Monday, November 30, 2009

The math

If you take a few days off, you come back to find a ton of things waiting for you. For instance, my RSS reader has about 3000 messages waiting. Plan A: Read them all. Plan B: Erase them all.

No contest.

I did plug into the Tiggers once or twice over the Thanksgiving hiatus. First of all, we’ve now got the judges all plugged in, and the strikes and ratings are in progress. Then there was discussion about the schedule (which will probably be posted on the site today at some point). The big issue was the number of prelims in VLD. We started out with 6, going to double-octos, with a field of 160. Following the discussion on TVFT, CP wondered if we needed to amend things. First we kicked around the issue of the 24 non-breaking 4-2s and a possible runoff (i.e., a partial triple). I had some trouble getting this in my non-mathematical mind because of the sheer scope of it. That was more non-breaking than breaking4-2s. Something was wrong, somewhere. When I’ve ruminated on run-offs in the past, I’ve always been thinking a handful, like TOC, or a slightly bigger handful, like Big Jake. 24 is a bloody boatload. As a run-off, it just feels too big. It’s tantamount to another round altogether.

We could, of course, had simply said screw it and moved on as planned, but CP and I are not the type to say screw it. We’re more the type to say screw you, often to each other, but that’s another issue entirely. So we’ve nestled into the idea of a 7th prelim round. This sits nicely, I must say. A couple of 5-2s won’t break, but frankly, that’s life. It is a competition, after all, and that means there’s winners and losers. But with a field of 160, 7 rounds just seems right, so the balance of winners and losers is acceptable. If you win all but two, you’re pretty much guaranteed to break—not completely guaranteed but pretty much guaranteed. That’s not bad, sports fans. Probably the best solution possible short of infinite time with infinite judges. As I say, I’ve nestled into the idea. Then again, I’m quite the nestler.

One offshoot of this will be an almost guaranteed contagion to other tournaments. What hath we wrought? Normal high school tournaments won’t change much, but colleges and three-day octos-qual puppies are in deep doo-doo. If Princeton can hold 7 rounds for 160, then, fr’instance, what’s Yale’s excuse? You start seeing where this is leading. Whether players like Glenbrooks will come around or not remains to be seen, but you’ve got to look at the odds. Let’s say you’re looking for quals. You can go to a n-round tournament with a x-size field and know that you can lose two and survive, or not, and it costs $Z to go to that tournament for the chance at whatever number of bids. You’ll do the math and, unless you have more money than brains, you’ll act accordingly. In other words, Bietz’s casual tweet about money paid versus rounds offered takes on a life of its own.

And you thought Twitter was worthless. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey, Tiggers and tournaments in general

I’ll probably go offline for a few days, since there’s not much going on forensical over the coming weekend, whereas there’s plenty of real life things to attend to. I trust that you will do likewise. Go cook a turkey or something.

I’ve been adding judges to the hires pool as the Tiggers have signed them up. We’re almost where I would like to be, but not quite. Ratings/striking will take place starting on Sunday, so they have a few more days to get their ducks in a row. The only real problem with late additions is that they’re automatically Cs, even if they’re the cat’s pajamas. Oh, well. Other than that, the tournament is big again like last year, and should be fun for everyone. There’s a real attraction to the Tigger campus. It just feels like college, if you know what I mean, unlike some schools that are in the middle of somewhere else. Like NYU, for instance, which is in the middle of NYC. NYC overpowers the NYUness, whereas Princeton is Princeton, and while they might actually be the pickle packing capital of the world or somesuch, around the university everything is university, period. And what I think people go to the tournament for is the debating per se, since the bid is finals, and therefore pretty elusive given a field of 160. I like that so many people attend. As Soddy once said, he did not run his tournament (Big Bronx) as an entrance event to some other tournament, and that is the way all tournaments should be perceived, as ends in themselves. (I think Kant also wrote about this, but in his case it was sour grapes, because every year he debated he always dropped in the bid rounds.) You go to a tournament for the sake of that tournament. A lot of tournaments have definite personalities, and you want to be a part of the tournaments you like because of those personalities. Presumably some tournaments get TOC bids because the nature of the tournament personality and the people it attracts warrant those bids. As the VCA knows, I value a lot of things about forensics, and among the least of these is the whole $ircuit business. Trust me on this: if you debate now to learn things and enjoy yourself and make friends and do as well as you can, you will value the experience for life. If you debate now to get to TOC at any price and miss out on all the non-competitive aspects of the activity, debate will just be a blur in your past, another checkbox on your list of things that got you into college. Good luck with that one.

And so, it’s off to the holiday. Some early Christmas shopping tomorrow, breaking out the new Wii Resort game with the family, arguing about the Disney trip. (Disney trip? you ask. Yeah, Disney trip. Details to come. I promise you, the VCA is going to enjoy this one. Seriously.) Maybe take in a movie. Clean up this and that. Pack away the rest of the Bump crapola for the year. Play some poker Saturday night. Five whole days off. Ah, blessed peace!

And blessed peace to you, too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from funny-looking foodstuffs

I let CP go into my computer on Saturday at the terminal level. On Sunday, my iTunes family sharing was dysfunctional. Bleech! Two rules about computers:

1. If it doesn’t work, computer people always blame the computer or the users. CP blamed Snow Leopard for whatever it was that was irking him at Wee Sma Lex that started him crawling into Vegas Elvis in the first place.

2. If it doesn’t work, users always blame the computer or the computer people. At the DJ, for instance, everybody blames the Help Desk, which is in India, and then India in general, when something doesn’t work as they expected. (Makes you wonder if Pakistan also has its help desks in India. That would explain a lot.)

The fault lies not in our stars but in our selves, gentle reader. Except in the case I’m talking about, where it was CP’s fault. (Although I’m not quite sure how he also managed to screw up Little Elvis, who was back home all weekend, by tinkering with Vegas Elvis. Maybe it was the computer after all.) Anyhow, today’s tech tip, aside from that you should always RTFM, even if there isn’t one: if you need to fix family sharing, turn it off and on again.

Another rule about computers: if it doesn’t work, whatever it is, turn it off and on again. 99% of the time, your problem is solved. Wouldst that everything in life were so simple.

Other than the above, Wee Sma Lex went swimmingly, as always. The Sailors in attendance did well, for one thing, all with winning records and one winning her division. This latter was a nice plus, given that said Sailor hasn’t been around much, and this might swing her into more action. She also never ate either matzoh balls or corned beef before, which lacks we erased at Reins Deli, which is why we go all the way to WSL in the first place. (For the record, she did instantly recognize that matzoh balls taste like chalk, only without the yummy flavor, but that’s another thing completely.)

Additionally, CP and I got to hang out for a while, as he runs the Pfffters at the tournament. We did a lot of discussing of this and that regarding the college circuit and MJP and Disney World (major topics of our existence), and especially got to enjoy the phenomenon of the judges putting the forks into themselves because they’re done. Except, of course, they’re not. I’ve talked here ad nauseum about judges who somehow think that a little judging goes a long way, and since they are a short way from home, they decide that’s the way they should go next. This disease always seems particularly rife at WSL for some reason.

When things go awry at tournaments, people seem to think that the tab room can do something about it. Not as a general rule. We can only work with whatever it is that we have to work with. One parent told us how, before arriving that day, all she had been given was a minute of judging instruction, and she had told the coach she had had obligations that afternoon, and now she had to leave. This is not exactly a tab room problem, especially at a tournament with 0 extra judges. If she’s telling the truth, there’s no doubt where the blame should fall. First of all, what self-respecting coach gives parents who volunteer to assist only one minute of instruction? Hell, at the MHL and CFL we have whole tournaments dedicated to parent-judge instruction, not to mention the miles of material I’ve written on the subject. And then the same coach tries to pull a fast one on both us and the parent who was nice enough to help out by obligating her beyond her ability to fulfill the obligation? That is about as low as it gets.


But the biggest sigh of all goes to the magic number, which is 33. Which is what the Panivore was at Glenbrooks. I followed the tournament via text message, round by round. She got to the 5-2 bracket and then, by the proverbial hair, she lost out. Damnation! Of course, the P will immediately get back on the horse again (an exceptionally apt metaphor) and will probably be more determined as a result. A scary prospect, indeed. People were telling me, by the way, that she’s taken to adding a quarter of a teaspoon of cream cheese to her bagels lately. Another scary prospect. What’s next? Buttered toast? It could happen. Stay tuned. (I wonder if the whole family is panivorous. I can just see Dad at the table this coming Thursday, carving the annual Thanksgiving bagel…)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Breaking news!

I just ran the side report from Bump. As it turns out, Aff won a total percentage of almost exactly 50%. Curiously enough, so did neg.

Moral of the story: flip neutral. It wins every time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In which technology meets reality

The problem is, I collect the recordings, then I mix them, add the bumper music, and ftp the final result to my server. Then I update the TVFT blog page. So far, so good. In a manner of speaking, the episode is published.

Then I forget to update the XML, so it doesn’t go to iTunes.

Or, even more fascinating, I remember the XML but I screw it up, so God knows what it is that’s going to iTunes.

So, last week iTunes lay idle, unburdened by episode six, while this week, two episodes came out at once, although followers of the blog already got one of them last week. What can I say? The hang of this will eventually be gotten. I know it. On the positive side, number seven from this week is the best mixed of the batch so far, and that’s progress, anyhow.

Then again, if you paid me more, I’d do a better job. Stop complaining, you yabbo! Where’s your podcast? Let’s see your tech chops, you braggart!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

WSM, JSM, MJP, LBJ, JFK, CIA, A/T, TWA (the abbreviated version)

I’m off tomorrow to Wee Sma Lex. It is indeed wee sma on the LD side, but it’s positively gargantuan on the PF side. What’s going on up there in Massachusettsland? At least I’ll get to powwow with CP while I’m churning cards (this one’s going to be manual). We can MJP up to our hearts’ content, for one thing, although I think he’s mostly got it knocked already. Plus we can plan our Tigger dining options, always an important aspect of coachean conferencing.

I’ve been reading the Sandel book, by the way, and while it’s probably fine for general audiences that have never heard of justice, I’m not all that thrilled with it for our purposes. John Stuart Mill came out more in favor of personal liberty than pure utility calculus? Well, yeah, duh. I’m glad to see that the book is a hit and all, but my guess is that beyond introducing the subject to novices, there’s not much here. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with a readable book that introduces the subject to novices, so I just might make this suggested—not required—reading, once it hits paperback. The bottom line is, it’s not original thinking but synthesis. Nothing wrong with that, but not terribly necessary in the LD universe.

We podcasted up last night, so to speak. Tabbing, posting brackets and results, breaking all 5-2s (and, heaven forbid, 6-2s). Some interesting stuff. The tech tip was about Google in general, as in, you want it, they got it. While I’m reluctant to concede some of the maligning done by my partners in podification against poor Yahoo (which is your humble servant’s email of choice, admittedly with half a dozen Google accounts feeding into it, and which is also my team’s listserver of choice, which I think runs neck and neck in functionality with Google’s groups app, with maybe a slight edge to Yahoo because of the calendar), one thing that is true about “the Google” is that there’s always something new going on. I have my Wave invitation around here somewhere, and need to check it out, for instance. And I live on Google’s Reader. (We plan to talk about RSS on a future show, or maybe news in general which, as the VCA knows, is a big concern of mine.) And I blog on Blogspot/Blogger. What can I say about Google, then, except that I just love the Kool-Aid?

So with all of that, I wonder, what’s happened to my world? MJP. Endless tournaments. T shells. That’s just not me. Or is it? We’ll go into all these things in depth here sooner or later. What’s important to keep in mind is that an activity like ours is anchored on certain principles but nonetheless needs to be flexible in its achieving of those principles. I’m very Hegelian on all of this. Very dialectic. From my perspective, one of the biggest problems in LD is not the changes proposed by the wackos, but the unwillingness of powerful people in the activity to listen to what the wackos are proposing. Some of it isn’t wacky at all, if your concern is those core principles. And some of it is so wacky that it evaporates entirely on its own. But at the point where you are unyielding because you refuse to even consider change, then I don’t think you belong in forensics. A few years ago a lot of people were in a snit over the impending implosion of LD. It hasn’t happened. The trends then that were seen as damaging were mostly the use of “philosophers” who were far from meaningful as ethicists, which was a real trend that has mostly passed, and speed, which has been a real trend since my Day One and it’s about time people got over it (a good debater turns the speed up and down depending on the judge, end of story), and theory, which is turning out to be nothing more than people applying names to things that were ever thus, but going overboard with the idea that naming something somehow makes it more important—a dog will still bite you, or not, whether it’s a dog, un chien, or a great googly-moogly. The bottom line is that everything we think we know must always be subject to challenge (which brings us back to J S Mill). The truth will out because it is challenged. That’s just the way it works, like it or not.

It has ever been thus.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You can even put the lime in them; SoCal Cola, available at fine stores everywhere; Tiggers MIA; Et (and his buddy Cetera)

I guess I’m sort of going mentally underground for a little while, following Bump. Running a tournament does take it out of you. Tabbing a tournament is fun and entertaining, but running a tournament, which primarily consists of worrying about what can go wrong, is pretty unrewarding. I wouldn’t recommend it, although heaven knows a lot of people want to do it for some reason. There are more tournament directors manqué than there are weekends to fit them all. They have no idea how much better off they are just going to somebody else’s tournament. Looking for a fundraiser? Go sell coconuts or something. Much easier in the short and the long run. Trust me on this.

Anyhow, my mind has marginally turned off as far as forensics is concerned. I did work with MB yesterday to set up the SoCal tournament on tabroom. (SoCal, to me, sounds like some cheesy off-brand nonfat soda pop. Then again, I run the Bump tournament.) Lawdy, I admit it, I don’t know nuthin’ about birthin’ no speech divisions. I just sort of cobbled together the wisdom of the Tiggers and the Pups and laid it out California style. Bietz has no intention of using tabroom to actually tab speech, so since it’s just collecting names, how bad can it be? I found his invitation only slightly more complex than the formula for changing lead into gold, but he thinks it’s all very straightforward. Whatever. A couple of months from now he’ll be the one going underground.

I also tried to connect with the Tiggers online, but they’re about as responsive as [enter humorous metaphor here for some really unresponsive thing]. I’m not quite sure what they’re up to, and I surmise from CP’s comments on the subject that he feels about the same way about them. He and I will meet up this weekend at Wee Sma Lex to sort things out. It’s not too late, but it ain’t early, either. We’ll see. The real issue is getting a good pool of hired judges. I have no intention of supporting unqualified Tigs as potential hires, but then again, last year we had a fine pool and a fine tournament. Still, we need to get this year sorted out. If you’re driving through Jersey, beep your horn when you pass near their campus. That might rouse them from their slumber.

Obviously, then, this weekend is WSL. I’ve got perhaps the smallest boatload of Sailors ever for this event, but it is what it is. The People’s Champion and the Panivore are traveling not with us but with O’C to Glenbrooks, so that makes a slight dent in the population. The P has 27 cases on all 3 sides, 11 T shells, 14 tubs of evidence and 17 cases of bagels all ready to go, while the PC was thinking of pulling out the crayons last night to scribble down some possible case positions just on the off chance that they might come in handy on Saturday. He needs that haircut badly: the follicles are sucking out the thoughts from his brain and sending them down his shoulders into oblivion. Or something like that.

After WSL, a week off. No meeting next week. No debate. Nothing except maybe trying to play Sims 3. (It looks dopey, but also simple enough for my elementary gaming needs.) By then, the batteries will recharge, the new topic will be out, and all hell will break loose.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bumpidian musings continued

The worst thing about Bump is that it is in two non-contiguous buildings, usually separated by rain. I find this annoying at best, because my job includes going back and forth between the two buildings to keep an eye on things, and I don’t like having to slog through the mud to do it. The novices who are in that other building don’t seem to mind, though, since none of them, despite my warnings, were in any way prepared for rain. No umbrellas, no hats, no raincoats, no nothing. I used to think that debate addles the brain, but the evidence would suggest that, in fact, we attract the addlebrained to begin with. That would definitely explain a few things.

Anyhow, down in the grammar school we have, as I say, the wet novices. According to O’C, who was running the tabroom with a crack assistant drawn from the vast assortment of crack heads of his team, as usual they made every novice blunder that novices can make, but then again, they got to their rounds and no one got so seriously wounded that they had to be rushed to the hospital, although one person did walk into a wall in the high school and cause a bit of personal damage. (I’m assuming that was a novice. I’m hoping that was a novice. And it does support my contention about their being addlebrained ab ovo.) I do not wish anyone physical harm, but there was at least one bright side to this. JV, who was in the middle of a dicey moment of tabbing, was hunched over the computer when the door opened and, without looking up, he responded as he always does, “If you’re not dead or bleeding, get out.” To which our poor wall walker responded. “Well, I am bleeding.” Finally someone met the high standards JV sets for tab interruptions.

Pffft and VLD were run in the high school. These seemed to transpire without too much ado. We had plenty of judges, which was nice. I did set things up so that the experienced VLD judges who had signed up for either Pffft or NLD were available for our doubles in varsity so that we could single-flight it and speed things up. Bietz longs for all tournaments to break all 4-2s, but I wonder if that will ever come to pass at a 2-day tournament. Where, exactly, do you fit in an extra break round? I mean, not only do I have the costs of custodians that grow the longer we stay in the building, there are those teams that have four- or five-hour trips home. Your punishment for doing well at the tournament becomes the ride home? I can understand his CBA on it—he’s looking at the travel costs per kid—but as a matter of normal operation, I can’t see it happening. Three-day tournaments? Why not? Two-day? Na’ah. Sometimes it’s about something other than the debate per se.

So that’s about it. I’ve reset the website for the off-season. I’ll send the bid info today to Kentucky. I’ve stacked the leftover mugs in the basement and the extra shirts will head up to the attic to stay dry for the next twelve months. Can I interest you in a shirt, by the way? I shoulda known better. They’ll sell eventually, but it’s a long haul, so I’m out some cash for a while. But every year there’s a new herd of troopers just looking to do whatever I would do. What? That’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard. Really.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bumpidian musings

First of all, I sat at the registration table myself, forcing people to actually look at their registration sheets and count noses, calling out a few who had ignored certain requirements (like, you know, judges), insisting on adults showing their faces (they were indeed in attendance in all cases, meaning no one got tossed), and entering updates to the TRPC data myself, meaning that when I handed off to O’C and JV and Kaz, all was correct, and round one did not exist merely to take attendance. After I collected the data, SuperSquirrel collected the money, The People’s Champion collected the housing updates, and the Panivore distributed t-shirts. I’ve never seen a more well-oiled registration machine. Less than an hour from opening the door to distributing the first schematics. Let’s see you do that!

Secondly, a new institution, the Fines-For-Charity Fund. What we said in the invite was, no complicated fine structure for changes after registration closed Monday, just put $25 in the box at the table and we’ll pass it along to charity. In addition, every time somebody blew off a round they were supposed to judge, we made them toss in another $25 (or in especially egregious cases, $50). I had originally intended to take these judge fines as Bump profits, but I found that it was so much more authoritative to take them for charity instead, making me thoroughly unhesitant about enforcing them. I love the excuses people offered. “Wanted to go shopping” has a slight edge over “There’s three rounds on Friday?” (from a coach who runs a tournament with three rounds on Friday), but only marginally. As the VCA knows, I get especially exercised at all tournaments over judges who think that their obligation is somehow merely a suggestion of participation. Why do people think that, somehow, they shouldn’t have to judge the rounds they are obligated to judge? I simply don’t get it. I’m not talking about people who whine about judging every round (no one ever listens to them anyhow) but people who actually don’t show up, or who tell you that they’ll be there at some starting point that isn’t the tournament starting point. I’ve heard all kinds of discussion about judging, from MJP to Strikes and Dice, but let me tell you, first let’s look at Personal Responsibility. At the point where you don’t have it, I’m going to charge you money. And the good news is, it will go to charity. So, pay up, sucker! Or—and this is far from an idle threat—you will not only not proceed to elimination rounds at this tournament, but you will not be allowed entry into any future tournament tabbed by yours truly until your account is settled. Not that I tab all that often, mind you, aside from, like, everywhere, every week. In other words, ignore your obligations at your team’s great risk.

The result? Everyone paid up handsomely. $370 in fines, doubled by the DJ will equal $740 for charity. I’m beginning to love problem judges. They may be a drag on a tournament, but in the long run they’re a benefit to society. This aspect of fines and punishment will be an institution at all future Bumps. So if you plan to be an asshat, be prepared to pay for it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The obvious....

Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's not like I did nothing all day

I'm about to sort out the CPs (crappy prizes). Meanwhile, episode 6 of The View from Tab is up. Bietz and Cruz and I talk about theory. Yum, yum!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


We played around with SPAR at last night’s SailorFest, and it was both entertaining and a true gauge of debate character. In the round between LPW (AKA HPL) and the Phantom, our young plebe’s interest was clearly displayed but could not hold a candle to our old salt’s spending way too much time watching the Colbert Report. Our two sophomores were game, readily willing to make up evidence on the spot in support of Spam (the “wonder food,” as in, people wonder what’s in it), indicating that they are going to be quite mainstream when the time comes for them to go full varsity. Two pre-plebes who have yet to dip their toes into the stream of the dialectic known as actually debating, although at least one of them is signed up for the future, were dumbstruck. And our two debate hacks, SuperSquirrel and the Panivore, were downright scary: those two will not only argue about anything, but they’ll do so with a level of aggression that keeps the feebleminded up at night with the lights on and the guards posted in fear for their lives. If any team needs to take the temperature of its participants, and have some fun while watching for stylistic issues, SPAR is it. (Full post over at TVFT.)

Speaking of which, the Panivore, who once told me she liked the parts of Lingo that she was able to read for free online, accused me last night in no uncertain terms of supporting the NFL rules for LD. Talk about venom! At the time we were staring at Nov-Dec and talking about if affirming a piece (some specific public health concerns warranting some specific immunization) could justify an aff ballot (we also talked about this on TVFT). The way I read this rez, there’s nothing in the wording that indicates that all public health concerns and all immunizations must be supported. But that does lead to the problem of the affirmative picking some particularly complicated issue and dazzling the neg with deep specificity that cannot be answered. The real issue, and I think my young padowan and I probably agree here, is that the aff must first and foremost support a principle that can apply to enforcing compulsory immunizations, and the actual example is, indeed, secondary. That is, proving one instance isn’t enough: you have to demonstrate WHY one instance demonstrates the principle.

And with that I can hear the theory bell going off in that little mind of yours. Listen to TVFT this week. Moe and Larry and I are planning to discuss theory. No, I’m sorry, I mean Theory. This ought to be interesting.

One thing that didn’t happen last night was that the People’s Champion didn’t show up with the t-shirts. Has he absconded with them to South America? If he doesn’t show up for Bump, we’ll at least know that every exiled dictator now living in Argentina is wearing a WWMD or VCA shirt. They’re probably the perfect audience for them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Countdown 2009

The last few days before a tournament are the worst, because you want to get it over with, and there’s nothing you can do to speed up the clock. By now I’ve done this enough to know what to expect, and not to get too nutty about it, but no one has ever done it enough not to get a little nutty. People who have done this with me know not to expect sanity on my part until the last kid is shooed out of the building Saturday night, which is true of all the tournament directors I know. As JV says, that’s one of the reasons we have people we trust in tab, because they don’t get crazy like you do when it’s your own tournament. They provide the necessary level of sanity that is beyond your grasp for the weekend. Thank God.

This is also the period of dwindlement. The final bell was rung last night, and the number has sunk to about 10 less than I expected, and then a few more get the creeping crud or potato blight or general malaise over the next few days and don’t show up, but at least those get paid for anyhow. After all, I’ve bought food for them, whether or not they show up to eat it. Coaches who disagree with this policy are welcome to grab a slice or two of pizza and bring it back with them Saturday night. But as far as I know, no one who knows anything about tournaments does disagree. We all know what’s what. It has ever been thus.

This year I’m taking Thursday off to get things organized, rather than waiting until the last minute Friday morning. This should be a real improvement. For some reason I always feel as if I have plenty of time on Friday, and then the next thing I know I’m running around like the proverbial headless chicken, picking up trophies and loading the car and whatnot, and always forgetting something important. This way I can forget something important a day early and beat the rush.

Things to do on Thursday:
1. Organize crappy prizes, including the Jon Cruz Award. (My lips are sealed regarding this year's recipient.)
2. Organize TRPC: enter strikes and ratings, etc.
3. Pack up supplies: paper, tape, pen (for O’C, who never thinks to carry one), computers, printer, cords, ink cartridges, money chests (for candy table), etc.
4. Take my mother to the bank. I realize this has nothing to do with Bump but she called and said she needs to go to the bank, and maybe this means I’ll finally get my hands on the legendary Menick Millions, so what the hell.
5. Other etc., not included in the previous etcs.

Things to do on Friday:
1. Sleep late.
2. Nourishing hot breakfast.
3. Trophies
4. Pick up lunch.
5. Arrive at school
6. Oy, Part One

Things to do on Saturday:
1. Oy, Part Two
2. Alumni Dinner

People who dream about running their own tournaments (and there are more of these than you would suspect, despite the insanity of it, not to mention the scarcity of weekends on which to do it), are invited to read my notes on running tournament on the Bump website. Or, follow me around with a video cam, notepad and salty treats over the coming weekend, and see for yourself.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Bump Opening Assembly

Voila: the audio version and the printed version. The audio version is the much more entertaining of the two.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Religion for the ages

I've slighted upgraded and made a pdf of the recent religion series, if you're interested. It's over on the right with the serious greatest hits.

Friday, November 06, 2009

TVFT for the literate; Old Grizzly is the last man standing; they also do a lot of nose rubbing; cool ranch flavor, of course

There is a blog for The View from Tab, which you might want to look at if you’re just subscribing to the podcast on iTunes without recourse to the written word. There are some comments there, and entries responding to the comments, plus a very important poll that I put up because, well, the world needs more polls like this one.

I’m rather depressed that this year my novices have almost entirely drifted off. I always expect to lose some of them, sure, but all of them? This quickly? The statute of limitations hasn’t even expired yet on ModNov. I mean, we probably will keep Old Grizzly, a nickname that he simply doesn’t realize is a term of affection, but Muffins has gone AWOL big time without even a single round under his belt, and The Phantom did debate once and continues to come to meetings, but he hasn’t signed up for anything else because it’s moose hunting season and, well, one does have one’s priorities, and you can’t bring a Sharps rifle to debate rounds (except in Texas, which explains a lot). The others have simply fallen off the face of the earth. Go figure. Was it something I said? I mean, other than that there was work involved (e.g., writing cases) and, oh yeah, public speaking (which I know scared the bejesus out of one of them, but which I would have thought wouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, all things considered). Oh, well. We limp along. But at this rate it’s something of a death spiral… Maybe O’C will hire me as an assistant coach! Or better yet, I could be his hardware engineer! Or maybe I could just become a traveling tab peddler. I could get myself a cart and a mule. I’d like a mule, I think. There’s got to be some bright spot in all of this.

Tomorrow is the Monti MHL, with a pretty decent registration. The good news is that the forecast is for less than three feet of snow, which is unusually balmy for Monticello at this time of year. Last year I think they showed up at maybe two tournaments, thanks to weather cancellations. You know that their location may be a problem when at their tournament all your kids are housed in igloos.

And tonight, at 9:00, registration for Bump officially closes. No new entries, not that there’s been a new entry for weeks, except for a couple of poor souls who didn’t get the message that, in this day and age, tournaments sell out fast. Over the weekend we’ll cut out the ribbon clerks as we head toward Monday’s final setting of the fees. My goal is to get one last school off the housing waitlist, and get everybody off the VLD waitlist. Can it be done? I don’t know. All I can say is, I’m settling in for the next level of Tournament Tycoon over the next few days, with a couple of cases of Diet Coke and a bag or two of Doritos. Makes me wonder why I ever bothered buying the Wii.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


I realize that not every member of the VCA is a grizzled veteran. We also have some grizzled raw recruits in there too. And when I mention something like Nostrum, the younger grizzlies look at each other with a perplexed expression wondering what in the nation of tar I’m talking about. So, for the sake of those who are unfamiliar with the place "where deontology is more than just an idea, it's a rebuttal," a trip down—what will be for the rest of us—memory lane.

Once upon a time there were two guys, Jules O’Shaughnessy and the Nostrumite. They set a mission for themselves, to write and publish a debate soap opera in weekly installments. These were the tales of Nighten Day School and Veil of Ignorance High School and, of course, Manhattan Lodestone (a magnet school), home to the Original Vaganza Tournament (“All other vaganzas are extra”). They introduced characters like Tarnish Jutmoll and Seth B. Obomash (coaches; can you say “anagram”?), Cartier Diamond and Hamlet P. Buglaroni and the Maru sisters (debaters), and the never-to-be-forgotten Vitelli Mafia family. Yes, what debate saga would be complete without the Mafia? The stories were filled with adventure, romance, crime, punishment, etc. They were, if anything, more interesting even than the real debate world.

Episodes appeared every Tuesday, published on the ld-l listserver, to a regular resounding response from the listserver subscribers saying, one way or the other, STOP SPAMMING US. But Jules and the Mite were undeterred. In addition to publishing their episodes, Jules wrote a weekly epistle updating their Nostrumian fans of their own comings and goings. Over the years we learned of their jobs and their lack of jobs, their dog (the Nostrumutt), and the Nostrumite’s bride, AKA the Nostrumate. We lived through their happy wedding and their sad divorce… Tears flowed, let me tell you.

And then the series stopped. No more episodes. No more epistles. It was over. We learned years later that the Nostrumite remarried and is now teaching in Boston at Tennessee Williams HS, and that Jules had gone off to claim the Moravian throne, never to be heard from again. Life, in other words, went on.

A couple of years ago, while trolling on, I did a search and found all the original episodes. Having time on my hands, I tracked down the Mite and got his permission to perform them as a podcast. I did about 75 or so of them before pooping out. I also posted the texts online. Then I meticulously cleaned up the next 25 for text-only posting, and then I pooped out on that too. A few days ago I realized that I still had all the old html files, so doing no cleanup whatsoever, I just linked those to my Nostrum page as well, thus bringing the world the full, all-inclusive Nostrum saga. These last pages contain a lot of dated references, the sort that I updated when I was doing the podcast, but, well, I was done, so what they are is what they are.

What I didn’t do is post the epistles from Jules. I do, actually, have these, but only in hard copy. The Mite, while cleaning out a room for the baby, dug up a box of them and sent them over to me. Someday when I really don’t have anything to do, I’ll scan them in and post them. Or maybe I’ll ask Cruz to do it. If he has time to scan in ballots from 1776, he ought to be able to find time for these.

Anyhow, that’s what Nostrum is all about. You might still find it entertaining. I would recommend starting with the podcast. The first couple are sort of creaky, but I quickly got the hang of it. One or two of them MUST be read rather than listened to (like the legendary episode: “Hand Me De Construction Paper / Papier De Hand Me De Construction / Paper De Hand Me Of Construction,” where the story is printed first in English, then in literal translation to the French, then back to English, a la Jumping Frog), but most are fine for podcast entertainment. If you’re hooked after the podcasts run out, you can read the rest.

To my knowledge, no one else has ever attempted what Jules and the Mite did, to create a fictional world of debate. Granted, it was the 90s, and some of it might seem passé, but most of it is roughly the same.

Check it out.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Break out the German dictionary, fraulein

Last night we talked mostly about Nov-Dec on the TVFT podcast. I should get it posted late tonight, after the Sailor meeting. Good stuff. Bietz was in Las Vegas playing Gai Pow Poker winning the WWE Meadows belt, and he heard a lot of rounds, and he brought back plenty of fuel for the rest of us. Interesting stuff.

One thing I’ve got to do is put together my religion pieces into a single essay. As soon as I get a minute… Very interesting that Levi-Strauss, the inventor of structural dungarees for savages, died Friday when the final posting went up. Who knew that he was a member of the VCA? I guess he felt that he could finally let go, knowing that I’d be carrying on for him. I’m obviously intrigued by structuralism, and find it a useful tool for understanding human nature. It doesn’t necessarily answer questions, but it does provide a methodology for asking questions, and that’s a start. To be honest, though, in college we studied CLV for the literal content of his cross-cultural studies more than anything else. That’s what anthropology did in those days. Do they still have anthropology in colleges? My guess is that it’s been pomo’d into a bloody pulp, but I may be wrong.

I was looking at the new PF ballots that Apple Valley is sampling this weekend. They look pretty clean to me. The biggest problem in PF is, always, getting judges to fill out the ballots correctly the first time. They are inevitably the most heavily crossed-out and corrected that we see. I’m amazed that we don’t make more tabbing errors, to tell you the truth, ballot format notwithstanding, given the fluidity of the rounds and who’s doing what. Anyhow, I guess at some point we’re all going to have to go 2 minute Final Finagle, but we haven’t done it anywhere yet where I’ve tabbed. The TRPC ballots still have the old 1 minute, of course. I guess I’ll have to upgrade at some point; I’m in March of 08 (in more ways than one). No doubt the CFL will maintain it’s own version of the whole business. I can just see old Benny the Pope sitting there talking to his forensics-liaison Cardinal (a Jesuit): “Ve gotta keep them Pfffters in line, meine Rote Vogel.” Catholics caught Pfffting NFL (non-Catholic Forensic League) style are immediately marked for eternal damnation. That always has been the downside of the CFL. Break an NFL rule, and people blog about it. Break a CFL rule, and you go to hell.

Tough business, this debating.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tournament Tycoon

Watching the ebb and flow of a tournament in is rather engaging. In a way, it’s a little like playing a video game. People move around, and resource requirements keep changing, and you keep track of it all from your godlike position at the keyboard. When people drop, slots open, and you have to reassign them. When housing opens up, you have to reassign those slots. People send you requests for this and that, more often than not asking to correct their errors because they changed an entry and lost the housing, but if you’re a good game player you’re ahead of them on that and you take care of it before they ask because you know it’s going to happen. Moves in the game happen at random, although if you send out an email blast, that usually generates a few changes. With Bump closing Friday night, you might think that things are heating up, but since we went waitlist right at the beginning, at this point it’s mostly just polishing the entries. We’re down to a manageable number of waitlist slots that I’m pretty sure will sort themselves out to everyone’s satisfaction. The real magic moment will be Monday, when fees are set. There will be some heavy business over the weekend, and then, well, we hold the tournament and the game is over. I can easily think back to the Bad Old Days when I did this all by hand, and drove myself crazy. Now all I have to do is log in and occasionally find a bug in the system (those things CP calls “features”) that I can pass along to his royal computership. Life is so easy nowadays… You kids don’t know what we had to go through, and while you’re at it, get off my lawn!

Speaking of his royal computership, I do wish he allowed comments on his blog, but when I asked him about this once he claimed that it was his blog and he wanted full control over it and he didn’t want clowns like us mucking it up. Which means I always have to respond here instead of there. Jeesh! That is so Web Point One of him. Anyhow, if you don’t follow him, you should, at His latest posts have been on tabula rasa judging and Nov-Dec. Why wouldn’t you want to read that?

Anyhow, he was rather complimentary about our TVFT podcast, congratulating us effusely for not talking about our hardware/software. Rather big of him, I thought, but no one’s ever accused him of being short. To fill this much needed information gap, I provide the following.

We all have the same microphones and we use GarageBand, except for O’C, whose GarageBand is somehow on the fritz, which I find suspect to say the least, so he uses Audacity, which is a nice little free program that I used to use on Nostrum because the old version of GarageBand on Little Elvis didn’t support podcasts. We set up a conference call in Skype but do not record from Skype directly. We each record our individual tracks, keying up at the start with a countdown. This is the hardest thing for us to do, to tell you the truth. Get three grown men to count down together from 10 to 1? Sounds simple? You don’t know these particular three grown men. Anyhow, I mix the whole thing in Audacity because, to be honest, I can’t figure out how to mix in GB. For some reason I also haven’t figured out, the podcast ends up in some sort of random stereo, with some things in one channel and some in the other—w/e. In any case, the sound quality, since it’s from direct microphones to computers without the corruption that ensues over Skype, is pretty decent, I think. Of course, I never listen to it, aside from the beginning, to synchronize the tracks and add the intro music, and now the end, to add the Hendrick Hudson Debate Team Marching Band outro music. Come to think of it, I now have some Tech Time music as well, so I guess I’ll have to start listening to the middle…

There. I’ve got all the tech stuff out of the way. That wasn’t so bad now, was it?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Reality sets in

I would like to be sanguine and hopeful and all that good stuff, but there’s just so much steam in the old engine…

I’ve alluded to discussions about the NY State organization, which seemed promising at the time (going back to the beginning of summer). A face-to-face meeting was followed by the creation of a listserver to discuss in-depth the issues that had arisen, to propose possible solutions. I kept my mouth shut here in hopes that good news would arise from there. I even threw together a potential facelift for their old website (in aid of providing a communications base for teams throughout the state).

It seems to have all been for nothing. The minutes of the directors meeting were distributed by our director, and nothing substantive has changed, and for that matter, little un-substantive. The venue is new, temporarily, but that was the least of our issues (aside for a call for hospitality that has historically been sadly lacking). I mean, most of us travel all over the map: traveling to Albany was never an issue as compared to traveling somewhere else. I couldn’t care less where the tournament is held, provided the venue is able to adequately hold the tournament. The issues that did matter, like qualification and the judge pool and the nature of the rounds themselves (that phantom 5th round, most notably) have, at best, been tabled.

I’m not going to go into a whole song and dance here about why I think that is. I thought that they were listening to us, and interested in what the constituency that was hanging on by a thread might want that would pull them back in. This seems not to have been the case. Plenty of time was given to address the concerns, which, honestly, go back many years, and are no surprise to anyone given the attendance at the tournament and the complaints that ensued especially after last year. (For that matter, I have kept my correspondence from the Dark Ages when I originally voiced my objections to the organization, to no avail.)

It would seem that the organization is what it is, and will remain what it is. At the heart of it, this is disappointing. That a state organization not serve a particular constituency, for whatever reason, is unfortunate. Then again, given the nature of that constituency, we really won’t miss it. We wanted to make it better. We wanted to make it a desirable event for our students, and for ourselves, a tournament that served everyone in the state as best it could. It would prefer, apparently, to continue to serve a narrow group that has, apparently, happily been served in the past and which has no interest in changing things for anyone else in the future.

So be it. We tried. Others may continue to try. Unless I’m missing something, and I misinterpreted the events so far, I probably won’t be among them.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Facebook Mother Update Generator

(With a nod to O’C.)

The Facebook Mother Update Generator is an application available to all Facebook members that allows them to maintain their real lives while presenting an active unreal life to their mothers. You know the story. One day you stupidly explained Facebook to your mother, the next day she signed up, and the day after that you befriended her. What were you thinking?

But the MUG will solve your problem by creating a special set of updates that only your mother can see, and better still, she won’t be able to see your regular updates. So, you want to go out drinking absinthe with sadistic transvestites every night? Mom never needs to know. When she checks your Facebook page, she’ll see that you were attending choir practice. Again. With pictures to prove it. A dream come true or what?

To MUG your mother, first you must sign up for the application. Then simply answer a handful of relevant questions regarding your religion, your hobbies (the ones Mom knows about, that is) and your marital status, and supply us with a handful of photos that we can PhotoShop into likely situations, and MUG will do the rest.

Sample updates:

“Went to church/temple/sweat-lodge last night. Met nice girl/guy/horse who wants me to meet the parents. I told him/her/it we should go slow. So we went bowling/antiquing/crocheting instead.”

“Haven’t had a drink/drug/STD for two years now. My rabbi/priest/shaman was very encouraging.”

“Cell battery died again so I couldn’t call Mom. Goshdarnit!”

“Finally losing/gaining some weight. All those clothes the family/tribe/support-group bought me for Christmas/Kwanzaa/Armageddon finally fit!”

And that’s just a sampling. Plus, for each update, we provide a photo of you from your original submissions, tastefully edited to support your claim of being a good son/daughter/t.b.d. And while all this is going on, you can live your normal life unbeknownst to Mom back at home sitting at her computer when she should be watching MURDER SHE WROTE reruns.

To sign up for MUG, just go to and we’ll do the rest!

TVFT Episode 4 is up

I failed to mention this during my noodling about religion. Here's the link. Feel free to comment. Better yet, feel free to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.