Friday, October 31, 2008

Au revoir, NFL

To elaborate, this is the letter I recently sent to NFL:

I gather we are once again in red status, and once again we can only qualify one person per category at our district tournament this year.

You well know the history of us and our issues, as I have written to you about them and talked to you about them, as have most of the rest of our committee. We are a small but active district with dedicated coaches working week after week to offer tournaments where students can compete. Charlie Sloat manages our CFL, and I manage the Mid-Hudson League, which together offer our students a regular total package of forensic opportunities, not to mention the invitational tournaments our committee direct and run week after week throughout the northeast. Our coaches are national leaders in the activity: you yourself turn to us often to provide service to the NFL, which we grant gladly and enthusiastically. Our students are among the top in the nation, by any measure. But we are in a bind vis-à-vis the NFL, and there are hard realities that we are unable to overcome. And they are realities that remain true year after year.

As I’m sure you are aware, like many states New York is cutting back on education spending. We will be lucky to keep the programs we have, much less adding new programs; the possibility of recruiting a retired coach ambassador would have no effect on the this situation, even if we had someone available to take on that position. And those occasional new programs that do come along do so on a shoestring. That shoestring of a few hundred dollars gets them into weekly or biweekly CFL or MHL events that we already run; the additional expense of another few hundred dollars simply to be members of the NFL is out of the question. Money is tight, and all the good intentions of the NFL aside—as you’ve outlined them to me to outline to others—simply don’t warrant the expenditure of money that isn’t there. I can’t convince schools to spend money they don’t have for intangible benefits. Additionally, every year national finals are during either our state-mandated regents’ exams or during graduation. It is quite an obstacle for the schools that do attend nationals to make it there; for many of us, going to nationals isn’t even an option.

By hook or by crook you have helped us once overcome the red status, and we appreciate that, but we’re back. And we’re frustrated. By limiting the number of qualifiers we could send to nationals, a school that can indeed field a large entry, like Scarsdale or Iona, faces the fact that their kids are suffering because of their inescapable geography. Because we’re never going to escape those hard realities of our region, both in the number of programs and the timing of nationals even absent the underlying financial issues, we will be in the red either all or most of the time, and as a committee we face the continual frustration of being able to do nothing about it, and—bottom line—the people who will suffer are the kids who work hard and can’t qualify for slots that don’t exist, while half an hour away, in the NYC district, slots remain available that are out of their reach. In other words, not only can most of us not go to nationals because of timing and money, but now we add an extra limitation on those who can go to nationals. We understand that your goal with the district is to increase participation but you are paradoxically shutting us out.

The only reason I do what I do is, honestly, to support my friends and colleagues in the region. By maintaining this district, instead I am hurting them. The district committee has met and agrees unanimously that we no longer wish to fight the endless fight to secure slots, wondering year after year where we stand, in a cycle that is unbreakable. We know the realities of our district. And, I think, Ripon also knows these realities. We, the committee, would hope that, once and for all, we would gain some permanent relief that would not have to be contended year after year, to be allowed to send students to nationals according simply to the number of entries we have in a given category at our district tournament. We request that whatever body is empowered to do so—presumably the executive committee—make a swift determination on this issue. And I apologize for perhaps not going about this in a prescribed, constitutional fashion, but I think we’re just tuckered out. Otherwise, the committee agrees that it would be to the benefit of our students not to continue to maintain this region as a district, and hence, we will resign from the district committee. Again, this may not fit the constitutional picture, but we are willing to accept whatever official consequences might ensue. I don’t mean this as a threat or a challenge, but merely the sad truth. We all work hard week after week to achieve all the goals that the NFL stands for. At the point where our hard work is not achieving those goals—in fact, undermining those goals—we are better off concentrating our efforts elsewhere.

Again, we appreciate what you’ve done for us in the past. I would prefer that we could continue to move forward, but as I say, we’ve really come to the end of our rope.



As I've said, we've been here before, and I've discussed this before in this blog. And this was Scott Wunn's response:

I sent your petition on behalf of the NY State District to the NFL Board of Directors to be exempted from RED Status.

The Board of Directors has denied this request on a unanimous vote.

The Board and I feel that there are several ways in which the NY State District could have and can take necessary action to avoid the RED status limit of one entry per event.

1. The current schools in the NY State District could have increased new membership and degrees in the NFL by 15% to avoid penalty.
2. The District had 16 paid chapters in the NFL and had the opportunity to maintain that number in 2007-2008.
3. The current schools in the NY State District could have maximized their allotted entry capacities to meet the 700 entry requirement over 3 years.

Finally, the District could have figured out a way to utilize the Give Them a Voice Grants option to avoid RED status.

As was the case in 2006, I and my staff are happy to work with you and your committee to figure out ways that you can work toward meeting the above requirements. However, it appears from your statements in the petition that you just don't feel that any of these requirements can be met.

The Board has decided that these requirements must be upheld in the case of NY State.


I could go on answering these points forever, but I'm just plain tired of it. I became chair a while back pretty much by accident, because one coach with a lot of voting power didn't really understand the system and thought I could improve things. I didn't. And I couldn't get blood from the turnips in our district and create more schools where they don't exist. At our largest point we were, essentially, blackmailing schools to join up and come to districts so that the interested schools could participate. Those schools no longer have the money or the interest to keep up the facade that we are larger than we are. I have limited time to spend on forensics, and I'd rather spend it where it's fruitful, on the MHL and working in tab rooms and coaching my own team and, shortly, reviving the Modest Novice and things like that. Meeting Ripon's requirements for a district in which I and my team do not meaningfully participate, much less all the work of running the district tournament, takes away from the more profitable use of my time.

I have put the fork in myself, in other words, and determined that I am done.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jake, Part 3, conclusion

I know you. What you want to hear are the tales of the raw underbelly of the Jake adventure. The gossip. The clashes of titans behind the scenes. Blood on the saddle. Raw emotions tossed into the fire and burned to a crisp (does that make any sense at all?). You want to know where the bodies were buried, and who buried them.

Who am I to disappoint a waiting public?

At any tournament there are moments of magic that one simply will never forget. Running a tournament frazzles the best of us. You spend weeks stressing out over everything that can go wrong, and if you’re any good you’ve covered the major potential disasters, but then something tiny yet unexpected sneaks up on you and you grab the nearest novice and rip off the poor child’s head just to get your frustrations out. But Jake was, I’m sorry to say, mostly devoid of such moments.

Nevertheless, the person I can only refer to as Woman in Prison was there, and she managed to wreak her usual havoc. It’s amazing how one judge can screw up a tournament. Say something untoward to the students, then disappear into the cloud for half an hour, then show up the minute your ballot has been pushed and demand that the idiot tab staff get their act together immediately or you’ll…you’ll…plotz! We first thought, after our original encounter, that WIP was some sort of parent, which at least provided the excuse of benighted ignorance, but I gather she’s a coach. May the Lord have mercy on her team’s heathen souls.

Then there was the balanced diet moment. I missed the precipitating event personally, but I gather someone commented that the Jake parents, in their masterful care and feeding of five or six hundred kids, coaches and assorted lunatic judges over the long weekend, were relying a little heavily on the starches in their main courses. Heaven forfend, there was pasta amidst the Tastes of the Mediterranean! As the VCA knows well, I am the first to point out that Tastes of the Antarctic or the Veldt or the Hindu Kush or whatever is, well, pretentious, but O’C is a man who eats pretentious for breakfast Tastes of America (AKA bagels) and then posts photos of it on WTF, so a lot of good that does me. But needless to say, given the hard work of his parents seeing to hospitality and given what a great job they did, when faced with criticism O’C was less than abiding. Simply put, we had to chain him to a desk in tab and hose him down for half an hour, no easy feat in a building with only marginal running water.

On the plus side, the second award ceremony, which O’C promised would be brief, lasted less than an hour. This is brief, indeed, in O’C-ian terms. We could save, oh, fifteen or twenty minutes easily just eliminating the introductions. That is, someone has to introduce the captain of the team who introduces the president of the team who introduces the assistant coach’s mother-in-law and fourth cousin twice removed and then there’s a drum roll and O’C, who’s been standing over to the side wishing he had worn his Liberace costume, is finally announced and he bursts onto the stage and thanks the captain of the team and the president of the team and the assistant coach’s mother-in-law and fourth cousin twice removed and Liberace, and you start to long for the CatNats thankathon, if you know what I mean. And, of course, the trophies are, as they say on the Riviera, de trop. When the eleventh place speaker award requires a forklift, you know you’ve gone a little overboard.

On Sunday, after the final round, we began the Round Robin. In the morning O’C and I laid it out, and aside from forgetting one or two things, like the fact that judges couldn’t judge their own kids, we got it sorted out pretty well. We only did two rounds that day, on the assumption that most people were pretty tuckered out, and headed down to O’C’s favorite restaurant where we were greeted by his grandfather—yep, my reaction was the same as yours—and then dug into some incredibly good Japanese food. It’s amazing how much raw fish the average adolescent can put away. They bring out these sushi boats the size of, well, a Jake trophy, and eleven seconds later the ship is totally abandoned. Our original plan of Brazilian food was lost in our restaurant being closed Sunday night, but it was probably for the best. That many adolescents tucking into beans the way they were tucking into sushi could not have a positive outcome.

I did judge a round on Monday, in which I learned that morality is not related to what one ought to do—who knew?—and I sort of overheard the final round but didn’t pay much attention because it would have required much more attention than I was able to drum up at that point in the proceedings. It seemed fast but, at least, clearly presented. As for the content, it seemed to have everything but the kitchen sink. I gather you can watch it’s fraternal twin brother from the main tournament on WTF. So, make your own judgment.

Anyhow, that was that. Henceforth and forthwith, what we have is a firmly established Big Jake on the $ircuit, for better or worse. The New York City Invitational, once a jewel in the forensic crown, is a jewel again. This will be a hot ticket for a long time coming. In this business programs come and go, and tournaments come and go, and usually once they’re gone, they don’t come back. Big Bronx is back. O’C made it happen. I applaud him (and, having said something nice about him, can now go back to torturing him for the next year or so).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breaking news

When in the course of human events and all that…

Today I resigned as chair of the NY State District. I won’t bore you with the details at this point. If you’re a member in good standing of the VCA you know that we are a red light district again, and you know all about our trials and tribulations, and you know that we (the district committee) firmly believed that what we are is what we are, and all the wishing and hoping coming out of Wisconsin wasn’t going to change it. Since I feel that running this district damages the students’ chances of getting to nationals if they do wish to go, I resigned not in protest but hopefully to affect change in the direction of dissolving the district in favor of supporting more kids. Why should students suffer because NY isn’t a big NFL presence? But that’s indeed who would do the suffering. As for me, it’s not as if I’m not already, shall we say, active in the region. My personal presence in the NFL is relatively meaningless, and its affect on my dedication to forensics is literally nil.

I will keep you posted on events as they transpire. I’m not happy about this, but neither am I particularly unhappy. Just, shall we say, a little disappointed in Ripon.

So it goes.

Jake, Part 2

Having had only two rounds on Friday, we ended up getting home earlier than ever on the usually notoriously long first day of Big Jake, and thus we were bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing Saturday morning. Round 3 was paired and ballots were ready, and all we had to do was hand them out. A cinch.

As we had been warned, our Saturday/Sunday venue had security procedures which could not be bypassed. So when we arrived we were met by a mob of forensicians lined up to work their way through the NYC gendarmerie, and it was rather a forbidding sight. Further, we had nowhere to go for tabbing and ballot distribution aside from the crowded front hallway, but by the logic of tournaments, which demands that day one is always the dissolution of confusion while day two is merely the playing out of the inevitable, we had all the LD rounds started by 8:30. This is comparable to any Saturday I’ve ever seen at an invitational, where one expects things to be in swing about a half hour after the posted time as people arrive on their own sweet time and whatnot. Here, the sweet time was absorbed by the needs of the New York City educational system which are beyond our control, and the result was the same. This surprised all of us, I’ll admit. A happy surprise, in the event.

On the other hand, the building itself was less than elysian. Clinton High School (named after a former governor, not a former president or a sitting senator) is about the size of your average federal penitentiary, without the amenities. The walls were not only painted an institutional green that demands that the human spirit be immediately sapped on sight, but they were sloppily painted institutional green. Bleak hallways stretched for miles in every direction both real and metaphysical, and it took two full days before I could confidently get from point A to point B without also visiting point 666 along the way. There were classrooms unlike any I know from personal experience. How many high schools do you know that offer not only childcare and an onsite dentist, but also animal care? The photographs of the cheerful personal hygiene counseling staff were enough to make you really fear personal hygiene counseling, but one got the feeling that much counseling was required (hence the childcare facilities, something of a daily reminder of the failure of the counseling, I would suspect). We forget sometimes the realities of the world we live in, or at least some other people’s realities. We see high school as a step in our education, bolstered by this great activity we all love. For some, it’s just a hassle to be gotten through on the way to nowhere. I feel that we are learning how to make the best society possible when we are doing the best debate has to offer. That best society should remember those whose situations are so radically different, and include them in the distribution of its important resources. I firmly believe that the experience of debate will help people keep that in mind when they are in positions to do something about it, and I also feel that the experience of debate will help put them into those positions. I wouldn’t do this otherwise.

Anyhow, we managed eventually to find a room with an air conditioner, which was a good thing because most of the building was rather of the hot swamp persuasion. It was Kaz and I and Sabrina on PF and Stefan on Policy, plus various slaves and assistants and so forth. We survived remarkably well, given the close quarters. There was no question that, at least acoustically, Clinton beats Science hands down. You could actually hear yourself think when there was someone speaking in the room, which is not true in the Science classrooms. I can’t imagine what it’s like to teach in any of them. Still, it wasn’t until late afternoon before I broke out the MegaPod, with mostly very low-key stuff in the background. The head-banger tracks just didn’t seem right for the situation.

Tabbing Saturday was mostly navigating the switch from double to single slights. What this meant was having enough good judges to handle the rounds still in contention. We figured (correctly) that no 4-3s would break, so the deal was to have As in the down 2 and, if possible, down 1 brackets. As it turned out, we were even able to A up the undefeateds, where the issue of speaker order was playing out. Not bad. Add to that the fact that we added a number of judges after the rating system ended, which meant that people couldn’t vote on them. As a result, we had to put those judges in as Cs, despite the fact that most of them were As on anyone’s agenda. So there were an awful lot of good judges throughout the field, and I can’t imagine anyone feeling that they didn’t get some solid adjudicating over the weekend. And one did get 8 strikes, if one was so inclined. We did pick up on one or two TRPC quirks along the way, as when judges aren’t automatically placed into the (only) division when you enter them; they should default to the only possibility by logic, and we were acting on that logic. Not so, though, which meant we would enter judges but then we couldn’t see them to place them. But no one sat around much, because we found this early on, and if a judge didn’t judge almost every round it’s not for want of trying on our part. Aside from eyeballing that everything was working, Kaz and I didn’t have to do much on that end. The only real issue was occasionally someone O’C was paying would get a round off, and he was not going to let that happen, so those who seemed to be tortured beyond endurance were, at least, recompensed for their virtual water-boarding.

All in all, as far as tabbing was concerned, this was a piece of cake. I think we waited a couple of minutes for one tardy ballot at some point, as the Jacobites did an excellent job all throughout Saturday of collecting ballots from the far-flung provinces of the building, a fact about which they can be quite proud. So even though we cut a round on Friday, nastily sending everyone home early, we pretty much caught up on Saturday thanks to single flights with phenomenal judging. How could anyone complain about that?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jake, Part 1

The world’s longest weekend is over.

From a tabbing perspective, the event starts when people start sending you their strikes and rankings. Getting and applying them all is one of those boring jobs that you are bound to screw up, but this year I did pretty well. Lost one or two out of dozens and dozens, and those probably because when you enter them sometimes when you hit the button they don’t take, and you just don’t see what isn’t there. (Apply theory argument accordingly.) So by Thursday night I had the data uploaded and all the rankings entered, plus a spreadsheet of all the strikes, so I felt pretty much on top of things when I tucked myself in on Big Jake Eve.

I arrived with Sailors in tow around one o’clock on Friday. This was seriously early, but there were still strikes to enter and the general hoo-ha of registration changes to input, and it couldn’t have been all that early because my fellow wizards on Pfffft and Policy were already in place. As usual, we were in the cornerest corner of the library, off to ourselves wishing we had wifi. I promoted a young Jacobite to read the strikes to me, a much better system than me reading them and inputting them alone. Unfortunately, I found probably the only Jacobite on the Bronx team who could mangle not one, not two, but literally every team name. It was a marvel to behold. I mean, she was so good I want to put her in charge of award ceremonies from now on. I always feel bad when I mangle some pronunciation of a particularly unusual name, but the ability to mangle all of them provides an equal playing field—a sense of justness, if you will—that removes some of the agony. And, in addition, it heightens the suspense. Did she announce my name? Did I come in third? Or was that someone else? You’re not used to this when your name is Smith. It’s high time we put the pluribus back into unum.

While this was going on, changes from the table were occasionally sent to us on little scraps of torn paper, and Kaz arrived, although she was not on a little scrap of torn paper, and we whittled away at the entries, continually asking the Jacobites who were running us this information if it were indeed all there was, as it was scanty to the max, as the Valley Girl said of the underwear. Yes, yes, came the reply, that’s all there is, there ain’t no more, everyone’s here and registered, so we printed up a list of teams. All the judges were in place. Everything was ready to go. Except for Big Jake, the building, that is.

Jake usually runs on the Jake weekend for a reason, to wit, the following weekend (and this year’s Jake weekend) is when they have parent-teacher conferences. These are conducted in the classrooms until about 4:00 or so, which meant not only did we not have access to rooms, we also did not have access to O’C, who instead of holing up in the legendary Jake Fortress of Solitude, which is his usual habit of disappearance, was out there telling parents that little Johnny Smith is just a joy to coach, except of course among the Jacobites there are no literal little Johnny Smiths, which makes the Mangle Jacobite’s mispronunciations all that much more bewildering. Every Tom, Dick and Harry at Big Bronx is named Saboor, Taarini (and no, that’s not how you pronounce it) or Matt. Lots of Matts, actually. In any case, we had no O’C, through no fault of his own, and, of course, the first of the weekend’s 39 award ceremonies was scheduled to kick off the tournament, so the sun had set over the Alaskan Putin-Thinks-We’re-Normandy-Beach Mountains before we actually got started. Kaz and I had ballots and schematics at the ready, so we sat at the table on stage like people too cheap to buy orchestra seats and enjoyed some speeches as some deserving folks received their Bronx Bummer Awards (which doesn’t sound quite right, and since I’m one of the few possessors of two of them, given that the first casting of the trophy looked like an Albert Spier special and O’C replaced it the following year with the Mighty Bronx Obelisk, you’d think I’d know better, but you know that’s not going to happen in either of our lifetimes). It was especially fun to see Nadir again, whom I judged about a billion times back in the day and pretty much had to pick up every time except for once that I recall, although I’m sure he only remembers that once. Anyhow, at this point Putin and the Red Army were storming Juneau and we gave out the schematics and the ballots. This is the moment known at many tournaments as the taking of attendance. But most of the judges were there, and we only had to push one or two ballots, so we were in pretty good shape.

Except for two things. Our LD room list and the policy room list had not been separated at birth, which meant double-booking. And some of the debaters we were told were there were not there. So, we figured out which teams were no-shows and made up some new rooms and printed another list of everyone at the tournament, which was slightly smaller than the previous list. Then we were told that the principal didn’t want anyone to pee in the rooms, which, while logical, seemed especially paranoid if not downright bizarre, but then it turned out that we couldn’t use the rooms with pee in them, which wasn’t much of an improvement over the original request, until Gazzola Joe explained that we couldn’t use rooms with the letter P in them. This, finally, made sense. Meanwhile, we found that there were some other additional debaters not there, and we again deleted teams and printed up a complete and final list of contestants. In all, we printed up 295 complete and final lists of contestants, no two alike. At one point it was looking as if, rather than running a tournament, we would just keep figuring out who was really there until we were down to one, and that one would be the winner. In the end, we did have, roughly, 140 LDers. The problem, it turns out, was that the person who was receiving the registrations at the table to pass them along to us was more of a collector than a passer, and apparently this particular Jacobite is still holding on them, since we never did see them.

When all was said and done, thanks to the 5:00 starting time, which was totally out of anyone’s control because of the parent-teacher conferences, aside from Award Ceremony I—everything at Jake is roman, including the numerals, which meant that people had to enter speaker points like XXVIII which can get very confusing in the tab room—there was really no way we could have a civilized third round that night. So Kaz and I convinced O’C to bag it after two and we promised we’d make it up the next day with single flights. At which point I popped back onto the bus with the Sailors and headed home on the earliest night ever for a Jake Day One.

And so to bed. And more to come.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Steroid-User's Guide to Pumping Irony

Irony never works. Trust me on this.

The point of the previous entry was to juxtapose two concepts in the hopes that the expectations of the one would help inform the lack of expectations of the other. My commentator takes approach that the analogy was bogus, and that the framers (in this case the NFL) are not to be considered in the equation of what makes good or bad LD; this was my point exactly, that many debate judges disregard the “intent” of the activity. At tournaments we are all, alas, judicial activists.

As for my opinion of postmodernism, I doubt if I have been unclear over the years. I applaud any student studying these texts; this is a triumph of grit over incomprehensibility in many cases, and great entertainment in others. I very much enjoy Baudrillard as a social commentator, for instance, and would recommend him to anyone looking for that sort of reading. But educators (despite their being, in my commentator’s opinion, old and in the way) ought to start students on the canon, and the problem I see is that judges, who fill the educator role in rounds, are often college students whose personal taste overcomes their good sense, and who prefer to see rounds that are relevant to them, with material relevant to them, rather than rounds relevant to the high school students debating those rounds. Of course, it is a commonplace that students should feel that the canon is to be overcome rather than embraced and learned from: it has been ever thus. Teacher’s should be wiser than this. I do not claim that the canon is the end-all, be-all (note the correct usage of this phrase, unlike the usage by our illustrious in-coming Veep), but that its mastery is required before proceeding, much like knowledge of the scales is required before playing Mozart, or perhaps more relevantly, before becoming Thelonius Monk. If you don’t know where you’ve been, it is rather hard to plot a path to where you are going.

As for the use of the phrase pomo crap, I may have been overarching in that comment. Much of it is interesting, but little of it provides applicable ethical structure for debate rounds, and its days in academic circles seem to be coming to an end. Of course, the reason it is interesting, non-applicable and dying out is because most of it, if not nonsense, is incoherent, never a particularly strong value in the exegesis business. And when it is coherent, as with (most of) the Old Baudleroo, it is rather silly. One wants to stand with my favorite Frenchman in Hiroshima in 1945 and have him tell me how the use of nuclear weapons is impossible. Actually, I’ll stand somewhere in Kansas and he can write me a letter from Japan explaining it to me, if you get my drift. Or maybe he can send me a letter from the Mideast, where wars are not happening. That would be just as good. And remember, my favorite Onion headline of all time: Derrida “dead”

Oh well. You can’t please everybody. Onwards to Jake!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to pick a Supreme Court judge

Think about this.

In the next few years, the president of the United States will no doubt nominate more than one judge to the Supreme Court. The only people on earth known to be older than the Supreme Court justices are the Rolling Stones and AC/DC, but none of them know any more about law and American civics than Sarah Palin, so they don’t count. On the other hand, the Supes do count. They are, after all, at the pinnacle of one branch of our government, and that branch’s most powerful arm. The Supreme Court justices matter.

So what should the president be looking for in selecting a Supes judge? Since the main job of the Supes is interpreting law in light of the Constitution, we need someone who understands that rather complex concept. That is, what does it mean to interpret law in light of the Constitution? After all, the Constitution was, excepting some amendments, written over 200 years ago, and much of what the court ends up evaluating are the addenda, the rights enumerated in the first ten and some subsequent amendments. These addenda are about two pages worth of text, to cover infinite numbers of possible legal/social scenarios. The world has changed dramatically since 1787, and the particular scripture we are evaluating does not have the weight of divine inspiration to support it, yet on the other hand, it is the foundation of our political/social structure, with an inherent weight accrued through years of survival (including the ultimate test of a union-threatening civil war). Some rights are pretty clear, even two centuries later. We do allow free assembly, freedom of the press, freedom from unlawful search, habeus corpus and other legal rights (despite the Bush administration, which has, thankfully, lost some of what it’s claimed as its absolute powers thanks to court decisions). Some rights are less clear, for instance the right to privacy, which is not enumerated anywhere in the Constitution but which has come down as a penumbral right, articulated as an implicit, inherent right to be left alone, and subsequently presumed as a protected right in various decisions.

There are two things a judge must look at in making a decision. The first is the text itself, i.e., the Constitution. What does it say? A judge may go further than the literal words and study the notes Madison took at the convention, or the discussions in the Federalist Papers and other contemporary sources. There was more than the words on the page of the Constitution. There was plenty of argumentation and exegesis as pundits pushed for or pulled against whatever horse they had in the race. The Constitution was ratified based on all this discussion, so one can, as well as one can analyze history, dig down to original intent with some confidence if not absolute trust. It is still, in the end, open to interpretation. But a serious, sincere attempt to determine original meaning is, it would seem, a good thing.

But no matter what the meaning was/is, there remains the intervening two centuries. Over that time there have been decisions upon decisions, building interpretations of how various laws are or are not constitutional. A Supreme Court judge must know not only the Constitution, but also the body of law arising from the Constitution. The judge (or the judge’s clerks) must know how every decision by the court in the past has built on and changed and directed the sense of the document. Often the Supes, when making a decision, are not unanimous; in the dissents, there are often strong reasons against what the majority believed, and sometimes new decisions are made not in light of the majority opinion but in light of a dissent. Sometimes previous decisions are overturned. For 200 or so years, capital punishment was allowed in the U.S. In the 1970s, it was banned by the Supes. A few years later, they overturned that decision, this of course all being based on the 8th Amendment, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” While there is certainly material in addition to those handful of words in the amendment to study, at least there was an amendment about the subject. Compare abortion, which comes under the penumbral right of privacy, which is not clearly enumerated in the document.

So the president, in choosing a judge, wants someone who understands the foundation of law, i.e., the Constitution, and someone who understands the accrual of cases on top of that law, i.e., the history of the court and its decisions, which is known as stare decisis. This is a fairly objective pair of criteria. Additionally, one would want a judge with what enough connection to the moment to evaluate old precepts in light of new developments, as in, where does the internet, which changes every two seconds, fit into the patent and copyright intellectual property laws and practices? One would want some orthodoxy as the informing agent, as compared to some maverick approach of applying concepts at random, or worse, applying personal tastes and feelings to social constructs. This is why abortion is such a litmus test of judges. First, there’s the reading of the past law and the Constitution, but on top of that, there’s the inevitable prejudice of the potential judge. Does a Supreme Court judge decide on the subject of Roe v Wade (which, by the way, is decision that is already made and therefore stands as law) on the basis of legal or personal criteria? Look back at what our present Supreme Court Chief Justice said in his confirmation hearings about not making the rules but just umpiring the game (or words to that effect). That’s not a bad analogy. Perhaps impossible to achieve, but not bad to aspire to.

On the other hand, and the reason I bring this up (aside from the fact that you should understand all of this so that if someday you are selected as Veep candidate you won’t come across as a total idiot), we have LD and its so-called judge paradigms. In LD, we presumably have a foundation of law in the rules of the NFL (recently elaborated by that body, by the way). Rounds are this, that or the other, pretty clearly. Arguments are about the resolution, and values and criteria are required. But when it comes to judging rounds, we feel free to toss all of these rules out the window, and wallow in our own personal stare decisis. We allow ourselves to do what we want to do based on our own interpretations of what the law ought to be. We don’t believe that values and criteria are necessary? No problem. We don’t care whether anyone addresses the resolution and are perfectly happy to listen to 45 minutes of “off-case” material? No problem. We are willing to listen to 45 minutes of theories about how the decision should be made with burden arguments rather than listening to 45 minutes of argumentation about the resolution? No problem. We prefer second-rate pomo crap to more appropriate (at the high-school level) mainstream philosophy and are willing to accept any nonsense, the more obscure and confused the better? No problem. All we have to do is document this in our own little stare decisis and call it our paradigm. Granted, lots of paradigms say things like “run the resolution with clear v/c” but plenty of them don’t, and we, as a community, not only applaud this personal approach to judging but we demand it, enshrine it and build cases around it.

The thing is, we seem to have no clear guide to what makes a good LD judge other than someone who picks us up. If you always drop someone, you are a bad judge, at least for the person you always drop. Given that we have no rules for judging, nor even any common practices, and that we allow judges to vary in their approach to the activity as the whim takes them, we are getting what we deserve. As I type in people’s ratings of the judges for Big Jake, they are amazingly all over the map, for the most part. Maybe half a dozen people are universally respected as A judges in a pool of some of the most active judges in the country. Half a dozen! Presumably (and from what I see this may be true) this half a dozen seem to be relatively orthodox and smart yet nevertheless tabula rasa enough to adjudicate fairly. And the rest? Well, I guess they’re not, which is why their rankings vary so widely. As debaters select unorthodoxy as a practical strategy for success, and there are enough judges around whose personal stare decisis is unorthodox or in favor of iconoclasm, unorthodoxy gets to breed successfully. The unorthodox, of course, make claims that they are progressive, cool, with it, hip, hot and smart, whereas in fact, they are merely, if they are lucky, fashionable.

Should we value our Supreme Court justices for their fashion sense? Probably not, but then again, they are on some other ethereal plane, as far as our own day-to-day lives our concerned. But our LD judges are with us every week. Hell, many of them are us. Should we be valued for our fashion sense? Alas, all too often, that’s all that really matters.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!

I’m rather taken with the fact that last night at our meeting we had a rather extended yet far from exhaustive discussion of nov-dec. We haven’t even gone into possible arguments yet, but we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the subject from various angles. Unlike the jejune sept-oct, where its purity quickly turned into sterility, there’s a lot of ways of looking at the question. First and foremost is why we suggest that felons shouldn’t have the vote in the first place. The history of voting, at least in the US, is a history of exclusions, from the non-propertied to blacks to women at various times. Each of these exclusions seems arbitrarily prejudicial, for obvious reasons. Excluding felons, on the other hand, at least makes intuitive sense at some level. They have done something that warrants their exclusion from the democracy of which they are members, and thus they have warranted their exclusion from the democratic process. On face, that’s reasonable enough, but the more you look at it and think about it, the less convincing it feels. Compare this to the bugaboo of non-citizens voting. I forget which topic led to discussions of this, but by me it was a no-brainer. If you’re not a member of the polity, you don’t have a warrant for acting as if you are, and voting is probably the single act most emblematic of being that member. This was similarly intuitive, but a lot deeper. At the point where non-citizens can vote, then anyone can vote, because you’ve removed the one meaningful qualification from the equation, i.e., membership in the polity. Not being a citizen of one country naturally means that you are a citizen of some other country, and would be voting there, even if you’re not living there. We don’t suggest that tourists ought to vote if they happen to be here in November. Alien residents, compared to tourists, are simply a matter of degree. Apparently some communities do, in fact, allow resident aliens to vote, but that is more an act of niceness on their part, the fulfillment of a negative rather than a positive obligation. Anyhow, thoughts on the felons bring up all kinds of interesting skeins and depths of logic—much more than thoughts of pure morality—and we’ll definitely be keeping at it for a while. Meanwhile, some folks will be debating this up at Manchester-Under-the-Sea, and that’s less than two weeks away. Time to sharpen those virtual pencils!

It’s interesting that the subject of sept-oct, which has caused the Modest Novice to rise from the dead, resulted in an instant nonsense thread over on WTF. At least one person bravely pointed out during the skirmish that the fear of all rounds being about utilitarianism v. deontology was unwarranted, and that there was plenty of other things to talk about. Really? With this resolution? The mind boggles. The problem is that U v. D is sort of inarguable, not that you can ignore the conflict completely in a resolution that, philosophically (and practically) speaking, is about nothing else. Worse, the deontological argument is difficult to make, while the utilitarian argument is (perhaps) empirically proven as an intuition in the cross-cultural morality tests. That is, Hauser suggests that we are hard-wired to vote aff, whereas voting neg means accepting an exegesis on human worth that even Kant had problems with. Not that everyone votes aff in a round, but that the arguments are not created equal, which leads to odd debates. From the educational view, however, the difficulty of grokking the ontology/relativism of the neg is rather stupefying, which is why the Modest N is back. Do you really want to teach deontology to 13 year olds their first week on the team?

I have a pile of strikes and rankings from Jake, plus O’C keeps adding judges, which means more strikes and rankings. It’s time to start subtracting judges! Who needs ‘em? The only thing better than removing judges from debate tournaments would be removing debaters. Anyhow, it’s fun to see who gets pretty even rankings and whose rankings are all over the map. There’s the people you love and the people you hate and everybody loves and hates different people, except for the couple whom everyone loves or everyone hates. How does one get to be so universally loved or universally reviled? Anyhow, that’s why I like community rankings. I do like having stronger judges on the bubbles, and why not let the community at large decide, albeit anonymously, who those stronger judges might be? That way, you get what you paid for, without exactly eliminating the ones you fear. That is, you can strike a handful, but you’re stuck with the rest. Someone you ranked a C could be most people’s A, and then you’ve got them in the round so suck it up. Of course, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was thought that a good debater ought to be able to pick up just about any ballot, and should adjust to the judge rather than the other way around. We’ve come a long way since then (mostly in the wrong direction, but, as they say, Viva Pfffft!).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Play ball, "Ballers"; getting Jake rolling; Sandler 30, Nietzsche 22; civic duty beckons

Granted, I’m no sports scholar, and this has nothing to do with forensics, but the Pennsylvania team playing in this year’s world series demonstrates what can only be called a lack of basic metanarrative skills. The Philadephia Phillies? Isn’t that the same as the Atlanta Atlantans or the New York New Yorkers? The Boston Bostonians? The Monticello Montwegians? That’s the best they could do? Then again, I have to admit I can’t figure out what kind of rays Tampa Bay is talking about. Sunshine? Manta? I’m inclined to the former, but wish it were the latter. In which case, the Tampa Bay Sunshines does sound a bit…fey. Like they should be singing “It’s A Small World After All” in the dugout and wearing lots of happy-face attire. But as I say, what do I know? And we have now exhausted this year’s coachean supply of sports talk. See you next season.

I’ve begun getting strikes/ratings for Jake, which I’ll input at some point. Word of advice: when you send them to me, don’t use as your subject line GOD BLES YOU KINDNESS nor anything that sounds as if it will get me a date tonight or improve the quality of that date if it actually happens.

In follow-up news, Jessica Rabbit, if you follow the comments, claims that speaker points somehow don’t matter, as long as the right team wins, and further, that speaker points should be connected not to one’s skill as a speaker but one’s sense of humor. Tell that to the 33rd seed. (BTW, I had no intention of outing Mrs. Rabbit, and take no responsibility for same.)

Back on the subject of Jake, I am now getting 5 emails a minute from O’C, facilitated by his damned iPhone, which means that he can text anywhere, any time. We have concluded that I am schlepping all the usual hardware to whatever schools the tournament happens to be taking place in, which means Little Elvis will be with me, so maybe Ryan and I can get some YDKJ in (it’s been a while). I’ll create a spreadsheet today for all the judges to sort that out for striking/ranking purposes, same as I do for Bump. But I’ll wait on the strikes: with drops and stuff, the sooner you put them in, the less likely they’ll all be in place. In any case, I will pull down the data from the Goy on Wednesday night, and get started on sorting things out.

Tonight the Sailors convene, and we will discuss retributive justice (i.e., what you do to people who break laws), among other issues. When I get home I’ll sort out the MHL policy results; I did LD and PF last night and forgot that I had Policy as well on my flash drive. So, one more thing.

And I just sent in a jury duty questionnaire. Pearl Street. This does not look good. Which tournament will I not be able to go to? Let’s start a betting pool. On the other hand, what lawyer wants a debate coach slash tree-hugging book editor on a panel? Interesting situation.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lost music; Los Nuevos; La Rabbit; Le Croix de Cruz; The Return of the Jedi Modest Novice

I spent an inordinate amount of time swearing at Little Elvis last night for losing my iTunes music library before I noticed the firewire drive wasn’t plugged it. Maybe Steve Jobs is right. What good are firewire connections if we don’t really use them? Anyhow, the issue is resolved, and my blood pressure is back to normal.

Saturday was the MHL for the first-timers, and it was quite a gala. 97 LD novices, which has to be some kind of record. (I’d ask O’C, but then he’d publish it in “Stump the Chump,” and who needs that?) We were over 200 teams in the whole shebang, and having set ourselves a goal of 4 rounds, we went about making it happen. First of all, there was the 9:00 registration thing. Some teams didn’t make it, and came to me as I was printing out the pairings asking me to put them in. I hated being adamant, but, well, that was the thing we said we weren’t going to do. We were done on Saturday by about 6:30, which is reasonable for a one-day tournament. If we were waiting till people came whenever they decided to come, it would make the day unbearably long. MHLs are not endurance contests. Doing 4 rounds is something we attempt because we think we can do so efficiently, not because we don’t want people ever to go home. For the most part, we did it, and did it well, including an amazing amount of hand-pairing of the heavily Regisian-weighted PF rounds. We would have been done a half hour earlier if it wasn’t for one 3-0 round that started late in an undisclosed location. We sent this one poor judge to double-booked rooms every round, and then we’d send him somewhere else a little later, and he was, understandably, the last to show up with ballots after 4 rounds of this disorientation. I tried to send runners to get his ballot, but no one knew where to go. This could only happen at Bronx Science. But the rest of it was pretty good. We should try to schedule the first event of the season in the city every year. The turnout is great, and we’ve got the space to run it. Except for that one poor guy that kept getting double-booked.

One magic moment of the tournament was getting to meet Jessica Rabbit in person. That is, a student debater who was judging came by and explained to us that his paradigm for picking people up in the round was, he was telling his debaters, “the one who made him laugh.” In other words, yet another person who will be a C judge for the rest of their born days, and who additionally will henceforth be known forever and always as Jessica Rabbit, making this a double play. What, one wonders, are these people thinking? You judge a round the way you yourself would want to be judged. If I remember correctly, it was Kant who first posited this as a pretty good judge paradigm (“eine kindagutenadjudinung” paradigm, in the original German). Students work hard so they can come and entertain you? That’s not what debate is all about. Vice-presidential political campaigns, maybe, but not debates. (The truly sad thing is how unoriginal this is. Year after year we have to ban judges for exactly the same reason. Why they think that this activity they’ve spent so much time on is suddenly supposed to be a joke is beyond me. End of rant.)

O’C was thrilled by the award medals he was giving out, but nothing thrills O’C like debate hardware. He was wearing one around his own neck for the entire day. I will admit to wearing one myself for a few minutes, but I got tired fairly early in the day of looking like a veteran of the French Foreign Legion.

One thing that seems certain, by the way, after the debacle that was this year’s choice of Sept-Oct resolution, is that the Modest Novice will be rearing it’s cute little head again. Coaches were going so far as to claim that this topic actually lost them novices, giving everyone a big hit to recruitment. Needless to say, I’m all for the use of a single topic specially selected for novices for the first few months of the season. We’ll sort it out over the next few weeks and commit to it as quickly as possible. Last time it was vetoed as being a bit complicated. This time, weighing debaters lost forever versus coaches having to sort out some minor complications, I think we’ll get it through. If not, we’ll just send novices to events that subscribe to the idea. That being 90% of them, well, there you are. (I’ve noticed that no one thinks that the Modest Novice was my idea anymore; thank God the VCA has a long memory, but then again, I work for the good of debatekind, so what do I care? &^%#$@^±!!!)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tournamental psychopathy, in which everyday lunatics take on olympian status

There is a point in the running of a tournament when you become a blithering idiot. I reached that point yesterday, exactly a month before Bump, which for me is some kind of (positive) record. Letting do all the work has meant that, instead of daily adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing entries, and going crazy over it starting around August, now all I have to do is occasionally peer bemusedly at the information in the database. Oh joy. Oh rapture. Of course, the first thing I found out when I started paying attention was that there were schools with multiple entries, as I mentioned yesterday. So I got that cleaned up, plus I deleted empty schools, which I don’t understand. Hello, I must be going? It’s not as if an empty entry holds space or anything. Those of us who register online all the time with no idea who we’re registering have created virtual teams of students like Placer Holderooni and Placido Holdem and the like, which in fact do hold real places. A school name without peeps is pointless. Anyhow, while scouring along, I checked the housing, and suddenly panicked over not housing student judges. But, happily, the software does handle this quite nicely, and although I sent out a message warning people to hop to, it wasn’t really necessary. Except there are some people who haven’t put in placeholder judges, so knowing that they will have student judges to be housed turns out to be a good thing, because I can reduce the amount of housing overall by the predicted numbers of Judges T.K., and be able to predictably house the otherwise homeless. (I have no brief against split infinitives, by the way. I am happy to predictably house or to boldly go, even though I am a pain on other maladroit usages, especially the selection of the wrong word or the use of a word incorrectly. The lightning and the lightning bug, as Mark Twain put it…)

In other words, I am getting the knack of the software. I had asked CP to send me the instructions, which he did, as I would like to have at them myself for editing purposes. I’m good at writing instructions. I’ve written Quark and Word and Excel and Lotus Notes (!) manuals for Day Job proprietary purposes, learning over time to exclude any attempts at humor and simply telling people what to do, period. (My recently posted RSS instructions are emblematic of my approach.) After Bump, I’ll dig into it. Meanwhile, I’m learning the ins and outs, the problems that might arise, and what the average user might and ought to do. Since tabroom is becoming fairly standard in the northeast, user support can’t hurt. Not that CP didn’t do it in the first place, but he’s a Harvard guy and what do they know? Honestly, with luck all I’ll have to do is punch up what he’s already done to include the latest enhancements like housing and such. And I’ll be concentrating on the registration aspects, not the tabbing aspects (tabroom can tab speech). The thing is, I enjoy that sort of business. I like to write. (Which, I know, you never would have guessed.) And I admit that I have not succumbed myself to the RTFM approach yet, even though he sent it to me. I like to consult manuals when I get lost, rather than read them in advance. I see them not as maps, telling you where to go step-by-step, but as guidebooks, full of handy suggestions for where to eat lunch if you can’t find a decent restaurant on your own. I like to hit buttons and see what happens, assuming that the worse that can happen is I only that I lose all my data. (See also: backups, importance of.)

Meanwhile, on a more timely note, last night I poked around pulling down data for tomorrow’s enormous first-timers’ MHL. It gives me all the registrations and the receipts and tells me when people need to add judges. It shortens the names of really long schools so they’ll fit on a schematic. What it doesn’t do is detect duplicate names (multiple Regis SLs, for instance). The Goy, as I learned with Monticello last week, does detect such names, and rewrites them as RegisXX. Very clever. The goys probably went somewhere other than Harvard, somewhere without grade inflation. Anyhow, I’m set for the morning, with all the data ported over to TRPC, with printouts for last minute changes, and a MegaPod eager to prove that there is a decent song or two on there somewhere. Tonight I’ll pack everything up in my weekly adventure of seeing what I forget this time.

Let the games begin.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

NC-17 debate; The Exalted High Emperor O'C; The Forensicon

There seems to be a rather persistent problem of multiple people from single teams registering for Bump. The first time this happened, I was told about it by the school that did it, and action on my part was easy. Then, while sitting around meditating about the meaning of life and what America will be like in 2014 during the Palin Administration, I took a break and peaked at the schools listed and, well, there were other duplications. There seems to be a bunch of students who are of little faith when it comes to their coaches, and who feel a need to back up the coachean registration with a studential registration. Grrrrrr. I will be asking CP to add an age-confirmation button to the site. If you are under 18, please go view and leave tournament registration to those mature enough to handle it. Then again, it is not only those of the underage persuasion who have been misguidedly stirring up the Bumpsian embers. We will also put in a button that sends people 18 and over to view This will reduce registrants to a more manageable number. Maybe what we need is face recognition software. Or a fingerprint scan. DNA testing? The moral sense test? I dunno. We need something. Anyhow, there are still about a dozen un-double-booked varsity slots available. Get ‘em while they’re hot. Get ‘em a couple of times, if you want to drive me crazy.

In other news, I see that O’C is now an officer of the NDCA. This is like the supreme court telling Dick Cheney to take all the executive privilege he wants, there’s plenty to go around. For those who are unaware of what is actually happening here, this is O’C’s far from covert attempt to take over all of debate so that he can 1) take its picture, and 2) give it a trophy. Good gravy!

I did dangle the idea of The Forensicon in front of him, speaking of which, and his reaction—wide eyes, foaming mouth, an unstoppable urge to buy another gross of trophies—was predictable. The Forensicon (we’ve already got a name for it, which as you linguistics experts know is 99% of its reality) is our attempt to put together some sort of speech-debate all-in-one hoo-ha according to some of the suggestions posted in the comments over the last few days. I haven’t looked at the suggested models in any depth yet, but think of a sort of bicathlon with extemp and LD, or maybe a tricathlon with some impromptu thrown in (at least as a consolation), and for that matter, make it a tetracathlon with a PF round (unless the word tetracathlon is already taken by the international tropical fish Olympics people). Hoo-ha indeed. We might actually get some traction on this baby. I’ve already hired Matt T to stop all the rounds at random. It’s the least I could do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Feed me, Seymour; newbies galore; no bumps on the road to Bump

Last week I was met with enough blank stares to open a Blank Stares ‘R’ Us store when I asked about RSS, a propos of the Coachean Feed. (Which I know you’ve been following, you being just that kind of person, because you like articles on the philosophy of voting and Mill’s thought that the educated should have more votes than the non-educated and things like that, because they make your debate experience so much richer and fuller, but you’re not like other people, and you never will be, so deal with it, you weirdo!) It wasn’t so much that they weren’t interested in the Feed as they were profoundly uninterested in the mere thought of anything computistic aside from, presumably, Facebook and IMs. (Good luck, Future of America.) I was blathering about keeping up with the news in general, and how I’ve given up on expecting them to read a physical newspaper, this being 2008 the last time I looked and me being the realist that I am, but that I did expect a certain current events literacy, and that they could assume that their better opponents would certainly have that sort of literacy and would tar and feather them in rounds if they weren’t keeping up. So I got around to saying that, at the very least, you should feed X, Y and Z from the Times, at which point the glazing over of the eyes would have inspired George Romero to embark on yet another zombie movie. In a show of hands, RSS got no votes.


So, assuming you have the same problem in your neck of the woods, here’s a how-to. Wear it in peace. (I've also added it over to the right in the Greatest Hits.) If you seriously don’t understand RSS, or have students who don’t understand it, rather than handing them Darwin Awards, or grabbing one for yourself, go forth and learn. (At the moment I have 1000+ new items, but that includes 300 some-odd from Wired that I’m never going to look at. Still, I will eyeball the remaining 700. Because it’s in my reader, it won’t take all that long. And the best, of course, will hit the Feed. The tortures I put up with for the debate community…)

This weekend, at the first-timers’ MHL, we have about 100 LD novices, plus another 100 or so assorted other mixed nuts. I’m excited about that. I wish I had more Sailors, but PSATs have had their effect, and given that half the plebes are sophomores, well, there you are.

And you can’t imagine my pleasure at having doing all the fretting about Bump while I merely dip a toe in occasionally to check the water temperature. The tub is almost filled, to complete the metaphor, and I haven’t even thought about going crazy yet. Struvey has been sent off to acquire rooms, and I’m expecting to add a few novice slots shortly, which will reopen that division. PF is landing where it always does; there’s just no traction there yet, for some reason. And VLD has a few slots open, which I expect will dry up in a day or two. O’C keeps barking at the Bumpian tree, hoping that some extra slots will fall off for the Jakes, but he’s just going to have to keep barking. It’s not as if he doesn’t have the love of a good bus driver to get him through the dark night. Flat tire? Yeah, right. We’ve all heard that old story before. Next time, you watch, they’ll be running out of gas.

Ain’t love grand?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Lighter Side of Monti

There were numerous entertainments at Monticello, starting with the ride up. One of the great philosophical questions not yet pondered here at Coachean HQ is how, given that I have about 20M songs on my iPod, with more being added regularly, we can set our phaser to random and get one crappy song after the other without a break. And I mean crappy. First of all, where did some of this music come from? I don’t remember putting it there, and I’ve been doing pod maintenance for months now. And while a little torturing of Sailors is entertaining, enough is enough, given that I’m in the car with them. Let’s call a spade a spade: when the high point of your listening pleasure is that “Surfer Bird” has come on to save the musical day, you know it’s time to rip some new albums. Oy!

How the hell did I get “Surfer Bird” on my iPod?

When we arrived in Monticello we circled around for a while trying to find the elusive Wendy’s before resigning ourselves to Pizza Hut. One does not travel to Monticello for the fine dining, much less follow directions from LPW. We did see a lot more of Monticello than normal, however, as we wandered about lost and hungry. Normally I sneer at fast food, but at some point one will eat literally anything put in front of one. Which may also explain the Pan-Asian dinner Saturday night. Who knew that Italy was part of the Pan-Asian kritik? I, for one, never got that memo. We were eating dinner in Monticello rather than back in Sailorville because “Good old Alli” kept us waiting and waiting while she kept debating, oblivious to the fact that the rest of us had homes to go to. Yeah, sure, she got a TOC bid, but was she thinking about us through it all? I don’t think so. Jeesh.

For those in the know, LPW has changed his nickname to HPL, or more to the point had it changed for him in the forge of actual debate rounds. And thus does Freddie the N go back into the box… The words “we told you so” will not be uttered. Or will not be uttered much. After a month or two.

Surfer Bird?

At some break in his judging JV came up to ruin my Wurdle high scores again. He needs to get his own Touch: I’m frustrated enough as it is. O’C came up to read love notes from his bus driver, with whom he is planning on eloping some time during the middle of Big Jake. Weaver kept sending up artwork, as demonstrated in yesterday’s post. RJT sat at her computer staring down a steady stream of deadbeats as one after the other attempted to sneak through a little fiscal hancus pancus. There is no fiscal hancus pancus at Monticello, bub. You miss a round or attempt to elide a judging requirement and RJT will reach down your throat and pull it out of your kidneys. In addition to the homicidal Ms J-T, there was a steady stream of other Montwegians who can only be described as potential extras for a slasher film. They are assembling one interesting team up there. And in the darkest of dark moments, the custodians threw away the box for the Bro. Fortunately I managed to find a tub in my basement that is appropriate; nothing worse than an unprotected Bro.

I was back at the Chez around midnight on Saturday, and slept on and off throughout Sunday, catching up and generally enjoying some lollygagging. Then, unlike the rest of you, it was back to the D.J. on Monday. No Columbus Day for the non-educationally employed. And next up, the first-timers’ MHL. A swell time promises to be had by all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Diary of a moose hunt

At some point during the Sarah Palin Invitational this weekend, Jimi Mo came by to talk about this and that, especially the lack of communion between speech and debate in the northeast. In Texas, apparently, it is not unusual to mix and match extemp and debate in the same tournament, with the same people. To be honest, I bemoan the lack of communion of speech and debate in the region too, and have often opined about it here (at least I think I have often opined about it here; if not, I should have). While we were talking he brought up the coaches’ double-check in Texas, when coaches have a short period of time to challenge the ballots before break rounds continue. Kaz and I were sort of dumbfounded by it.

Interesting, especially in light of the snafu Saturday.

Obviously we’re not talking about blending speech/debate events at bid tournaments. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you’re processing 129 entrants through 6 prelim round followed by a break to doubles (both of which make sense to me), you’re not going to fit in any speech rounds, either physically or mentally, unless you have three full days and enough masochists to sink the proverbial forensic battleship. So where, then, would you do it? I don’t know. Subject for further thought, I would say. We’ll get back to that in the future.

But, more importantly, there was the snafu.

Members of the VCA know that I have discussed tabbing often in the past; I even have a tabbing label on many posts. The perfect tab situation is two people working together, plus a complete double-check to catch errors after the fact. I’ve screwed stuff up in the past, and make no claims for perfection. 128 speaker points * 6 rounds + 64 decisions * 6 rounds is a lot of data entry. Two ballots in there went in backwards because of missed low point wins. In the past my errors have also been low point wins. I would suggest that everyone’s errors everywhere are low point wins, for the most part, for obvious reasons. The software challenges you when you do enter a low point win, but not when you don’t. They get missed. It’s always going to happen.

So what you need, as I’ve said in the past, is a backup system. You run off a check-round sheet and someone laboriously checks every single ballot: this too is a two-person situation. That was, as you know, one of the things we made happen at the Pups this year for the first time. Sadly, at the Sarah Palin Invitational, the backer uppers didn’t catch the errors. (And, if you weren’t there, the SP references refer to some joker in tab who felt the need to challenge over and over again the sanity of our great GOP presidential candidate in his unfortunate choice of running mate from the great state of Russiaview, but the less said about that the better. My greatest fear: Palin for reelection in 2012...)

Things go wrong. Or, euphemistically, stuff happens. (This is a family blog.)

Since I’m in just about every tab room in the universe, I can at least improve my own error prevention. The real issue is the need to reinforce the importance of that checking of the ballots after the fact. Even with the built-in software double-check, the physical checking before sorting needs to be of prime importance, yet we usually give this job to less than our most experienced people. That’s okay, but I need to provide more personal oversight. I mean, I can’t stop making mistakes, but I can police the mistake-finding mechanism better. And I will. I have learned from this experience this weekend. I am responsible, but I plan to learn from my mistake.

What about the Texas system? I don’t know. One of the big problems at the SPI was people disappearing after prelims. At least one simply and emphatically refused to honor her judging commitment. Others weren’t far behind. Anyone who could disappear, did. We might as well have had the Texas system, given how many people grabbed their packets one way or that other. Are we willing, as a community, to extend the length of all our tournaments by another hour or so? Are we willing to open the door to the bozos who want nothing more than to exit through it? Between the bozos who blow off the first couple of rounds thinking that someone else will magically cover for them, and the bozos who can’t get to a round on time if they’re life depended on it, and the bozos who have dinner plans that simply cannot include something as insignificant as a debate tournament, well, you’ve got a lot of bozos. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. (I just love that joke.) Anyhow, I think we might at least discuss it and learn more. I’ve got nothing intrinsically against it, and if someone is indeed getting it to work, that’s good. For that matter, a purely open tab also ought to work exactly the same way. O’C does that at Big Bronx. I’m personally against open tab only because of the number of debaters who I feel might not give it their all if they know they are out of contention. I could be wrong about that. Certainly there are reasonable people holding an opposite view.

In any case, as I was bringing down the ballots for doubles Saturday I was waylaid by a debater who said we had tabbed him wrong. I dropped off the ballots and brought him back up to tab to check, and lo and beholdrooni, he was right. The Montwegians immediately stopped the tournament as we refigured the elims. The was exactly the right thing to do. It’s a tough call for a tournament director, and it has to be a real heartbreaker to have broken and then find that you’ve not broken, but it’s not fair to the couple of people who really did break to keep them out, and fair unfortunately trumps nice in this situation. Curiously enough, Jimi Mo also had a ballot error, after discussing exactly that subject with us earlier.

In his good comment at VBD, O’C writes: “Some have complained of conspiracies or fairness.” Good grief! Again, I’ve made my tabbing approach clear in the past. All judges are done by the system, not by me. If we have to change a judge, which is only done to improve a judge in a bubble round (only to put in an A over a C, that is, where the decision matters), we always take the top person that the software offers. Ditto in breaks, where we fill the panels with the most even balance possible, at the dealing of the names by the software, not by us. If we tried to pack the deck in our favor, we’d never get home. Does the person who was mis-tabbed get some benefit by being in an easier pull in prelims? Not really. As O’C said, there were so many pull-ups that it hardly made a difference. Anyhow, if I am conspiring with anyone, could they at least raise their hand so I’ll know who I’m supposed to be splitting the loot with. And fairness? I refer you to your own discussions of justice, and mine. I’ve always said that justice is an ideal we ought to attempt to achieve, an "ought" just like morality. I’m trying, folks. I may not get perfect fairness/justice 24/7, and perfect fairness/justice does not equal paradise (cf. Rawls), but I don’t really believe that anyone seriously thinks any of us are engaged in some sort of malfeasance. At a high school debate tournament? If so, come by and chat for a while. There is nothing for anyone to hide in any tabroom I run, or that of any of the northeast’s traveling tabroom and chowder society. We’ve got other goals, and I’d be happy to share them with you in person. Make your judgment from the facts. So the only question is, is it fair that the people who should have broken ultimately did break? The answer is yes.

One last thing: the "dream schedule." If we had been able to start an hour earlier than we did, we might have squeezed in that A flight on Friday night. Thanks to an accident on the Thruway, plus a few other of the usual hitches, an early start was not to be. And maybe there was a little overoptimism in the halls of Montwegia, It would have been nice, but… Starting early on Saturday got us into the same mode as the Bump schedule. Nothing unusual, in other words.

All in all, the Kaiser seemed to be a success. 129 entrants included, sure, a few young ‘uns out of their depth, but they got some good experience out of it. And everyone else got some solid competition, with lots of A judges being worked to death (sorry about that) and despite a possibly avoidable glitch (which lasted all of half an hour and sadly disappointed a couple of kids who have my personal apology) a very pleasantly run event. Kudos to the Monti team for working hard and doing their best to provide a good experience to their guests for the weekend.

P.S. Menick takes full responsibility for all the Palin jokes at the tournament. Those who found them partisan now understand the power that is held by he who runs the printing press. On the other hand, Weaver was the artist of the weekend, but most of his work, like the example shown here, was between him, tab, and the debaters in that particular round, who probably think the lot of us are totally out of our minds. Those debaters are, in fact, correct.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bump Update

So I'm sitting around at Monti and I just logged in to to see how Bump is going. Novice is just about filled up, and varsity is filling fast, with PF still fairly available. If you're putting off signing up, you may get closed out.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Don’t bother, they’re here.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that a goodly proportion of the Sailors are unable to successfully send me an email message. Is this because I sneakily change my address from day to day? Or because my address is really hard to remember (because, well, it’s my name)? Or simply, as I always maintain, because youth is no magic antidote to technological ignorance? Whatever. I thought that this morning I’d be canceling a room or two at the motel at Monti, but it turns out that I am not. I am going with my original contingent. I could go on about reasons why one Sailor or another ought to be sent to the brig, but I won’t. The tip of the iceberg will have to satisfy your longing for behind-the-scenes dirt. Go find Tina Brown if you want celebrity gossip.

This activity would be so much easier if it didn’t have kids in it. But then again, there are some coaches, judges and even parents whose absence is a precious gift too rarely dispensed. What I should do is just skim off the small coterie of problem-free, likeable yabbos from the activity and host a poker game slash dinner slash scrabble tournament. All the good chewy parts and none of the black crunchy bits. I can dream, can’t I?

Last night I ported the Kaiser Roll over from the Goy to TRPC (which, you may have noticed, is no longer referred to here as Evil TRPC because, well, it’s as stable as [insert metaphor here for some really stable thing that I can’t think of at the moment]). I did have to enter the rooms by hand, but there are worse things in life. It’s going to be quite a clambake. Lots of debaters, lots of judges. The Montwegians came up with what I think is a brilliant idea, which is to have the first flight of round 4 on Friday and the second flight on Saturday morning, in an effort to speed things up on day two given the need for 6 rounds. Think of it. Not only does this get a flight done in advance, but on arrival Saturday morning everyone knows exactly where to go. Plus there’s no late-night inputting of ballots on Friday, so your hard-working tab staff can hit the road with everyone else. The only conceivable down side is that some people will know for 12 hours who their morning’s opponent is, which could be construed as TMI, but those same people would already have known in the normal course of events for an hour, plenty of time to prep out if that’s what they were intending to do. And it’s the same advantage/disadvantage to both sides, that is, if you perceive it as an advantage/disadvantage in the first place. Anyhow, I’ll do whatever I can to make this happen. Who says there’s nothing new under the debate sun?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Au revoir, Rippin'; bon jour, Bump; felons, Feeding and what is with those rabbit ears?

I thumbed through the September Rostrum today. Not much reading, but lots of pictures of NatNats (not one but two pictures of CP, for example), plus SB’s overview article on the policy topic, which is also quite useful for alternative energy Pffffters. Something tells me this will be the beginning of the end of my Rostrum subscription: being the world’s worst district chair has its down side.

At Regis the district committee met and cried in its Diet Coke over our recurring Red Light District status. I won’t burden you with the details again, but the bottom line is, in our small district, students have less chance of going to NatNats than if they were members of some other district. Since many of us (including me) only do this to support our friends in the community, it turns out that by running a Red Light District we are, counterintuitively, harming those friends and limiting their qualifying potential. We are saddened by the whole thing, but don’t have much choice. I’ll be writing to the Wunn and only this week explaining that, well, put a fork in us because we’re done. We appreciate what he’s tried to do for us in the past, but ultimately there are kids going to be blocked by circumstances beyond their control from their entitlement to NatNats, and that’s just not what we’re here for. In other words, unless Ripon grants us some permanent relief, another one bites the dust. (And this, from Widipedia, for you Queen fans out there who are contemplating having a heart attack: During the administration of chest compressions during CPR, it can be difficult to achieve and maintain the recommended rate of 100 compressions per minute. The bass line of this song [AOBTD] is at such a rate; thus it is frequently recommended to think or hum this song during CPR, to maintain the correct rate.)

Bump planning is kicking into high gear. Last night I managed to get a food maven, a lounge lizard and a housing czar, which are the bare minimum of parental support necessary to make this thing happen. It’s been suggested that next year I do a total parent meeting, and I think I will. Introduce the activity to the newbies and remind the oldbies that without them, pffft, all at the same time: why not? Following my short discussion with the Bump Magnates, it was on to the assigning of the jobs for the Sailors. It is interesting that people who have shown up for, oh, one round per year somehow think that they’re qualified to judge based entirely on their membership in the junior class. My response to that is, of course, have you ever heard of the candy table? Then again, people like running the candy table, so it’s hardly a punishment for slackers. We’ll be setting up a competition between the two buildings this year: whoever sells the most wins a [something or other, to be determined]. This is good money that pays for some of Yale and some of Columbia, so I’m all in favor of them conducting competitive highway robbery to obtain it.

After that we kicked around a few felons. And no, there is no difference between theft and robbery aside from the definitional (theft of versus robbery from), and we should not claim that the difference between felons and lighthearted miscreants is arbitrary and therefore felons don’t deserve any bad treatment whatsoever (we can never know the difference between grand and petite larceny?—get real), and all assassinations are murder while all murders are arguably (definitionally) not assassinations, which reminds one that meaningless distinctions are always the first to arise—and hopefully the first to go away—in the argumentative adolescent mind. On the other hand I was taken with the intuitive appreciation of “bad voters,” familiar to all who follow the Feed. More on this at next week’s meeting, as we dig a little deeper.

Speaking of the Feed, I pled out of physical newspapers last night and mandated (ha!) the online Times plus the Feed. In a show of hands, the number of Sailors who understand RSS is the same as the number of Palins who can see Russia from their kitchen window, once again proving that youth is not a positive indicator for technical savvy. I will pursue this line of instruction with some specific how-to (and I’ll post it openly so the rest of the young tech sluggards out there can join the Twenty-First Century before the Twenty-Second comes along).

And I finally got the results of Regis out to Catholic Charlie, even though the color printer is looking sort of poopy these days. I’ll put the new cartridge in the MHL printer tonight prefatory to getting the Roll going. Matt T has promised not to change any more of the data on Joy, and taken off his rabbit ears long enough to send me the room list, so tonight I’ll get things started in that direction. Fortunately, unlike last night, I won’t have the debate to distract me. Damned thing put me to sleep eleven times in twenty minutes while I was running off the Regis material. [Snooorrrrreee……]

Monday, October 06, 2008

I knew it would turn out badly when I was awakened by a Cher song

Today sucks. Everything that can go wrong, has. I’ve been attacked by wolves on my morning walk, I went to give blood and they decided that I should give metablood, so I was hooked up to something that turned my precious bodily fluids flowing out of my arm into this lifeless transparent stream flowing back into my arm with this chugga-chugga-chugga machine blasting away behind me for over an hour (my veins are smaller than predicted, and apparently this is my fault, as if I decided which ones to wear in the morning and deliberately tied on the tiny ones), and then when I sat down at the bleeders’ bar to replenish my supply of liquids the orange juice bottle exploded all over me, plus I now have JV’s name as the multiple high-scorer on my Wurdle game—curse his stubby little fingers!—and when I took my tweed jacket out of the plastic this morning I discovered that the dry cleaner had shrunk it about five sizes so I looked like Stan Laurel, and I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere during the day they elected Sarah Palin and I’m going to be the last one to find out about it. It. Has. Been. That. Kind. Of. Day.

You’ll notice I mentioned nothing about Regis Saturday. All I want to know from Catholic Charlie is, where’s my medal? Legion d’honneur? Cordon bleu? MHL finalist? Frontierland Deputy Sheriff? We finished 4 rounds at 6 o’clock as promised, despite a series of perfect storms that made my morning today look like winning the lottery. Before this coming weekend at Monticello I’m picking up a padlock at the hardware store. In the future, all tabrooms with me in them will have this padlock on the door. Deal with it.

On the other hand, I did get to perform in “My Dinner with O’C” Saturday night: the action figures are available on line at the Big Jake website. In other words, we finally hit the Brazilian Emporium where Mr. “If There Isn’t A Trophy For That We’ll Make One” and I tore into a few hundred pounds of feijoada and all the trimmings as we gossiped about everyone and everything. He told me some things that I swore I would never tell anyone! (I’ll write them all up some time tonight and post them for you tomorrow.) The point of this was, of course, that he would move the Jake RR dinner from Planet Hollywood to someplace that had food for the likes of me. I think I was successful. Worst case scenario: it’s not far from PH, so while everyone else is having that pale imitation of a hamburger (much like that pale imitation of blood now coursing through my body), I can pop over for a little hearts of palm and all those unidentified body parts boiled in black beans. All right!

I could use some of that iron-rich meat this very second.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Let me entertain you, or, give me a head with hair, you betcha

We had our postponed meeting last night, and I think a few people were sort of shaken by the change and hence stayed away, but I am starting to get a sense of the reality of this year’s novices. A few freshmen, a few sophomores, a reasonable number of people who don’t fall asleep when I bloviate for 45 minutes straight. That’s a tough initiation to get past, let me tell you. Next week they will entertain us with some selected (by them) readings, so we’ll get a sense of how well the present themselves as public speakers. An OI, in other words, usually prose. Speak up, Louise! Next week will also be parents meeting with me to run Bump and the doling out of team assignments, although as we said last night, with the institution of novice LD, if you’re an upperclassmen, you’re probably judging, if you’re a novice you’re running, and if you’re a Speecho-American, you’re at the table. The mystery is gone.

For a while, when everyone was assembled last night, we discussed Sept-Oct, a sort of last-gasp analysis. The consensus after the Pups is that there are a lot of examples out there, and if you ask me, a lot of them are bogus. You write them on the board and, hey presto, you see that they simply are not exemplary. At some point, their analogy to the resolution falls apart. Maybe the more innocents are not necessarily saved, or the killing is so redefined as to be meaningless. Seemed to me that what you have to do, when you hear a new example, is write it down and draw arrows from one step to the next and see where it falls apart. If it’s not something very much like the trolley, it will. The trolley is a true representation of the topic, both philosophically and experimental-philosophically (if you’re of that persuasion, which I might be myself, given my consiliency rants in the past about philosophy being rather hogwashian if science can’t back it up). The trolley forces you to argue the math versus the concept, the utilitarian versus the categorical deontologist. The problem with deontology is refining that reason for declaring an action right or wrong. If you squint at Kant long enough it ultimately looks like a popular vote, and let’s face it, in the popular voting, if Bush could beat Kerry based on their relative status as war heroes, anything goes. So, an interesting debate is possible. Likely? I don’t know. But yes, possible. I’ll bet the first-time novices will be closer to the intended debates originally envisioned by Rippin’ than any varsity rounds. In your H of Hs, you know it too.

We did hurry home last night for the debate. What a snooze! McCain’s Great Fem Hope wasn’t a total disaster as long as, if elected, you can put up with her failing-the-audition-for-“Fargo” accent. Obama’s Hair Plugs for Peace choice didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy either. (JB and I were in Syracuse at the same time back in our college days. Although as far as I can recall we never met, I can vaguely imagine the two of us sitting on the steps of Hendricks Cathedral assuring each other that, no, we’ll never lose our hair, not us. Let this be a warning to certain Montwegians…) Depending on the side you were on, your horse won the race. As I said, what a snooze. It reminded me a lot of a vice-presidential debate. I ended up spending most of the time polishing Regis for tomorrow, a much better use of my limited time on the planet.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Roses, Guns N'; Autumn in NY; spawning at Bump; Windows on Siberia; here's my thirty cents, I'm all in

On my iPod, Meat Loaf is filed under Meat Loaf and not Loaf, Meat. I just thought I’d point that out, since it’s rather anomalous (or not). Riding back from Pupville, we were listening to something godawful emerging out of Connecticut, so I went into the by-song listing and selected “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Lo and behold, after praying for the end of time, the pod went on to the next song which was—you guessed it—“Prairie Dog City” (misnamed “Paradise City,” but you and I and now some sadder but wiser Sailors know the truth). This primed me for more Meat Loaf, and there you are.

It’s all connected.

Regis Saturday looks tough from a tab perspective. The divisions are small, dominated by a couple of schools. This means that the judging by those schools, however generously provided, doesn’t go very far. We’re going to be using the people who can judge to death. If you want to help out, just show up. We’ll give you rounds and pay you handsomely. What else could you possibly want to do on a nice Saturday in New York City in autumn?

Don’t answer that.

In other developments, Bump is being registered for at the usual pace, and the software seems to be working for almost everybody (there’s always a fish or two who can’t find the spawning grounds and need an elevator up the falls). It took me a while today to find where to put the number of judges available for hire—which was already there but I wanted to add to it—but find it I did, and we’re in pretty good shape. The key is to have the magic number of 48 total to single-flight doubles. Given the dozen or so alums who have signed up, we should make it well. Hiring 25% of your pool is pretty stiff, but if you don’t, problems can ensue. Since I tell everyone else to hire till it hurts, why should I be any different?

Tonight’s meeting will end at 8:30. I never miss the Superbowl, and if that’s not what tonight’s 9:00 DST event is, then you just don’t understand the sport of politics. The only thing missing will be the Budweiser ads (although I hear Cindy had been pushing for them).

On the poker front (there’s a poker front in this blog? you ask, to which I answer, of course, you yabbo, as man does not live by blather alone), we’re chowing down at Ibiza Saturday night, and one of my dinner partners turns out to be a serious poker player. Simply put, his average small blind for one hand is the amount of money I bring with me for an entire night. I can’t wait to challenge this guy some day. I told him everything he needs to know about my game, which is that I never bluff, so we should be on an even playing field. The only difference is that in my normal game I hang out with cheapskates. We had a Pup with us, and he ventured that he plays in a one-dollar/two-dollar game, which is still more than I play for, which makes my skates look even cheaper. I’ll be seeing them tomorrow (the skates, that is), so I’ll let them know what pikers they are. They’ll be glad to hear it. None of them ever bluff either. It makes the game so much easier to understand; I’m surprised the pros haven’t figured that out yet.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What do novices want?

You can now register for Bump at if you have nothing better to do on the weekend of Nov 14. Me, I’ll be in Argentina. I’ll send you a postcard.

I think I may be in the minority about Sept-Oct for novices, since I feel the material we’ve discussed has been of value for starter-outers. Of course, that material has been raw morality—consequentialism, deontology, human worth as a basis for not using people as a means to an end, utilitarianism (which is not the same as consequentialism), experimental philosophy—rather than anything about running conditional cases or that sort of thing. Novices don’t give a rat’s posterior about conditional cases; they’re more worried about not collapsing in a heap in the front of the room the second they open their mouths for the first time. The fact that Nov-Dec is felons means that the deep background goes back as far as the social contract via retributive justice, which keeps us in the LD 101 category as far as I’m concerned. JV and I were talking about this one a bit as we were roaming the streets of Pupville, and we both like it. You know, of course, the recent changes in the law in Florida and some other states, not that this means anything in terms of what we should do, but there is, I would imagine, ruminations available by those who have passed laws allowing ex-felons to vote, and they should be tracked down. I do know that the Obama campaign is actively soliciting the Floridian ex-felon vote. Seriously. Florida Ex-Felons For Obama: there’s a tee shirt for you.

Anyhow, I did toss off a couple of brief outlines of Sept-Oct for the newbies to work from, and passed them to the novice coordinators for their input. Never again in their debate careers will they get positions from me, much less cases—I’m reactive, not proactive when it comes to cases, since the point of the activity ought to be that they do the work, not that I do the work—but as novices, as I say, the issue is getting oneself into the fray, period, not the fine points of the fray itself. Take ye this outline and flesh it out and go into that room. You’re going in a kid but you’re coming out a debater! One of them is, indeed, signed up for the first-timers’ MHL. Another one couldn’t figure out how to sign up, which is almost as good. The team of tomorrow is coming together.

And tonight I’ll see what we’ve got with Regis this weekend. The last time I looked it was pretty tiny, but it should have grown some (which reminds me of a Scot joke I’ll simply reference and move away from). Small is good, actually, because that means I can bring the small printer and not have to worry about entrusting the Brother to some poor Sailor on the bus while O’C and I go off to dinner. Speaking of whom, I hardly said boo to the guy in Pupville. We ran into him once or twice but he was heavily involved in the vomit situations, so one tended to steer clear, if you get my drift…