all sorted out, and there will be some podcasts up. I’ve gotten a little feedback on the tabbing, nothing horrible. We didn’t have anyone doublecheck the results, unfortunately, because it just seems totally unfeasible in the Pup environment, but I will try to have this done in the future. It can’t hurt to at least audit some of the rounds; after all, we do it at the high school tournaments. It’s those damned LPWs that get you every time! Also, O’C sent me some WTF noodling about the way speaker points were set up, and they probably should have been high-low instead of double high-low, but in the chimerical process of assigning speaker points, especially in the JV division where the tab table was actually yelling at some of the judges for their, shall we say, unique systems of point application (among other things), the more speaks you dropped, the better. For more on the judges, listen to the final Pup podcast when it’s released. Meanwhile, as soon as I’m perfect I’ll post the announcement on this site. If in fact you happen to be perfect, you can let me know, and I’ll be happy to announce that too. Anyhow, more on Yale in a day or two. These are busy times.

And Nov-Dec is plea bargaining. Which I think I voted for. But then again, in the new system, it’s hard to find a rez you didn’t vote for, at least in one slot. Spending v deficits is Nov PF; that’s a brain-stretcher for my Sailing Pfffters, so I like that.

As I said, busy times. And Yale was some serious sleep deprivation. I’ll be getting back to normal over the next few days. I trust you will do the same.