Thursday, April 30, 2009

Empty calories posting

This was a most disruptive/disrupted day, and my thoughts never came together to continue de-Bietzing. Anyhow, a note to everyone at TOC: Have fun! I'll be following the festivities on Twitter #TOC2009.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More Bietz; more tweets; more Wii; more general aimless rambling

In 4 Bietz quickly votes against flex prep and in favor of CX. I obviously agree. This is merely following the rules of the game. If a tournament wishes to publish some other rules, so be it, but competitors cannot be allowed to publish their own ad hoc rules as they prefer. This could be argued to death when we start arguing with each other, but it seems like a nonstarter to me.

5. Topic selection
Too much pressure is put on the committee at the NFL tournament to come up with 10 good topics. The topic selection process ought to begin earlier in the year and more formalized in the submission requirements. In September the NFL should take submissions of topics and potential wording. Submissions should have to follow some format wherein the author must provide a short essay that outlines the major issues involved, the debatability, what is at stake, and a short bibliography. In December, the submission process is closed and the committee begins to choose the 10 topic areas. In April or May, the 10 areas are released as well as 3 to 5 possible wordings for each resolution for the community to vet. During this time the community can submit ideas for wording. At the NFL tournament, the committee spends its time on the wording based on the community vetting.

To which I say, merely, yeah. Again, let’s add this to the goals of our communication process. If you think about it, even if the NFL pays no attention, it would still provide to that body some good, thought-out resolutions. Needless to say, as we go down the Bietzean list, the idea/need for a robust coachean communication system becomes clearer by the minute. Which was part of his original point, by the way. I’m not discovering anything new here; I’m just repeating it for effect.

His 6 and 7 speak to different aspects the same point, and I’ll look at them tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in other news…

While I agree with MB on pretty much all matters of debate, I do not agree with him on matters of music. He is from Mars. I am from Earth. He recommends stuff in Tweets and on Facebook that makes my ears hurt. Me, I’m realizing just how good John Bucchino is, wondering how Renee Olstead will sound when she’s old enough to drink, and trying to remember to download the new Melody Gardot, while marveling at how my iTunes library is spread across all four of my disk drives like [insert humorous metaphor here for some really spread out thing for reasons that are inherently inexplicable]. Why does iTunes randomly pick a different library every time I rip something? And don’t even ask about podcasts. The solution to the problem, sort of, is turn everything off and attach your iPod. This will highlight any songs not found in the main library. Then you plug the other drive(s) in and start scrolling till you find unfound songs and get info on the missing songs (which you can do now because the drives are reattached, so iTunes can find them but doesn’t automatically unmark them) and move them over to the main library. Quelle drag, as they say in the French regions of our neighbor to the north. There is no command I know of to aggregate all the not-found songs; obviously, the programmers in Cupertino all start out with big hard drives, or else they’re all a lot more careful than I am. My goal is to have all my music in one place before I upgrade the hardware, probably in the fall. Then I’ll probably use Little Elvis as a jukebox. But in a world where drives fail, the first thing is that all the music be safe and contained. Easier said than done.

Tomorrow night I’ll assemble my crack PF team to start working toward CatNats. Getting the Panivore to return to Albany may be harder than it looks, after her exciting experiences at States, but I think that none of the people involved in making that annual nightmare unusual event happen have anything to do with the Catholic Pfffter world. And since the Sailors had trouble finding my recommended fried fish shack, I am on a mission to discover if it’s still there, or if it’s gone the way of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Speaking of which, somewhere I have a copy of Captain EO that O’C passed along to me. I’ve got to find it and watch it. I need to fill that much needed gap in my life of Michael Jackson entertainment.

I continue to see Twitter as an interesting adventure. I continue to refine my followings, and I have committed myself to only posting things I think are funny, interesting or both. I find it curious how I get picked up by phishers (I don’t know what else to call them) based on things I tweet. For example, I mention golf (which, admittedly, most people find neither funny nor interesting), and the next thing I know I’m being followed by some commercial golf venture, presumably in aid of their eventually being able to sell me something. On the other hand, this elevates itself above the mere curiosity level when I think of applying it to the DJ. In other words, the plot thickens.

And not having much debate work to do (although I do need to dive back into the site pages upgrade; I’m halfway through cosmetics, and need next to look at content, a very summery thing to do) means that I can find an hour a night for the Twilight Princess. This is the most gamelike game I’ve played long enough to actually appreciate the narrative aspects. (A while back I tried a highly rated GTA on the PS2 and found myself bored to tears from running down random pedestrians, so I never picked up on the deeper aspects of the thing.) It’s very entertaining. The Lego Star Wars was just running around shooting things. This is different. And I’ve now played a Link game on just about every possible hardware platform Nintendo has to offer. Rather amazing, when you think about it. Also rather pathetic, but that’s a different issue entirely.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

9 issues continued: Openness

We’ll get back to how to communicate. The issue isn’t going anywhere.

Meanwhile, Bietz Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Rostrum Article. In this point, Mr. B discusses Openness. Let’s just quote him verbatim (for those who haven’t committed the archives of Rostrum to memory).

3. Openness
As LD is becoming more complex, it is important that we create a culture of openness. Two issues:
First, I am shocked how many debaters ask observers to leave the room (or in some instances a hallway) to “protect” their positions from being heard. The community norm ought to be that once a case is read, it is no longer private. Flow-sharing and scouting happens at tournaments. The problem in the status quo is that it is done covertly and amongst friends. This leads to a lot of hurt feelings, awkward situations, the exclusion of non “in” debaters or teams, and charges of unethical behavior.
Second, more discussion online needs to be less about the rules of debate and more about what happens in debate rounds. To some degree VBD ought to take some responsibility for the lack of substantive debate-topic discussions. However, whenever there is an attempt for people to discuss arguments, people seem to guard their own positions too much.

That really is two issues. Maybe three or four. All related though.

First of all, I’m not inclined to spend much time arguing in favor of openness, as it is on face more educational than lack of openness. And better debates arise from preparation rather than shock tactics. The only reasonable position against it is the potential advantage to large squads who can get a lot more information than smaller squads in those situations where it matters. I do tend to feel that prelim rounds should be closed to competitors per se, i.e., if you’re debating in flight b, you shouldn’t be scouting someone in flight a, but I don’t think Bietz is talking about that. Anyhow, I certainly agree with MB here; posting brackets (which we began doing at TNC) does help: it definitely levels the field, because the precise information of who’s hitting whom (if they stay alive) focuses the mind, if information on what’s being run is desired. I think it is up to tournaments to post clear rules on whether rounds should be open or closed, rather than leaving it to debaters or coaches (some of whom may indeed prefer shock tactics to debate strategies). And that, of course, rounds should be open.

Of course, there is an exception to this, with younger, novice debaters who get nervous when the room is packed. This is a tough one. On the one hand, they’ve got to learn to play to the audience if they’re good enough to be breaking, but at the same time, they are young and inexperienced. This is an individual coach/kid issue, but we might allow that, say, novice rounds are closed. I don’t like that, though. Kids need to work through it. But we do need to acknowledge that it is an issue with some students, and that coaches need to work with those students on that issue.

The second half of MB’s issue is, I think, a call for all of us to talk more about topic/case content. This is tough for me from one specific perspective: I think people (i.e., the Sailors in this specific instance) are solicitous of protecting their ideas as they’re germinating, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be perceived as taking something from my team and publishing it to the world without approval of the person who came up with it. But then again, this is hardly likely, given that I tend to be interested in topics early on, before anyone has come up with even a glimmer of a case position, and I’m usually on the next topic by the time anyone has come up with anything interesting on this one.

But the point is, we as coaches do not discuss topics much. I write every day, but probably devote a mere dozen or so entries a year to literally analyzing a resolution. My personal reason for this is that I do not want my fallibility to become some poor schlub’s losing case. I mean, what the hell do I know? The idea that people will presume my authority, mistaking my curiosity for knowledge, has a chilling effect. But I could get over that if I were in a forum for such a discussion with other coaches. I enjoyed MB’s attempt at handling this issue in a podcast; that’s not a bad forum for it, actually. And there are other things (e.g., theory) that would certainly benefit from active discussion.

Realistically, then, this issue can be resolved along with the first issue of coachean communication. Not only should we be discussing issues affecting the community, we should be discussing the day-to-day business of the community, i.e., content. The discussion should be open, which would especially help new coaches. That it would also help students, but at the same time perhaps stymie them with too much information, is also a given. As we develop our new coachean communication service, therefore, we now have another function that must be served.

Monday, April 27, 2009

States, the final frontier. Again.

This year’s NY State final was, at least in LD, something of an adventure. My phone practically overheated from all the text messages. Long-time members of the VCA know well my feelings on this organization. That they cannot get students out of the building until 11:00 on Friday night, or that students go 4 rounds straight on one side of the resolution, or have the same judges twice in a row, among other issues, makes one wonder exactly how they go about running their tab room. I’m reminded of the poor operation of the event back in the early 90s, when I went as a parent judge, picking up my daughter at midnight (midnight!) after her third round. Given that it is exactly the same people running things, you’d think by now they would have improved things slightly. I would like to be kind and gentle and supportive—it’s not easy running a tournament—but then again, I run a tournament every week, or support someone else running a tournament every week, and it ain’t that hard either. Not so hard that at least the tabbing isn’t fair and transparent. (Our latest trick of posting the results of every round after every round is the best error-catching gimmick ever invented: thank O’C for that one. One of the best reasons for having a traveling tab staff is that good ideas come from our familiarity with tournaments and one another, and problem-solving is a snap because so many good experienced minds will be on the case immediately.) And I’ve offered many suggestions for improvement of the operation, suggestions that were sniffed at and which placed me in a position of enmity, because I had the audacity to question the judgment of those in power by wanting this important event to fit into the normal pattern of all other tournaments we attend throughout the year. You see, I’m not really an educator. What do I know?

Oh, well. I always tell the Sailors what they’re in for in advance, and every year a handful of the most intrepid go anyhow. Can’t say I didn’t warn them. And, obviously, it’s no skin off my nose, because I enjoyed a fine, warm pseudosummer weekend toodling around Connecticut and playing (for me) great golf and cleaning up my iTunes library which is spread over four—4!—different disk drives and generally wishing it really were summer. I’ve got no complaints. I do, however, have yet another generation of Tars who swear they’ll never go to States again. What a surprise.

I plan on looking at some of the software suggestions people have offered for coachean communication over the next few days (although—preview of coming attractions—I don’t know if I think a forum is the best solution), and I’ll get back to the Bietz Guide to the Galaxy in a day or two. Meanwhile, voting will close this week on the Modest Novice. Let your voice be heard! Email me your preference before it’s too late. It’s still a close race at this point. It can go either way. What fun, eh?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Bietz theses, continued

There is some comment movement on the LD Coaches Need to Communicate Front. I won’t elaborate on that issue for the moment. Let’s look at point 2 of the Bietz manifesto. To wit, he is explaining that we have no great rules about evidence, and that we are about as sloppy with the stuff as is conceivable. (All right, I'm paraphrasing, or maybe more to the point, translating into the Coachean bile dialect). Even if some among us are neat as individuals, we certainly haven’t established any norms for the activity at large.


First of all, as he points out, people just usually read an author’s last name. I tell my goobers that a last name is pretty meaningless as a general rule, and that some idea of why this person ought to be listened to (position, qualifications, etc) would make the quote more compelling. LDers seem to think that because something is a quote, that’s good enough. As Bietz says, there are CX debate rounds where the value of the evidence is argued, and the team with the best evidence source can win the point being discussed. My source on resources in Africa is the head of the Council on Resources in Africa, while your source for resources in Africa is Cousin Mortie, the one who hangs out down at the deli who just got laid off from his job as head butcher at Starbucks. Of course, my point to the Sailors is simply that reasons why I should listen to the source of your evidence makes your evidence more compelling. Bietz is, correctly, taking a more serious position that sources have importance beyond merely their ability to persuade.

He goes on to bemoan the definition of “published,” which can, amazingly enough, be construed as something he or I write on a blog (and I know I’ve been cited in rounds, which just breaks me up). And secondly, he discusses how the evidence is actually presented physically, with strikethroughs, etc., and how it’s presented in the round for opponents and judges. The lack of norms/standards is, at best, confusing.

Not surprisingly, he and I are very much on the same wavelength here once again. I have no specific answers to present at this point, but none of this is brain rocketry, and I would suggest that, when we sort out a source of communication for LD coaches (point #1 preceding this one), the rules of evidentiary procedure, or at least best practices for evidentiary procedure, be high on the agenda of items to discuss. (I hesitate to suggest rules per se, because they should be, as I have argued in the past, the bailiwick of the NFL. If rules are required, then we should figure out what we want and present it to NFL to codify ex officio.) Having an agenda will help liven up whatever source of communication is settled on.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t voted for Modest Novice yet, time is running out. You have until the end of the month. Keep those cards and letters coming in!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

9 Issues Facing the Lincoln Douglas Community

A long time ago I promised to comment on an article Bietz wrote for Nostrum Rostrum that had the same title as this post. As always, the Bard of Harvard-Westlake has his finger on the pulse, but also as always, writing for Rostrum doesn’t seem to generate much heat in the community. But the issues he raises are important, and one of them, the first, has been underscored over the last week or two by me and CP, to wit, “a lack of discussion by coaches.”

The online discussion that CP and I conducted regarding computers in Extemp led to explorations into many aspects of that activity. Given that my own arena is primarily LD, I admittedly didn’t know that much about Extemp, but I have always enjoyed what I’ve seen of it. Personally, I am not what you would call a news junkie. I’m more like a social newsie. I like knowing what’s going on, but politics and current events, while of interest, is not the air the that I breathe. My specific interests tend to trend to the arts and technology; I am, after all, a professional book editor with a literary background, a published author of both fiction and computer how-to (back when computers where one step up from a plug-in abacus), a gadget nut, a decent enough amateur musician, etc. But I can still enjoy a good Extemp speech because I like it when someone explains something to me in a good way, especially if I don’t know anything about that something, or only a little bit. Good Extemp speeches seem to be able to do that, so my attention is held not because I am being paid forced by social pressure to judge the round, but because I’m enjoying what I’m hearing. I’m weak on knowing exactly what the paradigm is for evaluation, but from reading CP I gather I’m on the right track. Anyhow, I enjoyed our discussion immensely. First, I learned a lot. Second, I was able to take that information and change my opinion that had generated the discussion in the first place. This strikes me a lot like a Hegelian dialectic. The exchange of thesis/antithesis led to synthesis, a new idea that was closer to the truth than our starting point.

But my opinions on computers in rounds are not the only thing that I have ever written that is, to put it mildly, controversial. I’ve got opinions on a lot of things and, short of causing personal offense or invasions of privacy or simply bad spirit, I am not averse to sharing them. I do not, however, believe that they are inevitably correct, and, further, I am always happy to improve on them. I like a good argument. I am, after all, a debate coach.

Now, I know that this blog is pretty well read around the country. I see the readership statistics. I know that whenever I start a conversation with someone, they tell me that they already knew that because they read it in my blog. (The exceptions to this are the Sailors, who can’t be bothered, and my wife, who can’t be bothered, and rightly so, at a level that puts the Sailors to shame; if she were a member of the VCA, we’d have nothing to talk about until 2017, if then.) And these people are, often, debate coaches who, presumably, enjoy a good argument. Yet, for the most part, they never comment on what I say, no matter how controversial what I’m saying may be. Now I could conclude that they all simply agree with me, but that’s bloody unlikely. And they don’t have blogs of their own as CP does in which to respond at length. So I’ve got to wonder, what’s the problem here? Why aren’t we arguing more, in the shared belief that discussion/dialogue will lead to a better activity?

CP’s 4/21 post addresses these questions. Why aren’t we sharing opinions? Why aren’t coaches talking about stuff? And, given the nature of coaching, geography and the internet, why aren’t we doing it online? Bietz, in his article, suggests that there should be gatherings of the coachean tribes at tournaments, but meetings don’t just automatically become meaningful. They need agendas and leadership, otherwise they’re just socializing (which is not a bad thing, but not the same thing). And given the nature of most tournaments, with coaches judging, there isn’t all that much of an opportunity.

I think that we need to develop the online community, because it’s a viable concept (there’s online communities for everything else, after all) and a necessary one. There are a lot of debate coaches in the country, with experience and wisdom to share, and short of personal connections, they’re keeping it to themselves, in a universe where that makes absolutely no sense, for an activity for which it makes absolutely no sense. Remarkable?

Solution? I don’t know. Maybe we all just need to sign up for a Facebook group or something. I hesitate to suggest forcing people to address some potentially new and foreign technology beyond that level. I also hesitate to suggest that it be done through the auspices of the NFL, because that body has its own agenda, and although they are certainly supportive of coaches, their focus is, well, the NFL. Does that just leave NDCA?

If so, a couple of things. First, screw membership fees. Not happening. I already spend too much money on NFL. I can’t afford tournaments. Another annual dues is a non-starter. Second, move away from the list-server. I’m getting NDCA digests now, which are, primarily, lists of the people who are on the list-server. Jeesh. And often the discussion is irrelevant to me, and irrelevant discussion is something I don’t need more of in my life. I don’t want to say that list-servers are sooooo 1999, but they’re so…1999. What can I say? Third, isn’t Bietz involved in that august body??? There’s hope there.

Meanwhile, I wish there were more arguments at this location. Feel free to disagree with me. Your opinion will be respected. Not necessarily agreed with, but respected. And if you think your opinion is worth something, why wouldn’t you want it broadcast? We’ll all learn something from it. Or at least I will. That’s good enough for me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Exegesis of Menick's Law #118

I was following Stephen Fry’s tweets and he referred to AudioBoo, which is, apparently, voice blogging from (and for) the iPhone. I checked it out. No, no, a thousand times no. It’s like people in 5th grade buying their first little tape recorder (do they still make tape recorders?) and fooling around with them. No, no, make that a million times no. On the other hand, thanks to Twitter (although I’m sure this information is available elsewhere) I now know that Fry is doing the Cheshire cat in Burton’s AIW film. That I like. I’d also like to hear his narrations of Harry Potter (Jim Dale only does the US ones). I’ve always been a Fry fan. And so far he’s the only literal celeb I’ve found whose tweets are worth following. Despite the growth of Twitter, I can only mostly envision its use in small groups/communities. Not dissimilarly, the telephone has grown a lot from its invention to today, but we still mostly talk to one person at a time, even though more are possible. Just because the technology can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs to be done.

On that note, Bietz responded recently about computers in rounds, which he’ll be discussing via NDCA (he mentions netbooks, which are so the wave of the future), and it occurred to me that, over the last few weeks I have, uncharacteristically, done a bunch of judging (and, according to S-S, received the incredible accolade of “No one complained that you were overly illegit,” which is high praise indeed), and saw a bunch of computer use in LD rounds. Now, I obviously am in favor of enabling/allowing computer use for debaters in competition. But I have to admit, although most of the people I saw were, indeed, lugging a computer along with them, they really hadn’t gotten the hang of it. The computer was more an added burden than a competitive aid. If people were reading from them, they had them on desks three feet below eye level, hardly a workable podium. They were usually one item among dozens, strewn around half the classroom, when one would expect that the computer would be lessening rather than increasing disorder. One goober kept his computer on the floor where I kept waiting for him to step on it (I did that once; it is, in hindsight, an excellent way to rationalize why now is a good time to upgrade, but otherwise, oy). Nobody seemed particularly adept at finding what they were looking for, either on their own or when asked by the opponent. More than one person did an emergency recharge mid-round. In short, it was a circus.

Let’s go back to the operative phrase in this post. Just because the technology can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs to be done. Call that Menick’s Law #118. The point of using new technology is to enhance or improve or change for the better. At the point where none of those is happening, then why are you doing it? Because you can? Well, it turns out that, no, you can’t. I am probably the worst person in the world to fumble with a computer in front of, because I already have strong beliefs about computer use from both a systems perspective and a mass-marketing perspective (i.e., experience derived from the D.J.), not to mention simply bloviating about anything at the drop of a hat. What I’m beginning to detect, albeit anecdotally and derived from little evidence, is that computers have become the latest inane computer fashion. Two years ago, you couldn’t swing a cat in a round without hitting a postmodernist. Now, your cat hits some yoyo ineptly attempting to compete from the computer screen. If both debaters are doing it, you’ve got the LD version of Mutually Assured Destruction.

I have said this before many times. The youth of today are no more inherently technically ept than my aged mother. (I have empirical evidence to back this up, by the way, if you want it.) Just because the youth of today can text in the dark while driving 90 miles an hour listing to Death Cab for Cutie and drinking a skinny triple latte does not indicate some innate skill set. It merely indicates mastery of a set of skills that the youth of today find important. My aged mother can darn a sock, which is a skill that the youth of her day found important. Anyone can master what they want to master. Fewer people can master what they need to master. And fewer people still are innately technological. You know you are a techie when you know the controversy over the Digg bar. You know you are a techie if you look with disdain at script monkeys. You are not a techie if you hit 80 in WoW. You are a techie if you understand the phrase “hit 80 in WoW” and have never played the game.

My point is, if you are going to use computers in competition, please know what you are doing. Be as prepared as you would be if you were using an accordion folder, or colored pens, or a flow pad. At the point where you look like a yoyo, overwhelmed by the technology no one forced you to use, then there will be repercussions. Can I give high speaker points to someone who is fumbling finding things, running around the room looking for a socket, unable to present the opponent with the quote in question? I don’t think so. I don’t ask that you become a techie; that’s like saying that you ought to be a natural musician. Either you are or you aren’t. But don’t use it if you haven’t mastered it. Debate competition is all about mastery. It’s about being authoritative. That’s where speaker points come from. Nobody gets a 30 when they crawl into the room and squeak hesitantly. Looking knowledgeable (and better yet, being knowledgeable) is the road to success. Computers won’t make you a better debater on face. They will give you more to worry about during a round. If you can’t handle it, don’t do it. No one will even notice. But if you do do it, and can’t handle it, they will notice. It’s as simple as that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bang bang, you shot me down

Last week I said that I had posted my last entry on Twitter, which is akin to Cher announcing a final farewell tour. Sorry about that. (And sorry about the Cher reference, too. I promise never to mention her again.)

Saturday I tweeted the Harrison RR, which translates into taking a minute occasionally to find something interesting to mention to a waiting (albeit small) world. (There's a list of all the tweets here a couple of entries ago.) I’m not quite sure what the world is exactly waiting for in terms of content arising from some old fart judging LD at a high school with corridors modeled after the sets from Star Trek (via Cooper), so that was the challenge. Was there anything interesting to say aside from HogwartsHP is meeting SmallvilleCK? Turns out that, with any sort of attentive eye, there is. One of the first thing I noticed was a list of brothels and saloons on one of the classroom walls. This is something I don’t often see in high schools, and it was worth commenting on. On the other hand, I didn’t comment on some teacher’s inability to spell miscegenation correctly, since it has become commonplace for some educators in this country to demonstrate their ineptitude at every opportunity, especially when it comes to spelling. (You know, there’s these things we used to call “dictionaries.” They should get one for the school. It’s bad enough one schlub couldn’t spell the word, but that every single student and teaching colleague and administrator and parent passing through that room can’t spell it either and therefore hasn’t pointed it out to said schlub? Jeesh. On the other hand, at least it indicates that no one is thinking much about miscegenation these days. Maybe they meant misogyny. Or syzygy. Or synecdoche. The last two, at least, are still illegal in some states.)

Anyhow, there were other interesting things worth writing about in short form, and judicious use of tweeting could make for an interesting narrative on the other end, and if it’s not an interesting narrative, then don’t do it, is my philosophy. If it’s neither entertaining nor informative, keep it to yourself, because I don’t want to read it. The fact that during the lunch break a small group of kids almost got a ticket for trying to park on the wrong side of the street (which, in LD land, is about as criminal as anyone ever gets; we’re not exactly the Corleone family) allowed for a few interesting tweets. You have to ask yourself, when a cop pulls over a car filled with teenagers of various genders in ties and sweater vests and comparable attire, plus two older black guys (one of whom is an advertisement for droopy pants and, of course, is also the responsible adult on the trip), what does the cop make of it? One of our hardened criminals says he tried to explain to the cop that they were at a debate tournament, but apparently the cop had had enough when our h.c. tried to demonstrate how you achieve your value through the criterion, and the officer shooed the batch of them on their way with a stern warning never to go new in the two. (Which, by the way, was rampant in the rounds I saw, and cited by the opposition every time. Come on, people.)

So the bottom line is that one can tweet something interesting from a tournament above and beyond the mundane, or at least one can try. I was using the @tabroom account, which I wouldn’t do in the future, as I’m saving that for marriage for official announcements, so I’ll migrate that sort of report over to @jimmenick. I’ll additionally be telling the Sailor families to follow that account (which means I’ll probably cut down on “The kids just got thrown into prison” messages), so that may have sort of a chilling effect, but probably not. CatNats will be my next venture, so you have till then to follow me and sort out your phone situation if you’re interested in this tournament-reporting experiment. Or follow me all the time on Twitter if you’re interested in the experiment in general.

By the way, the notorious Luddite CP has so far not taken me up on my offer to link to @tabroom for official CatNat announcements. He’s too busy barbecuing cats. I’ll keep at him. Maybe I’ll threaten him with more Cher references. Can you say Shoop, Shoop?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Who you callin' a codger,!

I think my original thesis boiled down to using computers in rounds because, well, we use computers in everything else, and it’s silly to bar them there. I was reacting mostly to the ineffably nonsensical discussion among $ircuit policy coaches bemoaning the cost of traveling on planes with tubs (the poor dears) mixing with the loss of local competition, which they managed to kill themselves by preferring traveling on planes with tubs. My sympathies are not strong with this particular aspect of the issue (and I’ve written on the decline of policy here at great length in the past, and won’t bother to do so again). Then some folks come along and say, hey, let’s use computers, and I, for one, say Cue the Revolution. How modern. How clever. Jeesh. Get over yourselves and just do it, for pete’s sake. It’s 2009. Any minute now it will be 2010. Soon Sarah Palin will be President and men will be walking on the moon again (out of fear of having Sarah Palin as President; no space technology will be used in the event). So, says I, computers everywhere.

You can follow my arguments here, and CP's replies vis-a-vis Extemp, by tracking back a bit, and then add CP’s latest . Poor Tiki. Poor extemp, for that matter. I definitely sympathize with the bad judges part of it. I find the few times I have judged extemp that I have enjoyed it immensely, but I have also realized that most speech judges would rather chew on Ebola brand Gummi Bears, if the opportunity presented itself. Extemp, as CP portrays it, has more problems than your average daily soap opera. More to the point (the one I was making), his summation, saying that the source of the research is agnostic and the tubs are event-tactical, makes sense to me. So, he wins, and Tik (pronounced teek) survives to attack another debater or two. But more importantly, he raises other issues with the activity that seem to me serious and worthy of improvement. I don’t have any intercourse with extemp, so to speak, so I can’t do anything about it, but I wonder if some of the FL folk who are reading this might take some of it to heart. We are such a conservative operation overall. We need to be constantly evaluating what we do, and improving it if we can. At the point where we don’t, we are failing our students. I’m not saying that we need to actually change things all the time; what we need to do is keep wondering if we should change, and we should do so when the necessity arises. Academe can either be cutting edge or entrenched; it’s best when it’s not exactly the former but a hell of as far away from the latter as possible. Question everything, in other words, all the time. Answer those questions to the best of your ability. Keep moving forward, but stay the course when the course can repeatedly prove that it is the correct one.

Anyhow, this has been a fun discussion for me. I wish there were more discussions like it out there. Given our prolix nature (otherwise we wouldn’t be in forensics), you’d think our problem would be too much talk rather than too little. Oh, well.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tweet Chronicles - A very special episode

I know you didn't follow the 6 Rounds of Spring RR on Twitter via @tabroom. Here's what you missed.

Up at 6 for the RR. Perfect day for golf. [sigh]
about 14 hours ago from Tweetie

Found a montgomery bell in my car. Asked Cruz, of course,
about 14 hours ago from GroupTweet

Judging alj v nfa rd 1 with Lopez. nice leisurely schedule
about 12 hours ago from GroupTweet

Waiting around. Ben Whiteguy says the bell isn't his.
about 12 hours ago from GroupTweet

Wireless access doesn't work. No surprise there.
about 12 hours ago from GroupTweet

Poster on the wall lists local saloons and brothels.
about 12 hours ago from GroupTweet

Reasonably split decision in first rd. Judging w Cooper in rd 2. Poor debaters.
about 11 hours ago from GroupTweet

Cooper and I concurred, but the rd was no fun. Long cases w no debating.
about 9 hours ago from GroupTweet

Cancro is writing the slowest ballot ever. I want lunch.
about 8 hours ago from GroupTweet

Cancro and I concurred, but I concurred faster.
about 8 hours ago from GroupTweet

Fried clams, a million miles from the HS. We're finally running late.
about 7 hours ago from GroupTweet

Children picked up by police.
about 7 hours ago from GroupTweet

Clarification = it was a cop on a bike.
about 7 hours ago from GroupTweet

Too many kids in car. No tix, but we had to pick them up. Such drama. Don't tell mama!
about 6 hours ago from GroupTweet

Cooper and I agreed again.
about 6 hours ago from GroupTweet

Moral of the story, don't lie to the police.
about 6 hours ago from GroupTweet

Cooper and I agreed again. Go figure.
about 4 hours ago from GroupTweet

Chetan and Kathryn do a nice lowkey job. Harrison may have a team next year. Excellent.
about 4 hours ago from GroupTweet

Last round off, so a nice walk outside is in order.
about 4 hours ago from GroupTweet

6 people in a 5-seater car. Mixed races. Crossing the double line. Debate is becoming quite exciting.
about 4 hours ago from GroupTweet

Oh, yeah. One more thing. When they ask you your age, 15 is the right answer only if you happen to be, roughly, 15.
about 4 hours ago from GroupTweet

Final rd is Yu v Bores.
about 2 hours ago from GroupTweet

Is microblogging worth it? Draw your own conclusions.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Final Twitter post. I promise!

I find it amazing that, in the short space of two weeks—if you don’t count the two year hiatus following my first attempt at it—I have not only signed up for and begun using Twitter, but have become an absolute expert on it, able to philosophize and ruminate from a position beyond rebuke. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! (All right, that’s not from Virgil, but listening to the Aeneid every morning on my way to work does make me want to write a lot more bombastically than I usually do. Which, I guess, would be turning it up starting at zero, because my writing is a lot of things, but bombastic it ain’t.)

Twitter is as creaky as an app can be that has become a cultural phenomenon. Part of its creakiness is a result of its phenomenonicality (a word Derrida wishes from his grave that he had invented if, indeed, he didn’t). That is, its fast growth is one of the reasons it fails regularly because, apparently, it isn’t exactly a marvel of scalability. (Compare Facebook, which is about 10 times as huge, which does scale well. Then again, Facebook does a lot more than Twitter, so for it to succeed at all it has be have been built out of sterner stuff.) Twitter is often just too busy for its own tubes, not to mention that its popularity has made it a target for various exploits. Still, despite its ups and downs, it has a variety of values, and these make the whole thing worth it. Whether or not we continue for any length of time in a Twitter universe, or move to some other comparable (and hopefully better) universe, remains to be seen. But the benefits of a system like this are pretty good, and worth maintaining.

First of all, Twitter is a cell phone connector. I find this potentially its most valuable function. Everybody has a cell phone nowadays. (In the very near future, everyone will upgrade to a Maguffin machine that combines telephone and most essential computer functions; that Maguffin plays into my thinking, obviously.) At the point where my team is entirely connected with cell notifications, we can move the little army much more efficiently than we do now, keeping families back home advised of those movements at the same time. This is extremely useful. It does, needless to say, require discretion. We only link the people we need to link, otherwise we will be engulfed in noise.

A second benefit, still phone-related, is as a public address system. Unlike the team communication, which is multidirectional, a public address functionality is the making of announcements from tab to the tournament. Given the remoteness of some tab rooms, especially at college tournaments, this is also very useful. Attendees at a given tournament could sign up for mobile notices for specific tournaments, turning off the notices when the event is over. Again, this will minimize noise, but when it’s on, it will provide a valuable service. (A point I’m trying to make with CP is that using phones on the back end is just as valuable as using them for receiving messages; phone service is much more ubiquitous than internet service in our present universe, especially at non-college venues. This will change, but the situation at the moment is what it is.)

Other benefits of Twitter are not necessarily telephonic, and of a more season-to-taste nature. Tomorrow I’ll Twitter reports from the Spring Fun RR in Harrison just as a test. Imagine if twenty of us were Twittering, say, CatNats. People not there could follow the tournament, or people there could provide a running commentary. It could be fun (can you imagine the conversation during the inevitably endless thankathon preceding the awards?). There are ways of following a mob, most notably through #hashtags. Searching for #CatNats will bring up messages on the tournament from every user, followed or not (although I think you do have to follow @hashtags to make this happen).

Another aspect of Twitter is following people who are worth following. You must decide who these people are yourself. I wouldn’t want to follow any of these on my phone, but I have a handful of tech celebs who provide me with insight on new apps and the like, and I find that very useful. I can follow friends, but so far most people who use Twitter are simply setting it up to echo Facebook (or vice versa). I love ya, pal, but I don’t have to see everything twice, and if that’s what you do, I’ll stop following you on one or the other. Then there are just general people who have mastered the art of the small-space blog post, the interesting narrative in 140 characters. (No doubt Japanese schoolgirls—the ultimate test of technology—are writing whole novels on Twitter!) Of course, there are also celebs who are simply taking up bandwidth. The more famous someone is, as a general rule, the less likely they're worth following. I mean, how many celebs do you actively follow on Facebook? That's what I thought. The same paradigm applies with Twitter.

Twitter is, at the moment, driven by phones, and as I suggested, albeit parenthetically, phones are going to be evolving at a fast clip over the next few years. I am amazed at what I can do with my Touch, for instance, when I have wireless access, and that machine is merely an iPhone without a phone.

Anyhow, I will be continuing to experiment and explore. Feel free to join up and do likewise. I’ll follow you if you keep it unique. I promise to do likewise (although I will admit that at the moment, @tabroom and Tab Room on Facebook are replicating, but I’ll probably end this shortly, since I can’t for the life of me remember why it ever made sense—something to do with being unable to plug in cells to Twitter, I think, which is better solved by users figuring out how to plug in cells to Twitter).

Onward and upward!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ModNov rises from the dead, and Nero twitters while Rome burns

We just went through a remarkable false ending over at the Modest Novice. I had sort of reached a personal mental impasse, for one reason or another. We certainly weren’t getting uniform agreement on the wording, and I was beginning to wonder if we weren’t just chasing chimeras, and I figured close was close enough, and let’s put this puppy out of its misery. So, I announced the final topic. At which point CP instantly demurred, using less vigorous language than usual (he threatened neither my life nor the life of my cats), saying that we could do better. He’s right. So, the discussion remains open, but it has now heated up. Dive in, if you have an opinion, especially if you have an improvement. We’ve kicked around violence, so to speak, and I think dismissed it, based on Sheryl’s discussion (which made a lot of sense to me). Most else is up for grabs, though. And I really do want to put this puppy out of its misery. Please help me before CP does, indeed, threaten the lives of my cats. They’ve never hurt anyone (except SuperSquirrel, but she brings it on herself).

I’m also trying to coordinate with CP the use of the @tabroom Twitter account. It does make sense that he gets publishing access to it, but I’m trying to do that short of just having him sign in as me. After all, my own plan is to use my own cell (and home account of @jimmenick) to direct-message to @tabroom which will then broadcast to the assembled multitudes. I want to keep this as a phone thing, since that’s the physical medium everyone always has at tournaments. The thing is, CP hasn’t caught the Twitter bug yet, so we’re hemming and hawing about it. In any case, as I’ve said, Saturday I’ll be running a test session at the Spring Fun RR, so you can sign up between now and then to follow it live. (Live coverage! I’m starting to sound like WTF! Jeesh. And O’C hasn’t even got a Twitter acct yet, despite Bietz’s trying to batter him into it. Can you imagine the nightmare when O’C finally does sign up? We’ll all have to turn our cell phones in to the local authorities.) @jimmenick is becoming a place for me mostly to post tech and entertainment stuff, meanwhile, if you have any interest in that. Pick your poison. I’ll try to make them entertaining or useful enough to warrant people’s interest.

One thing about Twitter, by the way, is that half the people who follow you seem to be businesses of some sort or another. And the mobile updates I want seem to not take, or at least not take permanently, but then if you check somewhere else, they do. Oy. For a fad app, this is one pile of problems. Would Google please buy them, now, and take us all out of their misery?

O’C, by they way, is texting off and on from Andorra, home of the Disney princesses. Or something like that. You’ve got to love the iPhone. It even works when you’re trapped in the back seat of a Citroen surrounded by your cobbler cousins from Cabrales, eating their own homemade cheese, driving through the French countryside and wondering if you’re missing any new updates on the Star Trek film. At least he doesn’t have to suffer through finding dates for the Northeast Chumps. Lucky #(*&$^@%!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I don't give a fig about dates, etc.

It is proving to be radically difficult to schedule the end-of-season tournaments for next year. I did send out a notice about the MHL, including a tentative schedule for 2009-10, although I did manage to forget that there has been some under-the-table talk about a March edition. But then again, where to put it? Where to put anything in March, for that matter?

The usual March is CFL qualifier, SATs, Districts. This year we tossed the Bobcat on weekend 2 and added the Northeast Chumps the weekend after districts. There was universal enervation as a result: it was just too many tournaments too bunched together too late in the season with, in most cases, too much riding on them. I only managed to scare up one Bobcatter, for instance, although I was able to roust a goodly number of Sailors for the Chumps. As for Districts, since I’m no longer running it, and there are few nautical students who would actually attend even if they qualified (I probably hold the record for non-attending qualifiers in the region), I’m not particularly enthused about paying money to fill up slots just to bolster attendance, and this year I managed only one lone lorn creetur. So my hearty Tars aren’t exactly exempt from too-pooped-to-debate pop any more than anyone else. Throw into the mix Easter, Spring holidays, and the (at the moment) unknown date of NY States, plus the dates of the various NJ and Ma tournaments, and you’ve got quite a jumble. I, for one, am at sixes and sevens. (I would prefer elevenses.) And into this hopeless jumble we want to add another MHL?


I think I may put this whole thing aside for a few days and concentrate instead on the Modest Novice. I swore that I would spend Tax Day coming to a decision. I wish there were more universal acceptance of any one wording. Just when I think I’m close, some yabbo comes up with some really good reason that I’m not even in the right church, much less the right pew. But I am beginning to believe that maybe we’re all evaluating it too much as if we were setting varsity on it rather than the rawest novices. No one will debate this topic after their third or fourth tournament, most of the rounds of which will have been spent learning how not to drool on yourself and where to look while you’re talking and things like that, while the underlying framework of the topic is good old-fashioned social contract and morality and stuff like that, that can be organized quite neatly for newbies’ introduction to the business. I mean, if novices can argue throwing the fat guy gentleman of the extra-avoirdupois persuasion off the bridge, they can argue civil disobedience heads-up, I think. Anyhow, rumblings will emanate from this source very soon. Decisions must be made. Nails must be hammered. Dies must be cast.

Oy again.

Anyhow, don’t forget to sign up on Twitter to follow @tabroom for the nonstop action from the Chetan and Kathryn Round Robin this weekend. The big question everybody is asking is if all the ballots put together will have as many words on them as any one ballot from CH himself. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Twitter, again.

I’m progressively getting more used to Twitter as time goes by, and progressively becoming more appreciative of what it can do. But at the same time, I’m becoming more unappreciative of some of what it can do, as well. I’ll explain.

Everybody under the sun can have a Twitter account, and you can follow any or all of them. Nowadays when you sign up (unlike the golden age a couple of years ago, when you were on your own), you are proffered a list of celebrities of various stripes that you can follow. One learns quickly that there are too many of them, and they tweet too much. Then again, a few chosen judiciously is something else. I have a few people I listen to on podcasts, like the TWIT folks, and they’re good to follow. They’ve pointed me to some interesting apps and sites, not surprisingly. After that, Stephen Fry remains entertaining, but the field quickly thins out from that point on.

Then there’s the people you actually know. Honestly, I haven’t sought out anyone in particular, but as people follow me, if they’re in the debate universe, I’ll follow them, provided they don’t tweet too much and they don’t replicate Twitter and Facebook. (I’ve already commented here on how the two are different. Why you would use both identically eludes me. And gives me twice as many messages from you saying the same thing. Na’ah.) It would be nice to build some truly deep debate community out there. We could all Twitter during the CatNats award ceremony, for instance (those of us able to remain awake through the endless thank-you’s, that is). We could play electronic Speechie-Bingo ($2 on the guy with the red tie!). Whatever. It could be fun, and as I say, maybe useful.

My account is @jimmenick. I’ve tended to post mostly tech-based things so far, plus some general lah-di-dah, I’ve got my phone in my hand, who can I bother sort of things. I am coming to believe that a successful twitterer relays a narrative of some sort. That is becoming my goal, a running narrative, complete with the needs of any narrative, i.e., if you want someone to care, you’ve got to make it interesting.

And, of course, I’ll be using the @jimmenick for team updates on the road, as I’ve explained here already, to keep team in tow and families back home informed.

Then there’s @tabroom (which is, horrors, replicated on Facebook at Tab Room but for the specific reason that some people can’t connect their phones to one or the other for some reason; anyhow, I don’t expect anyone to follow both). I was planning on starting up in the Fall when I’m doing Yale, but I thought instead that I’d start this weekend at Chetan’s Round Robin, and then next month at CatNats (I really do think that guy in the red tie is going to win). Maybe other people will be tweeting from these venues as well; certainly it’s not unlikely in Albany. Maybe we can get something going. I’m looking forward to the experiment. If you want to check it out, follow @tabroom this weekend. You can, of course, turn this stuff on and off at will. If you’re a member of the VCA, I’ll keep you posted on what’s doing when. But I won’t mention this coming weekend here again; this will be your final notice. I have to admit, coming up with a narrative of a RR ought to be something of a poser. Can it really be interesting? We’ll see.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tubs: A very special episode...

Before engaging in this battle, let’s look at some credentials. I have personally judged a round of extemp every single decade since the early 1990s. I have been in an at least one extemp prep room (although, admittedly, I had wandered in by mistake and was immediately shooed out by the denizens therein). I have double-entered numerous LDers into extemp at our local District Tournament over the years (although—another admission—they were so bad that the NFL’s “down-two-and-out” rule had to be changed to a “down-one-and-never-show-your-face-in-this-town-again” rule). I am, in other words, a seasoned veteran of this activity. Compare CP, who regularly coaches and judges extempers, and who is known to run extemp prep rooms. I have socks older than he is!

So there you are.

CP bases his reply on my two points of cheating and creation of the modern intellect. Let’s look at cheating first.

There’s a couple of ways you can cheat at extemp, apparently. First of all, you can have prepared material on every possible topic. Now, as I said earlier, it seems to me that a good extemper will, indeed, prepare material to some extent on what is perceived as every possible topic, although the extemper will not necessarily bring that material into extemp prep. If I were going to a tournament today, for instance, I’d have something to say, prepared in advance if not toted along, about G-20, pirates, bailouts, stimuli, Republicans, Democrats and Kumar Patel, et alia. The issue seems to be not that I would prepare speeches, but that I would actually write them up and smuggle them in with me. Apparently people do this, or try to do this, already. CP has caught these spalpeens red-handed and thrown them bodily from the prep room. He claims that this is easy to do now, and would not be easy to do if people had computers.

There’s a couple of issues here. First, this sounds like an implementation problem to me. There are, at present, ways of detecting cheaters smuggling speeches in their tubbage. Because computers make this sort of cheating seem easier, that’s good enough reason to ban them? Wouldn’t we be better off arranging the tab room so that the staff can simply see what’s on every screen? Like a computer lab? Wouldn’t students themselves be monitoring their competitors? I don’t know. I just find this logic hard to accept, that this potential problem (which assumes that an awful lot of extempers are, in fact, not good extempers but simply successful cheaters) cannot be solved mechanically. We don’t solve the problem of people smuggling in canned speeches by banning the tubs in which they smuggle them; computers, although harder to police, perhaps, should similarly not suffer banishment just because they are potentially dangerous. And as I say, is the potential of cheating so large? I find that scary.

As for consulting the coaches, I have about the same reaction. Who the hell are these coaches that would provide their students with surreptitious speeches? And why aren’t they in their own rounds judging, for that matter? Again, the assumption is that offering forbidden fruit turns everybody into a forbidden fruitier. I just don’t buy it. And I don’t buy that even if extempers were to consult less than ethical coaches, it would help all that much. I message you that my topic is G-20’s impact on the world economy, say. (As if, as I’ve mentioned above, I weren’t already prepared for that.) What is the God of All Extemp Coaches going to message me back? I mean, yes, I’m being dense here. I just don’t get it. And if it’s truly an issue, the problem is not that we’re being modern in the extemp prep room, but that we’ve got some real stinkers who don’t belong in the educational system. Some method other than banning computers would seem to be necessary to toss them out.

My arguments rely, of course, on the assumption that the benefits of computers would be worth the trouble. My thought was that banning internet access seems, well, a little old-fashioned. (Given that CP himself wrote up the Harvard tournament in light of how well people cited sources, my assumption was that correct use of sources was one of the goals. That was probably a misreading of his posts, which did, in fact, bemoan the pressure to throw in a certain number of sources. I’ll concede that.)

Here’s the crux of CP’s response: “The point of extemp is to develop students whose success is predicated on their ability to manipulate their own brain and knowledge. An extemper who relies on their sources and evidence, no matter the derivation, is already failing. Evidence tubs should be hard to use, because the goal is to wean students off of them, and make them into clear, independent thinkers. Your brain is the fastest database you own, and developing and expanding it is the best investment we can make. A computer offers the most nefarious shortcut imaginable: the search function.… So take an extemp question, [search] the key terms… and there’s your pre-written extemp speech; the thoughts and the words of all the thinkers in your database, strung together topically. Copy them down — no need to understand them! — and you’re ready to go. Search functions thus remove the necessity to walk into an extemp round with prior knowledge of a breadth of subject areas, and thus remove the purpose of the activity altogether. [emphasis added by JM] Knowing the stuff would be easier still, but it’s not enough easier that the bulk of students will need to develop that internal database to succeed. In short, more kids than currently would get away with bullshit.… Sure, the Great Extempers will need to know that stuff — but why should we even allow moderate success to come to those who don’t know anything at all about the world, but sure know how to run a database search?”

And here, I admit, I think he’s got a point. The extemper is supposed to know everything before going into the round—perhaps being one of those people I’m always longing to know, the ones who read the newspaper every day—and should simply use the prep time to synthesize the correct thoughts that are already roaming around in the brain. This makes sense to me. For that matter, how could you be any good on the day of the tournament if you weren’t prepping every other day? That is the academic beauty of this activity. The choosing of the topic and the half hour of prep is simply the focusing of the mind. The ability to string together mindless facts about the topic, gleaned from any sort of research, is a poor substitute for knowing what you’re talking about in the first place. This does raise the question, though, of where the judges come in on this; shouldn’t they be the ones separating the Wheaties from the Chaff Flakes, so to speak? Then again, that presumes competent judges capable of determining the difference between wheat and chaff, and no doubt they’re as rare, or as populous, as they are in every other activity (like, for instance, LD, where neg presumption reigns supreme). CP’s argument is that computers would make for better chaff, perhaps at the expense of the gathering of wheat in the first place.

I wonder. If I already know my stuff, I’d be damned good doing some quick research to bring up the best supporting material. Then I’d present an even better speech. If I don’t know my stuff, I could still be damned good at doing quick research, and it would be a simulacrum of a good speech. And, apparently, the judges are not always going to be able to tell the difference? That’s too bad, but I don’t want to hamstring the better person to limit the abilities of the lesser person.

So there you are. I persist in discounting the whole cheating thing as chimerical. If there were a benefit to computers in extemp prep, we’d devise ways of managing potential abuses. The question is, really, if there’s a benefit to computers in extemp prep in the actual scope and intent of the activity. And here, while at least understanding what CP is saying, I still think I disagree. The thing is, that student who has the broad knowledge, who has the brain we’re trying to create through the educational process of extemporaneous speaking, has to have gotten that knowledge somewhere. Twenty years ago, that knowledge no doubt came from reading the newspapers and the weekly newsmagazines, secondarily clipped and put into tubs. But the thing is, that paradigm of keeping up with things doesn’t stand anymore. Newspapers and magazines are going out of business, and in most cases are barely viable. They have been, for the most part, replaced. A tub filled with Time magazine clippings (or comparable Lexus printouts) is no more representative of how knowledge is gained in 2009 than if one were to bring in hieroglyphs etched on stone tablets. Somehow, keeping in mind this—prior knowledge of a breadth of subject areas [is] the purpose of the activity—is there no way we can integrate computers, the source of that prior knowledge, with the actual activity? To me, it’s a disconnect. Are we going to wait until all the newsmagazines are out of business and then allow computers? Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen in the not very distant future. I think we should be ready for it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The extemp plot thickens

CP demurs on extemporaneous computers. He disagrees with me, as you can see. I'll reply when I get a chance. First I want to think about what he's saying (which is unusual for me, but I thought I'd give contemplation a try, just in case it leads somewhere interesting.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

CP demurs? - Tweets du jour - retooled

CP says I’m marginally misinformed about computers in Extemp (“predictably utterly wrong” are his actual words). I await his admittedly expert explanation. He claims to be either too busy or too pooped to pop. He also mentioned something about a local Bostwegian baseball team. How droll.

I’m spending a lot of time exploring the universe of Twitter, and am still enjoying it. I’m now embarking on a test of Seesmic Desktop, which aggregates social networks and, unlike most aggregators, allows multiple Twitter accounts. I’m looking at FriendFeed, too, which instantly (seamlessly) linked to Facebook, but there’s something about that… And, obviously, I’ve settled on the usage of the two Twitter accounts that I have, and abandoned the other hundred and twelve that seemed to have gone to ground. I’ll tell you one thing. Twitter is an iPhoner’s (or comparable’s) game. Wireless reading of tweets on a small device is peachy. But I wish so many people wouldn’t double up their Facebook and Twitter accounts. They are not interchangeable arenas, and if I follow you on one it is very annoying to see the same message on the other. As I’ve said, they serve different purposes. If you must update every breath you take, Twitter it (although even there, judiciousness is valuable). On the new (and for that matter, all previous iterations of) Facebook, constant updates are just noise.

I’ve also begun redesigning my pages, which means I’ve grabbed some free html and ported things over. It was about time to unify things a little bit. As it turns out, the new home page contains updates of the latest of both @jimmenick and @tabroom with any refresh, which is enough for the casual observer (i.e., the odd Sailor parent). So I’m covered coming and going on that front for next year. Anyhow, so far I’ve done the main home page and the about page, plus I’ve added a contact page (much more complicated than in the old days, obviously). Next I’ll address the other pages that need it. Something to do during the off season, eh?

And if you’re at all technically curious, I can’t recommend enough. It’s become my new favorite website. Add it to your RSS feeder immediately! You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

How to cheat in Extemp

Another comment, this time on computers in extemp: “I think that there is a genuine concern less about people getting outside help, although that certainly is a possibility, but that people could store entire pre-prepared speeches on countless topics.

“Extemp by its very nature is an event designed with the idea that you aren't giving a speech that you prepared before the tournament started. While any comments that you say won't be purely of the cuff like they are with impromptu I think that we would be dramatically changing the nature of the event by allowing people to have a canned speech that they just had to open up on their laptop.”

Again, this may be true, but it is really not unique to computerization. There’s nothing stopping people from illegally storing entire pre-prepared speeches already, is there? Here’s the relevant rule from the NFL:

5. Preparation: As soon as a topic is chosen, the contestant shall withdraw and prepare a speech without consultation and without references to prepared notes. Students may consult published books, magazines, newspapers and journals or articles therefrom, provided:
A. They are originals or xeroxed copies of whole pages.
B. Provided those originals or Xeroxed copies are uncut.
C. There is no written material on that original or copy other than citation information.
D. Topical index without annotation may be present.
No other material shall be allowed in the extemp prep room other than stated above. Extemp speeches, handbooks, briefs and outlines shall be barred from the extemp prep room. Underlining or highlighting in extemp will be allowed if done in only one color on each article or copy. No electronic retrieval device may be used.

Obviously, prepared speeches are not allowed. But how clever would I have to be to smuggle some in? The thing about cheating and technology is that, regardless of what technology is available, anyone who wants to can figure a way to cheat with that technology. On the other hand, I would have to expect that any decent extemper has already outlined, mentally, speeches on a variety of likely topics. We don’t suggest also that we brainwash students on the way in, do we? Egregiousness aside, however we patrol (if we do) extemp prep now for violations, it would be no more difficult to patrol a computerized prep room as well. And, more relevantly, we can set rules of proper behavior, which most people will follow; I am a believer in the basic goodness of humanity. I’m willing to suggest also that the stinkers who don’t follow the rules have very little to gain by misbehavior. Aside from some blockbuster team with a couple of dozen extempers prepping on every possible topic and churning out polished speeches for each them (is that even possible?) I can’t imagine a scenario where all the work going into cheating wouldn’t be exponentially greater than the work required for not cheating, especially since cheating (a prepared speech) is only marginally more likely to succeed competitively than an extemporaneous speech, really. It’s not like having a hidden list of all the state capitals for a test about state capitals, after all.

Again, all of my thoughts are in aid of the reality of the world in which we live. Why shouldn’t we develop great extempers whose success is predicated on their ability to manipulate internet resources, a life skill, versus their ability to manipulate tub resources, an irrelevant skill in a computerized universe? If we fear malfeasance, it shouldn’t be hard to prevent it or at least catch it. Ultimately our goal is supposed to be the education of students. Shouldn’t we educate them for the world in which they will live?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Money, messages, things to do

In answer to the issue of uncomputerized forensicians (see the comments), I’m not insensitive to financial issues, but I’m afraid I don’t see funding as unique to debate. First of all, life itself requires computers nowadays. Schools that are in districts so impoverished that PCs aren’t a given need to address this on a global scale. It’s a part of education (which was my basic point, actually); if students graduate high school without a mastery of basic PC tasks, they might as well not be able to read a product label or do basic arithmetic. To acquire basic PC skills, you need basic PCs. Second, computers to do the minimal job I’m talking in rounds about cost $299. Computers to do the job next season will cost $99 to $199 (if the Times is to be believed). This is no different than the amount of money already spent sending one team to, say, 3 invitationals. Way cheaper than sending anyone to CatNats, NatNats, NYS Finals, Northeast Championships, TOC, etc., etc., etc. University of Virginia is abandoning its computer labs because all but 6 (I’m pretty sure it was 6) of its incoming freshmen had their own computers. If money really is absolutely unavailable, then schools can find forensic activities (like LD, for instance) where computers are unessential. My post was suggesting that the FLs of life admit this is the reality and stop acting as if it’s 1957. As for schools not acting like it’s 1957, I doubt if many prefer the dark ages (as compared to some FLs, which seem to revel in them). Time will cure that end of it pretty soon. And maybe a fundraiser or two. At worst, a judicious reevaluation of which activities to concentrate on would get people through the transition.

Meanwhile, I’ve been meditating long and hard on communications issues. Mostly I’ve been playing with Twitter. This is an application that requires an amazing amount of juggling. You need to establish the right balance of who you want to follow, and how. For instance, I thought I’d follow the NY Times, and quickly had pages upon pages of NY Times tweets. Too much information. I mean, I do read the Times already. So I could go in and out, I guess, if I were following breaking news, but mostly I think I prefer out, that being the least demanding and thus default position. I’ve picked some famous people to follow, with mixed results. I find Stephen Fry’s tweets to be literate and entertaining absent any interest in what he’s talking about (although so far he has also been interesting). Tech people I like (the usual suspects like Kevin Rose or Leo Laporte) provide nice links to tech stuff I’m interested in. People I know personally have been uniformly disappointing, as I’m already following them all on Facebook. It’s gotta be different to be worth the bandwidth (no offense, people). The heart of the matter is the potential use of the cell phone in all this. Who do I want to follow so badly I will do it 24/7? It’s one thing to run up endless pages in the browser and another altogether to run up endless (and probably unimportant) text messages. This, obviously, remains to be sorted out.

On the broadcast front, however, I’m pretty set. Follow @tabroom on Twitter or Tab Room on Facebook (that’s like Tab Hunter’s younger brother) for real-time tournament updates. They’re already linked and hence repeat one another, so don’t do both. Turn on mobile notifications for either one and keep them on; I won’t be using this for anything other than tournament notifications (although some may be lead-up messages rather than on-site messages, although to be honest, how many messages will there actually be?). This is for everyone at an event I’m working, and is probably most important for the colleges. As for team messages, follow @jimmenick on Twitter or Jim Menick on Facebook. I’ll link the two only during tournaments, so that families can follow our progress and I can communicate to the pack on hand as necessary. Again, mobile connections are required. I would suggest turning those connections off when we’re not on the road, as I intend to keep playing with @jimmenick for non-team material. I may change my mind on all of this, but after playing with multiple accounts and the like, this seems to make the most sense.

No Sailors this week, as they’re scattered to the winds of Spring holiday. Modest Novice will settle very, very soon. Final messages to MHL very, very soon. Canvassing for the site of next year’s TNC very, very soon. Curriculum of MHLW very, very soon. I mean it. Really. Trust me on this.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Dr. Negative, I presume?

I’ve been engaged in a discussion of burdens on Facebook with Christian Chessman. You might find it interesting.

It begins with my status posting: “I'm worried that people say there's neg presumption in PF, and believe there's neg presumption in PF, but, maybe, there isn't any such thing.” I’m not sure what prompted me to come up with this, but probably it was something I wrote here that elicited some comment responses (I’m not going to get too archaeological in digging stuff up; if you’re that interested you can do it yourself).

Christian: “PF resolutions are either designed as truth statements (something is something else/something has done something else) or policy statements (we should do this).
In either case, you need to prove the statement true before it can be accepted as such.
Christmas is bad. ... Unless I have reasoning behind why Christmas is bad, I should not integrate that statement into my belief system. I cannot possibly endorse that statement without understanding a reason for why Christmas is bad.
And Should is the same reason why CX has negative presumption.”

Me: “Rez = Christmas is bad. Pro goes first, then maybe I'm with you. But if con goes first, haven't the alleged burdens shifted?”

Christian: “If you believe that the negative has a burden to prove the resolution false, yes.
I don't see that as how debate is structured, however. The resolution makes a truth statement (lately) or a statement of policy.
It seems prudent that the statement should have to be proven accurate before being accepted by the judge.”

I don’t know. I need to throw this into the mix: “Public Forum Debate focuses on advocacy of a position derived from the issues presented in the resolution, not a prescribed set of burdens.” That’s what NFL has to say about it.

Curiously enough, I can’t find anywhere in the NFL literature that there is a presumption for the negative in Policy. I wonder if I’m accepting that such a burden exists because I have talked to a lot of people who say that it exists, a position derived, as Christian derives his position, from a logical reading of rhetoric rather than anything set forth in the rules of adjudication.

I do recall that someone eloquently pointed out (somewhere, and once again I’m too busy to do the archaeology) that the paradigm of PF is simply convincing inexperienced judges, a call to an approach of lucidity of thought and presentation reminiscent of the earliest days of LD. This may be de facto true and, to some extent, ex officio true as well.

I default to my conundrum. If I subscribe to a negative presumption, and Con goes first, who gets the presumption? The so-called negative statement usually inherent in Con’s position, or the negative position of the Pro which has, by this theory, the burden of disproving the Con’s so-called truth statements? In either case, one side gets a distinct advantage, and the judge is removed from a position of having to do more than say, “Well, it looked like a tie to me, so whichever side I construe as the negative therefore wins by default.”

I remain unconvinced by any of this (and less convinced at this point that there’s even presumption in Policy except by common practice). In LD, there is a clear rule stating that there is no presumption, which seems to bother few judges when it comes time to base their RFDs on presumption. But if we’re using those inexperienced judges in PF, than maybe the whole question is moot. They will, in fact, judge by their guts, given no better paradigm. Whether this is good or bad is another question altogether.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

More on computers everywhere

A comment suggests that computers in extemp prep would lead to cheating, i.e., consulting the God of All Debate (or the God of All Extemp, in this case) for help. I'm willing to risk it. If you're dumb enough to spend your research time asking someone outside of the room to do your research for you, you deserve the ensuing results. Sure, it could be done, but realistically? Unless your coach is right there, computer in hand, at your beck and call, capable of turning your request into a case in 8 minutes, you'd probably be better off doing it yourself. (And good luck finding that coach to do it for you in the first place.) My inherent point is that you need to learn research skills online, preferably fast. Mastery of those skills is better than mastery of calling your G of A E (who, come to think of it, from the ones I've met, may not be the person you want doing your top-speed online research for you). Doing extemp with a computer presupposes pre-organization of your resources. Folders with links to articles on all sorts of stuff, or similar starting aids. Your coach has these and you don't? No, I don't think you're getting a lot of 1s, bubbeleh. This is an easy risk for any FL to take.

As for the Charlie McCarthy approach, in the same comment, I'm all for it. It's hard enough to speak at normal LD speeds. Imagine repeating whatever Dick Cheney is saying into your ear at normal LD speeds, which you then have to reiterate at those same speeds: boggled is the mind. There should be no rule against this. In fact, you should get extra speaker points just for trying. But only if you do it in front of multiple judges, one of which has to be me. Pleeeezzzeee!

Friday, April 03, 2009

An open letter to the [You Name It] Forensic League

I am, in my chief profession, a book editor. I read a lot of manuscripts submitted for publication and I edit the manuscripts that are selected. I write promotion copy, schmooze with authors and other publishing types, manage a couple of product lines and generally do what experienced editors tend to do. My job is in no way tech-oriented. I create no products, hard or soft, that in any way, shape or form can be considered computer- or web-oriented.

And I am on my computer virtually my entire working day.

For my work I use, and have at times created/designed apps/scripts/macros for, Word, Excel, and Lotus Notes (where my company has created numerous proprietary applications). I regularly work my way through PhotoShop, Quark, and an international online trafficking system call PlanControl. I keep both Firefox and Safari open at all times, each one plugged into different logins to various standard online apps, and I use Cyberduck for FTP issues when the occasion arises. I can research virtually anything at any time, in multiple venues, and often have great need to do so. There are other applications I use occasionally, but the ones mentioned here tend to be open either all the time or almost all the time, depending on what I happen to be doing on a given day.

And remember, my job is in no way tech-oriented.

I mention all of this because it seems to me that every forensics organization in the country is, to some extent or other, addressing the question of use of computers in forensics events. That there is any issue here at all astounds me. No matter how much we may all love to debate, I can’t imagine a question about which there are really not two sides. The idea that we could believe that it is beneficial not to use the lifeblood technology of the twenty-first century in developing the presumed leaders of the twenty-first century is absurd. It cannot stand on any level. Computing devices connected online at all times are the functional underpinning of modern life. Skill at managing these devices, therefore, is mastery of the functional underpinning of modern life.

In preparations for rounds, extempers can either have a limited amount of material they were able to put into a tub, or the total information available on the internet. In the world outside of rounds, and in their future lives, they will always have the latter. Since knowledge and information are progressively more useful as they are arithmetically (or geometrically!) increased, no benefit can be derived from limiting them. The greater the limits, the more useless the information. In fact, management of the vast amount of information available online is one of the greatest skills that a student can learn. Managing a tiny amount of information is a game played for its own sake.

In preparations for rounds, CXers inevitably use the internet. In rounds, they often cannot. The benefit here of limiting the information available to them eludes me. And for both extempers and CXers, even material collected on their computers without online access can quickly dwarf whatever it is they are capable of carrying in tubs. It is no contest. Similarly, PF teams can find uses for research during rounds. (So could judges, for that matter.) LD, concentrating more on philosophical underpinnings, might be able to demonstrate the least likely benefits from computers in a round, but they certainly would not be harmful.

Of course, the amount of time available to do in-round research is pretty limited. You’d have to be good at it to make it work for you. Which means that allowing it would force students to get good at fast, targeted, online research, a life skill if there ever was one.

Then again, many schools where tournaments are held have no wireless, and access to the internet would be limited. This will never change? Does anyone want to send their students to a school that isn’t not only wired but wireless-wired (if you know what I mean)? Non-wireless is a temporary state. I don’t predict its demise date, but I do predict its demise quickly. Given that it’s not even particular expensive, it would be hard to disagree with me.

By the way, I’m only addressing technologies that exist today. Can you imagine the means of access, and the material accessible, a decade from now? For comparison’s sake, look at the means of access, and the material accessible, a decade ago.

Two objections to computer use put forth by various forensics leagues have been, first, unfair distribution of access and, second, cheating.

To answer the first objection, a netbook computer costs $299. Cheaper ones are promised for this calendar year. Computerization of schools is a reality in this millennium. If anyone really believes that we would be disenfranchising certain schools by allowing computer use, I would suggest that those people, when they run a tournament, allow the schools (if any) that don’t have computers to register for free. They can use the money saved to buy the necessary technology. They will catch up in a couple of weeks. (Except, of course, the idea that this disparity exists really isn’t true in the first place. Still, even if I’m wrong, time will fix it pretty quickly.)

To answer the second objection, I would suggest that it is a chimera. Imagine that we were to allow cell phone calls during rounds to the God of All Debate. Our opponent is running, let’s say, a Foucault kritik. What exactly are we asking the God of All Debate to help us cheat with? Does the G of A D have a magic bullet answer for every question in every round, especially when the G of A D isn’t even watching the round? Is there such a magic bullet? More to the point, is this the best use of the debaters’ prep time? Wouldn’t they be better off finding their Foucault files and counterarguments and blocks? If they’ve never heard of Foucault, will the G of A D be any more helpful than a quick look at Wikipedia? I mean, if you’re totally lost, the solution is not to learn in two minutes everything about what you don’t know, but to elegantly weasel out of your lack of knowledge. I’ll tell you that now and save you the call to the G of A D. My point is that there is no way communicating with people outside the round will be helpful. Even if it were, it would be no differently helpful that a quick lookup of information. Debate rounds are not episodes of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” with lifelines with the (hopefully) right answers. That paradigm simply doesn’t apply. Those who maintain that it does have little or no understanding of how debate works.

So, dear friends at the [You Name It] Forensic League, please join us in the present day. Get over your reluctance to allow computers without limitations. The plugged-in world is the way of the present; a world where you don’t even need plugs is the way of the future. If you are seriously interested in preparing students to live in this present and that future, stop handicapping them. By doing so, you simply miss the point of their lives, and act like “the older generation” that “the younger generation” has, for so long, believed to be obstacles in their paths.

Presumably, by the way, you are reading this online. Ain’t that a kick!

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Tech on ice; Sailors sans beans; tabbing for dollars

A day without the Touch is like a woman without a bicycle. (That doesn’t sound right. Whatever.) It’s a fate worse than death, and it means all tech bets are off for a while, because I put all the data reminding me what accounts I have where with what passwords onto the Touch. Oh what a tangled web we weave when we tangle with the web. (That doesn’t sound right either. See what happens when you rely too much on technology?)

So, general updates.

The official Sailor debate season is over. This Tuesday we shut things down with a traditional game of Bean Trivia. Note the name of the game. Now, first question: What did I forget to bring with me? You guessed it. I had even bought a whole new bag of industrial strength kidney beans just for this event, and they remained exactly where I left them at the top of the stairs so that I wouldn’t forget them. Right. Still, the game proceeded as if we were rolling in legumes. I deliberately made some of the questions a little easy (with answers like Rihanna, whoever that is), while admittedly some of them required a tad of special knowledge, such as who popularized the song “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” (automatic win if you also know who wrote the song). Favorite question: Film featuring the character “McLovin,” just because I like saying McLovin. In keeping with the rules set at the Lex RR, lifelines were in play, including Text Anybody, Ask Cruz and Ask a Coach. This meant having O’C handy, but he stayed near the phone, his allegiance to Bean Trivia second only to his allegiance to George Lucas. There were those who interpreted texting anybody, asking Cruz and asking a coach as, identically, three separate opportunities to ask Cruz, and I was hard-pressed to disallow these interpretations. Meanwhile, I am amazed at the things that O’C knows, which he really should clear his head of at the first opportunity. I mean, it’s one thing to be the chief contributor to the Wookieepedia, and another thing altogether to memorize the credits of Jim Carrey films. Anyhow, after a fierce battle, a playoff between SuperSquirrel and the Panivore resulted in a narrow victory for Miss Malnutrition of 2009 (who, by the way, should probably be renamed the Crapivore, because she eats any kind of junk you put in front of her provided it is certified nutrition-free by the FDA).

Of course, I’m not completely abandoning the Sailors, since there are a couple of events still to come, NY States (sigh) and CatNats (where I’ll learn more about PF; read the comment to my PF entry this week if you haven’t already, suggesting the paradigm is parent judging). We’ll chez up for these events in hopes of some decent prep, but that always cuts out the ribbon clerks, meaning, as I say, we’re in the postseason. There’s also the Chetanic RR in a couple of weeks, but if S-S doesn’t understand ICC at this point, there’s no hope.

And so another forensic year fades into the dust.

Which brings us to next year. I have updated the Google Calendar. (And why is everything on Google still marked as beta? Have they simply redefined beta as omega?) This is northeast-centric, but it does have a few $ircuit events on it. Feel free to let me know if I’ve gotten something wrong, or if you think I should add something.

We also had a conference call last night doing some preplanning among our traveling tab army. There are some questions about who will be where, when, and what needs improving and why, plus a few other thisses and thattas. I’ve still got to send out a report to all the MHL folks wrapping up the year, plus we’ve got to address next year’s Northeast Championships (we have some important upgrades to make there). All issues regarding next year pretty much have to be settled this year because of team budgeting and the like. We’re on the case. That’s what you’re paying us for, right? (Or what you would be paying us for, if you or anyone else was paying us.)

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Modnov update and tales of tech to come

First, a cross-post from the Modest Novice. My hope is to light on something by the middle of this month, and then maybe get consensus and then just do it. I think we could debate what we have now pretty well. It will give us social contract and justice, with a hint of oaky morality and blackberry overtones: it’s an ambitious little topic and I think you’ll be amused by its pretensions.

Meanwhile, mostly these last few days I’ve been slogging through Twitter and Facebook and their communion or lack thereof. What’s the best way to use these things? The fact that the new Facebook interface is, as many have suggested, a Twitter interface clone, is interesting. If Twitter is for fast-paced stuff, and Facebook is more for general communication, you gotta wonder. Anyhow, I apologize in advance to people who follow me on either of these venues (not to mention people who will have to suffer reading about it through this venue), especially if all you’re interested in is my complaining about other coaches. (Okay. O’C sucks. There. That’s your fix for the day.) I’m going to be doing a lot of experimenting over the next few weeks as I play around and learn and figure out what I really want to do. Ignore me for a while, if you must (although I have asked O’C, who really doesn’t suck—although he does know the names of the characters in the film “Dumb and Dumber,” which does make you wonder—to enlist as a Twitter tester for me). Otherwise, I will be keeping you posted up the wazoo. You’ve been warned.

Twitter is a piece of work, let me tell you. First of all, I’ve got two perfectly good accounts. One is jimmenick (I thought long and hard about that one) and the other is tabroom (another user name that was less than elusive). But here’s my thinking. Tabroom would be for literal tab business at tournaments. Follow tabroom at Twitter and you’ll get instant news about the tournament, like sked updates and round releases and the like. Very useful especially at big, multi-location venues like Yale and Princeton and Columbia. I’ve set it up so I can send a message to tabroom from my phone and have it broadcast over the tabroom channel. This is a bigger issue than you think because you can only have one phone connection to Twitter, and I’ve already set jimmenick to be that one. I used GroupTweet to make this happen. So anyone following tabroom will get the latest about tournaments, probably starting with announcements before the tournament (closing dates and the like). That can be useful. At least, that’s my thinking at the moment. It is bound to change.

Trying to set up a third account has not been easy. First of all, if you look up “down” in the dictionary, they have a picture of Twitter. No wonder people are tattooing themselves with the fail whale. Down is Twitter’s constant state. I’m thinking that if immediacy is the issue, we might need to backup with Facebook postings as well. I mean, you can follow someone’s Facebook postings on your phone, if you want. That may be a better solution? I’m not sure, but probably not. Is a puzzlement, though. Anyhow, the third connection was so I’d have a channel to communicate solely to the Sailors and their families, things like bus timings and ETAs and come here Watson I need you and go get lunch and that sort of thing. For some reason, I can’t access/follow my third connections (I’ve tried a bunch). Communicating between tabroom and jimmenick has been a breeze, but nothing further than that.

I don’t know. I don’t really want to use Facebook for this because, well, I use Facebook for other things, like keeping up with alums and (real) friends in general rather than minute-by-minute. A communications network that is solely (or at least primarily) phone-based makes sense in the universe where everyone has phones. But everything I’ve heard about Twitter’s unreliability is proving out (it was just down for the last half hour, for instance). And Facebook has its own phone connections. We’ll just have to see. If you’re going to Yale, be ready for some serious testing. And as I say, over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about it a lot.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ve enjoyed a pleasant April Fool’s Day. I, for one, do not specifically celebrate this holiday, believing instead that the spirit of April Fool’s Day should be spread throughout the year. Everything I have said today has been the absolute truth if, in fact, there is such a thing as absolute truth, which is another subject altogether.

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