Monday, March 31, 2008

And somewhere amidst all this hoo-ha, Link and I solved the Temple of the Winds

It was nice to do not thing one or thing two debatewise over the weekend. Shades of the summer to come. (Although come to think of it, I did do thing three, and thing four, for that matter, and thing five, now that I think about it, but no weekend is ever entirely free of forensics.) Mostly I printed up little covers for my DVDs that I’ve recorded, so that’s all nice and neat, plus I got back into the ripping of my cassettes (it was nice to hear Hank again, and if you have to ask Hank who, we are not from the same planet). By the way, I am thinking of entering a twelve-step non-digression program, thus eliminating parentheses, em dashes, and all of my various wanderings off from the subject at hand, but I gather the first step is admitting that I have a problem, which I don’t. I just happen to like digression. I’ve got a copy of Tristram Shandy at my side at all times while my favorite book ever is Moby-Dick. I don’t have a problem, bub. Mind your own business, anyhow, you spalpeen!

I was somewhat taken by the article on newspapers in last week’s New Yorker. You might want to check it out; we’ll be (reluctantly) acting on its conclusions over the summer. Change or die, I guess.

I also futzed around with the flogblog app on Facebook, which simply was not flogging my blog, and discovered that certain people who will remain nameless also have a blog, which I read with great interest, even though it hardly mentioned me at all. And would it kill you to add a comments feature? Anyhow, nice promotional job, fella, making me find this all by myself. The noive. Next thing I’ll find out that even O’C has a blog that hardly ever mentions me at all. Oh, wait a minute. He has WTF, which has made him a multimillionaire. I forgot about that. And meanwhile the rest of us are left scraping the barnacles off the forensic ship, trying to make a meal out of them, or something comparably (and perhaps superiorly) metaphoric.

We are coming into the final innings of the Northeast Championships registration; if you haven’t already done so, you’d better ink your little names onto its electronic roster ASAP. None of the divisions are monstrously big, but LD especially is quite respectable for what is a first-time out. If we coordinate with the Massachusetts folks next year, we could really get a clambake going. What’s been most illuminating is figuring out the workings of, including its housing, which has kept me entertained no end as I send one missive after another to CP complaining about, well, everything. I think housing is a major problem because real functionality would have required that it had been built in to the original programming, and no matter how you slice it, it remains an adjunct. I will unquestionably (and much to CP’s annoyance, no doubt) use the program for Bump, though. It’s just so much easier than doing it all by hand.

On the home front, we only have a couple of more meetings of tutti of the Sailors frutti. Finish up Caveman for the non-ribbon clerks tomorrow, then a trivia bash next week, and then it’s over and out, aside from working with Alli (whose new nickname is on the launching pad) on CatNatting. It’s been an interesting year, with what seems to be a solid gain of dedicated novices poised to become dedicated jayveers. Ah, second year. It’s always the hardest, because you spend most of it getting your head handed to you by varsity seniors. But it has been ever thus. I don’t see this crop necessarily veering into the Pfffft world, at least not yet. Speaking of which, I’m surprised that none of my crew signed up to Pfffft it over at Newburgh. In a way I’m happy, though, because that topic is murder. I mean, we’d all have to learn about it from scratch, and if it were easy to understand, the government wouldn’t be doing it in the first place, or would have done it ages ago. So I guess we dodged a bullet there, and I shouldn’t complain about it. But has that ever stopped me before?

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Fine Art of Catholicism

The number one cause of Catholics lapsing is, from the evidence I’ve been able to assemble, the annual issuing of the CatNats LD topic. WTF has just broken the wind with it: “Resolved: That secondary education in America should value the fine arts over athletics.”

You can hear the heads being scratched all across this great country of ours. As always, one senses what the Cats might have been after, but one doubts if they will achieve it in the rounds. Anyhow, let’s take a look at it.

First of all, we have to define “the fine arts.” I went to an online dictionary aggregator and found three definitions; two contradicted (the decision of whether or not to include music, which seemed an odd exclusion to me). Wikipedia points to a distinction between Fine Arts and Performing Arts that may account for this. Then again, one can look to the MFA programs around the country and deduce what one is a master of from that, keeping in mind the requirement of performance versus mere appreciation or academic accrediting. All definitions would seem to include at least writing and the visual arts; getting too hung up on definitional specifics could be problematic, i.e., people arguing anything but the resolution (as if that ever happens). But we’ll assume a reasonable norm, for the sake of coachean and debaterean sanity. I mean, we do all intuitively know what is meant by fine arts, or close enough thereto. That’s a good enough starting point.

On the other hand, the definition of athletics is simple enough, but again I might look for a performance angle to meet the performance angle of fine arts. We wish for people to participate, not to appreciate. That is, we’re not talking about having a tiptop football team for everyone to cheer for on Friday night, and for everyone to understand every nuance of the game (which they can get from their Dave Madden games on the PS3), we’re looking for literal athletic participation for everyone. Just as we’re looking for some sort of arts participation by everyone.

We should be able to ignore that the consequences of both are either bad athletes or bad artists, because that’s just being facetious, although it is true. One must look to the inherent value of participation in either at the secondary school level, and compare the two. If I want to take a pretty unhealthy clump of Americans, i.e., your average teenager, and healthy them up, athletics at a personal participation level is probably a good idea. They will get no particular appreciation of the fine art of, say, pitching a baseball, but they will lose a few pounds and maybe contract a habit of exercise and live a little longer. On the other hand, participatory arts has a less direct effect on the brain than athletics does on the body, and one might be hard-pressed to explain that painting a crappy oil will somehow connect you to art in some sort of Aristotelian sense (and I’m happy to accept Aristotle on art, since he’s my Caveman touchstone, i.e., catharsis + improved understanding). Then again, everything I learned about seeing light in painting came to me from my own work with photography. But talk about tangential! That’s a tough row to hoe. One needs to find a value of aesthetics that is equal to the value of health. Intuitively I have no problem with this; evidentially, I might be a little stuck.

But let’s presume the consequences. Let’s presume that a secondary-level fine arts training will result in increased aesthetic/intellectual prowess, and a secondary-level athletics program will result in increased physical welfare. In that case, we simply argue which is more beneficial, and we decide on an approach to the resolution that makes sense. If we look at secondary education as important to the individuals involved, we take that path. If we look at secondary education as important to society as a whole, then we take that path. Both are perfectly acceptable approaches, although the dichotomy might be forced in most cases. Then again, sometimes the dichotomy is real, for instance, in special education situations. In any case, we’d be arguing rather an elevated discourse on mind versus body. Consider this the Grail of the topic, and imagine that absolutely no one will do it. Too clean. Too philosophical. Too 1990s. And, no doubt, what the poor Cats had in mind in the first place, or close thereto.

In the event, I would imagine people would look to something other than presumed consequences. Or more to the point, they will argue that the results on one side or another are unachievable. For instance, they will argue that prioritizing athletics leads to million-dollar facilities for the top athletes and nothing for the schlubs who need to lose thirty pounds and cut out the cheeseburgers. Or that even the best designed high school athletics program is a predetermined failure if the goal is healthy individuals/society. Ditto the arts side. No fungible benefits are achievable, and perhaps no intangible benefits on either an individual or societal level. Why would we prioritize arts in a nation that does not value arts in the first place? The discussions will veer into the economics of secondary education in the age of No Child’s Left Be-Hind and the like. Once again, we won’t argue what we should do, we will argue what we can do. Which, if I’m not mistaken is what Policy is supposed to do, but what do I know?

My guess is that the Cats think they’re holding the fort on some vision of pure philosophical LD in an age of heretics, but by providing material that begs to be responded to heretically, they simply keep the waters muddied. On the other hand, maybe they really do want to argue the economics of secondary education in an age when Catholic schools are shutting down faster than [insert semi-religious yet humorous metaphor here to capture the speed of something disappearing]. You never know with these wily Catholic coyotes!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

If then else; pas de ribbon clerks; pray for Little Elvis

I have longingly stared at blank Excel sheets for years now, dreaming of the schematic for a round robin that would automatically determine who hits whom when. After Lexington, when O’C and I trudged out a workable plan but only after some trial and error and reliance on an old schematic he pulled off of WTF, followed by his pointing me to the world of horseshoes where round robins are apparently de rigeur (I’m not making this up), I really felt that somewhere, somehow, it could be done. And it had to be done with an absolute. That is, one formula that worked in all the cells regardless of number of teams. Allow me to introduce you to the holy grail:

= IF(D11=0,0,IF(C12=0,0,IF(ISEVEN($B$4),IF(C12+1>$B$4-1,1,C12+1),(IF(C12+1>$B$4,1,C12+1)))))

Tell me you don’t love a formula with five—5!—parentheses. All the zero conditions are to clear the sheet at the point when there’s no more teams. That is, if there’s eight teams, we want it to stop at 8. The test for even numbers is because if there’s an odd number, the number of rounds is the number of teams, but if there’s an even number, the number of rounds is the number of teams minus one; it took me a long time to get this straight in my head. The rest just numbers in sequence starting over again when you get to the end: the $B$4 is a constant because it’s where you entered the number of teams. I will admit that there’s nothing here about aff/neg, but that’s simple enough. The lower numbered team is the aff in all even-numbered rounds. No doubt there’s a more elegant mathematical way of portraying this, and I intend to spend the next few years figuring it out.

I’ve put the template onto my home page and on this page (over on the right with the so-called greatest hits) so it can be accessed readily. I’m very pleased with myself. I’ll never have to consort with the horseshoe crowd again.

In other news, we really cut out the ribbon clerks with this week’s Caveman. A further diminution will have me talking to myself. The fact that we’ve finally gotten to the pomo material might bring back a malingerer or two. Otherwise I’ll just retire it completely.

And at home, I finally sourced the problem with my ripping of cassettes into mp3s. It turns out that one of my USB ports is not the port it used to be. This is the least desirable answer to the question. I simply moved to the other port, no biggie, but this means that Little Elvis is beginning to feel his age. I’m not quite sure what else will be affected by being plugged into this port; obviously we’re at the outset of a barrage of testing, but I have a feeling that most things will work okay. But this is troubling. Everybody always wants a new computer; this particular form of techlust begins roughly a week after you purchase your last computer, but in reality, you expect these things to last forever. Oddly enough (and here I’m knocking wood like you wouldn’t believe) my Dell is maybe 6 or 7 years old and is Peachy City, although I will admit I’m afraid to go online with it for fear of all the murk just waiting to bring it down. But it does everything else just fine. I’m hoping that Little E can last just as long. I’m holding out for whatever comes after Leopard. It’s now a race to extinction; I can feel the meteors about to land. (This is where we break down the fourth wall and turn to the audience and ask them to clap if they believe in Little Elvis. But I’ll spare you that particular indignity. Of course you believe in Little Elvis. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this in the first place.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Herman Melville for hire? Not any more.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard from Herman Melville, my old correspondent at WTF. In fact, the last thing I remember was that he was resigning his post. His latest epistle is enlightening.


Dear Mr. Menick:

How am I? You are fine. When I started typing this in Word, I had the “Dear M” part in when the program suggested that I wanted to type “Dear Mom and Dad.” But you are not my mother or father, as far as I know, so I don’t understand that. But there is so much in life, and Microsoft, that I don’t understand, that I won’t get hung up on it. Life is too short. Unlike Microsoft.

As you know, when we last communicated I had reached the end of my rope with my former employers at WTF. I don’t quite remember why, but it being WTF, who needs a reason? GP—General Principle—will do fine. Or is that General Principal? Actually, General Principal sounds like a school administrator who has gotten seriously out of hand, so I’ll stick to Principle for the time being.

Back when I was wondering in the wilderness, bereft of WTF and their wily ways, I was hoping that you would hire me, perhaps as an assistant coach or something. Although I know nothing about coaching, I feel that this should not have made a difference, as no one else seems to know anything about it either. I have to admit I was disappointed when an offer from you was not forthcoming. It didn’t have to be assistant coach. I would have accepted major domo, maitre d’, chief cook and bottle washer, one-armed paper hanger, animal trainer, anything you needed. But, need me you didn’t, as Yoda might say in Episode Seven: A New Cash Cow. So I had to find employment elsewhere.

You will be happy to learn, or maybe unhappy to learn, depending on what does or what doesn’t make you happy and/or unhappy, that I am now working as a part-time paladin for the Bronx Scientology team. Unlike your small potatoes operation at Hud Hendrickson, Bronx Scientology is both humongous and rather large, to boot. Their LD team alone has 1328 novices, few of whom have ever gotten an opportunity to debate outside of practice rounds and arguments with their parents over eating their vegetables. One or two have pushed to the front of the throng to touch the hem of Mr. O’C’s garments, but not very many. Most of them he won’t even befriend on Facebook. “It’s like a cowboy giving a name to his horse,” he claims. “You don’t want to get too friendly with something you might someday have to eat.” My responsibilities with the Scientology team are many and varied. In addition to running spellcheck to insure that their names are all correct on our many registrations, and working with their various embassies to pin down the proper pronunciations, I am in charge of making sure everyone is on the bus within an hour of the scheduled departure time and that the bus, if it is going to a tournament that is roughly north, actually heads roughly north. I am the—and I emphasize this—ONLY person allowed to delete the eighth contention, if any, on the first drafts of their negative cases. And Mr. O’C has put me completely in charge of the team’s Baudrillard evidence, although to be honest, all we have at the moment is simulated Baudrillard evidence and a Disney Princess waffle iron, but we’re working on improving that particular situation.

So, Dear Mr. Menick, or Mom and Dad, whichever the case may be, there you are. I could have been yours, at your beck and call, but oh, no, not you. I used to admire you, for some reason, but now that I have joined the Scientologists I have learned the truth about you, which Mr. O’C hides in a special vault marked “Soddy—KEEP OUT!” in the basement of the school building next to the crypt containing the mummy of the unknown declaimer. Your secrets are mine now, bubeleh. You’ll never get away with anything ever again.

Your friend,

Herman Melville
Bronx Scientology

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If this is October, it must be Bronx; One Small Step for a Debater; Qi + Xi = Aaarrghh

So I put up a public Google tournament calendar on my sked page, which may look like I’m doing it for everyone else’s benefit but to be honest, I wanted it to add to my iCal collection. I now have literally every relevant appointment/todo/event in one place, including my vacation plans. I feel so…contemporary. Not being too cheap to buy an iPhone would have provided a similar feeling, but I can’t justify $60 a month when at the moment I now pay $100 a year for phone service (and I’m disregarding the cost of the phone per se). If I talked to more people on the phone, or texted more people, things would be different. But I don’t, and I don’t. And I’m not rich, especially since I just got “the call” from the Honda place where I dropped my car off this morning. “The call” is when they tell you all the stuff they discovered that you can’t even imagine, and they tell you a ballpark figure, which is usually enough to buy yourself a ballpark. Oh, well, Whaddya gonna do?

I see that over at WTF O’C is counting down to Woodward. Whatever. O’C is big on counting down to tournaments. Then again, he is tabbing LD for them, and maybe he really is counting down to the tournament: he is an excitable boy. The only tournament I ever pay much attention to is Bump, for obvious reasons. The rest of them can count themselves down to their little hearts’ content, if you know what I mean. No doubt as soon as Woodward lifts off the platform he’ll start counting down to TOC. Me, I just don’t get excited about this stuff. I also have no March Madness brackets. I have no Superbowl picks. My team is unlikely to know there even is a World Series. I think Obama and Hillary have virtually identical policies, and have spent so much of my life with office-holding politicians ranging from the clincically inept to the downright evil that I have little belief that any of them will 1) Clean up Washington, 2) Win the Superbowl, or 3) Take home the office NCAA pool. I do sort of follow the ponies, though, which is why I always hate going down to TOC, because you always have to judge while the Derby is going on about a mile down the road from you, and most debaters don’t like it when you adjudicate their round with a mint julep in your hand.

Tonight Caveman will move into the birth of the individual, and probably make it into the Modernist period. In other words, the good stuff is about to begin. I mention this in case you’re counting down to the Baudrillard section.

If you’re wondering, my average for Scrabulous is, well, average. CP beats me all the time, although he uses all these Scrabble words that no one else has ever heard of that he picks up hanging out no doubt in unsuitable venues like computer labs (I'm pretty sure that's him in the Hello Kitty outfit, below), while other games go either way. I can strip the moss off a crossword puzzle at a thousand paces with a butter knife, but I haven’t got the hang of Scrabble yet. But I’m working on it. I really am. Feel free to challenge me if you want to help me over the hump. When I can say Bah! to CP, I’ll know that I’ve arrived.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Info underload; chez maintenance; yeasty debaters; mi weekend es su weekend; et cetarooni

Whatever you do, don’t read the invitation to the Northeast Championships at No one else has. Why should you be any different? All the information everyone needs is in there, which is why people are avoiding it.


We set the closing for 4/2 or thereabouts, to give NFA time to sort out the housing (which is at the moment totally booked). There is an issue with the software in that if you change an entry too dramatically, you lose the housing. There’s a logic to this, but there’s also a logic to it not happening. My guess is that it’s easier to manage offline than within the program, but that hasn’t stopped me from asking CP if he can do anything about it.

I did a lot of chez organizing over the weekend, cleaning up the detritus from Districts and putting the tub back into the basement, sweeping up the blood and bone chips, etc. I was one trophy short of a full set, because I mistakenly repeated last year’s order, but I’m picking that up from the trophy people Saturday, and will pass that along accordingly, and that would be about it on that particular puppy, unless for some reason Rippin’ decides that we did something bass ackwards, but I don’t think they will at this point since, well, we didn’t. Then again, I could have filled out some form wrong, and could be hanged for it in the morning. That is much more likely. I never did hear back from the Goys about my issues with the software. Which leads me to believe that said issues will be there next year. Responsive these guys ain’t.

I have set a deadline for the end of this week for cases for those going to the Dreaded States tournament. If they’re going to go, they should at least be prepared. Meanwhile my yeasty sophomore is going to the Hockarobin this weekend, but that’s Jan-Feb, which after a while becomes etched into the brain. Yeasty people, by the way, are usually referred to as rising sophomores or, I guess, rising juniors, but I’m not quite sure what they’re rising to. (Given the fact that few of them ever go out in the sunlight, the term yeasty seems especially appropriate.) By the time they’re seniors they are presumably risen debaters. I won’t deconstruct the religious overtones of that, which seem rather timely, but will let you draw your own conclusions.

I had a problem with my setup for processing my old cassette tapes into mp3s, and I think I isolated it to the iMic. Everything else seems to work fine. So, I put in for a replacement. If that is the problem, I will have to admit that, yes, it was cheap, but jeesh, it’s a piece of crap considering that it didn’t last very long. I love resuscitating old music, though, and will continue to do so until I’ve captured it all. Occasionally the resulting recording is unlistenable, but mostly they’re quite good. Beats tossing all those tapes out the window.

I did hear from one of your fine Philadelphia universities over the weekend, asking me to tab their tournament for them next year, but as their event coincides with the novice first-timer MHL, so much for that. Of course, I haven’t attended said tournament in about a decade, although I do have a tee shirt from the school somewhere to commemorate the Sailors having won it back in the day. All I really remember was the trucks that sold Chinese food outside the campus. They’ve got this little vending setup, with a hot plate and a steam table, and they have—and I exaggerate only slightly—a fifty page menu. Order whatever you want. None of it tastes like what it says on the menu, but it does all taste vaguely Chinese. Close enough, I guess, given it’s coming from a truck with a hot plate. Anyhow, I’ve discussed the problem of too many tournaments and too few weekends in the past. At least the conflict between this and the MHL is an agreeable one, in that they aren’t fighting one another for the same entrants. But my heart will always be with the novices, especially the first-timers. I like catching them while they’re still raw and untested. Before they turn all yeasty on you.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Flex Aff

The Theory Institute for Lincoln-Douglas Advancement, which is located in a secret location in Swinton, California, has recently been proposing the Flex Aff as the latest “new thing” following the development of the Flex Neg and Flex Prep. It’s a curious approach to in-round performance. I quote from their literature: “Although the NFL claims that there is no presumption for either side in LD, we know that most judges think there is a presumption for the negative. This misguided opinion is the result of the fact that most judges are college-age students in a state halfway between semi-drunken stupor and caffeine-induced hysteria. The wise high school debater takes advantage of this situation when running an affirmative position.”

Frankly, I find the whole Flex Aff thing to be slightly bizarre. The way it works is, the affirmative stands up, asks if everyone’s ready, then clicks a timer and sits down until the timer goes off six minutes later. Apparently this especially works well when the affirmative position is framed by the resolution as a negative, i.e., such and such a thing is unjust. But TILDA goes even further: “The wise Flex Aff, on returning to his or her seat, immediately asks the opponent for a copy of the negative case, and spends all of the Flex Aff six minutes carefully reading the opposing opinion and prepping out on it.” When the timer goes off at the end of the allotted aff time, the Flex Aff debater immediately rises and announces, “I now stand open for cross-examination.”

Apparently the main goal of the Flex Aff is to stymie the negative’s ability to refute the aff position. “Let’s face it,” says the TILDA literature, “if the aff doesn’t say anything, it is really difficult for the negative to contend that the aff is wrong.” Many negs, when facing a Flex Aff, read their own cases, then do their best to extrapolate what the aff would have said, if the aff had gone so far as to say anything. TILDA calls this “neg spec,” but doesn’t recommend it. “When facing a Flex Aff, the neg puts itself in the best position by ignoring the aff altogether, and using the three or four minutes of NC normally devoted to rebuttal of the aff position to rebutting his or her own position, i.e., refuting the neg case. Even the most polished Flex Aff debater will find responding to this difficult if not impossible. If nothing else, it will stymie the aff in coming up with a meaningful cross-examination strategy.” In Flex Aff situations, needless to say, Flex Prep seems to be absolutely essential. In fact, one of the benefits of the Flex Aff overall, says TILDA, is that it allows the aff a chance to “get off his or her feet” for a while and get some much needed rest. “The tournament experience is stress-filled and weighs heavily on the health of even the most sturdily built high school student. A chance to sit down and relax and read your opponent’s case is an opportunity not only to obviate the need to frantically take notes during the reading of that case, but also allows the blood to flow more freely from the feet to the brain, thus enhancing mental acuity.”

As you can imagine, the Flex Aff really hits its stride in the 1AR. “Having no need to defend the aff’s own tacit positions, if any, the aff in the 1AR can devote the entire four minutes to attacking the negative. Thus the time pressures usually associated with this speech are relieved, allowing even more blood to flow to the affirmative’s brain.”

By the time we reach the NR, an affirmative victory is, apparently, a foregone conclusion. “The wise negative, knowing that the round is lost, will use the NR not for further refutations of the non-existent affirmative position, or vain attempts to rebuild the absolutely lost negative position, but will instead plan his or her own Flex Aff for the next round.” At which point the chief benefit of Flex Affs becomes apparent: “The lack of a need for any case whatsoever on the affirmative means that the debater can use the time normally dedicated to researching, understanding and, finally, writing an exegesis on that side of the resolution for other pursuits such as quoits, tai chi or competitive lawn bowling.”

I have pretty negative feelings about Flex Affs, if you’ll pardon the pun. While I do appreciate that they will make judging a lot easier, so much so that I might even emerge from tab once in a while just to stay current, they do seem to eat away at some of the educational benefits of LD, since there won’t actually be any debating anymore. I guess, as usual, I come down on the opposite side of the theorists. This is not the first time that the Swinton TILDA people have come up with something weird. I doubt if it will be the last. It must be something to do with the air supply in California. Thank God we don’t have any air supply in New York. Who knows what kind of craziness we’d come up with?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Harry Potter and the Nietzsche Kritik

In his 8th year at Hogwarts (having been left back for doing, well, literally nothing academic during his 7th year and, in fact, making quite a bloody mess of the place), Harry Potter joins the Gryffindor Debate Team. His first choice as partner, his friend Ron, decides that he would prefer to pursuit Parli, which makes a lot of sense in England when you come to think of it, leaving Harry no choice but to cross house boundaries and partner up with Draco Malfoy (AKA Doug Jeffers). Harry and Draco quickly realize that if they wish to star in their chosen activity, Public Forum Arts (commonly referred to as PFarts), they must put aside their differences, so they learn to bond by watching the complete Adam Sandler ouevre, as it has been proven that extended exposure to these movies will melt granite, and is certainly capable of eliminating the animosity between adolescent wizards.

Their first step in their quest to reach the TOC (Tournament of Conjurers) is to acquire the spells necessary for obtaining evidence. Thanks to the help of the indomitable Hermione Granger, who usually quadruple enters in Dramatic Interpretation (DI), Hysteric Interpretation (HI), Overwrought Interpretation (OI), and Original Oratory (Uh-Oh), the boys learn about the legendary Vincimus Presto website, which provides them with their first batch of quotes, which they carefully organize into categories of Obvious, Useless and Incomprehensible. They realize early on that their best chance of success is the Incomprehensible pile, which they proceed to write up into affirmative and negative positions, despite the fact that no one has yet to release this month’s resolution. At their first novice debate tournament, conducted under the auspices of the CFL (Chthonic Forensic League), our heroes come in second place, losing by one point to the PFarts team from the dreaded Regicide Preparatory School for Immanent Warlocks. Vowing to do better next time, and swearing that they are better than any Regicide, Harry and Draco enlist the aid of their house elf, Little Bietzy, in scoping out a plan for a better second speech and the use of the dreaded “Bright Line” Potion in the Crossfire segment of the round. Unfortunately, just as Little Bietzy is about to add the final secret ingredient, he is apparated to California and disappears into the Vincimus Presto website, never to be seen again, which happens all the time on that website, but that’s another story altogether.

With the help of Harry’s dead godfather, U Cantby Sirius, the team acquires Mofo Pomo, the ultimate spell for winning debate rounds, but even mentioning the name of the spell is likely to bring on the legions of Harry’s dreaded enemy, Wal-Mort, whose name most people never say out loud, preferring instead to refer to him as Sams Club. Wal-Mort has been trying to kill Harry since as long as anybody can remember for reasons that are not particularly clear but every epic needs a really bad Bad Guy and in this case, Wal-Mort is it. After an invigorating albeit pointless Quidditch match, played only so that the special effects team can get a seemingly endless credit roll at the end of the movie (and, coincidentally, so that Draco can get a really good Scrabulous bingo if he can remember how to spell the game correctly), Harry Potter and Wal-Mort finally meet in a fight to the death, except that every time you kill Wal-Mort he comes back either in the next book or the next movie, whichever comes first, so the best Harry can do in the interim is quickly cast the Mofo Pofo spell at the NFL (Necromancers’ Forensic League) tournament, thus defeating the Regicide team and earning full qualification for the TOC and NFL Finals in Las Vegas, which is the only place left in America where there’s any magic anymore, even if it is only David Copperfield or David Blaine or Penn & Teller, except Penn is appearing on that stupid dance show now that Wayne Newton has been kicked off the island, but that, again, is another story altogether.

In our next installment, Harry Potter and the Contention of Doom, Harry and Draco will go to TOC. Preorders are now being accepted at for the amazingly low price of eighty-nine ninety-nine ninety-five American. Sign up now while you still can.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The apotheosis of idle hands

The WTF undesign continues apace. O’C referred me to the front page, which now rotates like one of those signs at the mall, where for a minute you’re looking at some Steve Madden grotesquerie, then a poster for Hannah Montana pops up to replace it, then it’s Crate and Barrel, and a minute later it’s Steve Madden again. Except at WTF it’s debate stuff, sort of (Barack Obama’s race speech?), all under a banner of a black-and-white LD mug shot.

Okay, I tried it. It’s like the 2008 version of blinking gifs (reference: the Amazon gif to your right-yucckk!). I’m going back to the list of the archives. It’s either that or go to the mall for a Steve Madden fix. I guess I am cursed from my years as a systems manager. My own web stuff is about as boring as [fill in humorous boredom metaphor here] but I do get the job done. I fear that the WTFers have too much time on their hands, thus they have been lured into the devil’s workshop. Usage follows content, not form. Sigh…

Yesterday I was a moral critic, and today I’m a web design critic. And tomorrow? The universe awaits.

Last night in Caveman we made it from Plato to the Renaissance, although I will admit I was flagging as we emerged from the Dark Ages. We were in competition with a band concert in the auditorium down the hall, although I never really heard them tootling away. They did pull a couple of Sailors from our bailiwick to theirs, however. I think you can miss a little Caveman and still get the gist, but you can’t miss a lot. My estimate is that the whole thing will take two more installments. After that, I’ve been thinking of a final Bean Trivia blowout, and then, c’est tout. I still have the questions from the Lexington RR, which only Robbie has ever heard, and I doubt that he’s memorized them. If anything, his exposure to them will add to the strategy of the thing.

As I mentioned yesterday in a Facebook note, I’ve been playing with Remember the Milk. One of my problems is that I have no central calendaring system, mainly because my Day Job computer is deliberately disabled by our IT folk, who live in fear and trembling that we might discover any app starting with a lower case i on our machines (like iCal) and allow it to zap our precious bodily fluids (although any damned fool can tell you that unlimited internet access is the number one precious bodily fluid zapper in modern business). But rmilk allows me to connect almost everything, including my phone, so when I need to remember something, I don’t have to, which is really good in my case, because otherwise I wouldn’t remember anything. It remains to be seen if I’ll still be using it two months from now, but for the time being, it’s definitely getting the job done. It has forced me back to my iGoogle home page, which is better at RSS than my my.Yahoo page, for what that’s worth. I replaced a silly, cartoonish theme with a businesslike slick black theme, so maybe that will help me appreciate it more.

What a busy life. No devil's workshop here. [Snort.]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A pot of pourri, including Little Elvis goes AWOL, my encounters with morality, and a Montwegian revelation

I look forward to catching up on things, now that the forensic season is in its final inning. I’m behind on at least two million to-dos, and I’d like them to become have-dones, and every Spring I say that by next season I’ll have completely done-did them, but I never do, but at least I have good intentions.

I didn’t mention my worst fear over the District weekend, when I looked around Saturday morning and didn’t see Little Elvis anywhere. We were running the tournament on my Dell, for no other reason than I’ve got nothing better to do with it, and using at tournaments gives me an opportunity to dust the cat hairs off its screen. I had Little E with me as a backup, with the software installed just in case (and of course, we religiously backed up to a flashdrive every hour or so, meaning that the worst case scenario wasn’t all that bad). But Saturday morning, Little E was nowhere to be found. Normally this would drive me insane, but my mind was concerned with other things driving me insane, so it wasn’t until the bus ride home that I really started to fret. But that evening when I opened the back door of my car in the Sailor parking lot, there was Little Elvis, lying on the floor and wagging his tail, his nose cold and wet as we nuzzled one another in our reunion. (My nose was also cold and wet, but that’s a different story altogether.) As much as I would like to upgrade, I wouldn’t want to be forced into it. During those dark hours of contemplating potential Littleelvislessness, I had to admit that I had no good reason to upgrade other than technolust, which would be better directed elsewhere (e.g., the Touch, assuming the rumored price break and after the June upgrade). Little Elvis remains my boon companion. Till death—or a really good reason to upgrade—do us part.

So yesterday I shipped off the mountain of paperwork to Rippin’, and with any luck, that is just about that. I do need to create the ad (oh, great, they can get another $100 out of us) but I do feel that it’s nice for kids to see their home district supporting them when they’re lost in the desert. Like in Las Vegas. That’s awfully strange, you know. Obviously it’s a good place to host a couple of thousand people (you could host a couple of million and never notice them), but as locales go, it doesn’t say High School Forensics to me. Maybe I’m just deaf to it. What is the legal gambling age, anyhow? I certainly hope it’s not eighteen. Talk about nightmares I wouldn’t want to face…

Tonight we take up Caveman where we left off last week, starting with Plato. I wonder how many Sailors will survive to part two. It is something of a long haul, on both the giving and receiving ends. I wouldn’t blame them for phasing out of it. But of course, it gets better as it goes along. Starting friction is always greater than moving friction; even I know that: physics applied to life. (And don’t you just wonder about a sentence with a semicolon and then a colon? It’s correct, though. I’m pretty good with punctuation. When you digress as much as I do, good punctuating skills are a must.)

And I almost recorded a new Nostrum last night, but I got involved in some other stuff instead. Wednesday for sure. At Districts one of the judges regaled me with his tale of just having discovered Nostrum and reading all the pdfs in one swell foop. This is akin to discovering the abscess and applying it to all your teeth at once, if you ask me, but I'm allowed to say that, being the official middleman between Jules and the Nostrumite and their appreciative, waiting audience. This masochist judge was ruminating on how real all of it was, and after the conversation I was struck by the resemblance of the literary Mr. Obomash’s plight with the gubernatorial Mr. Spitzer’s. Recording that "Obomash in Miami" material had felt sort of, well, not exactly R but certainly PG-13, and I wondered about its suitability, but as Mr. Clinton in the 90s made certain activities fodder for the kindergarten set, so now has Mr. Spitzer opened up new worlds for all of us. That’s what I regret most about these failings among such gentlemen, their lowering the public discourse to the level of their uncontrolled libidos. Of course, I also prioritize their gross lack of judgment over their right to live whatever private lives they wish, believing as I do that such failures of judgment portend poorly for their public actions. I tend to be in the minority about this, I think, if one goes by the Clinton debacle. It’s not easy being a moral critic, or more precisely, a critic of the morals of others.

And speaking of Friends of Bill, I will point out something that occurred to me recently, following as I do the Facebook obsessions of a certain former Montwegian over the candidacy of Mrs. Clinton. I have been regularly struck by the rabidity of this support, and it finally occurred to me last night where else I had seen such fervor, to wit, RJT’s similar obsession with a certain Wisconsin football team. Which leads me to wonder, is it that all politics is simply sports without protective equipment, or is it that all Montwegians are simply rabid? It could be either or both. Although I have to admit that Tyler and Tanner, Montwegians to the core, have always looked pretty laid back to me. I’ll have to consult O’C, my own private Tanner on this one. Or is he my own private Tyler? I can never tell.

(And if this keeps up, I’m going to have to add T&T to the glossary. Will wonders never cease?)

Monday, March 17, 2008

On the bright side, Catholic Charlie didn't make us listen to Genesis songs all weekend

So, sez you, what is Goy really like?

Not terrible, sez I. At least, that’s the easy answer. What’s nuts is the obliviousness of Rippin’ to the Goy’s existence.

As with running any program for the first time, we had a learning curve to overcome with the District tournament software, but it wasn’t particularly horrible. We never did suss out using it for Congress, and we’re not sure if that’s us or them, but we really didn’t care, given the nature of Congress selection process (preferential balloting). And once or twice the program over the weekend and went entirely kaflooie and was salvageable only through a reboot, but to be honest, I expect less than 100% stability from most apps in this day and age, so there’s no shock there. The insistence of the program to prioritize side constraints even when they didn’t exist (in PF, after LD byes) was annoying, but, eventually, predictable. I passed this information along to the Goysters, who remain (and this may be my biggest complaint about them) relatively unresponsive. Perhaps they’re bombarded with all sorts of requests from people pointing out to them that their program isn’t perfect, and they’re too annoyed with all of us to do anything but think to themselves, well, it must be users being annoying and not the program that’s flawed. God knows, that’s the kneejerk I.T. response to problems, so I sympathize with them because it’s usually true. But, guys (goys?), the program has bugs that needs to be fixed. Get on it. I mean, when you have side restraints prioritized in PF flip rounds, at the very least there’s a default setting that needs some tweaking.

But my biggest complaint isn’t with the software, which is quite manageable, and which saved me much time-consuming filling out of forms. It’s with Rippin’. I have multiple, conflicting instructions on what to file. I have no clear instructions on how to file Congress (so we’re doing what we always did and hoping that their ineptly explained new forms have some relation to it). There is NO CONNECTION OF THE SOFTWARE TO RIPPIN', which means I have to print EVERYTHING and mail hard copies to them. From which I deduce that they have no master connections to the data after tournaments. I mean, really. How much are you people paying me for this, anyhow? How much are you paying yourselves for endless oversight of automatic processes? How sincere is your commitment to automating these Dark Ages processes that serve no earthly purpose but to satisfy bureaucrat-lust. I could send Rippin’ the file and they could look at it on screen, if they were so inclined, at the cost of (wait for it) no money and no time and no energy, or I can print out the file (dozens and dozens of pages) and—well, do the math. I mean, to begin with, everyone has to fill out every bloody form they always had to fill out EVEN THOUGH THEY REGISTERED ONLINE. Why? For the signatures of all the people who didn’t qual? Do they think people are making up their interest in going to NatNats? Do they end up with that many Principals demanding to know why they’ve been kept in the dark about even having forensics teams at their schools all these years? Do they understand the concept of solving problems after they occur (if any) rather than pre-solving for every problem that could conceivably occur under the sun, including the self-extinction of said sun? And they wonder why New York doesn’t really care too much about NFL, when the organization is obviously mostly about a tournament most of us can’t go to, when the entire body of Rippin’ folk must needs be entirely dedicated to combing through all this endless data for no other purpose than that tournament?


I continue to maintain that I am the World’s Worst District Chair. If I cared about myself and some Sailors ever attending, that might help, but since that is an impossibility I only do this because I believe in supporting my fellow schools, some of which do want to go. But compare—can you believe this—CatNats. Our diocese is allowed to send X number of entrants. We have a one-day tournament mostly along our usual lines to select X number of entrants. At the end of that day, X number of happy entrants go to a tournament that begins and ends on dates that they can actually attend. In other words, CatNats compared to NatNats is a piece of cake. The Catholic Church, which invented the Jesuits, the Vatican library and, presumably, all that arcana in the Dan Brown books, has a simpler process than the non-Catholics?

I say Jeesh again.

On the positive side, after my complaining earlier in the year, they have cleaned up their act enough so that the subject lines of their endless series of automated emails no longer inevitably contain misspellings. I should take that to heart. They drive me crazy, but they used to drive me carzy. I guess that’s a step in the right direction.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Coachean Life Supplemental: Truth

Cabela's sporting goods catalogue offers archery equiment. The bows in here look like something from the Wookieepidia. But there's a pomo side to this worth noting.

The name of one of the bows is "The Truth 2." The description: "Last year, the engineers [designed] The Truth bow. This year, they just wanted to change a few things. The result: they changed everything."

That's the way with the truth, isn't it? You get it all figured out, and then they change it on you.

(By the way, you've got to love the other bow names: The Marquis, Black Ice, The Rock, Lights Out, Game Over. I'm especially fond of Game Over; obviously there's punsters in the deer-killing business. Not that I'm against killing deer, mind you, given that I'm happy to eat them when the occasion arises. But in my neighborhood, we don't need Lights Out to put out the lights of the local ungulates. The deer congregate in my yard like Scientologists at a movie studio, and you can walk right up to them and hit them over the head with a frying pan if you're so inclined. When I go out to the garage to my car in the morning I am fond of calling out, a la Disney's Bambi, "Man is in the driveway," but I barely get a rise out of the things. If you decide to visit the chez, feel free to bring your own frying pan along with you. And any venison recipes, if you have them.)

Wrapping up, Rippin' up, and thankin' up, not to mention Wackopedia

Let me see, let me see. So much happening, so hard to keep track. I like that, especially since, after this weekend, so little will be happening. Districts really does mark the end of my active season. Stuff still happens going forward, but the hard work is over, and the every-week-an-event part is done with. There’s only one more tournament to run, the Northeast Championships (which has a pretty good-sized pool already: don’t miss this one, folks, because it’s going to be a hoot, and if you win you get to put “Ize Northeast Champeen” on your resume). There’s only one or two events to think about other than that: Dreaded States, which I’ve now passed along to my Dreaded States parent (father of Stealth, which indicates to me that I’ll hear little or nothing about it ever again); Six Rounds of Spring at Columbia, which looks like fun, under the auspices of They Who Fill Out Every Inch of the Ballot; prepping for CatNats, about which I’ll reserve judgment until I hear the topic at the end of this month—let’s face it: they have had some stinkers in their day. At some point Alli’s also going to the Hockarobin down there in Texas, which is on Jan-Feb, so not much new from that angle, but the event always inspires my seasonally banked feminist fires to rage up again (and maybe I’ll get that feminism podcast finally done). For some reason, despite the 2007-8 season ending, I haven’t quite run out of steam yet this year. Maybe Districts will change that. It usually does.

Last night I printed up all sorts of Districts stuff, and I’ll do some more of that tonight. So far I remain on the side of the Goy vs doing it by hand. Rippin’ sends you a whole skein of people to call when all hell breaks loose during the tournament, so Cherian will hear from me if necessary, but I’m hoping it won’t be. For one thing, given that cell phones only work on two square feet of the Scarsdale turf, it’s almost impossible to connect to the outside world for any purpose, much less fixing computer problems. Over the years we’ve have very few reasons to phone home because we just haven’t gotten into any unfathomable positions. Maybe that’s the virtue of a small tournament. Or maybe it’s luck. Whichever.

My CatNats adventure has finally culminated in O’C judging for us in [fill in name of some Midwestern state, or maybe some Western state, or was it Alabama?] and JV chaperoning. My hat is off to them. But then again, my hat is off to everyone who offered, one way or another, to try to help out. And I mentioned this briefly on Facebook, but it bears elaboration here. There is a feeling of community in our region among forensicians that is remarkable (and I hope it is the same where you are, although I know that in some places there is a miasma of academic politics that seems to make things more difficult than they ought to be). I will not claim that every single person is a saint, but week in and week out the same people are in there chugging away, and they’re chugging away not for the glorification of themselves or their teams or their careers, but just because they’re committed to the activity and all its many benefits to all its participants. They go from tournament to tournament insuring competent, reliable operation of events, coaching their kids, working to attract judges and training newcomers, eating crappy pizza and, dare I say it, suffering through some of the worst restroom facilities on the face of the planet. They don’t have to do this, and they’re certainly not paid any great amount of money for it, and they’re not getting any particular credit for it from their own schools. But at least we can acknowledge them here. Thanks, everybody.

And, getting back to the bile that supplies fuel for our particular furnace, why am I not surprised, on learning about Wookieepedia, that O’C is a major contributor? Wookieepidia. Whoda thunkit? But ya gotta love them internets: they’ve got something for everybody.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Prada is my life

When one types Prado into iTunes for a query (you know, as in, maybe they have a podcast of one of their art tours, like a lot of places do nowadays) you are asked if you didn’t really mean prada.


The interview with James Jacobs on Loquitur brought March-April full circle. Not surprisingly, the experts on the subject are saying what we thought would be said. On the one side, a crime is a crime, plus there’s the issues of identity politics (which I wouldn’t want to concentrate too much on, but if this were seriously being debated beyond just a few events, you know that’s where a lot of people would be going: people often prefer the tangent to the core, unfortunately), while on the other side, it’s all about the harms. What it isn’t is the idea that you can’t know what’s in the mind of the offender, because, well, that’s not true. If someone burns a cross on your lawn, I would suggest it’s rather easy to know what is in that person’s mind (if anything). And intent informs plenty of other crimes, and their punishments, so why wouldn’t intent inform hate crimes? But after Districts this weekend, and Dreaded States next month, the subject will be gone till the next time it hits the docket. Too bad, in a way. I like this topic because it does allow us to talk about so many things, most of them fascinating. Oh, well. The next thing to think about will be the CatNats topic. That’s always a scorcher… Anyhow, I continue to applaud Loquitur, and hope they can keep up the good work on future subjects.

Last night we began Caveman and made it up to, but not including, Plato. (Did I really mean prada?). So I guess it’ll take three sessions altogether. We should get at least up to the Modern next time, and then Mo and Po after that. Part 1 takes so long because it sets the stage for the thesis of the evolution of narrative (narrative→narration→narrator), but once we start hitting the examples, things travel apace. Me, I just like looking at the cover picture of O’C coming out of Magritte’s pipe. I’ve always felt that, if old Rene had actually known O’C, he would have put him in that picture himself, because it’s just so perfect. No one else could come out of that pipe so well.

Following my misadventures in calendaring, yesterday I ordered new Filofax pages (Filofax was Gandalf’s horse in Lord of the Rings) (and yeah, I know I stole that joke from The New Yorker, but who’s counting). My problem is that I have 5 calendar sources at work and 4 (at least) at home, and few of them communicate with each other. If I could hook a work and office calendar together, that would help, but they don’t allow us iCal on our office machines (don’t ask) and there’s no connection of Lotus Notes with anything else worth having, so while no man is an island, every one of man’s calendars is an island if he has my Day Job. Since I like carrying a notebook (I’ve been moleskinning lately), going back to the Filofax is no hardship. Maybe paper is the solution. I certainly hope so. Alternately I’ll get an iPhone, but I’m waiting for 3g (only because that’s what all the technical people complain about, as if I really know the difference) and maybe a better price and more memory, or then again I’m still sparring with my Touch technolust. One thing about the Filofax calendar: ten bucks and you’re done. Let’s see Steve Jobs match that!

And the next person who changes their Districts registration will be drawn and quartered. Twice. By Joe Vaughan. That oughta make ‘em think long and hard before sending me yet another email. I have a request in to Rippin’ to officially change our name from New York State to New York Spalpeens. I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Go, Chipmunks! (Or is it Polecats? Field mice? Rocky Mountain Ticks? Whatever.)

Details will be provided once they are finalized, but I seem to have solved yesterday’s dilemma. Never underestimate the power of community! I think I’m doing the happy dance.

So, on to a CFL Grands report. As expected, the number of entrants, 24, each with a judge, plus 2 extra judges, ameliorated the 3-judge 2-flight process enormously. We used cards, of course, with the computer on hand simply for the printing of said cards and the ballots, and as the day progressed it took three of us to track everything, but even in round 4 we never had to have a judge adjudicate the same person twice (on the opposite side), and we were still getting clean judges for both flights. My belief that the number of judges in a round should connect to the number of entrants seems to hold, which is why I will recommend 2 judges for 20 or fewer in the future. With PF, where there were only 10 teams, things were a little different, and almost everyone was judged twice by the same judge, although we did port over a couple of LD judges each round to make things work. Given the small PF field, we were able to bring things there to a halt after 3 rounds; there was no way a 4th round would have made a difference in who would qualify, especially given the need at this point to break brackets so much that they’d be screaming in the night. And since a qualification event is all about the qualification, end of story. As for the LD qualifiers, as always New York is among the toughest quals around. Throw in the top debaters from all the schools in our diocese and you’ve got quite a brouhaha. Those who qual’d are good, and plenty who didn’t qual are also good. It can be quite a heartbreaker. Then again, the prize is a free trip to [some state between the Hudson River and San Francisco Bay, exactly which one being unclear to me, which practically made Kaz hit me over the head with a loose Dec trophy but I just can’t help myself—Go Badgers?], so there is the upside of not having to spend Memorial Day there [and you Cornhuskers or Beanbangers or whatever you are needn’t pretend to be offended by my parochialism when you know damned well that you think New York is a hell hole populated entirely by muggers, terrorists and Friends of Spitzer].

So now it’s on to Districts, and I have to say that so far the Goy has proven to work just fine. I attempted to generate some dummy rounds and badda bing, badda boom, there they were. It’s a hefty program, and occasionally ungainly, but if it continues to work the way it has, I’m going to be quite pleased. As a rule, prepping for Districts for me is days upon days of tedium, filling out cards and collecting data and then recollecting it and filling our more cards and cursing and spitting and sacrificing goats on the altar of the Rippin’ gods, but this time I am either befogged in false confidence or sitting pretty, and all the goats in my vicinity are happily grazing away, proud to be cheese producers as compared to stew producers. We’ll know for certain come Friday.

And tonight, Caveman Part One! Get there early for the best seats, and start popping that corn, you huskers!

Monday, March 10, 2008

How to be stupid

Anyone who is quick to illustrate the mental lapses of others ought to be responsible for reporting one's own mental lapses. I have no hesitation in calling you an idiot, if the situation demands it, so I have no hesitation in calling myself an idiot in situations where such is obviously the case.

I am an idiot.

I spend a lot of time organizing The Calendar, in capital letters. I put together the MHLs, I barter and trade with folks on the invitationals and track what it makes sense to track for the region, and O’C tells me that my team calendar has a life far beyond my team (so if I say something nasty about Bronx, I am quick to hear about it from him, and, therefore, I go back and put it in boldface). Additionally, I organize the work calendar for my Day Job department, to the degree that I make all the work assignments for everyone, working off a set of linked personalized Excel spreadsheets that I created that would bring tears to the eyes of any network administrator (and tears to my eyes when the network is down). I am a marvel of planning. And, of course, I plan my own life. Because I can, I like to take my vacation in May, when school is still in session and weather is nice and we have Vacationland to ourselves. And to keep my hand in where it belongs, I take care to make sure that, even though I’m away two weeks in May, I am available for both TOC and CatNats, just in case.

Which is exactly how I planned this coming May. I picked my two weeks right where they belonged, booked all the arrangements, scheduled all the work at the Day Job for everyone else, badda bing, badda boom, done. And when we qualified for CatNats on Saturday, I was ecstatic. Thrilled that a sophomore who works hard had made it. She deserves it. And surprisingly enough, looking forward to Wisconsin. That night I even decided that, all things considered, it made sense for me to judge rather than work with CP. I was going to feed myself to the lions, and as I say, I was goofily looking forward to it.

And then on Sunday morning I went to write in the trip to Wisconsin on my kitchen calendar, and saw that I will be in Spain during CatNats. I had misread the calendar. There was no gap long enough between TOC and CatNats. And, of course, it is too late to do anything about it. All the money is spent, the Day Job colleagues lined up, the tickets purchased, you name it. After telling my student that I was taking her, I had to tell her I wasn’t taking her. I felt like the biggest heel on the planet. You would too. And it was entirely my fault, because I was inattentive to detail in the first place.

I write this now not to expiate but simply to explain. Realistically, if we had qualified more than one team, it wouldn’t have been my burden alone to judge or chaperone, so perhaps my biggest mistake was my blissful ignorance of my unavailability and my promises of doing a job I was unable to do. But this is not a mistake a coach should make.

I am a firm believer in the idea that all people make mistakes—that's life—and must move on. But they must also learn from them. We must never make the same mistake twice. We must move on and make new mistakes. In other words, I will never make this mistake again, and I will insure it by coordinating my multiple calendars better and, the way I see it, foregoing that two weeks off in May.

But still, I feel like an idiot, and a heel. It’s going to take a while to get back on an even keel. This stuff is important. It really is. It behooves us, as coaches, to never to forget that.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Catholic food; Loquitor; Tanner v Tyler

So last night the various available CFL honchos gathered to break bread after the presetting of the Grands rounds. Sister regaled us with ribald stories that she made us swear never to repeat, while Catholic Charlie did not eat his vegetables and reminisced about housing at Hen Hud back when he was a Mount Vernon (New York suburb, not descendent of George Washington) Speecho-American tot and Bump had Speech divisions (them was the days), and JV and I plotted how to avoid CatNats in light of the ever decreasing Pfffft pool tomorrow, although it’s highly unlikely our teams would appreciate our sabotaging all their ballots, so we might end up hiding behind CP tabbing Dec while reading updates online of how RJT has stormed the Brett Favre battlements yelling “Say it isn’t so!” Beats actually listening to Dec…

Speaking of listening, I listened to the Loquitor podcasts, and I recommend them. This is good material to give people a grounding in what a resolution means in the real world (for those people who give a hoot about that particular aspect of the activity). Of course, they had a couple of neg guys, and they need an aff guy to tell us why hate crimes are good (or at least why enhancements are bad). Still, I hope they keep it up for the future. The interviewees were quality, and the recording was solid. Makes you wonder whatever happened to that old hour or so with Bietz. I guess he got too tied up in undesigning WTF.

To be honest, most of my time the last couple of days has been spent arguing with O’C over the most pressing issue of the hour, to wit, which one of us is Tanner, and which one of us is Tyler. No offense to Tanner and Tyler, who I really don’t know aside from looks, and they look about as alike as any two brothers, provided one of the brothers is Denzel Washington and the other is Brittany Spears. Maybe I should open it up to the audience at large. Which of us is Tanner, and which is Tyler? For that matter, of the real Tanner and Tyler, which of them is Denzel, and which of them is Brittany? Which I guess means which of O’C and I are Denzel and/or Brittany? Oh, what a tangled web we slog / when we merely wish to blog…

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"I didn't know Karl had brothers..."

Warning: I’ve gotten caught up yet again in the purpose of Art, but writing that will take forever. Cue Harpo; everyone out to the popcorn stand.

I recorded a Nostrum episode last night and discovered that the XML for the previous episode was loopy, so it would seem as if subscribers will be getting two episodes today. This is good or bad news, depending on your opinion of Nostrum. I could have spent last night working on the Goy, but until everyone is registered, there doesn’t seem to be much point to it. (And I’d like to thank everyone in the district for waiting till the last minute; you’re doing a great job of keeping me on my toes, you spalpeens!) On the other hand, I did prep up CFL Grands last night. As I was doing so, it occurred to me that we have a terribly onerous judge requirement. That is, 3 judges in each round may look nice on paper, but unless you have a certain nut number of teams, you end up getting repeat judges who may have dropped you (albeit on the opposite side) which doesn’t strike me as particularly promising. I’m going to watch how things work out Saturday (with about 24 entries) and see about suggesting next year that, if the field is less than or equal to 20, we only have 2 judges. I don’t think results would be all that different. The strongest debaters would still prosper. But the benefit of clean judging would have to be attractive. And getting home before the actual start of CatNats wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Saturday, as I say, we have 24 (or maybe its 26) LD teams, 20 Policy teams and, sigh, a mere 10 PF teams. Pairing PF would be impossible (or at least unlikely) if it weren’t for the LD judge runoff, which unfortunately is a one-way street. Oh, well. Tonight the powers that CFL are meeting for their annual we-did-it-again dinner down in Eastchester. The season really is beginning to wrap up. Catholic dinners, Caveman, lots of pictures of Tiger Woods in the newspapers. Spring is in the air.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wisconsin announces sale pricing: 99 tears, at a dollar a tear.

You will notice, in your research, that Sisyphus was a District Chair. I’m certain of it.

For a while, I thought the whole event might implode, given that no one has been responding to me about much of anything, except JV, who kept wondering about things like food and housing, not surprisingly, given that his school is hosting. Some people have finally Goyed up, but far from everyone. Begging people to do Congress is a bust so far. And apparently, if you Goy-tab your tournament, you still have to send in a mountain of paper, which is just plain idiotic. Let’s modernize and not modernize at the same time, that way nobody everybody will be happy. Then again, I have enough extra judges to run two or three district tournaments, and some Lincoln Life yabbo will be coming on Saturday morning to give away stuff. And speaking of giving away stuff, I just received a 2008 calendar from Rippin’, absolutely free, just in time for Spring. Oh joy, oh rapture. They tell me I can plan my year with it. Well, I can plan my year starting in March with it. My $99 annual dues in action.


Who do I hate? I’ve voting for them for Chair next year. Then again, I get a random selection of Rippin’ mail at home, in a timely manner, and a random selection of Rippin’ mail at the school, which I get once a week, until the season ends, and then it piles up collecting Sailor dust until September. The ballots are in that school pile. I guess they know the evil plan I’m hatching. The cads!

Last night was a rather catchall Sailor meeting, covering all sorts of loose ends, including the assignment of the slots at Districts, which is sort of like assigning the deck chairs on the Flying Dutchman, given our commitment to the event. A couple of people would go to Las Vegas, though, given the opportunity. Remind me to give them a roll of quarters to play for me in the machines. Oh, wait. They’re minors. The best they can do is ride the roller coasters. Hell, you can do that better a lot closer and in less hellish desert heat. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas when you’re seventeen years old because it’s too boring to come back and tell anyone about. No one seems to realize this, though.

Meanwhile, in other news, you thought things were bleak when the Giants beat the Packers in the playoffs? In light of the recent retirement news, I dare you to say boo to RJT. I double dare you.

And finally, I have set forth my commitment to Caveman, beginning next week. I can see Termite shaking in his chair. He doesn’t seem to understand that lectures mean he doesn’t get to do any of the talking, that there’s no questions taken from the audience, that all the boring stuff emanates from the front of the room. The poor thing. He’ll learn. Meanwhile, he thinks that Foucault looks rather scary in the Caveman pix pdf, while the Old Baudleroo looks like everyone’s nutty uncle. Sounds about right to me.

Monday, March 03, 2008

You're the frog, I'm the peach

I don’t want to be too hard on O’C, really. He’s the kind of person you want supporting your tournament. He beats the drum at WTF, and he does what he can to hire good judges. These are both important. Lakeland vis-à-vis LD is like Hen Hud vis-à-vis Policy: it’s a foreign language, and all its practitioners are aliens. If a school has no entrée into a particular activity, it’s fairly impossible to make inroads in that activity, and very difficult to conduct a tournament around it. I did Policy for years before finally giving up, for many reasons (which I’ve gone into at length here); chief among these, and perhaps underlying most of them, was the alien-ness of that activity. I just didn’t know the players, much less what they were playing, and vice versa. Not a good fit. Anyhow, O'C bridges the gap between normal people and aliens at tournaments like Lakeland, and that is a very important function.

(One thing I don't understand: where is New York City at a tournament like Lakeland? No Manhattan schools? At an invitational less than an hour away, with housing? Maybe the fact that it has no TOC bid for LD made them feel as if it wasn't worth the bother. Not very neighborly of them. Sigh...)

Anyhow, O’C did get a good enrollment at the tournament, absent Manhattan, and a pretty good judge pool. Unfortunately, that pool was stretched to breaking. Given the size of the field, and an absolute exact amount of judge coverage (with maybe just the tinest overage), things were going to have to be done manually to make things work. And here’s where he and I had a little falling out (and he’s more than capable of responding here, if he wishes, so it’s not like I’m taking pot shots at a sitting target); he likes to do everything very swiftly and show you the results but you don’t really feel like you’re a part of it. In other words, he likes tabbing alone, even when he’s not. (Curiously enough, this reminds me of Soddie, who was quite the solo maestro in his day; maybe it's a Bronx thing.) Students of this blog know my feelings about solo blogging. That, to me, is like do-it-yourself dentistry. It can turn out well, provided everything is fine already and no major work needs to be done. But once the drill starts grinding, you don’t want the hand and the mouth to belong to the same person. All my tab errors over the years have been based on either having to work alone or not double-checking; I now do my best to avoid those problems, even if it means hijacking some poor Sailor to work with me because all the usual suspects are judging rounds in Timbuktu that weekend. It’s just the best way I know how to do it. And when things are even slightly askew—or a lot askew—it's the only way. Scarsdale is a good case in point, where there were three of us, and possibly the most complicated arrangement of judges possible (get judged in flight A, be a judge in flight B, don’t overwork people, assign rankings, mix and match single and double flights), and we did it pretty well because we all did it together. One person takes something from column A, the other takes something from column B, and we make it happen as a team. Tabbage a trois…

Trust me on this.

Anyhow, there were dicey moments beyond just the one entry error (which was pretty regrettable, given that it was actually my lone, lorn ballot that got manhandled: if you're only going to judge once every blue moon, you'd like them to get the decision straight). The TRPC instructions actually call for someone looking over your shoulder when you do entry, a spotter, in other words: excellent advice. But this one entry glitsch wasn't the whole of it. There were also schematics going out differently than the printed ballots and other niceties that were, in fact, not errors on the part of tab but software blips. Mark my words, Grasshopper: tabbing a tournament is a bundle of surprises, not necessarily of your own making, and despite the fact that I do it almost every week, I have yet to feel that I've seen everything. So another rule is stay by the tab table until all ballots are successfully picked up. Getting a round printed up does not mean that it is happening. I complain to O'C about this all the time: he wanders off too much. In fact, he is the King of the Wanderers Off (or the King of the Wander Offers). Admittedly, I don’t wander enough. We need to come together somewhere in the middle. For that matter, we had both wandered off (for a quick dinner across the street) when I got a call explaining how one school's teams had simply evanesced in the middle of a round, causing their chaperone judge to spontaneously evanesce himself (I'm not quite sure why he had to join them in disappearing, to tell you the truth, since he was not their transportation), leaving behind an unjudged round. This was the one I ended up judging the next day (a very simple solution) since it was too late to do anything about it when we heard about it. I got the impression from the call at the time that people were "trying to solve the problem" which of course brought from me the advice, tell them to move away from the computer—NOW—and we'll fix it when we get back. The LAST thing you want is some piker who knows nothing about anything solving problems for you. That is how you generate more problems. Look back at my domino analysis from yesterday. And in fact this whole thing did generate yet further problems the next day because despite telling the software not to pair these evanesced debaters, it continued to do so but, remarkably, it wasn't reporting that it was doing so. (I can't explain this any better, but I assure you, it was amusing in a crying through tears kind of way.)

Anyhow, O’C and I are, in fact, in agreement on our future operations. Team only. No Picard and Riker. No first chair, second chair. We will be Castor and Pollux. Frick and Frack. Tyler and Tanner. Peanut butter and jelly. Moules et frites. A frog and a peach. When I was talking about Regionals yesterday and my own screw up, admittedly it wouldn’t have happened if I had had a team on it, so there’s plenty of hubris to go around here. And so O'C and I go off into the sunset, and "Happy Trails" plays in the background, and earthling and alien live happily ever after.

Don’t you love a story with a happy ending?

I shoulda stood in bed

There is no more textbook version of a chain reaction than one initiated by an act of stupidity. One person puts the old noodle into idle (if, indeed, there is an idle option on the noodle in question—often people whose brains are slow to inoperative have no gear options to speak of, and therefore idling is the only possibility, and therefore no option at all) and commits an action of sheer incomprehensibility. What happens next? People affected by this action all start to tumble, one by one, with Rockette-like precision. A half hour later, the tab room staff (i.e., me) stalks out to make something happen—you know, a round, maybe, or something like that—and rather than a sea of waiting faces, there’s a pile of tumbled dominos scattered across the cafeteria.

This, in a word, is how NY Regionals was run on Saturday.

Details (i.e., names) will not be forthcoming, although those who remained in the tab room heard my plaintive screams on returning from witnessing the Debacle of the Inert Eventers, or DIE as I like to call/wish it. When all was said and done, however, we had quite a showing, and managed to qualify a rather large number of souls for the dreaded NY State Finals, but when I emerged triumphant from tab at the end of the day to make the announcements, having managed to salvage the tournament after all, grasping survival from the jaws of inertia, there weren’t even that many people left to hear about it. The Schools Who Run—that category of participants that you never see all year, that screws up everything, then disappears before its over—were in full attendance. Unless you were looking for them. There weren’t even enough little trophies to go around. When I first looked, there were 8 of them, proud albeit diminutive Nikes, but when it came time to divvy them up, there were 6 of them, proud and rather even more diminutive Nikes. One school with three qualifiers got to split two trophies (just cut both of them into thirds and throw them into a bag and everyone takes two) and one was a School Who Ran, so there you are. Or there you were. Or there you weren’t. You get the picture.

My goal had been to somehow allow people attending the Lakeland Invitational who were so inclined to also participate in simultaneous Regionals, thus making a larger field and more qualifiers, which we did, but the down side of this was a weather delay that had not been in our original estimates, not to mention a simple general-confusion factor. I won’t try it again. Even if things had been on time, it would have been just too much of a hassle. If you want to go to Regionals, go to Regionals. If you want to go to Lakeland, go to Lakeland, and never the tab twain shall meet. Because we do intend to use Lakeland for the event again next year; that part of it worked out fine. It was just the mix and match that was a problem. And, of course, the random acts of stupidity that marked the event. I wasn’t immune myself. Since I was pairing by cards, I managed with a couple of people to whom I gave an early start to forget that I had given them an early start, so I asked them to have the same round twice. They did carefully advise me that this might not be the best use of their forensic skill set, so I knew early on that we were in trouble. But re-pairing the same round may be regarded as misfortune; screwing up an entire pairing is carelessness beyond my imagining.

And then there was the invitational. (And I see O’C on tenterhooks, waiting for tomorrow’s installment…)